Zenza Bronica SQ-A

More on Medium Format Photography


Phone a Potato. Promoting a nearby potato restaurant and bar in the street in Gdansk, Poland. Thanks for posing guys. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 80mm f/2.8 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus medium format film. Home developed in ID11.

So maybe size does count?  I don’t know, but there’s something about a roll of 120 film.  Like a good cigar maybe?  This format of photographic film is 113 years old, but still going.  There must be a reason?  When I go through old family photographs, I can pick out those old photographs that are 6 cm long on one side, and I know it was shot on a roll, rather like those Ilford’s that I’m using now.  Just like that 120 hanging to dry in the bathroom now.  The spindles may have changed from wooden, to cork, to metal, and now to plastic – but it’s still a paper backed 120.

My favourite flavour?  I’m a sucker for Ilford, but can’t make my mind up between HP5 Plus and Delta Pro 400.  Any visitors to my Flickr photostream may have noticed, not only have I gone almost entirely off Digital, I’ve also gone off C41 Colour.  Why?  Two reasons.  1) I’m too clumsy to successfully develop C41 at 38C with so little tolerance.  Sometimes it works well, other times I ruin a film.  It’s so much safer and cheaper for me to stick with true B/W.  If I do use C41 film in future (certainly I will on 35mm, as I have so many of those Poundland films in fridge and freezer), then I’ll just pop it into a professional photo-lab to process.

2) Second reason is that I want to specialise and work on my own style.  I can develop B/W film easily and fairly reliably – and inexpensively!  I like monochrome.  Film monochrome is so real.  I use to be a fan of digital b/w, but now when I look through all of those photostreams where the photographer has simply flicked from digi colour to digi b/w using Photoshop or Lightroom, it doesn’t work for me anymore.  Some people do shoot well in Digi B/W, but usually those that specialise in it.  Not those that dabble – like I use to.

So no more dabbling.  I need my own style, and I’ve chosen B/W Film.  Primarily maybe medium format – but also with a bit of pocket 35mm.  Expect lots more film based monochrome from me in future.  I’m addicted to silver.

Portrait, Street and Protest, Travel Photography, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

That Candid Expression of Surprise

One Potato, Two Potato…. I like this one, as I caught that much-prized-by-candid-photographers “shocked moment”. This was taken in Gdansk Poland, and the guys here were promoting the nearby Pyrabar restaurant. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 80mm f/2.8 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus medium format film. Home developed in ID11.

I think I just about caught it here.  These guys were promoting their restaurant (a potato restaurant), by the name of Pyra bar, in Gdansk, and doing all sorts of stuff with potatoes in order to do so.  I moved up with the hefty Bronica in hand, and just managed to set it up for an exposure, when she raised her head and saw me – shutter hit.  I’m happy with this street portrait.

If only it worked so well more often.  Great people, they posed for another shot shortly after – I’ll post that at a later date.  Still several rolls of Ilford in the fridge to process.

Travel Photography, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

Rainy Day Scanning

The Basilica of St Mary from Ulica Dluga, Gdansk. Looking down the side street from Dluga to St Mary’s church in Gdansk. Pentax ME Super camera. SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus film. Developed in ID11.

Miserable grey rainy English day outside, so I’m sitting here scanning the negatives of some 120 film that I processed yesterday evening.  More on them later, as the above photo was taken on 35mm film, using the Pentax ME Super.   Really fancied trying out my recently acquired Praktica 35mm SLR today, but I just can’t be bothered in this weather.  I’ll probably develop some more 120 from my recent visit to Poland later.  Other news?  Today’s car boot sale was pretty much washed out.  The usual 35mm compact cameras from the 1980s – 1990s, but nothing special.  I did find an interesting old negative album at a car boot sale yesterday, for “miniature” negatives (35mm).  Bought it for a quid.  Photo below:

The Barberton Album for miniature negatives. By miniature, it seems to be referring to 35mm film. Now when was 35mm or 135 film last regarded as “miniature”? I’m guessing early 1940s? Taken with Sony DSLR A200 and Sony AF DT 50mm SAM f/1.8 lens.

Pentax ME Super 35mm film SLR, Travel Photography

Thanks for the Nudge

Sopot, the Twisted crooked house, Poland. Theme restaurant and bar at the popular Polish seaside resort of Sopot. Pentax ME Super camera. SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus film. Developed in ID11

Mariacka Street, Gdansk. Amber sales area, with St Mary in the back ground. Pentax ME Super camera. SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus film. Developed in ID11.

Thank you for the nudge Fabius.  Yeah, I’ve finished processing the 35mm films from the Pentax ME Super and Olympus Trip 35 cameras that I used in Poland.  I’ve just started the rolls of medium format 120 film from the Bronica SQ-A today.  First of all, the advice not to let Airport Security X-ray your photographic film – forget it, it’s going to happen in this post 911 World.  Are you going to try and argue with them?  Then get ready for some rubber glove treatment and to miss your flight.  The good news though, is that I was assured that it wont fog all but the very fastest film, e.g. much faster than the ISO 400 that I took.  So far, I can’t see any damage.

As for the cameras, the Olympus Trip 35 was to be honest, a wee bit disappointing.  I don’t feel that it gave me the results that I’ve come to expect from my beloved 50p Olympus XA2 compact.  Sometimes it gave great results.  But as a quick shoot from the hip street camera, it just borked for me.  Maybe it’s that it is a battery free camera, relying on the selenium power.  As for the Pentax ME Super – as expected,  Superb results through the Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7 glass, but it ripped film sprocket holes, forcing premature ejaculation of expensive films.  I was hesitant to take this camera to Gdansk, as it has had a knock in the past, and I already knew that it had a tendency to do this.  Still what a shame, it’s such a great camera.  I hope one day that I’ll find a similar Pentax 35mm SLR in better condition.

So anyway, I’ve started with the two above scans.  I particularly like the top image, taken of the twisted or crooked house in Sopot.  People just doing their thing.

Other news:  I’ve bought a few Praktica 35mm SLRs recently, and from them, I’ve put together a rather nice Praktica BMS Electronic.  These were made in the former socialist republic East Germany circa 1989 – 1990, literally just before the Berlin Wall fell.  I bought a worker today at a car boot sale.  Looking forward to testing it out.  They remind me of a contemporary Zenit, only better.  I’ve a few nice lenses with them.

I’ve also just started developing the 120 films from Poland.  Ilford Delta Pro 400’s to start with, but I also used HP5 Plus.  I also chucked away my C41 chems.  I’m going to stick to what I do better – black and white film.

More posts more regular – I promise.


Monochrome, Pentax ME Super 35mm film SLR, Rants and discussions, Travel Photography

Back from Poland…

Actually been back for a week, but it’s been work, work, work…

Gdansk Shipyard Gates. Pentax ME Super camera. SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus film. Developed in ID11

I’ve learned a little bit more about the history of that part of the World.  That’s something I’ve brought back – along with a lot of films to develop.  First of all, the above photo.  A lone worker finishes shift and leaves the ship yards at Gdansk.  The workers at this ship yard played a pivotal role in the collapse of Polish socialism, the Warsaw Pact, maybe even of the Soviet Union itself.  However, now in 2014, their jobs come under threat from the free-markets of Capitalism.  The Polish Government continues to prop them up with financial support – at the protest of the EU itself.

Still, Poland as a whole, even the Tri-City, has without a doubt prospered from both the free markets and EU membership.  Wherever you look you see westernization, consumerism, and development.  The old speak Russian as a second language.  The young speak English almost as a partner language.  The socialist past has all but been wiped out.  Not that this is enough for Poland’s workers or youth.  One million of them have moved to the UK.  This has lead to tensions and debates both in Poland and the UK.

I’ll be watching what happens there next.


Monochrome, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

Countdown to Gdansk


Do Not Panic. Everything is Ok. Norwich street. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 80mm f/2.8 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus medium format film. Home developed in ID11.

Only a few days to my trip to Gdansk, Poland.  I think that I’ve settled on cameras.  Looks like it’s going to be three film cameras.  The Bronica SQ-A will be the prime camera.  I’m taking over twenty Ilford 120 rolls, so I should be covered. I’ll be packing both Ilford HP5 Plus, and Delta 400.  Secondary cameras will both be 35mm.  The Pentax ME Super fitted with the 50mm Pentax-M lens.  I was a little hesitant with this one, as it keeps ripping socket holes in the films.  It seems to stem from the fact that the film compartment has had a knock sometime in it’s history before my time.  I’m hoping that it behaves better with Ilford, than with Poundland film.  I’m also taking my Olympus Trip 35 as a 35mm back up, in case the Pentax misbehaves.  I’ll be packing Ilford HP5 for the 35mm.  This might seem strange, as Gdansk is clearly a colourful city, and here I am shooting in b/w film.  That however, will be the challenge.  To see if I can produce a reasonable and interesting gallery of film-digital hybrid monochrome from a week in the Polish Tri-City area.

Film, 35mm, and scans, Monochrome, Olympus XA-2 - 50p camera project II

SLF to Love, FirstCall film, Caffenol, Gdansk, Leningrad

Screw Love. Olympus XA2 35mm film compact camera (cost 50p from a car boot sale). First Call (Agfa) 400S B&W film (low budget b/w film). Developed in ID11 stock 10.5 minutes.

My latest photo in Flickr Explore.  I’ve seen far better from others not make it into Explore, it really is a mystery.  Taken on my infamous 50p car boot sale camera, a pocket friendly Olympus XA2, loaded with FirstCall 400S film.  It was the first time that I’ve used this film.  Resold by a UK based photographic supply distributor called FirstCall, the plastic 135 film cassette states that it is made by Agfa-Gevaert Belgium.  It’s a low budget b/w film, only costs a few quid a 36 exposure film, which is about as cheap as I’ve seen for true black and white film recently.  Development times were a bit long – ten and a half minutes in full ID11 stock.  Not sure if I like it, it ain’t HP5 +.  Still it is cheap, so might buy some more.  Certainly suits budget 35mm cameras as a true b/w film.  I don’t really like cross processed C-41 in Ilford results.  They leave too much to the digital scanner to correct.

I’ve settled for another film process project.  I’ve not yet tried alternative home recipe developers.  I’ve been looking at Caffenol, the umbrella name given to home made developers based on coffee granules, and usually vitamin C powder, and washing soda.  I’ve even bought a jar of cheap coffee ready for the project.  Where am I going to get the other ingredients here in the UK?  Couldn’t see vitamin C powder or washing soda in the superstore just now.

Other news?  Ok, Iain Stewart is right.  My recent medium format exposures have been poor – often over-exposed, sometimes under-exposed.  Thing is, I broke my only light meter.  It was a cheap old Capital selenium thing that I got at the local car boot for 50p, after three Sundays of haggling down with some travelers (I can be tight fisted).  So I’ve ordered a similar used but this time, a Soviet light meter (a Leningrad 8) from an online auction site.  Hope it arrives before my flight to Gdansk!

Landscape and buildings, Monochrome, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

Look out Gdansk. Tight Fisted Photography heading your way soon.

Norwich Cathedral on Ilford Medium Format. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 80mm f/2.8 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus medium format film. Home developed in ID11

I’ve been practicing recently for some up and coming travel photography.  Beginning of April, I’ll be in Gdansk, Poland.  I’m limited to hand baggage only, as it’s a budget break, and therefore to photographic equipment.  I know it’s a heavy camera, but I want to take the Bronica SQ-A along, and concentrate on Ilford medium format photography.  I’m tempted to take the Agfa Isolette as a back up – a pocketable (folding bellows) medium format camera.  No doubt I’ll also take a zone focus 35mm pocket camera.  I’m torn between the Olympus XA2, and the slightly larger Olympus Trip 35.  As for film, in 120 I’ve got 20 rolls of Ilford HP5/Delta Pro 400.  When I look through Flickr for Gdansk photography, I’m struck by the colours of the town, but I’ve already committed myself to sticking to medium format monochrome for the time being, so I’ll see what I can do.  I will take some Poundland 35mm film along for the pocket.  Digital?  That can stay at home this time.

The above photo that I recently took in Norwich was one of a series where I was sort of practicing shooting in the street with the Bronica.  Came out rather well I thought.  I shot a few rolls of 120 around Norwich and Wymondham whilst I was recently staying in Norfolk.  Both Ilford, and the cheaper (but not as pleasant) Foma Fomapan.  Any advice on travel photography to Poland, carrying a fat medium format system camera around on the shoulder anybody?