My film collection

Just about a week ago I was called by the reception at work that a package arrived with my name on it. I was genuinely surprised, because I have never received anything unexpectedly at work. Who on earth would have sent me a package and especially to this address? It must had been a conspiracy.

My curiosity reached an even higher level once I picked up the package and I realized that the sender is an old photographer I only know remotely through a friend. I made some small animations in flash for him as a favor and I’ve almost completely forgot about it. It seems that he has a much better memory and he sent me this little package to cheer me up.

Well, he managed to make me very happy, because the small box was full with gorgeous films of many types. There were even some legendaries like the Kodak Ektar 25 and some, which I have never even heard of before, such as the Lucky SHD. Now I have film for tungsten light and a bulk package of medium format Ektachrome. It is truly an amazing gift, even though some of the films had expired way before I was born (which unfortunately was already pretty long time ago).

Of course I have already had an interesting collection of films. But, with this addition, my stock has reached the critical mass to share it with you. After this post I finally free some place in the freezer and it will become hard to show the full collection as a whole.

Camerajunky film stash

Temporal storage of my film collection

Camerajunky film stash revealed

Film collection revealed

The films

Kodak Fujifilm Agfa Ilford Other
Kodak Technical Pan Fuji Acros Agfacolor Portrait Xps Ilford FP-4 Plus Forte Supercolor Fr
KodacolorII Fuji Superia Xtra Agfachrome 50S Ilford HP-5 DM Paradise
Kodak Ektar Fuji Pro 160 NS Agfachrome 50L Ilford Pan F Plus Centuria 200
Kodak New Portra Fuji Pro 160 Tungsten Agfachrome 100RS Lucky SHD 100
Kodak Portra 160 NC Fuji Provia Agfachrome 50RS
Kodak Elite Color Fujifilm Pro 160C Agfa Vista
Kodak Gold 200 Fuji Velvia
Kodak Farbwelt 200
Kodak Echtachrome
Camerajunky film stash part 2

I also have some photographic papers (Forte, Foma) for black and white prints

Camerajunky film stash part 1

Just another angle

 

What film really means to me

Also I have started to think about my very intense reaction to this gift and decided to try to summarize my thoughts and feelings about what film means to me.

Film powers old cameras

First and foremost film allows me to use the plethora of cool film cameras, which would otherwise be usable only as fancy paperweights at best. This way I can experience what other people could feel when they used these now vintage cameras through history.

Even better, if I put state-of-the-art film into any old camera, I can achieve state-of-the-art results if the lens is good enough. I think it is fascinating that someone can reach levels of quality today with the very same gear his grandfather used, which was considered impossible at the time the camera was made. This is something a digital camera of current times will never be able to provide. If this would not be enough, film opens up the world of medium and even large format photography on a very affordable price point compared to their digital counterparts.

Leica M2

Leica M2

Film is a symbol with deep meanings

But film is a lot more than the ticket to film cameras. It is a very deep symbol in our culture. It symbolizes nothing less than eternity. It captures moments but unlike the digital sensor it encapsulates them. Film itself becomes the frozen moment of memory and emotion. This is of course a process, which cannot be reverted. Once something is captured it will be preserved unchanged as long as the film physically exists. This very nature of film gives us the impression of truthfulness, the feeling that anything recorded on film must be real. Of course, we all know that any image in a medium can be faked, but it is very hard to alter the film for ordinary people after it was developed.

Film is commitment

Once the film is loaded into the camera, there is no way to return and the photographer has made his/her commitment to a particular type of film with all its properties. Although there are plenty of parameters that can be changed later (thinking of push, pull, cross-processing and other tricks), the characteristics of the used film will be inevitably present in the result and the possibilities to change this in post-processing are rather narrow.
Today there are many excellent software out there to manipulate photographs. The possibilities of manipulations are nearly endless and even film/developer simulation is possible on a very high level (though it can be debated how truthful such simulations are in reality). I embrace and endorse these tools, but, honestly, the countless amount of options often makes me insecure in my decision. I tend to hesitate and eventually I run into contradictions with myself. I want to retain the maximum amount of detail, while also wishing to bestow a strong character on the image. As a result, many of my images are good, however, they fall short of featuring such strong character and I am frustrated because of the possible other ways I could have chosen. One has to be able to keep the power of the tools provided under control, otherwise that power is useless.
It seems that I am not fully ready yet for the marvels of the digital post processing revolution. I just prefer to work the character given by the film I choose and then try to get the most out of it in post processing. Yes, it comes with commitment, but it gives me results (I like) and frees me from the burden of too many possibilities. All in all I am much more satisfied with my film images.

Chimneys and cranes (2014), Leica M2, Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f/1.5, Ilford FP-! Plus, Rodinal, Canoscan 9900F

Chimneys and cranes (2014), Leica M2, Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f/1.5, Ilford FP-! Plus, Rodinal, Canoscan 9900F

Film is responsibility

A piece of fresh unexposed film is like a newborn baby. It has an inherited genetic character, but it is completely blank, has no criminal record and can become virtually anything. It is the responsibility of the parents (sorry photographer), to provide the best start and guidance to achieve the most. Shoots can be repeated, but every frame is an effort and an investment, especially if someone (like me) uses a tedious hybrid workflow. Of course it is not a good idea to over complicate or worry too much about the process of taking a photograph, just like an overprotective mother can be also harmful. But it is important to be aware of the responsibility over the film we are about to use.

Film is heritage

Needless to say that film has an enormous historical heritage. The different materials, processes and characters resemble historical periods, great moments, fantastic artworks and intellectual advancement. Film has such a deep roots in our culture that it is impossible to not to feel its importance and legacy.

Blue ceiling (2014), Not as famous as the red version though.

Blue ceiling (2014), Not as famous as the red version, but at least I own the rights.

Film is fun

Despite all the serious thoughts here, film also provides a lot of fun. It is such a gamble to use a crappy camera with some expired film and hope for cool light leaks. There are plenty of applications for simulating this, but I think part of the fun is that the control is not completely in or hands.

Jump, Pajtás, Lomo Lady Grey 400 (expeired), Rodinal, Canoscan 9900F

Jump (2014) , Pajtás, Lomo Lady Grey 400 (expeired), Rodinal, Canoscan 9900F

Film is alive

Unlike digital files film has an organic grain structure. It can be emulated by software, but computers can only work with pseudo-random generators. There will always be a pattern in digitally added noise. Film has a life-cycle. It ages and it can go bad when stored inappropriately. On the other hand even if it is expired and stored recklessly there is still a chance that something interesting will come out of it. A box of expired film (like the one I have received) is like a box of old exotic old wine. You could find something truly amazing or the completely opposite, but you cannot say until you taste it yourself. This is also part of the magic.

Film is magic

If I needed to find a single word to describe what is the most significant property of film, I would say it is simply magical. There is something mystical about the chemical process, which forms a photograph. I always found this somehow magical even though I am aware that everything about it is well described and no magic is involved. But when I combine this feeling with the uncertainty of the result (especially when I use expired film) and with the waiting necessary to finally get the developed film back from the lab, the experience is truly magical.

These aspects are just a few among the thoughts circulating in my head about film. These are all interconnected, and after all that is why I feel special when I can hold a package of film in my hand. I am sure that others would come up with a completely different list, but I am pretty certain that almost everybody who is old enough to have had some connection with film photography retains some emotional connection to it.

Film is magic

Old negatives (from my first roll which was developed few hours after this moment), Industar 55mm f/2.8 N-61 L/D, Fed 5, Flash, Silver print

Just one more fun thing to think of

I have played around with Blender and made this highly sophisticated scene of a plain and 2 boxes. I painted a texture for it based on some old Forte and rendered the scene. It is pretty obvious that this is not a photograph because of the sharp edges and the way to perfect texture, But the point is that it is possible to make it photo-realistic with some additional effort. An image generated solely by a computer to tribute the film which may be one day substituted entirely by the computer, or at least the possibility will be given. At the end it is all about personal and professional preferences.

Fotrepan_final

Computer generated illustration of old Forte film by Camerajunky

 

 

Flowers and textures

A quick and light post for today about flowers, textures and even flower-textures that caught my eyes. I am experimenting with the Leice M2 and this subject is something I enjoy shooting.

The photos were taken with my Leica M2 using a Carl Zeiss Sonnar 50mm. The film (DM Paradise 200) was developed by a local shop and scanned by me with a Canoscan 9900F. One shoot was taken with Eszter’s NEX 6 though, but processed to look a bit like film in post.

RoseAndWallpaperGinko-2

RoseAndWallpaperGinko3-2

DSC00377-2

KitchenWindow-2

Livin’ Streets on Ektachrome

Walls are usually not the most exciting subjects to photograph. To use medium format slide film to do that is even more strange and could be considered as some sort of crime by some. After all we live in a time when both film and labs which are able to develop slides are more and more scare.

But what if you’ve found some really awesome walls filled with stunning graffiti masterpieces  varying in size up to 30 meters (my approximation) and the whole place is a partly abandoned industrial complex.

Well I couldn’t resist and loaded my Pentacon Six with a roll of expired (in 2004) Kodak Ektachrome 64 and headed to this place with my wife to take pictures of walls. In fact she took way better photos then me, so maybe I will post those in the future as well.

I usually have no problems with expired film stocks, but this roll of Ektachrome gave me a very interesting result. When it came back from development it was possibly the most flat looking positive I have ever seen. I thought that I majorly overexposed all the frames equally. Surprisingly after scanning I had to realize that almost no highlights were blown away and I could recover many details and color information during post processing. I have the impression that the last 10 years after the end of the expiry date of the film was not spent in a refrigerator. I still have 4 rolls of the same batch of film, I need to think it over if I want to give them a second try.

The place we found hosted the Livin’ Streets 2014 festival for urban art, graffiti & streetart between 07.06-18.07 2014. Their facebook page is here. Although we were too late to see the actual event, we could still meet with one of the artists who stayed to finish his work and also we could see all the paintings in the finished form. It was a great experience and we had a lot of fun, so yes it is totally fine to shoot some walls from time to time.

The photos were taken by my Pentacon Six Tl using a Carl Zeiss Jena Flektagon 50mm and in some cases a Biometar 80mm. The film was developed by a local shop and scanned by me with a Canoscan 9900F.

P6_Grafity_12

P6_Grafity_01

P6_Grafity_08

P6_Grafity_03

P6_Grafity_02-2

P6_Grafity_06-2

 

The Kodak Ektar adventure

Finally, I have convinced myself to try out the famous Kodak Ektar film, so I loaded a roll into my beloved Olympus OM 4 Ti. Unfortunately the camera had other plans and the electronic circuits gave up at the middle of the roll.

At the end I ended up rewinding the film and I loaded into the good old mechanical workhorse Yashica TL super. This process however lead to 2 consequences. Unsurprisingly I have got some nice double exposures, but most importantly I bought a bit worn Leica M2. At least I wont have problems with the electronic parts of that camera.

I still haven’t gave up the hope that the Olympus can be repaired at some point, but I generally lost my trust in these old electronic cameras.

The Ektar on the other hand is truly a gorgeous film which delivers everything what is written on it’s box. It is smooth, high resolution with fine grain and with rich deep colors and high contrast. My scanner is absolutely unable to extract all the possibilities of this film. I am very impressed by this film indeed, however I find it not the best suited for portraits as it is too vivid. But it is only my impression based on less than a complete 36 frames roll, so I might change my mind.

I am definitely going to experiment with the Ektar, but from now most likely with my “new” M2 and with a ZM Sonnar.

Joanneumsviertel

Joanneumsviertel , Olympus OM 4 Ti, Zuiko 50mm f/1.4, Kodak Ektar 100. Canoscan 9900F

FemHattyvakAHidAlatt

Olympus OM 4 Ti, Zuiko 50mm f/1.4, Kodak Ektar 100. Canoscan 9900F

GrafitiesSzoborAHidAlatt

Olympus OM 4 Ti, Zuiko 50mm f/1.4, Kodak Ektar 100. Canoscan 9900F

Reflections

Olympus OM 4 Ti, Zuiko 50mm f/1.4, Kodak Ektar 100. Canoscan 9900F

Facsemete-2

Olympus OM 4 Ti, Zuiko 50mm f/1.4, Kodak Ektar 100. Canoscan 9900F

ReggeliHarmatMunkabaMenet

Yashica TL Super, Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/ 1.8, Kodak Ektar 100. Canoscan 9900F

Yashica TL Super, Carl Zeiss Jena 50mm f/ 1.8, Kodak Ektar 100. Canoscan 9900F

Yashica TL Super, Carl Zeiss Jena 50mm f/ 1.8, Kodak Ektar 100. Canoscan 9900F

Yashica TL Super, Yashinon 50mm f/1.7, Kodak Ektar 100. Canoscan 9900F

Yashica TL Super, Yashinon 50mm f/1.7, Kodak Ektar 100. Canoscan 9900F

Yashica TL Super, Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/ 1.8, Kodak Ektar 100. Canoscan 9900F

Yashica TL Super, Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/ 1.8, Kodak Ektar 100. Canoscan 9900F

Digital Classic, Canon EOS 5D

Digital cameras have been around for a while by now. In fact we have access to pixels so long ago that recently it became fashionable to dress digital cameras into retro looking shells so they resembles the look and feel of old film cameras. Up until now the more modern looking/more functional design was generally desired, but we reached the point when people started to look back to the golden age of the film era with strong nostalgia and today the retro look become interesting.

Naturally camera manufacturers were ready to satisfy this need and the market is literally flooded with retro styled cameras like the Nikon Df, which promises nothing less but the experience of pure photography. While the term of “pure photography” can be very much overloaded and interpreted in many ways, what they probably mean is that this camera handles and feels similarly than the now classic Nikon film cameras. Simplicity, mechanical like external controls, full frame sensor,  compatibility with vintage lenses, limited feature set (e.g. no video) to keep the focus on essence  of photography and of course that retro look are supposed to deliver this  promise.

But when we start to wrap modern digital cameras  into so called “classic” look and market them with the message that this is the closest you can get to film photography experience the question arises can we already talk about classic digital cameras as well.  If so how do they relate to the cutting edge technology inside modern retro shaped cameras. But most importantly, how can the true digital classics stand against the newly invented marketing ideas such as “pure photography”?

Importance of the 5D

Canon EOES 5D with Carl Zeiss Jena Sonar 180mm f/2.8 (Pentacon Six mount)

Canon EOES 5D with Carl Zeiss Jena Sonar 180mm f/2.8 (Pentacon Six mount)

This camera was introduced in 2005 which means it is pretty old with modern standards. But also, it was the very first somewhat affordable full frame digital SLR.  Technologically there was nothing revolutionary about the 5D at all. We have seen full frame DSLR cameras before, and many other parts of it was reused from other cameras like the focusing system which was borrowed from the 20D. But it was very small for a full frame camera and it was cheap enough to be accessible by normal mortals for the first time. Also it took damn good images on very respectable noise levels at the time.  In this respect it is hard to deny that this camera was indeed important and maybe it was the camera which started the era of consumer full frame SLRs and even it paved the way for full frame mirror-less cameras alike.

 5D pure photography

I am not sure that we can already talk about classic digital cameras. Also I think it should not be up to me to define what can be marked as classic and what cannot. But let’s be speculative for the time of this post and agree for a moment with those who already call the original Canon EOS 5D as 5D classic and consider it as a true classic digital camera. Let’s just see if the true digital classic can in any ways match up against something which supposed to make us remember what was it like to  shoot with a film classic. I borrowed the elements of the Nikon Df pure photography campaign to use them as a basis for my absolutely crazy comparison.

Sensor size/pixel pitch

Both the Canon 5D and the Nikon Df features standard 35mm film size sensors. This means that field of view of any lens is the same as on 35mm film camera. There is no crop factor to consider.

The Nikon Df has 16.2Mp while the Canon 5D only has 12.7 effective megapixels. The Nikon using a more modern sensor which adds micro-lenses to each individual photo diode and thus utilizing the surface of the sensor more effectively. The Canon on the other hand leaves gaps between the photo diodes but due to the smaller megapixel count the atomic pixel size is still higher ( 8.2µ vs 7.30µ) . In theory it would mean better low light performance to the Canon as bigger pixels could capture more light, but the processing pipeline of the Nikon is light years ahead, so the ancient Canon is no competition in low light.

But if we think about this with “pure photography” in mind. If you shoot in good light as our film photographer ancestors would certainly preferred to do so and you keep your ISO low as most film emulsions were/are available in a range of ISO 50-1600, than there are probably not much of a difference between the two cameras. The difference megapixel count is negligible for every day use and  noise levels should be pretty close at low ISOs.

Simplicity

One of the big selling point of the Nikon Df is that it lacks video even though the big brother Nikon D4 (using the same sensor and processor) has it. It indeed helps to focus on photography as you have no chance to accidentally switch to video and there are no useless menu items to confuse the photographer.

The good news is that the Canon 5D had no video on the first place, not even live view. Back then it was actually not sure that mirror reflex cameras suppose to do video ever.

The 5D is very minimalistic in terms of features. It only have the basics, and therefore the menus are very simple. There is literally nothing which could distract you from framing. In fact it is a bit too minimalistic. One of the features I really miss is the possibility to set Auto ISO. Well, you could not change your film speed either.

Body shape

Both cameras are quite beefy in my opinion. The Nikon Df supposed to look a bit like a classic Nikon like the FM. In reality it is still quite thick as a brick and looks like a classic camera only from a good distance. I still think it would have been possible to make the Df like an FM in terms of dimensions. We know it is possible, there are successful attempts hack the guts of a mirror-less camera into classic film bodies. The 5D is without a doubt not a beauty, it has a general Canon DSLR look.

Canon EOES 5D with Canon 40mm f/2.8 pancake

Canon EOES 5D with Canon 40mm f/2.8 pancake

External controls

In the “golden days”, we had many dials to control a camera settings like, aperture, shutter speed and focus. Nowadays we have many more things to control and we have electronic coupling for everything.

Canon EOES 5D, Canon 40mm f/2.8

Canon EOES 5D, Canon 40mm f/2.8

Understandably it can be very rewarding to use similar controls to the ones we used on mechanical cameras. Somehow it has sense, as everybody understood the mechanical connection between the aperture ring and the aperture blades. I think it has sense even today to expose these controls in an old fashion way. But only in the case of a camera which is built for the enthusiast photographer whose  goal is to enjoy photography rather than being the most effective picture maker machine. The Nikon Df does a good job in this respect, even though I heard that not all controls are nice to use or logical, but I could not try it myself until now. What I can tell for sure is that the 5D exposes the main settings in a modern, but very effective way. I usually switch the camera on  once a day and leave it that way.  I use aperture priority  mode with mainly manual lenses with aperture rings and I mainly adjusting ISO and exposure compensation only. Most of the time I  don’t touch any menus at all.

Legacy lens support

The Nikon Df is made to be usable with vintage Nikon glass which is great as many old Nikkors are gorgeous. But the Canon EOS system has a shorter distance between lens mount and the sensor. This way many other branded lenses can be used on a Canon EOS body with an adapter including Nikon lenses. To be fair you can have an adapter like M42 for Nikon as well, but you either lose the possibility to focus to the infinity or you need to pick an adapter which has additional lens element in it. The later means higher cost and possibly degradation in image quality.

All in all you can put way more kind of lenses to the 5D than you could attach to the Df. But be careful because some old lenses may mount but extract to deep into the camera body when focusing. This could damage the mirror. Always do some research on which lenses can be safely mounted.

Canon EOES 5D with Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8

Canon EOS 5D with Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8

The Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8 M42 thread mount lens for instance can be mounted safely to a cropped frame Canon body. But because the mirror in the 5D is bigger due to the bigger sensor, this lens should not be focused to the infinity because the rear lens element can touch the returning mirror. It can be fixed by sacrificing the possibility to focusing to the far distance. I use this lens mainly for close portraits and for this use it is not a problem.

Canon EOES 5D, Canon 40mm f/2.8, Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8 (M42), Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/1.4 (Olympus OM), Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8 (Exa)

Canon EOS 5D, Canon 40mm f/2.8, Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8 (M42), Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/1.4 (Olympus OM), Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8 (Exa)

Viewfinder experience

The Nikon Df viewfinder has 100% coverage while the 5D has only 96%.

But it is not possible to change the focusing screen on the Nikon which flaws the concept  of legacy lens support. Today focusing screens are made for auto focus lenses. They are very bright, but extremely hard to use for manual focus because the depth of field is not really visible and there is no optical focusing aid built in. On the other hand I think that using the back screen in live view is not an option if you are pursuing the classic photographic experience.

I would rather use a slightly smaller finder with a proper focusing screen.

Slow down

I think it is generally a good idea to slow down and take the time to compose frames instead of bursting in rapid fire mode. Trust in the law of big numbers in order to achieve the desired photo certainly works, but I would not call it as a classic approach. Let’s see what these cameras can do in order to force the photographer to slow down.

On the Nikon side dial based controls, manual lenses and a wrong type of focusing screen is certainly slow one down. On the Canon side we have no auto ISO and when using auto focus lenses a truly mediocre (painfully slow) auto focus system makes it impossible to act like a machine gun. Also the burst rate of the 5D is only 3 frames per second.

Finally the 5D has an awful back screen. It is small, dim, inaccurate in color (greenish cast) and generally useless. But of course it is a huge plus side in this comparison as the small worthless screen means that you will only face with the result of your photography when you download your images. It really reminds me to the feeling of waiting for the images to return from lab. You never knew what had you done until you get back the developed film, and in this case until you get to a computer with a proper screen. The good news is that the results look so much better on a proper display that I always positively surprised when I get my images downloaded from the camera.

Old Ladies, (Gyöngyössolymos 2014),Canon EOES 5D ,Ca

Old Ladies, (Gyöngyössolymos 2014),Canon EOS 5D ,Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8

Márk, (Gyöngyössolymos 2014),Canon EOS 5D ,Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8

Márk, (Gyöngyössolymos 2014),Canon EOS 5D ,Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8

 

Eszti (Budapest, Hungary), Canon EOS 5D, Canon 50mm f/1.8 II

Eszti (Budapest, Hungary), Canon EOS 5D, Canon 50mm f/1.8 II

 

 Gyöngyösi Zsinagóga

Gyöngyösi Zsinagóga (Gyöngyös), Canon EOS 5D with Canon 40mm f/2.8

Conclusion

What makes a classic camera and especially the question of can we at all speak about digital classics is still an open debate.

On the other hand it is quite easy for me to say that the 5D Mark I or 5 classic if you like can still fulfill many photographers needs. It certainly is able to deliver most of the recent marketing promise of “pure photography” (apart from the classic outfit). In fact with the interchangeable focusing screens, bigger variety of adaptable lenses and even slower operation it fits better this promise than the camera which for this  marketing campaign was created.

I think both the Canon 5D and the Nikon Df could be just the right camera for you. The Df is certainly stylish and has a lot more power under the hood. If the best possible low light performance to date is important, than no question that the Df is the clear winner.

But consider that 5D is now a really affordable (500-1000€) full frame camera with the capability to be used as a “pure photography” tool if you don’t mind the not so “classic” look. It is better suited for manual focus lenses, and it still takes stunning images. Last but not least the original 5D could be already a classic on it’s own right.

5D on Camerajunky (Graz, Austria), Sony Nex 6, Jupiter 8

5D on Camerajunky (Graz, Austria), Sony Nex 6, Jupiter 8