Rants and discussions

Happiness and photography gear

Caught on a car boot sale camera (Kodak Retinette II) and poundland film.

An old gripe of mine.  Allow me to express it again, as a warning to others.

Don’t be sucked into spending money on gear that doesn’t have value in terms of your happiness.  Most of us are enthusiasts and amateurs.  There is nothing inferior about that.  Our enthusiasm can be based on either photographic technology, or on photographic images.  In truth, most of our enthusiasm lays somewhere between those two poles – some more by the technology, some more by photographs.  Either way, what really is important – or should be, to us enthusiasts, is happiness.

It is all so easy, and very common, for novices to be drawn towards spending more money, in the pursuit of happiness.  However, they do not always get what they wanted.  They may find, that their photography doesn’t really improve much.  They might find that spending another grand, allows them to capture some images in slightly poorer light, perhaps slightly closer, perhaps slightly further away, or perhaps with slightly more resolution.  No doubt there is a short lived gratification “I couldn’t have caught that on my last lens / body”.  Wow, look at that moon surface / macro of a bug / etc.  Cool images.  However, does this expensive imagery really enhance your creativity or skill base?  Once you’ve got closer to the moon, what is next?  How much did that image cost in monetary terms?  Has it been done before?  Is someone doing it better with even more expensive, or newer gear?

How much happiness do you think that I’ve had out of the 50p camera project?  Compare it to the purchase of a new upgrade DSLR camera.  The DSLR might have cost you around £500.00.  My XA2 snapshot camera cost £00.50.  Okay, I’ve also used film, but mainly budget or home developed.  Still, how much happiness do you think that the DSLR gives you in comparison?  I’m quite proud of some of the photographs that I’ve got out of the XA2.  They may be lo-fi but some are pretty cool and even unique.  I’ve tried to be creative.  Not always an easy thing for me.  There are no attachments or upgrades for it.  For the DSLR, you bet that you are going to desire new lenses, extensions, flashlights, bags, battery grips, etc.

That is the chief message of this blog.  Think, don’t just spend.

35mm, and scans, Film

35mm film to 120 size converters from Ebay

35mm film converters to 120 size. Fitted here onto a Poundland film. Taken with a Nokia Lumia 1020 phone camera.

I haven’t tried them out in the field yet, but a few readers have asked for more information on these 135 to 120 canister converters that I purchased on Ebay.  Link to the Ebay listing here.

The seller is manufacturing them on his 3D printer.  Simple, but apparently an effective little design.  They simply plug into either end of a 35mm film canister, and hey presto – the 35mm film now fits into a 120 medium format film loader.

The seller does state that they haven’t been tested with many films or film loaders.  Still, they are a neat little product.

For those of you that might be interested in “sprocket hole” scans, just be aware, that these don’t come straight out of many film scanners including the Epson V500.  The masks cover the sprocket holes either side.  You need a bit of ingenuity.  Newton glass mounts, or, modified masks, simply trying to peg them into a 120 mask, or old school – use a digital camera and light box set up instead of a scanner.

As above image – but mounted in the film loader of a Lubitel 166B camera.

Cameras and equipment

Finders Keepers

DSLR camera toting tourists in Cambridge, England. One Canon/Nikon is never enough apparently. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus medium format film. Home developed in R09. Scanned film Epson Perfection V500.

This post is about the cognitive connection with film V digital.  No, it is not a debate about film V digital – but rather, how the photographer connects differently, depending on the medium.

When I shoot with a DSLR, I’ve noticed that in no more than ten minutes or so, I can rack up as much as 100 images on a memory card.  It’s insane – but that is what the ease of Digital does to us.  It turns us into machine guns, or movie cameras.  When I shoot in film, especially in medium format – it all slows down.  No conscious decision-making – partly because capturing an image with a system camera draws on the mental resources – guessing light, setting aperture, setting shutter, estimating or visually setting focus, then the CLUNK, before cranking onto a fresh slab of unexposed film.

Yet I notice – I have so many more keepers per 100 than I get on Digital!  Work that out.

Monochrome, Portrait, Rants and discussions, Street and Protest

Little and Large


The Olympus XA2 – Serious Hard Core Camera. Taken with Sony A200 DSLR and Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens. B/W conversion in UFRaw software.

Ok, in the previous post I was boasting about my bigg’un – the Bronica SQ-A system camera.  I have to stop and think when I’m using it in the street.  Not only for economy of those 120 roll films and chems, but also I need to think about lighting.  More often than that, I don’t use a light meter.  I have to set up my exposure controls, and the focus.  In all of this time, any subject will be aware that this dodgy looking bloke with a massive looking camera is stalking them.  Therefore genuinely candid is a rarity – it brings a certain honesty to the capture.  Using a camera as hefty as the Browny-Ka guides you into a particular style of street photography.  The easiest method is to find the background first – then wait for a suitable human subject to move into it.

This takes me to the subject of candid or not candid?  An ethical question in street photography.  I’m I think that for myself, it depends on the circumstance and opportunity.  I have discussed candid with another Bronica user, who assured me that people don’t seem to notice him photographing them, while he is looking down into a waist level finder.  I’m not convinced.  Surely a big bright lens pointing in their direction, then a loud CLUNK gives the Bronica away?  I need to experiment more with this one in the street.

That was large, now about little – my other favourite camera, the little compact Olympus XA2.  I don’t expect wonderful quality from my little XA2.  However, it is without a doubt, a great pleasure to use, and so small, I can always stuff it in a pocket.  Can’t really do that with the Bronica, it would certainly be a bulge.  The Olympus XA2 permits a sneakier form of candid.  Tiny, dark, and fast.  It slides out in the shadows or shoots from the hips.  It can be so naughty.  However, it also gives something to the more ethical street photographer.  It is not intimidating.  It looks more fun than serious – a silly snapshot camera.  It’s easy to approach people with a tiny zone focus 35mm camera – openly or secretly.

Of course, I’m not much of a street photographer anyway.  As long as I’m learning, I’m enjoying.  The XA2 and the Bronica.  The little and large of my film photography.


Cameras and equipment, Sony DSLR A200 and Sony DT 50mm F/1.8mm SAM prime lens

Horror Box – the Coronet No2, and the Kodak Brownie Reflex 20. Car boot cameras

Morticia loves cheapskate photography, almost as much as she loves fresh human blood. The Coronet No.2 Portrait Box Camera. Taken with Sony A200 DSLR and Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens

Latest venture, is trying out the above box camera.  The Coronet No.2 Portrait Box Camera.  Built in England circa 1935, made largely of cardboard, with a roller shutter – one speed, one aperture.  Two zones of focus – 1) Three feet, or 2) Nine feet or over.  I’ve had this one a few months, but I only yesterday clicked that it took 120 roll film …. which I happen to have a batch of!  I’m not too sure if I’ve loaded it correctly, so it’s a test roll.  Looking forward to seeing the results, fingers crossed.  It also had an exposed film still in it, so I’ve sent it to the developer.

I was actually looking for 620 spools when I looked in the Coronet, and saw that it was 120.  I’ve read (and seen online guides) that 120 film can be rolled in a dark room onto 620 spools.  Pretty handy, as 620 film is pretty hard to find.  Why was I looking into 620 in the first place?  My latest car boot sale buy (see below), a pristine 1962 Kodak Brownie Reflex 20.

This Kodak Brownie is too cute and clever for words, so I’ll definitely be looking into 620 later.  Look below. A plastic body, a focusing lens, and a magnificant top viewer.  This must be the king of the brownies.  Absolutely clean – just need a 620 spool or two, and a developing bag.

Top viewer of the 1962 Kodak Brownie Reflex 20 camera. Isn’t that a beautiful viewer? Taken with as above Sony.

The Kodak Brownie Reflex 20 camera – with case. What a lovely Brownie!

Oh by the way, I forgot to mention how much I paid for the above cameras at car boot sales…  The Coronet No.2 Portrait box camera (1935), complete in a cloth bag with the name “Watson” inked on it,  I haggled down to three quid (GBP £3).  The Kodak Brownie Reflex 20, with Kodak camera bag I bought last weekend for a quid (GBP £1).

Olympus XA-2 - 50p camera project II, Rants and discussions

Stop and think

Dogging in Wisbech. Olympus XA-2 camera. AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 35mm negative film.

I came across another photography blog the other day, that made me take stock a little.  I think that I’ve become a little too side tracked by all of these old film cameras that I keep acquiring.  I’m on a technology (albeit old technology) learning curve, but I think I’d like to get back to improving my photography now.  That means actually planning out some photography and ideas.  I need to stop ‘testing’ newly acquired film cameras for a little while.  Over the past few months, I’ve acquired a number of working film cameras, each one had to be tidied up, tested, used, and I guess, experienced.  These cameras include  a Pentax ME Super SLR, a Kodak Retinette IIA, two Olympus Trip 35’s, two Olympus XA-2’s, and now a Lubitel 166B TLR!  I’ve been so busy learning how they work, and testing them, that I’ve not had much time to try out new ideas.

To be fair, it’s not just the distractions of the cheap cameras, I’ve been busy working for a living.

I bought a notebook.  I want to use it to actually plan out some photography, and to start logging what I have done.  I need to get some time to start that.  I know that I certainly want to try some portraits using the Lubitel TLR and 120 film.  But I need to stop the snapshots, and create something more worthwhile.

Talking of snapshots, the two photos here are both from the 50p Olympus XA-2, using Poundland film of course!

Terrington St John. Olympus XA-2 camera. AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 35mm negative film.


Cameras and equipment, Rants and discussions, Sony DSLR A200 and Sony DT 50mm F/1.8mm SAM prime lens

The Learning Curve

T L R. Lubitel 166B medium format TLR Camera from the USSR. Taken with Sony A200 DSLR camera and Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens. B&W conversion via free open source UFRaw.

Funny how different amateurs take different paths into photography.  I mean, judging by the multitudes of digital photography magazines on the newsagent shelf, for most, it’s all about the latest Canon or Nikon D-SLR, reviews on the latest gear, tutorials on how to use Adobe software, HD video, GPS capability, brand name camera bags, and you-must-buy accessories, etc.  The emphasis is on becoming a ‘pro photographer’.  Someone with a big full frame Canikon DSLR, and battery grip, snapping away at young models in a fully equipped studio.

Not all of us are drawn into such a market-centric style of photography.   Some of us just enjoy capturing light, even by a variety of forms – digital and chemical.  We like to develop our skills, learn new techniques, look at other people’s photographic expressions.  Some of us even enjoy doing that with old equipment.  Cameras with soul.  Cameras where you have to decide on aperture, shutter speed, range, focus, etc.

I call it the Salt n’shake factor. I need to explain that.  When I was a small boy, here in England, packets of potato crisps (Americans call them chips) came in one flavour.  Natural fried potato flavour.  However, a little packet of salt would be included.  You opened the crisp packet, fished out the salt sachet  and shook it into the crisps.  Then you’d shake the bag to disperse the salt.  These were later replaced with Ready Salted, Cheese & Onion, and even Salt & vinegar flavours.  No need to salt them – it was done already.  Years later though, the food processor revived the Salt n’ Shake variety!  Why?  Because they realised that people enjoyed the food more when they had to do something to it.  Photography is like that.  We enjoy challenges.  Taking a clear sharp image with a digital point & shoot is great, but it’s so much more rewarding if the photograph has had effort, thought, and know how poured into it.  To be honest, it usually shows.

Hence the challenge of using old and cheapskate film photography equipment.  Digital photography is great – I use it frequently.  It provides instant imagery.  But for fun and rewards, film photography using cheap old camera from car boot sales – waiting for film to be developed, setting the camera exposure controls – unbeatable.

Where are our magazines?

Cameras and equipment, Olympus Trip 35, Olympus XA-2 - 50p camera project II, Portrait, Rants and discussions, Street and Protest

Why a Zone Focus Camera?

His and hers. Our two Olympus Trip 35 cameras. Taken with Sony A200 DSLR camera and Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens. UFRaw b&w conversion.

Our two Olympus Trip 35 cameras side by side – both manufactured in 1981.  Anita’s (on the left), we bought at a car boot sale, with a flash gun and original lens cover for a fiver (GBP £5.00).  I’m still waiting for a light seal kit before we run it, but all looks ok.  Mine (on the right) cost a staggering £17 from Ebay (I know, I know, it’s not the cheapest marketplace for buyers, but still well below the ‘book’ price).  In addition, I bought a cute little Olympus XA2 camera a few days ago for 50p from a car boot sale!  We are becoming overwhelmed by Olympus zone focus 35mm compacts.

But what’s the attraction of these thirty year old compact zone focus cameras?

  1. 35mm film is still easily available, and cheap.  I primarily use film from Pound Stores – £1 for a roll of 35mm negative film.  I can still get it developed locally as well.  A local independent pro-lab charges me £2 a roll for developing only – no prints.  I then digitally scan the exposures.  I plan to move to Ilford film later, and to develop my own.  It does not look that difficult or expensive.  Film (at least 35mm format), is far from dead, despite rumours to the contrary.  Look on Flickr, and you’ll find plenty of bustling, booming film camera groups.
  2. 35mm film on these cameras gives the same crop factor as a Full Frame sensor D-SLR or digital compact.  But such a camera costs in excess of a thousand, or even two thousand quid (GBP £1000 – £2800).  My Olympus XA2 just cost me less than one quid (£0.5).  I can digitally scan the developed negatives up to a resolution of 9,600 dpi (I usually scan to 2,400 dpi which gives me a digital image of 3400 x 2252 pixels).  Sure there is far more to it than resolution – but I hope that I make my point.  A 50p camera can do some pretty awesome things.
  3. Zone focus compacts are l33t.  They have a cool factor.
  4. Compact zone focus film cameras are still regarded as the best choice for street photography and candid portraits.  D-SLRs or even many SLRs are just rude.  The public does not want a big chunk of Canikon glass and a clunky SLR mirror pointed in their direction.  It’s just not discreet   D-SLR street togs are frequently stopped or blocked by Police and security firms.  It’s bizarre (after all, surely a real terrorist would use a spy cam?), but in this post-9/11 World, DSLR users are often seen as nuisances at the least, or at worst, possible pedophiles or even terrorists!  A 35mm zone focus IS so discreet.  It doesn’t even need focusing.  You can shoot from the hip and hope for the best.  It’s fast, discreet, and quiet.  Just set it mid-range, and shoot.  No time lost auto-focusing the lens – it just opens the shutter instantly.  Hide it back in a pocket.  Job done.
  5. Lens quality.  Ok, most of the cheap film compact cameras of the 1960s – 1990s had some pretty shitty lenses.  But not all.  Just as today, there were some pretty expensive and high quality compact cameras – especially during the competitive 80s and 90s.  Our Olympus 35mm cameras all sport D.Zuiko lens.  Some Yashica and Contax compacts sported the elite Carl Zeiss lens.  You just need to learn to tell the gold from the coal, when filtering through all of those compact camera cases at the car boot sale.
  6. Vintage (1980s/90s) zone focus and compact cameras V new Chinese toy film cameras (e.g. Diana and Holga).  No offence to the Lomography camp.  But I bought Nita a Diana F+ Mini.  The quality was rubbish – but that is to be expected.  The wind on mechanism kept jamming and double exposing.  It has a plastic lens!  I know that part of the charm of the Lomo craze is for images to look crap, but come on, it’s cheaper to buy a car boot classic than a new toy camera.  Get real.

Sorry for any offence – none intended.

Cameras and equipment, Dogs and animals, Rants and discussions

Three more 50p cameras from the Car Boot Sale

Sunday Market Dogs. Sony DSLR A200. Sony DT AF 35mm F/1.8 SAM lens.

Oh dear, visited the local car boot sale come Sunday market last weekend,.  The weather was gloomy, and wet.  Not many stalls, but I still unfortunately parted with £1.50 of my hard earned cash, buying three film cameras for 50p each (GBP £0.50).

Camera 1) a Yashica AW Mini.  This VGC camera is weather resistant (AW = All Weather).  A compact auto focus point and click 35mm film camera, dating to circa 1991.  Perfect condition, and it’s black plastic design hide the fact that this working 50p camera is actually 23 years old!  Unfortunately, it bears a Yashica 32mm F/3.5 lens rather than the Carl Zeiss lens of the posher T-range Yashica compacts.  Still, not only is it all weather – it has a fantastic New Angle Scope mounted on the top of the camera, aiding waist height operation.  You can look down into this top mounted viewfinder.  Perfect for Lomo style street photography.  What a great innovation!

Camera 2) a Ricoh AF-35.  Perhaps the worse bargain.  It’s a 1980’s early autofocus compact point and click 35mm film camera.  The only user review I’ve found for it online describes it as ugly, heavy, automatic, and with a boring lens.

Camera 3) a Kodak Brownie 44A.  Dates to circa 1961.  A collection piece rather than a working camera, as it was designed for 127 format film.  Not cheap and easily available.  Still, condition is fair to good.  It was made in Great Britain, by an award winning designer.

I’ll maybe post some photos of these 50p cameras later, but for now, an earlier image captured of a pair of Great Danes at the Sunday Market last summer.  Looking forward to playing with that little Yashica.  Photos to follow – I’ve loaded it with Poundland AA batteries and Poundland 35mm film 🙂

Film, 35mm, and scans, Monochrome, Pentax ME Super 35mm film SLR, Rants and discussions, Street and Protest

Camera Love – Cameraphilia

Edward, the coolest cat and my son, posing for me in Kings Lynn. Shot on Pentax ME Super 35mm SLR, Pentax-M 50mm lens, Ilford FP4+ 400 film

Not long after buying a cheap used D-SLR, and entering ‘serious’ photography (I say that with tongue in cheek), I encountered the photography phenomena LBA (Lens Buying Addiction) and GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome).  I think that I’ve avoided falling into those traps to an extent anyway.  When I buy an DSLR, I’ve learn’t that frequent change of lens equals damaged sensor.  Anyway, it’s better to master one prime lens than to be slave to a back pack of lenses.  Yes, I’m a prime lens fan.

However, more recently, I’m finding it difficult to avoid collecting gear, as I encounter the  COFSOCCBSCSV (“cheap old film SLR and other cameras in car boot sales and charity shops virus”).  I really do try to resist.

Enough of that.  This blog is about camera love.  What camera do you love throwing over your shoulder.  Which one do you carry in the car everywhere – maybe even shopping or to work?  You just love it on your shoulder.  The past three month for me it’s been a thirty year old 35mm film SLR Pentax ME Super.  So smexy, my god, it’s cameraphilia.  I love it for it’s quaint polished metal looks, the classic prism casing, it’s small over-the-shoulder size, the minimalist leather strap (must stop talking sex).

My sexy Pentax ME Super fitted with even sexier orange filter for Ilford B&W’s.

So what camera do you just need to carry?  Come on, come out cameraphiles across the World!