Friday, October 19, 2012

Lomography do want? Indeed I do!

Sorry I have been posting very little this year, I've just been dealing with a cross country move and other little "gets in the way of doing blog posts" moments. I still shoot weekly, but I haven't done anything new and exciting with cameras recently. But I feel like I have to share this one! There is a new Lomography camera coming out soon, and while I know this can illicit groans and shouts of joy from various shooters, this one actually looks pretty sweet. This is the Belair X 6-12, a 120 camera that allows for three output sizes (via an internal mask, I assume, similar to the Holga and Diana+), automatic exposure, and interchangeable lenses!

Though it is zone focusing, which means no rangefinder. This is how you use your Holga and Diana (and LC-A), where you set the focus on the camera by set distances, with some guestimation. And if that little tab on the top is the film winder, that might be kind of annoying. It looks very pretty, though eerily similar to the Polaroid J33, as seen here (my modified version).

Lomography is very good at copying other camera designs, with modifications. I won't go into all of the details on the Belair, since you can read all about it here on the Lomography site, but I can tell you why I find it a possibly exciting prospect. The camera features three shooting sizes, a very panoramic 6x12, 6x9, and 6x6 (again, probably via a replacable interior mask). It also includes two wide lenses, a 90mm and a 58mm (which they say is the equivalent of a 21mm on 35mm film). have a lens that covers a very large area. If it can do 12 centimeters for the width, it can do 12 for the height. This is about 4.5 inches coverage, basically making it a 4x5 lens. So, for me, this makes the entire system ripe for experimentation! What could you put that lens on? I want to shoot Polaroid film with it! I will have to have the camera in my hands (I pre-ordered one) to see exactly what can be done with it, but a few ideas come to mind...
First, I could modify the Belair. The main problem with this is that height of the exposure area most likely doesn't cover a Polaroid. This would also be an issue with trying to put the lens on the J33, which looks to have a similar focal length, but does not cover the exposure area of Type 100. Another option may be modifying a J66, which does cover the area of Polaroid Type 100.
Though this may have a longer focal length. Again, I will have to have the actual camera in my hand to compare sizes to figure out some options. Another option might be to build something out of a Polaroid back, or maybe work with a 4x5 camera (which opens up even more possibilities using 4x5 film!). Lots to think about, but you can see my gears are clicking along, rusty as they are.
So, yes, some people love to hate Lomography, while others are lomography fanatics to an annoying degree, but this does really look like a decent camera, for a decent price considering what you are getting (and even cheaper if you preorder now). And anything that encourages 120 use and continued production is a good thing.
With winter coming (my first long-term cold period in many years), I imagine I will be doing more indoors screwing about with cameras, which I hope will lead to more blog posts! Look for more on this new Belair camera here in the near future, and whatever else I come up with.

Oh, and if you use Instagram, you can find me as "Moominsean". Seeya!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Zenza Bronica MADNESS!

Okay, so there is a fantastic overview of the Zenza Bronica S2A over on Filmwasters, in which I also include a mini review. But that doesn't mean I can't babble on a bit more about the camera and its friends here, because that is what this blog is all about!
Before Bronicas, I was using my Kowa Six and Kowa Super 66. While in Japan, I had the chance to use Skorj's S2A. At first I was a bit dubious as I was used to my Kowa Six and 66, but after using it a couple times, I fell in love with it. When I got home, I sold the 66 and lenses and bought a Zenza Bronica S2.
Then I bought a black S2A, seen here with a Polaroid back...
And then a Zenza Bronica C, just because...
I won't go over all of the features of the S2/S2A as there is plenty of information on the interwebs about the camera, but I will talk a little bit about the differences between the three cameras, which are, at heart, basically the same. The only real difference between the S2 and the S2a, so I've read, is that the S2A has sturdier gears. The S2 often had the misfortune of stripping gears after heavy use, resulting in overlapping photos or a complete inability to crank the film forward. This was fixed with stronger, coated gears in the S2A. There may be other small differences, but that is the main deal. Both cameras feature exchangeable backs so you can use more than one film type with the same camera while shooting. This is the main difference between these two camera and the Model C, which is a "solid" camera without a removable back. As you can see in the above photos, the silver line is missing from the rear of the Model C, where the back would come off. all cameras allow for 120 and 220. Both cameras can be locked in two ways...the shutter button on the front can be twisted to prevent accidental exposure on all cameras. On the S2/S2A, when the dark slide is in place the camera cannot be used. The Model C features a slightly annoying switch on the side, that large black knob on the rear below the numbers. If it is turned to O, you can still crank the knob and cock the shutter, but the film does not advance. So if you aren't paying attention, you may think you are advancing and shoot 12 shots on one frame. I assume this is for double exposures. Here is a nice example of what happens when I didn't realize the knob had gotten turned to lock when I had it on the car seat next to other cameras, and proceeded to shoot many frames.
Whoops! So if you have a Model C, this is something to think about. Aside from this, all three cameras use the same lenses and all are interchangeable. Is there a reason to own a Model C or an S2A? Not really, unless you are wanting to use the different backs, or a Polaroid back. The shots are approximately 6x6 regardless, but the corners of the shots are different. The S2A features a swooping shape in the corners...
While the Model C has a square edge...
The Model C is a bit more rare than the S2/S2A, but not so rare that they don't appear pretty regularly on eBay. So the choice is yours...I obviously chose both! There is also a Z (sometimes known as D), the first Zenza Bronica, which uses the same lenses, but it is rare and expensive. I've only seen one for sale in Japan, for around $1600.
So, let's talk a bit about the lens choices. A quick list of all the known lens sizes available (taken from this excellent book by Tony Hilton):

Nikkor/Nikon: 30mm, 40mm, 50mm, 75mm, 85mm, 105mm, 135mm, 180mm, 200mm, 250mm, 300mm, 350mm, 400mm, 500mm, 600mm, 800mm, 1000mm, 1200mm
Zenzanon: 40mm, 50mm, 75mm, 80mm, 100mm, 150mm, 200mm, 300mm
Komura: 45mm, 50mm, 100mm, 150mm, 200mm, 300mm, 400mm, 500mm
Carl Zeiss Jena: 80mm

For more detailed information about the lenses, grab a copy of the book. Well worth it if you are interested in Bronicas. I will just talk about the lenses I have (mostly wide), and compare them. I have the base Nikkor 75mm, Nikkor 40mm, Komura 45mm, and Komura 50mm, as well as a prototype Carl Zeiss Jena 80mm that needs some reconditioning.
A Bronica lens is a bit different in that the focus mechanism is not part of the lens.
The lenses vary in size and quality. Komura lenses seems to be much larger than other makes.

The standard Nikkor 75mm:
The Carl Zeiss Jena 80mm prototype (seen on the black S2A above):
The Komura 50mm:
The Komura 45mm:
The Nikkor 40mm:
As you can see, the Nikkor 40mm is much more compact than both the Komura 45mm and 50mm, and "more attractive" to boot. A comparison of the 75mm, 50mm, 45mm and 40mm lenses (I didn't have the 80mm when I did this test):
The odd man out is definitely the Komura 50mm. It provides an overall darker image, and a soft vignette in the corners. Better examples of the 50mm softening:
 It is probably a "cheaper" lens overall, but produces lovely results. It is worth owning exactly because it stands out from the other lenses, and in a good way. Interesting is that the Komura 45mm is sharp and bright throughout with only a small amount of distortion.
The 40mm is certainly wide and the distortion is much greater, giving you more of that "wide angle" feel...
The base 75mm is pretty straightforward with little distortion, as is expected.
The Carl Zeiss Jena is a very sharp lens, but mine needs some servicing as the speed is a bit sticky and I get light bars across the top of many photos. I've emailed a couple places about getting a good CLA done but haven't received responses.
I don't use longer lenses, so I can't offer any information on them! It may seem a bit redundant to have three wide lenses that are so close to each other, but they are really so different that I think it is worth it. The Komura 45mm is probably the rarest of the bunch. My guess is that the 30mm is probably a fisheye lens, because the Kowa 35mm lens is the widest full frame non-fisheye available for 120. I had one for awhile when I had my Kowa 66...super rare and maybe just a bit too wide for me...and the thing was worth so much money and so rare (and huge) that I didn't really feel comfortable lugging it around for general use.
One thing to note about the Bronica viewfinder and the wide lenses is that the lenses are wider than the viewfinder. Meaning that you don't see the entire frame in your viewfinder, which is odd because that is the purpose of an SLR are supposed to see what you are shooting. But I'm learning to adjust because I am frequently getting shots like this, because the corner isn't showing up in the viewfinder as you would expect:
And that's not just a little bit of frame...that's a lot of frame! Just something to think about when using the Bronica.
Also, a quick note on the Polaroid back. I actually liked the Kowa 66 Polaroid back much more than the Bronica Polaroid back. The Kowa would center the frame inside the Polaroid, while the Bronica exposes the frame on the lower part of the Polaroid, over the edge of the print, so you actually lose part of the shot...
I mention this because probably many who are looking for a cheaper alternative to the Hasselblads are looking at the Kowa Six/66 and the Bronica S2A. While the Kowa Six is a neat camera and I used it for maybe four years, I find myself preferring to shoot with the Bronica by a long shot. Overall ergonomics come into play, I think. I just like the feel of the Bronica over the Kowa. Here are the two cameras for shape comparison:
What the Kowa Six loses in body depth, it has to make up for in lens length. Both weigh about the same, and both are great cameras, but I really enjoy using the Bronica and find it generally easier to use. The Komura 50mm really sold me on the camera initially, and now it has become my #1 medium format camera...until I can afford that Hasselblad SWC!
To wrap this up, a super quick tutorial on loading 120 film into the Bronica S2A and C. It's kind of ass-backwards. I suppose it is probably the same method a Hasselblad uses, but I've never used a Hasselblad, so the first time without instructions was a headscratcher for me.

The film holder pops out of the back of the camera...
There is a top and bottom to the holder. The top has the large gear. The empty spool will go on top and the unexposed roll will go on the bottom. The film will be loaded with the tab on the underside of the film.
Pull the film roll tab under the holder...
It wraps around and connects to the empty spool.
This means that the exposed film is facing "outwards" from this side. With most other 120 cameras, you load the film directly into the camera and the exposed side is not visible to you as it is facing inside the camera. When you have the film securely in place, push the holder back into the camera. It should make some kind of soft clicking noise. You will know you don't have it properly seated if the film doesn't advance when you turn the knob. Once in, advance the film until the arrow lines up with the red dot...
Then close the camera and advance the film until the camera stops at exposure 1. Sometimes it may feel like you are going to break the camera if you turn too hard, but there is some resistance as the shutter cocks...completely normal. After that...shoot away! You can find a PDF of the S2 instruction booklet here and the Model C here.
Okay, I guess I've run out of things to talk about. Not sure what my next post will be until then!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Polaroid Pack Film: Field Experience

I got the idea for this post from a friend on Facebook, Zebrio, who asked about how I handle my Polaroid prints while out in the field. I actually get this question pretty regularly, and I see it as a frequent forum question, as well. So I thought it might be interesting to some to share a couple of my tips for shooting and carrying/handling Polaroid prints in the field. And it may give some insight into how I shoot, which is something I honestly don't think about very much as a lot of it is just a result of experience and repetition, eventually leading to some level of intuition. I don't pretend to be some kind of Ansel Adams that knows everything about photography technique, but maybe some of this will help others with personal shooting methods.
Speaking of repetition and experience, there really is no substitution for just shooting a lot. It's no joke that since 2004 or so, I have shot over 5,000 peel-apart Polaroids, which looks something like this:
Seems like it would take up more space than that. And, yes, my storage system sucks...rubber banded in cardboard boxes. The last couple years are at least bunched by shoot, but before that they seem to be all shuffled up. I would love to find some kind of indexing system to organize and store them, but Polaroids are an odd size and I haven't really spotted anything. And I have waaay too many to put in traditional binders. Someday I hope to find some kind of old card catalog type thing from a library for organizing them. Anyway, so how I shoot really comes from doing it a LOT. And that certainly doesn't mean that I am a great photographer or still don't have much to learn, but I mostly have the process down...future improvement is more aesthetic in nature, I hope. So, basically, this post will just be tips to help you with your Polaroid pack film cameras and shooting with them.
The very first thing I can recommend is to very rarely close your folding cameras. The only time I close my cameras is for air travel...they always remain open otherwise.
This is because closing and extending the bellows leads to light leaks. If you have good bellows on your camera, it's easier to take care of it than replace or fix it. In fact, replacing the bellows is such a hassle that it is easier to replace most of the camera, or just buy a new camera if it is a cheaper model. So it's easier to just keep the cameras open and dust them off every so often. Protecting the lens isn't really an issue when the camera isn't in a bag or something. This doesn't apply at all if you use a hard case camera, like the Big Swinger 3000 or Colorpack III, of course. though I suggest keeping your plastic cameras out of the sun for storage, as they tend to become brittle and shatter with age. If you do have leaks in your bellows, they will almost always be along the folding edges, specifically the points. All of that opening and closing causes these points to become weak and thin, and little pinpoint holes form.
 If you ever see anything that looks like this on your photos, you have leaks:
Checking for leaks is as simple as going into a darkroom and shining a flashlight inside the camera. You may have to move the flashlight around at different angles and even press against the bellows. They will show up as tiny pinpoints of light in the dark. They may looks small, but it doesn't take much to put streaks on your film.
I have tried a few different methods to repair light leaks, including small pieces of  tape, black paint, black sealant, glue, etc. The best fix aside from replacing the entire bellows is to run electrical tape along each edge of the bellows. Anything you paint on there is eventually going to crack and fall off, and using small squares of tape on each individual leak is difficult and they tend to unpeel and fall off. I did this for the first time in a motel in Kiryu, Japan when I discovered that my bellows were super leaky. It was after 8pm and there was one single department store open, and all they had was red tape. It worked, and it is good visual representation of what you need to do.
You need sticky, stretchy electrical tape. Some tape is very stiff and fabric-like and some will peel off while you are putting it on. So you want the kind of tape that you can stretch a bit. Cheaper tape seems to work best...the stuff I use was 100 yen. I bought more rolls of it last time I was in Japan. To put it on and make sure you have complete coverage, you need to cut a strip long enough to go in and out of those folds, and you press outward from the inside with your fingers as you apply the tape. You will be pushing so that the edge is actually straight with no folds. Apply the tape down the line and then pinch it into the folds and creases. One nice thing about doing this is that you can close your camera if you want. I recommend opening and closing it a few times after tape application to encourage sticking. Obviously, black tape makes more sense if you have it...
I've never had to replace tape once it is on. Relatively easy fix if you don't want to hassle with replacing the bellows, and it can be done in the field.
Also, those plastic front masks:
On the 180/190/195, they can become very brittle as well, and crack. So if you want to save yours, don't use it! I know, it kind of defeats the purpose of protecting your camera when it is not on the camera, but what do you really have to protect your camera from when it is on a shelf? Dust will get on and in your camera regardless of this cover, and once gone it is really difficult to find an original replacement.The auto folders are pretty common, and the plastic is thinner and more flexible, so using them isn't really a problem, though I find that the camera is less awkward to use without the cover on.
Other than that, there isn't much to caring for your actual camera.
If you have shutter problems, first check that the cable is connecting. When you push the red button, it just pushes a wire into the back of the shutter mechanism, pushing up on a plastic piece that fires the shutter. Sometimes the little silver plate is loose and isn't holding the cable in place. Easy check before you start worrying about the actual shutter.
If it is a mechanical problem inside the camera, it is really difficult for an amateur to fix on the manual cameras. I know, I have tried without success.
It's a bit of a nightmare, though I do have a pretty good understanding of how the lens works now after messing around with one for six hours. But really difficult to fix. I'm sure there is someone out there who will repair them, but at what cost? If you are using an automatic folder, they are for the most part easier to replace than repair. And cheap plastic hard body cameras should only cost $5 to $10 so just throw one away and buy another. The are mostly impossible to fix.
So, be nice to your camera. That's the best daily care advice I can give. Sure, you can always buy another for most cameras, but you will probably learn to love the one you have and not want to give it up.
As for your Polaroid film, try to store the unused packs in a dry, cool place. I put mine in ziplock bags and keep them in the fridge. The ziplocks are used because there is a lot of moisture in the fridge and your packs will rust if given the chance. But open dry air will probably make the developed dry out, as well. So you want to try to maintain them "as is".
Nothing is sure fire in keeping Polaroids from expiring, but they will last much longer if stored in a cold place. I have Type 669 from 1989 that works beautifully...
...and I have Type 669 from 1998 that is developed totally blue and mottled.
So all you can really do is try and hope for the best. I have film that I have in the fridge that is most definitely getting worse, and other film that still shoots like new. It's a bit of a crap shoot. It will all be old soon, and eventually there won't be any working peel-apart film (and Fuji won't be making the stuff much longer, I'm guessing). Protect what you have!
Okay, so some tips for shooting on the field. One of the main questions I get about peel-apart film is how to carry them, particularly after they have been peeled. It's a moot point with integral as they are self-contained, though the Impossible films are very quirky in their own ways, and plenty of shooting tips can be found on the Impossible Project website. Peel-apart, or pack film, is a bit messier. First thing, get yourself a couple plastic bento boxes.
I got this idea from Skorj, who used them to keep his Type 665 in water in the field. I find that they are good for all pack film Polaroids. Polaroids fit in them perfectly, and they are mostly airtight (though I see water bubbling from that little plastic circle on top if I am storing 665).
Where do you get these bento boxes? I bought mine at Tokyu Hands in Shibuya, and then found the exact same boxes a mile from my home in Phoenix at an Asian grocery store. Easy. Stickers are not included, but make them a little bit cooler.
For the most part, you do NOT need to peel your prints at the recommended times of 30 to 90 seconds. Most peel-apart films are self terminating (meaning they stop developing after a couple minutes), and can be peeled hours after shooting. They will dry out if you leave them in open air, making backwards peeling virtually impossible, though the prints will be fine. But if you keep them in a bento box, they will stay moist for six to eight hours after you shoot. Depending on what I am doing or where I am, I will often carry unpeeled prints around for half a day and then peel them when I get home or at least to my car. I actually like to leave them for at least an hour because the developer along the paper edges is much lighter and dry when you backwards peel. It will be super dark if you peel right away and smear if you touch it.
So I say most peel-apart films will last a long time unpeeled in a bento box. There are a couple films that have to be peeled sooner. Type 689 keeps developing and gets darker and darker if you don't peel it (and actually develops more until it is dry). Type 667, 672 and 664 need to be peeled within 10 minutes or so, or the negative dries to the print and is tough to peel off, and you will get mottling on your print. Fortunately, these films dry very quickly, so carrying one around for a couple minutes usually isn't a problem. Then I still use a bento box to protect them until I get home. Other than that, I don't think I've ever had a problem with any other film. Type 669, ID-UV, 690, Viva, etc., all can be peeled hours later. Fuji films, FP-100B, 100B and 3000B, last a long time as well, and you will often find that the print has separated from the negative side on its own with Fuji films.
The downside to peeling much later is if you don't trust your exposure, you might have 10 poor shots instead of one. I think of it as kind of the same as shooting with film...try to do it right the first time because you don't know what you are going to get until later. Sometimes I will peel my first print to see how I've done in a peculiar light. A baseline print is sometime needed, particularly with expired Polaroid film, as one pack can have a very different ISO than another.
Also, you want to save a bit of the extras with some films. Type 87, 667 and Fuji FP-3000B all have goop side negatives that can be scanned.
Sometimes these can be difficult to carry around until they dry, particularly in humid environments. Fuji goops seem to stay damp a long time and are much more delicate than 87 and 667. If you don't have a back seat handy to lay these out to dry, you basically have to carry them around in your hand until they dry, though I'm sure if you want to get all fancy, you could make a little holder of some kind that keeps them separate. I've heard of some people using plastic wrap, but anything that touches the goop will leave some kind of mark, and FP-3000B might even peel right off and stick to the plastic wrap. So some patience is required. I have stacks of goop side prints, so it's completely doable.
The other part you might want to save is the negative for Fuji FP-100B and FP-100C (and the 45 versions as well), which can be cleared with bleach for scanning.
These aren't particular delicate and I usually just throw them on the floor of my car until they dry (wet side up, of course). Though you can usually wait to peel them until later, as mentioned above.
Those are my basic shooting tips. I don't use a light meter, but with expired films you may find it to be useless anyway. Sometimes the ISO is super slow with older films. Experimentation and experience help exposure. I have for a long time used an ND filter on my 190 and 195. These were made by Polaroid and can be found on eBay. I paid 11 bucks for one of them, so don't pay $150 like some are asking. There are also Polaroid made UV and orange filters, as well as a hood, for the 180/190/195. There are also some filters out there for the auto folders, though I don't have much experience with them. The cheaper plastic cameras shoot as is.
More recently, someone has made a filter adaptor for the 180/190/195, allowing you to use 46mm filters on your manual cameras, which opens up a new world of filtering for your peel-aparts. I've done a bit of messing around with warming filters, but more on that in another post.
That's all I can really think of right now. If you have any specific questions that haven't been answered here or in other posts, ask below and I will try to answer or provide links. Here are some links to previous Polaroid posts that I have done that may help:

Polaroid peel-apart examples
Polaroid peel-apart guide
Polaroid peel-apart guide part 2
Polaroid integral guide
Polaroid manual camera guide

Hope this was useful! Until next time...