Category Archives: home processing

Contax RTS III

While taking part in my first vintage fair I was contacted by a reader of this blog who made me an offer I could not refuse.

“Would I like to try a Contax RTS III with a lens of my choice?” he asked.
“Erm yes please!” I replied without much delay.

So at the fair he brought in said camera as promised with a 28mm lens as I already had a 50mm. He also brought in a box of other items including a 500mm mirror lens with a Contax adaptor.

Here is the camera with the wide angle attached.

My goodness this is a heavy camera, but as you can see in perfect condition. I think if I had owned this camera it would have been a lot more scratched up as I carried it and swung it around. Mr Generous really did look after his stuff. Everything in his box of goodies was in its original box or a bag and labelled.

This camera was first introduced in 1990 and you can find all the technical details you like on this page. Really far down on that page you will see details of a ceramic film pressure plate. This other site also mentions it as a starred feature that ensured a flat film plane as it was enhanced by a vacuum. Well, that is impressive. This reviewer said it felt and looked like a Porche of cameras. I have to agree. Even though it was heavy it was surprisingly comfortable to hold, the hand grip being just the right size for my tiny hands. The diopter adjustment made the already bright viewfinder a delight to look through.

As I had this camera for “as long as you like” I decided to put a few films through it and experiment a bit. So for the first film I put in some Kodak EPH P1600X slide film that I had been given by another reader. In fact he gave me a fair bit of this now unavailable film. I wish I had read that link before as it mentions it is a rare 400asa film that can be pushed to 1600…oh I think that is what the ‘p’ indicates before 1600x.

And it says it right there on the tin! Push once for 800, twice 1600, thrice 3200.

Well, I really should start reading instructions and reviews before I use things, but where is the fun in that. Anyway, nowhere does this film have 400asa written on it, not even on the box, you just have to be clever enough to know it??

So as I thought the film was 1600asa and it was from 2002, I set the camera to 1250, moving the dial two places lower on this camera. First I tried the 500mm lens, as it did not have an aperture dial I used it at various settings. I tried aperture and speed mode hoping the camera would figure it out the aperture of the lens. I also tried manual, guessing the lens was an f8 as I had seen other lenses with the same sized aperture. I took ten shots then changed to the 28mm lens.

Then I made some calculations. Sending the E6 film off to be developed would take at least a week and cost about £15 with postage. I have at least 12 rolls of slide film. Gosh that would be expensive.
An order of Tetenal Colortec E6 would be about £50, arrive the next day, and possibly develop 30 films if I could do it. And there is the rub, I have never done E6 processing before. In Japan you could only get black and white chemicals due to government restrictions on the chemicals needed. So I had next to no experience with colour processing. How hard could it be?? Be brave I thought, chemicals ordered!

I found this site and followed it to the letter. I followed the mixing ratios and timings with a quick glance at the pack instructions. If I had known about the pushing element I would have also followed the film guide which I found later. That would have meant adding 5 minutes to the first development stage.

I boiled a kettle to use as topping up water for the tub which I had filled from the hot tap. I put all the chemicals in the tub and took constant temperature readings to check it stayed at 38C. The main issue I had was the wash process, because the sink was full and I have a small kitchen. But in the end it was not as hard as I thought it would be to keep the temperature fairly stable, even on a cold day. I agitated the developing tank every 15 seconds by using the agitation stick rather than taking the tank out of the warm water and inverting it. Then I waited very impatiently for the film to dry.

So the first part of the film was from the 500mm mirror lens.

Well, they are a bit crappy. Underexposed and fuzzy, focusing was quite hard due to the very small depth of field and darker viewfinder. I don’t like the lens very much, though I am glad I tried a free one as I always wanted to buy one for bird watching. The slides were obviously underexposed which enhanced the blue tint.

Here are some of the ones from the 28mm lens.

At first I was disappointed with the results, but then I remembered…Hey, I developed these slides! The film was 17 years out of date and I used it at the wrong settings on the camera and wrong timing of the film processing. So actually, they are not that bad 🙂

These slide also have a blue tint. The ones in the link I shared to before were also blueish. I wonder what the slides will look like when I try another roll and set the camera to 400asa.

As for the camera, it is a bit awesome. I have put a fresh roll of C41 film in it which I will not be processing myself as I want to see what it can do without the hit and miss of my own processing skills. For a Contax camera these can be found for sale at quite reasonable prices. If you are looking for a good quality, manual focus SLR, they don’t come much better than this.

Update: I tried another roll of the slide film today, this time taken at 400asa. I tried a few settings and a yellow filter. I found the yellow filter definitely was not needed and the blue colour cast was probably due to the underexposure of the first film. Some of the new roll were still blue, but some were relatively ok. Either way this roll came out better.

Here are some more from the second roll. It is not my favourite film at the moment, but I will try it in another camera for another comparison test at a later date.

Large Format Camera Pre-1906 (4×5 sheet)

Some posts are quick to prepare, process, and write. This post is by far the longest in terms of time and biggest in terms of effort, that I have written.

I received this camera over 3 months ago from a new friend. Soon after we started wandering and walking together she mentioned she had an “old” camera in her loft and I could have it, but it probably doesn’t work. Of course when I heard “old camera” I was hooked. I asked questions…

What kind of camera? What film does it take? Does it use batteries? Where did you get it? To all questions, I got a shrug and an “I don’t know, it was in the loft when we bought the house.”

So I just waited and one fine day she brought it over to my house.

*Gulp* It was not what I was expecting at all. I have no experience with this type of camera. I didn’t even know where to begin. These photos are after I dared to open it up and attach the lens.

Talking of the lens, can you see the big gap between the glass and the front of the cylinder? The front element had detached… is it an element when there are just two pieces of glass and a barrel? The front piece of glass was loose and moving around inside the brass barrel. I was going to give up on that altogether, then I looked at the prices of replacement lenses *gulp* and put the whole thing back in the bag/box and put it under my bed.

To be honest the whole project made me nervous and I tried to get rid of the responsibility and the camera. One of the people I offered it to said, “get a grip you can do it.”

So a few days later I took the camera out again and took a deep breath. The first thing I looked at was the bellows. If they were damaged then I was screwed, I could not buy or make a new one. I could possibly fix very small holes. Here is a great resource if you ever need to do that. Fortunately, the bellows seemed perfect, no holes at all. Great start.

Next was to use wood glue on any parts that were split. In my worry and haste, I did not take great photos of this process. The main part that needed fixing was the lens plate holder. That was in two parts.

Now one part with a previous repair on the left.

That part of the camera gave an obvious clue about its history. Ralph Cuthbert was a chemist in Huddersfield, you can read about one of his exploits in this article. And this entry states that he formed a limited company in 1913 and that he died in 1917. As the camera’s label doesn’t mention “Ltd” then I guess it is from before 1913. The Byram Arcade was first seen on a map in 1890, so the camera is probably from after that point.

Another clue was inside one of the film holders, it was a glass plate.

I rested it on my iPad to act as a light-box.

I used an app to turn it into a positive photo.

Either J.Wright owned this camera at some time or Mr. Cuthbert went on holiday.

I posted the photo online and one of my friends said there was an Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Blackpool. After a little search online I found this article. As you can see, the photo in the article is of the same building and if you read the text you will find out the building was demolished in 1908. Therefore, Mr. Watson, we can surmise this camera is probably from around 1900. Bloody hell…and it is now my responsibility. Just to confirm the date, here is a collection of similar cameras with details of dates.

OK, next issue, the lens. I had to put the front glass back in the right place. I know this might make a few people *gulp* just like me. But I unscrewed the only screw I could find and just superglued it back in place. There was no shutter mechanism and I stayed very clear of the aperture blades.

Just a bit of glue put it back in place.

Before I put the lens back together I waited for the glue to fully set to avoid any issues with a residue like I experienced with this camera. Then I screwed it onto the plate and slid it onto the camera.

But did it work, would it focus…I had no idea at this point as I did not know how to focus the damn thing, the lens only has apertures from f8 to f64. So more research was required. First I found articles like this one. Hmm, mine doesn’t seem to have a shutter release at all. This one seemed more likely.

So I need to move the rail somehow, I looked the camera over.

Found it!! This moves and the camera will focus somehow. I looked at the back of the camera and I couldn’t see anything on the glass plate. The image was too light, I needed more lightness and darkness. I took the camera outside but I didn’t have a blackout cloth, would a towel work?

YES!!!

First objective achieved, an image…an upside down image. Now for stage two, getting a negative.

The bag had three plate holders inside, one was missing the middle light shield.

Once the camera was focused you lifted the focusing screen and slid the holder into place. The holder had to be prepared beforehand by inserting glass plates coated in a light-sensitive material.

However, there was no way in the world I was going to prepare and use glass plates, so what is the nearest modern equivalent? 4×5 sheet film. Holy moly it is expensive, plus I need a holder. My heart sank. At the very least I would need.

  • Sheet film – the cheapest on eBay I could find was Shanghai ISO100 £25 for 25 sheets
  • At least one 4×5 sheet holder, about £10 from West Yorkshire Camera
  • Some way to develop the sheets, a 4×5 developing tank adapter around £20+ on eBay
  • And a loupe to attain a fine focus £10+

At least I already had a tripod and surprisingly the camera fit modern tripod screws 😦

I put the camera away and reviewed my out of work finances. Even if I could get all the things I needed, how could I fit the 4×5 cassette in the camera?

As you may know, I am not a patient person when it comes to things like this and sometimes I actually “dream” an answer. The next day I woke up and went, “THE BROKEN HOLDER!!!”

If I could cut down the broken holder to take the 4×5 cassette it just might work. Sacrilege? Cutting a Victorian glass plate holder? Don’t care, it is now mine to do with as I please…sorry. Really I am, but it had to be done.

I decided to sell a camera to pay for the things I needed. Bye bye OM2, hello saw and chisel.

I have never tried this kind of thing before, but would you believe it…the 4×5 cassette fit like a glove.

A bit of wood glue, nothing to see here.

Gosh this is turning into a very long post. Ok, onward and forward, loading the sheet film.

Simples. Plus…don’t forget to take off any movement activated watches with an LED display 🙂

We are getting there. The next issue, no shutter just a lens cap. That meant I would have to use the lens cap as a shutter by taking it off and putting it back on. So the exposure would have to be at least 2 seconds to avoid camera shake or suchlike. Luckily the lens cap was in good condition and attached to the lens when I received the bag.

So this is the sequence of events.

  1. Prepare the 4×5 cassette. Make sure the film shield are showing the white label (or black depending on your own choice)
  2. Find a subject for a photo. This might mean lugging the camera and a tripod to a location.
  3. Find the exposure setting using a light meter, make sure it is over 2 seconds for 100ASA film at f22 (or whatever ASA you are using).
  4. Put the camera together.
  5. Place on a very sturdy tripod.
  6. Set the lens aperture to the largest to let in more light, f8.
  7. Use the towel, coat or something dark to focus the camera on the subject and use the loupe to get a sharper focus.
  8. Reset the aperture to f22 or smaller depending on what is needed for a longer exposure time.
  9. Once focused and framed PUT ON THE LENS COVER
  10. Move the glass focusing plate and slide in the adapted holder with the 4×5 cassette
  11. Put the light cover, my towel or coat, over the back end of the camera and remove the light shield protecting the sheet.
  12. Remove the lens cover and count out the “elephants” needed
  13. Put the lens cover back on
  14. Put the film shield back in with the black label showing
  15. As a film cassette holds two sheets take out this holder and replace the glass focusing screen.
  16. Return to number 2 for the next shot or go home and develop the sheets.

All that effort for 2 shots. For my first test I stayed at home and tried to take a photo of a swan feather I retrieved the day before. That way I would not have to lug the camera anywhere. I worked out that I would need 6 elephants to get an image. I only managed to get one shot as I put the second light shield back in the first slot and jammed it, fogging the second sheet.

Putting the sheet on the developing holder was a pain in the butt. I was sure, even if it worked, it would be covered in finger prints. After the development process I could barely wait to see the developed sheet.

THERE IS AN IMAGE!!!!! Can you see the feather?

I almost cried. I didn’t care if it was out of focus, I could see a feather. I waited for it to dry and put it on the iPad and took a photo with my phone.

This is the first test shot.

🙂 🙂 🙂

Of course I tried again immediately. As my dad was engrossed in watching TV I took a photo of him. He had to stay very still for eight elephants.

You can see lines from the iPad, I think, but I didn’t care…I DID IT!!!!

I rushed into Leeds and bought three more cassettes and loaded them up. I was going to visit a friend for some cosplaying photos in an abandoned house, perfect for this style of shot. She could stay still, well the building could anyway. We lugged the camera uphill for a kilometer. I set up the camera.

…and then realised I left the film cassettes in the car, bugger. Lesson learnt.

To finally use the loaded sheets, I took the camera to my local park, double checking I had the cassettes.

And now finally the shots, it took a while to develop them as I can only do two at a time.

Just one didn’t come out, not quite sure why.

Done, completed, success. I have a few sheets left and I will probably take the camera to Blackpool to get a shot of the new Old Tom’s Cabin building. After that, I am not sure I will ever use it again. It is a lot of effort. This part was a challenge and therefore fun, but I much prefer 120mm or 35mm.

Now, this post is very long and picture heavy, it seems WordPress is having an issue and keeps losing my pictures. So I am going to upload it before it disappears again.

You can own this camera and all the spare cassettes. The tripod is NOT included.

Genuine Victorian Camera

Please check the photos and read the text, that way you know exactly what you are buying. The amount includes postage to the UK. I will not post it outside of the UK due to the size and age of the item.

£400.00

Update on the Kiev 88

I finally used the Kiev 88 again. I bought an extra cassette too though for this excursion I didn’t use it.

I went for a local walk after work. It was a short walk, specifically to use this camera. I reread my previous post about the camera and reminded myself of the issues I had. It helped. I wound the cassette to the first shot and cocked the shutter before attaching the cassette to the body. The light was rapidly fading, but as there are only 12 shots I managed to finish in time and developed the film when I returned home.

I was getting ready to sell this camera, now I am not so sure. Oh Beastie, you are a fickle friend.

Olympus OM-101 (OM-88)

I have absolutely no idea why I bought this camera, but it was in the pile of random cameras I bought myself when returning to the UK. I think it must have been really cheap or I was persuaded by the Olympus name. It does look really clean though. And I actually do like the shape.

I left my usb lightbox in Japan and recently got a round softbox flash adapter instead. It really does get rid of annoying flash shadows.

On the photos, you can see a manual adapter is attached. This was not part of the package I originally received, but once I read about this camera I realized I needed it. Otherwise, this camera is basically a big point and shoot. Much like the OM10, it works better with the manual adapter. However, this one was hard to find. I had to find a junk camera with one still attached. Luckily for me, the seller did not list that the manual adapter 2 was attached. I saw it peaking out of the side on one of the photos and took a chance it was actually what I thought it was. Voila, I have the adapter.

The camera was originally released in 1988. It takes all OM lenses but has two of its own power focus lenses. These can be operated by a thumb dial on the back of the camera. My version came with the 50mm PF lens. I found operating it was quite awkward at first. It is natural to try to turn the lens, but on this camera, you use your thumb and that “power focuses” the lens. You do get used to it eventually and it is quite responsive to touch. You can read lots of technical details here.

Ok, so a bit more about the manual adapter. With it, you can choose full manual mode or aperture priority. There is no speed priority mode. The manual adapter also lets you see what you have set the camera too. Without it, you have absolutely no idea what the camera has chosen. There is no information in the viewfinder other than a P for program. Even in the other modes you only get arrows for over or underexposed. That really sucks!

I put a roll of Fomapan 100 in and went for a wander. I put a black and white in so I could develop it at home. It was my first time using Ilford Ilfosol 3 and it was a much quicker process that I have experienced before and…I overdeveloped the film.

Even though they are overdeveloped, it gives them a kind of dreamy, vintage look. These were taken before I got the manual adapter so they were all taken on program mode.

I actually liked using the camera. Fair enough it doesn’t look as cool as the usual OM range, but it did what it should. It took perfectly exposed photos. If you can get a cheap one, with the manual adapter, go for it.

Oh and the photos were taken around Frickley Park, which you can read about here.

Buy this camera – Olympus OM101

Please check the photos and read the text, that way you know exactly what you are buying. The amount includes postage to the UK. If you live outside the UK please contact me for postage details.

£40.00

Developing Issues and Darkroom Courses

I recently switched from using Kodak D-76 to Ilford Ilfosol 3 to develop my films. I tended to reuse the D-76 and got used to that process. What I didn’t know or read was Ilfosol was a one use only developer. So when I started developing my own film again, the first one was great. The rest got lighter and lighter, tremendously so. I was increasing the developing time, thinking it was my fault. It was, but not in the way I thought. After the 3rd roll, I went back to the bottle and read the instructions…one use. Crap.

I managed to get images from all the rolls with a fair amount of post-processing, but they were obviously not the best negatives I have ever seen.

It was disappointing as I had just come back from Iceland and had been to a gig in Manchester.

For the busy negatives, they are OK. But the ones with sky you can see a definite issue.

The gig film was the last one I developed before checking the instructions. I actually thought it was blank and didn’t take too much care of it once I took it out of the wash. When it was dry, I saw a reflection of a faint image. To be fair the location was very dark and the singers were wearing black, but still, I expected more.

The first person with the drummer is from Hater, and the lady in the hat is Jennifer Castle. I actually liked both artists though they were quite different. I used my Nikon F2 for both locations, the gig used Ilford Delta 3200 pushed to 6400.

Luckily I did take a medium format and a digital camera to Iceland. I read the instructions again before I developed those…no development needed for the D750. If you want to see more results from that trip you can check out the iBook.

Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 13.57.44

 

Download it on iBooks. (There are some errors in the description which I have corrected, but the new version has not updated yet.)

 

 

 

 

While I was contemplating the development issues I received an email from an outfit in London. A darkroom! Or rather a Bright Room. They run courses on developing and have darkrooms to hire. I am thinking I might take a trip to London and include this location as a stop. You can never stop learning apparently. But wait, they have a pop-up van…maybe they can visit me and some friends??

Delving into their website more, there is an Artist series, where you learn directly from an artist to see how they work. That is just up my street. OK time to save or sell more cameras to try one of those.

They did tell me they will be starting an online gallery on the 30th November 2018, but I haven’t been able to find a link online for that. Sounds interesting though as I love looking at other photographer’s work. I will look back at the end of the month.

I am glad I can develop my films again, I am relieved I know what the issue I was experiencing actually was.

Contax 137 MA Quartz

Believe it or not, this was a junk find. A seller in Japan was selling it for junk as the skin had disintegrated and there was a dent on the bottom. Apart from that, they said it worked fine. So I got it for less than £8 plus postage. Then the fun started. I knew what I wanted to do with it so I ordered the covering material which arrived in a few days. But the camera took well over a month to arrive. A few days after I ordered it there was a massive typhoon in Japan which damaged Kyoto airport, and where was my camera…at Kyoto airport according to the tracking information. And there it stayed. I was just about to give up all hope when new tracking information arrived. But what state would the camera arrive in? Did it get damaged in the typhoon? Well, the package was perfect. Inside was this camera. It came without a lens, but I put one on from another camera to test the viewfinder and operations.

Actually, I almost forgot to take photos before I got stuck in recovering it. These were taken with my phone when it arrived. And the covering? Japanese stamps!!

This is what it looked like once I had finished.

The strap was made in Okinawa and was a gift from a friend when I left Japan. I also put on a lens hood. Even if the camera didn’t work, and I hoped it did, I already loved it.

The camera was produced from 1982 for around 5 years. You can find all the technical details you like on this website. I left the camera on automatic for my test shots, but you do have the options of full manual, aperture, and shutter priority modes. I found the camera very easy to use and quite responsive. It was sturdy without being so heavy that it became uncomfortable. The strap helped with that. The length of the strap meant I could move the position of the camera over my shoulder like a bag.

I put in a roll of Street Candy with the original thin film base. I developed it by adding a leader, in ilfosol3 using the same process times as I would use for Ilford HP5+. I still found it difficult to thread it on the holder though.

I tried the camera around my house as it was raining quite heavily. Once it had died down a bit I went for a walk. Here are my results:

I was really impressed with the camera and film. I spent a little more time post-processing these photos using Snapseed on my iPad. I don’t usually alter film photos in this way, but why not? It is just another form of photography I suppose.

I think this might be the subject for my next zine.

In my film pile, I had a very expired E6 film. I didn’t trust it for anything I cared about so I put it in this camera and wandered around Leeds. I was right about the film, the photos came back in a terrible state. I used Preview to change them to black and white, then increased the contrast. In the end, they came out ok. I just love this camera.

 

Keep or Sell: This is by far my favourite camera. As I am reducing my collection it has persuaded me to sell nearly all the other SLRs I have and stick with Contax. Yeap, I love it more than my Olympus cameras due to the lenses.  This other reviewer came to the same conclusion.

 

Konica Pearl III

I was asked to use this camera by one of my students. He was a bit worried that it wasn’t working correctly and wanted some reassurance.  Sure I said, I have never used one before, or even seen one for that matter. I was a bit jealous as he is in grade 5 and he has this super camera.

I had helped him load some Shanghai GP3, but after a few shots, he thought something wasn’t right so asked me to finish the roll. I took it to Shunpuu Banriso a beautiful house and garden in Kasama, Ibaraki.

This is a coupled rangefinder from 1955. It has an auto-stop advance and takes 6×4.5 photos. The shutter release is on the lens door and the door opening button is where you would expect the shutter release to be, a bit of a reverse.  The lens is a Hexar f3.5, 75mm. The speeds range from 1 second to 1/500th. The rangefinder is operated by the indented slider on the lens. The indented button is molded and placed in order to be operated by the right index finger. This example’s worked so smoothly, perfect condition. I found loading the camera a bit tricky as there is a push-up plate which is hard to reach. Once we had loaded the camera I put some tape on the film door opening lever as the student is sometimes a bit impatient. When we had loaded the camera he immediately opened the back again. So the tape was a visual reminder. The actual switch also worked smoothly and perfectly.

You cock the shutter with the lever on the front of the lens, after setting the aperture and speed manually. The camera does not have a light meter. It is possible to take multiple exposures before advancing the film. Once you are ready to advance the film you have to press the switch next to the film advance knob, this releases the mechanism. Turn the knob clockwise to advance and it automatically stops in the right place.

Once I had finished the roll I thought I had advanced the paper all the way to the end, but when I opened the back I found part of the paper still covering the exposure space. The film advance was a little sticky so I manually finished advancing the film paper. There was only a little bit of paper to go, the film was already protected. I think the paper was really stuck to the original spool and there wasn’t enough ‘power’ to pull it off.

Then I developed it, in Kodak T-Max 🙂

Wow, what a bargain this student has found. I think he got it for much less than the few cameras posted on eBay. It is clean and works perfectly.

Keep or sell: I have to give it back 😦

More Stuff – Amazon Associates

I just this minute applied for and learnt how to link products for Amazon on my site. As my stats show I have more viewers in America than anywhere else, I have linked both the Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk sites.

So, on the “Stuff” page you can find links to 35mm and 120mm film searches on Amazon…like these.

If you want to buy some film, then buy it through these Amazon links and I will get a little money too. It’s a win-win (mainly for me) 🙂

UK Amazon – 35mm film

UK Amazon – 120mm film

US Amazon 35mm film

US Amazon 120mm film