35mm, Yashica T2

Yashica T2 V Olympus XA2

Yashica T2 loaded with AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 400 film.

I’ve been forcing myself to give both the 50p Camera (Olympus XA2), and b/w film a rest.  Instead, the little time that I’ve had for photography, I’ve been using my Yashica T2 AF compact camera, loaded with cheap C41 colour film.  Although I love b/w, the reality is that I have plenty of Poundland film in the fridge / freezer, that I bought a few years ago, for a quid each.  Nice 36 exposure 200, and a few 24 x 400 AgfaPhoto Visa Plus.  I can get C41 processed by a good local photolab for £2.50.  This makes the film/process cost cheaper than any b/w film, at 9p per exposure on the 36 shot films.  In addition, it seems a positive thing to embrace different gear and media on occasion.

The above photo was exposed onto the faster Poundland that was circulating a year or two ago, the AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 400.  I like it so much, I’m going to use up my last few cassettes of it next.

Using the Yashica T2 V Olympus XA2

I have been using the Olympus XA2 (c.1982) for a few years now, for opportunistic, snapshot, street, etc.  How does the Yashica T2 (c.1986) compare? They are very different 1980s 35mm film compact cameras.

Portability.  The XA2 wins hands down.  It is so small, it’ll fit in most pockets.  As my XA2 is so battered anyway, I don’t care too much if it rattles against other debris in the pocket such as coins, even keys.  The clamshell lens cover protects well.  The Yash T2 is very pretty, but actually quite bulky.  I don’t want it bashed, it’s so good condition, so I have to hang it around my neck with it’s wallet on.

Focus.  The XA2 uses a simple 3 zone focus.  You have three fixed focuses to manually select from.  The default is pretty cool for street.  It’s a fast, silent, simple system.  The T2 on the other hand uses an early (1986) Auto-focus system.  It’s slow and clumsy compared with modern auto focus, and pretty crap at a moving subject.  However, when it hits, it’s sharp compared to the zone focus XA2.  Better than the XA2 on still or very slow subjects.  The XA2 wins for quick snapshots at moving subjects.  The T2 makes nice portraits, aided by it’s Carl Zeiss T* Tessar lens.

Street Stealth.  No competition.  The XA2 wins.  I’ve heard the Yashica T series being hailed as stealth street cameras.  Bollocks they are.  They are actually pretty bulky for a compact 35mm.  The AF slows you down.  The biggest problem for stealth however, is the loud film motor drive.  It’s part of the nostalgic attraction of it, but for stealth, it’s like a loud hailer shouting “look at me, I’m taking photos of you!”.  The T2 is NOT a stealth street camera.  The XA2 is.  The XA2 is tiny, and in experienced hands, the 3 zone focus is fast and silent.  In my opinion, a far better street camera than any SLR.  I even once took a candid of two photographers, one a pro, a metre away.  The pro heard the shutter, but looked all around.  The XA2 was out of sight.  Quite funny really.

Quality.  I’m not a huge fan of image technical perfection, but this is where the T2 does finally win over the XA2.  The hipster rated Carl Zeiss lens, and AF makes for better Q.  The scanned negatives are sharper.  The XA2 does, if it hits perfect optimum focus, still make some sharp clear photos, but a lot of the time you are playing in the focus zone out of optimum.

Happiness.  I’m a big fan of what fun a camera brings.  I’ve maybe thrashed and done so much with the XA2, that I need to put it down for a few months, in order to appreciate it again.  For now, I really am getting happiness from the Yashica T2.  I feel that despite it’s failings as a fast stealth camera,  I’m smiling when I take a snapshot.

Either camera, I believe this is what 35mm film was meant to be.  Miniature, portable, point & shoot.  George Eastman’s vision come true.  This is what I use 35mm film for.  How about you?

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Cameras and equipment

A Ross Ensign Ful-Vue II

Rain Ghoul

The Ross Ensign Ful-Vue II camera.

We found this camera last week at a local car boot sale.  I’ve seen several Ful-Vues before, so I imagine that they must have been quite mass produced in their day.  However, this one was in unusually very good condition, an Ensign Ful-Vue II, with the original box, canvas carry case, user manual, and even an empty photo wallet.  So I parted with GBP £5, and took it home.

This model was manufactured in England around 1952.  The Ful-Vue range were simple, but oddly styled, snapshot cameras.  They were sort of box cameras, that were trying to evolve into TLR cameras.  Designed to take Brownie film (120 medium format – some later models used 620 spindles), their days were numbered with the increasing popularity of 35mm film.  A cheap simple lens, a simple one speed (or bulb) spring shutter, but with an odd looking viewfinder somewhere between a box camera and a toy TLR.  It has a three point focus.

My car boot Ful-Vue on inspection, despite it’s otherwise lovely condition, had a sticky shutter.  Three small screws, and the shutter mechanism came off.  A little light oil, and it was back in service.  The photo wallet, and a photo lab pamphlet provenanced to Glasgow in 1960.  I imagine that this may well have been when the camera was last used.

I loaded with one of my remaining 120 rolls of Shanghai GP3 film.  We took it out for a quick fun trial.  What do you think?

Hedge Rider

The Pumpkin Field

Halloween mask courtesy of Poundland, in the tight fisted tradition.

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Film

Walk in the Park

Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Shanghai GP3 120 film. Developed in Kodak D76. Epson V500 scanned film.

I did warn you that puppy dog photos were on the way.  I took this yesterday in Wisbech Park, of Anita and her daughter with Loki, our new whippet puppy.  We are getting some nice light now, for the slower films, even if sometimes a bit sharp.  I had to run ahead of the three of them, and quickly capture a few semi-candid snaps with the Bronica SQ-A and PS 150mm f/4 lens.

I had already finished off a roll of FP4+ (still undeveloped), with an S-18 extension tube.  All that I had in my pocket was a roll of Shanghai GP3 film.  Now, I’ve published a few images from Shanghai here before – but let me reiterate what it is about.

Shanghai GP3 is rated at ISO 100 (some say that it is closer to ISO 80).  It is a b/w negative film made in 120 medium format.  It is made in China.  It is sold on Ebay, and if you buy ten at a time, you can usually get it here in the UK for around £2.00 – £2.30 a 120 roll.  I bought my last ten for £21, but prices do vary on the Ebay markets.  I’ve just ordered another ten for £20.45 including postage from China.  Yup, that works out at just 5p over two quid per roll.  Find cheaper, because I can’t.  For example, I just took a look at a well known UK film distributor’s website.  If I ordered ten Ilford FP4+ 120 films, from them with postage, they would work out at £4.47 per roll.  Over double the Chinese price.

A quirk with Shanghai GP3 – there is no sticky tape at the fully exposed end of the paper!  You might want to carry a roll of sticky tape.  The other quirk – you think that Foma is curly?  Nahhhh!  This stuff is curly.  Hang a lead weight on the end during drying – it’ll still probably curl when you cut it.

Otherwise?  I’m just a pleb, but I think that it is bloody beautiful – the ridiculously cheap price just makes it better.  I wish that the Chinese made something closer to ISO 400 for poorer light and street action.

Another image that I’ve also published here earlier:

As above, except developed in Ilford ID11 rather than D-76.  Shanghai GP3 film.

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Monochrome, Rants and discussions

Shanghai GP3 – tight fisted 120 roll film

Anita makes shadows on the headstones at Upwell. Trying out cheap Chinese 120 roll film, Shanghai GP3, in the Bronica yesterday. Bronica SQ-A. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4. Shanghai GP3 120 film ID11 at 1:1.

How did I miss Shanghai GP3 for so long?  The cheapest 120 medium format b/w negative film on the market.  Somehow, my frail old brain must have filtered it out as “Chinese”, perhaps associating it with those ‘orrible Chinese toy cameras.  My attention was finally brought to Shanghai early in the winter.  I bought a pack of ten on Ebay – which appears to be where they are being marketed.  I shopped for minimum price, and bought this ten pack with free p&p, working out at a cost of £2.10 per film.  Crikey, that is cheap.  When you think that I have to shop around normally to find Foma Fomapan or Ilford HP5+ for around £3.50-£4.20 a film with p&p.  Heck, if I was to pop in a local shop and try buying Ilford Delta Pro, then I’d expect to shell out at least seven quid a film or more.  So you see that Shanghai is incredibly cheap at £2.10 per film.

Taken from outside of the church. Couldn’t resist the beautiful light. Testing a roll of Shanghai GP3 budget medium format film. Specs as top image.

So what is it like?  Well, I mainly use faster film, especially at this time of year – mainly around ISO 400.  A couple of stops saved on the camera are essential when trying to capture street or candid.  Shanghai is rated at an optimum ISO 100, although I hear rumours that it might be nearer to ISO 80.  Still, we’ve been having some mid-day January sun of recent, so a couple of days ago, I thought that I’d have some fun with a test roll, and promptly loaded an SQ film back with Shanghai GP3 film.

Photograph taken yesterday in Upwell church yard, of a headstone leaning against a tree.Trying out the Chinese budget film. Specs as top image.

One characteristic of GP3 that is worthy of note – there is no sticky tape at the end of the roll.  If I was to shoot more than one roll, then I’d need a roll of sticky tape in my pocket.  After a quick shoot at Upwell church, and along a drove, I took the film home, and later that day, developed it in a dilution of 1:1 Ilford ID11 at 20C for 14 minutes.  (By the way, I recently calculated that such a dilution costs me £0.71p per 120 film.  I have been told that I could save money by switching to Kodak D76.).

After processing and drying – the second characteristic – this stuff dries out really curly.  Not a good characteristic if you are to digitally scan the negative in a mask on a flatbed film scanner.  I’ve heard people complain about Foma being curly – but I never had a problem with it.  Shanghai IS curly.

The results.  I never pretend to be much of an authority nor an expert.  However, to my eyes – much better than expected.  Very smooth, fine grained (although having recently shot a lot of Fomapan Action 400 – anything else looks smooth).  Good tones and contrast.  A real surprise – a budget film that looks good.

Although slower than the film that I like for my kind of photography, Shanghai GP3 is definitely going to feature as a medium in my photography in the future.  I’ll keep a film back loaded.

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Cameras and equipment, Monochrome, Rants and discussions

Is that a medium format camera in your pocket, or are you pleased to meet me?

Street scene at Norwich, using a folding camera and expired film. Agfa Isolette I. 1954 medium format folding camera. Ilford FP4 Plus film. Expired 2001. Developed in ID11

What can I rave about today?  How about my medium format pocket camera?  Yes, that’s correct, medium format that fits in your (large) pocket.  I bought an Agfa Isolette I at a car boot sale last Autumn.  It was in pretty good condition, clean, and cost me around eight quid.  Photo below:

My Agfa Isolette I. Taken using a Sony A200 DSLR

A folding camera made in Germany circa 1954, the Isolette I was the economy model in the Isolette range, with  a plain jane Agfa Agnar f/4.5 lens, and a max shutter speed of 200.  After purchasing it I read online, to expect the old bellows to leak light.  Although there are instructions and even a template online, for making new bellows, it looked too craft-like for my ten thumbs.  Neither could I justify paying for them.  I tried a film in the camera anyway, but on processing the film, I made a goof and didn’t add enough developer solution to the tank.  Sure enough the result was awful, but I wasn’t sure how much was down to my developing goof, and how much was down to light leaks on the camera.  I lost interest in it, and reverted to using the Lubitel for my medium format work.  Later purchase of the Bronica pushed the Isolette further to the back of the camera cupboard, near to the box cameras.

My Agfa Isolette when folded. Fits nicely into a coat or jacket pocket.

But it’s such a pretty and clean camera, so I kept pulling it out again.  Then around a month ago, I decided to try another film in it – only to develop it better this time.  Ok, I plumped for a very expired old roll of Ilford FP4+ that was probably ready for the bin anyway.  I used up the 12 6 x 6 square exposures on the roll of 120 film.  After processing the film – no visible light leak damage.  It works.

Now I see the benefits to a camera like this.  Ok, the lens isn’t Carl Zeiss and the body isn’t Hasselblad – but it fits in a coat pocket, and it takes reasonable (better than a Chinese plastic toy camera) medium format photographs.  Not only that, but every time that I unfold it, I get a kick.  Even folded, it feels good in the hand – like a stylish flask.  It certainly solicits attention from the general public, but in a positive way, not in an annoyed way.  People with low technical knowledge, of all ages, recognise it as vintage.  Something from another age.  It’s the bellows that do it for them.

My Isolette as I said, is very clean, and very mechanically sound.  A press of a button, and I need to catch the bellows cover as it launches out horizontally, else wise the lens pops out almost violently.  Focusing is purely manual, without a range finder, although the camera does sport a conventional viewfinder.  Max shutter speed is a very slow 200, while aperture opens f32 to f4.5.  Shutter needs to be cocked prior to being fired, just like the Lubitel.

It’s replaced the Lubitel as my back up medium format camera to the Bronica.  The Lube TLR is a good back up, but it’s flattened by the sheer style and potability of this folder.  It’s as near to 35mm portability as medium format photography can get.  It means that I can take it places discreetly, where I don’t want to take a big chunky serious looking Bronica.

The top photo of the young man watching a couple was taken using very expired film, outside of the Forum in Norwich.  I call it the watcher.  Pleasant young man with an African accent.  He asked me about my camera.  It can start a conversation and even solicit voluntary models.

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Rants and discussions

2013 Annual Review of the Tight Fisted Photographer

In the footsteps of ancients. Pentax ME Super. SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7. Orange filter. Some post negative scan retouch using Gimp.

That time of the year again!

I started this Blog in August 2012, with the following statement:

  • helping photographers keep their money in their pockets, whilst taking imaginative, beautiful images.
  • dispelling the myth that good photography requires spending oozing amounts of money on the all singing dancing high technology black plastic computerised ‘professional’ Canikon D-SLR
  • fighting the myths perpetuated by big business, that you need their expensive crap in order to take good photographs, or to edit images
  • Promote open source software, including genuinely free image editing aps.
  • give art back to the people
  • liberate corporation controlled sheeple, silence the brand fanboy/girl

So how is it measuring up, and how is this blog evolving?

It is changing.  Over the past year, I’ve moved much more towards film photography, and I’ve used this blog to record my journey into home developing of film.  However, reading the above mission statement, I’ve stayed to the path.  I guess that it could be argued that film photography has more overheads than digital, but I’ve remained faithful to low budget amateur photography in every other way.  I did succumb to spending a humongous £180 on a single camera – but hey, compared to a new digital Canikon, it was cheap!  So, one minor amendment:

  • helping photographers keep their money in their pockets, whilst taking imaginative, beautiful images.
  • dispelling the myth that good photography requires spending oozing amounts of money on the all singing dancing high technology black plastic computerised ‘professional’ Canikon D-SLR
  • fighting the myths perpetuated by big business, that you need their expensive crap in order to take good photographs, or to edit images
  • Promote home developed film photography and open source software.
  • give art back to the people
  • Liberate corporation controlled sheeple, silence the brand fanboy/girl

My photography year in 2013

I look at my first annual review, and wow, my photography has really changed.  Up to September, I was experimenting with different kinds of old film cameras, mainly bought cheaply from car boot sales.  It was rather like catching up with the last forty years of photographic film technology.  I used 35 mm colour and b/w in viewfinders, SLRs, zone focus camera.  I had the films developed at a local independent photo lab.  Then I discovered medium format in 120 and 620 film, with a Lubitel 166B TLR, and with box cameras and Kodak Brownies.  The Lubitel was great fun, and rolling 120 film onto 620 spindles in a film changing bag was a step towards the next stage.  I found myself drawn to medium format film.

Next stage was teaching myself how to develop my own black and white films.  I’ve really thrown myself into this, and have already developed some 36 films, in a variety of formats.  I’ve really enjoyed this learning curve this year.

Finally, I treated myself to a decent medium format camera – the Bronica SQ-A.  After flirting with car boot sale camera after camera, I’ve stopped buying, and settled down to a handful of favourite tools – On medium format, the Bronica SQ-A; on 35mm the Pentax ME Super, the Olympus XA2, and the Olympus Trip 35.  On digital, the Sony A200 DSLR.  I’m content with these cameras, each is very special.  I recognise that I need to become less obsessed about the technology, and start to focus on the photography itself.  I’ve learned so much more about the history of cameras, and the different types.  Now I need to make images.

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Film Dark Room, Lubitel 166B

More Fun with a Two Quid Twin Lens Reflex Camera

The Fen. Lubitel 166B TLR camera. Ilford HP5 Plus 400 120 film. Developed in Microphen.

On the dog walk. Lubitel 166B TLR camera. Ilford HP5+ 400 120 film.

Kings Lynn Customs. Lubitel 166B TLR camera. Ilford HP5+ 400 film (120 format). Developed in Microphen.

Looking through my home developing notebook and log, I’ve already developed ten monochrome films – nine 120 rolls, and one 127 roll.  Including Ilford HP5+, Fomapan Classic 125, and the Kodak Verichrome Pan 127.  I’ve used two developers – Ilford ID-11, and Ilford Microphen.  It’s early days, I’ve got 35mm to tackle next, with two cameras presently loaded with 135 cassettes of HP5+.  I’m really enjoying this learning curve!  I have a few problems to iron out.  The more I transfer 120 film onto the Paterson Tank spools, the more problems that I get.  It’s not become easier.  I watched three YouTube videos this morning on other developer’s techniques at spooling, and I’ve got a few ideas to try out.  The problem has started to affect my films – I’m seeing little crescents where either the film creases or contacts my finger tips as I struggle in the changing bag.  Keeping a notebook was a great idea – I keep setting myself tasks, recording measurements, solutions, and listing my problems to resolve.  The roll with the two top photos above shows a problem that I had with my last film – watermarks.  Not too sure how I did that.

Anyway, back to the subject of this blog post title.  I just want to sing the praise of a spanking budget camera, that I am using to expose most of my medium format films.  The Lubitel 166B.  I bought mine for two quid (GBP £2.00) at a local car boot sale.  Excellent condition, with lens cover and a case.  I suspect, hardly used.  They are common fare on Ebay, where they seem to sell for between GBP £5 and £35.  These are CHEAP cameras that make medium format film photography accessible to us masses.  They were built in the USSR during the 1980s in the Lomo factory.  For some reason, the LOMO badge is missing from mine, and I wonder if it was ever fixed.  The body is plastic.  Yes, plastic.  Lubitel is Russian for Amateur.  This camera was produced in the Soviet Union for amateurs without pretense.

It is a true twin lens reflex – with the two lenses geared together.  However, visual focusing is next to impossible.  It has a pop up magnifier / focusing eye piece, but it really is not much help.  Instead I usually keep a small aperture, and zone focus – estimating distance.  If I wanted more precision or a larger aperture, I could use a measuring tape, or a DSLR to find my distance and exposure value.  Exposure value?  There’s no light meter on this camera.  I just use the old F16 rule, to judge and estimate light for myself.  I’m really pleasantly surprised to see how often it works.  Exposure and focus are… ok, on the majority of my photos.  A lesson in photography.  Use a camera like this for a while, then use a DSLR, and it’s incredible how much more you can understand – and appreciate the exposure controls.

The lens is a Cinesales Corp T-22 Triplet Lens.  1:4.5 75mm.  Ok, it’s not a Carl Zeiss.  It vignettes.  However, it is better than many might expect, much better.  The above photos with my messy developing do not do it justice – click on them to see the full gallery of my meagre efforts to date.  Problems?  Tiny shutter release button is not easy to locate while setting up a take.  The back is clipped with a simple lock.  It’s too easy to knock it open and ruin much of a film.

This camera is so much bloody fun – cheap and easy access to 120 medium format film photography, while still delivering some great results.  If you see one at a car boot sale for under a tenner.  Consider it.

My Lubitel 166B

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