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  1. Bulk Loading Film

    October 4, 2018 by Daniel

    Something I’d been considering for a while (since I heard it was a thing that existed! I didn’t know about it..!) was obtaining the bits needed to make up my own film rolls.
    Now why would you want to do this?

    Well, there’s a couple of reasons as far as I can think of

    • economy – it works out cheaper(!) – My local place sells 30m of HP5 for less than £60. A rough estimate is that would give you 18 rolls of 36 exposures. The same shop charges £5 for one of those rolls, so you’re saving about a third on film costs.
    • control – it feels quite good to have yet another part of the process as something you can do yourself (like home developing).
    • custom rolls – perhaps you can’t quite see yourself taking 24 or 36 exposures of something, or you’re quite impatient having taken some pictures and wanting to see the results before you’ve found something else worthy of taking pictures of before you finish the roll, making your own rolls means you can choose the length yourself.

    So if you think you would ever need a fair few rolls of the same film. It makes sense.

    The picture above is the set I bought from eBay. The loader itself came in the box shown, now either it’s been sat on someone’s shelf for decades unsold (I can’t imagine many people are buying these now) or they are still manufactured with the same box & instructions design.

    I made a couple of mistakes loading up my first bulk roll. I hadn’t wound the film the right way around the sprocket reel on it so the first attempts I made at loading a canister stripped the sprocket holes a bit. I’m pretty sure in the process of trying to figure it out there were a couple of times I would have let light in. So we shall see how it goes. I guess I’ve kind of written off this whole bulk reel, but you never know it might produce some interesting pictures after development (and now I know how to do it for next time!)

    The other thing you will need if you want to be able to reuse canisters is one of these:


    It’s called a film picker and its to retrieve the end of the film from inside the canister after it’s been wound back in after being exposed in a camera.

    Why do you need this? Well regretfully for all my development of film so far, I’ve been opening my canister in the dark bag with a bottle opener. This does the job fine, but it means you cannot reuse the canister afterwards. You can buy plastic reusable canisters where the cap screws off. But it feels nicer to reuse existing ones – especially if you can get the ones with the correct DX coding on them so your camera picks up the ISO setting (but you can usually set this manually if it’s wrong).

    How do you use it? Well it can take a bit of practice. Here’s the magic trick.

    • Wind the film back yourself until you’ve heard it click (the end of the film has gone past the opening) repeat four times.
    • Shove the canister onto the white plastic ends of the picker. It should rest neatly on it afterwards.
    • Slide the first slider up (usually marked A or 1)
    • Wind the film back again two clicks stopping immediately after you hear the second click.
    • Slide up the other slider (B).
    • Pull the canister away from the picker with a bit of force

    After which you should have a bit of film leader poking out from the canister. You can now develop your film. Once you’ve got the film wound onto the developer reel (all in your dark bag of course) you then just leave a little bit poking out the end and snip it off. So when you bulk load onto it, you can scotch tape onto this short end the new film you’re going to load into the canister.

     

     


  2. New Adventures in Medium Format

    October 4, 2018 by Daniel

    A friend of mine, Nigel, is a professional photographer. We’ve chatted a little bit about photography – I want to pick his brain a bit more, but I’m way of ‘busman’s holiday’-type problems about asking him a million questions.

    So I was picking up my daughter who’d been round at his house (his daughter and mine are in the same class at school) and we were talking as usual about photography when we brought out his lovely Rolleiflex and asked if I wanted to borrow it for a bit to try it out. Of course, I immediately said yes!

    I’ve been looking at them a while but hadn’t really considered getting one.They are a little out of my budget, but they have this great ‘olden days’ feel to them.

    With a little bit of research I think it’s a Rolleiflex 3.5 F Model 3 (type K4F). It loads 120 format film, which I’d gotten used to a bit using in my Diana F+.

    I’d gotten frustrated with the Diana. Whilst it can take a nice picture, many things have to be in alignment. it’s not a reflex, so what you see in the viewfinder isn’t what’s actually in the frame. No lightmeter so you have to judge the exposure yourself, along with minimal apeture control, and literally only two speeds of shutter – open and shut or ‘bulb’ mode.

    So I was eager to see what the Rolleiflex could do.

     

    I’d looked at a couple of videos on youtube of how to load the film, it’s pretty simple really – just make sure you have it go through the roller at the bottom which is how the camera knows it has film loaded. Crank the winder so that the start line on the paper backing loads up with the line specified on the camera, close it up and off you go. You have to make sure the winder it wound the other way to ‘cock’ the shutter.
    rolleiflex roll 1 hp5plus 01
    I went out with my friend Rob who was keen to get some pictures taken and we had a lovely walk in South Manchester. It took a little bit of adjusting to get things lined up in the viewfinder properly. It shows things backwards so it’s a bit like doing things in a mirror.

    I found the meter pretty easy to use, it’s just a matter of trusting it. However, later on in the roll I was a little too relaxed with it and took some very underexposed indoor shots. The film was HP5 ISO400, so probably would have struggled. It’s something I want to work on a bit, perhaps I need to push it a bit to 800 or 1600, but obviously then you’re doing it for the whole roll?

    I developed the shots the next day and was overall quite pleased with the pictures.

    rolleiflex roll 1 hp5plus 04

    Nigel hasn’t asked for it back yet, so I’m wondering if I can get away with putting another roll through it…

    rolleiflex roll 1 hp5plus 02rolleiflex roll 1 hp5plus 06rolleiflex roll 1 hp5plus 07 


  3. A Scanner Darkly

    June 25, 2018 by Daniel

    Turns out you can immerse yourself in lots of tinkering on the output end of photography things. Up to know when I’ve got the scans back from a processors, I’ve just sorted of accepted them as is. I’ve farmed out the decision making. It could be done all automatically or with some human input, I don’t know. But generally I accept the images and only lightly change them before I send them on out into the world.

    Doing your own scanning is not like that.

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    So my process is this. I don’t know whether this is the best way or not but it quickly became my workflow.

    1. Open up GIMP, File->Capture to fire up the scanner.
    2. Load up the negatives, set it to TPU – Black & White, 3200dpi
    3. Scan
    4. Repeat step 2 until you’ve done the roll.
    5. Crop the image in the scan file
    6. Set the levels to taste.
    7. Repeat 5/6 until you’ve done all the images.

    Possibly the proper software might do the cropping for me and that would be quicker. There’s not much control on the exposure at scan time either so potentially I could be saving lots of time here.

    There was one image I was struggling to get right
    _18 EOS5 roll 4

    I was unable to get the detail in the sky whilst also brightening the field. Which leads you into doing layer masks… which is quite the rabbit hole. I was going to do an early bath for the kids but ended up losing track of time….

    Laptop wise- you know what? I think I’m OK. I still find my Lenovo a little too big, but at the same time you get a good sized screen for that. The MacBook Air is a great size and can do the job, but it is noticeably slower than my Lenovo which surprised me!

    I’m also learning that despite my efforts, I’ve found it tricky to keep on top of everything being organised properly. I’ve ended up misnumbering rolls having gone for a camera-roll# system rather than a unique number for each roll (I’ll probably end up doing both for a while). Sending off larger batches of films makes it trickier to reconcile what camera was which roll. Yes yes, use less cameras? At least with home processing I can only do two at a time so it ought to be easier. Trying to keep notes of what was on each film before its processed should help a bit.

    I’ve started to run low on film again so I’m debating with myself what to buy a batch of next and what ISO. I’d like to go a bit lower now the sun is out so perhaps some FP4? Some stuff has come out very dark though despite being ISO400. *Shrug*

    08 EOS 5 roll 1

    Personally I really like this one of Florence taken at the Space Centre in Leicester. They have a mockup of an ISS module there and she always insists on dressing up in the costumes they have lying around for the whole way round. So here’s a dreamy sort of 2001: Space Odyssey image of her as a Star inside a perhaps Apollo era evoking looking ISS.


  4. Bumper Film Day

    June 20, 2018 by Daniel

    As I mentioned briefly, I’d sent off 5 rolls of film last week and yesterday I got back 148 images…

    So yeah it’s going to take me a while to go through those.

    But the basic links are here, I’ve been reading up a bit on archiving and keeping good notes. But my system is working so far for me. I try to label the film rolls as I go so I can keep track of what’s on where. It’s tricky when you send off multiple rolls though as you need to remember at least one picture on each roll that’s coming back to associate it back to the roll number I’ve written down. Perhaps slightly easier with home developing perhaps as there’s only 2 rolls at most at a time, but perhaps complicated by the fast they are going to be the same stock and ISO.

    So what were they? Well for a start they were all colour film stocks.

    • Sprocket Rocket Roll 2  – Kodak colorplus 200 (these are going to need a bit of work as the scans need colour adjusting – I think because they scan the sprockets they just turn all their settings off.

    Ordsall Curve

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    • EOS 5 Roll 2 – Kodak Gold 200 (Florence’s 4th Birthday)

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    • Canon 5000 roll 2 – Kokak colorplus 200 (For this roll, I handed over the camera to George, so pretty much all of them are by him)

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    In addition to all these(!) the scanner came yesterday, I only just had enough time to scan in one roll before I went to bed exhausted, messing about with scan settings as I went. It’s going to be a bit of a learning curve – but that’s what its all about really! Negatives are very finicky and precious to work with and either I accept the flaws or try to come up with ways to avoid or work around them. It’s pretty time consuming, the software wasn’t splitting the images into separate files. My work computer made short work of that though.

    I was using a Linux driver for the Epson V600 which worked pretty well. It’d be interesting to experiment with different software but I want to avoid Windows if I can. I might try out the Epson software on a MacBook.

    • Centon DF300 Roll 4 – Fomapan 400 Action, developed in Ilfosol 3. – A fair amount of messing about needed to work out DPI settings, etc – but they grain is lovely!

    Centon Roll 4


  5. End of GAS?

    June 19, 2018 by Daniel

    GAS – Gear Acquisition Syndrome

    I’m hoping I’m nearing the end of ‘GAS’. I think I’ve figured out what works for me and what doesn’t. It was my birthday over the weekend so I finally pulled the trigger and bought the Canon EOS M50 I’d been eyeing since it’s release. “A digital camera?” You say? Yes, digital. No it doesn’t mean I will stop taking pictures on film, certainly not – having just gotten started developing! No I discovered that whilst film is brilliant for some things, there are circumstances you just want to know you’ve got the picture. Experimenting with the film cameras helped me cheap(ish)ly learn about photography and what I love about it and of course I will carry on with them.
    Ex-Cornerhouse
    So, why the M50? Well I’d gotten used to the Canon way of doing things, I’d managed to acquire a very nice Canon film SLR (and used it on School sports day – looking forward to seeing how those shots came out!) I’d managed to get a couple of lenses for that and the Canon EOS 5000 I got. The M50 offers the ability to use the same lenses on it, whilst having all the modern bells & whistles. So, it’s APS-C which means not ‘full frame’ 35mm equivalent, which is important to note as it means the lenses get cropped when moving between the two, but it’s not a big deal for me really. Perhaps Canon will bring something full frame out in the mirrorless range soon, but a) this is out now and b) I expect it to be expensive. Why mirrorless? Well I’ve used enough SLRs, I wanted something compact when it needs to be, but that also had proper manual features and could also do wide-angle and telephoto. Having seen the talk from Terry Donnelly at Bolton Camera club about mirrorless it did seem to me to be the way forward. It can handle all three kinds of Canon lens so it got massive choice of lenses (currently debating what to go with next, I do fancy a pancake lense).
    Untitled
    I keep saying, “this is my last camera” when I buy one, but now I think I mostly mean it. EF, EF-S, EF-M Lenses, yes please, a rangefinder – also I wouldn’t say no (Leica M?!!!)

    I’ve bought a scanner so I can digitise the films I have developed (yet to collect and set up though – yet to see how my laptop copes with it…. something else which may need an upgrade….) – I went for the Epson V600, I’ll try it with the included Software and see how that goes. Software wise I’m also looking at Adobe subscriptions – basically something that can handle RAW files from the M50.

    But then, after GAS is at an end (hopefully) I’m looking forward on concentrating on the images.


  6. Dev. Stop. Fix.

    June 6, 2018 by Daniel

    I’m now three rolls of home developed film in 🙂 so I thought I’d run through the kit I’ve acquired and what my process is.

    I’d bought this kit from ebay, which basically has everything you need (minus chemicals, scissors, something to open the film up with ie a bottle opener). It worked out quite a bit cheaper than buying the parts separately from all the online stores, under £60 for all of it.

    You can get smaller tanks but I thought being able to process more than one roll at a time would be handy (especially as I’ve built up a bit of a backlog to get developed…) Plus it’ll manage 120 format if I decide to ever try that again (one day perhaps, give that home developing it is lots cheaper).

     

    Next up I took the plunge and used a Saturday morning I had free to go into my local Camera shop (the excellent Mathers) with the kids and asked for Ilford chemicals. I’d made a list I wanted to get, but the guy said Microphen, which is what I’d used on my course, had been discontinued or something. I’m not exactly sure what he meant, perhaps it was the liquid version rather than the powder, instead he pointed me at Ilfosol 3, which comes as a liquid. Seemed easier to me, so I went with that along with along with Ilfostop, Rapid Fixer and Ilfotol which is used to help the film dry evenly rather than leaving water marks.

    I bought a couple of extra measuring jugs from my local ASDA and having had a bit of trouble measuring things yesterday have ordered some finer graduated measuring cylinders. My tank needs about 700 ml to do two rolls so mixing a 1+9 solution was a bit tricky when the first mark on the measuring jug was 100ml. – What I ended up doing was weighing 75g of water in the jug, marking the line and using that as my measure. I wasn’t sure of the density of the Ilfosol so didn’t weigh that. I probably could carry on like this but I could order 4 measuring cylinders for £1.61 so…

    The vital tool to bring it all together is an app called Massive Dev Chart Timer. This kind of does it all it’s £8.99 which is quite a bit for an app, but it’s worth it I think. I”ve just discovered it’s even got a Volume calculator for figuring out the chemical dilutions, along with all the different times for developing at different temperatures. It’s pretty comprehensive.

    The next piece of the puzzle is bringing the images back into the digital world. Let’s face it, I need to get a scanner. I’ve long found them fairly pointless, usually had access to one knocking around but just your bog standard ones. Turns out to scan film they need to be able to shine light through rather than only reflecting off of what you’re scanning.

    The simpler option for now has been to take a picture with my phone, then edit it in various apps. This process is quite satisfying and works, but I’ve not been very happy with the initial ‘scan’ that gets taken. There’s not enough resolution at the minimum focus distance on my iPhone 6 to get a nice shot to start off with. Yes this might be improved with a bit more time, a light table and some kind of jig to hold the phone the right distance away, but a scanner will beat this every time (it may however take much longer and demand more oomph than my poor old home laptop has along with possibly having to run it booted into Windows).

    Yes I had considered the CMOS based film scanners which are around £40, but mostly they seem fairly low-res again, basically rubbish phone cameras mounted specially (ie a phone could do the same / better job) I do like that they would output direct to a memory card though, bypassing much of what my old laptop would have to do.

     

    I’ve got a bunch of colour rolls that I’ll still be sending off (for now?!?) and I hope to get hold of a scanner soon and set aside some time for getting that up and running.


  7. One Stop Shops

    May 17, 2018 by Daniel

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    I was listening to the Sunny 16 podcast for the first time the other day and it brought up the ‘Free Film’ truprint issue I posted about. It’s funny how the market seems to have split apart and the one stop shops of old really seem not to exist anymore. Paul McKay was the guest of Analogue Wonderland, a new UK online store specialising in film and was talking about how he hopes to someday bring this about.
    You’ve got:

    • Camera Shops
    • Film Shops
    • Development Labs
    • Darkroom specialist stores
    • Digital specialists

    Some crossover and do a bit more than only one thing, but not many do it all, not many have the kind of slick dev+scan+film replenishment ordering that you’d expect. Printing off confusing mail order forms? Seems odd these days.

    The fascinating thing about the industry at the moment to me is how the methods and technology that ‘Digital’ (ugh I hate the use of that term like this, but I can’t think how else to put it) has brought. How the mixture of analogue and digital technologies has combined to produce something different. Digital and Film don’t need to and shouldn’t compete, they are now different things. For many uses, digital has no competition – and that’s fine! But there is still a place for film, and what we have learn and developed with digital technologies can be injected into the old film ways to make it anew.

     

     

    Hmm sorry, got a little waffley there I think.


  8. ‘Event’ Photography

    May 17, 2018 by Daniel

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    One of the things I’m enjoying about exploring analogue photography is how in my mind I have started to plan photos around attending certain things.
    For example, I haven’t really been able to build up much of a stock of film – my excitement means I’m kind of getting through it too quickly, but it’s quite nice to think about something upcoming and how you might want to take photos of it. This is all opposed to just turning up with your phone or the digital camera you have and taking a picture.
    I’ll think about, will it be indoor out outdoor (ie what ISO should I use?), what kind of backgrounds would there be (colour or black & white), will there be interaction? how far away will things be? (lenses, instant film?)
    Because you can’t just go and buy film at the moment I try to think about this stuff in advance so I have time to order some rolls. I guess eventually I’ll have narrowed down what I like using, but for now it’s fun to try out different things and see how they turn out.
    I quite favour the multiple camera + phone approach, I want to make sure I get at least something out of it.

    For example F’s 4th birthday party is coming up, I’m sure it’ll be loud and colourful so I think a mix of instant shots and colour with a 50mm will do the trick, to get in close but also kids are so used to instant feedback with digital that they love to see the pictures you’ve taken.

    I’ve taken to carrying one of my more lightweight cameras around with me in my work bag, this week it’s been the Sprocket Rocket to finish off the roll I started at the weekend. I find it a little tricky to know how much is left on the roll, turns out I’d been carrying it around all week with only one shot left to go on it (it exposes two frames at a time, so you have only half the exposures as normal, plus or minus some inaccurate winding on my part…)


  9. 5 more rolls

    May 2, 2018 by Daniel


    I posted more rolls off on Sunday and yesterday got the email, they’d received them, two hours later they were already processed and scanned! That’s some quick work. It’d probably take me all day to do that. I guess they have some big machine that does it all, which would be fascinating to see.

    So what did I send? I’m trying to get better at taking notes as I go as inevitably I’ve completely forgotten what’s on what roll with which camera by the time it all comes back. Let alone what settings were used for a shot! Oh EXIF data….

    These were the the first rolls through the Centon DF-300 which came from a box given to my Dad at one of his sales of antique toys and a Canon EOS 5000 which I bought from Ebay (along with an EOS 100 which unfortunately only works on full auto as the mode dial doesn’t function – but hey, it came with a decent lens).

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    The Centon is actually very nice, it had three lenses along with it, a 35mm, a 50mm and a 28-70mm of which I’ve pretty much just used the 50mm, a little of the 28-70mm but I didn’t like it as much. Features wise, it’s got more than the Canon 5000 – apetrure control is on the lens, but no autofocus. The metering for exposure length works quite well. The Canon has a fancy winding motor though which I didn’t expect to enjoy as much. It’s pretty cool putting the film into the Canon as it winds through the whole roll and displays on a LCD panel the number of shots remaining. The Canon also reads the DX encoding on the 35mm cassette to set the ISO which as far as I know cannot then be adjusted, whereas the Centon you can set yourself which is good if you plan to push the film (use it at a higher ISO than rated, I’ve not tried it yet but plan to).

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    The rest of the rolls were with the Holga, a camera which I think is actually reallly good. The shots are so characterful but I definitely feel more anguish and jeopardy using it. It’s not an SLR so you have no idea if the focus is right, the exposure and aperture settings are basic – but it all adds to the results I think.


  10. Dev + Scan

    May 1, 2018 by Daniel

    I was thinking about how things have changed in film photography since the last time I was doing it (when really it was the only choice, digital cameras were expensive and far-lower resolution…)

    Used to be that you could get film absolutely anywhere, or at least it seemed like it.

    But how often would you be buying film anyways? You’d send off your exposed film to Truprint or whoever and they’d sent you a new one back, for free.

    I wish I could do a price comparison from those mail order forms, I bet my Mum still has one or two lying around.So anyways, here’s the change, at the end of the halcyon days of film they started to offer the ability to put your pictures on a CD. Which was great, best of both worlds. You’d get the CD, store it somewhere and probably never actually put it into a computer, as you already had the prints or do that once. Save them somewhere and forget all about them when it comes to changing to a new computer. Some of the CD’s had software hiding the images in some program that won’t run on modern OS’s – which is really annoying!

    Compare that to these days – I send off my film (I have to pay the postage and provide an envelope…) They email me when they’ve received it (I do quite like this innovation). They develop them and scan them – I usually don’t ask for prints – and instead of posting a CD with the negatives they just post the negatives and e-mail a link to download the photos with. The magic of the internet! I then save them in my various places and upload to my usual cloud service storage and sharing spaces. From which I can edit, order prints if I like.

    I miss the SAE’s and ‘free film every time!’ but I know that the economics of it all have changed.

    So next up in my plans. I’ve ordered some developing kit. I’m still to order another couple of bits and chemicals and then I can start to process the B&W films myself.Then I will need to buy or get access to some kind of scanner. I think I’ve narrowed it down to two models, both have advantages and disadvantages. The Canoscan 9000F Mark II is able to do medium format as well as 35mm negatives, is a flatbed so it can be used for documents also but is a bit lower resolution than the PlusTek OpticFilm 8100 (or the 8200i SE with built in IR pass for dust removal) which only handles 35mm. The PlusTek also comes with better software, but that can be gotten separately I suppose. All assumes that my aging laptop will be up to the job (I expect so, but may get frustrated – basically it just needs to handle ingesting pictures, I can worry about actual editing later).

     

    Will doing it myself be cheaper? Well…. I guess eventually yes….? I think it will take about 30 odd rolls of film to pay for itself for the kit anyways, the chemicals per roll is a bit trickier to work out.