Friday, March 29, 2013

Big 34x27 print from an 8x10 negative

Haven't been shooting film at all recently, or even digital - simply too busy.

However, I did get a very large print done that I wanted to share. This is from an 8x10 negative, scanned on my Screen Cezanne, and printed locally using an Epson 9600 printer on metallic paper. Matted, it comes to a whopping 40x32 size. I used plexiglass instead of real glass due to weight concerns.

The scan from the Cezanne was jaw-dropping, and even in ink, the tonality, detail, and sharpness of the huge negative comes through. Don't forget that this is only a 3.5x enlargement!! That's like an 11x14 print from a 4x5 negative, or a little teeny 3x5 print from a 35mm negative!

This print will be featured in the annual Spring into Art show at the Turner Center in early April. The slight red hue on the right side is a reflection from my wall, just in case you were wondering. Of course that's me peeking out from behind!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lens Review - Nikkor 25-50mm f/4 AI Zoom Lens from 1979

Lately, I've been fascinated with older glass for Nikon's classic cameras, especially as used on modern DSLRs. I had heard about this little gem many months ago, but only recently picked one up for quite a steal. It's also only my second older manual-focus zoom lens, along with the 80-200mm f/4.5 AI lens I have.

This lens is quite a performer, and is also a mechanical masterpiece. It was a "hefty" lens back in its era, but today, compared to modern f/2.8 midrange zooms, it is a featherweight. It probably really isn't much heavier than my 50mm f/1.2 AI-S lens. It might become my new walk-around lens, unless I need speed.

The three-ring controls of this classic are solid and feel great in the hand. However, one gripe I have is that the zoom ring is backwards from every other Nikkor I've owned - looking from the rear, the 25mm side is on the left and 50mm is to the right, which while that makes sense, is backward from the 17-35mm and 80-200mm f/2.8 zooms I have, and every other lens I can remember owning. But it's a minor annoyance.

As for picture quality - I am blown away. Zooms were still in their infancy really, but this little guy is a stellar performer, and not just in the raw metrics of image quality. Yes, it's sharp. On the D800E, the detail and micro-contrast are stunning, even wide-open (which of course is still pretty slow). No, the corners aren't sharp though, same as most modern lenses really. However, stopped down a couple of stops, it's more or less deadly sharp everywhere.

The real charm of this lens though is its rendering. I have been searching for that illusive "look" that separates the truly fantastic lenses from the chaff of just technically excellent. So far, I have found 3 lenses that have this special quality, and 2 special mentions. The 3 are the pre-AI 35mm f/2.8 Nikkor-S lens, and then the two AI zooms, the 25-50mm and 80-200mm. Of note though is the 50mm f/1.2 AI-S and 35mm f/1.4 AI, both of which have a beautiful rendering at near full aperture, but become more bland as you stop down, unlike these zooms that always have the special look regardless of aperture.

You are probably asking what I'm talking about here, and rightly so. Basically, the images have a much more 3D, tactile, immersive look. I usually am not for talking in non-technical terms, but it's really something you have to experience to understand. I think I've had some 40-odd different models of Nikon lenses here, and I can see this quality quite clearly when I shoot these lenses.

The best part about this lens? The price I got it for. I've been waiting and watching eBay for about 3 months since deciding I wanted one of these. I finally lucked out and got one for only $125, which is quite a steal compared to the general going rate! I've seen them sell for anywhere between $200-$400 depending on condition. At around $200, I can't recommend this lens enough. It is as sharp as any prime lens in the center, and can be even better in the corners stopped down. It makes a fantastic wide-to-normal walkabout lens, even in just so-so light. I wouldn't use this indoors where I needed speed, but for landscapes and such, I'd rather have this and an extra $1300 than even the 24-70mm f/2.8 midrange zoom. Further - pair this with the 80-200mm AI for about $75, and you've got a world-class kit that could cover 95% of your landscape needs for probably under $300 (!).

Anyway, photos speak louder than words. Today was a glum, overcast day, but I still made some nice shots down at Langdale Park. These all were done with the D800E (sorry, no film today!), handheld, at ISO 400, and processed in Lightroom:

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Miscellaneous C-41 Shots - Radium Springs, Langdale Park, Azalea Trail

Just a few 645 negatives tonight from various locales - Radium Springs in Albany, and Langdale Park and the Azalea Trail in Valdosta, shot over the past week. Film was either Fuji Reala or 160C:


Friday, March 15, 2013

More flooding along the Withlacoochee (Tri-X in T-Max Developer Test)

A few days ago I shot a roll of 120 Tri-X 400 film out at Langdale Park, again doing some investigation on the flooding. Here are a few shots. I used T-Max developer diluted 1:32, semi-stand, which worked really well for this film:


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Azalea Festival 2013 Part 2

Here's the color photos from this years festival. First, here's a few images on Fuji 160NPS 120 film made with my Yashica 124G:



I also took a couple of pictures with my Polaroid 900 and some expired Portra 400NC:

I still have two 4x5 b&w negatives to develop but likely won't get to that till next week, so this probably wraps up my Azalea Festival photos. Hope you enjoyed.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Azalea Festival 2013 Part 1, and my new scanner

Well it's been over a week since I posted last. I've been entirely swamped - but that's a good thing usually! This past weekend I shot several rolls and sheets of film at the annual Azalea Festival. The past several nights I've been busily scanning them with a piece of gear I also acquired over the weekend - a new scanner!

Since starting this blog in 2011 I've had several different scanners. At first I was using an old Agfa 2500T SCSI scanner and the FotoLook software. It was a decent scanner but plagued with dust and other issues causing banding and other problems. I finally had to replace it when I built a new computer and upgraded to Windows 7, which I couldn't get to work with the SCSI interface. I then purchased a Microtek ArtixScan M1, a newer scanner from the same manufacturer that used a USB interface. It was also quite a nice machine but not perfect. The Silverfast software wasn't really my cup of tea and it was a bit cumbersome trying to scan a lot of film with it.

I also was terribly unhappy with 35mm film scans from these flatbeds, so I run a Minolta Dimage IV for 135 scanning.

What I ended up purchasing is a massive (200 pounds!) pre-production scanner, a Screen Cezanne, made by a subsidiary of Fujifilm. This bad-boy also utilizes a SCSI interface but only runs on a Mac anyway - but it came with an Apple G4 to run the thing. I had to really learn a whole new process and while not perfect, I'm starting to get the hang of things. This unit is also good enough optically to use with 35mm film, so I can get rid of the little Minolta too now.

Anyway, all scans from here on in will likely be done with this guy. I've already noticed quite a difference in quality, both in resolution and tonality, from my scans with it.

Well, back to the photos. I shot a roll of TMX in my Nikon SP, a 220 roll of Fuji 160NPS with my Yashica 124G, and several sheets with my Polaroid 900 at the festival. Here are some of the TMX shots (developed in T-Max developer diluted 1:32 for 1 hour semi-stand):

I'm finishing up the color film scans so I will post those tomorrow.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Shooting the Nikon SP rangefinder with radio triggered flashes

I find it fascinating to combine old and new technology in ways that no one would have dreamt of originally.

Now I don't know when wireless radio triggering flashes became ubiquitous, but I doubt it was available in the Nikon SP era. I bought a trigger and four receivers last month on eBay and have been really enjoying using them with my DSLR for commercial shoots. Since the SP has a metal shoe it interferes with the trigger's connection, so I used a small piece of card stock to block the connection. After that, simply connecting the PC cord to the flash sync terminal on the SP was all it took to slave my modern flashes to the SP!

To test out both this setup and an idea I had for setting up flashes in a church, I took photos of a group I work with often called Dominion and Power. They are a gospel group that performs around South GA very often. Anyway, the setup was two flashes on tall stands (about 12' up) on either side of the church with an umbrella to spread and soften the light. My flash meter still read f/3.5 with the flashes at max output - but the church was pretty big so I considered that a pretty good result. In the future I'd like to get a couple of double flash brackets and slave four flashes in the same configuration, which would at minimum allow me to shoot at f/5.6 or so. Either way f/3.5 was plenty for DOF considerations on 35mm (I was mainly concerned about cutting the ambient light since the SP only syncs to 1/60).

Here are some results - with either Tri-X shot at 200 and developed in Rodinal 1:100 semi-stand  or Fuji Superia 200 color film:

In this one you can see my flash to the left, so you get an idea of the setup:

Now that's not the only camera I tried this with - I did take just a few sheets with my Polaroid 900 and Xenotar 135 f/3.5 using the trigger system. You might remember I metered at f/3.5 - which is all I could do with the Xenotar! So the DOF was nil. I nailed a couple of the shots, but here are my two favorites. The b&w image was with Tri-X 320 shot at 200 and stand-developed in Rodinal 1:100 and the color shot is Portra 400NC overexposed one stop (it's quite old so that was a necessity):

Now I shoot these kinds of shots all the time with my digital - so what's the point?? That's a great question, and one I've been pondering on quite a bit. What I see is that the 4x5 images are not only vastly superior in quality, the negligible DOF is quite engaging and very beautiful. I would love to shoot some commercial work with just 4x5 if possible (and the client is willing to pay my nominal rate PLUS film/dev costs!). The 35mm is just as obviously not superior in quality to the DSLR - but they are still quite engaging. I notice that the greens and especially reds are much more vibrant than what I get with digital (digital Bayer-sensor type cameras have trouble with red especially). That said, with a bit more light, or a faster shutter speed along with a lower f/stop, should allow me to shoot some Portra 160 or Provia instead, which will likely be much better than the Superia. Of course, I could also shoot some medium format - my Bessa RF should work nicely. So a lot more to try with this type of shooting.