The Forgotten, Part One

Like many of you, I have more cameras than I could possibly need. Between purchases and gifts, they have piled up to the point of absurdity. I can’t use them all, and of course the ones that see the most use are those that fit my needs best. The others languish, collecting a delicate layer of dust like Victorian antiques and somehow managing to look vaguely forlorn.

I decided to start off the year by putting some of them to use. It’s hard to say why some of these don’t see more activity, while others have some clear flaw or limitation that makes the reason for their presence on the shelf all too obvious. Regardless, I determined to overlook these and pull them back into useful service, if only briefly.

Defying all alphabetical logic (you’re not the boss of me, alphabet!), I started in the Ks with the oddball German/Yugoslav hybrid King Regula IIb and the 1950s sci-fi styled Konica III. Both are remarkably solid cameras, and both worked flawlessly in spite of their lack of recent use (in fairness, I had overhauled both when I got them, and I did exercise the shutters before loading film).

The Regula is easy to use, has a very nice viewfinder, and seems to have the strongest advance lever return spring ever fitted to a camera. You could use the lever as a miniature catapult if so inclined. It has limitations – the lens is slowish (maximum aperture f/3.5) and the Pronto shutter only offers four speed plus Bulb – but within those it’s perfectly competent. The triplet lens isn’t going to win any sharpness or contrast prizes, but it produces some interesting images. I shot it with a slip-on yellow filter to build a little more contrast, as the day I had it out was overcast and dull, plus the fact that I like to shoot it wide open (why make scale focusing easy?) also lowers overall contrast.

King Regula IIb (w/ Getaldus Ghenar 45/3.5), Ilford HP5+ in Caffenol C-H(RS)

You can see the glowy, soft look the lens gives. Bear in mind that is under very diffused light; get a bright light source in there and veiling flare is omnipresent. Using a hood a tricky too, as there are no threads on the lens, and I don’t trust slip-on hoods to stay on very far at all. Nonetheless, it’s interesting rendering and quite different from most of my cameras.

By contrast to the relative simplicity of the King, the Konica is full-featured by 1950s standards. The lens is a fast 48/2, and the shutter provides the full range of typical leaf shutter speeds (1/500 to 1 sec, plus Bulb), flash sync, and a self-timer. And what a lens it is: nicely sharp even wide open and with a lovely fall-off into the out of focus areas. Between this camera and my Hexar AF I’ve come to have high regard for Konica’s lenses. The camera is a brick, and an angular one at that. The viewfinder is decidedly smaller than the one on the Regula, and probably the weakest point in the camera’s design (the later IIIA and IIIM improved it considerably).

Konica III, Ilford HP5+ in Caffenol C-H(RS)

Moderate contrast, sharp across the frame, and oh-so-creamy. Every time I use this camera I wonder why I don’t use it more often. The answer, of course, is that it’s less flexible than my interchangeable lens cameras, it weighs a ton, and the ergonomics aren’t exactly ideal for me (the double-stroke vertical advance lever is different, but to what end?). It’s really a shame it doesn’t see more action, because the lens is just spectacular.

What’s the purpose of this exercise? Well, aside from giving myself an excuse to maintain an unreasonably large camera collection (tenuous though that excuse may be), there’s something to be said for breaking up the routine.. It’s all too easy to keep using the same exact equipment day in and day out, and while this has its obvious advantages, mixing it up does too. Neither of these cameras is a radical departure from my usual stuff, but still offer a bit of a change, the Regula forcing me to practice scale focusing, for example. I’ve grown so accustomed to the look of my regularly-used Leica lenses than it was nice to be reminded of the quality of the Konica’s.

There is value in disruption.

 

The Filmosaur Year in Review

Your Humble Filmosaur managed to make quite a large number of photos this past year, which seems a bit of an accomplishment in itself, and knowing that no good deed goes unpunished, it seemed only fitting to do a little wrapping up before 2016 plunges into bitter disappointment and abject failure.

Looking back at my photos from the year just ending, I noticed a few trends, so I’ll organize this post around them.

Medium Format

I expanded my collection of medium format cameras considerably in the past year, adding 6×9 to the repertoire as well as collecting a few more options for the ubiquitous 6×6. I’m only just beginning to explore the 6×9 format, but it does have real potential, I think. The negative is enormous, and the longer focal length of the lenses (105mm in both my Super Ikonta and Bessa II) can create an almost-large-format look in certain circumstances.

Zeiss Super Ikonta C 530/2, Ilford HP5+ in Caffenol C-H(RS)
Zeiss Super Ikonta C 530/2, Ilford HP5+ in Caffenol C-H(RS)

The square remains a favorite, however, and I ran a fair number of rolls through my various 6×6 cameras. I find it a very flexible format, which seems perhaps a bit counter-intuitive, as with a rectangular format you can use either portrait or landscape, but with a square you’re stuck with 1:1. Nonetheless, I find the square fairly easy to use, and this past year confirmed that it is my first choice medium format, um, format.

Mamiyaflex Automat A, Ilford FP4+ in Caffenol C-H(RS)
Mamiyaflex Automat A, Ilford FP4+ in Caffenol C-H(RS)

Composition

I began exploring more graphical composition in the past year, sometimes to the point of abstraction. The compositions are simple and direct, and generally head-on. While I’m fairly pleased with these initial efforts, there’s a lot more work to be done in seeing how these can be made more interesting by changing the perspective and adding depth to the composition while preserving the clarity of the subject and without cluttering it up.

Certo Super Dollina II, Ilford FP4+ in Caffenol C-H(RS)
Certo Super Dollina II, Ilford FP4+ in Caffenol C-H(RS)

To a significant degree, I find it easier to construct this sort of photo in B&W. Color adds a fair bit of complexity to the equation, partially by the nature of it and partially because I still tend to see better in monochrome. Finding subjects that lend themselves to color photos of this sort is not always easy, and there is always the temptation (for me, anyway) of allowing the color to dominate the photo to the detriment of other aspects.

Konica III, Kodak Gold 200
Konica III, Kodak Gold 200

Film

My conversion to Ilford for my B&W film needs is essentially complete. I shot Tri-X when I went to Arizona at the beginning of last year, but after that I started moving to HP5+, which gave me similar results with a little more tonality in the middle (easily controlled with development) and slightly less grain. It also dries completely flat and costs half of what Tri-X does in bulk. It is a perfectly acceptable substitute that has a few advantages to boot.

For slower films, I tried a few rolls of Pan F+, but I haven’t really been able to wrap my head around it. The results can be good, but it’s slow enough that it really requires specific conditions or a tripod to work well. I just haven’t shot enough to get to know it. Out of curiosity, in the spring I got a bulk roll of FP4+, and I was in love. It’s buttery smooth in every way. Within a few rolls I knew I had my new everyday film. It’s not really fast enough for flexibility in the winter months, or for street photography generally, but when I can get away with the slower speed, I will have FP4+ in my camera. I need to buy more.

Cars

Regular readers will not be at all surprised that I chased old cars around. Still, there was a slight shift in my approach this past year. While I did take some photos of them on the track, I concentrated my efforts on photographing them while static, and especially on photographing the details. I tried some different angles and compositions; this was encouraged by using my Rolleiflex fairly extensively, which allowed a lot of low-angle work, the results of which were generally positive.

Rolleiflex Old Standard, Kodak Ektar 100
Rolleiflex Old Standard, Kodak Ektar 100

B&W was not neglected, and the results I got with FP4+ in particular only served to further my adoption of it as my standard three-season film.

Leica IIIc, Summitar 50/2, Ilford FP4+ in Caffenol C-H(RS)
Leica IIIc, Summitar 50/2, Ilford FP4+ in Caffenol C-H(RS)

The Year of the Leica

When 2015 began, I did not own a Leica. Through good fortune, happenstance, and lack of willpower, I now own more than one. While I may have been initially drawn to them because of the history and the mystique, I quickly found that they fit my photographic needs and wants remarkably well. I ended up using them more than any other cameras this past year, and I see no reason to think that this trend will change in 2016 or beyond.

The body is only half of the camera equation, of course, and the accumulation of Leica bodies leads inevitably to the accumulation of lenses for those bodies. The Summitar that came with one of my IIIcs is really a spectacular lens. I finally found a good example of the Canon 100/3.5, which matches the signature of the Summitar pretty well and makes a nice companion. At the wide end, I picked up a Voigtländer Snapshot Skopar 25/4, which is of course a much more modern lens; the results are very good, and the ergonomics are nearly perfect, but I’m still slightly torn over the modern high-contrast rendering. I also hacked together a couple of lenses in LTM, the Nikon L35AF 35/2.8 in a chopped-down Industar-50 body, which I consider a near-total success, and just for fun the Praktica M60 26/5.6 fixed-focus, fixed-aperture body cap pancake.

So there we are. 2015 is on its way to the door, and 2016 is lying in wait behind the shrubbery. I need more film.