An interesting trip out a while ago with my favourite retro camera of the moment, the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SPII. We drove up into Suffolk to the end of the promontory where Felixstowe Docks are located. There is an old Fort called Landguard Fort built in the 1500s originally but the present construction dates much later. Being an overcast day and the Fort a very grey concrete construction I thought it would make an ideal subject for black and white film. So, I loaded up with a 36 exp roll of Ilford HP5+ and put a spare in my bag. I took my 55mm f1.8 and my 105mm f2.8 Takumar lenses fitted with a yellow filter for an added bit of contrast.
I love this old camera. It seems to fit my hand so well and I like the weight of it which has a feel of quality. The shutter sound too sounds really great and makes you feel you have an instrument of quality in your hands. The Takumar lenses are brilliant as is the Zeiss 29mm one.
It was a rather grey and overcast day so it was a little difficult in places accommodating the low light levels but all in all I was very pleased with the results.
I’ve recently completed converting my loft into a darkroom. It seemed like a natural progression from having got more into my film photography recently..
An ideal time to spend in the darkroom what with this awful weather and being in lockdown.
Did a few trial prints the other day of some photos taken in the Barbican using a 35mm Olympus OM2n.The film was rated at ISO 400 and developed in Ilford ID11 developer.
These are all scans of the actual prints made in the darkroom and printed on Kentmere VC Select Luster multigrade paper.
The first print (above) I made using the settings on the colour head for the equivalent of a grade 2 paper which is a mid way grade. The range of tones at the lower level under the overhanging construction are pretty good, although the upper level balconies are a bit over exposed and losing some detail.
For the second example (above) I reset the yellow and magenta settings on the enlarger colour head to give me an equivalent to grade 3 paper which is more contrasty. The image has more punch and has darker blacks to the shadow area, although the lower part does look a bit under exposed (it does look darker on the scanned image than on the actual print though). It does also have good detail to the upper balcony areas. I may have to redo this and using a bit of cardboard just hold back the lower part by 5 seconds on the exposure in the enlarger.
It is good fun and is an interesting project to be doing in these restricted times.
I’ve also included a few of the other scanned prints of the Barbican from the last session.
During this second lockdown period I thought it would be a good opportunity to try out perfecting some new film photography. I’ve used Fomapan 400 a fair bit in the past but decided to try Fomapan 200 for a change. Maybe not the best idea during the dull weather we’re having just recently but at least I can get to using a large aperture and throwing the background out of focus.
So I decided to do our local walk which starts at a small church. I first had a look round the churchyard. Churchyards are always good for some texture and interesting light shooting.
Further along our walk we pass the Henry Moore Studio and Gardens. Even though it’s closed at present there is an opportunity to still see some of the sculptures.
The walk takes us round the perimeter of the Henry Moore grounds and then along part of the Hertfordshire Way.
So, what of the film. I developed the Fomapan 200 for 13 minutes in Ilford ID11 at 20 deg C. Ilford ID11 is my go to developer at present. As it’s a powder developer it has an almost indefinite shelf life in it’s powder form so I can purchase a couple of boxes without having them go off before I can use them.
I quite like the tones of Fomapan 200 but not sure the grain appears to be much smaller than Fomapan 400 and I have to say that I think I prefer to use Ilford HP5+ for most of my photos.
I will though try the Fomapan 200 out with another camera/lens combination. This set was photographed using the Olympus OM2n fitted with the 50mm f1.4 lens. I intend to run another 36 through my Pentax Spotmatic fitted with the 55mm f1.8 Takumar lens.
Film: Fomapan 400. Rated at 400asa. Developed in Ilford ID11 dilution 1+3 for 23 minutes @20 degC.
Film scanned using Plustek OpticFilm 8100 through Silverfast 8 software.
Why I chose this camera?
Having an interest in analogue photography I like to follow a YouTube channel called Analogue Insights (link at the end of this post). Recently, Max, who is the host of the site has done a review of the Afa Optima 1035. It seemed to be the ideal camera for some Street Photography and as a coincidence there was one on Ebay in mint condition which I purchased for £56.
The camera and it’s features.
The camera is built of metal and is very compact and takes 35mm film. It has zone focusing but if turned upside down it has the distance scale on the underside of the lens. Zone focusing is something I often use for Street Photography so that is fine. The viewfinder is very large and bright for such a small camera and it is equipped with a nice f2.8 40mm lens. The zone focusing settings are shown in the viewfinder which is handy. The exposure is fully automatic but there is an aperture setting on the lens. This though is only operational when using flash.
The camera was one of a series of cameras produced by Agfa through to the late 1970s and the simplistic design philosophy has as it’s roots in that of post war German industrial design. The design is a reflection of the design principles by such great designers as Dieter Rams who was instrumental in the design of the sleek and understated household goods for Braun in that era. “Good design is as little design as possible.” These few words encapsulate the philosophy of Rams. The British-American designer Jony Ive, Chief designer for Apple until 2019 once said of Rams that his work is “beyond improvement.”
This camera was designed by another German design studio. In 1967 Norbert Schlagheck and Herbert Schultes formed the design partnership Schlagheck Schultes Design GmbH and took on work of designing products for AGFA Gevaert AG. The design partnership was located in Munich and they were Influenced by Dieter Rams and his 10 Principles of Good Design. They were responsible for delivering designs for several classic cameras, along with other products. The design for AGFA provided a new and more modern direction for the camera-maker with the large red sensor shutter release being instrumental in the catch phrase for the product of ‘The other red dot camera’. This being a reference to the logo on Leica cameras. Not quite up to the standard of manufacture of Leica of course.
The results of my first trip out with the camera.
I recently was able to visit the National Trust property of Anglesey Abbey. Having just received the camera through the post I thought I’d load up with a roll of Fomapan 400 black and white film and try it out. It was an overcast day so not too much contrast but the white statuary in the grounds set against a dark background of foliage proved to be ideal for a test and I’m quite pleased with the results. The camera was a joy to use and handled very well. Manual focusing was very easy with the 400 ASA film providing small enough apertures to get some depth of field.
My next test of the camera will be to take it out on a trip doing some Street Photography.
I do like the quality and feel of the old legacy lenses created for the old film cameras. To my mind they are built to a higher standard than the modern lenses made for the consumer market.
I recently saw a Carl Zeiss Jena 29mm lens advertised on ebay and was tempted and was surprised that no one else bid on it. So, I got myself a nice lens of good condition for £31.
There is a lot written about the company of Zeiss Jena and the fact that it was situated in the Eastern part of Germany after the second world war. The company Zeiss originated in Jena but after the war the Americans moved most of the staff and manufacturing to Oberkochen in the West of Germany. Optics were continued to be manufactured in the original factory in Jena and in some cases using the original technicians who chose to stay. Some would say that the quality of the Jena lenses doesn’t match that of the ones produced in Oberkochen but I think there is an element of snobbery in that statement. It may be that the quality control was a bit more relaxed at the Jena works but if you get a good example they are certainly good lenses.
You are, of course, stuck with manual focus when using these lenses on a digital camera but that doesn’t bother me at all. I often use manual focus with my digital lenses. On a Micro Four Thirds camera the focal length for this lens is 58mm which is a good focal length for Street Photography. The lens also has a close focus distance of 0.25m which is better than my Leica 25mm digital lens. I also like the way these old lenses have all the distance scales etc etched on the lens. It’s very handy for when you’re doing zone focusing, again, not something easy to do on a lens with no distance markings.
The lens fitting is the 42mm screw fit so I had to purchase a new adaptor for my micro four thirds cameras (Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Lumix GX8).
I chose the K & F Concept adaptor as I had purchased others in the past and some had been problematic and fitted the Lumix camera but not the Olympus. The one I chose was the Pro version which is a couple of pounds more expensive but was of excellent build quality and finish. It fitted both cameras very accurately without any play.
The lens and the adaptor look very good mounted on my Olympus OM-D.
I mounted the lens to my Lumix GX8 and went out for an afternoon photographing in a small town called Saffron Walden in Essex. These are some of the results. All jpgs straight out of the camera with no post processing:
Built in 1650, Wimpole Hall is a neo-classical building and is Grade I listed. The estate itself is Grade I listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. Owned by the Chicheley family for 250 years the house passed through a number of familys before passing into ownership by The National Trust. As the National Trust are now opening up access to their properties we were able to book a visit there a few days ago. I took it as an opportunity to do some photography using one of my 35mm SLR film cameras.
Film: Ilford FP4 rated at 125asa. Developed in Ilford ID11 diluted1+1 for 11 minutes @20degC.
Scanned to digital using a Plustek 8100 scanner.
The park was “naturalised” by Capability Brown. The North Park is particularly attractive with its belts of woodland, gentle rolling hills with individual trees and clumps of trees. The central feature of the North Park is the Gothic Tower known as The Folly and the restored lakes in the valley below.
The folly is designed to resemble the ruins of a medieval castle. It was built on the grounds of Wimpole Hall in the mid-1770s
Single-arch timber bridges were often called ‘Chinese’ in the eighteenth century, probably because they were reminiscent of the bridges shown on Chinese porcelain, lacquer, silk and wallpaper. It was designed by Lancelot Brown and was rebuilt in the mid 20th century.
Wimpole Farm is one of the UK’s largest rare breed centres and they play a key role in conserving rare and traditional breeds of livestock.