Saturday, February 22, 2014

Black & White – it is what it is!

I have tried on many occasions to “create” black & white from digital color images and they’re always less than satisfying. The photo above was shot with an Olympus XA2 on Kodak BW400CN. As I said in an earlier post I love the XA2 and I also like this film, mainly for its convenience. It uses C-41 processing – the same as color film so it can be developed at your local 1-hour processor, assuming you still have one nearby (I do). I also like this film for its full palette of gray tones.

My all time favorite black and white film is Tri-X for the opposite reason. It has rich blacks and brilliant whites and is generally considered to be a high contrast black and white film. Although, in the right hands and under the right exposure conditions, Tri-X can display rich gray tones as well. To me, that is the Holy Grail of black & white photography.

The point I want to get to however, is simply that black and white film does what it does and it does it link nothing else. I have indeed seen some nice black and white shots taken with digital cameras or maybe “created” in post processing but I always get the impression (and maybe it is just my prejudice showing through) that someone worked really hard at getting it to look like what black and white film just does automatically.

I to have tried to do it digitally without much success. Maybe I just am not willing to work that hard or just don’t know what I am doing in that regard. I actually tried to manipulate the image above in post processing to make it look more like a Tri-X shot but couldn’t pull it off so decided to just leave it alone.

It is what it is – an image that represents what Kodak BW400CN is and does.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Classic Point & Shoot

Although the Olympus XA2 I used to capture the image of my sons above on Kodak BW400CN film is something of a cult classic it is essentially an early 1980’s point & shoot camera. These little gems have gotten a bad reputation simply for being simple and easy to use. This grandfather of the ubiquitous auto-focus (and pretty much auto-everything else) point & shoot 35mm cameras of the 1990’s and early 21st century is almost as easy to use as those that came afterwards. The only things left for the photographer to do is set the film’s ISO (ASA in those days) and choose one of the three zone focus positions. Everything else is taken care of for you.

This was revolutionary when this camera was introduced. With shutter speeds from 2 seconds to 1/750 the sharp 35mm f3.5 Zuiko lens captures incredible detail, even in the window reflected selfie. This is only the third roll of film I’ve put through this great little camera. I posted a couple times about it last March (2013) if you’re interested in reading more about it or seeing more pictures taken with it.

Every time I use the XA2 I am amazed by the quality of both the camera and the images. The XA is a bit more sophisticated because it is a true rangefinder and had more controls but for sheer simplicity and a lot of fun its hard to beat the XA2.

There are many great 35mm point & shoot cameras to be had for under $10 from Ebay or thrift stores. I think everyone should have at least one to carry around with them where ever they go.