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Thursday, May 28

How to intensify a negative

This is an interesting article reblogged with the kind permission of my friend Andrew Sanderson. There are a few different ways of intensifying a thin negative to improve it but Andrew has chosen to speak about thiocarbamide toning in this case.

Andrew is an Ilford Master Printer so really knows his stuff. He writes about photography and techniques at his blog, The Web Darkroom, so please feel encouraged to pay it a visit and leave a comment if you do.

By Andrew Sanderson

We try our best as film photographers to get a correct exposure every time but occasionally there are times when we inadvertently cock it up. It may be because we have forgotten to add extra exposure for bellows extension or a filter factor or the fact that long exposures need a calculation for reciprocity failure.

Sometimes light meters may be set to the wrong ISO/ASA. Then of course there might be a problem in processing with temperature drop, out of date chemicals or just bad luck. Whatever the reason, we have a thin neg and it is a problem to get the tones that we require in the print.

Boots give B&W film a kick

OK, it's not a sign that film is making a roaring comeback but news that UK high street chemist, Boots, is increasing the range of Ilford black and white film it stocks can only be welcomed. And it's not just 35mm either as you'll find some rolls of 120 on the shelves this summer as well.

Ilford revealed yesterday that Boots have recognised there's a gap in the market for film and an opportunity to support the increasing number of their customers who are asking for black and white film.

Recent features by the Financial Times and GQ magazine and on the BBC Magazine website have backed up the ILFORD PHOTO 2014 Film Survey that confirmed support for traditional black and white film photography is growing.

Ilford said Boots have always considered photography to be an important part of the business, from the early days of the small corner shop chemist offering film sales and processing, to the modern large-scale in-house digital photographic labs today.

At present, Boots stocks 35mm HP5 Plus and XP2 Super, both 36-exposure, but from this month will be adding FP4 Plus in 36-exposure rolls and HP5 Plus in 120. They'll also be selling the HP5 Plus single use camera.

Boots buying manager, Amie Klapsia, said, “We have seen increasing demand for black and white film and the range we have will help photographers of all abilities take stunning photos. Helping customers create something wonderful with their photos is important to us, whether it be with a frame, photobook or other personalised accessory.

"However, ensuring our customers have the best products to capture memories with is equally important. Getting the right film is the first step in taking a beautiful photo, which is precisely why we feel passionately about having a brilliant range of film at Boots.”

All four film items will be available in a “Buy two get the cheapest half price” offer that ends 21 July 2015. These items will also be available on-line from where, if ordered by 6pm, they can be collected from a choice of 2300 stores next day, excluding Northern Ireland, Scottish Highlands and Islands, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and airport stores.

Steven Brierley, sales and marketing director at HARMAN technology/ILFORD PHOTO, said, “We are delighted that Boots have strengthened their commitment to film based photography. This step makes a wider selection of ILFORD films readily available in over 450 towns and cities throughout the UK.”

Wednesday, May 27

Voigtlander Bessa RF 6x9

I've had a 1940s Voigtlander Bessa RF, a classic, rangefinder-coupled 6x9 folder, sitting on my desk for weeks awaiting some final fettling to sort out a rangefinder problem. Finally, I found some time to fix it, checked the focus with a ground glass across the film gate and was fairly confident that it was "on point", as my teenage daughter likes to say about her eyebrows. So time to try it out.

This was another local auction find that nobody seemed to want so I got it for a good price. A year or so ago I won a 35mm "Barndoors" Voigtlander Vitessa at the same auction house. Like the 105mm f3.5 Skopar of the Bessa the Vitessa came with a wonderful 50mm f2 Ultron lens. Unfortunately, both cameras share a common fault - bloody awful viewfinders.

Sunday, May 24

Size matters too much

David v Goliath. The difference in weight terms is even bigger.

My pal Phil and I have been swapping emails on the subject of hand-holdable 6x6 SLRs. Phil's recently picked up a Hasselblad 500CM and I was asking him whether it was OK without a tripod to anchor it. He's just started using it and I think is undecided on the matter.

We've been debating, as photography and camera enthusiasts are wont to do, about whether it would make more sense lightening the load and just sticking with 35mm. Phil seems to be committed to medium format but I'm blowing in the wind on the matter.

Wednesday, May 20

Sharpness you never knew existed?

One of the nicest things about a long soak in the bath is that it forces me to put aside all electronic devices for an hour or so. Normally, I have an iPad almost permanently attached to my right hand - it's without doubt the best value item I've ever bought in terms of a cost-usage ratio.

Some (fool)hardy souls actually take their phones or tablets with them when they're having a bath. But just try having anything done under warranty if there's ANY sign of water ingress, even if it's just condensation that's made it into the case via capillary action. Being the cautious type, I always go for a book or magazine and enjoy turning real, actual pages again - something that I hardly ever do nowadays.

With a stock of old photo magazines, there's always the chance that I'll come across something that will make an interesting post for the blog - and so it proved tonight. It was a 1980 copy of Practical Photography that I was reading and towards the back of the mag was an article entitled Enlarging Lenses Revealed: How to Find Sharpness You Never Knew Existed. A total of 16 lenses were tested including a camera lens and a couple of old British optics from the post-Jurassic period.

Sharpness I never knew existed? Well, that's a pretty impressive promise so I eagerly devoured the contents. I can't say the article lived up to the hype but there were a few wee nuggets in there that made it worthwhile.

Monday, May 18

Pimp my Leica

Speaking through emails to TOD contributor David M. we chuckled a little about the propensity of some Leica owners to treat their cameras as the hobby rather than photography itself. David had earlier pointed me in the direction of the PetaPixel website where there was a post about a new Leica TAAB.

If you're a Brit of a certain age you might be excused for thinking this must be a new brand of cigarettes straight from a production line at Solms in Germany. But no, it's a piece of fancy rubber that slips round your lens and is supposed to make focusing easier (this is manual focusing we're talking about here).

The TAAB focusing ring

I suppose it could be seen as some sort of homage to the well-known and genuinely useful focusing tabs found on some Leica lenses which many users say make focusing somewhat simpler for lenses that can, after all, be quite small.

The "tab" is a small protruding piece of brass or aluminium that is shaped in such a way that it makes a comfy resting place for a forefinger. The lens is then capable of being focused by the aforementioned single digit. Once you get used to it, it's also possible to work out with a fair degree of accuracy just what distance you've focused on by remembering the 12 o'clock, 6 o'clock, etc positions.

Anyway, on to the TAAB on PetaPixel. I'm the last one to knock private enterprise but I had to wonder about the efficacy of this neoprene band idea. Then I looked at the comments and found that there were a lot of people thinking just like me.

The real deal on a 35mm Summaron f2.8

The Leica lenses with tabs focus from their nearest distance to infinity with a short throw of the focusing ring so the tab doesn't move too much. On some other lenses such as Zeiss, the rotation from near to far is considerably longer and you'd then find that single digit having to perform some contortions as it pushes the TAAB around, up, over and down the other side of the lens barrel. As one PetaPixel commentator said, "Nice, pointless device."

I had to have a look on the PetaPixel site to see if there was anything else for the Leica pimps. There seemed to be quite a few products that might well appeal to certain owners. How about a nice Lomo lens for your Leica? You remember the crappy lenses that are found in the just as crappy Lomo cameras, the kind we'd give to our kids back in the film days because we didn't want them breaking something valuable? Well, you can get one of those custom made to fit your Leica. That'll by $349, sir. It looks like this:

Lomo lens. Cool? Possibly, but still crap.

Leica pimping is quite a wee cottage industry with everything from soft buttons for the shutter release to very expensive Italian leather cases which, in some instances, can cost more to buy than the old screw mount Leicas they're supposed to be protecting. Still, it's all good, clean fun.

Whilst browsing the PetaPixel site, I also stumbled across a post that made me glad I no longer bother with digital - assuming, of course, that I'd won the lottery and was in the market. It seems Leica has discovered a bug that can affect owners of the new £5750 Monochrom Typ 246 that is due to go on sale this month. The camera's DNG raw files seem to have an incompatibility issue with Apple's new Photos app. According to PetaPixel, it's not just that the files can't be opened. They said, "...the files could corrupt your library and cause you to lose your entire photo collection."

And that includes all other photos taken with cameras other than the Leica. Can you imagine the mixed feelings if your new pride and joy, costing just shy of £6000, wiped out 25 years work? Unlikely, maybe, but it's a possibility. Bloody hell, that would be like your house burning down and all your negatives going up in smoke!

Friday, May 15

The LEICA Diaries - Part Ten

And just when it had all been going so well...

Leica is famous for its red dot logo but perhaps I should be paying more attention to two much smaller red dots that feature on the classic M bodies. I'm talking about the dots on the rewind knob that spin round to confirm that the film is winding on properly...

Wednesday, May 13

35mm, 6x6 and 5x4 - Key Aspects of Photography

Do you choose your format or does your camera do it for you? That might seem like a daft question but when you think about it, if you just have to have a film Leica, then you're stuck with 35mm. If a 1960s Rolleiflex 2.8F is your dream machine then (provided it hasn't been adapted for 6x4.5 or 35mm) you're going to be shooting squares.

A comment left by David M. at this post about Adox CMS 20 got me thinking about this subject. David asked if it wouldn't be simpler, given the difficulties of achieving consistently good results using the 35mm Adox film and the efforts of some photographers to overcome its eccentricities using conventional developers rather than a special brew such as Adotech, to just switch to a larger format.

Monday, May 11

For Formula E read digital photography

As a bit of a car nut and an F1 enthusiast, I found myself watching something called Formula E on Sunday or, as I prefer to call it, Formula Sewing Machine. For the uninitiated, it's sort of F1 for electric cars.

Saturday, May 9

Analogue Archives: Kevin MacDonnell

It's been a while since I posted one of Kevin's vintage photography magazine columns. I've been having a look through the PDFs I have of them and there are still some more that I'll post in future and then add to Kevin's appreciation page in the right side bar.

In this column, Kevin is pondering the advances in camera technology in the 1980s as he considers replacing his trusty old Minolta XE-1 with something more modern. It's an X-700 that he ends up trying but is he impressed?