An A7R with a Zuiko 50mm f1.2

An A7R with a Zuiko 50mm f1.2

This is a short – well not that short – description of the spectacular Zuiko 50mm f1.2 on a 36Mp A7R. I’ve had this lens for about a year and it rapidly became my favourite 50mm. It was bought on the pretense that my old 1.4 was falling to pieces after thirty years of use, but if I’m honest I’ve always wanted one and it was up for sale in mint condition at Ffordes. And of course I’m a complete sucker for fast Zuikos, especially 50mm’s.

For those of you with the 1.8 or 1.4, I’ve included a brief comparison. All shot in RAW and developed in DXO Photolab. There aren’t any profiles for old lenses like this so you’re on your own when it comes to corrections. Luckily 50mm’s don’t need much correction.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

Bokeh… This lens produces some very nice examples.

So starting with a description – it’s a bit wider and longer than the 1.4, but a lot bigger than the tiny 1.8. Despite being a 1.2 it takes 49mm filters like the other two. From left to right, the 1.8, the 1.4 and the 1.2. Prices are £10-20 for the 1.8 (or free with an OM2), £80-100 for the 1.4, £350 for the 1.2

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

1.8, 1.4 and 1.2 – it’s the other way round in the next diagram!

Untitled-1_DxO

The lens designs from the 1980’s Zuiko lens catalogue. The 1.2 is essentially an upscaled 1.4, the 1.8 shows it’s more humble design with fewer elements. If you’re interested in the historic development of lenses have a look here – fascinating :- https://wordpress.lensrentals.com/blog/2011/08/lens-geneology-part-1/

As per the other two, minimum focus is 45cm and the smooth rack from infinity to min focus is achieved in around 120 degrees. Like the 1.4, it has ten aperture blades, the 1.8 has eight.

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

On the Rayqual adaptor which has solved some of my wideangle edge definition problems due to its precision (thanks for the tip https://phillipreeve.net/blog/)

It’s nicely balanced on the A7R, being nice and light (11.6 oz, or 330 g), and has a lovely smooth focus ring and snappy aperture ring. Altogether a real pleasure to use in a discrete package. As it’s a relatively recent Zuiko it’s got some very effective multi-coating, but I still like to use a lens hood.

So, physically it’s a lovely lens and a pleasure to use, but how does it perform?  You’re not buying this lens to use at f8 so let’s look at f1.2.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

Shallow depth of field and heavy post processing to produce an abstract.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

An example of the ‘Trioplan’ style bubble bokeh at f1.2. I like this effect but you may not. If you don’t you’ll be happy to know it’s gone by f2.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

An example in colour. Note the classic flattening of the bokeh circles towards the edge of the frame.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

And another with some light green/purple CA on the harsh table reflections. It’s no too difficult to remove in post, but here doesn’t distract from the shot IMHO.

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

And some creative overexposure just for good measure.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

At middle distances the shallow depth of field is less obvious but adds some subtle depth to an image.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

Colour, contrast and sharpness are exemplary at f5.6 to f8, but this wouldn’t look that different at anywhere between f2 and f16.

It may be a bit tedious, but no lens test is complete without a full aperture range set of samples, so here we go…..

_DSC3493_DxO

The test frame at f1.2. Some light vignetting in the corners – it’s gone by f4. As you can probably see, f1.2 for landscapes isn’t recommended unless you like a ‘vintage’ effect or are good at post-processing.

f1.2 centre

12c

f1.2 edge

12e

As you can see there’s some overexposure which would need fixing in RAW, a little CA and a veiling flare across the frame. It’s possible to tidy most of this up in post, but importantly edge and central definition are already quite good.

f2 centre

2c

f2 edge

2e

All tidied up at f2. Centre and edge definition are already very good.

f2.8 centre

28c

f2.8 edge

28e-e1543164012857.jpg

f5.6 centre

56c

f5.6 edge

56e

f8 centre

8c

f8 edge

8e

f16 centre

16c

f16 edge

16e

So, to my eyes, very good centre and edge definition from f2, excellent at f5.6 and f8, and hardly deteriorating through diffraction at f16. Even f1.2 is usable with some work in post.

In conclusion then, the very best Zuiko I’ve used. Most of them are just ‘good enough’ on the 36Mp A7R with a fairly narrow ‘sweet spot’ of resolution at mid apertures. This lens though is very good to excellent across most of the aperture range and reminds me of the excellent Sigma 50mm f1.4 on a Canon 5d Mk2 at at half the price and a fifth of the weight and bulk, albeit without autofocus (but that’s easy when you’re used to it). I may have bought it for the f1.2 aperture but what like most is the excellent performance from f2 to f16. I also can fix it’s faults at f1.2!

Is it worth £350? I’d say so if you’re a perfectionist. £350 for an old lens isn’t on the face of it that cheap, but I could put this up against some of the best modern, more pricey 50’s and I think it would put up a respectable fight. It’s not that surprising – this was a very expensive lens thirty years ago and it shows. The 1.4 is excellent value for < £100, and the 1.8 is a steal for < £20, but for the really critical (obsessive?) photographer, this 1.2 is in a different league.

I was wondering about doing a shot by shot comparison between the Zuiko 50’s (1.2, 1.4, 1.8, 3.5 macro) is there’s any interest out there. If so let me know – it will take quite a bit of effort.

Hope you find this useful, thanks for looking.

Rob

Ilford Pan-F in Tetenal Neofin Blue

Having messed about with Ilford 3200 in an attempt to get some truly monstrous grain (previous post), it’s back to the other end of the film speed spectrum with an old favourite – Ilford Pan F. All shots on an Olympus OM2N in aperture priority mode (with appropriate exposure compensation).

Olympus OM2N Pan F Neofin Blue

25 ASA with a 50mm f1.4 at 1/30th second and an excellent start!

 

Olympus OM2N Pan F Neofin Blue

The centre of the image showing very little grain .

Rather than use the same old developer I thought was worth trying something different after reading this :- an article from Practical Photography back in 1960 describing using Neofin Blue with a now long gone film Ilford Micro Neg. Interestingly this reminded me of several characteristics of Adox’s CMS20 film. Neofin Blue is a high acutance one shot developer for slower films – the fast film version was Neofin Red now discontinued. The link above is to a really interesting website if you’re into photographic history by the way.

Olympus OM2N Pan F Neofin Blue

There are five ampoules of developer in a pack working out at around £1.60 per film if used at the standard dilution. The dilution can be halved for economy if you wish.

Pan F is happy at 25 and 50 ASA, though the contrast at 25 ASA in ID11 developer is pretty strong. Will it do the same thing in Neofin Blue? I’ve never used Tetenal chemistry so this should be interesting.

Olympus OM2N Pan F Neofin Blue

The 50mm f.14 again at f5.6 – nice.

Mixing Neofin Blue has an extra calculation – one ampoule of 30ml in 500ml of water is the standard dilution. Other dilutions are possible (half an ampoule, more water etc) which will result in a multiplier to the development time. I stuck with the standard dilution as it’s the first time I’ve used it. The development time was a short 4.5 minutes which seemed very brief but worked perfectly.

Olympus OM2N Pan F Neofin Blue This is good! The harsh contrast I’ve experienced with ID11 at 25 ASA just isn’t here at all, the grain is very well controlled and the tonality pleasing.

What about 50 ASA?

Olympus OM2N Pan F Neofin Blue

@50 ASA and this is hardly different from the 25 ASA results which is welcome. 25 ASA just isn’t fast enough sometimes.

 

Olympus OM2N Pan F Neofin Blue

The centre of the previous image – being able to see the thin cable attached to the top of the tower and exiting left is impressive (the branches are slightly out of focus)!

 

Olympus OM2N Pan F Neofin Blue

Being fairly slow film this is good for long exposures – this was around one second through an R25 red filter at f16. Vivitar 17mm f3.5

 

Olympus OM2N Pan F Neofin Blue

Some of Pan-F’s dark characteristics remain – those shadows are very deep even if i missed a few dust spots – sorry.

Most of these were taken using a new minimalist kit approach – one camera body, a 50mm f1.4 or 1.8, a 28mm f2, a 135mm f3.5, two spare rolls of film and a spare set of batteries. A wonderfully light and flexible set of equipment which can be carried in jacket pockets without a heavy camera bag. As the 50mm lenses get used more than any other I could leave the other lenses behind and go really minimalist! Try it one day – it’s very refreshing and the results are good so far.

Olympus OM2N Pan F Neofin Blue

50 ASA on an overcast day allows the gratuitous use of wide apertures and some flashy shallow depth of field. This is with the 50mm f1.8 – it’s bokeh is a bit busy here.

All in all an excellent result. At 25 ASA the contrast is better controlled than ID11’s results, and at both 25 and 50 ASA the grain is excellent for a high acutance developer. The ‘dark’ look of Pan F has been nicely preserved too. It’s not quite as grainless as Adox CMS20 but then I didn’t really expect it to be. A highly recommended combination!

Thanks for looking – hope you find it useful.

p.s. There a reviews of lots of other films on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

Grain at Last! Ilford Delta 3200 in Rodinal.

Or alternatively (suggested by Nick in the previous post’s comment section) ‘The Search for the Holy Grain’.

Ilford Delta, Rodinal, Olympus OM2N

Worbarrow Bay with Portland just visible on the horizon on the left. I thought this very heavy grain may be caused by under/over exposure but the negative looks fine.

In an attempt to get some really grainy results I’ve been trying some faster films with little success – I want a really grainy image like those obtainable using now discontinued films such as Kodak TMax 3200, Scotch 3M 1000 or even Kodak Hi Speed IR.

Ilford Delta, Rodinal, Olympus OM2N

The central portion of the above shot. That’s a lot of grain… I was after grain but maybe a bit less than this!

At 1600 and 3200 ASA Ilford Delta 3200 is (annoyingly) very well-behaved when developed in ID11, so the next step is Rodinal which sharpens up detail at the expense of harder grain.

Ilford Delta, Rodinal, Olympus OM2N

Tyneham church entrance. The sky has overexposed – as I took a meter reading from the ground here – and the grain hasn’t shown on the scan. Interesting.

Ilford Delta, Rodinal, Olympus OM2N

The centre of the previous shot – grainy goodness in spadefulls!

All shots from one roll in an OM2N using a 17mm f3.5 lens in manual mode as the max ASA setting is 1600 – so set the exposure and take a stop off. The Rodinal was at a 1+25 dilution at 20 degrees c for 11 minutes.

Ilford Delta, Rodinal, Olympus OM2N

Centre weighted meter reading and some grain in the sky as it hasn’t overexposed. This is just about right.

The grain is most evident in skies when no exposure compensation has been set for the main subject. If a meter reading is taken from the ground (rather than the whole scene) the clouds become over exposed and the grain can’t be seen – so a choice of technique.

Ilford Delta, Rodinal, Olympus OM2N

On a fairly bright winter’s day exposures are possible at 3200 using 1/1000th of a second and f16 to f11. On a brighter day a red 25A or polarizer would be needed – unless your SLR can shoot faster than 1/1000th of a second or you lens run to f22/f32 of course.

Ilford Delta, Rodinal, Olympus OM2N

Sorry – another shot of the same building. I got a bit carried away here.

These were all taken an Tyneham and Worbarrow Bay in Dorset. The ruins are what’s left of a small village which was taken over by the army as a combat training zone in World War 2 with the promise to the villages and landowner that it would all be returned – it never was.

Ilford Delta, Rodinal, Olympus OM2N

Anyway, back to this film/developer combo. Well I can’t complain that it’s not grainy. What’s odd is how variable the appearance of the grain is. In some cases using the same exposure for different shots of the same subject produces markedly different grain, even though the negatives look fine. Shots with lots of mid-tones seem to show the most grain when normally exposed, highlights when overexposed are fine and shadows are fine too surprisingly though the darker greys are a bit ‘grungy’.

Apart from the first picture in this series, the rest of these are just what I was after so I’ll stick with this for a few more rolls. Oddly several shots earlier in the roll showed the same ultra graininess but all the subsequent shots had less obtrusive grain :-

Ilford Delta, Rodinal, Olympus OM2N

Another shot from earlier in the roll.

So – a few mysteries and mishaps, but I like this a lot (you may not!) and it’s good to finally find a film/dev combo which achieves the look I was after.

Hope you find this useful, thanks for looking!

p.s. There a reviews of lots of other films on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

 

Finally Getting Some Grain – Ilford Delta 3200

The search for some really grainy shots continues, and the latest batch of shots seems to be heading in the right direction.

Olympus OM2N, Ilford Delta 3200, D76

Some decent grainy goodness at last – not quite there yet but this is a ‘work in progress’!

This mini project was inspired after being reminded of Scotch 3M 1000 slide film in an old photography book. I used to like fast Scotch film a lot – sadly it’s now been discontinued for many years. It didn’t try to hide its grainyness – instead the grain was an integral and deliberate part of the image. It was a little like trying to recreate a 19th century painting technique called pointillism using film. Modern 400 ASA films have proved reluctant to ‘grain up’ to the challenge so more extreme measures are called for.

Olympus OM2N, Ilford Delta 3200, D76

Overcast days are best for this technique- too much light overwhelms the OM2N’s 1/1000th second shutter speed without a filter of some sort..

It turns out this ‘closest yet’ effort was really very simple – expose Ilford Delta 3200 at it’s ‘box speed’ 3200 which just involves a little work on the OM2N. The OM2N goes to a maximum 1600 ISO and is at it’s limit, so no there’s no -1 exposure compensation in aperture priority mode. It’s just a case of setting the exposure manually and then taking a stop off. So simple really as long as you remember!

Olympus OM2N, Ilford Delta 3200, D76

These were developed in D76 – it’s Rodinal for the next try to really harden the grain up. After that it’s 6400 ASA – with an ND filter I think.

Olympus OM2N, Ilford Delta 3200, D76

These were taken on a cold, overcast day in Lymington near the New Forest in Hampshire UK. Lymington seems to be dependent on the yachting/tourist fraternity – in January it’s quite quiet and empty.

Olympus OM2N, Ilford Delta 3200, D76

Worn out, old patterns complement this technique nicely – but only in the smoother areas (the window) as this wall was already pretty gritty already.

Now for a close up of the grain structure :-

Olympus OM2N, Ilford Delta 3200, D76

The full frame.

 

Olympus OM2N, Ilford Delta 3200, D76

And a portion of the centre – complete with a few drying marks. Oops.

Finally a rural church – always a good choice for a book cover.

Olympus OM2N, Ilford Delta 3200, D76

This was taken before a heavy storm – hence the dark clouds. The snowdrops add a certain something.

Well, almost there, but this has been more difficult than first imagined. Thirty years ago grain was a major problem using 35mm film, but the past few experiments have shown that it’s really quite difficult to get really grainy results with modern emulsions. Ilford 3200 seems to produce some promising results, but pushing Kodak Tri-X to 3200 ASA might work well – more experiments!

This is the best reason to use film – the combinations of film, developer and exposure provide some fascinating possibilities and learning opportunities. The 5d Mk2 and the 60D are enjoying a break for a while until this particular project is over – this is the best photographic fun I’ve had in ages.

Oh – and Ilford 3200 in D76 is quite good too!

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful.

p.s. There a reviews of lots of other films on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

The Search for Grain Continues – Kodak Tri-X. Lots of Shots and Some Photographic History.

Approaching a review of Kodak Tri-X provokes some nervousness. Tri-X has been around since 1954 (though reformulated many times since then) and was the black and white film which defined a photographic era for fashion and journalism in the 1970’s and 1980’s, creating a dark gritty look which is still used today. It’s still the best-selling mono film (according to Kodak).

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

Salisbury Cathedral again on an overcast day. This needed some PP but the dark ‘look’ I remember is still there. Zuiko 28mm f2 though not as grainy as I’d remembered.

The great Don McCullin used Tri-X for his famous photographs of the Vietnam war. For David Bailey, Irving Penn, Alfred Eisenstaedt, and Cartier Bresson it was a mainstay too. In short it’s one of the few films which has legendary status so I’d best be thorough! For a fuller description see here for an excellent history of this film.

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

Inside the cathedral and that tonality is lovely – enough to feel optimistic! Vivitar 17mm lens.

When a film has been going for 60 years it’s got to be good – but does the modern version capture that ‘look’ I loved thirty years ago? Best shoot a few rolls.

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

A further interior – and good too. Vivitar 17mm lens. The textured stone of the interior masks the graininess as always.

All these shots rated at 400 ASA on a Olympus OM2N with a variety of Zuiko/Vivitar lenses and developed in D76 – D76 and Tri-X must be a classic combination. Scanned on the usual Plustek 7500 and subjected to some levels and contrast adjustment.

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

The last from Salisbury and a bit of a gothic type shot – working as hoped. Vivitar 17mm lens.

The film feels like a quality product in a well made cassette with solid felt light baffles. It’s difficult to break into for loading on a film spiral – always a good sign. It loads easily onto the spiral too.

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

Hard light suits this film. The humble Zuiko 50mm f1.8.

Drying it doesn’t attract much dust and is quite a ‘hard’ emulsion when dry. When you’ve had 60 years to perfect a film it should be one of the best I suppose!

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

Zuiko 50mm f1.8.

One of the properties of Tri-X was to capture a subject’s essential details – complete with grain, dirt and darkness in the process. It was famous for it’s deep black tones and is often used to emphasise the grittier side of life – with a bit of PP in the contrast department it does it well.

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

To portray dark grittyness this is excellent. Zuiko 28mm f2.

Exposure latitude is wide too allowing shooting in a wide variety of situations.

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

Shooting into the light and a nice result – flare, grain and all.

However – is it grainy enough? That’s what this search is all about!

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

The whole frame.

And a small enlargement :-

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

This small section of the negative looks quite detailed with reasonable grain for 400 ASA.

Nope – I’m looking for more grain than this. Let’s try uprating it to 1600 ASA and push processing it for 12 minutes.

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

This is a little more like it in low light. 50mm f1.8.

Outdoors in soft sunlight :-

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

Time for a frame enlargement and here’s the full frame. Zuiko 135 f3.5 (a recent acquisition!)

 

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

And here’s a small section enlarged. Slightly harder grain than a 100 ASA film but not that much.

Well it’s made things a little more grainy but not as much as I’d hoped. Tri-X is made to be pushed to higher speeds so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. These were developed in D76 but it’s (annoyingly!) done a good job on the grain structure that I’m thinking for the next roll it will have to be souped in Rodinal which should harden the grain up a bit. It’s amazing how good modern film is by comparison with 30 years ago. All of the high-speed films tested so far have proved highly resistant to heavy grain formation – so much so there’s not a huge difference between them and 100 ASA film. Even Ilford 3200 was tame at 1600 ASA.

Finally – for those who don’t like slopping chemicals around – can Tri-X be replicated digitally in DXO Filmpack? There’s a preset for it so let’s see.

Here’s a Tri-X ‘original’ :-

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

And here’s a DXO converted shot from an EPL5 :-

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, DXO Filmpack

Close enough I’d say, though film development and PP variations (in both cases) mean that DXO can only really do an approximation of the final ‘look’. The stonework on the house is brighter in the later shot due these being taken many weeks apart – the DXO shot has the advantage of some sunlight on the wall face.

Well what to make of it? Tri-X is still an excellent film just past it’s 60th birthday and as good as it’s competitors if you prefer a darker look (think of it crudely as a fast Ilford PAN-F). As a photographer who still shoots lots of film as well as digital, it’s worth a thanks to Kodak for keeping this stuff in production. My recommendation is to give it a try – I’m about to order 10 rolls!

Thanks for looking – hope this is useful!

p.s. There a reviews of lots of other films on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

 

Still Quite Fast – Fuji Neopan Professional 400

As part of a series testing films which are faster than I’m used too (100 ASA essentially), the next one up is Fuji Neopan Professional 400. After testing the 100 ASA version of this film (here), the 400 ASA version should hopefully be as good.

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

This was taken at a local Iron Age hillfort which floods between the ramparts after heavy rain. The landscape is quite surreal and a good location for some abstract landscapes. This is a very good start! Vivitar 17mm.

Physically the film exudes a high quality feel as the canister feels very robust – it’s quite difficult to prise it open when it comes to development. Efke films canisters used to just fall apart in the darkroom!

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Another abstract shot round the other side of the hillfort. Vivitar 17mm.

The film loads very easily on to a film spiral – always a good thing – and usually a sign that film is well made.

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

This is something of a nice oddity from the start of the roll. There’s an area down the left extending over to the upper part of the shot which looks like a strange light leak into the canister. Not that I’m complaining – I like the effect. Zuiko 50mm f1.4 and soft (or mis-focussed!) wide open.

Exposed at its box speed these were taken on an Oly OM2N in aperture priority mode (I’m getting lazy!), adjusting exposure as necessary. Various lenses were used – if I can remember what they were I’ll put it in the caption!

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 28mm f2

This one’s a bit of a test of DR (in digital speak). Shadow detail is lost to preserve most of the highlights with the sun behind the obelisk. The film has coped well here – again very good. Zuiko 28mm f2 closed down to f11 .

Developed in D76 stock for 7 minutes (these were taken in contrasty conditions so 30 seconds were taken off the recommendation) the results look pretty good.

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

The Zuiko 50mm f1.4 at f11 – nice and sharp and a good range of tones.

An enlargement of the centre portion :-

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

This grain for a 400 ASA film is excellent – if I didn’t know I’d guess this was a 100 ASA film.

There hasn’t been any dust spotting or ‘dust and scratches’ correction on these negatives so it looks like it’s resistant to gathering dust when drying. This makes it’s use worthwhile just on it’s own and is quite remarkable!

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

Close up (well ‘ish’), 50mm f1.4 blurring the winter background away. The range of tones captured is excellent again.

Unfortunately if you like the look of this stuff and want to cheat with DXO Filmpack you can only approximate the look with something like Acros 100 as there is no profile for this film – on my installation anyway – so a direct comparison isn’t possible here.

Oddly enough the conclusion of this test isn’t what I was expecting to write at all. This is virtually indistinguishable from 100 ASA film which makes it a useful film for use in the winter when the light is low. Unfortunately I’m currently trying to get more grain in my shots so it didn’t quite do what I wanted! I’ll try pushing a roll a few stops and use Rodinal or Neofin Blue on the next roll to see if I can coax some grain from this excellent film.

So highly recommended – unless you’re after some grain! Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful!

p.s. There a reviews of lots of other films on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

Some More Ilford Delta 3200 (through a red R25A filter)

Being rather taken with this fast monochrome film (having used lower ISO rated films for years) here are a few more to whet the appetite.

i3259

Just about right – though I cheated a bit and added a vignette here for dramatic effect. 17mm.

All taken on a trip in winter round Poole Harbour (Dorset UK) on a drizzly, dull day using an OM2N, a Vivitar 17mm, a Zuiko 50mm f1.8 and R25A red filters to bring some drama to the patches of blue skies. Exposed at 1600 ASA the dev time was 9 1/2 minutes in D76 stock which does a good job with this film.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

That looks suspiciously like a fingerprint on the right. Hmm. I’ll pretend it’s a Photoshop layer. 17mm.

The viewfinder is darkened using the filter (and everything is red obviously) but using smaller apertures and the depth of field markings is sufficient. It’s best to use these on the 17mm lens anyway as the viewfinder focus aids aren’t that useful on such a wide-angle lens where most things are in focus.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Hardly ‘gritty urban’ but it has something. The red filter has done a nice job on darkening the blue skies here. 17mm.

The ‘exposure factor’ for an R25A red filter is 3x so this is the equivalent of shooting at 200 ASA which is more than enough even on an overcast day using wide-angle lenses to use f11 or f16 and keep the shutter speed fast enough for hand holding.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.8

The light was just right here for a few seconds as the sun came out from between heavy clouds brightening the wet pavement and putting some highlights in the river ripples. 50mm.

The low contrast conditions meant that the whole roll was fairly flat, so some levels adjustments plus the inevitable dust spotting were needed.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Not that happy with the tone of the grass in this one. I suppose it’s the low diffuse light and the red filter. It’s OK though.

Though it’s difficult to be certain the red filter has brought out some nice detail in those clouds, improved (I think anyway) by the grain of the film.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

My favourite from the day with the sun getting quite low and the path and trees looking ominous. The 17mm lens goes a bit soft at wider apertures (below f8) and f3.5 was needed for this but the trees hide it luckily.

In case you’re wondering if you can achieve the ‘look’ of this film in software, the answer is that you can – almost! The following two images are firstly the last of a roll of Adox Silvermax and secondly the first off the roll of Ilford Delta 3200. I know it’s converting from one film to another but Silvermax is a fine-grained well-behaved film and the image characteristics are similar to a monochrome converted digital shot. OK – not 100% convincing, I know for a proper comparison I should use a digital shot but I didn’t have a digital camera on me at the time.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

‘Proper’ Ilford Delta 3200 image

The Ilford image is quite low in contrast, the grain is quite soft and in the clouds the transitions between light and dark are nice and gentle. The DXO version comes very close, but this is with the contrast turned right down to a minimum. There is more detail visible in the buildings and the grain is sharp. I don’t personally think the clouds look as good but that’s purely personal.

Ilford Delta 3200 simulation, DXO film pack, , Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Simulated in DXO Film Pack from a Silvermax image (no filter present on the lens).

So it’s very close indeed and possibly good enough, but I still prefer the original. Whether the difference is worth messing around loading, processing and scanning proper film is up to you! It would be possible to process the Ilford image to look more like the DXO default output but the grain would still be too sharp on the DXO image and that process seems to be the wrong way round (Ilford isn’t simulating DXO!).

I’m so impressed by this film there’s a load on order and if you hadn’t already guessed it’s heartily recommended! Hope you find this useful, thanks for looking.

p.s. There a reviews of lots of other films on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

 

Speeding Things Up a Bit (with Ilford Delta 3200)

Time for playing with some faster film. For agency shots 100 ASA grain is about as extreme as I like to shoot as too much grain can be distracting. Recently I started wondering if it might be worth challenging that assumption and as a consequence there’s now a healthy stock of fast grainy goodness in the fridge waiting to be used.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

This looks like a brilliant start – though the grain is very well disguised by the textured nature of the subject. Don’t worry – there is some grain!

Starting with the fastest film in the tupperware box, Ilford’s Delta 3200, here are some of the results from the first roll, all shot in or around Salisbury Cathedral (Wiltshire UK) on an overcast winter’s day. A bit of research indicates that this film is best shot fresh and developed quickly after – something done here and I’ve no complaints.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Smidge of camera shake here even at f3.5 – oops.

The first problem is that the OM2N used for this only runs up to 1600 ASA. However, when you look up dev times you realise it’s not that much of a problem as this film can be exposed at all sorts of high speeds with appropriate development.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Can’t complain at this at all. The figure is Sir Richard Colt Hoare – a pioneer of archaeology and owner of Stourhead in Wiltshire in the 1700’s by the way.

All shots on the OM2N, a Vivitar 17mm f3.5 lens or a Zuiko 35-70 f.4, scanned on a Plustek 7500.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

With the contrast tweaked up this is starting to look nicely gritty.

Developed in stock D76 at 20 degrees centigrade for 9 1/2 minutes as recommended by the ever useful Massive Dev Chart. These were all then cropped and had dust and scratches removed in Photoshop – not that there were that many as  this film doesn’t seem to attract too much muck when drying.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

The central font – a 3 metre wide modern engineered masterpiece which is quite hypnotic.

Outdoors against clouds the grain shows up much more clearly. I like it but others may not. If you’re in the former camp it opens up some creative opportunities for some atmospheric shots.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

The spire from fields nearby. The height doesn’t really come across in a photograph – it’s huge!

In most cases the contrast needed a boost in Photoshop as expected – faster film is usually less contrasty than slower film. What did come as a pleasant surprise was the range of tones captured using just basic development. Depending on taste you can go for a darker look bringing out the grain or keep it subtle – though the grain is always going to be heavier than slower film.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Crop from the centre and a look at that grain structure.

 

http://www.salisburycathedral.org.uk/visit-what-see/cathedral-font

The Cathedral towering over the houses of Salisbury. The grain here I think adds to the shot looking quite atmospheric.

All in all a bit of an eye-opener. The range of tones captured is very good, and for subjects with some texture the grain isn’t that much of a problem at all. Where the grain becomes more obvious – outdoors against a cloudy sky in these examples – it can be use to create either a soft romantic effect at low contrast or a gritty dark look with the contrast turned up. However, if you’re planning to make 20 inch prints it may be worth considering something slower!

Based on this I’ll try some winter landscapes for which it should be well suited.

Hope you find his useful – thanks for looking!

 

Does Film Not Work All of a Sudden?

Of course it does! These recent shots were taken on an OM2N with a Vivitar 17mm f3.5 or a humble 50mm f1.8 using Adox Silvermax. More importantly they were accepted by the agency for commercial use (hopefully book covers).

Olympus OM2N Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Adox Silvermax

Developed in ID11 stock for 9 minutes at 20 degrees centigrade. Just shot at box speed of 100 ASA and with straightforward development – nothing fancy.

Olympus OM2N Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Adox Silvermax

Scanned on a Plustek 7500 then downsized to around 18 MP these were a rather nice set of negs.

Olympus OM2N Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Adox Silvermax

To add a bit of drama a light texture layer was added before the final save.

Olympus OM2N Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Adox Silvermax

The location was Poole in Dorset on a cool but bright autumn day, just enough cloud in the sky to add some interesting clouds.

Olympus OM2N Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Adox Silvermax

The shot above was also vignetted to give it a ‘closed in’ look.

Olympus OM2N Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Adox Silvermax

All of the above using the 17mm, the one below using the 50mm lens.

Olympus OM2N Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Adox Silvermax

All in all a productive hour or so with lightweight, minimal equipment (no zoom lenses) as is so often the case. I must do this more often, and would humbly suggest you should too!

Thanks for looking, hope you like them.

p.s. There a reviews of lots of other films on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

An Efke Swansong

Well it had to happen one day – my final roll of Efke 820 ‘Aura’ has been hiding in the fridge for a few years, but it’s day has finally come. The ‘Aura’ bit of the name is due to the film not having an anti-halation layer, producing a soft glow around highlights something like the ‘diffuse glow’ filter in Photoshop.

Efke 820 Aura

A bridge on the river Stour in Dorset.

The equipment used was minimal – an Olympus OM1N, a Vivitar 17mm f3.5 lens, an R72 filter, a tripod and a cable release. Exposure bracketing between one and eight seconds at f8 usually produced a decent result. The use of a wide-angle lens helps avoid the infrared focus adjustments required on longer lenses – at f8 pretty much everything is in focus and it’s possible to just use the depth of field scale on the lens to make sure everything is sharp.

Developed in ID11 for eight minutes at 20 degrees centigrade.

Efke 820 Aura

And from further down the river. There are some internal reflections going on which add a certain something.

This style of shooting is really relaxed – plonk the tripod down, take off the filter (it’s opaque), compose, replace the filter and shoot. With bracketing your only going to get around twenty images from a roll so you really take your time. It’s all a bit like fishing and as far removed from blasting away with a DSLR as it’s possible to get.

Efke 820 Aura

Even further down the river there’s this pedestrian bridge. For mid November there are a surprising amount of leaves still left reflecting IR light on those trees.

As always the resulting negatives can be rather dusty, so a quick clean with a soft cloth is worthwhile before putting them in the scanner. I still needed a pass with the ‘dust and scratches’ photoshop filter to remove some of the remaining dust.

Efke 820 Aura

Even more odd internal reflections inside the 17mm lens. I’ve never seen these using conventional film.

Even with the post processing the use of the clone stamp tool to remove the larger dust particles is needed (something I didn’t do for these as you can see).

Efke 820 Aura

The final location and something a bit ‘gothic’ – this film really makes the most of these locations, and the ‘aura’ effect is very noticeable in the distant trees.

I remember this as extremely grainy film, but giving it longer exposures seems to help – I must have been underexposing it in the past.

Efke 820 Aura

Finally a recreation of a shot taken thirty years ago on Kodak HIE speed infrared film – a suitable last shot for the roll! Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

Amazingly it’s still available (for a high price!) on some websites – Lomogaphy being one of them – but as the Efke factory in Croatia has apparently closed this must be quite old stock. Either that or someone is making it again which seems unlikely.

A pleasing last roll of a film I’d grown to like over the years. From now on it will have to be Rollei’s IR film (£6 a roll) which is better behaved and less grainy but doesn’t get as near to look of the best IR film ever – discontinued in 2007 – Kodak HIE Infrared. Ilford also make an IR film (SFX 200) but at £13 a roll in the UK it’s an expensive option.

Thanks for looking!

p.s. There a reviews of lots of other films on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

Rollei Blackbird and it’s Representation of Colour

Messing around with some favourite Rollei Blackbird this week led to a rather unpleasant surprise. I know there’s speculation on various sites that it’s an orthochromatic film, but I’d never done any testing as I just liked the results. If you’ve ever used it you’ll know it produces dark, moody results unlike most modern film.

If it is true orthochromatic film it ‘has too high sensitivity to blue, generally correct sensitivity to green and bright yellow, but has too low sensitivity to orange and is practically insensitive to red’ (a quite from the above link).

Forgetting the ‘ortho’ nature of the film I shot a few frames with a red R25 filter and what resulted was – absolutely nothing. A completely empty  frame. I haven’t found any detailed data on how sensitive this film is to different colours so I thought I’d better do a quick test…..

Rollei Blackbird

Here’s a selection of my wife’s cotton reels in a wide if incomplete range from reds and oranges to a sort of purple (I put them all back in the right place before you ask). Shot on an Oly EPL5.

Rollei Blackbird

And here’s how Blackbird captured the scene (no filter, Oly OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.8).

Apart from the much higher contrast, it’s obvious that the film isn’t sensitive to red or orange. greens look fine and blue seems a little lighter – so just as per the definition.

Developed in ID11, 10 minutes at 20 degrees centigrade, scanned with a neutral profile.

If you already know this was an ortho film, here’s the proof (which you didn’t need), if you didn’t know (or you’ve forgotten as I did) this info should prove useful when using it (without a red R25 filter!).

Thanks for looking!

The Zuiko 28mm f2 on a 5D MK2 (at last)

This blog is named after my favourite lens – the Zuiko 28mm f2, so this mini test is overdue. It’s been tested on a Canon 60D, but not on a 5dMk2 – it’s ‘native format’, full frame 35mm. Lets hope it’s as good as I’ve always thought!

This is a manual focus lens from the days of film mounted using a lens to camera adaptor, so no image stabilisation, no autofocus and no communication with the camera so some missing IPTC data. The exposures can be a bit random using old lenses like this – aperture priority centre weighted metering and RAW is the best way to use them, but even then you may need to bracket exposure.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Mounted using a Fotodiox OM to EF adaptor. The lens and body are evenly balanced due to it’s all metal build and the amount of glass in there.

Focussing is smooth and it’s relatively easy at f2 on the standard focussing screen in good light. In low light it’s better to use the distance scale if the subject is at infinity – ‘infinity’ for a 28mm lens isn’t that far away, look at the distance scale. The next marked distance is 3m! Alternatives are to focus bracket, use the depth of field scale and f8 in which case everything between infinity and around 2m is in focus, or to use the LCD .

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

At f8 the resolution is very,very good – there isn’t much CA in low contrast conditions, the colour is faithful, so all good.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Crop from the centre – superb! f8

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Crop from the edge top left and again – superb. f8

A good start! As I’d hoped at f8 it’s as good as it gets – but this is an ‘easy’ scene, front lit with gentle autumn light. Let’s push things a bit.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

In more extreme conditions shooting into the light there can be some light flaring around silhouetted areas which I quite like. This isn’t unusual in older lenses – I suspect there’s some internal fogging of the lens elements. This lens is over forty years old! f4.

 

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Shooting into the sun there can be some internal reflections/flare – not surprising for a lens of this age and speed. This was taken at f2. Easy to avoid with some slight re-framing but something to be aware of. Alternatively it could be used for creative effect. The bokeh here for a wide-angle lens is pretty good.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

There’s a touch of blue/green CA in the tree branches – this is uncorrected in this shot but can easily be fixed in PP. Otherwise this great.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Indoors in a dark church at f2. Note the distortion (not corrected automatically).  It’s sharp enough though.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

This is the best bokeh I could get for this test at f2 – not bad with a slight curve. I like it but others might not.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Close up – this lens has floating internal elements which optimise performance at close distances. Overall it does a good job though using a 28mm as a close up lens is somewhat eccentric!

So time for the standard scene –

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

The complete frame. Note the vignetting at maximum aperture.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Centre f2 – a tad soft but useable – this is a huge enlargement.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Edge f2 – top right and soft at the very extreme edge.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Centre f4

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Edge f4

I won’t bother posting any more – the results are identical to f11, softening at f16. F2 results are a little soft and the vignetting is quite strong – this isn’t unusual for a fast lens. Note that modern lenses can have their vignetting automatically corrected by software like DPP or DXO,  but for older lenses this will have to be done manually.

In summary then, a cracking lens for its time, very sharp when used in optimal conditions, but showing its age when pushed to take shots into the light when flare and internal reflections can be noticeable. Going back to manually correcting vignetting and distortion manually is a bit of a nostalgic pain.

This is where you’ll fall into one of two camps.

Either

You’ll go for a modern made lens which probably isn’t as well made or sharp at f8 but has AF etc and behaves better when shooting into the light

OR you’ll like the technically flawed results under difficult conditions and use these optical faults creatively to give your shots a ‘vintage’ look.

I’m in the latter camp as I generally like some ‘character’ in lenses and I don’t mind messing around in PP.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

So highly recommended with some caveats – often the story with old lenses. This lens is quite rare on the second hand market and go for $250/£160 so cheaper than most modern 28mm lenses. Things may change when the new Sigma 28mm f1.8 ‘Art’ is released – if it’s as good as the 50mm, the standards by which a 28mm lens is judged may change!

A comprehensive technical description of this lens can be read here, and an interesting discussion of the use of lens adaptors by Roger Cicala of Lensrentals can be found here.

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking!

If you’re interested in using other MF lenses on your DSLR have a look at the other reviews on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

A Few More Rollei Blackbirds

Bruce Robbins on his blog theonlinedarkroom recently raised some interesting ideas about one of my favourite films – Rollei Blackbird. Having been concentrating far too much on digital (especially video) lately it seemed a good excuse to get out the OM2N and shoot off a few rolls. It was pure heaven!

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

OM2N, Zuiko 85mm F2, closed down to f16 to give a shutter speed of 1/30th, plus some panning.

All shots at 100 ISO (25 ISO is too contrasty for me), developed in ID11 stock (identical to D76) for 10 minutes.

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

OM2N, Vivitar Series One 70-210mm F3.5 Series One

Interestingly these two rolls seemed a little less contrasty than normal, and the developer didn’t turn end up with a dark fine sludge after use – in fact it turned yellow. This may be due to old developer (4 months old) or possibly the formulation of the film has been changed. Whether this confirms the speculation on Bruce’s blog that Rollei Blackbird is re-branded Rollei Retro 100 is open to debate, though it does muddy the water (if not the developer).

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

OM2N, Vivitar Series One 70-210mm F3.5 Series One

There was a mixture of lenses used here. The Vivitar Series One 70-210 performed wonderfully as it always has, but I’d forgotten how heavy it was. The day became increasingly overcast which made focussing at F2 with the 85mm easier than the 70-210mm at f3.5.

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

OM2N, Vivitar 70-210mm F3.5 Series One

All of these were taken on one day at a local fair, the vintage cars and carousel horses being the best subjects around.

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

There’s something very attractive about some of the lines of old cars. New ones seem bland by comparison. 85mm F2.

Thanks for the link Bruce. I’m not sure I’ve answered the Blackbird/Retro question, but to me at least it doesn’t matter. Blackbird is still a favorite (along with Ilford PAN F) which produces results which are difficult to accurately ‘fake’ in digital, making its continued use worthwhile.

A few more examples of Rollei Blackbird shots are here and here.

Hope you like these – thanks for looking.

 

A Quick Test – AgfaPhoto APX 400 Professional 35mm Film

Having used AgfaPhoto’s APX100 for a few years, it seemed a good idea to try the 400 ASA version as I haven’t used much film above 100 ASA for a while. I was wondering if a modern 400 ASA film might be good enough for occasional use, as winter in the UK has been pretty dark and cloudy. Here are the results from a roll shot ‘on and off’ over winter, shot on an Oly OM2N with a 28mm f2 lens and developed in ID11 for 10 minutes.

apx400_1

Shot on a flat, dull day in January, this is a good start – no post processing other than resizing, straight from the scanner. Not much of a challenge for DR though…

apx400_1bit

An enlargement from the centre left. This is much better than expected, and not much grainier than 100 ASA film.

Another dull overcast day at Worbarrow Bay after a storm had passed over – this looks quite grainy when resized, though not when viewed at full size which is odd. Still the ‘grainy look’ works quite well with this subject.

apx400_2

Physically the film canister is very well made, with a quality felt seal and a solid metal case. The film itself is a modern emulsion, and is easy to handle and process. It gathers hardly any dust and dries to a hard scratch resistant finish – all very reassuring.

Now for a proper subject to test with – the interior of Salisbury Cathedral. Very bright windows and dark shadows are something of a ‘torture test’. All shot on a 28mm f2 which is a bit soft wide open, but with exposures of 1/15th of a second meant any smaller aperture was out of the question.

apx400_4

This is very, very good – an excellent range of tones and a lovely rendering of brighter mid-tones. I really like this!

And another :-

apx400_5

Again a superb result with a wide range of tones. The sun was just coming out making the contrast between the windows and arches extreme.

All in all a very good result. This is a 400 ASA film which is almost indistinguishable from 100 ASA film, and it’s ability to capture a wide range of tones is impressive. I’ll certainly be ordering a few rolls for next winter and for occasional interior use. Highly recommended.

Thanks for looking!

Adox CHS100 II – Initial Impressions

Last April I used my last roll of Adox CHS film (the 50 asa version, article here), a film with a long history which produced soft, subtle images with an ‘old school’ look. Ten months later I’ve finally got round to testing it’s replacement – CHS100 II. The 100 asa version replaces the 25, 50 and 100 asa versions of the discontinued emulsion.

chs2_08b

A very good start – exactly the same ‘look’ as the old version.

Adox have worked hard to reproduce the characteristics of the original, updating certain materials and producing it in a more modern facility (the reason the factory closed and the film discontinued, was in part down to the age of the machinery and the costs of keeping it running). Adox’s page about the film is here.

Physically the film now has a PET base making it easier to use, get on a film spiral etc. The old emulsion was so delicate that at 25 degrees C it separated from the base, and very gentle development was required, rolling (rather than inverting) the tank during development. No such restrictions apply to the modern film – it’s very easy to handle and process. A major improvement is how little dust is attracted to the drying negatives. The old version’s soft emulsion attracted so much dust that I gave up scanning a few rolls as the post-processing would have been tortuous. The 35mm cassette is also better made – the metal ‘end caps’ were often worryingly loose on the old film.

chs2_06s

Subtle greys – what this film excels at.

This first roll was shot on an OM2N in Swanage in Dorset at the box speed of 100 asa using a Zuiko 50mm 1.4 and a 28mm f2 (mainly at f5.6 to f8). The film was developed in stock Ilford ID11 for six minutes. A note for users of stock developer – this film gives the developer a yellow colour rather like indicator stop bath. I don’t think it’s a problem, but I’ll know when I develop the next roll! The scanner was a Plustek 7500 using an APX25 film profile with just resizing in photoshop. I tried an ‘auto levels’ but it made no visible difference.

chs_g002b

Here’s the test shot for the ‘pixel peeping’ (should be ‘grain peeping’ really).

The grain is unusual, being a bit larger than I’d expect for a 100 asa film, but soft and not intrusive.  This was developed in ID11/D76 – whether this would be the case with using Rodinal is something I’d need to test – I’d expect sharper results but harder grain.

chs_grain

The central portion of the above image.

To some readers these may appear to lack contrast, as we’ve become used to a contrasty, modern digital rendering of the world. However, it seems to me that this isn’t the point of this film (though you can always play in photoshop to increase contrast if you want to!). What this film does extremely well is reproduce a mid 20th century film emulsion, and the look associated with it. Where a wide range of subtle mid tones is required, this is hard to beat. In larger formats it’s going to be superb.

So – thanks for looking, and hope you find this useful. I should also thank Adox for plugging a gap in a film photographer’s film choice!