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.

Advertisements

AgfaPhoto APX100 Film

After doing some posts on various Ilford, Adox and Fuji films I realised I hadn’t done one on the film I use most, Agfaphoto APX100. This is an excellent general purpose film, reasonably priced, fine grained with very good contrast control. Although other films may be better in any single aspect, this emulsion strikes just the right balance for me.

These first few were all taken on a dull, wet day to add to the challenge, using an Olympus Om1N and a 50mm f1.4 lens.

ap12s

Although the negs were fairly low in contrast it’s always easy to add some in post-processing. If they’re very contrasty to start with you’re stuck with it! I liked the vintage feel to the next shot – could have been taken 60 years ago.

ap9s

Same with this one…

ap10s

The curved distortion of the 50mm F1.4 wide open (lower part of the frame) is quite noticable here – I quite like it, but others won’t. It’s gone at F2.

ap14s

Finally one which made it to the agency – a bandstand shot through a dirty shelter window.

00273296

At about £3 for a 35mm/36 exp roll in the UK (less if bulk bought) it’s a recommended choice for an ‘everyday’ B/W film. While it doesn’t have any strong characteristics – such as Rollei Blackbird or Ilford Pan F+ – it’s a consistently well behaved film with a great range of midtones providing loads of scope for post-processing to get a desired final result.

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful.

Adox CHS50 – My Last Roll

(Three Images). A few weeks ago, my last roll of  Adox CHS ART film was shot and developed – an ‘old school’ film made in the same way it was 60 years ago and despite a few irritations, was a bit of a special film. The Efke factory (where it was made for Adox) was closed last year, so shooting the last roll was a sad day – I used to use a lot of Efke film.

The CHS range (25, 50 and 100 ASA) had a fine grain and an unusual response to colour which gave the results a special ‘vintage’ look. The example below has been lightly layered to enhance the effect. Everything developed in Rodinal 1+50, and shot on either an OM1N or an OM2n with a variety of lenses.

00252658

The range of tones captured is impressive due to the high silver content though they may seem rather low contrast to digital photographers. A characteristic darker appearance of blue skies can be seen in the example below.

chs50_20130203_7

Its weakness is its soft emulsion which produced some very dusty negatives when compared to modern films. It also needed more care than usual during development – especially with regards to temperature. Above 20 degrees centigrade, the emulsion becomes very soft, and at 25 degrees will separate from the backing! Still, the vintage look was worth the dust cloning required – in the example below there are still a few dust spots in the sky above the church tower.

chs50_20130203_6s

All is not lost though – Adox are developing a 100 ASA replacement, made in Germany and available in 35mm (36 exposure and 100 ft rolls), 120 and every variety of sheet film size – see here.

I’m really looking forward to trying it – I just hope we don’t have to wait too long!

Hope you find this useful, and thanks for looking.

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.

_MG_8208

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.

_MG_8209

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.

_MG_8214

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.

viewfinder

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).

exposure_control

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!

Problems?

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.