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We have made it to the fifth edition of the Red Light District. In much the same vein as our first featured Darkroom, Dave has turned an outdoor shed into a darkroom. He even sees some of the same issues Nate does – though whether he uses a bucket to move water around was unfortunately not addressed.

What started off as a 8 x 6 shed was transformed into a fully functional darkroom, complete with home-made workbenches. It doesn’t have a water supply (that’s what kitchens are for) and electricity is piped in by using a cable through a floor hatch (lightproofed of course – see image) which goes into the kitchen. When not in use the cable can be pushed through the hatch. I also made some inner doors for double light blocking power!

For more info see here: http://www.twelvesmallsquares.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/for-i-am-man.html and here: http://www.twelvesmallsquares.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/improving-shed-darkrom.html

Thanks Dave! These shed darkrooms sure seem to be gaining popularity. Have you built a darkroom in your backyard? Be sure to send photos with information about your setup to info@pdexposures.com!

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Last week, Kodak posted a notice stating that BW400CN, their C41 processed black and white film, was being discontinued.

Regarding the decision, Kodak wrote that they “empathize with the Pro photographers and consumers who use and love this film, but given the significant minimum order quantity necessary to coat more product combined with the very small customer demand, it is a decision [they] have to make.

While discontinuation of Kodak film stocks were once a constant looming threat, this one comes as somewhat of a surprise; not only is BW400CN one of the most convenient black and white films available for the modern age – chromogenic films require no additional expense to be commercially processed and are more scanner-friendly than traditional black and white material – but the emergence of Kodak Alaris as the consumer arm of the film division seemed like it would, in theory, have led to more stability in Kodak’s film line. I guess this just goes to show that nothing is safe.

Still, on a more positive note, Ilford’s XP2 Super still exists. In many ways, it was always the better of the two films – richer tones and contrast, and easier to wet print in a traditional darkroom – so I’m not exactly crying myself to sleep about the loss of BW400CN. It does, however, highlight the need to buy good film stocks, buy them often, and buy them fresh – otherwise they’ll all go the same way.

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By now, many of you will have heard about a website called “Gallery of Today” which is scraping and posting free downloads of many photographer’s images. If you search for your name, blog title, or various other unique strings at www.galleryoftoday.com, you’ll probably find some of your own.

Obviously, this is a violation of various international copyright laws, most notably the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DCMA). We’ve tracked down the host for the offending website, and the email address to submit a DMCA takedown request is legal@bluehost.com.

If you have never sent a DCMA request before, a great template with an explanation of the process can be found at http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2009/07/06/sample-dmca-take-down-letter/id=4501/

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As some of you may have noticed, I was absent from the latest episode of the Pdexposures Podcast, and Dan Domme filled in – giving Nate a perfect partner with whom he could wax lyrical about automatic compacts without someone scowling at every possible opportunity.

Now, I’m not a fan of automation in cameras. Yep, I’m one of those nerdy guys Dan’s on about towards the end of the episode, and needless to say I don’t agree with him one bit. I don’t like or trust autofocus or autoexposure, and often find myself fighting with them to get them to do what I want or provide the results I intended. It’s why the Olympus Trip, the venerable classic of zone-focus compacts, stays in the cupboard and the Olympus Stylus Epic (or μ[mju:]-II if you live anywhere outside the US) was given away to my mother.

But even if I put aside my misgivings about these newfangled electronic devices, it seems strange to me to go to the effort of buying, shooting, developing and printing (or scanning) film when the most crucial factor in the whole process – the shooting – is reduced to an experience that’s as photographically hands-off as using an iPhone. It just doesn’t seem right somehow.

As such, here’s my favourite alternative “compact” cameras. None of these have electronics, rangefinders or light meters, but all of them will fit into a pocket and take great photos. Yes, they may seem like more work than a Yashica T4 or Contax T2 at first, but once upon a time, photographers worked without these modern crutches and managed just fine. In fact, some still do, and so can you. So dust off that Sunny 16 rule, work out some points of reference for common distance measurements, and pick one of these up!

1) The Smena Symbol

Smena Symbol

I have to start with the Smena. Why? Well, because the first 35mm camera I ever loved was a Smena – the humble Smena 8M. It cost me a massive £4.13 and was my training ground for composing within a 2:3 frame instead of a nice and comfy 6×6 square. Now, the Smena isn’t a complex machine, nor is it amazingly well-built, but damn – it looks awesome. It’s a fantastically retro piece of Soviet Kitsch that fits into your pocket (just – it’s about the same size as the Olympus Trip 35), and allows a lot of room for growth; the aperture, shutter speed and distance markings come in both real and simplified versions, with handy symbols simplifying your choice in case you don’t know how to choose an aperture and shutter speed yet. Don’t know whether f/4 and 1/125 will do? Set the film speed on the aperture ring instead of an F-stop and choose the icon on the shutter speed ring that best describes the weather conditions. Similar iconography will help you judge how far various distances are when you scale focus. And, of course, thanks to it’s LOMO* heritage, it actually has a fantastic glass lens. If you put some decent film behind it, you’ll find out why Russian optics have such a good reputation – even if Soviet camera bodies sometimes leave a bit to be desired.

So why the Symbol instead of my beloved 8M? Well, the 8M has various flaws, not least of which being that the shutter is manually cocked by a lever to the right of the lens as you hold it – which can occasionally catch on the fingers of your right hand and keep the shutter open if you’re not expecting it. The lever wind and automatic shutter cock of the Symbol negates this flaw and makes for a much better camera.

*note: LOMO, not Lomography. Don’t confuse the two. LOMO used to be a well-respected optics manufacturer before some Austrian marketing students co-opted the name.

2) The Robot Star

Robot Star

The Robots are ridiculous cameras. Clockwork driven and with a solid metal body, these are basically the perfect street shooter’s tool but are often overlooked, and I don’t fully understand why. They’re tiny, shooting a 24mm x 24mm frame on standard 35mm, and have one of the quietest shutters you’ll never hear. The loudest part of the whole camera is the clockwork film advance, but if you hold the shutter button down, it’ll only advance when you release it – half way down the street and a long way from your subject. Other than that they’re fully manual, with scale focusing and your standard shutter speed and aperture options. The one other thing they do have that may surprise you is that the lens is actually interchangeable, but that’s not worth much; the lenses aren’t easy to find, and there’s not a lot of options. Thankfully, the Zeiss Tessar they typically come with is, as you’d expect, a fantastic piece of glass.

Just avoid earlier Robot cameras like the Robot II – they needed a pair of special Robot film cassettes that are usually even harder to find than the lenses.

3) The Zeiss Ikon Nettar II 518/16

Zeiss Ikon Nettar (518 / 16)

In a roundabout way, the Robot leads us to this dark horse. Zeiss made a lot of folding cameras – the first real compact camera option for most photographers – but this one has a special place in my heart. As listeners to the podcast may know, years back a certain lady bought a camera I had my eyes on before I had the chance to buy it, and this was it. Now, folding cameras are all fundamentally the same, and any decent-spec 6×6 folding camera in good condition will produce good results, but as mentioned previously, Zeiss glass is always worth the money. The reason I’m recommending this one (as opposed to the many other Zeiss folders) is it seems to be in a sweet spot with regards to price, features, and size. 6×9 is fantastic to work with but too big to be considered “compact”, and models with coupled rangefinders rack the price up far too much.

And yes, it did make amazing photos.

4) The Tessina

Tessina

Regular listeners will remember this got a fleeting mention in the TLR episode of the podcast. So why does it crop up here as well? Well, because it uses 35mm film (albeit with a 14mm x 21mm frame) and is TINY. As I mentioned in the podcast, this thing came with a wrist strap that was literally a wrist strap; it didn’t hang limply from it, you wore it. Like a watch. Coming in at 2.5″ x 2″ x 1″, this is the smallest compact mentioned either here or in the last episode, but it still manages to fit in Robot-esque clockwork film winding and a full range of shutter speeds and apertures, with an equally tiny add-on selenium meter available if you can find it.

Sadly, I can’t talk about how good it is to use; I’ve never been able to get my hands on one. If anyone wants to donate one to me so that I can update this article, please email me at Tony@pdexposures.com. I’m deadly serious.

5) The Leica I

1925-1928: LEICA I-A.   Ernst Leitz GmbH, Wetzlar, Alemania

As if I could have a list of great cameras without dropping Leica into the mix. I think most people know that Leica’s “compacts” in the normal sense of the word are typically mediocre, but the very first Leica heralded the birth of the compact concept and set a lot of standards as to how 35mm cameras should look, feel and behave. Scoff all you like at the brand and the praise it gets, but the fixed lens Leica I really is about as simple as you can get; a 50mm f/3.5 Elmar, an aperture ring and seven shutter speeds. Well, eight if you include Z or “Zeit”, which would become the more familiar B on later cameras. Using it now is as hands-off and liberating as Dan Domme claims electronic compacts are; it fits easily into the hand and quickly adjusting it for light and focus becomes second nature. I only had the chance to play with one once, but it’s a very addictive feeling. The focusing tab is your only focusing guide, and if you know what you’re doing and are familiar with the camera you can set it entirely by feel as you bring it up to your eye, making it a quicker focusing system than 95% of all electronic autofocus systems.

Sadly, the fixed lens Leica I is getting harder to find at a reasonable price as old models fall out of use and into the vaults of collectors. Thankfully, a Leica Standard – which is fundamentally the same but with interchangeable lenses – makes a perfect substitute, and also allows entry into the Barnack system. There’s a lot you can do with a Standard if you have the right accessories, and if you were to equip it with a 28mm f/2.8 Canon lens and a 28/35 Voigtlander mini-finder, you’d have a compact street shooting rig even Winogrand would probably be envious of.

 

So there we go. Five compact cameras that aren’t actually considered “compact cameras” but I’d personally rather own and use than any 80′s electronic consumer gadget.

Particularly the Tessina.

 


Image credits: Smena Symbol by Flickr user Michele M. F..
Robot Star by Flickr user Olivier Klein.
Zeiss Ikon Nettar (518 / 16) by Flickr user Rich.
Tessina by Flickr user Craig Newsom.
1925-1928: LEICA I-A. Ernst Leitz GmbH, Wetzlar, Alemania by Flickr userColeccionando Camaras.
All images used under the Creative Commons license. If your image was used and you would like it removed please e-mail info@pdexposures.com.

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Four years ago, a group of intrepid photographers decided to try and recreate 4×5 instant film, and after much trial and error they have now launched a Kickstarter to raise the necessary funds to launch their new film into the world.

According to their kickstarter, they first began researching patents, papers and started researching people with knowledge on how to develop these pieces in addition to finding vendors who could provide raw materials.

Being transparent was a major concern to the group and they chronicled everything they had worked on on the official New55 blog.

Proceeds from the kickstarter will be broken out in a variety of ways. The team plans on using it to fund more research in missing components, aquire assembling machines to produce the film, obtain engineering assistance and manufacture the “first edition” of New55 film.

There are risks involved; however the heads feel they have mitagated these by seeking advice from experts in the instant film community, including The Impossible Project, 20×24 Studio, Soundwave Research Lab and a long list of photographers.

In addition, the New55 staff has plenty of experience working in their favor. Bob Crowley, founder of New55 has years of experience as a materials research scientist with a long resume working in the wireless communications, medical and sound reinforcement industries. Joining him is Sam Hiser as CEO; bringing with him experience in software, start-ups and finance; bringing a smooth opperation to the bussiness affairs.

At the time of this writing, New55 has raised 14k of their four hundred thousand dollar goal.

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Australian based Indisposable Concept, a community based photographic project centered around the idea of spending one week shooting with a disposable camera, and sharing your results of what can be captured with a simple tool and medium. Pdexposures Podcast host Nate Matos submitted a roll from his trip down the West coast in August of 2013 and wrote about his thoughts here. But as The Indisposible Concept surpasses 600 rolls of film and 10,000 photos it has come time to get the images out in ways other than social media where the project predominantly lies.

Due to the extraordinary costs of producing a book with a true production run rather than print on demand, The Indisposable Concept has turned to crowd funding with the help of Pozible. A site much like Kickstarter aimed at those outside of the United States.

We want to say thanks to those who have shared their world with us and give a bit more back to the Indisposable community that has supported us.

They are seeking a sum of $35,000 AUD (approx $31,600 USD) to complete their goal and get the first volume of the Indisposable Concept coffee table book published. When asked why crowd funding, the answer was clear “After seeking out various publishing options to gain support and inspiration the decision to self publish gave us the power and freedom to maintain the creative control and vision we have utilized throughout and put the process back into our own hands and the IC community.”

For your pledge, which goes from $25.00 AUD to $1,000+ AUD you can receive any number of rewards ranging from personal thank you’s to their 6,000+ followers on Instagram, to t-shirts, disposable cameras and more. To find out more about The Indisposable Concept you can visit their website here, and to pledge to their Pozible project click here.

Also, one of Nate’s images from his submission can be seen in the video, keep an eye out for it around the 38 second mark!

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We just got word that the Impossible Project have updated their iOS app, with various fixes to the bugs introduced with last month’s improvements to the user interface and functionality. Moreover – in case you missed it – they’re basically building a social network within the app, with the ability to follow users and get push notifications. Combine this with the scanner utility and the in-app film store, and the app becomes a one-stop shop for instant film lovers.

Look, you can now follow Simon's instant exploits in the Impossible app.

Look, you can now follow Simon’s instant exploits in the Impossible app.

Now, I’m (still) not an Impossible shooter, but with Fuji’s abandonment of FP-3000B it’s looking more and more inevitable that this is where I’m going to end up, so it’s good to see that the Impossible Project is still moving forward with new ideas and actually paying attention to the issues with their products.

But I hear what you’re saying: this isn’t really news. Who cares about bugfixes, right? No, the real news is buried on the second page of the press release:

“We are currently finalizing the Android version for release mid-year 2014.”

Yep. It may have taken a while but Android users will finally get to join in the fun soon.

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Some of you may remember that last year I wrote a post detailing how Soviet LTM/M39 lenses (i.e. lenses built for the Fed and Zorki rangefinders) do not work correctly on Leica cameras.

Well, I was never particularly happy with that post. Why? Because it was reliant on film scans, and I don’t trust them. Or, more to the point, I don’t trust my scanner. It produces an image suitable for the internet, but the scans are never as sharp as a traditional wet print.

Luckily, I recently had my Leica overhauled, so I went back and approached the subject again.

Summicron_0001

What you’re seeing above is the testing ground. Appropriately, I used three different Soviet rangefinders (one from each major product line), and ensured the middle one (the Fed 2) was 1m away from the film plane. The Leica IIIf I used to take the photos was set on a tripod and focused with each lens in turn, using the rangefinder, on the Fed 2 logo. The lenses were all set to f/4 (as the Industar 22 is a 50mm f/3.5 lens, and I wanted to ensure all lenses were at the same aperture. It’s worth noting that I honestly thought that the increased depth of field from wide open would actually compromise the test, but I was wrong). I also checked the distance scale of the lenses matched to ensure there were no rangefinder errors, and I’ve used all of these lenses successfully wide open and close-up in the past (on their respective bodies).

But what’s the point of doing the test again without removing the weak point in the old one? So rather than scanning the film, I went into the darkroom and did some quick 5×7 prints, starting with the full frame you see above and then fitting just the center of each photo onto the 5×7 paper. The resultant crops would be equivalent to a 11″ x 17″ print if I was to print the full frame. All exposures were identical, and in hindsight I should have printed them considerably lighter – but sharpness is what we’re looking at here, not exposures.

First, we start with the baseline, and my favourite lens – the 50mm f/2 collapsible Summicron.

Summicron

Results are as you might expect – the sharpest focus is on the Fed 2 logo, and while there’s noticeable falloff to either side, there’s still enough sharpness to make out details on the front plate of both the Zorki 5 and the Kiev 4AM – which are each 35mm away from the Fed’s logo – but you can’t make out the Jupiter 3′s front ring (even when you’re not looking at a bad scan of a grainy, dark print).

So let’s look at the Jupiter 8, the Zorki’s equivalent of the Summicron:

Jupiter 8

Oh dear. This lens worked fine on a Zorki or a Fed in similar conditions. Here, nothing’s particularly in focus, but the Kiev’s nameplate is getting close. You can’t really tell from the small files I’m having to use to prevent the page from being unviewable, but it’s obviously backfocusing by more than 4cm. Probably not a big deal once you’re not close up, but remember – this is at f/4, and this is a 50mm f/2. If it’s this bad at f/4, wide open it’s going to be nigh-useless for critical close focus.

But then the Sonnar design of the Jupiters can cause various problems, so let’s move to the Tessars.

Industar_0001

The above frame is from the Industar 26m, and amazingly, it looks almost exactly the same. So what about the little collapsible Industar 22?

Industar

Yep. That’s just as bad. In fact, the focusing – well, mis-focusing – is so similar on the three, that it would go some way to explaining why they all work without any issue on my Fed 2. And to eliminate arguments of adjustment or recalibration, they’ve all been purchased from totally different sources. One – the Jupiter 8 – came from a charity shop in England. The Industar 22 came from an eBay seller in Russia. And the Industar 26m? That came with a Fed 2 from Lomography. None of them have been serviced or adjusted since I bought them (although I have relubed the Industar 26m – but didn’t touch or adjust the shims), which means this is probably how they left their various factories (I26m: FED, I22: KOMZ, Jupiter 8: KMZ).

Like I said earlier, the images you’re seeing in this post are fairly small; you’d need critical eyes to see that the Kiev logo is, in fact, out of focus. Hopefully, you can all appreciate that the Fed’s logo is out of focus too, but just in case you think that it’s just low-contrast, here’s a gargantuan collage of the different prints on Flickr. Pixel-peep away and try to prove me wrong.

Either drunk Soviet workers in three factories all made the exact same mistakes, someone has a small workshop that exists only to collect and adjust Soviet lenses to the same inaccurate specifications and then redistribute them, or the point of my original post remains: the lenses for Fed and Zorki cameras are calibrated differently to those designed for true Leica-mount cameras, and while some correctly calibrated lenses exist (see the comments on the original post for discussion of “true” LTM-spec Drug 2s), the chance of getting one is slim.

But hey, maybe you’re just not as picky (read: obsessive) as I am.

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According to the website Photo Rumors and a Fujifilm Japan press release, Fujifilm (why they still have the word film in there we cannot understand) has decided to kill off two low selling films. Neopan Presto 400, and Pro 400.

It is worth noting that the Pro 400 is not the same as the similarly titled Pro 400H which is sold state side. However there is still clear cause for concern that other films will be on the chopping block soon.

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Looking for some inspiration to get out there and shoot? The folks over at March of Film, (our very own Amanda & Simon) have got you covered! March of Film is back for a 3rd year and better than ever.

The What:

March of Film is a theme-based project with two simple goals: 1. Spark your creativity 2. Keep film alive.
So grab your favorite cameras, load up that film you’ve been wanting to try, get out there & have some fun!

The How:

31 themes will be posted on marchoffilm.com on March 1. Shoot one theme or shoot them all! Submit your photos to our new photo upload page. Also share your photos on twitter using the tag #marchoffilm. The March of Film crew will be curating a ‘zine in conjunction with Pdexposures to feature a selection of great submissions! And bonus for 2014 – if you shoot all 31 themes you’ll be entered to win the coveted MOF trophy!

Fun Facts:

March of Film was created during the very uneventful winter of 2012 when Amanda & Simon discovered their love for film was hampered by a lack of inspiration. Knowing they weren’t alone,  MOF was born to rid you of those winter blues & bring you into a film-filled spring.

Get stocked up on film and grab your favorite cameras because March 1 is only four days away!

Follow along @marchoffilm | facebook
For more information contact marchoffilm@gmail.com