Las Vegas on Portra

I have brought 2 types of film Las Vegas trip. CineStill for the night and Portra 160 for the day. The big mistake, however, was that I only had 1 camera. I planned to shoot the Portra first and then switch to the more sensitive tungsten-balanced film as it gets darker. Well planed I thought and loaded up the daylight film. I shoot only a few frames on the first day on the way between venues.

I had to quickly realize that I had very limited time during the day and I would better off by shooting at night. The though the decision was made and I winded back the film and made careful notes how many frames I have gone through. I switched to CinceStill for the rest of the trip. Needless to say that I’ve put back the roll of Portra into the camera as soon as I got back home and finished not much later. But the adventures of these photos were not over yet as the Covid-19 lock-down hit before I could get back the film from the lab which delayed this post with an extra 2 months. But at the end of the day, I have got back the developed film and I was able to scan it. The rewind seemingly had no negative effect and you can now see my little collection of Las Vegas street photos shoot on Kodak Portra 160.

Las Vegas on CineStill

Ever since I have started to take photographs I was always chasing a cinematic look. In fact, this is one of the reasons I shoot film. While it is undoubtedly possible to achieve film look with digital cameras I find it easier by using film. Also, it is a lot of fun to experiment with different film stocks. Discover the characteristics of each individual film types. Under which circumstances to use one over another and what artistic effects can be achieved by abusing a particular type of film.

One of my holy grail films I desperately wanted to put my hands on is CineStill. It is a tungsten-balanced motion picture film converted to be developed in a regular C41 process and thus more accessible for still photographers. In theory, this film can provide that cinematic look in terms of color, tonality, grain as it is, in fact, an emulsion used by Hollywood. Of course, the cinematic look is a product of many other factors than the film stock such as lens, subject, lighting, but it is one of the main contributors.

For their color negative films, Cinestill Film modifies Kodak motion picture cinema film, allowing it to be developed with the C-41 process rather than the Eastman Color Negative process. Cinestill Film converts the Kodak motion picture cinema film by removing the Remjet backing, a separate Anti-halation backing used to protect the film in motion picture cameras. Due to the removal of this anti-halation backing, Cinestill Film exhibits a glowing effect on the image in areas with strong highlights.

Wikipedia

It was clear that sooner or later I was going to try CineStill, but I needed an occasion or project to justify it. Thankfully at the end of 2019, I have got the chance to visit a conference in Las Vegas (AWS re:Invent 2019). I thought it was a brilliant opportunity to try this film so I bought 2 roles from eBay. It was a week-long conference so I hoped that I was going to have some possibility to explore the city and shoot film.

My camera of choice was the Leica M2 paired with a Voigtlander color skopar 35mm f/2.5 pancake lens. I also brought with me an 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar for the extra speed. But I ended up using the 35mm lens a lot more as it was easier to carry around and the wider field of view made a lot more sense too. The f/2.5 maximum aperture was bright enough because of the high speed of the film and because the city was brightly lit by the different advertisements at all times. My biggest problem during the night was not the amount of light but the ever-changing nature of it. Images on the screens were flashing, trucks were driving around with wall-sized LED light sources mounted on them. It was such chaos that I gave up on using a light-meter. Instead, I started to rely on gut feeling and intuition. I had to gamble on my exposure.

Use CineStill 800Tungsten when photographing:

  •  tungsten/incandescent light
  • candle light
  • fluorescent light
  • mixed tungsten and fluorescent
  • mixed tungsten and limited daylight

https://cinestillfilm.com/ QA

Night shift: He was trying to diagnose/fix the broken green section on the screen on the building’s facade. It was around 4 am.

As expected halation is very evident when bright light sources are in focus. This is due to the removal of the anti-halation remjet layer. I personally find this effect very interesting and unique. For the most part, this glow gives an extra punch to the atmosphere.

strong halation around the stop hand light.

Avoid using CineStill 800Tungsten (or expect a unique look) when photographing:

  • open shade
  • cool light
  • daylight overpowering tungsten
  • heavily backlit images
  • strong window light
  • ontent including intense points of light (christmas lights, chandeliers, neon signs, bright windows)

https://cinestillfilm.com/ QA

My impressions

I have to say that this film did not disappoint me. I shot it under numerous recommended and not recommended situations and as the expected unique look was delivered in a big way. I had been caught off guard regarding the amount of halation, but I must admit I like this effect very much. It helps to smooth out the otherwise not so great bokeh of the little pancake lens. I expected more noise given the 800 ISO rating, but I was pleasantly surprised about how well the noise is controlled. The colors are fantastic and it was very easy to set the white balance on the files in Lightroom. Not sure if it has anything to do with the film though. The only situation which produced results that I did not like and/or was very hard to color correct was in open shade. Especially if people were in the frame. Skin tone reproduction in shade is not the best application for this film based on my limited experience with it. It is also #1 on the not recommended situation on the CineStill website.

All in all, it is a great film with absolutely unique characteristics. I think it is worth to try.

A roll of Velvia

I have and always had a love-hate relationship with Velvia. It is a fantastic film stock for sure. When used for fitting subjects, it delivers results like no other film. It packs an extra punch in terms of color saturation, contrast, and resolution. My only problem is that I mostly shoot portraits and if anything this is not the best use for this film. Also, I am more careful with positive films as they need to be exposed very precisely, they cost more to buy and to get developed. That is why I kept a roll of Velvia 50 in my fridge for more than 10 years. I was waiting for the right moment to load it into a camera that moment has failed to come.
I think I became overly circumstantial with my precious film stash. So I decided to use up this roll of Velvia this summer. We have planned a holiday to visit friends next to Hamburg with plenty of opportunities to take pictures. I was especially excited about the seashore. In the end, we brought home many photos most of which were digital. Around the same time, we have got a nice telephoto zoom lens for our digital camera. We were eager to test the new lens and the little roll of Velvia got pushed back on the priority list once more.
Eventually, I have finished shooting this roll even though it has taken me months biting into the autumn. Despite the traditional wisdom, I have shot a lot of portraits on it besides the well-expected landscapes. I have used it for everything and I am glad I did. Most of the photos turned out just right. To be said, I had to dial back the reds in post-processing on all portraits. In this post, I would like to share some of these randomly captured moments. If you have any thoughts about them or about using Velvia, please leave me a comment.

Zsuki

During the Christmas holiday, I have managed to find the time to develop a few rolls of film. I am very happy about it because lately, I have struggled with my developing process. I have encountered many trivial issues including the use of an exhausted developer, air bubbles and the list goes on. This time I have tried everything to get better results. I have purchased a new developer tank so I could turn it over without pouring liquids out. I have also reverted to my trusted ID-11 developer which meant that I had to wait until enough rolls had been finished to make it worth to mix the chemicals.
All in all, I am pleased with the results even though there is plenty of room for improvement. My plan is to share some of the shots during the course of 2-3 posts depending on the themes I can find. Hopefully, I can get some feedback on from you.

This first set is from a family visit where I could take some portraits of my sister Zsuki. The color pictures are depicting me on the same occasion. I was having fun taking pictures of branches and other random objects at first. These digital shoots were taken by my lovely wife. I think they complement the analog pictures nicely as they show the camera and lens I used.

I am not sure why I am drawn to photograph branches like these. They are very rarely keepers. Still, it seems to be a good idea from time to time.

Finally, here are the portraits of Zsuki. Thankfully she is very relaxed at the front of the camera which made it very easy to photograph her.

I have used my C Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 lens on my favorite f/2 setting which results in a fantastic creamy bokeh. I find it challenging to focus with this lens wide open and the bokeh starts to fall into crazy territory at f/1.5. So f/2 is my sweet spot.

As for the development, I have used 1+1 dilution for the ID-11. Developed for 10,5 minutes on 20° Celsius with agitation in every 30 seconds. The film was Ilford FP-4 Plus and I shot it at stock speed. I have expected a bit less grain from the film, but I am almost certain that this is because I have slightly underexposed and pushed too hard during post-processing.

If you see anything obviously faulty in the description of my development method please let me know in the comments.

Digital Classic, Fuji X100

What qualifies a digital camera classic?  Certainly the age, popularity and the reputation of a camera are all important factors. These all contribute to the level a camera embedded into our collective photography consciousness.  I cannot tell if the original Fuji X100 (revealed in 2010) can already be considered as a classic camera by the general public, but it is definitely on my list.

_DSF1536_b

This little gem has grabbed my attention right at the time it was announced. Such a striking retro design spiced up with a big sensor and a rangefinder like a viewfinder which actually made sense in an autofocus camera. I fell in love with it immediately and spent quite some time on the elegant Fujifilm website dedicated to this camera. The hybrid viewfinder was something quite special. To be honest, I was a bit concerned about the longevity of the little screen which jumps in an out of sight. But it was very innovative at the time and unique to this day. The lens looked interesting too. A compact 35mm equivalent lens designed for the sensor specifically. The whole package was really appealing to me. But, I am a late adapter. I like to wait until a product matures. Indeed the X100 had several issues which were mainly addressed by firmware updates. Needless to say that newer incarnation of the X100 has reportedly improved on the early weak spots of the camera such as focus speed or easy to bump dials. At the end of the day, I have picked up a Leica M2 instead. After all, many of the so appealing design clues on the X100 likely originate from the Leica M.

_DSF1490.JPG

As the years passed by, I have almost lost sight of the small camera. Of course, I was reading the news about the releases of the revised versions of it. But was no longer particularly intrigued by it.

Until recently when a colleague of mine spotted my Leica on my desk. He casually mentioned that his camera looks almost the same the one front of me. Classic cameras are great conversation starters. So, we have started to talk and soon I learned many cool things about Dominic. I knew that he grew up in the US but I had no idea that it was the neighborhood where Ansel Adams lived at the time. I knew that he is a photographer, but I did not know that he is shooting with an X100. The best part is that he is not only owning the first generation X100, but he was also kind enough to borrow me so I could take pictures with and of it for the blog.

_DSF3590_DSF3594_DSF3606

My impressions

The camera is gorgeous. It felt in the hand just like I have imagined. It is small, compact and well built. Obviously, it is not the same feel as my M2, but I have never expected it to be. Brass has been replaced with magnesium alloy which makes the little Fuji lighter. But the less weight suits the X100. It is a camera which could come with me anywhere without noticing it much. I think this is probably the point of it. A camera which looks great even special takes brilliant images and small and lite enough to carry everywhere.

Menus and button layout

I have used other digital Fuji cameras before ranging from a 10-year-old point and shoot to the XT-2. It is interesting to see how Fuji carries over design characteristics over camera generations. For example, the delete photo animation is very similar to all the cameras I have used although more and more elegant and refined with each iteration. The X100 felt like a Fuji camera immediately even so it took some time to learn it’s special quirks. The menu system is slow and (unsurprisingly) looks dated compared to newer models. But once I set up everything to my taste, I could forget about the menus. I have programmed the Fn button for ISO and the Raw button to control the built-in ND filter. The button placement needed some practice time too. The AF point selection button felt out of place at first and I have still not completely figured out all the functions of the rotating ring around the D-pad. My biggest and possibly my only real complaint is that the exposure compensation dial is way too easy to move accidentally. I had many occasions of wrong settings after getting the camera out of my bag.

The viewfinder

My favorite part, on the other hand, is the hybrid viewfinder. I love to use it in optical mode. The projected information overlay is ingenious. We may take customizable information overlay granted today but we usually find it in full electronic finders. The instant preview in the viewfinder is also something I enjoy. The little display screen slips into place right after the photo has been taken to show the captured image without the need to ever remove the eye from the viewfinder. Since the image in the electronic preview mode different from the view seen through the optics, I am always full of curiosity before I press the shutter. I excited to know how the camera would interpret the exact same view I am seeing. To be said, this experience is not for everyone. My wife does not like the fact that the lens is visible in the viewfinder. She always has been more fascinated by the image on the ground glass of a medium format SLR. A rangefinder-style optical finder does not show the depth of field. Everything is up to the imagination of the photographer, except this case the camera shows the result an instant after the actuation of the shutter.

Eva & Adele, Watermusic, 2003/04

The lens

Over the years there were several changes to the X100 cameras. The sensor and the processor have been updated many times. Autofocus and operation speed have been greatly improved throughout generations. Even the viewfinder have seen some changes. As far as I know, the only remaining constant is the lens. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. This lens is definitely noteworthy and I think it is a big part of the X100 experience. I enjoy using the aperture ring very much. Has a good feel to it and also good to look at. The leaf shutter built into the lens is very quiet and lets me sync flash with any shutter speed. Of course, the drawback of the leaf shutter is that the maximum shutter speed depends on the aperture. The more the lens is open, the lower the maximum shutter speed gets. Luckily there is a built-in ND filter in this tiny lens. This way it is possible to shoot wide open on a sunny day with mechanical shutter without any extra accessory. Because the lens is the same on any version of the X100 family the adapter lenses are compatible with all of them. Did I mention how small this lens is? It is very comparable with my Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f/2.5 pancake lens in size. I have always been a fan of pancakes despite the optical tradeoffs they need make for the sake of small size. In fact, the Fujinon 23mm f/2 is also not flawless. It could get a little soft wide open and it shows slight distortion as well as a moderate amount of vignetting. The latter two can be easily corrected in post-processing or in camera on later models.

Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 is massive compare to the built in 23mm f/2 lens built into the X100.

Bokeh

Bokeh is, of course, a very subjective quality. Personally, I find the bokeh of the lens mounted on the X100 alright. Not amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but pretty decent considering that it is a wide pancake lens with only a moderately fast f/2 maximum aperture. I have tried to compare it against my own 23mm f/1.4 Fujinon lens. You can find a comparison below. In the first example, the XF 23mm f/1.4 produces the smoother result in my eyes on f/2 but the difference is not very big.

If the background is further away it is even harder to tell the difference. Could you tell from this second example which photo was taken with which lens?

The XF 23mm f/1.4 is a sharper lens and it can open up more. At f/1.4 there is no competition anymore with the lens on the X100, but it is worth to notice the size and the price difference.

Samples

I have used the camera in as many situations as I could to gain experience with it and collect sample shoots. The following photos were taken during family weekends, walks in lunch breaks and I have even experimented with table-top camera photos with flash and softbox. Post-processing of the pictures varies from slight adjustments to heavy color grading to show what kind of results can be achieved with different approaches. I know that my little portfolio is far from a comprehensive demonstration, but I hope that it gives an idea and some of you will find it interesting.

More Leica M2 comparisons

I just cannot have enough comparison shots of these cameras. They are so similar yet very different.

I have even recreated one of my early Leica shoots with the X100. Originally I use the Leica M2 and it was about 4 years ago. This is a terrible comparison as the installation has changed. No plastic wrap on the metal frame anymore, but we have got an extra cactus. To make matters worse, I have probably taken the first photo with a 50mm lens. Just like the cameras, the photos are similar in some ways, but they are also very much different.

Klasse Tobias Rehberger. More information about this sculpture here.

Final thoughts

Do I like the Fujifilm X100 classic? Yes, I like it very much. It is light and small, good looking and at the same time very capable. But most importantly it provides a unique user experience. I love the viewfinder, the leaf shutter, the ND filter, the dials, the design and last but not least the photos I get out of it. A camera is more than the sum of its component and in this case, I can confirm that there is a character to it. Why haven’t I bought one if I like it so much? I have got some unique cameras already. My heart is still at the film side of the photographic spectrum when I want to enjoy myself taking pictures. That is why I have a Leica M2. For my choice for a digital camera had to be more practical with interchangeable lenses. But it is a Fujifilm camera and it was the original X100 which planted the idea to consider this route at the first place. Would I recommend it? I would definitely recommend the lineup. Perhaps a later model is a better choice with more mature AF system and a newer sensor. But I find the X100 classic perfectly usable today. Just make sure that the firmware is up to date.


Thank you Dominic to borrow me your camera and make this post possible.

If you have wondered, the map on the first picture is strange because it is a World Atlas from 1930. I have found this map in the paper garbage and found it fabulous for backgrounds. The inner side of the cover has the golden pattern which you can see on most of the pictures about the camera.

Sony E 35mm f/1.8 OSS vs Fujifilm FUJINON XF 35mm F2 R WR

In this post I compare the Sony 35mm F/1.8 OSS with the Fuji 35mm F/2 WR lens. Both lenses are for APS-C mirrorless system cameras, they feature the same focal length, virtually the same maximum aperture and they come for a comparable price. There are of course numerous differences to talk about. The Sony has image stabilization while the Fuji offers some level of weather resistance. But the biggest difference is of course lies on the camera system they respectively belong to.

I think it is a good idea to have a deep look into the lens lineup of any system before committing to one. Since I have currently both lenses in my household, I decided to compare them to help those who are considering these systems.

Flawed methodology

It is important to note that despite all my efforts this comparison is inherently flawed.

On Sony side I can use an ancient 16MP Sony Nex 6. While I mount the Fuji lens to the more recent 24MP Fuji XT-2. The resolution difference makes it hard to compare the images side by side at 100%. This could be a slight advantage for the Sony lens because it needs to resolve a bit lower resolution image.

On the flip side the Fuji clearly benefits from the newer generation sensor technology and image processor and of course from the lack of the anti-aliasing filter.

A more even playing field would be if I would be able to use a Sony Alpha 6300 for the comparison, but unfortunately, I don’t have that camera in my bag.

But of course, resolving power is only one parameter of a lens. Contrast, distortion control, flare resistance, bokeh and overall user experience can be compared good despite the differences of the cameras.
Because of a completely scientific comparison was not possible I have not attempted to execute one. I have not shot test charts and brick walls, but I have tried to measure them up against each other in situations in which I normally use these lenses. I also gathered quite some personal user experience with these lenses and thus I can share that as well.


Build and handing 

The Sony lens is very minimalistic in design. It is basically an almost perfect cylinder with very little variations in diameter. There are no external controls on the lens, apart from the focus ring.

The lens is metal (probably aluminum) from the outside, but it is likely to be plastic from the inside. This combination of materials makes the lens very lightweight (154g) and adequate in terms of quality feel. This is indeed a very compact and lightweight little lens despite the relatively big maximum aperture and image stabilization. The compact size and the fast aperture made this lens our primary lens on the Sony Nex 6 over 4 years now.

Both the rear and the front lens caps worn off or broke during this period under moderate family use. I am not very concerned about this as caps can be easily replaced, but it is a bit unfortunate. (The same happened with caps of the 50mm f/1.8 lens as well).

The included lens hood is a petal shaped plastic piece which does its job, but we just stopped using it as it adds to the size and flaring was never in our way with this lens. The filter thread is 49mm which is shared with the already mentioned 50mm f/1.8 lens.

The Fuji lens has a more traditional look with multiple different levels of diameters reducing towards the end. It has a physical aperture ring as well as the focus ring. Because the lens is weather resistant, it has a small rubber gasket at the mount. This lens is also made of metal and it is just as compact as the Sony. It weighs a tiny bit more (154g Sony vs 170g Fuji). Because of this small weight difference and probably because of the tighter and better sealed focus ring the Fuji lens feels more solid to me. The lens caps feel better made as well although I cannot tell yet if they will hold better on the long run.

There is a small screw in plastic lens hood included which I also rarely use, and a nicer looking but pricey metal hood is available separately. The filter thread is 43mm.

Lens mounts 

This has nothing to do with these 2 lenses, but I could not notice the similarities between the lens mounts when taking the pictures about these lenses. I have done a quick research and from the specifications point of view these mounts are very similar indeed. There is a minimal difference in diameter and flange distance. They both have 10 electronic connectors and a similar bayonet with the biggest difference in the angle of the configuration. Even the position of the screws at the back of the lenses are very similar. I am sure that the way the communication between camera and lens is implemented quite differently. It is just an interesting observation which leaves me wondering about a world where these systems are compatible just like in the M43 system and I could test both on the same camera.  

Maker Mount Flange focal distance (mm) Outer diameter (mm) Frame size (mm)
Sony E-mount 18 46.1 35.9×24.0, 23.6×15.6
Fujifilm X-mount 17.7 44 23.6×15.6

Source: Wikipedia

Focus

Both lenses feature an internal focusing mechanism, they don’t extend while focusing. Both lenses are virtually silent when focusing, no noise will be picked up by the internal mic of the camera.

I cannot compare focus speed of the lenses because of the very different camera bodies, but I can give generic observations.

The Sony 35mm one of the first lens which could utilize the phase detect autofocus of the Nex 6 and newer cameras with the stock firmware already. This lens focuses the fastest from our 3 Sony lenses among the 18-55 KIT zoom and the extremely sluggish 50mm f/1.8. It is not a speed demon by any means, but it is alright in good light. Note that running kids will give a hard time for the lens when paired with the Nex 6 or older cameras. I expect to have significantly better performance on a 6300 though.

The Fuji 35mm f/2 have no issues track running kids with high hit rate on the XT-2. I suspect that the result would be a lot worse on an X-Pro1 as focusing is not only depending on the lens. All in all, I am quite happy to use this lens with area tracking mode while the Sony (on my current body) is limited to center focus point and single shoot

Specialties

The Sony lens features optical steady shoot. I can confirm it working by sticking my ear to the lens while half pressing the shutter. It is quite nice when shooting video, but for stills I see little benefit for a 35mm lens.

The Fujinon lens is weather sealed which means it can take some splashes and probably light rain when paired with a similarly sealed body. I have used the lens in heavy snow fall and in some very light rain but honestly, I am trying not to rely on the weather sealing. It is always a slippery territory to judge what is still considered as a light rain. I take it as the lens would be not sealed at all and enjoy the better feel of the built.

Optical design

SONY E 35MM F/1.8 OS FUJIFILM FUJINON XF 35MM F2 R WR
Focal length F=35mm (35mm format equivalent: of 52.5 mm) f=35mm (35mm format equivalent: 53mm)
Angle of view 44° 44.2°
Max. Aperture F/1.8 F/2
Lens configuration 8 elements 6 groups (includes two aspherical and an Extra-low Dispersion element) 9 elements 6 groups (includes two aspherical elements)

The Sony lens has a very unusual concave front element with a surprisingly small diameter. It is hard to believe that it is a f/1.8 lens, but it checks out. The light gathered and the bokeh is both confirming the large aperture.

Wide open

For me, the wide open or close to wide open performance is the most interesting.  I expect good performance from any modern lens when stopped down to f/5.6 and not surprisingly these lenses are delivering excellent results on smaller apertures. On the other hand, wide open is where the character of a lens shows up. The depth of field is the smallest and the bokeh is the most prevalent especially when the subject is close to the camera. But also, this is the point where aberrations are the hardest to be kept under control.

In general, the Sony is a bit soft wide open and shows an average amount of chromatic aberration. Things get already better at f/2 and even more so from f/2.2.

Sony 35mm f/1.8 @f/2

Fuji 35mm f/2 @f/2

I have not much to complain about the Fuji lens.  Images are looking great even at the widest aperture. There is no noticeable softness, coma or other nasty things, and I had to work hard to find situation extreme enough to be able to produce color fringing.

I had no problems with distortion or vignetting with any of these lenses, but I rarely shoot subjects where it would be a problem anyways. Note that according to some sources the Fuji uses in camera magic to correct these issues while the Sony lens does not require such methods.

The right side with the bigger image is from the higher megapixel Fuji camera. Notice the difference of purple fringing at the contour of the face.

It seems that the Fuji also suffered from CA at the edges, but software helped out and desecrated the problematic part thus we can see a dark line at the contour of my shoulder. The Sony just left the lovely psychedelic color mix in place.

Bokeh

The amount and quality of background blur is very comparable of these lenses. The Sony is tiny bit smoother when shoot wide open but on matching apertures the amount of blur is basically the same.

The Fuji has a bit swirl effect if the background allows it to show up which gives some character to the lens.

Sony 35mm f/1.8 @f/1.8

Sony 35mm f/1.8 @f/2

Fuji 35mm f/2 @f/2

Perhaps the biggest difference in terms of bokeh between these two lenses is the amount of color fringing rendered in the out of focus areas. The Fuji have almost no visible color artifacts in the blurred area behind the plane of focus. In contrast the Sony shows some green and purple outlines around bokeh balls when photographing scenes with foliage in the background. Again, the difference is not very big, and I have no way to tell that it is the result of clever software or superior optical design, but this type of aberrations are harder to correct seamlessly with software.

Fuji on the left, Sony on the right

Conclusion and recommendations

Overall both lenses are quite capable, but I find the Fujinon more consistent. While the Sony creates great results for the most part there are occasions when the image falls apart when shoot at f/1.8. It might be due to focusing issues which are not so uncommon with older Nex cameras or because of the many knocks this little lens received during the years.  This is just my observation based on the very small sample size of 1. There is already less of a difference if I consider the Sony as an f/2 lens. It is probably not the highest priority for Fuji to be faster than f/2 in this case as there is an f/1.4 version available for the same focal length.
Both lenses are quite nice, I can recommend both while mentioning some strength and weaknesses.

For still shooters I would recommend the Fujinon because it performs better wide open with less CA and if f/2 would not be enough there is always the f/1.4 version to switch to.

For video shooters the Sony is clearly the better option because of the image stabilization and on video resolutions the softness wide open might not an issue.

If you already committed to one of these systems and want to get a nice 35mm lens these lenses would be on top of my list. The differences of these 2 lenses would not justify the system switch to me in any direction. On Sony side there is a slower Sigma and a pricier Zeiss alternative, while on the Fuji lineup there is the faster, but bulkier and louder f/1.4 version and the same Zeiss Touit as the E mount version.

Samples Sony

Samples Fuji

Zenit 3M Reloaded

Last time when I wrote about my Zenit 3M, I could not show any sample photos as the shutter was very slow and ran uneven. It was the case only until I have found a neat little article Zenit E: Shutter Curtain Repairs with repair tips. I noted the risks stated in the article, but eventually I decided to engage some screw tightening in hope of bringing the camera back to service. Thankfully the Zenit E on which the tutorial was based on is very similar to my older Zenit 3M, and so the important screws are located exactly at the same spot. I grabbed a screw driver and after 15 minutes of careful tinkering the shutter was good as new. All speeds became distinct and I have not noticed any more the uneven operation. I had no idea if the speeds very accurate, but considering what I had before, it was a definitive improvement.

The next step was to load some film, attach a stylish neck strap and take the camera with me everywhere for a while. Because the camera was with me for a longer time, I had a chance to take some photos of it in all it’s glory in different environments.

I have to say that shooting with the Zenit is a lot of fun, but at the very least a special experience. Operation is very minimalistic, I have hard time to imagine more stripped down SLR experience. The mirror does not return automatically after firing the shutter. When the shutter is not cocked, the viewfinder is dark, only when film is advanced the mirror is being lowered. Only when the mirror reached it’s position the full image is projected to the screen. Speaking of viewfinder, it is simply a ground glass with round edges and no additional information presented. My finder has a light orange tint and the world simply looks like if I were watching  an 80’s movie through it. The unique image in the finder is perfectly complementing the retro look of this camera which combined with the simplistic operation is what makes the experience appealing to me.

Zenit 3M finder
Zenit 3M finder

First I have shoot a roll of badly expired Kodak Gold 100 and I have left my light meter at home to thrown in some more variables into the mix. Despite all the odds, the first roll came out just fine. Swirly bokeh from the cult classic first generation Helios 44, plenty of noise and shifted colors from the expired film, but no issues with exposure.

Next I loaded a fresh roll of Ilford HP5 Plus and I taken the camera to a trip to the mountains. The camera worked fine for the most part. But the temperature started to drop as we hiked higher. At the end the camera was really cold and the shutter sounded like it has started to struggle again. I guess my fix was not flawless after all.

I (over) developed the film in Rodinal and again it came out with flaws which was due to my errors and not because of the shutter except the very last frames where the shutter got “frozen”.

Nowadays, I am experimenting more with the Helios 44 lens on digital bodies, but it is good to know that I can mount this really lovely lens to it’s native camera. The Zenit will come in handy because my desire for old school SLR experience is proven to be recurring.

At the end of this post, I have to place here a warning. Repairing cameras are always risky, one may damage the camera and film could be also lost if repair is not successful. Please be careful and let your gear serviced by experts unless you are really know your way. In any ways always watch out for the risks.

Irish Streets

I have been planning to write about my adventures in Dublin and Galway a long time ago. It was a short business trip in 2015 for only 2 weeks but I could fit in some time to explore and of course to take photographs. I wanted to write a bigger post initially because of the great experiences I had in Ireland.  Since I have not managed to put my thoughts together in the last two years, I have decided to take a more simplistic approach and let the photos talk instead of me.

I have used my beloved Leica M2 with my Sonnar 50mm ZM lens loaded with Fuji Superia Xtra 400. All the film was developed and scanned by the excellent John Gunn Camera Shop.

Music on the streets of Dublin was everywhere. I was quite impressed by the diversity and the quality of the music I heard there. It is a vivid city with many faces and to me, street musicians are definitely contributing to the charm and charter of the place.


But things were about to change in regards to the regulation of street music. Don’t know what was exactly on a stake or what the result turned to be. But at the time I was visiting Dublin, large groups were coming together, playing music and peacefully protesting against the planned changes.

I have also taken a couple of candid shots. Partly because I am really bad at this type of photography yet I needed to experiment with it. After all, I was caring a camera which was built for the task.

At the end of the day, I have returned my method of asking people if I could photograph them. I am much more comfortable with this approach. At least I have fewer issues with framing and composition when I can use the viewfinder.

People were generally very friendly and talkative with me. I was very much surprised about the number of positive reactions of people I asked to take a portrait of them. In addition to that, I myself received a lot of attention. Random people started to talk to me about equally random things ranging from the weather to the funny aerobic class across the street while we were waiting for the green light at a zebra.

I was also trying to capture little details of everyday life like this little dog who might be waiting for his owner at the entrance of a pub in Galway. All in all, I really had a great time even if it was very limited. I had a lot of good experiences, met many lovely people and I have taken an unusually high amount of photos on this trip which is a statement of itself. Someday I will go back with my family for some more exploration with properly dedicated time.

Crazy to shoot film?

For a long time ago, I am trying really hard to identify and find the proper way formulate the reasons why I am pursuing film photography. My opinion has changed during the years quite drastically and I went through many stages. If I want to be honest I have started up because it was the only way I could afford to go with bigger “sensor” sizes and thus achieve bokeh.

Piano, Leica M2, Summitar 50mm, Ilford FP4 Plus, Epson V700

Later I turned towards the typically listed reasons such as slowing down, being more disciplined and make every frame count. I was also and to some extent still is a big believer of the film look and the superiority of quality of film over digital. But as digital technology as well as the corresponding software environment matured I have had harder and harder time convince myself that these arguments stand if they are closely inspected.

The film look can be emulated so good that I have hard time to tell the difference between some of my own experimental film filtered digital and actual film photo pairs. The quality argument in strictly technical terms has melted away to me unless one uses really big formats. Even worse there are plentiful situations where digital is unquestionably excels for examples when extreme high sensitivity is needed.

One can be disciplined with a digital camera in hand as well. A memory card with just little space on it can simulate the limiting factor of roll sizes, and nothing stops us not to look at the screen every time the shutter was released.

I was really questioning all the effort, time and money I have put into equipment, film, darkroom material and  software into film photography. Should I keep doing this or it would be the best to write off all the losses and switch completely to digital once and for all? I had to let this question sit on a hidden shelf for quite some time somewhere in my mind. I think I have my  answer now and I am eager to share. Maybe I am not alone with my reasons.

Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Fuji Acros 100 expired, Ilford ID-11, Epson V700

The answer is not quite straight forward. It is an evil mixture of deep psychological hooks on my personality spiced up with a good amount of nostalgia and a tiny bit of snobbism. The trivial part is that I enjoy to handle nice, well made vintage cameras and lenses. They are built to last and most of them even have quite a bit of a history. I think I also have an anti-consumerist side which grasps for the concept of a simpler world where one does not feel the need to change camera body and even brand every second year. I adore my carefully selected gear and I am now very reluctant to change it for the next big thing from the universe of gadgets.

The not so trivial part starts with the limitation factor on choices. If I use a certain type of film, I can technically do countless things with it especially because I use a hybrid workflow which involves digital processing. But a digital raw file with a library of Lightroom filters in hand is just a bigger set of infinite. This could lead to paralysis via choices. Here is a brilliant Ted talk by Barry Schwartz about this topic. I need to accept the inherited characteristics of the material rather than trying to define it. I am very happy with the aesthetics I get from my favorite film stocks, but I have hard time to be able to decide which filter to use when I start out with a digital file.

Of course there is also the fact that to get from the decisive moment to a print or even to a digital file, there is a lot of work involved. Prepare, shoot, make notes, develop,make notes again, scan, process digitally, catalog, select in multiple rounds, archive, print, publish online. All these steps require me to be fully present and put myself into the process. Every stage involves different skills, a lot patience and of course anything could go wrong at any given time especially with the chemicals. Because of this long and delicate process I learn to care more about the photos. Eventually I program myself to like the end results because I have to wait (sometimes months long) to get to see them. 

Showroom puppet after work, Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Fuji Acros 100 expired, Ilford ID-11, Epson V700

Each and every shoot which survives my process is special for me even though they are not perfect. They have personality and I remember them all. I could mostly tell what film and camera I used even without checking the notes. They reflect a stage on my self-seeking journey, a snapshot of the way I approached a subject and the process at a given point in time. All of these factors together shape the reason why I stick to film.

Systers, Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Fuji Acros 100 expired, Ilford ID-11, Epson V700

Of course there are numerous things which I don’t necessarily like about film. While I enjoy working in the darkroom, I am not very happy to get in contact with dangerous chemicals.  Working with old equipment means that occasionally they give up, leaving you with nothing but bitter disappointment instead of nice photographs. 

Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Fuji Acros 100 expired, Ilford ID-11, Epson V700

This is a high risk high reward game I seem to enjoy. I would certainly think different if I would practice photography for living and not only for fun. In any case, I stop struggling for finding better answers for now. There are still many reasons I have not listed now like working with tactile physical materials or the element of surprise as the process cannot be fully controlled. But I know enough to let this question go and I will keep focusing on the actual act of shooting film rather than analyzing the motivations behind.