Film

The White Goods Index

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New film freezer
New film freezer

Back in the 1990’s I recall reading an article about something called the white goods index. It was intended to measure how much better we are all as a result of white goods becoming cheaper in relation to how much we are all earning.

On Saturday I took delivery of a new freezer. Our old chest freezer had broken a few weeks back and the lid no longer closed. The replacement we bought was duly delivered and filled with all manner of food. Whilst loading the new freezer my wife suggested I buy a second smaller freezer in which to store my photography film. My initial reaction was to think this was an extravagant waste but then I stopped and thought about it. A quick search on the Internet and I found a new freezer for about the same price as three boxes of Kodak Provia in 120 format.

Today I loaded the new freezer with all my film from the fridge, and our new main chest freezer. Seeing all this film in once place made me realise just how much I had. The value is many more times the cost of the freezer and there are a few more benefits. My wife is now happy that she can put food in the freezer box in the fridge. She can store and access food in the chest freezer more easily. I might start using film faster than I have been buying it. Perhaps this last point is pushing things a little too far though.

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Amazing Film

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XPan image in Paris. Handheld using Ilford Delta 100.
XPan image in Paris. Handheld using Ilford Delta 100. Click to see a larger image.

This is another image that I just have to share. I shot this around 10 years ago in Paris on my XPan panoramic camera. It was shot on good old Ilford Delta 100 and processed using ID11. I scanned the image in two halves using my Minolta 5400 35mm scanner. The image is panoramic so you need to scan in two halves and then merge the two in Photoshop. The resulting image is 45” x 16” when printed at 300dpi.

Now here are two close up sections at 100% magnification with no sharpening. You can see where I have taken them from on the main image by the red boxes.

Section 1 from the roof
Section 1 from the roof

And the other section.

Section 2
Section 2

Whilst I’m amazed at how sharp the image is (I would love to have this scanned on a top quality scanner), what I really like the gritty feel it has. It’s not as clinical as a digital black and white. Perhaps I’m growing to appreciate black and white film more in my old age.

Impressive Printing Service

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Image captured on Kodak Ektar 100 35mm film. Shot on a Hasselblad XPan with 45mm lens.
Image captured on Kodak Ektar 100 35mm film. Shot on a Hasselblad XPan with 45mm lens.

I recently showed the above image as part of my posting about film photography. At the time I made the point that my wife loved the image and picked it out from a selection of prints (all the others digital) as the one that stood out. My wife by the way is someone who doesn’t really bother about photography and bases her choice on what she likes. A couple of days later she asked me to get the same image printed large for our bathroom. In the past I have had a large print made by Whitewall so I decided to use them again.

I started by re-scanning the image on my Epson V700 using VueScan software. The V700 is OK for a flatbed scanner but it won’t produce super sharp images. The original image itself was shot on Kodak Ektar 100 35mm film using a Hasselblad XPan and my intention was to produce a print of around 30” wide. In the end the print was 31.5” x 11.4” as this was the best size for the intended wall. Once I had uploaded the processed image to the Whitewall website I was able to select the custom size option and set the longest side of the print – all very easy.

With the image uploaded I needed to select the print product to be produced. What I decided on was a print onto Fuji Crystal glossy photo paper which is then bonded onto an aluminium backing plate. This is then sandwiched with clear acrylic glass, in this case 6mm thick. The back of the aluminium plate also has a hanging rail attached which is very neat. In short, this is a high quality product.

In terms of printing, I decided to do my own soft proofing of the image prior to uploading. For this I downloaded and installed the printer profile from the Whitewall website. This was for a Lightjet print onto Fuji Crystal (a true photographic print is produced). When I compared the soft proof with the original, the soft proof was quite dark and needed to be lightened. Both the soft proofing and adjustment was carried out in Lightroom.

Looking at the print I received, it’s identical to the soft proof. Given the difference between the original and the soft proof, be sure to take the time to do this or you may be disappointed. Whitewall do have an option on the site to allow them to optimise the image. Personally I would rather take control over this step and I haven’t tried their service. If you don’t feel confident with soft proofing, it may be worth trying the service or at least contacting them for advice.

The total cost of this little lot was just over £100 including shipping and a discount code.

If you’re now wondering what the quality of the finished product is like, my view is that it’s superb. The colours and tones are spot on with the soft proof. The product itself is of a very high quality and the print is excellent. The image appears sharp (but not unnatural), despite being scanned on a flatbed and then enlarged slightly (the enlargement was carried out automatically on the Whitewall website. I do have a professional gallery print which is also a Lightjet photo mounted on aluminium and bonded with acrylic. This print from Whitewall is definitely of a similar standard.

If you’re in the market for a large print, I would certainly recommend Whitewall. I also want to make it clear that I am in no way connected to Whitewall and don’t receive any benefit from this review/recommendation. I have written this piece because I’m impressed and others may find it helpful.

A Love for Film

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Bronica SQ-Ai image captured on Kodak Ektar 100 film and scanned on an Epson V700 scanner.
Bronica SQ-Ai image captured on Kodak Ektar 100 film and scanned on an Epson V700 scanner.

A few weeks back I did something that was a little out of character; I bought a large camera. It isn’t the largest camera but it’s a quite big and somewhat heavy. The camera in question is a Bronica SQ-Ai together with 4 lenses and a 2x converter. If you’re not familiar with these camera’s, they were quite popular in the 80’s and 90’s and shoot medium format roll film.

Now I don’t intend to use this camera on a regular basis, although it is lovely to use. My reason for buying it is that I really like the process of shooting and printing film. I like the slow pace as you need to check and then double check the camera settings. I like the difficulty in using a hand held light meter, not knowing if you have metered correctly. I like the lack of feedback – no histogram and no image preview to distract you. I like the focus markings on the lens and the need to use a focus screen and magnifier in order to focus correctly.

I can’t say that I’m too happy with the process of scanning and spotting the images but then this is more than made up for with the images themselves. There is a certain look to film images that I really like and just can’t recreate digitally. And, it’s not just me who seems to prefer film…

Recently I printed around 10 images. All were digital captures using either the Sony RX10 or Olympus EM5. The exception to this was one image that was shot on Kodak Ektar 100 film using a Hasselblad XPan 35mm camera. I showed these prints to a friend and he went straight to image shot on film. I had to agree with him that the printed image stood out as it looked so natural, as if you were standing in front of the scene. When I returned home I repeated this exercise with my wife. Again she immediately picked out the film print as being different and having a look that she liked far more than the digital prints.

Image captured on Kodak Ektar 100 35mm film. Shot on a Hasselblad XPan with 45mm lens.
Image captured on Kodak Ektar 100 35mm film. Shot on a Hasselblad XPan with 45mm lens.

So my objective in buying this old film camera is to help me enjoy my photography more. To move outside of the repetitive digital process and challenge myself. Having recently started a personal project (Views from the Moors) I’m finding that photography is more enjoyable and I hope this latest adventure adds a little something extra.

Don’t do this if you shoot film

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Rollei IR400 film rated at ISO 6 and developed in Rodinal 1:100. Hasselblad XPan + 30mm lens.
Rollei IR400 film rated at ISO 6 and developed in Rodinal 1:100. Hasselblad XPan + 30mm lens.

A couple of weeks back I had a clear out in my study. I have shelves full of books and decided to throw out many of the older ones. I also have stacks of old note books full of random jottings so I pulled out and ripped up all the used pages. It wasn’t until I came to develop some Infrared film from my trip to Malham that I realised I had ripped up all my developing notes – gulp.

This was not a good feeling but as they say, every cloud has a silver lining. In this case I found mine on the Massive Dev Chart website (http://www.digitaltruth.com/devchart.php).

If you have never used this site it’s a great resource to find out development times for different film and developer combinations. But the real bonus for me was that they now have an App. Whilst I had to buy the paid version in order to record my development notes it’s a really great little app.

If you haven’t seen this before and you still use film, it’s well worth checking out.

First XPan 30mm Images

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Gordale Scar, Yorkshire. Xpan 30mm with Kodak TMax400
Gordale Scar, Yorkshire. Xpan 30mm with Kodak TMax400

In addition to trying out my new EM5 Infrared conversion at the weekend I also had the opportunity to take the XPan 30mm lens for a spin. This is a lens that I had lusted after for most of the time I had owned an XPan but it had always seemed out of reach. The XPan went out of production in the early 2000’s and the kit obtained something of a cult following. Some elements, the 30mm lens being one began to sell for silly money. I remember seeing one kit (30mm lens, viewfinder, hood and centre filter) sell for almost £3,000.

Sunday was my first opportunity to try out the lens and I am delighted. It did feel very odd shooting film again (Kodak TMax 400 to be precise). I processed the film on Monday and have just scanned the first image. This is Gordale Scar in Yorkshire and merits some further exploration in film. I need to spend a little more time perfecting my film processing but I do like the look when printed.