Saturday, January 23, 2016

35mm Rocks!

I know I have been extolling the virtues of 110 film lately and even posted a couple things about digital but 35mm has been and continues to be the King of film formats. So here’s a shot from a couple months ago that I really like. It was taken with my Pentax ZX-7 on Kodak Portra 400 color negative film.

Now if I am being honest, the ZX-7 is probably my favorite 35mm SLR. I also have a ZX-L that I like the “feel” of and it is a great camera, probably a little better build than the ZX-7 but the ZX-7 just works for me. I can shoot on full auto, programed auto, aperture preferred, shutter preferred or fully manual. Coupled with a 28-80 zoom (I’ve been wanting to get a 28 -90 but just haven’t found one at a reasonable price yet) it is about as close to an all-purpose 35mm SLR as you could want. It even has a decent pop up flash.

As for film, Portra 400 has a beautiful color balance, just enough speed to cover the gamut of shooting scenarios and just does almost everything I want a film to do. Now don’t misunderstand what I am saying. There are other great films out there. I love Ektar for shooting pinhole. Velvia is a beautiful film to experiment with, and of course my all-time favorite black & white film – Tri-X. But for color negative film to cover any contingency I find myself coming back again and again to Portra.

All that to address the all important question, “if you had to be stuck somewhere/anywhere” (you fill in that blank)  with only one film camera and only one film – what would it be?

For me, it would most likely be the Pentax ZX-7 loaded with Kodak Portra 400. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Pentax K-S1

One of the best surprises so far with the new Pentax K-S1 I got for Christmas is the way is does “in-camera” black & white jpegs! Being a film guy and a lover of Kodak Tri-X film I have intentionally avoided black & white with digital because it always looks, well, bland.

I know you can do all kinds of things with post processing but I like taking pictures, not sitting in front of a computer. I already do enough of that. My photography is intended to give me a break from that so I always shoot color jpeg images with digital and if I want black & white I use one of my film cameras loaded with Tri-X.

That said, I was delighted to find that there is at least one of the three black & white settings on the K-S1 that results in amazing black & white images.  To find it go to “MENU 1”   “Custom Image” and select “BW.”

There is a “Bold Monochrome” setting available in another place in the menu and another on the control ring under “Effects” but those have too much contrast and not enough gray tones for my taste.

I don’t want to take away anything from this little (and I do mean little) camera’s ability to produce fantastic color images. Like most Pentax DSLR’s it excels there too, but I am delighted to finally find a digital that can produce the kind of black & white images I like.

What I like is totally black blacks, white whites and an abundant assortment of grays in between. In the film world Kodak Tri-X delivers this faithfully but in my experience the Pentax K-S1 is the first DSLR to achieve this.

No doubt I will have much more to say about this camera in future posts but this is what caught my attention the first couple times I used the camera.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

More 110

Here’s another shot taken with the Minolta 460Tx on Lomo Tiger color negative film. The image quality is excellent for such a small negative and the color from the Lomo Tiger film is great. I really don’t know why the shots from this camera seem so much better than the supposedly higher quality 110 cameras I have tried previously but this little camera could easily become one of my favorites if my tests continue to result in these kind of photos.

Next roll I will shoot some with the flash and see how that works out. Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

110 Film Rocks Again!

I always thought that 110 film resulted in pretty crappy pictures going all the way back to my early experiences in the 1970’s but I have been dabbling with it again off and on for the last couple years hoping for better results.

My first try was with the smallest SLR ever produced, the Pentax Auto 110. Unfortunately the first roll of film through this little jewel broke the film advance and so ended my experimenting with 110. The partial roll I tried to take pictures with was developed and while the images were better than I remembered 110 being they were not nearly as good as 35mm.

My second attempt was with a Rollei A110. This robust little camera has thus far has refused to break even when a pesky roll of film got stuck and threatened to do the same thing to it that happened to the Pentax.  Again the images were much better than what I remembered from the 1970’s but still not up to par with 35mm or even current digital point & shoot cameras. My biggest complaint about the Rollei however, is that it is just too small to hold, carry and operate comfortably. I always feel awkward using it for some reason.

Still, I have to confess there is something more than nostalgia that kept me thinking that there was a 110 film camera that could produce reasonably good quality images while maintaining the 110 film mystique that captured a generation of photo enthusiasts and be comfortable and reliable to use.

Enter the Minolta 460Tx! This is a diminutive slab of a camera I stumbled across at Goodwill and picked up for less than $10. Looking like so many of the 1970’s vintage 110’s the Minolta 460Tx has two lenses (one normal and one telephoto), three apertures, one shutter speed, zone focusing and of course a built in flash. The image quality is excellent while still having whatever it is that makes 110, 110.

The image above was shot on Lomo Tiger which, as it turns out, is an excellent color negative film for these little cameras producing sharp and very colorful photos. Maybe I have finally found “MY” 110 camera!  Only time and more rolls of film will tell for sure.