Tag Archives: Mamiya

Recommendation: Kirk Photo

This is the second blog posting in a row about equipment – it’s not going to turn into a pattern!  It’s just a little entry in order to recommend Kirk Photo’s tripod brackets.  I want to comment on both the brackets, and the good service I received from Kirk.

Bruce Percy and others have repeatedly raved about the ease of using an L-bracket on a camera, and a little while ago I bit the bullet and went for it (I paid for all of this before my most recent expenditure, in case you’re wondering!).  Having been out with the camera and my new L-bracket setup, it really is fantastically good – I can’t quite believe how straightforward it is to use and how incredibly stable it is, even though the camera is fairly substantial.

However, getting the right parts was not completely straightforward: I wanted this for my Mamiya 645ProTL medium format camera, and although I initially bought – on Kirk’s emailed recommendation! – the wrong part (the BL-645AF may fit a Mamiya 645AF/D but it does NOT fit a 645ProTL!), they were very apologetic and then incredibly helpful in identifying the right parts.  This went so far as getting me to measure parts of my camera to make sure the part they were now recommending really did fit.  I returned the incorrect L-bracket, and they then promptly sent me the new parts, with no additional postage charge.  I was very impressed by how efficient and helpful they were, so if you’re thinking of L-brackets, do check out Kirk – they seem like good products, and the staff are great!

For information: if you also have a Mamiya 645ProTL then you’ll need a PZ-34 body plate (ignore that it says it’s for an RB67, it fits perfectly!) and a QRLB-S quick release bracket.  For my Manfrotto 410 tripod head, I bought an SQRC-3271 quick release clamp for the L bracket to slot into.  Kirk do, of course, supply the Allen keys needed for attaching everything.

So… go Kirk Photo!

P.S. Each of the component names above links to the relevant part of the Kirk website, but here is the homepage in case they change those links.  Bear in mind that if these items are being posted to the UK, you’ll also need to pay import taxes before the post office will deliver your parcel.

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Alan Ross’ photography and his #PostAPhotoFriday idea

To my considerable astonishment, Alan Ross recently started following me on Twitter.  Although I had come across his images before, I didn’t know he was on Twitter until then; I am (of course!) following him now too.  I really like the subtlety of his images, which for me are not ‘in your face’ ‘wow’ photographs – excuse the crudity of this description: it relates to debates in the Great British Landscapes magazine (see especially here and here) – but are long drawn out intakes of breath in appreciation at the compositions, tones and textures.  Even in small sizes on a computer screen, I can look at his photographs for ages, and I encourage you to take some time to explore his gallery.  I’d love to see some of his printed work sometime.

Alan posts new images regularly, sometimes daily, but there is no way I can keep up with that, given that I have a full-time job that has nothing to do with my photography.  But he also suggests a challenge, that he tags as ‘#PostAPhotoFriday‘ – the idea being that sharing a photograph with this tag every Friday enables others to see your efforts (of course, he posts his own images too).  For example, here is his message from last week:

I think this is an inspired idea: a weekly post should usually be a manageable time frame for me, even with a full time job, and because I think I need the discipline of a time frame to make sure I regularly put images out there for people to see and critique, I’m going to try and follow Alan’s suggestion.  So, below is my first of these Friday photos, on the beach at the bottom of my road.  This was taken whilst out walking with Alastair Cook at the beginning of October, with autumnal skies and tones.  It’s on Kodak T-Max 400 (that expired in July 2009), using my medium format Mamiya and an 80mm lens.  To me it looks a bit like a drunk has staggered along the beach before us (I assure you these prints are not Alastair’s – nor mine!).

Finally, I heartily recommend following Alan on Twitter and taking time for studying the images on his website!

Portobello beach - but not my footprints!

Portobello beach - but not my footprints!

Of course, I’m always open to comments – but if they’re about this image, can I request that you comment in the gallery location instead (clicking on the image also takes you to the gallery image).  Comments on this blog posting can be made below as usual.  Thank you!

 

Mamiya 645 ProTL query – help from anyone out there?

I have a Mamiya 645 ProTL with the prism viewfinder and the motor-drive.  There are two battery power sources: one small 6.5V cell in the main body, and 6AA cells in the motor-drive.

The meter and the shutter are, as I understand it, operated from the small 6.5V cell, whilst the AA cells are just for the motor-drive.  I almost always take multiple spot readings with my Sekonic meter, relying only rarely on the camera’s meter (basically, when I think the AV measurement will be sufficient – I’ve found the spot meter to be slightly off, and I trust my Sekonic meter more), but last week the camera meter just stopped working altogether.  This has happened a couple of times before, and I’m beginning to wonder if there’s some kind of reason for/pattern to this, and if others have experienced the same thing.

I replaced the 6.5V cell (I had a new spare in the camera bag) and that had no effect.  I then, despite being fairly sure this would have no effect, also replaced the AA cells with new ones – I was right, this didn’t make it work either.  Strangely, the shutter seemed to work just fine, and the battery check light for all combinations of battery was also ok.

When I came home, I tested all the batteries with a multimeter and they were all fine (so I put the old ones back in!).  I took the prism viewfinder off the camera body and there was no debris or dirt visible that would impact on the electrical contacts.  When I reattached it and tried the meter again, it flickered, and then worked.  I thought this meant a loose contact between the prism meter and the camera body but have checked this multiple times and it is all really firmly held together, so I don’t think it is dirt/loose contacts between the body and the viewfinder.  If there is internal damage to the contacts, I’ll have a hard time fixing that, but if there’s another explanation, I’d like to know more.

Anyone have any ideas why this might be happening?  If you know anything about this – particularly how to avoid it happening! – do please share, either in the comments, or by email here.

Thank you very much for your help!

Musings on film latitude and related matters

I’ve posted very little here recently, and have only added a couple of incidental items on my micro-blog.  This has two main reasons: I’ve been very busy travelling for work (Germany, Norway, England in the last four weeks), and I’ve also had quite a backlog of films to scan and process.  Concentrating on film and finding a revised routine to my workflow – now that I think I’ve understood what I’m doing with my new Epson scanner – takes time, and after various false starts, I think I’m finally getting there.  There is now, of course, a bit of a backlog of both film and digital images (I’ve not stopped photographing!), and coupled with a desire to redo the galleries here, you’ll appreciate that I’m struggling a bit…

A beautiful Rollei image, as scanned

A beautiful Rollei image, as scanned

However, this posting is tangential to all of these thoughts!  I have, partly because of the 1953 Project (and yes, there are images to go online from that, too!), occasionally been carrying the Rolleiflex with me as a ‘casual camera’.  This regularly elicits interesting conversations with complete strangers, which can be surprising and very nice.  For example, last week I was dining with a friend in London and after our meal I wanted to photograph her with the Rollei; a couple at a neighbouring table began talking to us about the camera, photography and so on… culminating in a request that I might consider photographing their wedding next year; of course, I declined!

Adobe Lightroom settings

Adobe Lightroom settings

The film I’m using for the 1953 Project is Ilford FP4Plus, which is rated at an ISO of 125.  Ilford’s website says it has ‘enormous latitude for exposure error above and below‘ this speed.  I chose it for the project partly for this reason, thinking it wouldn’t much matter if the exposure was slightly off on my portraits because I could always recover the images once they were scanned in.  I didn’t realise quite what ‘enormous’ meant to Ilford, but these images clearly show that.  The first image above is the scan from the negative (Vuescan reversed the negative for me).  I made adjustments in Lightroom, as this screen capture shows: upping the exposure by four stops, pushing the fill light and brightness up, and then reducing the contrast and clarity settings to bring the grain under control.  Aside from dust removal, these are the only changes I made to the image, revealing… Elizabeth Eva Leach, Professor of Music at Oxford University, with whom I had a stimulating lunch at the beginning of September (click on the photograph to go to her blog):

Elizabeth Eva Leach

Elizabeth Eva Leach

It’s not a great portrait, but it astonishes me that it worked at all, not just because of the film exposure issues: the café was relatively dark and I could barely see anything on the ground glass (so focusing was mostly a lucky guess), the lens was wide open at f2.8 with an exposure speed of 1/10th of a second – and yet it’s reasonably sharp despite all this!  And this isn’t a coincidence: another portrait taken under similar circumstances was just as underexposed and with similar Lightroom adjustments it came out fine too:

Another Ilford FP4Plus sample, with similar exposure settings

Another Ilford FP4Plus sample, with similar exposure settings

What I love about all this is the visceral nature of the film and the process.  For sure, I could have taken these portraits on a digital camera and bumped up the auto ISO settings – but I’m not convinced they would have looked any ‘better’ (they would have been different…).  Of course, even the process of ‘extracting’ an image from an almost entirely black square of film gives me enormous pleasure – it’s like finding a treasure!  I don’t regard myself by any means as a format fetishist, but returning to film does give me huge pleasure: my use of the Mamiya for landscapes makes me photograph with much greater consideration and precision than I used to with the digital camera, and I LOVE that.

For example, here’s a dawn image from the Mamiya taken on Velvia 50 of the Ratzeburg Küchensee in northern Germany this August.  I remember taking quite a while to compose it in order to make sure the twisted twigs were below the tree line, whereas I think with a digital camera I might have fired off a good half-dozen shots at different heights and then hoped one had worked when I was back at the computer – but here I composed slowly and carefully, got it right, and then made… two exposures (er… the first one had a misplaced graduated filter that I noticed after squeezing the cable release!).

Küchensee, Ratzeburg

Küchensee, Ratzeburg

(I’ve lightened the exposure by half a stop and added a little fill light, otherwise it’s as it came from the scanner.)

In a few weeks’ time I’m off to Assynt with Bruce Percy.  I’m really looking forward to this, and though I’ll take my Mamiya, I will mostly use the Nikon D90 so that images can be readily critiqued by Bruce and the group.  I’m keen to observe myself with this, as it were: I’m sure my recent return to film will have changed how I use the digital camera for landscapes.  Before going to Assynt, I’m also going to the Isle of Mull for a week of secluded reading – and I may just take a photograph or two whilst I’m there…

Working with the Epson V700 scanner

I’ve been busy scanning lots of images with the Epson V700, trying out all sorts of software settings.  The scanner comes with Epson Scan and SilverFast as the two software options.  I was gradually getting the hang of these, but was never completely satisfied with the results.  Looking at transparencies on my lightbox with a magnifying glass, I felt I saw more detail in the slides than in the scans (especially in the shadows).  My first transparencies with the medium format Mamiya were all on Fuji Provia 100F, which I was given with the Mamiya camera, but although I prefer Velvia 50, I’m sure that hasn’t been the issue here. With black and white film the results were a bit better, and I was gradually working my way through recent films and mostly liking the results, though for reasons I can’t explain, they were not always consistent.

But I think I’ve now cracked it – and this is largely due to a change of scanning software.  Yesterday I downloaded VueScan (in part on the recommendation of Tim Smalley, who bought the V700 shortly before me and from whom I’ve been learning a lot!), and the results are amazing.  Transparencies look just the way I think they should, with incredible detail in all areas, and my first scan of a black and white image has worked well too.  The interface is a bit clunky, but SilverFast is much worse (it looks as if it hasn’t changed much since Apple produced OS9!), and although I need to ensure I get to grips with all the settings, I’ll be upgrading to the full version at the beginning of the week.  The VueScan images are simply better.

Chicken house ruin, Kiesby, Schleswig-Holstein

Chicken house ruin, Kiesby, Schleswig-Holstein

For example, here’s a section of a ruined chicken house in a village in northern Germany, shot on Velvia with the Mamiya and the 80mm lens, and scanned using VueScan – the rich colours are a combination of early morning sun and Velvia doing its bonkers colour thing… believe it or not, I’ve toned down the colours a bit in Photoshop.  Even in this small jpg image, I think it’s possible to see that the shadows have considerable detail; the full size image is great.  Clicking on the image will take you to the version on RedBubble, where clicking on that version will make it appear almost full-screen.

I find it really quite surprising that the scanning software can have such a huge impact on the end result, but going by my experience of the last few weeks, VueScan is definitely the way to go with the V700.  I’m not quite there yet, but I think I’m now getting there.

First experiments with scanning medium format film

Yesterday my Epson V700 arrived – purchased specifically so that I could scan my images from the Mamiya and Rolleiflex.  I plan on this being by day-to-day scanner, with really special images being sent to Tim Parkin.

First impressions are very good.  The scanner is really solid (and pretty big), though as many others have said, the plastic film holders seem to be very flimsy  – a strange contrast to the heavy scanner.  Even just from one day’s careful use, I’m wondering how long these will last (it feels like a ‘when’ not an ‘if’ question).  Replacements are, apparently, available.  I find it slightly irritating that although a FireWire 400 connection is available, there is no Firewire cable in the box, meaning I need to make do with a USB connection for now (I expect the FW connection to be faster).  Photoshop really struggled with saving these large files (several minutes the first time), but I did have a number of applications open and I don’t have much memory for this kind of thing on my Mac.

Regarding the scans: I have done the typical male thing (according to my wife) and just plunged straight in, scanning some colour transparencies and monochrome negatives.  I had used the monochrome film (Ilford FP4 Plus) before in 35mm form so had some idea of what to expect, though I didn’t know exactly how the Rollei would impact on it, and my use of my lightmeter obviously needed to be up to scratch.  The colour transparency film was completely new to me: Fuji Provia 100F, and I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect; this was shot using the Mamiya and mostly using the camera’s meter, rather than relying on my lightmeter.

So, with auto sharpening, broadly similar settings (though I am intrigued that the Silverfast software has a specific setting for the Ilford film, which I used) and general playfulness, I think I can say with some certainty that buying the Epson was a good choice.  Here are two images that I have scanned yesterday at 6400dpi, along with 100% sections – this is not necessarily the best dpi to choose, but the files were already coming in at around 500mb with this size, and for playing I didn’t want even bigger files as they just slow everything down.  I don’t want to make excuses but these are the first (monochrome/Rollei) and second (colour/Mamiya) rolls I have shot on these new (to me) cameras.  I can see from other scans that I need to work on greater stability for the Mamiya when I’m not using a tripod – it’s heavier than I think, and perhaps my recently injured arm means it’s harder to hold still at slower shutter speeds.  Neither of these images have had any post-processing.

With this first image of my friend Toni (taken on the spur of the moment in a pub garden, and yes, that is a fresh pint in front of her!), if you can ignore the fact I didn’t have e.g. a yellow filter with me, there is clearly a richness in the tones that does just what I would expect the Ilford to do – and the Epson scanner captures the depth of these tones rather well, I think.

Ilford FP4 Plus/Rollleiflex

Ilford FP4 Plus/Rollleiflex

And here we have a 100% detail of the edge of Toni’s glasses.  It’s hard to know if I had focussed entirely accurately (almost certainly not, and depth of field was very shallow; I think I was resting the camera on the garden table as I had no tripod with me), but even so, I find the definition reasonably ok (bear in mind that at 100% and the more usual 300dpi, these images would be enormous!).

Ilford FP4 Plus/Rolleiflex

Ilford FP4 Plus/Rolleiflex

Here is the Provia, first the image as a whole (which, if I use it, I will ultimately crop, rather than leave at this size/aspect ratio):

Fuji Provia 100F/Mamiya

Fuji Provia 100F/Mamiya

And here is an excerpt at 100%, which again shows considerable definition (and the tif file shows good shadow detail – some of which seems to have got lost in the conversion to the jpg file):

Fuji Provia 100F/Mamiya

Fuji Provia 100F/Mamiya

I’m not sure I like the Provia 100F that much, but perhaps that is because the colours didn’t quite come out the way I thought they would; everything seems to have a slightly purple tinge, even when there is no obvious purple in the scene as there is here; I think that is very unlikely to be the scanner.  In any case, I look forward to using the Velvia I recently bought – I already ‘know’ the Velvia from 35mm photography (the Provia was given to me by the same person who is passing on the Mamiya – he had it in the fridge but never really got around to using it, so it is quite old and maybe not at its best).

My preliminary conclusions: getting consistently decent scans will require some effort, as well as consultation with the manuals (don’t tell my wife!).  But early results are certainly promising, and working with something like the Epson V700 will be enjoyable, I think; the time needed to learn how to do scans properly is perfectly normal (I expect to learn how to use a new camera, so why not a scanner?). There are some early niggles: for example, I would like to use a different colour space/ICC profile: I’m using the recommended proPhoto RGB in Lightroom as Adobe itself says this is better than Adobe RGB, and yet the scanner defaults to this older setting (somewhere in the manual there must be something on this…!).  Above all, using something as good as this Epson scanner will require me to produce much better images in camera to get the best out of the scanner – and creating better images is, after all, what this is all meant to be about!

Medium format photography: sometimes, bigger really is better

And here is another exciting post: I have to say, I can barely cope with all this photographic excitement, I’ll need to go and sit down in a dark corner and cuddle up to my tripod or something if this keeps going!

A colleague at work invited me over last Friday to look at his Mamiya 645 ProTL: he had told me on a train journey to work a few days before that he had bought it a few years ago – and had never used it!  So he was thinking of selling it, but wanted to let me borrow it with a view to eventually perhaps buying it from him rather than putting it up for sale somewhere.  Very generously, he’s letting me play with it until September – so I can take it with me on holiday and try it in lots of different settings.  There are 80mm and 150mm lenses (approx. 50mm and 95mm in ‘normal’ 35mm film format), and the camera has a motor winder.  He has also given me a couple of rolls of Fujichrome (Provia 100F), and lots of rolls of monochrome film.  All the film is out of date, but has been kept in a fridge so should be absolutely fine.

And there’s more: as he was getting this out for me, he also came across his old Rolleiflex 2.8C (number 13 here; there appears to no direct link), along with a collection of filters for monochrome photography (orange, yellow-green etc.).  And he wanted to give this to me as he was no longer using it… So I went home that day with two medium format cameras and various accessories, one of them mine, the other possibly to become mine!

I had been wondering about moving into medium format photography for a while, primarily because of the tremendous image quality that it offers with the bigger film, but the cost of doing so was putting me off (my overdraft needs nurturing, not more abuse!).  So the gift and the loan offer from my colleague took me very much by surprise, and I really welcome it.  Yesterday I dropped off the first Fujichrome (Mamiya) and Ilford (Rolleiflex) films to be processed.  I suspect they’ll be rather bad, but I look forward to lots of practice, and I’ll begin to put images up here too!

Of course, I’ll now need to get a scanner that can cope with this size of film… anyone want to buy my present scanner?!