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.

Advertisements

Spooky Monuments Part 2

(Four Images). This is the second of a short series about very odd, some might say macabre, monuments which attract the ‘odd eye’ of a book cover photographer. The first part is here.

Poking around some old places usually yields some good results – the best shots are hardly taken in the most obvious locations or from the easiest viewpoints.

First one – taken with a Canon 60D and an ordinary kit zoom, toned in Photoshop. That eye is oddly mesmerising!

00180305

Next a subject made for Rollei Blackbird film and a 17mm lens on an OM1N  – spooky, what more can I say?

00254022

Next one of those gruesome 18th century monuments involving flying skulls – vignetted and converted to mono after shooting on a Canon G9.

00220075

This final one seems to have been squeezed in by 1/2 cm – the laurel wreath is particularly odd. Extensively layered, taken on a 60D.

00180128

All shots taken for the book market, hope you like them and thanks for looking.

How to Improve an Olympus OM1N – an OM2N?

Well, it’s just possible to improve an OM1N – Yoshihisa Maitani put an auto exposure mode in a body of the same size and weight but kept to the same design ethos. Olympus didn’t just put a simple ‘aperture priority’ mode in the OM2N, they put the most advanced exposure control system for its time in place – more sophisticated than most even today.

_MG_8269s

Basically the same as an OM1N from the front – the film rewind release to the left along with the self timer ratchet.

Flick the top plate switch to ‘manual’ and the OM2N is essentially the same as an OM1N. Push it into ‘Auto’ mode and the  OM2N’s ‘Off the film’ (‘OTF’) exposure control takes over. The exposure indicated in the viewfinder is an approximation – the final exposure is determined in ‘real time’ by the OTF exposure system. Variations in light during exposure, from natural or from multiple flash systems is all taken care of. Exposures of from 1/1000th of a second to 120 seconds will be used – however film reciprocity failure is not catered for (how could it be?) so beware. Pretty amazing nevertheless.

_MG_8266s

Standard OLY 35mm controls – from top to bottom – aperture, focus and shutter speed. The blue shutter speeds indicate the risk of camera shake which is a bit superfluous but looks pretty. Exposure compensation/film speed dial and film winder on the left of the pentaprism, main mode switch to the right.

So what changes were made? The basic controls stay the same. The film speed dial is incorporated into a dual ISO/exposure compensation dial on the top plate – in ‘auto mode’ you might need dial in exposure compensation. The only unfortunate omission is the lack of a mirror lock up – something which is useful on the OM1N but wasn’t possible with the dual metering system.

OM2 Metering Display

The 3 metering mode displays available in different exposure modes. The displays seem to be transparent plastic and slide in and out of view as the mode switch is moved.

One significant feature is that it’s possible to use the camera even when it’s mode switch is in the ‘off’ position. The ‘OTF’ exposure system trips in and sorts it all out , limiting  the shutter speed to shorter than 1/30th of a second as a safety mechanism against battery drain during accidental activation. The ‘B’ mode is only available via a release switch and is the only mechanical shutter speed.

If you plan on using slow film – Adox CMS20 for example – the lowest ISO rating is 12 which is one of the recommended ‘box speeds’.

As the shutter is electronically controlled and is dependent on battery power, there’s a check/reset setting on the main control lever just in case the batteries run out, the shutter is tripped and the mirror locks up.  When the batteries have some charge this setting provides a battery check from an LED on the back plate. As an added extra there’s somewhere to push the card film box top into to remind you what film’s loaded – very sophisticated!

_MG_8267s

Back plate showing – well not much other than wear and tear! The battery check LED is to the left of the viewfinder, and the film reminder thingy in the centre of the back plate. This pic shows the black paint wearing through to the metal body under the film winder – I hadn’t noticed that before…

The OM2N is 100% compatible with the OM1N – the complete range of small and fast OM lenses, motor drives and focus screens etc. It shares the same massive, clear viewfinder, smooth shutter release and lovely handling.

Problems?

None really other than those of an obsolete system. The seals may need replacing which is a cheap and easy job. I’ve got two OM2Ns, and they both just keep going faultlessly – bought not as collectors items but as working cameras ‘earning’ their living.

The batteries are cheap 2xSR44’s silver oxidies – don’t use alkalines as their charge drops slowly over time. If they run out of power the OM2N is dead – unlike the OM1N. Rumours abound that the camera will still fire at 1/60th of a second without power – I’ve tried it and it’s not true on the OM2N but is apparently on the OM2SP (which is where the confusion has arisen). The dependency on batteries isn’t really as much of a problem as I used to think it was – I change them every year and have had no problems.

So all in all a real pleasure of a camera to shoot with. Put it into ‘auto’ mode for average scenes or when you’re feeling a bit lazy. Where the lighting is more tricky switch to manual or stick to ‘auto’ and use the exposure compensation dial.

Cheap, simple and rugged, adding a bit of sophistication to an OM setup – though for some reason I still prefer the OM1N but only by a whisker! For those who dislike ‘pure manual mechanical’ cameras it’s worth a look, and at under £100 for a good working example definitely worth a try.

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful if you’re considering one.

Adox CMS20 – Fast Becoming a Favourite Slow Film

It’s always fun to try a new film – especially if it’s one of the more exotic ones.

This post is a mini test of 35mm Adox CMS20 black and white film, which claims to be ‘The sharpest, most fine-grained and highest resolving image recording system in the world‘ with an equivalent of 500Mp of detail on a 35mm negative. It’s original purpose was as an ultra high resolution and high contrast document film, but if developed properly it can yield a full range of mid-tones.

So, I had to give it a try.

Adox CMS20 Zuiko 50mm F1.4

Zuiko 50mm f1.4 at maximum aperture

Sample from the top left plus a few dust spots

As you’d expect it’s slow – 12 or 20 ISO, so your first problem might be finding a camera with a slow enough film speed setting. The Olympus OM2 goes down to 12 so that’s what’s been used here, along with my sharpest lens, a Zuiko 28mm f2 shooting at f5.6 or f8 – and a few from the Zuiko 50mm f1.4.

ADOX CMS20 Zuiko 50mm F1.4

Zuiko 50mm f1.4 stopped down to f5.6

Adox recommends a specific developer, ADOTECH II CMS which is quite pricey by comparison with ID11 or Rodinal, but as I wanted to do something approaching a proper test I used that. The processing is different to most films – the developer smells strongly of something like acetone, fixing takes a very short 45 seconds and is followed by a short wash time of 5 minutes. Caffenol, Rodinal and HC110 can all be used too.

ADOX CMS20 Zuiko 28mm f2

Zuiko 28mm f2 at f8. This is Knowlton Church, now a ruin, in the centre of a neolithic earth circle (a ’causewayed enclosure’) which is 4000 or so years old. A spooky location for a film test. There’s loads on Google if you’re interested.

As a general impression it looks a little like Ilford PAN F, and the slow speeds allow some nice shallow depth of field effects with a fast lens. It shares PAN F’s tendency towards high contrast darker images which I quite like.

ADOX CMS20 Zuiko 28mm f2

28mm f2 at f8 – White Mill Bridge.

The ultimate question though is – where’s the grain? Here are some enlargements from a scan from a Plustek 7500i set at 18 by 12.6 inches at 350 dpi which is close to it’s maximum physical resolution.

Here’s a shot of White Mill –  a National Trust property on the River Stour. No spotting or dust removal just straight from the scan.

ADOX CMS20 Zuiko 28mm f2 White Mill

28mm – White Mill

And here’s a couple of small samples from the shot  :-

The dovecotes in the centre of the picture. The brickwork is still sharp.

Enlargement from the top left of the shot

No grain at all, except a slight speckling in the sky which is just discernible. It’s easily out-resolving my best lens and scanner and showing no grain – something I can pick up with PAN F. These are only scans – Adox claim it can be printed grain free up to 2.5m horizontally from a 35mm negative and I’ve no reason to disbelieve them after this mini test.

The only downside of this film is that there’s no grain to hide small dust or spots, so for a large print it will take a lot of cloning/spotting.

If you haven’t already, give a few rolls a try – if nothing else shooting at 12 ISO is an experience! It’s available in 120 and as sheet film too – in 5×4 with a top lens, the resolution must be astonishing.