I’d wanted to try shooting medium format film for a while, but was put off by the price of buying into even a relatively cheap medium format system such as the Zenza Bronica ETR. But then I discovered that old medium format folding cameras & even some twin lens reflex (TLR) cameras go very cheaply on auction sites.So for the grand sum of £20 I bought myself a late 1940’s Agfa Isolette V folding camera, which is completely different to any other camera I own as not only is it medium format, but it’s also a folding design with bellows spacing the lens & shutter assembly from the film plane. As when buying any ‘vintage’ camera there are certain things to look out for, such as whether the light seals have degraded & disintegrated allowing light to leak onto the film. But with old folding cameras the bellows are the most likely source of problems. Because they stretch & compress every time the camera is opened & closed it isn’t surprising that 60 years on they might not be light proof anymore as cracks & holes appear. A good way to check is to unfold the bellows, open the back of the camera & in a dark room shine a powerful torch into the bellows from the back of the camera. Sure enough when I did this in my bathroom I found that most of the corners of the bellows on my Isolette had pinholes that would let light in & ruin the film. Instead of building an entire new bellows from scratch, or buying a replacement, I decided to try just patching up the holes. According to several photography forums there is a certain brand of nail polish in America that achieves this very well, but I couldn’t find it for sale in the UK (& felt a mite silly asking about it in Boots). Instead I used a product called Plasti Dip, which is almost like paint but dries to form a flexible rubbery coat. So after 2 coats I re-did the bathroom check & all of the holes seemed to be gone! I don’t know how long the fix will last, but I have an entire tin of Plasti Dip so I can redo it many times… The good news is that it seems to have worked, as the results back from the lab don’t seem to have any light leaks on them. The bad news is that my scanner doesn’t do medium format, so to digitize these I resorted to a somewhat low-tech approach – using my DSLR to photograph the negatives held in front of a white computer monitor using the cardboard envelope that they were posted in. Hardly an ideal solution, but an adequate stop-gap until I invest in a better scanner! (Sorry for the cellphone photo, but obviously I couldn’t use my DSLR.) The Isolette V is a viewfinder camera, so there’s no focus assist whatsoever & you have to guess the distance to your subject & ‘zone focus’ by thinking about the depth of field at the selected aperture. The viewfinder isn’t particularly great either so framing shots was a bit hit & miss. Of course there’s no light meter, so it was Sunny 16 all the way. I know I shouldn’t be shooting an uncoated (or at least only primitively coated) lens into the sun, but it only seems to glare slightly. Same bridge as in my recent Canonet post, though I think I should’ve rotated this one slightly more counterclockwise. Same house as in the Canonet post as well. Quite different trying to frame it for a square mask. Obviously the cardboard negative holder isn’t ideal & because they weren’t necessarily straight-on to the camera they’re skewed so impossible to crop properly. So I choose to crop loosely & leave the borders of the film in – all the cool lomography kids are doing that anyway.
Okay so it’s more like 43mm on an APS-C sensor, but even so.Walked down the Lade Braes again to put a roll of 120 through my recently acquired (& repaired) Agfa Isolette V folding camera, which I’ll post about soon, but I took the K20D as well. I knew from a previous walk that the Pentax 100mm f/4 macro is just too slow to hand-hold in anything but direct sunlight, so instead of lugging my heavy tripod along I thought I’d just try getting closer with the Sigma 28mm, to mixed success. I discovered straight away that the Sigma focuses so close that I had to take the lens hood off to void poking the subjects… Couldn’t quite work out what to do with this. Somebody told me that close-ups of bugs on flowers is like crack for photographers. Pretty much right. Wouldn’t even turn to face me, how rude! This guy was a much more amenable subject. So there’s a few very similar shots of him that came out alright. This would’ve been great if I’d nailed the focus fast enough. Most of the above were shot at f/4.5, this one beneath was wide open at f/1.8 – not much depth-of-field to play with! But plenty of Camembert-smooth bokeh~
Had a few shots left on a roll of Fuji Neopan 1600 from Morocco, so I loaded it into my Зоркий-4/Zorki-4 (another Soviet rangefinder like the FED-2, can’t remember if I’ve written about it before) & put the Индустар-50/Industar-50 that I cleaned of fungus a while ago on it.Obviously 1600 was complete overkill for the lighting conditions, but it came out okay & there’s a certain nice feeling about using a lens you’ve dismantled & serviced yourself, it makes the whole process feel a bit more ‘personal’.
A bunch of snapsh!ts taken on Tri-X 400 with the FED-2 & the 35mm Jupiter-12. All shot without a lightmeter using Sunny 16. Some people say that if you’re going to shoot with Sunny 16 a lot it helps to stick with one film so that you get to know it, so I’m probably going to stick with Tri-X in my meter-less cameras.Despite the fact that the lens essentially has its own built-in hood & is a coated version, it still seems to flare. Either that or the body isn’t as light-tight as I thought it was… Not entirely sure why a lot of the shots came out with so much dust on them. 400 speed film at f/2.8 seems to be just about enough for the sort of dim light in the lab. Can’t tell if this is Hamish (famous cat about town) or just another cat. Never did work out why this shot is darker in a band at the bottom… FED-2 shutter moves horizontally, so it can’t be a slow/sticking shutter. Didn’t quite know how to expose this one. Thought this was a tiny bit funny. Somebody had the great idea of categorising all of our final year dissertations into how well they were going to grade. I won’t say which one mine is. Bit of vanity. I went out at dusk & completely screwed up the exposure. This one looks somewhat surreal. Whereas this one I was hoping to blow out the highlights & get more detail in the shadows. You know you should do some washing up when it wouldn’t have fitted in the shot with a 50mm… I had the camera wound on & prefocused for f/16 when this bird jumped out in front of me, but it was far too dark for f/16 so I tried to quickly open up & refocus, but wasn’t quite quick enough. Not sure whether this is flare or leaking. I’ll just call it ‘lomography’.