Oct 232014
 

Some Contax G2 love

By Ibraar Hussain

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Hi Steve, Brandon and stevehuffphoto.com lovers!

Thought I’d reignite the site with some Contax G love.

The G2 has been written about many many times, here and elsewhere so should need no introduction, but with the Leica fetish around I think it’s high time the G2 reared it’s head again encouraging people to try it out and spoil the Leica party!
It was and still is the most advanced RF camera with lightning fast AF (some people find the AF on the 90 Sonnar a bit hit n miss though – no such problems here!).

I am surprised no one has copied it yet, and I am very surprised that Kyocera Japan who own the rights to the Contax name and the G2 haven’t released a Dighital G which would, judging by the Fuji X100 love and the other retro styled cameras, especially of the RF style, would be a huge hit!

The G2 is a proper RF, not a wannabe – and is almost near perfect, my only complaint is the relatively smallish (yet bright ) VF – I say relatively, as on it’s own it is large and bright enough, but compared to a Leica  it isn’t, and no reason why Kyocera couldn’t have made the G2 VF the same size as the huge and bright one of their Contax T2!

Now Kyocera, please make a Digital G and revive this masterpiece!

I’ve had mine for 10 years now and I would never choose anything else of any type over it!

Here’s a selection of B&W photos taken with fast Film – Ilford ~Delta 3200, Fuji Neopan 1600 and Kodak Tmax 3200 with the Contax G2, of a street style – My street style which I suppose isn’t very refined and which includes some street portraits and cityscapes in Constantinople when it snowed.
All pretty high key, contrasty – not to every one’s taste.

All shots taken with a Contax G2 45mm Planar, 21mm Biogon and BW Yellow Filter.

See some of Ibraar’s other posts HERE. 

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Oct 142014
 

Fuji GX 617 panoramic camera

by Dirk Dom

Hi, all!

I want to share some shots made with my Fuji GX617 panoramic camera.

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This monster, pictured here next to a Minox, yields 6 x 17 centimeter slides or negatives on 120 film, 4 images on a roll which you can blow up to insane dimensions. It all started in my photo club, where someone showed 1 meter big prints from Schotland. These landscapes were so incredibly detailed and rich they totally overwhelmed me, they hit me like lightning. They were taken with a Linhof 6×17 panoramic camera.

I wanted to do this, too, and started researching panoramic photography. The price of the 6×17 camera’s was so high, however, that I couldn’t possible buy one. The, in a local photo shop, this Fuji for sale. With a 90mm (90° image angle) and an 180mm (45° image angle) A search on the Net confirmed that this, with its interchangeable lenses and good viewfinder, was probably the best 6×17 camera. The price was good, too, 5,000 Euro’s! Impossible. Every time I drove by there, that camera sat there, just to annoy me. I had it taken out one more time, what a piece! In the end I couldn’t bear it anymore and I took out a bank loan.

In the photo club they had told me that finding compositions in the 1 by 3 aspect ratio was extremely difficult. I didn’t dare shoot the camera. After three months of hesitation I decided it was enough and I took it for a spin. All worked fine. That day the lid was off the pot, I shot all day, went to four locations. Then the moment of truth: got my slides back.I can tell you that absolutely nothing matches the impact of a sparkling 6×17 Velvia slide on the light table. The detail was insane. I can tell you I was hooked, then.

The 1×3 aspect ratio came very natural to me and soon I began to shoot worthwhile images. I ran into another limit: The images screamed for really big printing, at least two meters, and such a print, mounted, cost about 400 Euro’s. I got a few made, which were overwhelming, but when I tried to sell them, no one wanted them. First of all, the price (everyone buys posters at the IKEA for 6 Euro’s) and second, no one could hang such a monster print. I could hang one in my small home.

So, there I was, totally frustrated, with 60 mind-blowing images I couldn’t do anything with. Should I sell the camera? I decided on a moratorium of a year.

I found out after a year that I don’t need 2 meter big prints to enjoy the camera. Half meter images also show that there’s something different going on from your regular DSLR images. The detail and colors are much richer. So I started shooting the camera again. Technically, the camera is extremely basic: distance (no rangefinder), speed, opening, transport. It requires very strict discipline to shoot it. That make it a very enjoyable experience, because you’re in total control. The lenses are very, very sharp.

Well, enough talk, let’s see some images! All shots are from Antwerp, Belgium.

This is Antwerp, with the cruise ship Europa in front of it. I read in a local magazine it ‘d be in town for just one day and I went out to shoot it. The original slide is just not sharp enough to read the licence plates of the cars parked. Because the 2 minutes exposure you see no people. At 1PM the boat’s horn went off and a firework started. I had crossed a perimeter to do my shot, and a continuous rain of firework debris fell on me. I was afraid for my lens. I was too close to the firework to make decent images.

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That you make one image, complete, at exposure, is vastly advantageous to stitching in a DSLR. You can take action shots. One of my panorama’s is a flock of pigeons passing over at close distance.
This image I stood on the road, waited for a car coming to me, another coming from behind and exposed for 30 seconds.

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This is the image of the fireworks of the inauguration of the MAS (Museum Aan de Stroom, museum at the river) I was at the other bank of the river, used the 180mm; To my amazement I was the only one there, which makes this shot unique.

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I had set up, needing 2 minutes’ worth of exposure.

While exposing, a flash went off. A guy with a point and shoot. My exposure was ruined. I waited until he was gone and started over. Another flash. The guy had come back! Started over again, a third flash. The guy had come back again. I explained that he ruined my exposures and asked him to not to flash anymore. Without a word he turned away.

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The petrochemical industry downtown. On the slide, you clearly see a crane cable two kilometers away.

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The Antwerp cathedral. To make this shot, I went downtown five or six times to get the clear sky. Then I waited until the light was all balanced.

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This is a shot hyperfocally set. The cathedral tower could be a little sharper because of it, but still you see the cement bonding the stones together at the top.

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Bye,

Dirk.

Oct 102014
 

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1959 Rolleiflex 2.8E – Shooting family, friends, fashion and famous!

By Andy Jackson

Hi Steve,

Thanks for all your great dedication to your site bringing us all sorts of articles, new gear, digital or film and your never-ending enthusiasm! So, about four years ago you published a Daily Inspiration from myself, shots from my Leica CL. The images were mainly of my son, who was about 2 years old at the time. After reading your write up on the Rolleiflex Hy6 (which to be honest, I didn’t even know existed!) I thought I could do a User Report on my 1959 Rolleiflex 2.8E.

My friend Ludi – this was shot on Rollei Retro 400.

Ludi 02 - Rolleiflex

I’d shot film/transparency for a long time as a photographer working on a snowboard magazine and acquiring the Leica kind of reignited the idea of shooting analogue again. This time I was more interested in shooting black and white and was partly inspired by another article on your site by Max Marinucci about home processing. My late Uncle also had an influence on me from an early age, with his camera in hand, his slides and his black and white prints of me as a kid. I’d done darkroom work at my first job many moons ago at a design company in London, so I knew how it went, but had never done it at home. Having bought the necessary bit and pieces and some chemicals (totaling €80!) I started to develop the negatives from the Leica. Yup, the same grin factor as getting my transparencies back after a snowboard shoot but with the extra satisfaction of doing it myself! Now, I’m not even going to go into the practicalities or convenience factors of digital over film, as to be honest, as you said in your article “Analog is a different beast than digital in almost every way.” If I’m processing film or going through a digital shoot on the computer I like to get ‘in the zone’ – cup of tea and some decent tunes on the stereo and off I go!

Branko from Croatia, I used the Rolleinar close-up lens for this.

Branko - Rolleiflex

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My good friend Doris, a yoga teacher. We’d been for a hike on the mountain and I had the 2.8E in my bag along with a Hassy 500cm, this is from the Rolleiflex.

Doris yoga 02 - Rolleiflex

So on to the Rolleiflex! After searching around on Fleabay and websites and doing some homework I realized I was going to have to spend a decent amount of money for a good one. At the same time I bumped into a friend here in Innsbruck who’d seen some of my film shots online. He told me his mum used to be a professional photographer and that she had a few old cameras left from her working days. I asked if any had two lenses on the front, he said he seemed to remember playing with something like that when he was a kid and he’d ask his mum. Two days later he calls me and tells me she still has her old Rolleiflex. He gives me the serial number and I track it down to a 1959 2.8E. Oh yes, the Carl Zeiss Planar. He’d been online and checked out the prices, not cheap really, a good one is at least €1000. He offers to sell it to me for €250 – I can hardly contain my excitement. So, off I go to meet his mother, she’s actually thrilled to be able to sell it to someone who’s actually going to use it, it’s been doing nothing for about 40 years. As you can see from the shot, it’s in pretty good shape. I sent it in for CLA to a company in Salzburg, it needed some work, lightmeter was replaced and some bits in the shutter – €400, so in the end I still have a sweet deal and the camera stays in the area.

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Preparation and handling.

The Rolleiflex is not a heavy camera. It fits nicely into my Lowepro Event Messenger 150 bag, leaving enough room for the Leica or my FM2 or OM2, lightmeter and film in the front pocket. I’ve replaced the old leather strap with a modern one, this puppy is not gonna end up on the floor. Once you get used to it, it’s a quick camera to pull out and start to shoot with. Take a light reading, set aperture and shutter speed, flip the lid and focus. So, we have aperture from 2.8 – 22 with half stops marked. Shutter runs from 1 sec 1/500th plus B. Loading film isn’t too tricky, just remember to put the paper through the bottom rollers then close the back and start winding on with the lever. There’s a mechanism that ‘senses’ when the film goes through these rollers and then the exposure window starts to register, wind on and it will stop on the first frame. Ready to rock. I’ve also acquired a Rolleinar 1 close-up lens for it, these are rare as rocking horse pooh because of the Bayonet 3 mount and some people ask silly money for them – I paid £120 for mine, I’ve seen ‘em go for a lot more.
Looking through the viewfinder you realize everything is in reverse, this takes a bit of getting used to, especially trying to keep things level. We get twelve shots and twelve shots only, so patience and practice will pay off!

I shoot the odd landscape. Dolomites, Italy.

Dolomites - Rolleiflex

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Francois, from, er, France. My friend was looking after his Indian motorcycle that broke down on a run here in England. He came back to pick it up. How could I not shoot this portrait.

Francois - Rolleiflex

Shooting family and friends and others.

I use this camera a lot for shooting images of my son. Sure, I could use my 7D and autofocus as he runs about (and I do) but over the last few years he has learnt that when daddy points the two eyed black box thing at him, he must stay still! It’s not about getting the right camera for the child but training the child for the camera ;-) Sometimes he’s not in the mood for stillness, so I leave it for a bit. Using a TLR at the right time though, I think is the secret. When he’s focused in on something or climbing a tree, I just ask him to stop and look up. Nine times out of ten he does. Candid racing about shots are best suited to newer technology, what I want from my Rolleiflex is the more thoughtful images, maybe even posed, if you can call it that. I prefer to look at it as shots where I have his attention, where we have our connection. Having the twelve shots makes me choosy about when I hit that shutter, I really have to be sure it’s what I want. I usually take one shot of a ‘scene’ and leave it at that then move on. Sometimes I don’t even move on, a roll can sit in the camera for days or a week or two. There’s no rush with this camera, no incessant need to snap everything in sight, it’s way more about gathering some great memories for me, of my little man growing up.

Rolleicord. My son Noah on a rainy afternoon.

Noah - Rolleicord

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If any one photo sums up why I love this camera, it’s this one. I took one shot of this scene, kept my fingers crossed that I’d nailed the focus and kept the camera steady, 1/30th of a second.

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Zeiss Ikon Nettar. This camera is small when folded, very small for 6×6. Beautiful results.

Noah field - Zeiss Ikonta

Shooting friends is a little easier, they know how to sit still. The Rolleiflex instills a sense of wonder in everyone. I get the usual question – “Do they still make film for that” and the remarks about how beautiful it is. I’ve used it a lot at weddings, it’s a talking point for guests, certainly breaks the ice. Bride and Groom are always super stoked on receiving a set of hand printed images, the Rolleiflex shots are the highlight without a doubt. I’ve noticed people feel way less intimidated with the Rollei than they are with a DSLR.

Like the Leica, the Roleiflex has it’s own brand of magic dust it sprinkles on your images. The awesome depth of field, that ‘otherworldly days gone by’ vibe where your natural light shots look like from another era, which in a sense they are! 6×6 analogue is affordable for nearly all of us, whereas digging into our pocket-money for a digi Hasselblad or Leica S2 isn’t such a do-able proposition (well not for me at least!) I love the 2.8E, I love to photograph people with it, I love the results and I love the fact that I have a fixed lens (with option of close-up). It takes 25 minutes to develop a roll of film, then about half hour to hang up and dry. Scanning is painless on my Canon flatbed 9000f and results are ok – it’s no Nikon Coolscan but I get 50cm by 50cm scans out of it. My favourite shots I print in my darkbathroom ;-) but that’s another story.

Stephen Bartels, gallery owner of the same name, London.

Stephen Bartels - Rolleiflex

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Sir David Rodiagn, MBE (left) and his agent Ricky McKay (right). David is a living legend Reggae DJ, radio DJ (BBC), famous throughout the world. Ricky presented him with a 50cm x 50cm framed print of this shot for his 60th birthday. Proud moment indeed.

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Terje Haakonsen, one of the world’s most famous snowboarders. This is part of a series I made of Snowboard Legends in 2013 and was published in a couple of magazines. This is one of my few flashed shots with the Rollei.

Terje Haakensen - Rolleiflx

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Tomi Toiminnen, ex pro snowbaorder, shwoing his tattoos ‘Never Forget’ one for an old friend of his who died too young, the other for a friend of ours who lost his life in an avalanche.

Tomi Toiminnen - Rolleiflex

If any readers have ever thought about getting into analogue medium format photography but are put off by the hassle of processing their own films, don’t be! It’s way easier than you think and once you’ve successfully hang up your first roll to dry you’ll be hooked. As for colour. Well, that’s turning out to be a pricey business these days. Colour negative processing has just doubled in price here, about €8.99 per roll, so include the film cost and you’re looking at €18 at least for twelve shots (without scans). My friend has just started doing colour at home because of this and is really happy with the results, I will go the same route very soon.

I’d like to also mention two other cameras as a much cheaper alternative to a 2.8e or such like. I acquired a Rolleicord IV with a 75mm 3.5 Schneider Kreuznach Xenar for €120, see attached images for comparison. The other camera that really surprised me is the Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 with a 75mm 3.5 Novar-Anastigmat – I picked this up from a local flea market for €35 in fully working order! This is a zone focus camera so I got my hand on a Voigtländer rangefinder that attaches to the cold shoe, this helps loads. The images form this camera are also sublime though a bit slower to use than the Rolleiflex, the output is worth it.

Lisa Marie, test shot for her model agency. Available light coming in through a window.

Lisa Marie - Rolleiflex

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Ludi again.

Ludi 01 - Rolleiflex

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Viktoria. Test shot for her agency when she was starting out two years ago. She’s all over the planet now.

Viktoria - Rolleiflex

So, in conclusion, I use my 2.8e for just about anything and everything as long as it’s not running. It’s light and very, very quiet. It can be discreet as you can just stand in the street looking down and press the shutter and no one really knows (I guess this is how Vivian Maier took a lot of her shots). There’s still plenty of specialists servicing and repairing them and has a strong enthusiast following and collectors worldwide. Shoot one roll of film on this and I’m sure you’ll be hooked. At the end of the day it’s just another tool for us to realize the images we want to create and like each of us has our own favourite bits of kit to do the job we all end up in that ‘special realtionship’ with one or two cameras. Happy shooting people

All the best,

Andy Jackson

Shoe repair dude, Goodge Street underground station, London. It was very dark.

Shoe repair dude - Rolleiflex

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Paul Clements, photo journalist, Beatles and Dylan fan, guitar and sitar player at Stephen Bartels Gallery, London (with our 3 Leicas huddled together)

Paul Clements - Rolleiflex

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Feeding the duck and goose on a rainy afternoon in the Lake District, Cumbria, England on a visit to my mum this year.

Noah goose - Rolleiflex

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Reflection in a pond.

Noah pond - Rolleiflex

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Ice cream on a Sunday.

Noah ice cream hut - Rolleiflex

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Rolleicord. Kayla, my Siberian Husky and test model, never to be trusted off the line in a forest, or anywhere for that matter. Highly successful hunter.

Kayla - Rolleicord

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Ingemar Backman, Swedish snowboard legend shot at the Air & Style contest here in Innsbruck. Google him for insanely high backside air shots!

Ingemar ©andyjackson

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A friend of mine asked me to shoot a wedding shower for her friend. Grandma showed up and watched the proceedings from this chair. One of my favorite shots ever despite the light leak.

Grandma - Roleliflex

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This is Glenn, I used to work with him on the snowboard magazine. He works in Thredbo Ski Resort in the Aussie winter then travels around Europe to visit his adoring friends. The man is a legend.

Glenn - Rolleiflex

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Rolleicord. Forest scene. A much cheaper alternative but not the build or lens quality of the 2.8. Still not bad at all!

Forest - Rolleicord

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. Gabrille du Ploy shot in her gallery, Zebra One, that specializes in music photography amongst other things. That’s part of the complete set of original images shot for Beatles Abbey Road sleeve on the wall. And you thought a Leica was expensive…

Gabrielle Du Ploy - Rolleiflex

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Sort of street photography shot in Charlie’s mens hairdresser in Camden, London.

Charlies Camden - Rolleiflex

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Alex, a yoga teacher friend of mine, we did some shots in the forest near me. A reflector was used to light the face.

Alex yoga - Rolleiflex

Sep 092014
 

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Shooting with Film: My Rolleiflex Hy6 Mod 2 Experience

By Steve Huff

I will admit it right up front. I never ever shoot film anymore. As more time goes on, digital technology for imaging is getting better and better. Companies like Sony, Olympus and yes, EVEN LEICA are pushing the envelope in many ways from the groundbreaking Sony A7 series to the Olympus OMD series to the Leica Monochrom (A camera no other company dared to even attempt). Digital is starting to mature and we can do things today with digital technology that was not even imaginable back in the glory days of film. For example, can I shoot film at ISO 102,000 ISO and get a results I can use in a pinch? No way. Can a camera such as the Hy6, when shooting film,  give me the convenience of digital? NO WAY, never.

So then, why on earth would I even use this camera and shoot film? I call it romance, beauty, soul, and most of the things that digital usually does not get right. Analog is a different beast than digital in almost every way. The colors, the true B&W, the grain, the contrast and depth and when talking about Medium Format we are talking about a format that also has some magic associated with it.

My fave film of all time, Kodak Portra 160 – click for larger

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Even so, the Rolleiflex Hy6, with a lens and film back and finder will set you back close to $10k. Yes, $10,000. With that in mind, remember than a Leica Monochrom camera with a decent lens will also set you back about $10k and it will only shoot B&W digital in the 35mm format. The Rollei can do B&W film, color film, and even digital if you splurge for a nice digital back. Add to that the size of the film. You will get much more “soul” with the MF rig over any 35mm rig. So price wise, it is up there with the other Niche products in the imaging world. Leica S at $30k, the Leica M at $8k, the Leica MM at $8k, all without lenses. So taking that into consideration, the price of the Rolleiflex Hy6 is about right. Especially considering that it is probably the most versatile Medium Format film/Digital camera made to date. It’s a true beauty in use and with its auto focus capabilities it was shooting faster than the Sigma DP Quattro I had on hand at the same time.

Using Ilford HP5 film with the Rolleiflex – click for larger 

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In Use

This write-up is meant to be a short article about my time with the camera, not in any way a tech review. I find most of those boring anyway so instead I just want to chat about how I felt using the camera, the costs involved with it and the experience of shooting film again. The Hy6 Mod 2 is a large camera, especially when coming from 35mm cameras such as the Sony’s, the Leica’s and the Olympus’s of the world. The Hy6 is not a camera you will casually just carry around. It has a purpose, a meaning, a job to do. A camera such as this with the 80mm lens is really a portrait shooters dream camera. Auto Focus which is pretty fast and accurate (for MF) and a great ergonomic layout with a nice grip. The meter inside the eye level finder worked great as well. When I went out with the Hy6 I felt like I was a serious shooter and I got looks thrown at me like “what the hell is that guy shooting with”. It’s an impressive beast for sure but also a very functional beast.

The last time I shot medium format was when I reviewed the Fuji 670, and I adored that camera. It was slim, large and a true rangefinder. But for some reason, it was a totally different experience that shooting the Rolleiflex. It was lighter, and slower in use. It did not feel nearly as substantial in the build nor was it as bulletproof. The Hy6 is such a camera. It is built to a high standard, has all controls easily accessible and is a true photographers camera. It’s just large and a bit heavy, though nothing like the old school MF cameras of the 80’s which were like metal back-breaking bricks.

1st shot with HP5

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and this one was in near darkness with Delta 3200 film – I LOVE Delta 3200 and always have

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One thing that I thought would limit me when using this camera was LIGHT. With film, you have to use the film you have loaded and when I had Portra 160 loaded, any low light scenario was ruled out. With digital, you can go into any light and adjust your ISO settings in the camera. Easy. With film, you have to change your film when you want different sensitivity. Lucky for me, just as I finished up my roll of HP5, which is an ISO 400 film, I loaded in my Delta 3200 (which is an ISO 3200 film) and was able to shoot the image able in near darkness, even with the 2.8 aperture of the 80mm lens attached to the Hy6. The room was an old solitary confinement prison room from the old historic Yuma Territorial Prison. It smelled of urine, was creepy as hell and Debby was not too cozy inside. I asked her to kneel down and give me her serious face for a dark, moody but nice image. I thought the shot would be blurred or exposed wrong but when the scans came back from the lab I was very happy with the results from 95% of the images I shot.

Overall, when using the Hy6 I LOVED it and had a great time with it. It fit in one of my Wotancraft bags by itself and came out when I wanted a shot that I knew would be nice.

Again with Portra 160 out in Sedona (BTW, we have 2 seats left for the southwest workshop HERE and we will be in Sedona for this trip)

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The Downsides to a camera like the Hy6

There are downsides to the Hy6 but image quality is not one of them. For me, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the camera. I was able to shoot with it for two weeks and within that time frame I shot 5 rolls of medium format film, 12 exposures each. Out of those images only two had issues that were my fault. The rests were perfect, spot on with metering and the lens performed as it should. But with medium format film one has to consider the costs involved of using it. For me, 5 rolls of film (purchased from Amazon), processing at my local lab as well as scans from my local lab (low res) cost me around $106. So basically, for 60 images it cost me over $100. Sure, many will say “I process my own film” and others will say “I scan my own film”. Even so, processing color film is not something many people do these days. Even if you do your own, you still have to buy the film and buy the chemicals and materials needed to process your own. Then you need to buy a nice scanner. Then you need the hours upon hours it takes to scan and do your own tweaks. It’s expensive and time-consuming.

So for anyone considering film these days, think about the costs involved is using a lab, or the time involved if doing it yourself. As for me, I have NO spare time these days to do any processing or scanning so a lab was my only choice. Shooting 60 images on my digital would cost me nothing so when really looking at it in this light, digital is a bargain :) You still will not get that Analog tangible quality..the old school richness and feel, the reach out and touch it tonality and oh so delicious color. You will get close, and in many case you will get sharper and more details with digital but nothing can replicate the look of Medium Format film.

I see the Hy6 as a camera I would use a few times per year, for special occasions or when I wanted the 6X6 square format MF look. If this camera was $15k with a digital back, I would be all over it and would give up a Leica set to get it. But adding a digital back to this bad big will set you back around $30k and up. This is in addition to the camera cost itself!

So while there are loads of upsides to a camera like this, there are also downsides, depending on what you want to do with it and how much you would want to shoot. There is also no instant gratification with film. It took my lab a week to process and scan.

HP5 ISO 400 film

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ISO 160 Portra

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Wrapping it up

I sent back the Hy6 to Rolleiflex last week and wish I had it for one more week as I am going to shoot some Senior portraits next week. Would have been cool to do some creative shots with some nice film but I did not fink of it at the time. That right there is one of the occasions I would have loved to use this kind of camera for. They are few and far between for me but after browsing my images with this camera, on film, I have to say there is something special about them, even with silly subjects such as broken glass or an old abandoned building. I am a sucker for the square format and when I use it on digital as my aspect ratio it is never the same as a frame of Medium Format 6X6 film.

I really enjoyed the Rolleiflex and if it came inat $3500 I would buy one. At $10k, for me, it is a no go as I would not use it enough but for many this may be just what the doctor ordered. If you want medium format quality in a very versatile camera body that can do film or digital, that can shoot with autofocus and act like any modern-day camera and you do not mind shooting film with its costs and time involved, then the Hy6 may be just what you are looking for. For me, I would buy this over something like a Leica S camera because it is more versatile and I like the design better. With the Hy6 I can do film or digital and with a name like Rolleiflex, I would be shooting with a legend. The Hy6 also acts like any modern-day camera in regards to controls, settings, etc. It is all there on the side of the camera. Super easy to pick up and shoot. I did not even need the manual> i just loaded it, shot it, and it was all super easy without any confusion whatsoever. No long digital menus to drag through, just set it, forget it! Awesome.

You can buy the camera without a lens for $7900 at B&H Photo. They also have the accessories and digital backs for the camera. 

I have shot with only four medium format cameras in my life but this is my hands down favorite to date. If I was buying a MF camera today, this would be it.

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yuma5

PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

Sep 062014
 

Just for fun: Rolleiflex Hy6 using film vs The Sigma DP Quattro

To those who have shot or do shoot Medium Format film or digital, you know the differences between those files and your run of the mill full frame of APS-C files. With Medium Format film or digital you get an amazing depth, richness and tangible quality to the files and photos whether that is in print or on screen.

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Many times people will say that the Sigma DP series has a “Medium Format” quality but that can be a little misleading. For example, the latest and greatest Sigma DP Quattro was recently in my hands for 3 weeks to review. I reviewed it HERE and even I mentioned it had a medium format look and feel. But I was going by memory as it has been 4 years since I have shot a Medium Format camera (which I reviewed HERE).

Recently I had the pleasure of shooting with a Rolleiflex Hy6 Mod 2 camera and wow, that was quite the experience. From shooting, to feel, to control, to auto focus to QUALITY, this is the best MF camera I have ever shot with or even handled. It should be for $10k with lens and film back but the Rollei just may be the coolest medium format camera made today. At $10k it comes with a 6X6 film back but you can also add a digital back and have one bad ass setup.

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I shot 5 rolls through the Hy6 for my review period and will post that within a week but for now I wanted to show two shots…one from the Rollei Hy6 using Portra 160 film and the 2nd with the Quattro. These are NOT meant to be technical comparison shots, but rather a look at the rendering of each. The Rollei is a low res lab scan and the Sigma is a resized file converted to JPEG. Even so, the depth, the richness and the magical quality is all there in the Medium Format shot and the Sigma appears off in color and lacks the depth and richness that the film shot provides.

The only area where the Sigma is really “medium format like” to me is in sharpness and detail, which it has loads of. But even with that, I prefer the MF shot by far. Take a look below and see for yourself. The MF shot was with an 80mm lens at f/2.8. The Sigma shot was also at 2.8 using the built in lens of the Quattro and shot in 1X1 mode to simulate 6X6. After looking at them side by side it appears digital still has a load of room for improvement in the quiet balance area. Film just nails it it seems. Then again, how long as film been around? Much longer than digital! I did not get a digital back to test with the Rollei but shooting it with film was a treat, even though a pricey one (cost of purchasing 5 rolls plus process and low res scan = $100 for 60 images). The ROllei auto focused FASTER than the Sigma by a little bit.

Click them for larger.

The Rolleiflex Hy6 Mod 2 with the 80mm 2.8 lens and Portra 160 film – low res lab scan. This is best appreciated on a large and well calibrated display. This one has the MF look and soul. Not uber sharp but nice color, great depth and contrast is about perfect.

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Now the Sigma Quattro at f/2.8 – the color is off (a yellow tinge and there is much more DOF even using the same 2.8 aperture. It looks digital (and it is of course) and more flat but very sharp. 

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Sep 052014
 

What shooting film has taught me

By Zhao TianYu

About two weeks ago I made the decision to go back to film. Well ‘go back’ may not be entirely accurate – as someone who was born in the digital age, I have never shot film before (if you discount the times when I was still a child and used my parents’ film camera). I made the change because I found myself stuck in a creativity dead-end when it comes to street photography: after my recent trips to Bangkok and Nepal, I found the city I live in (Singapore) pretty boring, though some may disagree. I found myself keep going to the same places, use the same technique, and shoot more or less the same subjects. I read books, studied other people’s work, and I’ve decided maybe it’s time for a change in the medium as well as the approach. I bought a rangefinder and a couple rolls of film and my digital camera has been sitting in the dry cab since.

So now two weeks have passed, and I’ve shot about 10 rolls of film. Sure that’s not a lot, and I’m by no means a pro when it comes to film photography (I still lab scan my negatives). But I’ve learnt a lot from these two weeks, more than years of shooting digital. I’ve heard people say there’s no reason to shoot film from a technical point of view cause digital is much more versatile and convenient, but it is precisely the reason I switched back to film cause it is HARD. It helped me to slow down, and as a result I think a lot more when I shoot. I leant to guess the light, I learnt to look for interesting compositions or juxtapositions cause every frame must count since it costs me money, and learnt to appreciate the city I live in. It took a lot more time for me to finish 36 frames, but I have much more keepers.

Another reason why I prefer film is because the feeling when you get back your negatives and found out you have nailed the shot is extremely satisfying. Sure I’ve had screw-ups and disappointments along the way, but in general I found film photography to be much more rewarding than digital. With film I won’t chimp and look at my LCD screen all the time, and I often forgot what I took until I see the scan results. But it was precisely the reason that made me a better photographer, because I learnt to distance myself from my work. I became much more critical when editing my works, and when I’m not impressed by the results I’ve seen, I go out and shoot more. I stopped uploading my work everyday, and in fact this is the first time I’ve shown my street works to the public in two weeks. After all, you are only as good as your weakest shot.

Here are some of the images I took over the last two weeks. Hope you’ll like them. All images were taken with Leica M6 TTL (I was lucky to find a wonderful new old stock of the Millennium Black Paint edition) and 35mm Summilux FLE on Tri-x.

Regards,
Tianyu
Check out my instagram account @tianyuzhao

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Aug 272014
 

Shooting Cinema Film

By Mark Ewanchuk

Hi Brandon and Steve–I hope this email finds you well!

Inspired by prior posts from Brett Price and others, I decided to attempt to shoot and process cinema film. I have included five recent images, but this is more of a “how-to” for those so inclined.

More details may be found on my site at http://iftimestoodstill.net/developing-cinema-film/

The two main questions that I had getting started were:
How do I get the film off the 400+ ft roll, and into my bulk-loader?
How do I remove the Remjet with minimal mess and difficulty?
One of your readers (Thanks, Dominic!) http://blog.wakingmist.com/?p=1481 was most helpful in addressing some of these concerns.
I have since acquired large rolls of Kodak Vision3 500T, and Vision2 200T–of the two, I must say I prefer the 200T for it’s slightly finer grain structure.

As far as Question #1 goes: Into your standard changing bag, you will require:

Your bulk roll of cinema film (Take the sealing tape off the film tin, but don’t open it yet!!)
Your bulk loader
Some scissors
Some cellophane tape
An empty inner spool or roll, which will fit easily into your bulk loader. I used the plastic roll from a standard film canister–I had to drill out the core to ensure that it would slide freely onto the post of my bulk loader.
White cotton gloves (from eBay!) to avoid marking the film.
Once all above in the bag, open the film tin, then the inner bag, and find the end of the film reel. Next, (using a small piece of cellophane tape…) tape the leader to the inner reel you’ve set aside. Start rolling the film tightly onto the reel, ensuring that the inner surface (the emulsion side) stays IN. This will likely take you ~10 min to transfer ~50 feet of film, and make the roll approximately the same size as your bulk loader. When finished, cut the film, and load into your bulk loader in the usual fashion. Don’t forget to re-package and seal the bulk roll into the tin!!

The next part, you know how to do: Load your film into canisters, and shoot away!

As far as development goes, standard home C-41 works fine (I use the Tetanal kits)–but you need to get the Remjet off first. (Thanks again to Dominic for the tip!) I use 2 litres of SUPER HOT water, to which 2 tablespoons of standard, garden variety (well, home variety, I guess…) Baking Soda has been added. This step must be done before your standard pre-soak. Two litres should give you about six washes. The water will start black, turn to pinkish-grey, and should be clear by the final wash.

Process according to your standard method, then stop after your final wash (and before your stabilizer). Remove the film from the development canister and hang–wipe once with a soft sponge as carefully described on my site. Re-thread the roll, and run through the stabilizer…Surfactant and distilled water to finish up, and you’re all done!

Yes, it’s a lot of effort…but I really do enjoy the results.

;)

The film has a unique character, and really affords you some creative latitude. Thanks to all who have contributed to this ongoing odyssey.

Best regards,
Mark

PS: If anyone wants a roll or two, shoot me a line…I’m sure we can work something out!

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Aug 152014
 

Shooting film with a Leica M6

By Kjetil Andre Dalheim

In my last “inspiration” I wrote some word on my thoughts on going from a state of the art DSLR to rangefinder and Leica. Gear is not all, but changing to Leica is to me more than going from Canon to Nikon. Using rangefinder, manual focus etc change the way I take pictures. Wanting to challenge myself even more, I started to look into shooting film again. Someone once said that shooting film Leica is something all Leica users should do, so then….

I love my M(240), but adding a film Leica had two purposes for me. First the change in the process with using analog medium would challenge me and also give me a final product which I really like. I love to print (as big as possible), and film produces a look that cannot be copied with any digital camera/SW (in MY opinion). The other purpose, was that I wanted a small, cheap (in Leica terms) camera to have with me ALL of the time. I could have bought a Sony, Fuji or even digital Leica that fit in a pocket, but how boring is that ;)

After some research I concluded that M6, and M6TTL particulary was what I needed. Many reasons to choose something else, but for me there where a couple of important things. The M6 has a meter. No need to make the challenge too big! The M6 is mostly mechanical as opposed to an M7. M6TTL have have a way better shutter dial than the Classic. Last but not least, I found a MINT Leica M6TTL for sale here in Norway! It was also 0.72 viewfinder which I find practical as I shoot 28-50-90mm.

I love 50mm, and use my 50 Lux “all” the time on my M. To make things compact and not have to move lenses around I bought a 50 Summarit for the M6. I was now ready for some film shooting!

Analog vs digital

There is a lot of discussions of which is best of digital and analog. My conclusion so far is that I love both! One of them will not replace the other. Both methods have some advantage to the other, and I think shooting both is more “relaxing”, as you will not try to make one method be the other.

First of all analog is not instant. In today society that is almost unheard of, but one of the things I really enjoy. You take the picture, but no LCD to chimp, you wait for the film to be developed, picking the best negatives to go through the scanning process, process in LR/PS and print. All of this really gives you the feeling of creating something. Sitting down a looking at the final print on fine art paper is just lovely. On the other side, seizing a moment and share it online instantly with friends and family is something I appreciate to be able to do, so for me both worlds offer something.

Not being instant also gives another benefit that I did not think off. Taking a picture and not seeing it before it returns from development maybe weeks later, give you a distance to the picture. It really makes you look and make an objective assessment of the photo. Looking at something for a split second on the LCD might not give the best impression, and you might just delete the picture trying to reduce the massive amount to go through afterwards.

Film is more expensive ( if you forget the cost of the camera/lens). Taking photos by trial and error is both difficult and expensive with film. That makes you slow down. I take fewer pitures, but have just as many or maybe more keepers than with digital. On the other side, when conditions are difficult and the result is critical digital is by far the best.

M6 does not have any A mode, so learning manual is needed. The meter is pretty good, but again having no LCD to look at, you start to think of exposures. I have learned the “Sunny 16” rule, and use far more time to get the correct exposure.

Today we get new cameras on the market with new sensors almost every day. With increasingly sophisticated software we can also make the picture look exactly the way we want even before it comes out of the camera. All of that is fine, but with film I have found an even greater joy by the fact that each time you load a new roll in the camera you have a new sensor! The planning and anticipating with choosing a specific film with all its unique look, is far more fun. It is almost like trying to pick the perfect red wine for a specific dish.

Pixel peeping and 100% view…. I am one of them when I shoot digital. One of the benefits of Leica is the superb quality of the files. I love it when it, but with film I do not get the same result in regards to sharpness. It is possible, but I simply do not care that much. Slight OOF pictures… doesent matter. Grain… beutifull. If I only shot film, I might be more concerned, but I am not.

Workflow

Using film today is for many, including myself, a combination of old and new technology. I get my film developed at a studio close by (for now at least), but use a scanner to digitalize and finally print. I did some research before getting my first roles of film back. I ended up with a dedicated film scanner (Plustek 8200i). From what I see of examples they have an edge over flat-bed when it comes to 35mm film. From what I have learned so far, the software is by far the most important.

My current workflow consists of 4 programs. It might seem like a big job, but it is really quite fast and gives (in my opinion) descent result. I use Vuescan to make a linear scan. Vuescan is easy, fast and cheaper than alternative software. I open the file in PS, where I use ColorPerfect ( Plugin run through Filter in PS) to adjust the image and convert to positive. ColorPerfect is really THE key to get the best output! Finally I import the picture in Lightroom to give it the final tweak. This whole process from scanning is finished takes normally 1-4 minutes, which I think is acceptable.

M(240) vs M6

This is not meant as a product review, but I thought I might give some thoughts on pros/Cons on these two (wonderful) cameras. Both my cameras are in silver, and to be honest the M6 looks and feels like a “slim” M240. Both feel very solid, and the M240 is still a relative small camera, but the M6 has a slight edge in size. Small is not always best, as even the 50 Lux feels a little “big” on the M6. The Noctilux is almost a no-go.. Shutter sound on both are very nice, though most silent on the M6. The only think I consider to upgrade on my M6 is the glass in front of the focus screen (not sure that is the correct name..). In some light it makes the focus very difficult due to flare on the focus patch. This is due to missing coating, but can be upgraded to one with coating. As both mine are 0.72 viewfinder, it is really easy to change between the two cameras.

On the M240 I use A-priority almost all the time. Trying manual after using the M6, I actually find the M6 meter to be easier and more responsive as to signals. Having the opportunity to use A-mode speed up the shooting a bit, at least for candid pictures. But again a did not get the M6 for its speed ;) I long thought about having a second digital M as backup. Looking at it now I think the M6 with no need for batteries (metering yes, but it still work without), mostly mechanical might be a better choice.

Summilux vs Summarit

The 50 Summilux is surely one of the best 50mm around. It already had a 90mm Summarit and was very impressed with this “low cost” Summarit series. Receiving the 50 Summarit I was exited to see what it would be like. In short, I LOVE this lens! It is SMALL, sharp and very well-built. Compared to the Lux you lack some f-stops, but from f2.8 , sharpness, contrast and colors are just as good as the Lux. Build quality is very good on both lenses, but the aperture ring I would say is even better on the Summarit than the Lux, and the best I have tried on any Leica lens.

Summarize

To be able to shoot Leica film and digital is really the best of two worlds! I love the process of working with film, and I have already made changes to how I think, shoot, and process my photos. Some examples follow from the first roles in my beloved M6TTL :) Color photos are Kodak Portra 400, and the B&W are from Kodak Tri-X and Fuji Acros 100.

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Aug 152014
 

Wedding shoot with a Leica M4-P

By Rikard Landberg

Hi! My name is Rikard Landberg.

In March this year I did my second wedding shoot ever. I don’t like to photograph weddings, they are too posed and too stiff. But this couple wanted something else. Beside the regular “posed” wedding photo the couple wanted some different pictures, so I figured I could shoot the wedding with a documentary feel. Capture the moment, in between the posing. Almost like behind the scenes.

At the time my Leica M6 had broken down so i had to get a new camera. So I found this beaten up Leica M4-P. It looked like it was hit by the train but it worked like it was brand new! I loaded it up with som Kodak Tmax 400 and shoot the wedding. When my M6 got back from the shop I sold the M4-P, something that I regret.

Here are the results.

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Bröllop_spegel (2)TOYP

Bröllop_JA (4)TOYP

Bröllop_JA (3)TOYP

Bröllop_400_walk (2)TOYP

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bröllop_travis

Check out my website and flickr!
www.rikardlandberg.se
www.flickr.com/landberg

Rikard Landberg, Sweden.

Aug 082014
 

A Film Friday Thank You

By Michael McFaul

Hi Steve!

You honored me with a post on your Film Friday a few weeks back and for that, I thank you. Now allow this write up to serve as a 2nd thank you…a thank you for lighting the fire within me that is photography. It’s something I didn’t know I had. I’m sure a lot of you are probably groaning and rolling your eyes as you read those previous two sentences. :) Cliche, I know. But let me explain.

Back in late 2011, my wife and I had booked our long overdue and months delayed honeymoon to the land of a thousand smiles, Thailand. After a big move to Chicago from FL, then a return trip back to FL for our wedding, and finally getting our finances in order…we booked our flight for Ko Lanta Yai, Thailand. Prior to this trip, we had gone to Sleeping Bears Dunes in Michigan and at the time we had a simple P&S by Fuji. However, have you ever been to Sleeping Bear Dunes? It’s beautiful! Fan-freakin-tasticly beautiful! The vistas are simply summed up in two words, jaw dropping. I. Kid. You. Not. And yet the little camera that is Fuji simply couldn’t capture Sleeping Bear the way I saw it. Don’t get me wrong, I have great memories of our trip and it was a great time for my wife and I. But when I conveyed my excitement to others and gushed about its beauty, the pictures I would eventually show them didn’t match my enthusiasm and words. It left me wanting more from a camera.

A Google search online led me to stevehuffphoto.com and damn you, Steve… :) I find it rather impressive that I haven’t dropped more funds on cameras and built up more of collection than I already have. I will say this, my wife is not the least bit happy that I discovered your site. Kidding. ;) But kidding aside, the many reviews old and new, guest posts, your love for M4/3rds among others, led to the purchase of the Panasonic GX1 and their classic 20mm f1.7.

I apologize, but do allow me a moment to get sidetracked…if it were not for Aaron Rodgers’ statistically out-of-this-world 2011 season, my fantasy football team would not be winners of our $1k+ league pool. Aaron, if you’re by chance reading this, thank you. You gifted me a pretty sweet camera and lens combo.

Back on track. Actually, enough writing…here are a few of my favorites snaps from Thailand. Although there may be more writing to come after this set of photos. All of these photos were taken in JPEG and edited slightly or for some, too heavily via Snapseed.

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Thanks to you, I have wonderfully beautiful images of our time in Thailand. It was an adventure that involved delayed flights, missed connecting flights, an impromptu stay in Phuket via an online booking from a Thai airport, an unplanned ferry ride to the Phi Phi Islands (DiCaprio, The Beach!) then a connecting ferry to Ko Lanta (which actually worked out better and would recommend for everyone:), and a truly fantastic stay at our resort…all documented via the Panny/Panny combo. Yet if you’re up for sticking around, there’s more.

The more would be our daughter, Eleanor. Documenting these past 18 months with her as a part of our life has been pure joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. And I am forever grateful to have my m4/3rd to capture the many moments that we have with her. Thank you, Steve.

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All these photos led to a previously done wedding gig via the OMD EM5 (which will be a post for another day…I promise), a family portrait session in the coming weeks and a job with an interior designer for her completed projects to be used for her site. I love it. I don’t see these projects as work and I hope that it doesn’t ever feel that way.

Your amazing site has opened a door to me…led to the discovery of my creative side in photography…and I’m excited as to what the future holds for me.

Here’s a link to my super green and new blog www.mikemcfoto.com … please bear with it as I’m trying to find my style/structure (I feel like my style is constantly evolving) for the site and decide if it’s going to be strictly film, a combination of film/digital and a posting of works I’ve done. But do feel free to visit. :)

Cheers!

-Michael

Aug 082014
 

Canon AE-1

By Shane Caut

Hi Steve and Brandon,

I thought I would write a submission highlighting some of the beauty of Australia captured on a Canon AE-1 Program film camera.

To begin with I am a novice when it comes to photography and have only started working at this passion the last year or so, so I know I still have a lot to learn. Your site has been a constant source of inspiration and information, which I have keenly absorbed and so I wanted to share my progress.

My first serious camera purchase was a Leica M8. I was all set to start with a Fuji X body, when I was shown a used Leica M8 in the camera store and I was hooked. The M8 seemed to make so much sense to me and I did not get lost in all the gadgetry that other digital cameras can provide. I love how the M8 taught me the basics of setting the ISO, shutter speed and aperture. What more could anyone need?! I started with the Voigtlander 35mm f2.5 color skopar lens and it is certainly a great value for money lens. Wanting to try a wide-angle, I purchased a 24mm f2.8 FDn lens which I thought I could adapt to the M8 and focus using zone focusing. This worked fine, but that lens just did not belong on that camera. I then did some research and decided to try the lens on a body it was designed for. This led me to the Canon AE-1 Program. This camera is a delight. It is simple to use, ergonomic, quite small for a slr, and can be purchased for less than $100.

I fitted the lens to the body and took it on a trip to Melbourne. Some of the results are below. The other shots are from the streets and beaches of Adelaide.

I have used a few different films in my fledging film endeavour: Velvia 100, Ilford FP4, Ektar 100, and Portra 400. All have their own unique signature, and to my eye provide a depth of character difficult to recreate on digital. I am now hooked on film, and switched my Leica M8, which I did love and will always be thankful for purchasing, for a Leica M3. The M3 is in another stratosphere to the other cameras, and is hard to put down once you start hearing that almost silent click of the shutter release and experience that super smooth advance lever. I now have a nice balance of the M3 with a Canon 50mm f1.4 ltm lens and the Canon with the 24mm.

I hope readers enjoy the photos and feel free to provide any critical advice.

I have just started a flickr site here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/125897175@N08/

Kindest regards,
Shane

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Aug 082014
 

David Hockney, a Rolleiflex and The Road To Prescott

By Huss Hardan

Hey Steve and Brandon. As always, thanks for providing such a great forum.

A few years ago I was watching a tv show on the famous British painter David Hockney. One always wonders what goes through the mind of such an artist, the process and how they envisage the image. What struck me was one scene where he was walking down a grey, damp, almost monochromatic country lane. And describing the explosions of colours everywhere.

I couldn’t see it, but then they showed a painting of what he had described and it was stunning. It was almost like he was looking at a negative film image. That taught me a lesson – never just look at a scene – imagine what that scene could be if you just let loose your color palette.

Fast forward to the present time. I was taking a long weekend trip from Venice Beach, California to visit a friend in Prescott, Arizona. It would be good to get out-of-town and away from the crowds, but I wasn’t prepared for the emptiness, nor the heat! Stepping out of the Jeep into the searing brightness was an experience. Initially everything looked bleached out and colourless. But as my eyes adjusted, colours began to saturate and condense.

A Rolleiflex 2.8E was used with polarizing and warming filters to create the imagined scene.. The film was expired Kodak E100G from my buddy Jim at Studio3 in Portland, Oregon.
http://www.studio3.com/

Peace out
Huss

husshardan.com

Along the way

Evening cloudburst

Into the valley

Passmore Gas and Propane

Stop

Upon an azure sky

Aug 052014
 

The best camera in the world! Pentax full frame MZ-3

By Aivaras Sidla

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I decided to write, because of three main reasons:

A)    I really enjoy your site and would like to be a part of creating community rather than only visitor.
B)   I’m big fan of Pentax MZ-3 / MZ-5N cameras, and this article is my “thanks” to Pentax.
C)    As film shooter I want to promote film.

I’ll try to concentrate on user view of camera and lenses of the system and let readers know what could be achieved with it and with various film. Hope this will create more interest to use Pentax film cameras and push people to shoot more film. Sorry to inform, but report will be quite personal, contains too much photos and language will not be fluent.

I’m hobbyist photographer from Lithuania. My photography illness started in 2012. I started to shoot digital and by accident I stumbled into film photography – found unused film camera in my office and decided to try it. Then I hooked on film and I can’t let it down since then. Digital camera is used only about 30%, when there is not enough light for film, or when I’m in the mood for digital.

My history of film cameras started from Pentax MZ-30 (called ZX-30 in US) and after tests and changes of equipment, researches, purchases and sales I found which film camera is closest to perfect for me – Pentax MZ-3. MZ-3 is enthusiast camera close to top of the range in Pentax MZ line. Camera has very specific balance of simplicity and automation and this is main point in selecting it. Pentax tried to get back to traditional camera design but they put some modern features in it. In this article I do mention MZ-5n, part of shots are taken with it. This camera is very close to MZ-3. MZ-3 has higher top shutter speed – 4000 vs. 2000 in MZ-5n, but MZ-5n has 2s slowest shutter speed on dial vs. 1 s in MZ-3. There are none any more differences between those cameras that I know. To me they are the same, MZ-3 has advantage being faster;  I use both of them.

CONTROLS

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MZ-3 has to be used with lenses that have physical aperture rings, aperture is controlled with ring on the lens, and shutter speed is controlled by dial on top. Shutter dial has position “A” for Aperture priority, and with lenses that has “A” on aperture dial, camera can be used in shutter priority, or with both controls on “A” it is fully automatic. Simple as that. Below shutter speed dial is metering control switch – there are options of multi segment metering, center weighted and spot metering.Top left of camera contains exposure compensation dial. Below it is drive selector, with single frame, continuous shooting, timer and several options of bracketing.

Slanted panel, situated below top display contains exposure lock button. Main controls of camera are very intuitive, logically laid, fluent in use and everything could be controlled without taking camera from the eye. Controls of camera are very important issue for me, and MZ-3 has one of most confortable solutions. By the way – I think that creators of todays hot Fuji X-T1 had a good place to get some inspiration for controls.

VIEWFINDER

Viewfinder has 92% coverage with 0.8X magnification, has diopter correction and decent eye point – I wear glasses and that is important for me. There is display of main data in right side of finder with good visibility in good and poor light. Mate screen is suitable for manual focusing even without focus confirmation.

BODY AND DESIGN

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Body is made from plastic and has metal lens mount. I see that some call it flimsy and low quality, but for me it feels solid and reliable. It’s in line to fuji x100, X-E1 cameras that I owned, maybe it has even more solid feel. It weights 410 grams without battery. Body is compact, but with front integral grip and right curvatures in back cover it is very comfortable for my medium size hands.
Camera looks and feels in hand as proper camera should look and feel. Its great. Its traditional but not too old school.

AUTOFOCUS AND MANUAL FOCUS

Autofocus is screw drive, so it’s noisy. It’s quite fast with 43 mm and 50mm lenses and slow with 77mm. It’s quite accurate in normal light, usually confuses in backlight situation. I have no experience with fast AF cameras, so for me AF performance is decent and after using MF cameras, even existence of AF is very good thing.
For manual focusing mate screen is enough, after some practice. Additionally camera has visual (green dot in viewfinder) and sound confirmation.

METERING
As I mentioned previously, camera has 3 types of metering – multi segment, center weighted and spot metering.  I don’t use center weighted metering, so can’t comment on that.  Multi segment metering works good, I use it for less contrast scenes, and hadn’t any issues with it. According to manual it even senses and compensates metering for backlight scenes, but I haven’t tried. Spot metering is great function in this camera; I use it a lot. It’s great that I am able to switch between multi segment metering and spot metering with my eye on viewfinder.

OTHER / SPECIAL FEATURES
Panorama mode – there is a switch close to viewfinder that lets curtains on film in upper and lower sections of view. Then view and picture becomes wide. But is happened at the price of smaller frame – this function is similar to cropping. I use it rarely.
Multi area AF – autofocus can work with single center area (Spot focusing) or 3 points automatic focusing. I use only spot focusing.
DX coding – camera takes DX code from film canister and sets ISO automatically for each film. It prevent from stupid mistake to forget change ISO according to film used. There is option for setting ISO manually.
Auto rewind – camera prepares new film by winding several frames on spool, after loading of new film, winds film after each shot automatically and rewinds it automatically after film roll is finished (I receive strange looks when my camera begins whining when rewinding film).  I like auto film advancing, it lets concentrate on scene and prevent movement of camera which happens when manually advancing film.  Catch in focus feature – when using non AF lenses and dedicated remote cable, camera could be set to shoot automatically when subject comes into focus.  This is convenient in some cases. Build in flash  – used in once, so don’t have experience with it. Data back  – most MZ-3’s comes with data back. Date and time can be printed in each photo. Never used it.

CRITISISM 
There are several aspects that could be better in this camera, but issues are not big. Anyway I prefer to write about them:

Panorama mode – there are 2 problems. First – who needs it? :) Second – more important – if there is backlight in scene, then panorama “curtains” cause bad flare effects. AE lock button – its small, recessed and it hard to find without looking.
There is no mirror lock up feature. I haven’t experienced problems with that, as vibrations are well dampened, but still.

MAIN PROBLEMS
There are several common problems with MZ-3 and MZ-5n:

One is build-in flash spring holder. It breaks and flash doesn’t hold open, It has to be kept raised manually. One of my cameras is experiencing this problem, but for me its not big deal as I don’t use flash. It doesn’t matter when flash is retracted. This problem is easily solved by fixing spring holding pin (with glue).
Second is mirror motor drive gear. Its made from plastic and it breaks eventually. Pentax has solution for that – they produced motor with metal gear and put it MZ-3 limited models and some later models. This motor still can be bought new (approx. 30USD) and could be replaced.

LENS MOUNT
This is where we are coming close to interesting part. Body supports Kaf2, Kaf, Ka, K – mount lenses. Plenty of lenses are available as new or used options. It’s possible to get good quality lenses for reasonable prices or go for top of the range (and quite expensive) Limited’s. More on lenses – later. There is one limiting factor – lenses must have aperture rings, there is no option to control aperture from camera. Worth mentioning Pentax has wide array of legacy lens accessories, providing endless creative possibilities; there are macro add-on lenses for standard lens, macro helicoids, tele converters, even AF adapter that enables AF on some non AF lenses.  I don’t have lots experience here as trying to be as simple as possible. Use only Asahi close up filter Nr. 1 for closer focusing.

To sum all thoughts about camera, the essence not details above, I feel several great things about it:
–       It begs to be used. Starting from look of the camera, feel in the hands, continuing with feel and logic of controls to operational sounds and finishing with results. It inspires to go out (or stay in) and shoot.
–       It disappears when I’m using it. Looks like it’s me and the scene.

LENSES
I shoot with primes most often. My favorite focal length is around 50mm, sometimes I go for short tele range up to 100mm and I’m big fan of shallow depth of field. Pentax provides exiting options in this area and I will go trough those I own and love to use. I like fact, that Pentax managed to keep their prime lenses extremely light, compact and to keep small filter diameter (49mm in this case) – its important for me that all lenses I use has same filter diameter, It helps to save weight and expenditures for filters.

SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4
Good, predictable, balanced standard lens. A little soft wide open (rarely use it at F1.4), reasonably sharp from F2. Smooth bokeh, nine aperture blades provide non distracting highlights. It gives pictures on warm side and has old lens character (and that’s good).
Lens is quite compact, light despite amount of glass used, its made from plastic. Aesthetically this lens sucks with its horrible design and flimsy aperture ring and small manual focus ring, but from compactness side, from picture quality side and from cost side it delivers with excess. Lens is quite cheep both new and used. I would recommend it to 50mm shooter as universal lens. It my first AF 50mm  lens and I use it till this day, but its least used from 50mm lens range as its too much “in the middle”, not too “perfect”, but character is not pronounced enough. Everything about pictures from this lens fits into word “smoth”, therefore I use it when I want same feel in my pictures.

 Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4, Kodak Ektar 100

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 Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4, Fujifilm Superia 200

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Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4, Kodak Portra 400

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Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4, Kodak Portra 160

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Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4, Kodak BW400CN Professional

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 Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4, Kodak Portra 400

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Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4, Kodak BW400CN Professional

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 Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4, Fujifilm Superia 200

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SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9 Limited

This one is special. Special starting from odd focal length – 43mm. I adapted to it and like fact that could include a little bit more of context into pictures.  It’s very compact and light, build quality is top. It’s real pleasure to handle this lens. Lens is sharp from wide open, bokeh is quite smooth, but highlights could be strange and distracting in some cases. Pictures from this lens is more on “modern”, “perfect” side. It’s my most used lens today. No lens is perfect, but excess perfectness in pictures and rare distracting highlights are compensated by feel of quality, sharpness, focal range and compactness of lens.

Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9, Fujifilm Superia 200

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Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9, Fujifilm Superia 200

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Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9, Kodak Portra 160

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Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9, Fujifilm Superia 400

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Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9, Fujifilm Superia 200

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 Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-FA 43mm F1.9, Fujifilm Superia 200

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 SMC Pentax-FA 77mm F1.8 Limited

Again, typical to Pentax Limited’s odd focal range. Compact, high quality build, integrated lens hood, sharp, smooth bokeh, warm colors. Only good words for this lens.
It focuses slightly slower than 50mm or 43mm, but I suppose this is related to longer focal range.

Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-FA 77mm F1.8, Fujifilm Superia 200

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Pentax MZ-3, SMC Pentax-FA 77mm F1.8, Fujifilm Superia 200

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SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7 Limited

Latest addition to my lens stable. It’s very special by way how it renders picture and what colors it gives. There are two words that describe pictures from this lens  – surreal and psychedelic. :) I suppose this could be seen in photos. Lens is compact, light, sharp from wide open. Bokeh is… I don’t know how to describe it… its painted maybe? I like handling and physical feel better than FA 50mm F1.4. And its way cheaper in used lens market too. But not everybody would be fond of this lens strongly pronounced character.  Pictures has this “old school” look.

 Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7, Fujifilm Superia 200

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Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7, Fujifilm Superia 200

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Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7, Fujifilm Superia 200

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Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7, Fujifilm Superia 200

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 Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7 + Asahi close up filter Nr.1, Kodak Ektar 100

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Pentax MZ-5n, SMC Pentax-F 50mm F1.7, Fujifilm Superia 200

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And… that’s it.

Steve and Brandon – thanks for keeping awesome site and thanks for publishing this article, or even considering (in case it wont be published :)).
Readers – thank you for reading and looking.

More pictures could be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/aiwalit/

More about gear setup I use could be found here (only digital camera has changed): http://www.japancamerahunter.com/2014/02/bag-792-aivaras/

Best regards,

Aivaras

Aug 012014
 

Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus Film Scanner Review

By Logan Norton

www.logannortonphotography.org

Hello again Steve, Brandon and readers. A couple of weeks ago I read Brandon’s account of his experiences with the Epson V600 scanner. I have used that same scanner for a couple of years with similar results. While I found it to be a good tool for working with medium format film, I struggled to get consistent quality results from it when using 35mm film. Black and white performance was decent but where I had the biggest issue was color film.

This struggle led me to the Kodak Pakon F-135.  After extensive research I order a Pakon and got to work setting it up. This small desktop scanner was a staple in 1-hour photo shops for many years and is relatively widely available on the used market today. I was able to find one in excellent condition for $250, a far cry from the $12,000 they sold for in 2004! Because of this age, and the fact that Kodak/Pakon no longer support these scanners, it is necessary to run them with Windows XP or earlier software. While this is a definite downside to the equipment, the Apple Parallels program is able to provide me with a relatively seamless operating experience.

Once I had the machine up and running it was time to scan my first roll of film. Key word being roll; the Pakon scans entire rolls of film and does so in less than 5 minutes! So, I loaded a roll of Ektar and started scanning. When I opened the images in Lightroom I was absolutely blown away. The color was so rich and vibrant, the exposures so consistent and the detail was fantastic! The scanner produces RGB, 16 bit files with a maximum resolution of 3000×2000. The scanner has a very good version of Digital Ice that handled some very dirty negatives well without being overly aggressive in the image softening. I have found it to produce spotless images with reasonably clean negatives.

The most important factor for me though was the color rendering that I get from this scanner. Kodak designed the software that is used and it produces color that is so good it only requires a very minimal amount of post-processing. Highlights and shadows are both heavy with detail and skin tones are some of the best I have seen from any scanner, easily rivaling those from both the Frontier and Noritsu scanners I have used. I have created a number of 16×22 prints from Pakon scans that are fantastic.
So, are there any downsides to this magical little machine? Only one as far as I can see: it only handles 35mm film. My answer to this was to continue using the Epson V600 for medium format and incorporate the Pakon for my 35mm work, which grew exponentially after getting this scanner up and running. For those who shoot a lot of 35mm film or those who may have a large quantity of old film they would like to digitalize, I highly recommend you give the Pakon some serious consideration. I am sure that you will find it an excellent tool for your needs.

Additional Resource:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llthINnRSYA

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Jul 252014
 

Olympus XA series user report

By Gary Perlmutter

XA2

I first used the Olympus XA back in the early eighties and recently when looking for a cheap camera to start shooting film again, came across the range once more on eBay. The Olympus XA series first arrived in 1979 with the original XA (and the best specified model). A tiny true rangefinder 35m film camera with a very sharp 35mm f2.8 Zeiss Tessar lens. It had a built-in meter and a matching flashgun that simply screwed onto the side of the camera. Then in 1980 a more affordable addition to the line up was the XA2, this had a pre-focus slider, auto exposure and a cheaper but still very sharp f3.5 Zeiss Tessar lens. Other models released were the very basic XA1, the XA3 (which was really the same as the XA2 but with DX coding so that the film speed was set automatically) and finally the XA4, which had a 28mm macro lens that could focus down to one foot. The example I purchased was the XA2 model for just 7.50GBP or about $13. The original XA’s command a higher price, but can still be found for around 50GBP or $85. Most are still sold complete with the flashgun, which as mentioned earlier simply screws onto the side of the camera body.
When you buy any film camera of this sort of age it’s important that the seals around the camera back are intact. Otherwise you could get light leaking in and fogging the film. They can be replaced but on a camera already so cheap, it’s better to move on and find an example with the seals intact. Other things to look out for are is that the lens is free from fungus or scratches and that the shutter and meter work ok. They operate with two SR44 or equivalent batteries. Using the XA2 is a joy, especially for my passion of street photography. It’s tiny and black with a very quiet shutter, so very inconspicuous. Just slide open the clamshell cover and your ready to go, on the assumption you’ve remembered to load it with film first that is! Loaded with 400 ISO film and having set the focus slider to the middle setting, (Actually it resets to this anyway on closing the cover) most subjects will be sharp from around a metre or so to about 5 metres. So perfect again for shooting in the street. So if you’re looking for a full frame rangefinder camera for less than $85, you need not look much further! I have attached a few images shot with the first roll of Ilford HP5 plus that I put through the camera. I then processed the film myself with Ilford developer and scanned using my Plustek 8100, then tweaked just a little in Lightroom.
Full spec below:
Olympus XA

Lens: 35mm f/2.8 internally focused lens. Does not retract: magic optical design makes it shorter than its own focal length! It’s ready to shoot the instant you slid it open.
Exposure: Aperture preferred automation.
ISO: 25 to 800.
Shutter: Automatic electronic analog, 1/500 – 10 seconds.
Aperture: two-bladed manual, f/2.8 – f/22.
Focus: Rangefinder.
Power: Two SR44 cells.
Colors: Black; also red, silver or blue.
Weight: 7.800 oz (221.15g) with batteries (measured).
Size: 2.567″ x 4.123″ x 1.572″ HWD (measured).

Olympus XA2
Lens: 35mm f/3.5, four element Tessar variant, front element focus.
Focus: three zone manual. Resets to mid-distance when clamshell is closed.
Metering: Center weighted, program auto.
ISO: 25 to 800.
Shutter: 1/500 – 2 seconds. Aperture integrated with the two shutter blades.
Power: 2 SR44 cells.
Size: 2.598″ x 4.102″ x 1.605″ HWD (measured).
Weight: 7.480 oz., (212.1g) with two S76 cells (measured).
Olympus XA4 (1985)
The XA4 was an XA2 with a 28mm lens that scale-focuses as close as 1 foot (0.3m). The wrist strap was this same length so you could tape-off your shots.
Closing the cover also reset the scale focus back to 10 feet (3m).
My links: http://gpstreetphotos.tumblr.com
Twitter: @gpstreetphotos

 chilling

cool

I believe

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