Olympus XA-2 - 50p camera project II


Olympus XA2 compact camera. Ilford HP5+ b/w 35mm film. Developed in Kodak D76 stock. Scanned on a V500.

The two Ilford films from the XA2 (the 50p Camera Project) are dried and scanned.  The above is one of my favourites.  A candid taken at the burger van of a local mid week car boot sale.  I think that it captures the atmosphere of such an event quite well.  Car boot sales, auctions, and Sunday markets are great places to catch interesting people.

I developed in D-76 stock, which might have made the HP5 a little grainy, but as any regular readers will know, I don’t shy away from the rough.  It adds I think to the feeling of the photograph.  Anyway, I wanted to use the developer up, as it wasn’t well stored, and I’m keen to give a bottle of Ilford LC29 a go next.

I guess that is one of the attractions of film and even hybrid photography – we have so many different films, developers, and processes available still, each of which will affect the final image.

Next in the XA2 will be a couple of Poundland C41 films.



Wisbech car boot sale. Looking down. Olympus XA2 50p camera. Ilford HP5+ film. Scanned with a V500.

Online photography forums can be hazardous places.  Although you can find great advice and support there, you’ll also witness plenty of disagreements.  Indeed, those threads are usually the fattest, as different posters rip into each other over such merits as “is photography art?”.

I’m not that a good forumite, indeed, I’m a bit off them much of the time.  However, I think that I’ve observed a common root to many of the disagreements.  It’s simple.  There are many types of photography and photographer.  None are better or worse, however, their equipment, aspirations, and techniques are very dissimilar.  A nature photographer will be able to benefit from the longest and fastest of lenses for their bird shots, or incredibly expensive macro set ups for their micro-life.  A sports photographer will benefit from not only fast lenses, but from the latest cutting edge digital sensor with it’s low light performance – as would the concert or gig photographer.  The street photographer needs a small, un-threatening camera.  They might even be happy to use film for a medium.  The professional wedding photographer – well, they’ll need quite different gear.

The problem is that what is best for one type of photographer is not best for the next.  That’s where the arguments start, when they fail to appreciate that simple reality.

For myself.  I have little value of sharpness.  I don’t need the latest cutting edge gear.  I don’t need technical perfection.  My photographs are not (at least in my eyes) less valuable for lacking sharpness and detail in perfect exposure.  What suits my aspirations may not suit yours.

Olympus XA-2 - 50p camera project II


Wisbech Car Boot Sale candid. Olympus XA2 50p camera project. Ilford HP5+ b/w film. ID11. V500 scanned.

Continuing my theme of local anthrophotography.  I took the above at the local car boot sale.  The very same market, that I bought this Olympus XA2 from, for 50p.  The above is an example of that most cowardly candid – the shot from the hip candid portrait.  The XA2 is very good for that.  The two ladies were clearly of “East European” origin, and were busy selling goods from their stall.  I think that their dress and faces give away their origins very nicely.

The local car boot sale / Sunday market is incredibly popular with immigrants from Lithuania, Poland, Czech, Romania, Latvia, Russia, etc.  I wonder if the popularity of these sort of junk sales started in the late Soviet era?  The seeds of Capitalism.  Wherever you walk around the market, you hear so many languages.  This is what I was hoping to capture in the silver salts of this exposure.

Film, 35mm, and scans, Monochrome, Portrait

The cheapest film photography?

Nita holding the Bronica in town. Taken with a Boots disposable film camera that expired in 2009. Developed cross process in B/W chemistry ID11 at 20C.

Go to any half sized car boot sale in the UK, there’s a fair chance that you might spot some unused but expired disposable film cameras laying in boxes or unlikely, displayed on tables.  These are part of that classic British household junk assemblage, that makes it’s way to the sales.  Some very basic, some with flash, and even a little electronics.  Bought maybe for a holiday or a trip, or a party, but never used.  Price? Always point out the expired date on the camera, and that any developing contract on it is out of it’s date.  Then haggle – aiming for 10p to 50p.  After all, it’s useless, isn’t it?  Don’t pay more than pennies on one.

What you have bought is in essence, rather similar to a hip Chinese Toy Camera, although at a tiny fraction of their bloated prices.  A plastic lens.  An expired film.  You may indeed choose to use it that way.  Perhaps have them developed in C-41 – or even cross processed to E6 at a local photolab.  You might be handy at C41 yourself, and have the chemistry at home.

Personally, I cross process them in B/W chemistry at home.  It makes for the cheapest ever photography – no more than 50p for the camera/film, and perhaps a similar cost in used chemicals.

The Back Yard. As above, taken by Nita. Expired disposable camera cross processed in B/W Ilford chemistry.

By the way, the top photo made it into the Flickr Explore gallery – a place that not every Canikon DSLR has ventured.  Cheap as chips.


A Three quid wide angle lens

First Test. Nita and Flint in a stubble field this afternoon. Warm filter applied post process using Gimp 2.8 open source software. Pentax K110D D-SLR and Pentax-M 28mm f/2.8 lens.

No cameras worth buying at today’s local car boot sale.  A few leather cased viewfinders (an Agfa, and an Ilford), some overpriced old cine cameras, but nothing to really take my fancy.  However, every few weeks or so, something nice turns up.  This time it was a Pentax-M 28mm f/2.8 prime lens.  I’ve had one before from Ebay, but it had bloody fungus inside – the death of a lens.  This one was sweet, smooth aperture, clean glass, the original QC sticker, and Pentax lens cover.  I knocked the seller down from his price of £5 to my offer of three quid.

I’m a mean bastard.  Ebay buy-it-now prices range £40 to £90 for this classic lens.

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).

Jessop Macro kit, Sony DSLR A200 and Sony DT 50mm F/1.8mm SAM prime lens

Something New from the Car Boot Sale

Jessop macro kit – 2 x tele-converter and three extension tubes with Sony DSLR mount. Taken with the Sony DSLR-A200 and Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens.

Well, not as ancient as my usual purchases at the car boot sale.  I bought something for one of my digital cameras at yesterday’s sale!  What are the chances of bumping into something with a modern Sony DSLR mount at a local car boot sale?  Pretty slim I’d say.  I don’t see much modern gear for Canon or Nikon at the local sale, never mind for Sony / Minolta.  My usual purchases are classic film cameras.  But yesterday, I did just that.  A Jessops macro-kit, consisting of a Jessop MC 2x Mx/AF tele-converter, and three Jessop M-Xi extension tubes – 31mm, 21mm, and 13mm.  All with a Sony / Minolta Alpha-mount!

The seller explained that he had bought them for his Canon, not understanding the difference in mount.  He said that he had seen similar sold on Ebay for £60.  Well, I’ve checked them out, and I’d guess Ebay price for the kit might go £40 – £80.  The Tele-converter is still listed new on the Jessop website at £80.  How much did I pay?  I knocked him down to £23 (well, £25 with two movie DVDs in the price) for the whole kit.  A wee bit more than I’d spend on vintage camera equipment, but a nice buy still I feel.

Using them behind the Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens?  Focus has to be manual – even with just the tele-converter (although it gives me the option now to use the 50mm prime as a 100mm MF prime when I need it.).  The auto focus just doesn’t find it’s target with the tele-converter behind the nifty fifty, despite claims to be AF.

With the extension tubes added, it turns the 50mm into a macro lens.  I’ve not had time yet, to experiment with different extensions or the tele-converter, nor using them with my 35mm prime lens.  D0F is incredibly shallow at macro with all tubes and tele-converter, making hard to focus anything but a flat surface (see the 20p coin below).  I’ll try for better results when I have better light and more interesting subjects, but for now I achieved the below results.

Test One. The Feather. Jessops 2x tele-converter plus all three extension tubes behind a Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM prime lens

The 20p UK coin. As above, tele-converter, three extension tubes, 50mm prime lens on the A200.

The Pencil tip. As above. 2x tele-converter, three extension tubes, 50mm prime lens.

I’ll play more when I get time.  As I stated above, the tele-converter alone can double the focal lengths of my prime lenses should I need that.  I want to try the kit with my 35mm prime, and to experiment with and without the tele converter and various tubes to see if I can improve that DoF with less magnification.  I also need good light!

I don’t think that macro photography is going to be me, it’s done far better by others with better gear, but it’s worth £23 to play with that option.

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

A Medium Format TLR Camera for Two Quid!

A Two Quid Medium Format TLR Camera. Taken today using a Sony A200 DSLR and Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens.

Today is a bank holiday here in England, and although yesterday’s car boot sale camera hunt was a failure – a visit to a couple of small local sales today, and I found this – an immaculate condition Lubitel 166B medium format TLR (twin lens reflex) camera.  Made in the USSR during the early 1980s, possibly at the Lomo camera factory, this example looks barely used, if indeed it ever was – maybe an unwanted gift?  Complete with carry case, strap, lens cover, and shutter cable, it was on sale for three quid.  I knocked the car booter down to two quid (GBP £2.00).  Walked away happy.

The Lubitel 166B Medium Format TLR camera. As above.

Isn’t she beautiful?  Not just my Nita – the camera!  I’m looking forward to some cheapskate, low budget, tight fisted medium format photography – I need to find some cheap 120 film.  Not my first TLR, I did for a short time have a cheapy in my teens, back around 1981, but only ever shot one roll of film.  It’s going to be fun!

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, Monochrome, Portrait, Sony DSLR A200 and Sony DT 50mm F/1.8mm SAM prime lens

More Camera Porn

The Coronet No.2 portrait lens Box. Made in England. Taken with a Sony A200 DSLR. Sony AF DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens. Post process open source UFRaw and Gimp 2.8.

This sexy looking box camera was purchased by myself recently for a wopping three quid (I did knock her down from £4) at a recent car boot sale.  The Coronet Meniscus portrait lens No 2 Box camera was manufactured in England around 1935.  This one came in a cloth bag with the name WATSON marked on it.  Made in England.