Monday, August 29, 2011

First Shots with Vivitar

Here’s a couple shots taken with the Vivitar body and the same Promaster 50mm f1.8 lens used on the Promaster body. Once again the shots were taken using some old Fujicolor 200 film and all processing was by The Dark Room.

I don’t recall the shutter setting here but I generally shoot these kind of shots with the lens wide open (f1.8 in this case) so I’m guessing the shutter used was approx 1/250.

 The Brothers!

Here we have a shot of our "Watch  Chihuahua" using a Promaster 5750DX electronic flash unit (had to check out the hot shoe and make sure it worked) on manual with the camera set at f5.6 and 1/125 per the flash chart.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

First Shots with Promaster

The Promaster body and the Vivitar body I bought recently are nearly identical and they share the same lenses so showing pictures from each as if they were two completely different cameras is kind of useless. Never the less, here’s one of my favorite pictures from one of the first rolls of film taken with the Promaster body using the Promaster 50mm f1.8 lens. This one was shot with some Kodak Professional BW400CN I found at a local Walgreens. 

I don’t recall the shutter speed used (probably 1/500) but it was shot with the lens wide open to deemphasize the background.

Here’s another shot with some old Fujicolor 200.

Processing for both handled by The Dark Room.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Remember the Brownie?

Remember the Brownie I bought a couple weeks ago? I was reasonably sure that the Kodak Brownie Bullet I bought on ebay worked. I just didn’t know if it would take decent pictures. Well, it does! Maybe?

I got my first (test) roll back from The Darkroom and guess what? They look just like old pictures! Some were overexposed and some were blurry. I suspect the shutter speed has slowed down a bit over the last 50 years since the camera was new.

From what I have been able to tell the original shutter speed was probably 1/50 and the lens was somewhere from f11 to f14 depending on the model. Aperture is still the same of course but the shutter speed could be closer to 1/30 or less due to age and wear so from now on I will have to adjust my shooting locations and composition to try to avoid over exposure. Way back in the days of Brownies and Box cameras everyone had to stand squinting into direct sunlight, smile, and be very, very, still to take a good picture. Needless to say, I will also have to make doubly sure the subject and camera are both very still when shooting with this camera.

Here’s one of the better shots from the test roll.

Since then I also bought some Kodak Porta 160 to try. That will be my next experiment in 127 film photography.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cool Snappy!

I must correct an error of omission. The very first film camera I used when my film shooting adventure began was a Canon Snappy LX II. This is a fully automatic, self loading, auto advance & rewind, 35mm, point & shoot camera with a built in flash. It even detects the ISO speed of the film from the bar code on the canister and then selects the proper shutter speed from one of four possibilities. Honestly, I don’t even know where this camera came from. I suspect it may have been bought for one of the kids but when I got the itch to start shooting film again and realized the camera I bought for that purpose didn’t work this camera was all that I had.

Here’s a picture of that little gem.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Holga Fashions!

So I started looking around on the internet to see about buying a Holga camera so I can try to understand what the Holga phenomena is all about – right? Well first of all there are apparently many different versions of this cheap plastic camera. The basic version of the Holga, the 120N, can be bought online for under $30. Then there is the 120GN which has a glass lens instead of the cheap plastic lens (though apparently it still has just as many defects of the plastic lens). There’s one that shoots 35mm film instead of the 120 roll film. There’s one with a flash, a twin lens reflex version and yet another is a pinhole version (presumably with no lens at all). There’s even a 3D stereo version. Oh, and if you don’t like the basic black camera you can find them in any number of colors like red, purple, green and blue and I have even seen a couple multicolor ones. I especially like the one that comes in bright blue, red & yellow.

…and hey, I have a birthday coming up!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Why Holga?

Another thing I couldn’t help but run across in my web searching for camera info and equipment is the Holga. For those who don’t know Holga seems to be the latest rage among shutterbugs. Holga is perhaps the archetype for a whole class of cheap plastic cameras with cheap plastic lenses. Sometimes referred to as “toy cameras,” they are known and occasionally prized for the light leaks and lens defects which produce aberrations in the pictures taken with them. Of course I saw about as many articles on the web describing how to use black tape to stop the light leaks as I saw articles praising the “artistic” results of the light leaks so I guess the jury is still out on that topic.

Let me sum it up for you. People are apparently spending a fair amount of money on cheap plastic cameras (not to mention the associated film processing costs) to take crappy pictures on purpose!

I’m not sure I get it. Maybe I will just have to get one of these “toy cameras” and take some pictures to see what all the hoopla is about.

*** Update: October 09, 2013 ***

I've had to do it often enough that I don't really have a problem admitting when I am wrong and I was certainly wrong about the Holga. I did in fact buy one and it has become one of my favorite cameras. I taped it up to eliminate any light leaks so I have to stick with my comment about "taking crappy pictures on purpose," but I do appreciate the other attributes of the plastic lenses. Many of these dreamy soft around the edges images are quite beautiful.

The Holga's popularity has driven the prices up so you may want to consider that can have just as much fun and enjoy much the same kind of images by spending much less money on a vintage box camera from the last century however. These old cameras can frequently be bought online or at second hand stores in great shape for  $5 to $10. Some of them even shoot 120 film which is widely available but even 620 and 127 film can be found if you look around a bit. So go for it! Shoot some cheap plastic cameras and have some fun.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Compatible “K” Lenses?

As noted in an earlier post one of the main reasons I decided on Pentax “K’ mount bodies and lenses when I went shopping for a new 35mm SLR was availability and the apparent interchangeability between the SLR lenses and the AF lenses used on the new Pentax DSLRs. Olympus and Pentax are the only camera manufacturers that consistently maintained lens compatibility and interchangeability over the years and Olympus gave it up when they switched from film to digital. Everyone else seemed to change lens mounts whenever the urge hit them.

Well, I finally got a chance to experiment a bit and determine whether or not the old “K” lenses I bought for my 35mm SLR will actually fit and work on the Pentax DSLR’s. Good news - they do!

There are some restrictions, of course; and you have to dig through the menus to “Settings” or “Custom Settings” (depending on which Pentax DSLR you happen to have) and set the “Using Aperture Ring” to “Permitted.” Once that is done and you set the camera on the “M” manual mode, you are fully operational. You still must focus manually of course, and you must set the aperture and shutter manually. You can get a meter reading only when using the depth of field preview (Optical Preview) function.

What I did was set the aperture I wanted, focus, take my best guess at shutter speed and then check it using the “Optical Preview” function. Depending on which Pentax DSLR I was using I either got a scale with a “+” pr “–“ reading or I got a numeric over/under indication with a “+” or “-“. Either way I just adjusted the shutter speed (using the wheel) until I got desired EV setting and then took the shot.

Yeah, it’s a little tedious so I wouldn’t want to have to do it all the time but it works and allows me to use my much faster “K” mount lenses on the Pentax DSLRs when I want or need to. It should be noted that the reverse is not true. I do not believe there is any way to use the AF lenses bought for the DSLR’s on the SLR because there is no easy way to manually adjust the aperture or focus.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A funny thing happened...

A funny thing happened in the search for a good, fast 135 mm lens. I came across another $29 body online at KEH again. This one was a Vivitar 4000, the Vivitar equivalent of the Promaster 2000 I just bought. It was also in excellent condition so I bought it along with a Pentax F2.5 135 mm lens.

Here’s a picture of my new toys!
(The camera & lens – not the battleship)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Brownie anyone?

In the search for pre-owned camera equipment I ran across which has an incredible amount of information on all the old Kodak cameras including the one I started my photographic “career’ with many years ago. It also has links to places where you can buy some of these old cameras as well as film and film processing for them. I became intrigued by the possibility of getting a Brownie Bullet like the one I used to have and maybe even taking some pictures with it. After a bit more web surfing and with the help of the links provided on I was able to buy a Brownie Bullet in reasonably good shape that was supposed to be working, a couple of rolls of 127 film for it, and locate a lab that can process the film. I will let you know how it all turns out.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The next step – more lenses

I am not convinced that the 50mm lens that came with the Promaster camera I bought initially is the world’s greatest quality lens but it is pretty fast (F 1.7) and the pictures I have taken with it so far look reasonably good. I suspect that as my ability to focus manually and use the aperture and shutter settings to properly manipulate the depth of field improves my pictures will improve also. Although I shot mainly all manual 35mm SLR’s for 30 years or more I have been away from it for at least several years. Like nearly everyone else I have been spoiled by digital cameras with autofocus lenses and multiple automatic program modes so it will probably take a few rolls of film to get my “manual photographer’s edge” back.

Assuming for now that I can live with the 50mm lens I have my next quest is to find a suitable short telephoto or portrait lens. Now some of you are no doubt thinking, “What about a good zoom lens.” After all, that’s what all the DSLR’s are coming with these days and even the “Point & Shoot’s” are competing to see who can get the widest range of zoom crammed into the smallest camera.

Maybe I am just old fashioned or maybe I know a thing or two about lenses that isn’t common knowledge anymore but it has always seemed to me that zoom lenses are bigger and heavier than almost anything else you can attach to a camera. It is also a certainty that any zoom lens you buy will be slower than a comparable fixed focal length lens.

Of course with fixed focal length lenses you lose the ability to quickly zoom in or out and shoot on the fly so that you must do a little thinking and planning before you take your shots. I suspect that is also one of the reasons I like shooting film better than digital. It forces you to slow down and think about what you’re doing. The older I get the better I get at slowing down and thinking about things so that kind of suits me these days. That said, I readily acknowledge that there are times and situations where you are forced to shoot on the fly and for those situations a good digital camera with a zoom lens can’t be beat. I just haven’t found one I like yet but I haven’t given up on that quest yet either.

I mentioned in an earlier post that the camera bag that I put together back in the 1970’s included my Olympus OM-1N 35mm SLR with a 50mm, F1.4 lens, a 135mm F2.8 lens, and a 35mm F2.8 lens. This combination of camera and lenses took care of my every photographic need for 30 years. A comparable zoom would have only been a 35 to 105 at F3.5 to 4.5; not as much range, a lot slower, and much bigger and heavier than even the 135mm fixed focal length lens.

Needless to say, a great many arguments can be made for a good zoom, and I may even consider getting one eventually but for now I will stick with the formula that worked so well for me for all those years so the next thing I need is a good fast 135mm lens.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fire hydrants

Fire hydrants! Yes fire hydrants. Fire hydrants are a perfect example of the many ubiquitous but invisible objects that mange to clutter up the landscape of our everyday world while remaining almost completely unnoticed. I have been taking pictures of fire hydrants since the 1970’s. Unfortunately I lost all of those pictures along with everything else in Hurricane Katrina. Somehow when you are running for your life with whatever you can cram into your trunk pictures of fire hydrants are not at the top of your priority list. That said, I have started my fire hydrant collection again and already have several nice ones. It is just in its infancy now but perhaps one day when it is a mature collection with artistic value I will share it.

Here's one of my favorites from New Orleans. It has a date, September 14, 1868, right on the top. I'm not sure exactly what that date represents but its got to be pretty old, even for a fire hydrant.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My new $29 camera

Here’s a picture of the new (old) $29 camera I bought from KEH recently. When I said something about needing to add a picture of my camera to the blog my son stepped up to the inspirational bar once again and suggested I not just do a conventional picture of the camera sitting on a table or something, but to put it someplace “out of context,” someplace where you generally would not expect to see it. I immediately decided to combine my artistic appreciation for fire hydrants with my need to have a picture of the camera on the blog.

Why shoot film

I am a reasonably current kind of guy even at my advanced age (according to at least some younger people I am an old man although I confess to feeling younger these days than I have in a while) and I generally spend many of my waking hours each day near a lap top or a smart phone plugged into the world wide web. I am also one of the few people I know my age with an active Facebook page. So when Hurricane Katrina wiped out all of my worldly possessions back in 2005, including my cameras and associated equipment, I naturally thought it expedient to enter the new and exciting world of digital photography that I had been hearing about but otherwise ignoring for years.

Two DSLR’s, one upscale digital point and shoot, and a couple years later I decided I really didn’t like digital photography and headed back into the amazing and familiar world of film. This trip so far seems fraught with a multitude of twists and turns and not nearly as simple as I thought it was going to be. Thus I find myself here narrating my experiences for my own and hopefully your amusement and enlightenment.

My first stop on the way back to film was quite naturally the world wide web, where I began to research all things photographic and discovered much to my chagrin that there were almost no film cameras being manufactured any more. While I frittered away my life and time over the last 30 years with such trivialities as children and career, all the “Greats” of the film camera world I once knew and loved simply vanished one by one.

A little background may be in order here. I started out my photographic life as a nine year old boy living in South Florida who had just received a Kodak Brownie Bullet 127 roll film camera for his birthday. I shot and killed a great many rolls of film with that little camera until I was about 19 years old and finally scrapped up enough money to buy my first 35mm. That was a grand and glorious day, so much so that I don’t really know what ever happened to that little Brownie. I think (hope) I gave it to someone who was camera-less although by that time the world of casual photography had been almost completely taken over by the 126 Instamatics. The original Instamatics weren’t too bad but they kept making them smaller and cheaper until they were impossible to hold properly. They took really poor quality pictures because the negatives were so tiny. The only thing worse was the “Disc Cameras” of the 1980’s that took pictures on something that looked like a View Master disc whose negatives were even smaller.

In any case, my first 35mm was an Olympus 35RC rangefinder. This was a great little camera that came with full manual or shutter priority automatic exposure control and a very sharp and fast 42mm, F1.7 Zuiko lens. I shot and killed many more rolls of film with that rangefinder for nearly another decade of my life before venturing into the next photographic chapter of my life.

Late in the 1970’s I arrived in my late 20’s and I decided I needed a 35mm SLR to compliment my now steadily increasing income and decreasing hair. My pick was quite naturally an Olympus OM-1N. This beautiful product of the camera master’s art was a fully mechanical all manual SLR that came to me with a 50mm, F1.4, incredibly sharp Zuiko lens. Over the next year or two that first lens was joined by a 135mm short telephoto and a 35mm wide angle lens along with a selection of filters and several other gadgets including a side bracket to support a huge Vivitar thyristor flash unit that was guaranteed to fry every exposed cornea within a 30’ radius and provide suitable photographic illumination out to 75’. As far as I was concerned by the time I was 30 I had all the camera and gear I would ever need unless I decided to go pro or delve into medium format photography.

Later on I would get a 35mm, fully automatic, auto-focus, Canon Sure Shot point & shoot camera to round out my equipment bag and after another decade passed I would be the grateful recipient of a free but well used Rolliflex TLR.

Fast-forward to August 29th, 2005; the day after Hurricane Katrina passed through my community leaving my home destroyed and all my possessions under 14’ of sea water and swamp mud. No more cameras.

For the next year or two I was too busy with relocating and rebuilding my life to worry about cameras but eventually, after replacing clothes and houses and a few other more important things I turned to the task of  replacing my camera. My research on the world wide web led me to believe that the days of film cameras was over so with all due respect and more than a little nostalgia for my first love (film photography) I happily headed off into the bright and shiny new world of digital photography.

I hate the shutter. For nearly 50 years I had pressed the shutter button on my camera and it took a picture. Sometimes the picture came out the way I wanted. Sometimes it did not, but when I pushed the shutter button it took the picture. Now I pushed the shutter button and sometimes it took a picture. Sometimes it did not. This was not acceptable. Not only that, but all the lenses were terribly slow compared to my old Zuiko lenses. And, even if you spent the big bucks to get a fast lens the auto-focus would hardly work in low light situations anyway.

Back to where I started a few paragraphs back. Two DSLR’s, one upscale digital point and shoot, and a couple years later I finally decided I had had it with digital photography and once again started looking for a replacement for my old 35mm SLR. Now of course there were even fewer such dinosaurs being manufactured. In fact, the only choices for a new camera on the affordable side of a $4000 to $5000 professional version, was the Nikon FM-10, the Vivitar 3800, or the Promaster 2500PK. I later discovered that all three of these were being built by Cosina and that they were all nearly identical. My pick was the Promaster simply because it was available at my local camera store and I like to see and touch things before I buy them. Besides, the Promaster and the Vivitar both took Pentax K type lenses and both the DSLR’s we had were Pantax so I reasoned that there would be some degree of interchangeability between all the cameras that would not exist with the Nikon. My all manual Promaster 35mm SLR cost $150 and came with a K-mount 50mm 1.7 lens.

This was a perfect camera for my purposes. In spite of my misgivings about digital photography I still wasn’t sure that film photography would endure much longer so I didn’t want to invest a lot of money in a dying technology and I still had a couple thousand dollars worth of digital cameras available with auto-focus and fancy zoom capabilities.

Those were busy times so photography was not a main occupation. It took me several months to get around to actually using the new camera. About 6 months after the warranty had expired I discovered that my new and apparently very cheaply made plastic camera was even more cheaply made than I first thought when the shutter jammed up and the film advance wouldn’t advance. Upon further investigation I found out my $150 camera was going to cost $130 to have repaired and a replacement would now cost me $160. Neither alternative seemed especially attractive or wise to me. After taking the camera apart and succeeding only in further insuring that it would never take pictures again I considered my options.

The only thing I had left from my misguided venture back into the world of film photography was a pretty decent 50mm, F1.7 lens so with than in mind I started looking into purchasing a used Pentax K-1000 to go with the lens. For those of you who are not familiar with the K-1000, it is the Sherman tank of 35mm manual SLR’s that Pentax had manufactured in one form or another for decades. My wife had one before Hurricane Katrina took it along with everything else and it was simply the most solidly built piece of photographic equipment I had ever run across. Surely I thought if one of the millions of these in good shape could be had it for a reasonable price it would be an investment that would last for years.

A funny thing happened on the way to finding my Pentax K-1000. While looking online at “KEH” a used camera outlet that claims to have the largest selection of used film cameras I ran across a used Promaster 2000PK body. It was supposed to be in excellent condition and came with a 60 day warranty; all for only $29 plus shipping. I already had a lens and I considered that I sometimes spend more than $29 for a good lunch so how could I lose on that deal.

About a week later, with my new used camera in hand I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the older Promaster 2000 seemed to actually be put together much better than the newer model 2500PK I had originally bought. It did not have the PC socket for the flash (although it did have a hot shoe) or the multiple exposure button the later version had but I figured I could live without those in exchange for a camera that might last long enough to shoot more than one or two rolls of film.

I shot a test roll and had it processed to determine two things before I went any further or invested any more time or money into film photography. First, did my $29 used camera function as it should, and second, were my aging eyes still good enough to focus the fully manual camera properly, after all, for the past couple years I had used nothing but an auto-focus digital camera. My confidence in myself was almost as shaky as my confidence in my $29 camera. Both of us came through with flying colors however.

With my initial tests finished I started shooting film again and looking for the next addition to my camera bag. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

About the Name

When I first considered shooting film again I went to the internet to do some research on the subject and found a wonderful blog by an American photographer living in Paris. I still visit her blog regularly to view the pictures and read the posts. I was inspired by her blog so at my son Ian’s suggestion I am starting one of my own and out of respect for the one that inspired mine, I have named it accordingly.

Now there is often confusion in English about the word “too.” You see there is the similar word “to” like when you go somewhere. Then there is the word “two” which simply means “twice” or the number 2, and then there is the word “too” which means also.

 Since when spoken they all sound exactly alike it is sometimes necessary to specify exactly which one you mean. So I differentiate them by saying, “to,” “two (twice),” or “too (also).”

So with all due respect to the original “I Still Shoot Film” I have called my blog
“I Still Shoot Film Too (Also),” but if you want to call it “I Still Shoot Film – 2 (twice)” that’s okay too (also), as long as you don’t get the URL messed up in the process.