Shooting Doors Part Five

A few more for the Legion – hope you like them!

First one taken with a Vivitar 17mm with an OM1N on Ilford PAN F (to see how well this lens does on a DSLR look here). All very dark and mysterious.


Next a shot on the much missed Adox CHS ART 50 film, and a door next to an oddly curved wall. A texture layer was added in Photoshop to enhance the shadow fall off to the left of the frame.


Finally a neglected terrace door and gate, layered/textured as per the previous one. This was taken on an Oly EPL3 with the kit lens.


As always these shots are taken for the book cover market, and all comments, critiques and questions are welcome.

Thanks for looking – hope you like them and they give you some creative ideas for your photography.

Replacing Efke 820 IR Film with Rollei IR 400

As my stocks of 35mm Efke IR film in the fridge are dwindling, another IR film is needed! Efke film is now no longer made so the challenge is to find a replacement. Efke IR came in two flavours – normal and ‘aura’ where the anti-halation layer was removed to give a glowing effect around highlights.

Efke IR film was capable of some stunning results, but the processing and slow speed was a bit of a problem. The soft emulsion attracts dust like crazy when drying – something which has ruined several shots for me. So to compare what was available and what is available here we go. All shots – OM1N with R72 filter, all developed in D76/ID11.

What IR monochrome is all about – excellent DR, glowing foliage and a fairytale image.


Second Efke shot – those delicate greys are lovely (even if my cropping missed a bit down the left).


The obvious replacement emulsion is Rollei IR 400. I really like Rollei film, especially ‘Blackbird‘, and the addition of a few stops is welcome.

So, what’s it like? Well well good is the short answer. Much easier to process with a much harder emulsion, and the extra speed results in no more grain – not that it would be a problem as the classic IR film – Kodak Hi-Speed IR – was about as grainy as it’s possible to get. It’s also OK to load the Rollei film in subdued light while the Efke film needs darkness.

So first Rollei IR shot – not bad at all. There’s a hint of grain in the sky but it looks to have better grain than Efke.


Second shot – you may have seen this before – and a very good result.


All sorts going on in this one – internal lens reflections, complex clouds – the lot.


All in all an excellent replacement – not that there’s much choice! It hasn’t quite got the fine subtlety that Efke IR film had, but it’s easier to process and isn’t a dust magnet. With a bit more practice it should be fine – and better than my best digital alternative which is a converted Fuji F810. Having said that, I’ll really miss the Efke film!

Hope you find this useful and thanks for looking.

p.s. found this from Martin Zimelka who’s done a similar comparison. His other film tests are pretty good too!

In Praise of the Olympus OM1N

Some designers produce items which are just about ‘perfect’. One such designer was Yoshihisa Maitani who worked for Olympus from the mid 1950’s through to the 1990’s. Influenced by Leica , he designed many superb cameras, amongst them the 1/2 frame PEN cameras, but my particular favourite is the OM1N, my first ‘proper’ camera, and still in active use 35 years later. It’s still by far the best designed camera I’ve used – here’s a brief description.


Lens off showing the film rewind release switch (marked ‘R’ top left), mirror and self timer ratchet (left of lens mount). The 35mm film is there for scale (it’s Adox Silvermax). The scratched black paint is due to attaching a dodgy 3rd party lens 25 years ago on holiday – I can still remember my horror!

What’s so special about it? It’s a small, light, all metal mechanical 35mm SLR with only the most basic controls required to take great pictures with the minimal of fuss. The viewfinder image is huge and bright, especially compared to most DSLR’s. The exposure control is manual only – a match needle system indicates the ‘correct’ exposure’. The battery powers only the meter so the camera works perfectly well without any power if you’re happy to guess the exposure.


The minimalist top plate – the exposure meter on/off switch, shutter release, wind on lever and film speed dial.. Can’t get simpler than that! The dial around the lens mount (top) is the shutter selector ring. The yellow bit at the back is a ”Post-It’ pad sellotaped on to remind me which film’s in it…

In addition there’s a mirror lock up for macro or astro photography and access to the huge range of OM accessories –  autowinders and motordrives, bulk film backs, an electronic flash system and 14 easily interchangeable focussing screens! The Olympus OM system provided at it’s peak top notch lenses from 8mm to 1000mm in focal length – almost all of them prime lenses. The depth of field preview button is placed on all the lenses at the lower right of the barrel.


OM1N and 50mm f1.8 next to a PEN EPL3 to show relative dimensions. The aperture ring on the OM1N’s lens is at the front of the lens marked 1.8, 2.8 etc. A depth of field scale is included on all OM Zuiko lenses (next to the shutter dial).

In use its amazingly simple and makes you wonder why modern DSLRs are so complex. Exposure is set by changing the shutter speed (round the lens mount throat) and the aperture (in front of the focussing ring) until the needle in the lower left of the viewfinder is in the centre of the bracket. The nice thing is that as you gain experience, you set any anticipated exposure compensation as part of this process – not on a separate dial. All the exposure and focus controls are operated by one hand as part of a fluid, simple process.


The OM1N’s magnificently minimalistic viewfinder with the match needle exposure system to the lower left and the split image microprism focussing aid in the centre (the red arrow shows the direction it will move on increasing exposure).


Setting exposure compensation – simplicity itself and no extra dials or controls to fiddle with!

Focus precision is achieved with the central split image centre/microprism collar. If you’d like a depth of field preview just press the button on the lower left of any Zuiko lens and the aperture will close to the selected aperture. Shutter speeds (the shutter blinds are made of rubberised silk!) run from 1000th to 1 second plus ‘bulb’ (open as long as you like).

As a camera to learn photography with it’s brilliant – nothing to distract you from the basics as there is nothing but basics….. Most people who’ve borrowed it for a day don’t want to give it back!


Well the battery type is one, which is the now banned 1.35V mercury oxide (E)PX625 battery. However the camera can be converted either by a service engineer (if you can find one) or by using a battery insert which wraps around a 386/301 silver oxide battery and has worked beautifully for me. Batteries last 1 year or more.

The depth of field preview isn’t that useful at smaller apertures as the viewfinder darkens so much but that’s inevitable.

The light seals around the film chamber will have deteriorated over 30 years  and will need replacing but this is a very simple and cheap job. Foam around the pentaprism can also deteriorate leading to a blotchy/dark viewfinder – this is more serious and needs some more expensive attention.

Finally of course, the OM system is now no longer in production, which means getting to grips with the second-hand market where some items are rare and expensive, or not available at all. The upside is that a ‘new’ chrome OM1N is around £80 (black ones are more expensive) so even if your old one packs up, picking up a working one isn’t that difficult.

The superb OM lenses go from mid £30 up to £hundreds depending on their rarity, but a working setup with a 28, 50 and 135mm lens, or a few zooms should be around £250 – cheaper than a digital compact! You can use them on your DSLR too with an adaptor with some restrictions (no AF, stop down aperture metering).

All in all, a camera for that ‘pure’ photographic experience – rugged, minimalistic and simple producing great results with no fuss. I’d recommend one to anyone hoping to improve their photography or those wanting try something radically different to a DSLR.

There – I’ve always wanted to do a camera review – hope you like it and thanks for looking.

Recent Film Stuff

These are some film shots which were recently accepted by the agency, proving there’s still life in the Olympus OM1 yet. All taken on Agfapan APX 100 film rated at box speed, developed in Rodinal 1+50 for 12 minutes.

This didn’t seem that good through the viewfinder – a bit of post-processing worked nicely though.


This  was shot on an overcast day on the 50mm F1.4 at max aperture. Looking at this now I should have cropped away the roof at the lower left just leaving the tower.


Same lens with the narrow depth of field blurring the closed leaves into a nice soft mush.


This is a covered walkway with plants trained over arched supports. As this was taken in autumn, most of the leaves had fallen off and the gaps allowed dappled light to filter through which gave a nice effect. Zuiko 28mm.


This shallow puddle was full of fallen leaves – providing a way to break up the bare tree branch reflection. 28mm lens again.


It’s strange – I take shots on film equipment which are very different from those on digital kit. Maybe it’s the fixed focal lengths or the slower approach. Anyone else find this?

Thanks for looking – hope you like them and they give you some creative ideas for your photography.

Taming a DSLR in the Wild

This post shows one way to set up a DSLR for simple everyday operation which I hope you find useful. I use these settings as a default, changing as required.

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