A roll of Fomapan 400 with the Agfa Optima 1035 Sensor.

  • Camera: Agfa Optima 1035 Sensor.
  • Film: Fomapan 400. Rated at 400asa. Developed in Ilford IDL dilution 1+3 for 23 minutes @20 degC.
  • Film scanned using Plustek OpticFilm 8100 through Silverfast 8 software.
Agfa Optima 1035 Sensor

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.

Zone focusing seen in the viewfinder.
The zone focusing on the top of the lens.

Design philosophy

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.

Legacy glass on digital Part 1.

Carl Zeiss Jena 29mm f2.8 Lens.

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.

Carl Zeiss Jena 29mm f2.8.

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).

K & F Concept M42 – M4/3 adaptor

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.

K & F Concept M42 – M4/3 adaptor

The lens and the adaptor look very good mounted on my Olympus OM-D.

Olympus OM-D M1 fitted with K & F Concept adaptor and Carl Zeiss Jena 29mm f2.8 lens.
Olympus OM-D M1 fitted with K & F Concept adaptor and Carl Zeiss Jena 29mm f2.8 lens.

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:

The ‘V’ word.

I need help! I know, I know, a good friend said to me “don’t start getting interested in those little gem of cameras manufactured by the West German company Voigtlander. But did I listen?, NO!


Anyway, I thought I was fighting it but didn’t realise how fast the addiction takes hold of you. I just clicked on the ebay app and ‘Damn’ it was still set for the search for the ‘V’ word, and there they were, a pair of Voigtlander Bs.


As we all know, it’s better to get a pair of something, right! think of a pair of Purdey shotguns, or a pair of shoes, well maybe that’s not a good example.
Anyway there they were on the page staring back at me and they didn’t need bidding on as they were ‘Buy now’. That dreaded term ‘Buy now’ as if you can’t resist. But, I did resist for a couple of days, I think in the hope that someone else would ‘Buy now’ and leave me free to a normal life without the ‘V’ (see I can’t even say the full word, in case the affliction takes hold).
So, eventually I did buy the pair of Vito Bs which I didn’t think were overpriced as the seller said they both worked and one had a very nice brown leather case with it.

The Vito B has an unusual film load as part of the base of the camera hinges open to then allow the back to swing open. It is held in place with a very nice little catch which is typical German engineering and very detailed.


The next stage is to put film through them so we’re all set to go for a photography outing which has been put on hold for the stormy weather to pass as I don’t think these little jobies will stand getting a soaking.

A blast from the past – The Yashica-24 TLR

At age 20 I had a healthy interest in photography but not a very healthy bank balance. I had been shooting for a while with a 35mm SLR, a Russian made Zenith fitted with an f2 Helios lens. I did however have a desire to obtain a twin lens reflex camera to try out the bigger negative size.

The Yashica-24

I can’t remember exactly how or where I got it from but I did acquire a Yashica-24, probably because that camera was somewhat cheaper than the more desirable Rolleiflex. After around 20 years and 4 house moves later the camera resurfaced in the loft during some buidling work to convert the loft. I decided I wasn’t going to use the camera anymore as we were all digital now and no one is going to use film again, right? So, I gave it to a friend of mine who had a bit of a camera museum at home and he could display it on one of his shelves.

Jumping forward another 28 years and the present time and after retirement saw me rekindle my interest in some serious photography, I also started to get interested once again in the old film cameras. In the present climate of interest once again in film I thought it would be good to see if my friend still had the old Yashica, and there it was, still sitting on his shelf. As he had two examples of the same camera I asked if I could reclaim it, which he was happy to do.

Imagine my surprise though at finding it still had a film in it. My friend hadn’t used it so it must be one of mine from at least 25 years ago. I had started to develop my own film again and imagine the excitement of processing this old film to see what the images contained?

One of the images from the camera. There is some edge deterioration.

Some of the film had deteriorated around the edges but it still had some of the images which showed a steam train which had visited our location station those years ago. It’s amazing that there is anything still there at all.

I must soon get to take it out to see how it is still working.

A review of some mini tripods.

MARCH. 28, 2019

I’ve been trying out some small tripods recently. I do have a conventional carbon fibre tripod which isn’t very heavy but I just needed a very compact tripod for use in churches and the like when I’m going for those low level shots using my fisheye lens. Some places also don’t like you using a full size tripod but you can often get away with using a small one.

Gorillapod SLR-Zoom Tripod for SLR Cameras with Ball head.

I’ve had a Gorillapod for a couple of years and have been able to try it out in various ways including winding it round the framework on the back of a Jeep on safari. It is very versatile and is great for attaching to things like lamp posts and bridge railings. It’s not the most compact but does fit into my camera sling back that I mostly use.

I did though replace the ball head which had a tripod mount specific to the Gorillapod. I use the Arca Swiss type plates for all my tripods so I purchased the Vanguard TBH-50 Ball Head to replace the one supplied. this comes with an Arca Swiss compatible QS-60S Quick Release Plate and that is the head that is shown on the picture of the Gorillapod.

The ability to be very versatile has resulted in the Gorillapod having many plastic cup and ball joints in its leg construction. This though can result in some of them working lose over time. This has certainly happened in mine after a couple of years. After some searching I found a solution on You Tube which is to pull the lose cup and ball joint apart and insert a piece of tinfoil which then tightens the joint.

Joby GorillaPod SLR-Zoom Tripod for SLR Cameras with Ball head Price: £47.99 now £63.77

Vanguard TBH-50 Ball Head currently priced at £49.95.

Joby GorillaPod SLR-Zoom Tripod fitted with the Vanguard TBH-50 Ball Head

Conclusion.

The Gorillapod is lightweight, fairly compact and probably the most versatile of all mini tripods. It is probably not going to put up with a lot of use due to the joints working lose. The price at £48 was pretty good but is now being sold for around £64 and with having to change the head for something that is a bit more versatile in it’s attachment that works out at around £114 which pricey for a small and compact tripod.

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Platypod Ultra flat tripod for DSLR and Mirrorless cameras.

I also tried out a friends Platypod which is basically a flat aluminium plate with 4 screws, one at each corner and a threaded stud in the middle. It is supplied with a short strap which can be used to attach the Platypod plate to a lamp post etc. It doesn’t however come supplied with the tripod head. It is fairly versatile due to the way the plate is machined to take the strap in various configurations but not as versatile as the Gorillapod. It takes a while to set up as you have to screw in the four corner screws every time you want to use it unless you are prepared to carry the plate around with the 4 screws attached. This though kind of ruins one of its advantages of being just a flat plate that you can slip into a side pocket of your bag. Its also not practical to carry the camera around with the Platypod attached to the camera.

Platypod Ultra cost £55.00

Platypod Accessory pack which is another £30

Typical tripod head. Add on at least £50

Platypod Ultra flat tripod

Conclusion

Very compact as it consists of a flat plate for the tripod head. Slow to set up. Not the most versatile. You can’t carry the camera around with it attached.

At around £135.00 complete with a head it is expensive.

Manfrotto MP3-BK Large Pocket Support.

This very small attachment is the most compact of the tripods mentioned here. It is however also probably the least versatile. It’s strength though lies in the fact that it is the most compact and can be left in place on the camera and hardly noticed that it is there. The three rubberised feet can be used to just support the camera on a flat surface and can also be used on a curved surface such as the top of a handrail. It is nicely made and has three small feet that are tensioned by springs. As long as the springs maintain tension on the feet it should last well. I must admit that due to the low price I was expecting less in the way of quality but I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the engineering and finish.

Manfrotto MP3-BK Large Pocket Support: £15.99

Manfrotto MP3-BK Large Pocket Support.
Manfrotto MP3-BK Large Pocket Support in place on a Lumix GX8.
Manfrotto MP3-BK Large Pocket Support in use.

Conclusion.

Very compact and can be left in place on the camera. Not very versatile. Cheap but quality engineered.

Sirui 3T-35K Table Top Tripod

This is the latest of the small tripods that I have purchased. It has three small feet fitted with rubberised covers which keep the tripod from slipping, The three feet can swing up to lay flat against the main column of the tripod and the column itself can be extended slightly. When the feet are swung up the column assembly makes for a very compact and comfortable hand grip. The tripod with the feet out can also be used against the chest to provide additional support for thos low speed shutter hand held shots. The tripod is supplied complete with a ball head which has an Arca Swiss plate included and will take my other plates. The ball head can be mounted directly to the feet assembly to make for a very compact setup although in the configuration the feet can’t be swung up to create a hand hold. The quality of engineering and finish is very good.

This is a very nice compact little tripod and comes in a bag with an additional non-extending column and the necessary allen keys for dissassembling the columns and head.

As far as versatility goes it’s only negative point compared with the Gorillapod and the Platypod is that it can’t be attached to a lamp post or railing.

Price; £80.

Sirui 3T-35K Table Top Tripod
Sirui 3T-35K Table Top Tripod in it's lower position.
Sirui 3T-35K Table Top Tripod in it's extended position.
Sirui 3T-35K Table Top Tripod with the ball head fixed directly to the foot assembly.
Sirui 3T-35K Table Top Tripod in it's lowest position with the Lumix GX8.

Conclusion.

Very compact and can be left in place on the camera and provides a hand grip. Not the most versatile in comparison with the Gorillapod and Platypod. Reasonably priced for the quality of the engineering.

Photography and other advice for safari.

NOVEMBER. 17, 2019

The Serengeti, Tanzania

Going on a safari was a new experience for me so before leaving I did ask for some advice on what best to take etc on a couple of photography club Facebook groups. Whilst I did get some useful information such as ‘don’t fall out of the jeep’ and ‘hold on to your camera’ it was more equipment advice I was after.

Now I’ve completed 5 whole days of travelling through Northern Tanzania I thought I’d just put together my thoughts on it.

I organised the trip so that we were there at the beginning of November to try to catch the start of the rains. This brings on the grass so the animals are on the move. This in turn brings the predators that follow the herds. All done so we would hopefully catch the photos of the big herds on the plains and those close ups of the big cats.

The animals get very close sometimes. We had to pull over to let an elephant pass.
This is where the 12-60 lens came into its own!

Route.

We followed a route from Arusha, over to Lake Manyara National Park on the first day. Second day was taken up with a long day driving round the Ngorogoro Crater Park which in fact is a volcanic caldera. This was followed by moving on to a tented camp situated right on the Serengeti, for the next 3 days. Being situated right in the Serengeti meant we had maximised our time actually viewing animals without taking time driving to and from the park area. Up at 05:30 for breakfast and set off in the Land cruiser at 07:00 straight into where its all happening. The accommodation in the luxury tents with en-suite toilet and shower was very good and the food in the camp was exceptional.

The tents at the Kati Kati bush camp.
Lake Manyara from the air. This was the location of our first day on safari. This was taken a few days later whilst flying over the lake on our way to the island of Zanzibar.
The Ngorogoro caldera. Taken from the air whilst flying over to Zanzibar a few days later.
Our guide, Alfred, purchasing some red bananas on the way to our destination. I nicknamed him King Alfred the Great due to his knowledge of the flora and fauna. He found this highly amusing.

Vehicle and guide.

We booked our safari as part of an overall holiday package through a company called Audley Travel which we’ve used a few times before. Our guide, who is a Massai had an encyclopaedic knowledge of flora and fauna of the area and certainly made the trip for us and was well worth the tip we gave him at the end of the 5 days. The vehicle he used was a Toyota Land Cruiser. Very comfortable and with 6 seats in the back, although there was only 4 of us. It had a roof which raised up so you could stand up and look out. You could stand on the seats (shoes off) and get a higher perspective. Generally I found the people of Tanzania some of the most friendly I’ve come across in the world.

Clothing.

So, what to wear. It’s hot but there are also some tsetse flies in some areas so it’s best to wear lightweight long trousers. Zip offs are best so you can convert to shorts when needed. Also wear lightweight long sleeved shirts. At times you will be standing on the seats of the vehicle to get a better view through the raised roof and as they don’t like shoes on the seats, wear slip off shoes, they are easily put on and off quickly. I was wearing easily removed Keen sandals with socks. Not a very cool look but I was hoping the socks would prevent some bites (they didn’t).

Biting things (other than big cats).

There aren’t many of the tsetses about but they can give a nasty bite as I know as one bit right through my socks. Tsetses can also carry African trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness so its best to avoid getting bitten. On the subject of bites, make sure you’re taking your anti malaria tablets too as there are mosquitos about in the wet areas.

I called this photo 'band of brothers'. It was 5 large male lions (one out of shot) walking toward us across the Serengeti.

Photography equipment.

Firstly, I thought, correctly that there was going to be a lot of dust kicking up on the Serengeti. So I decided to invest in a second camera body which would accept my existing Micro Four Thirds system lenses. This meant that I need not be changing lenses in that dusty environment. I use a Lumix GX8 so I purchased an Olympus OM-D E-M1 body second hand from the MPB Web site. At £285 it was an acceptable add on cost to the holiday.

Close up of baboons grooming.

One aspect of this trip was that I wasn’t sure of the best lenses to take as I want sure how close, or far away the animals would be. I understand that it is a difficult one as no one knows what is going to happen when working with animals. I settled on taking two prime lenses, which I didn’t use much and two zoom lenses, a 12-60mm and a 100-300mm. The two zoom lenses were the ones I used most as they covered most eventualities.

Wildebeest.

I also took my Gorillapod but it turned out that it was best to be able to move freely and in any case, there wasn’t anywhere I could actually wind it round the roof structure of the Land Cruiser.

Wart Hog

One thing I forgot to take was a blower brush. That would have been a good accessory to help in cleaning the dust off the cameras at the end of the day. The do get very dusty in the vehicle.

So, a blower brush and a couple of cleaning cloths are worth having.

It’s probably best to take a couple of spare memory cards too as you are sure to take a lot more photos than you think. When you are close to an animal it may not be adopting the best pose so you tend to just keep shooting in the hope of capturing just that moment when the head turns to get that profile or the direct stare from the eyes.

Cheetah with it's kill, a Thompsons Gazelle.
A cheetah with blood dripping from it's mouth after eating a recent kill.

A good camera bag is worth having but be prepared for it to get very grubby and need a good clean up at the end of the safari. The vehicle we had was very well equipped with places to slot your camera in between shots. There was a trough in front of me with some padded bags so you could place one camera safely there and a suspended bag slung over the back of the font seats with compartments in which would accept a camera fitted with a zoom lens.

Two giraffe sparing under a tree.

The vehicle was also equipped with an inverter and power sockets to charge batteries though I didn’t use that as I had plenty of spares.

Some night photography in Victorian London.

The collection of streets known as Roupell Street, Theed Street, Whittlesley Street, Cornwall Road and Windmill Walk are all situated in the north east corner of the London Borough of Lambeth. They constitute the Roupell Street Conservation Area and are a collection of Victorian terraces just south of the River Thames.

These streets have survived the march of time and the efforts of developers to be one of London’s time capsules of architecture in a modern city.

They have been used for TV for some episodes of Mr Selfridge and Call the Midwife to name a few.

I wanted to do some photography round this area to capture the character of these streets with the lamps lit at night. It is quite a good area for photography as there doesn’t seem to be too many cars parked around some of the streets, unlike some other areas

It certainly makes a nice change from the ultra modern architecture of The City and Canary Wharf and the Brutalist style of architecture around the Barbican.

A Reflection on Street Photography

 JUNE. 21, 2019

Cambridge - Partying at the Trinity Ball.

So, what is street photography? To the novice photographer trying out this genre it may seem just being in the street and taking photos. The more you get into this fascinating area of photography though, the more you realise how difficult it can be to take photos that elevate your work above just a street view.

Street Photography doesn’t even need to be in the street but can be in other locations such as industrial sites and things such as a ferry as shown in the photo below taken on the car deck of a ferry.

Ferry Car deck 3.

People in the street

One of the first questions one has is, should there be people in the shot? There are differing opinions on this but I think just taking the street is more of a ‘street scene’ rather than ‘Street Photography’ and to be street photography requires a person, or people to be in the shot. This adds another element to the shot and often requires you to arrive at a suitable location but then have to wait for a suitable person to walk into the shot.

One of the difficult aspects of Street Photography with people is getting over photographing people candidly which can often get some negative response from the subject. You can, of course, ask permission but I feel you’ve lost the spontaneity of the moment as soon as someone knows they are being photographed and then start to pose.

It's good to place people within the environment even when doing a close-up.

Gesture.

But is photographing people just walking along the street enough? I think not if you want to take your photography to another level. You can improve by looking for people doing something special or out of the ordinary. By catching a gesture, whether it’s a hand gesture, a turn of the head, or maybe just a look out of the frame that makes you wonder, what is going on?. It can also mean the position of the legs which indicate movement or that people are running at full stride to indicate some urgency in their journey.

Gesture can also be just a glance.
A gesture can be more pronounced and obvious.

Figure to Ground

In art classes they teach something called ‘Figure to Ground’. Its how to make your main subject or figure stand out by putting a light subject against a dark background, or vice versa. In photography it’s more difficult to achieve as we don’t have the option of creating our own backgrounds. We have to go out and find a suitable background to work with.

The best way of achieving this impact of contrast is to find a suitable spot where the sunlight is shining across a building with a shadow in the background. The shaft of sunlight illuminates the subject which is in contrast against the dark shadow background.

Exposure.

To get good results though means having to fool the camera’s light meter into seeing only that part of the photo that is important to you, being the area of the highlight. The camera’s light meter will try to just expose the whole view as varying shades of grey and the image will lack punch. You can achieve a good exposure by setting the camera to spot metering or using the exposure compensation adjustment on your camera. It can, in some cases, mean underexposing for up to 3 stops. You should then end up with a well exposed highlight area with dense dramatic shadow areas.

Colour.

Areas of contrasting colour can also be used to emphasise the main subject. Sometimes just pushing up the saturation and clarity of the photo can make a photo pop.

Taking photos through restaurant windows can be quite effective too. The colour saturation and vibrancy can be raised to give a better effect.

Selective focus.

How much should we blur the background using a larger aperture? I think it’s important to set the subject in the environment. If you completely blur the background then there is no indication of where it is.

The most important thing though is to get out there and practice. Be patient, learn from your mistakes and don’t expect to come home with lots of perfect shots.

Chasing shadows in Saffron Walden.

DECEMBER. 03, 2019

Monday 2nd Dec 2019 – A cold start to today with temperatures just above freezing. A nice clear blue sky though which bode well for some high contrast photography. I decided to take a drive up to Saffron Walden in Essex, a nice town just north of where I live.

I thought I’d try capturing some street photography with people walking through shafts of light which should be achievable with the low sun at this time of year.

Just to make it a bit different I also thought I’d use one of my old film camera lenses on my Lumix GX8 so I would be using manual focus. The lens I used was a 35mm which gives an equivalent on 35mm of 70mm, f2.8 Olympus OM series.

A suitable shaft of light.

One of my Olympus film cameras was still loaded with Ilford HP5 rated to 800 ASA so I thought I’d take that with me too.

After taking a few shots on the digital around the Cross keys pub where I found some suitable lighting I ventured on up to the Old Sun Inn and St Marys church.

Some great light inside the church.

After taking a few shots my battery gave out on the GX8 and annoyingly, the battery that should have been charged wasn’t.

I thought that was a good opportunity to use the film camera so started shooting with that. After some shots the normal click – clunk of the mirror and shutter just went click. That meant that the mirror was stuck up, normally caused by not enough battery power. So, I thought ‘time for a coffee break’ whilst I changed the batteries in the OM40.

The Old Sun Inn.

With me and the camera refreshed I then went over to the older streets of Saffron Walden to finish off the film before returning home.

35mm Ilford HP5 rated at 800 ASA.

35 mm Ilford HP5 rated at 800 ASA.

Stortford by Night – After Brassai!

I had to go into our local town last night to drop off my wife at a function. Normally I wouldn’t go into town on a Saturday night as it’s absolutely heaving with revellers and all the pubs are jam packed, so no chance of a quiet drink.

I had been meaning for some time to try out my little Sony RX100 camera doing some night time shots as I find it’s Rich Monotone setting very good during the day time.

One of my favourite classic film photographers is the Hungarian-French photographer Brassai. In the 1930s he travelled through Paris at night taking some eerie night time shots of the city. His book ‘Paris by Night’ is one of my favourites.

So I thought I’d try to emulate Brassai in Bishops Stortford.

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I set the ISO to 2000 to start with and the aperture at f5.6.

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I set the exposure for minus 1 stop as I wanted to capture the dark blacks of Brassai’s film shots.

The Rich Monotone setting on the Sony captures very good tonal ranges but it does ghost people walking at these relatively slow shutter speeds.

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