Film Photography Podcast – Episode 194 – August 1, 2018
We have a jam-packed episode lined up today! Joining Michael Raso in the studio today is Mat Marrash, Mark O’Brien, and Leslie Lazenby! And it’s our super special summer spectacular, and it’s a camerapalloza! We’ll be talking on the Ricoh GR1v, Kodak Retina IIa, the Canon AE-1, plus Strobe Kits for Film, Pushing/Pulling, a Book Review, Explosive Blix, avoiding FAT rolls and so much more! Grab a cool beverage, kick back and enjoy the show!
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Notes by Alex Luyckx
A Premium Compact that Lives up to the Name – The Ricoh GR1v
Michael’s camera of choice for doing street photography is the Ricoh GR1v, in stealth black, and the second revision of the Ricoh GR1. The GR1 was first released in 1996 and is one of the many high-end 35mm point-and-shoot cameras. It has a GR Lens 28mm f/2.8, has aperture priority or full auto-exposure. Sadly, these cameras, are all electronic, and in the case of Michael’s it’s starting to show its age. First off the LCD screen on the top plate is pretty much dead, and the camera is a bit flaky at this point. There’s also a built-in flash (you can select the flash on or off). The camera can read DX codes (between 25 and 3200). The camera runs on a CR2 battery, and so compact, and so fast that Michael is a big fan! And for Michael, the camera has become more an extension of his arm. Sadly, once dead, it’s dead, and getting a replacement these days can be fairly costly due to the Premium Compact Bubble.
Casting a Different Light
A listener writes in looking for a compact strobe kit for lighting for film photography Well this is a great question! These days there’s so many choices, and most of the kits that you can buy new are designed for digital. But at Midwest Photo Exchange, Mat explains, is more geared towards Strobist! What is strobist? Well, it’s using a small hot-shoe mounted flash as an off-camera flash. And these kits will work with both digital and film cameras. With film cameras, you have that unknown of not seeing your results quickly, but if you have a digital camera, you can use that as your proof, and then adjust your film camera to match the setting. But the next biggest issue with many film cameras is the flash sync speed, most focal plane shutter cameras have a fixed X-Sync Speed (usually around 1/60 to 1/125) if you have a camera with a leaf shutter, you have no sync speed. Another open, is using a flash meter, such as the Gossen Lunapro F (or Gossen Lunasix F), will have a button to switch the meter into flash mode, or you hook up the PC Sync Cable. Now if you’re getting into it, you will need to make that initial investment, Mat suggests one of the MPEX Strobist Kits which gives you a LumoPro LP180 flash, stand, mount, umbrella, and even a wireless trigger set (so you don’t have sync cables running around). Of course, if you don’t want to make this investment, the gang recommends a big reflector to help move the light around to where you want it. Now the question is what happens if you want to expand the number of lights beyond just the one. Well, the best bet is to get some cheap flashes and optical slaves who will trigger at any flash upon seeing that first burst of light.
A Tale of Two Retinas
Mark has a couple of cameras to show off on today’s show. After the release of the Leica in the 1930s, Kodak expanded into Germany and out of their German factory came the iconic Retina line. Today Mark has with him the second iteration of that line. The Kodak Retina IIa has two production runs, the first run or Type 150 saw production from 1939 to 1941 when production was ordered stopped by the German government, with production restarted in 1949 as the Type 011. Mark’s, however, is a later Type 016, produced from 1951 to 1954 as a “Rapid Wind” version, it features a Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon 50mm f/2 mounted on a Synchro-Compur shutter. These are quiet rangefinders with a combined view/rangefinder window, but you don’t have any frame lines. An odd thing about the camera is that the film counter window counts down, Mark recommends when resetting the counter to set it to three more than is in the film cartridge. The camera itself is fairly compact with a fold out door that brings out the lens assembly. Today, most cameras on the used market are fairly well used at the camera itself was fairly popular. Great for street photography (the leaf shutter is silent). The IIa would be replaced in 1954 by the Retina IIc (there was also an IIC, but that’s a different camera). On the surface the IIc is fairly similar to the IIa, except for a couple of changes, first is the lens which is a Xenon 50mm f/2.8, you can also replace the front element to add a telephoto, the film advance is mounted on the bottom plate. And the front door is a bit more rounded. The IIc was produced until 1957. But which is better? Well, both cameras have their best points, but according to Mark the IIc is a more refined camera, and it’s a lot easier to find one in good condition. But given their age, you might want to get a Clean, Lube, and Adjust (CLA) on them, and the best place to get that done is at Retina Rescue!
Post-Punk and Getting Pushed Around
Leslie fields a question from one of our listener on how to push film and why you would want to! The listener just purchased a Pentax K1000 and wanted to know specifically about pushing some of the super slow ISO films you can get through our store. But he also wants to get a f/1.2 lens for the camera as they shoot a lot of low-light shows. And while such a lens exists, in the Pentax SMC-A 50mm f/1.2, Leslie has a better idea than dropping the coin on the glass. So let’s talk about film sensitivity, and for the most part these days the film is rated using ISO, but that is but the current rating from a long line of sensitivity measurements. Some others you may have heard of is ASA, DIN, BIN, GOST and so much more. But for ease of use, we’ll stick to ISO. ISO rating what’s printed on the box is what you may have heard called ‘box speed’ so if you shoot a roll of Kodak TMax 400 at ISO-400, you’re shooting it as box speed. Now the higher the number, the more sensitive to light the film is, the lower the number, the less sensitive to light the film is. So TMax 400 is more sensitive to light than TMax 100. But what if you’re in situations that call for faster or slower films, and you don’t have the film on you for the situation. Well, that’s where we’re going with this whole topic. If your film isn’t sensitive enough, or fast enough, you can push the film, by telling your camera to meter at faster film speed, so shooting that TMax 400 at ISO-1600, underexposing it. You’ll have to compensate by developing the film for a longer period or use a special developer (or both even). The opposite would be pulling film, or overexposing it; you again will have to compensate with a different developing time. Pulling film can help tame grain or smooth overly contrasty lighting conditions. These days, most B&W films can take being pushed and pulled very well with some great results. Now when it comes to developing, if you’re doing it at home, Leslie recommends as a base for each stop you push (that is 400 to 800 is one stop, 400 to 1600 is two stops) if you multiply the box speed developing time 1.5x. So if you’re developing a 400-speed film, and you pushed it to 800, and the developing time calls for 6 minutes, that means you’ll have to develop it for 9 minutes. For two stops, multiply by 2.25x (6 minutes becomes 13.5 minutes) and for three stops multiply by 4.5x (6 minutes becomes 27 minutes). But when Leslie is doing some push process, there is one developer that she always uses, and that is Diafine. Diafine is a developer that comes in two parts A and B and is designed to process pushed film, you have a list of films and the speed exposed at, and it is all the same processing times. If you want to hear, Leslie extols (not xtol) the magic of Diafine check out episode 126. Now, not all films push well, Leslie recommends pushing a film that has a box speed of 400 speed or greater, the slower the film, the worse it pushes. And like film, you can push the film in any developer, but not all developers are good for pushing. Other than Diafine, Leslie recommends D-76. She says to avoid Kodak Microdol-X (or today LegacyPro Mic-X). In other words, don’t push Pan F+. Now there are some downsides to pushing your film; you will see a loss of shadow detail, increase in contrast and an increase in grain. And as always, if you don’t give the film the light, it won’t excite those silver halides. Of course, these days, you don’t have to push as much as there are two high-speed options available, Kodak TMax P3200, recently reintroduced, and Ilford Delta 3200.
The Canon AE-1 – The Aunt Linda Special
If you’ve been listening to the FPP for a long time, you’ll have heard of Michael’s Aunt Linda. Aunt Linda gave Michael his first camera the Canon FT when she upgraded to the Canon AE-1. And just recently when he was over at his parents, there was Aunt Linda with something again to give to Michael, and that is the Canon AE-1. Now the Canon AE-1 is different from the AE-1 Program. Released in 1976, the AE-1 became a trendy camera around the world, it uses the manual focus FD-Mount and uses a Shutter Priority or Full Manual camera, with a match-needle inside the viewfinder. The AE-1 Program (circa 1981) would add full auto-exposure. The camera’s meter will warn if there is not enough light with a red light in the viewfinder. What is most impressive is that even after thirty years the camera still operates all shutter speeds and apertures. Even today, the AE-1 and AE-1 Program remain hot cameras and well-loved among those who use them.
Book of the Show – Patti Smith: Camera Solo
Mark while on vacation to North Carolina stopped in a small bookstore in Asheville and happened across a photography book, Patti Smith’s Camera Solo. While Patti Smith is more known as a singer, she also picked up a camera on many occasions. But what drew Mark into the book is that these are her Polaroid work using Automatic Land Cameras Model 100 or Model 250. The book itself is a reproduction of her photography show at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. The collection is a personal collection of work done by Patti while she was on tour. The book and its content are amazing according to Mark, but he would have liked to see a better paper stock, something more glossy.
The Doctor Is In – The Explosive Blix
In our C-41 home processing kit, one of the chemicals that comes in the package is called BLIX, this is a combined Bleach and Fix and is part of all colour processing (E-6 and C-41). So recently, we had someone write in about their powdered Blix in the C-41 kit. The patient using a Patterson tank and a rotating device, well the results were explosive. About three minutes into the cycle the top blew clean off, and now his darkroom looks like a murder took place. And it happened again, after refilling the tank, he switched to a standard hand inversion. And now the Blix is gone (why is all the Blix gone?) and there’s a huge cleanup. So what happened? Well, Leslie breaks things down, first off she warned that the Patterson system is not designed to be used as a rotating tank, it’s designed for hand inversions or use of the swizzle stick. Also the chemistry is rather fresh, and the tank is overfilled. First off, the fresh chemistry, Leslie recommends letting the chemistry off-gas for a bit before use. She also warns that if you notice the lid budging a little, to let it burp (like you would with Tupperware). It will certainly help, even with B&W. As for tanks designed for rotary systems like Jobo, they are designed for off-gassing and also use a lot less chemistry.
Avoiding that FAT Roll
One problem with toy cameras that take 120 films is the problem of FAT rolls. The main issue behind it is that there’s not enough tension between the source and take up spools. You will start to get expansion as the film winds up more and then it will pop out from around the spool edges and give light leaks. Double check your tension and carry some black bags around. Another type of FAT roll is when bulk loading, and you get a little greedy and think you can roll a 40-frame roll of Svema 200, well Leslie says no, most reels for home processing are designed to hold a maximum of 36-exposures. And then you’ll get the film sweats.
That’s it for this show; we’ll be on our summer break and be returning for our ninth season in September. Now is the perfect time to catch up on our back catalogue or go back and listen to your favourites. If you’re signed up for our Walking Workshop (SOLD OUT) in a couple of days, we’ll see you in lovely downtown Findlay Ohio! Make sure to let us know how your summer has gone by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to sign up for our newsletter; you can also write us by the postal service Film Photography Podcast PO Box 264, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410!