To follow up the previous post where the focus was on the retro stylish look of the Yashica TL Super, here are some of the shoots out the roll which was in the very same camera. All of these photos have been taken during our last visit to Hungary in the middle of October. The film is Fuji Superia 400, which is lately my choice of color negative film due to it’s versatility and because I had quite a few rolls of it left from my Irish trip from last year. This film works great for me in almost all circumstances from low light situations (when combined with fast glass) to sunny daylight. This time I had mostly enough though not plenty of light as the weather was generally overcast. But the colors of the autumn are well retained and the scattered light helped with the portraits.
I used a single lens, my big favorite the Pancolar 80mm for the entire roll. I try to force myself to carry only one lens at the time. This helps me learn the quirks of the given setup by focusing on it for a longer period. Also if I have only one lens available I need to solve every situation with it which could help me leave my comfort zone and thus contribute to my creative development.
This lens has it’s caveats and sweet spots to learn as well. Others may observe these differently as many aspects of the character of a lens can be judged subjectively. I find myself shooting with the Pancolar most of the time wide open or close to it. This is where the character is mostly evident in the form of beautiful smooth bokeh when the background is right. The lens is plenty sharp in the center at least for my eyes and subjects. Stopping down to medium apertures where the depth of field is still small enough to have some background blur makes it evident that the iris is very far from circular. This case the background can be very busy which is not always desirable. In addition contrast can be too high to my taste especially for portraits.
Of course the photos from this post were not the only ones from this roll. The Yashica was with me on a family hike in the south of Austria where both the light and my subjects were different. I will publish a selection from those shoots in the next post with the hope that I can show the versatility of this film and my single lens approach.
We were on a family visit at my father a few weeks back from now. As usual we had a great food and many things to talk about. Also as usual I have spotted something in his garden. A stack of beautify worn wooden boxes many of which had navy green painting and interesting signs on their sides. I was staring them for a brief moment with my suspicious look (I practice a lot in the mirror). I was immediately considering all possible combinations and alignments of them in relation to the direction of light and possible angles of framing. I must have had a look on my face of a hardcore Stanley Kubrick when he discovers a perfect massive monolith in his fathers’s backyard after a long night watching Space Odyssey. I asked if I could use them as background for a few shoots and also about their origin and current use.
As it turned out these were military ammunition boxes originally, but now they are used to store and transport machine parts new and used alike. This meant that there were plenty of scratches, oil marks and shiny metal particles all over them which made them even more exciting to me. At this time they were all empty so I could use them how I wanted. I always have a camera with me and because my Leica was in service I was revisiting old friends from the shelf. That day my bag hosted my lovely Yashica TL Super paired with the mighty 80mm Pancolar. This lens is a sole reason why I still have an M42 mount camera and this Yashica is a great match indeed.
Anyways, I took a few shoots about the Yashica and a series about my father’s Mometta II and I thought they are worthwhile to feature them on the blog. If you would like to read my Yashica TL Super review, you can find it here. These shoots were all taken hand held with my wife’s Sony NEX 6 and I had no softbox or any reflectors with me. Luckily the weather was overcast and overall I am happy with the results. I am curious thought what will I find during the next family visit and if I should better prepare myself with a complete studio setup :-).
Since then I finished the film in the Yashica as well as from the Zenit3M I used recently. The Leica is also back now and I am looking forward to try it. In any case when the film comes back from the lab and I find some time to scan and edit, I will show the results from this kit as well.
The members of the Mometta camera family are really quite special to me. There are not so many cameras were made in Hungary at the first place, but since these are 35mm rangefinder cameras with a quite unique design it was only a matter of time until one appeared on the blog. I could get my hands on the Mometta II which is possibly the most widely available model, but it features all the main characteristics of the entire lineup. In addition to the great camera finding, there was a roll of film in the camera possible older than four decades. If you like to know what was on it, keep reading.
The first camera in the line was called Momikon (1954-1956) which name follows the same pattern of the Zeiss Ikon as the company behind the camera was called Magyar Optikai Művek (Hungarian Optical Works) MOM for short. Later the name has been changed to Mometta in 1955.
There were several variants produced in a relatively small amount of time, but the differences were not fundamental. Possibly the biggest change was in the last generation with the Mometta III whereby an interchangeable M42 mm lens mount was introduced. Production was ceased in 1962.
The goal with the design of the Momikon was to create a compact 35mm camera which can approach the ruggedness as well as the image quality represented by Leica on a much lower price point. It was targeted that the camera was somewhat affordable by an ordinary factory worker. The price of a Mometta in 1955 was 1490 Hungarian Forints and an extra 190 HUF for the ever-ready case. In contrast, the average monthly gross income at the time was around 1080 HUF. Of course, the lower price point did not come without compromises such as the fixed lens, no flash sync etc.
The camera has an adorable, in my opinion, borderline funny look. It is a little fat due to the unusual alignment of the film transfer. The film has to bend in an angle which in theory provides better film flatness in combination with the strong film pressing plate.
The image size is also quite irregular. The frame is 24x32mm as opposed to the normal 24x36mm. I could not find any information about the reasons for this design choice. I assume it has to do something with film efficiency. The 4mm per frame does not seem a lot, but it could mean that 40 frames can be made with a roll for 36 regular shoots.
It can be a problem for shooting positive film as dia frames will be impossible to find for this size.
The viewfinder is combined with the rangefinder and it is surprisingly big and bright considering the age and class of this camera. The rangefinder is less complex compared to the ones used in Leicas, but it is a very durable construction. Adjustments are supposed to be relatively simple to carry over and they are rarely required.
The ever-ready case is simply beautiful in my opinion. It is small, stylish and protects the camera very well. It even has a little pocket with a small white plastic plate in it for quick erasable notes. My only problem with it that the front part cannot be detached and so it cannot be used as a half case even though the body does not feature hooks for a neck strap. (The Mometta III has rings on the side of the camera for the strap.)
The lens is a 50mm f/3.5 Tessar type construction with an anti-reflective coating called Ymmar. The lens was calculated by Imre Újvári and it has a decent reputation. From the photos I have seen taken with it, the lens is very interesting indeed. Stopped down has enough sharpness for most scenarios while wide open in some cases it has a swirly bokeh which is beloved by many. On most versions except the very early ones, the lens barrel is quite deep and acts as a lens shade.
The lens is built into every model except the Mometta III. In this mark III version, an M42 thread mount was introduced, though the only lens I could find reference of for this camera was the Ymmar 50mm.
The film inside
I could not tell how many shots were left in the camera or if there were a film in it at all, I decided to shoot some random frames with it and then try to rewind.
It turned out that there was a roll of Fortepan 27 (17 Din/ ISO 40) black and white negative film in it. I am not sure about the age of the film, but from the design and based on the age of the camera I believe it had been loaded between the early 60’s to 70’s. In any case, this film could be at least 40 years old and no one has ever seen these photos until now.
The canister was so handsome that I tried to avoid damaging it for all costs. So, I tried to retrieve the film with a film retriever. Ultimately I have managed to get the film out without destroying the canister, but I think some light might have got into it.
As I found out, only a few shots have been taken on this role and even those got some light leak marks. But the sharpness and the crazy bokeh of the lens can be seen already from this limited sample. Also, it impresses me how well this film survived. It was exposed and kept undeveloped over decades in probably far from ideal conditions, yet they turned out relatively fine.
In addition to all that new shoots like this were also possible with this film.
Forte, by the way, was a Hungarian photochemical company manufacturing papers and film from 1922 to 2004, but unlike Film Ferrania in Italy, they have not been revived by crowdfunding and the factory looks like a post-apocalyptic site nowadays (click if you are interested).
This Mometta II was bought by my father on a flea market and for now, he keeps it for himself. Therefore I only had a very short time to play with it. It had a very slow shutter, but nothing which could not be fixed with some maintenance work, so I undoubtedly got very interested. I will definitely find a way to spend more time with this little gem and take more photos with it.
The Mometta II is not particularly expensive, but it has a higher asking price then FSU cameras due to it’s relative rarity compare to them. The shutter is not synchronized so flash photography could be an issue as well as finding dia frames because of the unusual frame size. Supply of spare parts could also be a hard, therefore repairing and maintaining them might be problematic.
But for someone like me who likes to have a small easy to use good looking (not to mention special) camera in the bag for available light photography, it is certainly an interesting option.
What would a photographer do if he would suddenly need to carry an ever moving child on his back to every location he would take photos?
Of course he would use the new situation in order to justify a new purchase of a lens for the sake of portability to compensate the extra weight he now has to carry. This is how I ended up buying a Voigtlander Color-Skopar 35mm f/2.5 pancake II. It is tiny, extra light and being a wide lens, it is slightly less prone to the shaking introduced by the little one in the carrier. The price is not too steep neither for a native M mount lens plus I have found a quite handsome copy on a local trading site. It was literally no way out of this deal and so far I am very happy with my decision. Thanks to Ben (Flickr) for selling me the lens.
One of our first trips with the new gear lead us to the Grüner See. This is a temporary lake in the mountains which is filled by the water of melding snow every year for a short period of time. As the name suggests the lake has a beautiful green color even though the water is crystal clear. The bottom of a lake is essentially a meadow with grass and rocks and ordinary objects like a bench. The lake is surrounded with forest and mountains and it is truly spectacular. At the time of our (end of April) visit the level of the water has probably not yet reached the peak.
I have loaded a roll of slightly expired Fujicolor Pro 160NS from my stash, and even finished it on the very same day. Good weather, nice location, one of my favorite film stock and a new lens to test. I think it was a perfect start for the Voigtlander. I am actively fighting my G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), so I hope that I will value this lens on a long term. So far I am quite satisfied with the images I have got with it and honestly I think that there will always be place for a small good performing 35mm lens in my bag.
Two friends with the same passion for photography, both using rangefinder cameras almost indistinguishable from the distance. The cameras are matched with fast 50mm lenses from the same brand and color.
Sounds like these photographers or at least their choice of gear is quite the same. While this statement is true to some degree, there are significant differences. In fact, there are more differences than the obvious technological dissimilarity between the capturing media used by the cameras (Ilford Delta 100 film in the Leica M2, Kodak CCD sensor in the M9).
Ramón uses a digital Leica M9 P which of course captures color information and renders in a very unique way. Many including himself claim that under ideal circumstances the CCD sensor in this camera creates much more pleasing results than other sensors used in other digital cameras with the same sensor size. This is a topic can be argued for a long time, but at the end of the day, it is his subjective view and his decision to use a rangefinder with this sensor.
At the same time, I was using a classic Leica M2 with a black and white film. Even though the output of the digital camera is also appealing, the analog workflow is still favorable to me. It is partly because I enjoy the process of creating the image in this old-fashioned way, but also I can achieve the film look what I am looking for much more naturally.
My primary lens is a Zeiss Sonnar f/1.5 which I love for many reasons but mainly because of its bokeh. Ramón has a Planar f/2 from the same ZM series, although I believe this is not his standard lens. Both lenses are fast 50mm primes, yet they are quite different. The Planar is reliably excellent lens, which can be praised for its great sharpness and generally beautiful bokeh.
The Sonnar is a bit more hectic with the potential of surprises both in positive and negative ways. This lens can be bit soft wide open, but the bokeh is just phenomenal most of the time and from f/2 sharpness is already more than enough to me. The Sonnar has a bad reputation of focus shifting which is change of the focus plane when adjusting aperture. I personally don’t have any issues focusing with this lens. We switched lenses for the day, so we could experiment and see the differences. At the end of the day we enjoyed using these lenses, they both performed well on digital sensor and on film.
Also note that we use the cameras with different style. One of us covers only 1 eye with the viewfinder and keeps the other eye free open while the other covers his entire face with the camera and thus limited with single eye framing. Naturally this difference can be explained by the magnification used on the viewfinders, but it is also hugely a personal preference.
The great similarities and the differences between the cameras and lenses made me wonder can be photographers categorized at all by the type of gear they use? I guess the answer is controversially yes and no. Surely we use the same style of camera with the same focal length. This would put us into a technical category of normal lens rangefinder shooters. But even if we would use the exact same gear we would end up different results which we would have achieved in different ways. I think the most distinguishing feature in the photography of 2 individuals is not within their camera, but behind of it.
Eszter, Leica M2 , Carl Zeiss Plannar 50mm f/2 ZM, Ilford Delta 100, Rodinal 1+50, 20°C, 8 min
As you may have noticed I have never written a post about any camera shops or labs I visited. There are many reasons behind this starting from the fact that most of them are quite uninteresting and ending with my intention to not make advertisements on the blog (apart from the ones WordPress kindly places here and there).
But today, I am here to write about a quite special shop which cannot be farther from uninteresting. As for my other rule. I guess it was just naive and idealistic. I am writing camera and lens reviews and giving out my opinion about film stocks. Why not deal with shops as well? After all we film shooters are all in the same boat, we need services which are more and more scare every day. From now If there is a place I can recommend to the community, I will share it.
Why is John Gunn Camera Shop is special?
This is a small camera shop and lab in the heart of Dublin specialized itself on film photography materials and development services. It is a family business which occupies (as far as I know) three generations of the Gunn family.
“We pride ourselves on providing our customers with top quality products and first hand access to a wealth of Photographic knowledge gathered over the last 40 years.”
I had only 2 weeks in Dublin and since I have not had a chance to travel a long time ago, I was very much inspired by the new environment. I was shooting a roll after another and I was really eager to see my photos as soon as possible. I could not wait until I get home. Normally I need to wait a week for the development and spend about 2-3 nights of scanning. Thankfully I was pointed to the right direction and I have received one of the best service I ever had with my film.
They developed and scanned my negatives within 1 day. No scratches or dust on the films whatsoever, cut to stripes nicely and the scans were wonderful. I had so much disappointment when I asked scans at various labs, mainly because of the unbelievable levels of file compression. I even wrote about my struggle some time ago: scanner crisis. But finally these scans were satisfying.
But quick and precise work would not be enough to make me write this post. What really caught me was the treatment I have received. When I made a complement to Mr John Gunn about his shop, you could really see the pride and gratitude on his and on his daughters faces. This shop really means a lot to them, that is for sure. When I left he said goodbye and added a God Bless you at the end. It was really a lovely experience.
Oh and the shop is alive. There are other film photographers coming continuously, which was really good to see. In Graz, we have nice shops, but the feeling that film is still around and very much alive cannot be witnessed that obviously.
All in all, I have visited John Gunn Camera Shop 3 times and I am glad I did. If you are in Dublin, it is a safe lab to go. I will definitely stop by if I ever have a chance again to visit the city. Their website can be found here.
It is not easy to be a tourist. Visiting popular places has the obvious disadvantage that they are already photographed from every possible angle at every possible time of the year.
So what can a photographer do who is short on time and cannot afford the luxury of deeply explore his travel location? In other words should one leave the camera at home when going to a family afternoon visiting a hipped touristic site? Some would say yes. Just enjoy the time with the family and do not break the flow with those annoying stops to stare through the viewfinder. There is no way to take new, refreshing original photos anymore. There is even a camera called Camera Restricta which checks online how many publicly available photographs have been made on a certain GPS location.
If the count exceeds a limit, the camera denies taking any more pictures. While this camera offers a really extreme solution to the issue, it certainly raises the awareness that we should approach spectacles with care. After all, no one wants to create the 10 000th identical photos about that waterfall.
In my opinion, it is absolutely possible to take outstanding photos at locations which are considered completely exhausted as photographic resources. It is challenging indeed, but challenges are there to accept and conquer them.
This is what I have tried to do lately. I was sent on a business trip to Dublin and of course, I tried to get the most out of it. Due to the packed by work nature of my travel, I had not much time for exploring, but I had a weekend and a few afternoons to work with. So I teamed up with my college and friend and picked some quite touristic places to visit. So we went to Glendalough, an extraordinary place with a beautiful mixture of nature and early medieval architecture. We had a great time and we were truly amazed by the wonders of this place, but as expected there is quite highly developed tourism involved here.
I was terrified when I realized that people were taking literally thousands of pictures just under that few hours we spent there.
But after the initial hesitation, I have started to shoot and tried to make up a set of rules I applied to make a difference.
Think with a head of a tourist
I tried to picture what is the easiest shoot one could get. This is what most people are up to. It is also a good idea to step back a little and watch what locations others choose. After I have mapped the patterns, I have picked a little bit different, harder to reach so to speak less trivial spot and angle. Many times just a few meters what you need for a significantly better shoot.
Use something special
According to a popular saying, your camera does not really matter. I agree on that a talented photographer can take stunning images with just about anything. On the other hand, a bad photograph is not any better just because it was taken with some exotic gear.
But the reality is not that all black and white. In the age of mass-produced digital cameras, smartphones and even smartphone cameras, a good old film camera can really shine out.
This is not the primary reason, why I shoot film, but it is great fun to see how much people are surprised because of the image quality and (I hope) cinematic look of my pictures.
Focus on the details
The world is full of neat little details. Many see only the big picture. Want to squeeze somehow the Eiffel Tower into the frame. But sometimes details are just more interesting. Better still often there is no indication whatsoever about their origin. Therefore it is always a good idea to have a camera in the bag no matter how touristy is the place to be visited. There is always the chance for a nice rusty road sign lurking at the next corner.
I have to admit that this photo with the fern was not taken at Glendalough but in Galway. However, this is my favorite detail photo from this roll.
People make things interesting
All humans are addicted to the look of other humans. Why not exploit this property of the mind and compose someone into the frame. It does not work at all times, but chances are that a handful of these photos will be the best ones. At least this is the case many times with me.
I am really bad at photographing people without their acknowledgment. I am not just bad at it, but also I prefer not to do it. That is why I asked these girls for this picture.
This is my quick guide for myself. I hope some of you will find it interesting. If you have something to add, or just like to comment, I would be happy to read your opinion.
At the beginning of this year, I have given away a few lenses and cameras. Among others, Paul and Dan received a camera. Miran, on the other hand, got a 135mm lens and all three of them sent me a self-portrait taken with their “new” cameras/lens.
Paul is a UK based professional photographer who has a strong focus on family photography. Check out his site, it really is lovely. He has got a Fed 3 with a 50mm lens. The camera was not fully functional, still, he has got some nice results, so we can see his mighty beard.
Dan is a teacher from Canada who is now starting again with film photography using the Practika MTL-3 camera I sent him. His self-portrait is remarkable in my opinion because he managed to frame and focus so close perfectly. His Flickr profile can be found here.
Miran is a really nice guy from Slovenia who is also a long time follower of the blog and he received a 135mm f/2.8 Pentacon lens. He has chosen another approach of taking a self-portrait using a tripod and the self-timer and pre-focusing the lens. To see Miran’s blog, follow this link.
Anyway, it was really nice to get in touch with them and actually with all of you who wrote to me. These portraits just made the whole thing a little bit more personal. It is also interesting to see that each of you used a different approach to make these photos and they are quite different in style and mood as well. But the most important for me is that it you gave a good use of the old gear.
The Jakominiplatz is one of the most important public transport centers of Graz. Tram lines meet here as well as it is the starting point of many local and medium distance bus lines. It is indeed a very busy, sometimes seemingly chaotic, ever changing colorful place. So many interesting and not to mention very different people are mixed here in this relatively small parcel of space that the Jakominiplatz is truly is a photographic goldmine. The combination of the crowd with the wide variety of heavy vehicles and infrastructure makes it an ideal location for street photography, portraiture or even abstract architectural shoots.
I am one of the daily passengers. Sometimes I pass by more than once a day and of course I always have some kind (mostly different) camera with me. It was inevitable that eventually I will end up with a nice collection of images taken here using a wide range of equipment under different light conditions and in many distinct styles.
I have captured the greenish mist of winter nights painted by the army of mercury street lamps on heavily expired film as well as using a digital pinhole camera, I have played with the strong shadows cast by the pylons and with the perspectives of the tracks in strong back-light. I have taken sneaky street photos with a digital compact and I toke some nice medium format portraits here. I find it fascinating that every time I pass by here something is different and there is always a new perspective to explore. In addition it is really fun to see how much impact the particular camera/lens has on the end result even under otherwise similar circumstances.
I think that at the end of the day I found myself in an experiment which I have not planned through or intended to do at the beginning at all. An experiment to prove that the photographer’s choice of the tool does matter even though this is not the only factor. Furthermore to show how much inspiration can be found in ordinary places which we visit every single day and therefore tend to ignore. I hope that my pictures will encourage some of you to explore your own Jakominiplatz.
Light quality is extremely important to a photographer, just like snow for an Inuit. We have countless names for the different types of light while any average people would only call them “strong” or “weak”. The amount of light we get is very easy to measure and describe. But the quality is a far more subtle, much harder to formalize concept and therefore much more interesting to me. Modern cameras can handle low light extremely well thus photography is now possible under such difficult circumstances no one could be foreseen just until a few years before. But high sensitivity sensors with great quantum efficiency and extremely sophisticated noise reduction processing cannot create great photographs just by extending the lower bound of minimum illumination necessary to capture an image. Although these new tools certainly aid the photographing process, the quality of light (among other factors) is and always will be key to a good image.
I am currently experimenting with mainly available light, trying to find situations which work for me so I can get the results I like in a somewhat predictable manner. One of my favorite spots lately is the door of our balcony. In my opinion, this location has nearly ideal light conditions for portraits during most of the day. The balcony is relatively deep, and only the front is open (sides are solid walls), then comes the big door followed by a deep room with white walls and furniture.
This setup has a similar effect to a soft-box. Light comes through in a beautiful evenly distributed, soft way, which then decays rapidly as it penetrates into the room. A subject placed close to the door can be lit very well with a strongly directional but soft light while the background is lost in darkness.
I have taken several portraits at this place using different formats (APS-C, 35mm, 6x6cm), films and digital sensors, and a small, but representative selection can be seen in this post. I think it is interesting to see next to each other similar shoots using similar focal length but with vastly different capturing technology.
The conclusion is that, no matter what your medium is, good light (and composition) could always give respectable results but technology does not save the day if the light quality is poor for the subject. But it is again another subjective property, what is poor light for a photographer for a given purpose, could be magnificent for another. Nevertheless, I think it is crucial to study light as a photographer, amateurs and professionals alike.