Categories
Analogue Cameras Digitalia Photos

State of the Art

Me, Mamiya C330f, Leica M6TTL, Biogon 35 F2
Photo courtesy of headsticks.com

It’s been about nine months since I’ve done much blogging. In that time, I’ve moved to DC, sold my car, started a new job, been promoted twice, been to lots of museums and a few plays, bought an iPhone, ate some good Korean food, updated to WordPress 3, wrote a new theme and shot almost 100 rolls of film. It’s been busy, and I’m not going to spend my whole day off going into the details, so here’s the current state of the art in brief.

Cameras and Lenses

I still carry my M6TTL almost everywhere, usually with just a single lens, most often the CV 35 1.4 SC, but also the Biogon 35 F2 or the Hexanon 50 F2. The 28 and the 90 mostly stay on the shelf.

On the weekends, I sometimes shoot with the Beast, a Mamiya C330f with an 80mm F2.8 lens and a sticky shutter. I wish it had a built in meter, but I’m getting better at guessing exposures or using the M6TTL for metering. I saw someone carrying a Mamiya 7 II the other day; those have meters in them, right?

I also shoot occasionally with an Olympus OM2 and 50mm F1.8. The OM2 replaced a dead OM1 with a sticky mirror. I like it enough that I often think of buying an OM4 and that ridiculously over priced 40mm F2.

Tamrac straps on everything, the kind with leather pads and quick release buckles.

Film & Developer

The last three to four months I’ve mostly been shooting TMY2, about 30 rolls of it so far, but I’ve also shot a couple of rolls of Provia 100 and other odds and ends that have been at the bottom of the film bin for too long. I’m developing with XTOL stock almost exclusively. TMY2 developed in full strength XTOL forgives many exposure errors and scans with very little apparent grain. XTOL is pain in the ass to mix up, but a batch stored in eight 600ml Nalgene bottles lasts 16 rolls of 35mm, so mixing it up is at least an infrequent chore. There’s half a bottle of Rodinal on the shelf for emergencies.

DC’s tap water doesn’t leave hard water stains on negatives, so I’m not even using filtered water anymore except for the final dunk in PhotoFlo.

Scanning & Post

I’m using a Nikon Super Coolscan 9000, still the most expensive piece of photo gear I’ve ever purchased. I’m scanning to 16 bit greyscale tiffs using Vuescan’s Tmax 400 Pro preset. Crucial detail; the crop buffer is set to 10%.

Some quick curves, sharpening and adding a border completes the post work. A flickr pro account gives me unlimited space, so I export a jpeg large enough of to make a 6X9 print and archive to flickr for safe keeping. Near-line storage goes onto a pair of mirrored WD drives. Working files get backed up with Timemachine.

Printing

My Epson R2400 died from neglect months ago. I’ve replaced all the inks, but the magenta stills says it’s empty. I’ve considered getting it fixed or just replacing it, but I never printed that much anyway apart from infrequent bouts of misguided discipline. As an alternative to home printing, I’ve just assembled and ordered my first blurb book. We’ll see how that goes.

Categories
Digitalia Photos

Stuck (06160011)

C330f, 80 f2.8, Neopan 400, 120, Xtol 1:1
C330f, 80 f2.8, Neopan 400, 120, Xtol 1:1

Looking over the scans from the first rolls of 120, I’m realizing that I forgot to set vuescan’s whitepoint to 0, hence, these scans will show some – 1% is the default – areas as pure white. I had to reset vuescan to its defaults before I could get it scan 120 without crashing; resetting to defaults seems to be the vuescan panacea, but it always takes me a while to remember to put back all of my preferences.

Categories
Cameras Digitalia Photos

Some Notes on Currently Available Digital Cameras

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Really, these are for my own benefit, so don’t take them too seriously. The nearest sizable camera store is 2.5 hours away in Chicago, so while we were in Portland, I stopped at a couple of camera stores just to check out what some of the newer digital cameras are like. My last digital camera was a Nikon D80, purchased almost three years ago now, and sold not that long after. It seems like things must have improved since then, and so they have.

Canon & Nikon

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The Canon and Nikon APS-C models seem like really pretty decent cameras now. I was primarily looking at the low end models as I don’t want anything as large as D300 or 50D. The D60, D5000 and Rebel models all sport totally usable viewfinders and highly evolved user interfaces both physical and on screen. The Nikon models seem to have slightly better viewfinders, but on all of them I could manually focus the fairly slow kit zooms with little problem, so good news there. Bad news, the grips on these things are all beyond pointless. I don’t understand the fascination people have with molded grips in general, but on a camera this small, those grips force you to hold the camera in such a way that your knuckles knock against the lens barrel.

I also played with the 5D II and the D700. Yep, those viewfinders are big, but not really all that bright compared to something like an OM-1 or an FM2. AF performance on both seemed snappy-ish but not really all that great, although both were mounted with fairly slow zooms. They were solid seeming cameras, but ridiculously big. You’d have to pay me a lot more than most pro-photographers make to carry one of these things, but I thought the same of the big, pro level Canon and Nikon film bodies of yore. Many pros must have felt the same then given how many used to carry FM2s or F3s.

One sentence review of the Canon G10; that interface is better thought out than any other digital camera out there.

Sony & Pentax

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No one seems to carry the full line for either of these manufacturers. One store had the A900, the other the A300. Neither seemed as highly evolved as the Canon and Nikon competition. No one had the Pentax K7, a camera that certainly sounds good in the online reviews. Wish that I could have seen it.

Olympus

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Nope, no one had an E-P1, but I wasn’t really looking for one of those anyway. It’s the E620 and E450 that I’ve been really curious about. No one had the E450, but the E420 seems like a nice little camera, and a lot smaller in practice than the Canon or Nikon APS-C bodies, particularly with a lens mounted. That pancake 25 is a tiny little thing. The viewfinder of the E420 was better than that of the A300, but not quite up to the current Canon and Nikon APS-C cameras.

The E620, while really only slightly smaller than the Canon and Nikon cameras, fit much more nicely in my hand. The abbreviated grip makes a lot of sense, and my hand just naturally fell into position. Other controls worked just as you expect them to by this point. The rotating screen seems like an interesting idea, but it’s hard to tell how it would out in practice. It does make the camera a bit fatter. The viewfinder, while larger than the E420, is still not quite as nice as those on the Canon and Nikon, but I was able to manually focus the slowish 12-60 F4 without any problems. That’s quite a lens, btw, and if I knew what to do with all those focal lengths, it would be the ticket.

And it’s on that question of lenses where Olympus still seems to be ahead of the curve. I like an angle of view equivalent to something between 35 and 50. Anywhere in there will do. Right now, the Olympus E series is the only thing offering a compact, moderately fast lens in that range. The Sigma 30 F1.4, while a fine performer, is a beast, as is the new Nikon 35 1.8. The Canon 28 1.8 is similarly sized. That Oly pancake 25 is tiny though, so small, in fact, that it makes the slightly larger E-620 a very appealing camera. If anyone at Olympus headquarter is listening, make a 20 F2.8. It can be a bit larger than the 25, but not too much. Come on, you know you want to hearken back to the 40 F2 for the OM line.

What I’m Buying

I’m not buying anything at the moment. My pennies are accumulating for a medium format camera, I think a Yashica-Mat 124G, which seem like a good entry point for me. Not sure how I’ll handle the world being reversed, but I don’t always know my left from my right anyway, so I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually. I’ll be keeping my eye on that E-620 though. I think I could have fun with one of those, and with a 25MM lens, extra battery, CF card etc, the whole kit would be less than I’ve paid for any of my three previous DSLR bodies alone, and that’s a real consideration at the moment.