Living in Utopia

On a recent rip into London I took a group of photographers round the Barbican. Not wanting to use the tube in these times of restrictions we limited ourselves to using the over ground train into Liverpool Street and walk from there.

From the Barbican we walked down to the Thames at St Paul’s Cathedral. My main area of interest for the day though was the Barbican area. I was intending taking just a film camera with me on this trip as I thought the Barbican with it’s grey drab concrete construction would prove ideal for black and white film.

As early as the late 1940s architects and town planners were looking at how people could live in high rise blocks and moved around the city on high level walkways. The idea wasn’t that they were so much concerned about pedestrians but more to do with keeping traffic flowing uninterrupted through the cities of tomorrow. As is often the case though that didn’t accord with human nature as people were more fond of following roads rather than being remote above where everything is happening,

The outcome of this is that London has some areas of remote and unlinked walkways. One area of extensive walkways though is the Barbican estate.

The gear used for this day was my trusty Olympus OM2n and 50mm f1.4 lens. I used a couple of rolls of Ilford HP5+ and developed it in Ilford ID11 diluted 1+3 for 20 minutes @20 degC.

Scanning of film was done using Plustek Opticfilm 8100 scanner and Silverfast software.

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.

Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire.

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.

Camera: Olympus OM2n 35mm SLR

Lenses: 35mm f2.8 Zuiko. 50mm f1.4 Zuiko. 135mm f2.8 Zuiko.

Filter: Hoya Orange (G) filter.

Film: Ilford FP4 rated at 125asa. Developed in Ilford ID11 diluted1+1 for 11 minutes @20degC.

Scanned to digital using a Plustek 8100 scanner.

Wimpole Hall.
Wimpole Hall.
Wimpole Hall.
Wimpole Hall.
Wimpole Hall. The rear of the house.
Wimpole Hall. The rear of the house.
Wimpole Hall. Walking across the parkland at the rear of the house toward the Folly.

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

The bridge known as the Chinese Bridge.

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.

The lake.
Norfolk Horn sheep.

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.

The Folly.
Detail of The Folly.
The lake.