Tag Archives: film photography

Keep It Simple When It Comes To Tech

I just spent 5-10 minutes trying to get my bluetooth speaker to attach to my iPhone so I could listen to some music.  Every time I turned the speaker on it was pulling music from some device somewhere in the house but not the one I wanted it to.  After a few failed attempts I gave up.  I did not feel like fishing out a wire and the dongle that adapts the iPhone to an old style phone plug so I could just use a wire.

Earlier today I wanted to scan a document to email to someone.  I loaded the HP printer scanner and then realized that my new MacBook Pro does not have the software for that scanner loaded into it.  And since that HP is about four years old there are no updated drivers that work with the latest Mac software.  So I had to go get one of my old Windows laptops that I knew had that software in it so I could run the scanner.

An hour later I tried to make a new folder on one of my external drives so I could store some data on it.  Guess what, the new MacBook does not have the software on it to get full use of the Seagate drive like the old MacBook does.  So I had to fire up the old MacBook to see what the name of the software is and go to the Seagate web page to get the driver.

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Taken with Sony A7iii with old cheap (very cheap) Minolta 30-70 lens

Don’t get the idea I don’t like tech, I do, but I like stuff that is simple to get to work right and lasts a while.  Bluetooth usually works OK, but can be a PIA.  Wires are simple and always work.  Software drivers and getting software to work in the system you want it to work in can be easy, hard, or impossible.  That older HP combo printer scanner is likely not going to work as a network scanner unless wire it into the network or wire it directly to the computer I want to send the scan to.  It works fine and is not that old.

My point here is that if you take photos today that you want to enjoy a few years from now you had better be very careful how you save the files.  If you take high quality photos and want the quality to be the same in the future you have to be especially careful to make sure that no software changes your files.

  • To make sure your file exists and is readable in the future you need to save some copies.  This is what I do.  I put the files on a plug in drive.  I then back it up on a second drive locally.  (In the future I am only going to use drives formatted for Mac as I do not trust that the driver for the drive will be updated in future years.)  I keep copies in either Apple Photos or Adobe Lightroom CC or both.  Usually the raw in LR and the jpeg in Apple Photos.  I also have a third back up drive I update about once every six weeks that I store in my motorhome safe.  Then as a final measure I keep a copy in drop box.  Drop box is the only on line service I have found and used that does not screw around with the size of your files when you load and download them.  Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Flikr do.  Oh I almost forgot Flickr.  I have a lot of my files on Flikr and some on Google Photos.  And I sometimes make photo books or have prints made.
  • I have had significant problems in the past loosing large numbers of my photos.  I used to back everything up to one hard drive.  It failed.  I lost several years of full sized files and my only copies were on Apple Photos.  Just last month I went to update a file from 2017 in my main back up drive.  The whole year of 2017 was missing.  In this case I had a back up copy of the back up copy on another drive.  Some of the files did not want to be copied and I had to play with this for a couple hours.  So at this point in time I am hyper careful.
  • I have had several on line back up systems change dramatically for the worse.  I used iPhoto and Aperture on Mac.  I liked both of them.  But then Apple discontinued both and substituted Apple Photos.  Apple Photos is still not nearly as effective at editing files as the previous system except using on line.  Apple’s system of on line photos is pretty good now most of the time.  I used Google Picasa to edit thousands of work photos.  It was the best quick edit and file organizer you could get at any price and Picasa was free.  Then Google canceled it.  Adobe Lightroom on the other hand has improved.  I use both Lightroom CC Classic and Lightroom CC.  Both work well.  The on line CC system keeps adding features and you can use it fairly well in conjunction with the CC Classic.  Flickr used to be free.  Now you have to pay to use it.  All of these systems have at one time or another played with the size of the files except drop box and Adobe Lightroom CC Classic.
  • I would say my files are now very secure.  But I am tired of it taking so much effort. Plus I have no illusion that raw files will work ten years from now.  By then your raw files will be from an obsolete camera and you will be using a many generation newer OS.  The best you can hope for is jpegs will still work.  I think jpegs are mostly safe.
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Taken on a 1980 Olympus OM2n with 28mm f2.8 and new Kodak Ektachrome

Here is how I did it 14 years ago.  I bought film or the people that developed it sent me free film.  I would send it off to Seattle Film Lab.  At the time I used my Olympus OM2n and a couple of Olympus pocket film cameras.  When I finished a couple of rolls or even just one roll, I would send it to Seattle Film Lab in a prepaid mailer.  They would develop it and send the negatives, prints, a CD of the scans, plus a free roll of film.  That would take about a week.  The thing is Seattle Film Lab would edit the photos before I got them. I rarely edited what I was sent back.  When I went on vacation I would use slide film so I could project the shots on a screen in full resolution.  I used Kodak Kodachrome in those days.  You couldn’t edit slides.  You either got them right or you did not.  I made photo albums.  I saved the negatives, CD in files in a file cabinet.  My prints from 2004 look just fine and have not faded.  The CD’s I got back then still work.  And if I had not sold my projector I could use slides.  The only thing that endangered your back up files was your house being destroyed.  So if needed today you save a copy of scans in a location not in your house.

I do not plan to go back to just using film.  But anyone that tells you getting great photos is easier or cheaper today is contradicting what I have learned.  iPhones or good Androids take great photos and video and are easy to use.  They give better results than old pocket film cameras.  But big digital cameras with big lenses and big files are very expensive, need careful care, go out of date in about 3 years, and storing the files is complicated.  If you don’t already try both higher end digital and film and use what you like the best.  I waver back and forth.

Camerageddon = 2018 – Might Be The Biggest Year Of Change Ever In The Photo – Video Industry

This year has had one significant introduction after another in new camera bodies, systems, and film.  Sony has introduced the A7riii and A7iii.  Both mostly great and maybe the greatest full frame mirrorless cameras of today.  Nikon has put forward the A7 & A6 full frame mirrorless designs with new lenses.  So far to me this looks like the biggest contender of the Sony’s.  Canon EOSR.  A great camera, except, no ibis and big crop on video at 4K.  Both Nikon and Canon have only one data card slot.  This is a big omission.  Fuji XT3.  Another great camera, but crop sensor and no ibis.  Fuji again with the R version of their medium format camera.  This looks like a great landscape camera but lacks features that are in the full frames.  Panasonic now is talking about their S line for full frame mirrorless, but full specs are not available.  And then Zeiss and their ZX1.  Complete specs are not available and neither is the price.  As I said in my previous post I love this ZX1 concept.  I want one.  But I want one based on specs that I imagine but are not confirmed yet along with the price.

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Nikon D5500 – Using Lightroom to get B&W

I would like to buy a new full frame mirrorless camera.  I currently have a Nikon D750 DSLR and would like something smaller and lighter plus has an electronic viewfinder.  Of the ones above that we actually know the specs and price of I would say the Sony’s and the Nikon’s are the closest to what I want.  But here is the thing, I am not sure I like either enough more than the Nikon D750 to switch.  I like have tried the A7riii and did not like the way it felt in my hand and thought the menu-control system to be difficult.  I do like the dual SD cards.  The Nikon Z7’s are just now getting shipped to their buyers.  So far I have heard good feedback.  But I don’t really want to switch to XQD cards.  My three computers all have SD card readers but not XQD.  So dongle time would be the case with the Nikons.  And I like the dual card slots I have on the D750.  I don’t like the fact that Nikon is charging a lot more for a 50mm f1.8 than and F mount 50mm f1.4.  Actually I don’t like that a lot.

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Kodak Tmax 100 with Minolta 600si and 50mm f1.4

Or for that mater Nikon charging 50% more for the Z mount 35mm f1.8 than the F mount f1.8.  Even the 24-70 f4 is more than I recently paid for the F mount 24-120 f4.

And neither the Sony’s or the Nikon’s have settings adjustments for the all important aperture, shutter speed, and ISO dials.  Ones I can see at a glance like Zeiss and Fuji.  The Sony and Nikon do have quick change on aperture and and shutter speed but not in the elegant way Zeiss and Fuji do.

And then the Fuji XT3.  What a great camera with dedicated settings for aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and exposure compensation.  And it is a beautiful camera, far more so than the Sonys.  And a bit prettier than the Nikons.  Plus it is cheaper than any of the full frames.  But no 35mm sensor.  What were they thinking???  The whole World is going back to the best image size ever invented full frame 35mm and they stick with crop size? And no ibis to top it off.  But I have to say the simplicity of the Fuji and quality of materials, and the smaller size have great appeal.

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Shot with iPhone X and it’s wide lens

I have no experience with Canon cameras except that several of my friends and relatives have and like them.  Most prominently my professional TV and Movie cameraman son who is about ready to go back to a Canon DSLR after having a Sony A7S for two years.  His reason, “Canon has better colors”.  And this is a person who uses $100,000 camera rigs in his work.  So maybe when the Canon R is in the stores I will take a closer look.  Right now I don’t like the one card slot of the Canon or the no ibis.  Plus it is big unlike the Fuji.  But Canon has an extremely good reputation so maybe more on it later.

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Shot with Nikon D750 and converted to B&W with Lightroom

Like Canon I have no experience with Panasonic.  Their two full frame bodies look quite good, but no final specs or prices yet.  So more to come on these two later.

Kodak Ektrachrome is finally shipping.  After the unexpected Zeiss ZX1 this Kodak announcement was the most exciting of the German show.  I like shooting with film.  I like the look of the results I get from my old SLR cameras (4 of them with lots of lenses) and one very nice Voightlander rangefinder with a set of 3 lenses.  On our summer trip this year I did not shoot as much film as I had planned as I bought the D750 just before the trip and was still experimenting with it.  But one of the rolls I shot was Kodak Tmax 100.  I used my Minolta 600si for this film and all of the shots turned out.  I was being lazy and did not use any filters for the whole roll, which was a mistake.  I should have used a yellow, orange, or red for daylight shots.

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Both of these above shots were from this roll of Tmax.  The second shot was a lean out the moving train shot with 100 speed film and an unstabilized lens.  The camera was set to auto focus and worked perfectly.  It has 3 auto focus points and not 500 like modern cameras.

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The above 3 shots are from Portra 400 film that was about a year expired.  All were shot on a 40 year old Olympus OM2n and 50mm f1.8.  One of the best film SLRs ever made.

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And the above three were from inexpensive Kodak Gold 200 that was expired two years. I used my second Olympus OM2n to shoot these.  The Kodak Gold really did it’s job, but if I had it to do over again would have shot with fresh film.  Keep in mind these were shot with a very simple old meter in the Oly and then put through medium priced developing and only mid range scanning (3000 x 2000).

So I am thrilled to be able to get Kodak Ektachrome fresh again.  I fully expect that Kodak’s new formulation will be better than the old Kodak Ektachrome.  This film is being made in the United States in Rochester New York and is shipping from the factory now.  The new Ektachrome is the “natural” formulation and not the old “vivid” formulation as per an interview I watched yesterday from a Kodak spokesperson.  Why am I thrilled?  Slide film has punch you cannot get from negative film.  And you can project slide film on a screen without electronics.  One downside is reduced dynamic range.  As you can see from the three color photos above, the Kodak Gold has tremendous dynamic range.  I have already called one of the local camera shops to get an estimate as to when they are getting the film.  Guess is second week in Oct.

Travel Photography When You Can Take Everything

We travel regularly by motorhome.  We don’t live in a motorhome, but we do go for local and extended trips with one.  One of the benefits in doing this over either going somewhere by car or flying when you like to take pictures and video is you can take everything.  Another benefit is that if you are a hybrid shooter who uses both digital and film you have a refrigerator with you to store your unused and exposed film.  We left mid June and I had with me.

  • Nikon D750 Full Frame digital DSLR with two lenses
  • Nikon D5500 Digital DSLR with three lenses
  • 2 Olympus OM2n’s with six lenses
  • 2 Minolta 600si SLR’s with six lenses
  • 1 Voightlander Prominent rangefinder with 50mm f1.5
  • 1 Sony compact HX 80
  • 1 iPhone X
  • At least 30 rolls of film
  • 3 tripods.  None have been used yet.

We are now still on our trip.  Since I bought the D750 shortly before the trip I have used that the most so far to see how well it performs.

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Taken with a Nikon D750 with Nikon 24-120 f4

And the answer to that question is pretty dam well.  Other than the two little corner imperfections that I should get rid of with Lightroom the above photo from Bryce National Park is very nice.  Yes there is a little bit of sky issue caused by too wide of a lens for a polarizing filter, but when you look at the file in full size on a good screen the detail and color of the rocks is stunning.

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Nikon D750 with Nikon 50mm f1.4

The above shot was a couple of days earlier near Page UT.  This was taken at dusk and the file was taken raw and it allowed me to bring up the foreground of the photo so that it blended well with the top of the frame.  When you see this file full size it is very detailed.  Again I have not done as much Lightroom as I could and the top corners need a little fixing.

My experience using this camera when traveling is that if you put my 50mm f1.4 prime lens on it and one of the Peak larger camera straps you can carry it around pretty well without feeling weighted down.  It is nowhere near as easy to use like this compared to the Nikon D5500.

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Taken with a Nikon D5500 and 18-55mm P

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All three of these photos above were with my D5500 and the latest 18-55 P model zoom.  I took the D5500 with me this day because it is much lighter than the D750 and I felt like using it instead of the 750.  To me the 5500 files are as good as what would have come from the 750.  But when I work with files from both these cameras there is no doubt that the full frame 750 and full frame glass gives more details and less noise.  It seems like you can crop the 750 files forever and they still look great.

And a few times I have put the little compact Sony in my pocket and come up with these results.

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All of these were shot hand held.  You cannot do raw with the Sony so these were jpegs only.

Plus I did use my iPhone X some.

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For the iPhone X pictures I used for these three the native Apple app that comes with the phone.  Sometimes I use the Adobe Lightroom camera app which allows you to use raw.  This works very well with the Adobe Lightroom mobile app on the phone and my iPad.  But as you can see from these three shots that the standard Apple app works pretty good.  The middle photo is taken using Apple’s portrait mode.  This now gives what I would call excellent results in most of the times I use it.

Now here is the bad news.  No matter how many cameras you have with you you cannot control the weather.  We have been in the mid west USA mid summer heat dome and we have had bright overcast days for at least a month now.  Blue skies and puffy clouds have been as rare as Leicas.  Bright overcast skies are the enemy of good outdoor photos.  Bright overcast skies are almost impossible to shoot with a digital sensor camera as all digital cameras do not handle highlights that well.  Even if you shoot in raw you might have only two stops over on the best digital camera.  What happens is this.

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Wisconsin Dells shot spoiled by too much contrast in sky to land.   
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North Dakota grasslands spoiled by too bright sky

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So with too much contrast in the sky you only solution is to take shots without sky like the one above.  The problem with this is that when you are at places with natural things to see like National Parks you need to put some sky in the shots sometimes.

To me not being able to handle over-brignt highlights as well as photo film is digital photographies biggest weakness.  In one very well done you tube video I have watched a couple of time “The Slanted Lens” showed how the Nikon D850 compared with Kodak Portra film.  The Nikon shots were not usable at 2 stops over and the film was OK up until about 4 stops.  This is a very big difference.  Remember that each stop doubles the amount of light.

  1. Mirrorless cameras with good EVF’s and indications in the viewfinder are helpful at knowing when the highlights are too bright.  However, this does not fix the problem.  It tells you to turn down the exposure, but then you can plug your shadows.  Or if you don’t plug your shadows, you darken them.  And when you turn up your shadows in post it increases noise.
  2. Film tends to work better than digital in situations where you have very bright highlights and lots of contrast.  At least film with lots of dynamic range does.

Thats it for now.  Time to go shoot some film in the classic western town of Medora with classic old SLR.

The Photo Film I Will Be Using Summer 2018

The films I have used in the last 12 months have all been either Kodak or Fuji.  In my opinion you can characterize products from both companies by just looking at the colors on their boxes.  Fuji – green and Kodak yellow-red.  My overall experience is Fuji tends green, Kodak warm yellows, oranges, and reds.  You can correct much of this in post but it is still there.

If I was to guess why, I would say that Japan is where Fuji is from and it is overall a very green place.  On the other hand the most iconic Kodak shots are of the Grand Canyon and southwest USA.  There is even a State Park in Utah named the Kodachrome Basin.  The color pallet of that park is orange, red, and yellow.

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Taken April 2018 with Fuji Velvia 50 – edited in Lightroom CC Classic
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Taken April 2018 with Kodak Gold 200 – edited on Lightroom CC Classic

I will start with lowest price first.

Kodak Gold 200 and Color Plus 200.  I have shot both in the last couple months.  Both basically the same price in California and very similar.

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Kodak Color Plus 200 – edited on Lightroom CC Classic
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Color Plus – Lightroom CC Classic – Color on car is accurate.  I blew the clouds out a little by metering on the car.
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Shot on Kodak Gold with a 1950’s Voightlander – Edited in LR CC
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Kodak Gold 200 in low light no flash old camera.  Edited LR CC
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Kodak Gold 200 indoors, natural light.  Edited LR CC

This is a very good low cost film except you need to be careful of getting too much grain in shadows.  Personally I cannot tell the difference between the two Kodak films on my large monitor except to say that color plus seems a little brighter.  In some cases when I get this film the box says Kodak Gold and the film can says Kodak 200.

Fuji 200.  – This is the Walmart 24 exposure rolls.

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Fuji 200 – Edited very little in LR CC

This is a beautiful detailed shot of my dog on my large monitor.  This hardly needed any editing.

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Fuji 200 – edited in LR CC

This one needed a bit of post to get something I liked, but the Fuji did very well in forest scenes.  Fine grain throughout even in shadows.

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Fuji 200 edited in LR CC

Even in the dark areas there is little grain.  I brightened this quite a bit in LR and still minimal grain.

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Fuji 200 edited in LR CC

This is a beautiful picture of one of my grand daughters with great skin tones and minimal grain in the out of focus shadows.

I bought this roll of film at Walmart for $250 a roll.  Only 24 ex.  There are 36ex rolls for sale at B&H and elsewhere.  I mention B&H because they sometimes have some very good sales on this film.  Currently 36ex rolls are selling for $4.

My comments.  If I was shooting the southwest or the beach I would prefer the Kodak Color Plus or Gold color rendition.  Both almost as good as Kodak Ektar.   Just this morning “The Darkroom” posted on my Facebook a comparison of Kodak Gold 200 and Fuji C200 with two beach shots.  To my eye I preferred the Kodak on their example a lot.  I have to say the Fuji 200 gave a much more elegant rendition of my forest scenes, far less grain, and beautiful skin tones, much better than Kodak.  So which is it?  These are both great low cost films.  I would only remember to buy 36ex rolls so you can save on processing and watch the shadows on the K Gold.

Lomography 100.  Lomography sells 100 speed print film.  It is in the same range of price as the Kodak and Fuji products but a slower speed.  I have been giving some thought to buying a 3 pack and trying it out.  I have looked at the samples on Flickr and they look good.

Kodak 400 and 400 Ultramax 400 & Fuji Superia 400.

I have had very good luck with both the Kodak and Fuji.  Kodak has kept their prices level on this film to the same range as the Kodak 200.  Fuji used to sell at the Kodak price but now is usually about 2 dollars more.  At 2 dollars more I will always buy the Kodak, but this past Christmas I snagged 10 rolls at under the Kodak price.  That said here are some samples.

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Great shot on Kodak Ultramax 400 – a tiny bit of editing on LR CC
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The Ultramax shots came out way better than the Nikon digital ones.  At least I like them better.  This shot was slightly edited on LR CC
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Kodak Ultramax 400
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Ultramax
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Fuji Superia 400
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Fuji Superia 400
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Fuji Superia 400

In the end I think I prefer the Kodak Ultramax for landscape and Superia 400 for people and green.  The Fuji seems a bit finer grain, but not much.  The issue with Superia is that at $6.00 a roll it is almost up to Ektar 100 price and I think Ektar is one of the two best landscape films you can buy.  And the Superia is also right in the Portra price range.  Portra just outclasses the Fuji on skin shots and anything not in bright desert sun.  But you cannot go wrong on either the Superia 400 or Kodak Ultramax 400, buy on price and depending on subject.  I plan to work through my supply of Superia 400 this summer but since I have several film cameras I can load them with black and white plus some Kodak for punchier “National Park” type shots.

Pro films.  

The ones I have used in the last 12 months are Fuji Velvia 50 & 100, Kodak Portra 160 & 400, Kodak Ektar 100.

Velvia 50 – A classic slide film that is known for highly saturated colors.  If you like this level of saturation it does a great job on landscapes and not good at all on skin tones.  The speed is a slow 50 but in full sun this works fine.  I have used this film often in all of my cameras with built in light meters.  It is somewhat fussy about exposure, but I really have not had that much problem with ruined shots except when I ran a roll through a very old mechanical camera from the 50’s with a slow shutter spring.  The other thing to watch out for is limited dynamic range.  If you average your exposure and have a great variety of shadow and highlight it is easy to underexpose your shadows.  Two summers ago I had problems with the bodies of bison against bright backgrounds.  The animals had mostly blocked shadows which I could not correct well in Lightroom.  Since the big animals were up close and scared me a little I did not change the settings fast enough on my manual Olympus OM 2n.  My more auto Minoltas would have worked better.  I used Ektar 100 shooting bison and had much less problem with blocked shadows due to that film’s wider dynamic range.

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Velvia 50 shot with Minolta 600si edited in LR CC Classic
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Velvia 50 & same camera as above
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Velvia 50 

These were taken a couple of months ago and as you can see Velvia pops the colors but then does not do a great job on the skin tones.

Velvia 100

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This is a bad picture but this is the best skin tone example I could find of Velvia 100.  You can see the 100 does a much better job with it than the 50 but still pops the color of things.  
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This is a good example of Velvia 100 showing this slide films limited dynamic range.  The two people in the foreground a a little under exposed and the highlights in the background blown.  

But on landscape you can’t fault it.

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Velvia 100 using LR CC to edit.  Olympus OM2n & 50mm f1.8 

Ektar considering everything might just be the best overall landscape film available.  It is 100 speed which is about what you should have for daytime landscape shots.  The landscape color is similar to Velvia 50 without quite so much excess.  The grain is very fine.  It handles exposure better than Velvia.  And it costs about half as much as Velvia.  I have shot a lot of rolls of it.

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Ektar using a Minolta 600si.  The best color I have ever been able to get at Zion was with Ektar.  
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Ektar using Minolta 600si and 50mm f2.8 macro
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Ektar using Minolta 600si & 50mm f2.8 Sigma macro 

I have had some issues with Ektar going red on skin but as you can see from the next two pictures it is OK with skin.

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Ektar and my very old Voightlander with 50mm f1.5
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Ektar and Voightlander 

This is my favorite film but not if I am shooting mostly people.

Portra 160 and 400

Portra tends to be most peoples favorite film.  Here are some of my results.  It is one of mine too.  I find both 160 and 400 to be great with 400 having a touch more saturation.

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Portra 160
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Portra 160
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Portra 160
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Portra 400
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Portra 400

Portra 160 or 400 are both very forgiving of exposure error.  They both have tremendous dynamic range.  I do prefer Ektar for landscapes, but if you only want to take one film Portra is a better choice.  Very fine grain.  Much lower price than the competing Fuji product.  Only slightly more money than Fuji Superia 400.

Ektachrome.  I had planned to shoot some Kodak Ektachrome this summer.  The problem with that is I have not been able to buy any yet.  Ektachrome is not Kodachrome, but if I do see some Ektachrome soon I will buy some.

Black and White.  

I usually shoot color, but recently have used some TriX and Tmax.  I have beautiful results with both.  These are both gorgeous films and here are some recent shots.

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Tmax 400
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Tmax 400
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Tmax 400
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TriX
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TriX

If I had to pick only one of these I would take TriX, but both are sure to give you B&W results you will like.

So what am I taking with me this summer on our long trip?  All of the ones mentioned with a couple of rolls of Ilford black and white.  I have just looked up the price of Velvia 100 and Provia 100.  They seem to be about $7 a roll.  I will call to see how long to expiration before I buy, but that seems like a good price.  I have never shot Provia and would like to try it.  I usually take about 5 camera bodies with me and I load them up with different films and take what I am in the mood for that day or fits the likely subjects.  If I shoot any new films before we leave I will update this post.

  • All around films.  Any of the ones mentioned in this post Kodak 200 or 400.  Fuji 200 or 400 will work well and not cost a lot.  But if you have to pay $6 for a roll of Fuji 400 I would pick the Fuji 200 for $4 or either Kodak for $4.
  • Higher end film.  I will not pay $15 for Velvia 50.  But Kodak Portra or Ektar make great images at about $6.50-7.00 per roll.  Fuji Velvia 100 seems like a good buy at $7 but I have to check the expiration.  Don’t forget that slide film is harder to shoot and costs about $3 extra to develop.
  • Black and White.  I love both Kodak TriX and Tmax.  Both run about $6 a roll.

 

Travel Photography – What To Take

We usually travel by RV in the USA and deciding on what camera gear to take is easy, Take everything you want.  But in 10 days we are going overseas by plane and if you take more than you need then you have to lug it around.  So for the last few weeks I have been trying to decide what should go.  At first I watched Rick Steve’s video and he is a minimalist and says, “1 compact camera”.  I have a very good recent compact that is a Sony super zoom.  It does a good job and critically, has a viewfinder.  For sunny days viewfinders are a must.  But here is the thing, I asked myself, “when you are taking pictures of the Parthenon in Greece is a small Sony enough plus an iPhone 7+”?

Parthenon in Athens, Greece-Parthenon ruins tourism destinations
These are likely conditions in mid day, difficult.  Bright sun and blown highlights.

Travel pictures always seem to run into the “mid-day” problem.  Even though for best photos you are always supposed to go out before dawn and an hour before sunset, the reality is that this is not always possible, or something you want to do.  Last night I listened to a very popular and very good you tube couple talk about what they do when traveling and they said, “take pictures early morning and the golden hour before sunset, and spend the rest of the day in museums”.  (Tony & Chelsea Northrup). Thing is if you are on a tour you go when your tour goes.  Or maybe you want to have breakfast and a shower before going out.  Faced with the fact that many of our best shooting opportunities in our upcoming trip will be between early morning and late afternoon I have been testing my cameras to see (once again) which handle bright sun in mid day best.  The contestants were iPhone 7+, Sony HX80, Nikon D5500, Olympus OM2n (film), Minolta 600si (film).

Sailing on San Diego Bay
iPhone 7+ with significant time spent editing.

The picture above was taken with my iPhone 7+.  It was taken last weekend at mid day with mostly bright sun.  I spend a lot! of time trying to get this picture into any kind of decent shape.  The result is OK.

gaves overlooking coean
And this was a couple of days later with better color.

I then shot some photos a few days later with the iPhone and the colors were much better, but this required some work in Lightroom to get this shot to come out.

big yacht SD harbor
Sony HX80 in full sun.

The Sony HX80 to me is a slightly better camera than the iPhone.  It still struggles with mid day photos.  I spent some time trying to get anything out of the above shot that was passable.

DSC00651
This was taken on the same day but came out better.

The above shot was taken with the Sony while I was sitting in the shade and at a different angle to the sun than the yacht shot.

Yesterday I went down to the same general area and got this shot with my Nikon and just the kit lens with a polarizing filter.

fog with graves leading to trees
The difference here is the polarizing filter and mostly the fog.

I like the above shot.  It is lightly edited and pretty much just came out of the camera this way.  I was just shooting aperture priority and fine – jpeg.  The key difference in this being a good shot is the fog.  So no bright mid day sun.

DSC_3427
Nikon same aperture priority and Polarizing filter.  And this is after editing.

Shortly after the cemetery shot the sun came out and the Nikon failed to take memorable pictures.  I got so frustrated with the color in this group I turned most of them into black and white.

bird on the cliff
Nikon shot with B&W filter.

The reason I was so frustrated is that I went to the same location the day before with one of my old film SLRs, a Minolta 600si, some inexpensive Kodak 400 negative film, and an Quantaray 50mm f2.8 lens.  I had this film locally developed and they fouled up the scan and only gave me tiny files.  But the fact is that this lower end film with poor scans gave a much better balanced color result, by a wide margin than any of the three digital cameras I have used this week.  Imagine if I had shot Kodak Ektar 100 and had a fine scan done.  The film would have won by a wider margin.

So after all this work, what is the best camera gear for me to take?  Very likely I am going to duplicate last year and take the Nikon DSLR with the 18-55 P kit lens & 35mm f 1.8 for low light, iPhone, & Olympus OM2n with my 50mm f 1.4.  I will likely add the Sony too as it is small and could fit in my pocket on the flight over.  We have booked a number of tours in places we are going to and many of these will be during mid day and sunny.  If I was to lighten this up just a little I would leave the Nikon home and add a couple of lenses to the Oly kit + a flash.  I would likely take the 28 mm f 2.8 and the 135mm f 3.5.  The flash is a T32.

I don’t know why I keep needing to re-affirm the fact that in natural light film usually gives a far superior result to digital.  If it is dark digital works better.  The iPhone 7 plus is a very good low light shooter.

6 Days later —–  OK, I just could not let this issue rest.  So I went down to the same beach cliff location today and shot my Nikon D5500 with raw and my iPhone 7 plus with Adobe camera raw in the iPhone.  The results from the two digital cameras was the closest I came to the film.  Of the two I have to say I preferred the results from the iPhone to the Nikon.  I edited both as with Lightroom as best as I was able and the color was just a bit more pleasing from the Apple.  But it does not change the fact that an 15 year old Minolta camera with and off-brand (but very good) lens and low cost Kodak print film gave superior results.  I am so disgusted with the whole effort I don’t even feel like posting samples.  If you want to see some write me a comment and I will do so.

Bottom line.  Digital daytime still shots suck compared to film.  Sure digital is better for more difficult lighting and interior shots, but in typical vacation type family shots film still rules.  I guess that is why more and more people are going back to film.  The scary issue for the camera makers is that this means for most snapshot /family shot shooters they don’t need a fancy digital.  Sure if you make your living with a camera you should get a high quality rig, but if you are a family shooter an iPhone (or better Android) smartphone camera is fine.  If anything my recommendation is for family shooters to consider a film camera, maybe an instant.  Polaroid is back with a new camera and Fuji Instax ones are all over the place.  Analog rules.  Digital is mostly for convenience not quality.  I am writing this as I listen to a 45 year old LP record on my good quality Hi-Fi system.  Analog music is easily superior to any digital I have heard.  Analog music is just not nearly as easy to use.  Same with photos.  Digital is easier and analog is better.

Kodak Gold 200

Over the last couple of years one of the films I have used with good results is Kodak Gold 200.

Ennis businesses vioght kodak gold
Taken with Kodak Gold 200 – Voightlander Prominent 35mm & 35mm 3.5

This shot was taken last summer with my Voightlander and a 35mm 3.5 lens.  We just walked around Ennis MT and took in some of the local town sights about an hour before dusk.  To my eye Kodak Gold provides with good color saturation and has a pleasing white balance for landscape and people.

Me next to robot mr clean voight K gold
That is me standing indoors in a brightly lit entry way to the museum of clean in Idaho.  Same Voightlander camera but with a 50mm 1.5 Nokton

Gold has a fine grain if you don’t underexpose.  I have run into a few difficulties in the shadows of some shots with Gold.  You can get rid of most of the unpleasant grain with noise reduction in Lightroom, but better if you just expose for shadows and then turn the highlights down a bit.  One thing to keep in mind is that this is an inexpensive film and it is 200 speed and not 100.  Ektar has less grain but costs about 50% more and is 100 speed.

Zion voight mid day K gold 2
This is also Kodak Gold using the Voightlander and 50mm lens.  
Zion canyon minolta ektar_
Here is a shot of the same location but with Kodak Ektar 100.  This photo is pretty much right out of the camera with very minimal editing.  The shot above it with Kodak Gold had more editing.  

I find both of the above two shots to be quite attractive but the one shot with Ektar is just magic on a big high quality monitor.  I took a series of about 15 of the west side of Zion National Park with Ektar and when I got them back from the developer I just went “wow”, the best shots I have even taken of Zion with regards to the red rock color.

Ennis sculpture trailer voight kodak gold
Shot at an RV park in MT. with Gold
Ennis door voight kodak gold
Shot in Ennis Mt with Gold and 35mm lens.  This camera is an antique BTW.  From 1953.  The lenses are just beautiful.  So is the camera body for that mater.  
Pocatelo chief neon voight kodak gold
Shot at dusk with Gold.  This is the shady side.  
the chief neon from sunny side voigjt K gold
Here is the sunny side taken about a minute after the above picture.  No settings were changed between the two shots on this old manual camera.  

As I said, Gold can go grainy on you when underexposed as you can see in the sky on the above two shots.  But then the shot above that of the door is very sharp with little grain and the only difference is lower contrast in the scene and correct exposure on the door.

Gold can still be bought at just over $4.00 US in 36 exposure rolls here in the US.  It is a good general all around film that does very well on skin tones.  Ektar is a finer grain and is beautiful for landscapes, but puts red into skin color.

58830006
This is Ektar showing skin tone 

And here is Fuji Superia 400 for comparison.

Liz & Pey 2
Fuji Superia 400 shot on a Minolta 600si with 50mm 2.8 lens with flash.  

To me Superia goes green and that is hard to control, and Ektar goes red and that can sometimes be a problem.  Gold is more in the middle but you have to watch the grain.

jeff cathy jon betsy_
Kodak Ultramax 400 shot with Minolta 600si 50mm 2.8 lens.  

And finally Kodak Ultramax 400.

All four of these are very good films.  They have to be to have survived the purge of the last 10 years.  Here are some tips.

Kodak Gold is a very stable film that is very versatile.  It is not fussy at all but I would recommend no underexposing it too much or grain could become an issue.  I prefer the Kodak Gold color rendition to Fuji.  Fuji Superia has less grain and 400 speed.  But it is also 50% more expensive on 36ex rolls.

Right now Kodak has two very good lower cost films in the color negative category.  Gold at 200 speed & Ultramax at 400.

The Second Most Important Feature Of Digital Photography

If seeing the results of your camera shot immediately is the most important advantage of digital over film photography, then seeing the image in live view to make adjustments in difficult lighting is the second most important.  What I mean is that you can see what you are going to get before you capture it.  This is very valuable in many instances.  For instance, when the sky is dimming and dusk approaches it is very helpful to use live view.

Desert scene at dusk
Desert scene at dusk

To get this shot I turned on live view on my DSLR and moved the camera around to get the lighting I liked.  When I saw what I wanted took the picture.  This is much much harder using film.  Normally what you do is bracket around and hope that you get some usable-great shots.  Most of the time you will, but digital works a lot better.

Cell phones offer great live views to get sunset or sunrise pictures.  But DSLR camera’s normally give a better result.  If you are shopping for a new camera make sure it has a good back screen or an electronic viewfinder.  I personally prefer an optical viewfinder combined with a good back screen, but I can understand that an EVF has it’s advantages too.  I know of at least one camera that can switch the viewfinder from optical to electronic.  That would be ideal depending on how well it works.