A walk in Bjørvika with the Nikon FM3A, a 35mm lens and Kodak ColorPlus 200 film. Bjørvika is a neighborhood in the center of Oslo (Norway). It is a former container port which is entirely redeveloped. It is still under construction. The crowd on the Opera house is for the Oslo "Red Bull Flugtag 2015".
Bellow is a picture of a strip of the negative on the light table. We can see the "KODAK 200-8" marking on the edge of the film. Not much to say, it looks like a negative but it will be interesting to compare it side by side with other types of negative film in order to see if there are any obvious differences in the color of the film base, contrast or colors.
In terms of scanning, I used my Nikon LS-2000 scanner and VueScan. The images came out pretty ok without any obvious color cast. The auto asjustments made by VueScan made the images look a bit washed out and skin tones not very pleasing (a bit brownish/orange-ish). Worjing with the RAW files from the scanner seems to be better to get more saturated colors but it is probably possible to get the settings right in VueScan. I have to admit that I do not really understand how to setup the color (or even the tone curves) in VueScan.
Here are some sample pictures taken on Kodak ColorPlus 200. I will grow the set of pictures as I shoot more of it!
I'll have to do some further side to side comparison with other films to see exactly how this cheap alternative performs but so far it seems very usable and easy to work with. Looking at the picture I have the impression that the grain is not as fine as what I get when using Kodak Gold but this may be just an impression, I'll have to look closer. I still have 4 or 5 rolls in the fridge to refine my impressions.
Checkout the Kodak ColorPlus 200 Flikr group for more pictures shot with this film.
I typically scan my film with a Nikon LS-2000 dedicated film scanner which gives very good scans. I did not expect this cheap scanner to provide anything comparable but looking up online I was not really able to find sample images in order to see what kind of images I could expect. That is why I am taking the time to write this up and include some sample so that you can know what to expect.
Looking at the features, my expectations were two fold. First I though I could use it to quickly scan my film in order to have a sort of low resolution contact sheet which I can then use to review the pictures and find the good ones. Second, the scanner has a video output so I thought I would use that to make a slide show for the rest of the family by plunging it in the TV.
The scanner came with a good set of accessories: the scanner, a couple film holders for 35mm strip and mounted slides, some sort of brush to clean the film (I did not even open it), a power supply, USB cable and video cable. All was well packaged and the overall quality for the hardware was better than I expected. Bellow are a few shots for the scanner. I did not bother to photograph all accessories.
One nice feature of the scanner is that it allows recording the images directly to an SD card. There is also an option to plug it in the computer but I have not tried, using the SD card is much more convenient. In terms of resolution, it claims 5 or 10 MPix and you can choose if you want 5 or 10 MPix file on the SD card. The actual usable resolution is much much lower, I have no idea what the resolution of the image sensor is and as we will see the resolution which the optics can achieve is probably a limiting factor as well. However, for the purpose I would be happy get a good 1MPix file, resolution is really not the issue here.
Here is a gallery of color negative scans. These shots are from a Kodak Gold 200 roll. For each images, the first one is the scan from the CamLink Scanner. No post processing has been applied, for each image I have just selected what I thought was the best exposure when scanning. This this the only control the scanner provides: you can make the image brighter or darker based on the preview that you see on the LCD screen. The second images is a scan of the same negative with the Nikon LS-2000 scanner with basic levels adjustments.
Here is a similar set of images for black and white film. The scanner has a dedicated black and white mode which outputs black and white images. If the scanner is set to color negatives, the black and white images come out with a strong color cast. These shots are from a roll of Ilford HP5+ 400.
How much is it really cropping out?
Is there a better alternative?
This kind of webcam-based "scanners" are not an alternative for a proper scanner but there are other strategies for photographing the negative from using a mobile phone camera to a DSLR. How does it compares? The 3 images bellow are the one from the CamLink Scanner on the left, from my mobile phone in the middle (it is a Samsung Galaxy S3) and from my DSLR on the right (Nikon D600). I did nothing fancy here, simple put the negative on a light table (an old LCD screen I modified as a light table) and hand held a shot of the negative. There is a lot of room for improvement if a tripod or some sort of support it used. I have applied levels on all 3 images to make them more comparable.
Of course the DSLR is a clear winner here. Add a proper jig, a good marco lens and a tripod and it is probably possible to reach the image quality of a scanner. The mobile phone is the real alternative, the image quality is not going to be on par with the DSLR or with a scanner but I believe it can easily surpass something like the the CamLink scanner. Most mobile phone have better optics, better senrors and better software than one of those cheap webcam based scanner. I have yet to search for existing apps and jigs to scan negatives with android but I am pretty sure there must be some exiting stuff.
I have been disappointed with this scanner. It is not really usable for any of the two "use cases" I had for it. For previewing the images and finding the good ones, the large amount of cropping and the poor image quality on the edges of the frame make it hard to even see if an image is sharp or not or if the composition came out right. It is easier to see it by just looking at the negative... For the second use to share images on the TV, the primary problem is that there is no option to just show the image without all the controls, icons and other user interface overplayed on the image. Another limitation is the very low resolution of the video.
Leave me your comments bellow if you have had different experiences or if you have any questions.
This is my very first pinhole camera and very first picture taken with it. I am planning on 3D printing a larger 4x5 pinhole camera but it is often a good idea to start small so as an experiment I built a small pinhole camera using 35mm containers I had laying around. First I drilled a 5mm hole in the middle of the container. To make the pinhole I used a piece of aluminum from a soda can and carefully poked the hole with a needle. Thenn the pinhole is attached over the hole of the container using black tape.
In the darkroom, I loaded the container with a piece of black and white photographic paper. The paper size is approximately 40x70 mm. The paper is warped inside wall of the container on the opposite side of the hole. Once the container closed, I added a piece of black tape on the pinhole to make the "shutter". My first test exposure is a picture of the house. The light was quite dim so I made a 5min exposure. I quickly developed and fixed the result. The picture is under-exposed but I am impressed with the sharpness and details. I did not expect that this small camera could give such results!
On the left is a picture of the developed paper. The image is a negative and mirrored. On the right is a scan of the image which I have inverted, mirrored and I adjusted the contrast to pull the details from the shadows. Clearly I could have exposed this one a bit longer to get more details but I am already amazed by how much details have been captured.
To be able to take multiple shots, I have now built 4 of these camera. Here is a gallery of images which I will grow as we play with them.
There will be more experiments with pinhole cameras, that is for sure :-)
Kodak Ektar 100 color negative film seems to be a good quality film with nice saturated colors (especially reds apparently). I bought a few 120 rolls to see what it can do in the Pentax 6x7. I am planning to use Ektar mostly for landscapes.
I will add my impressions and some sample images to this post as I go and shoot more Ektar 100.
Sample images (Pentax 6x7)
The two images bellow are from my very first roll. My first impression from the film is very good. I developed it at home using a Tetenal C-41 kit (at 30°C). Scanned the film with en Epson V600 flatbed scanner. The colors, details and sharpness seems very good to me. Overall the film seems to perform very well but on this was also one of my first roll with the Pentax 6x7 and a wide angle lens so I need to improve my technique there. Quite a few shots were slightly out of focus, its seems to me that the DoF scale on the lens is not 100% accurate.
Here are a couple of images:
And a couple of crops showing some of the details. The crops are 1200px wide inside the 30MP scan of the 6x7 negative.
So far the film seem to hold its promises, I'll have to shoot more of it (and improve my technique withe the Pentax 6x7 in order to get sharper images).
It turns out that the FM3A is very similar to the Nikon FE but a much more recent design. It was released in 2001 while the Nikon FE dates back to 1978! Despite this big age difference, they are very similar in their features and usage. The buttons, dials and meter "needles display " are almost the same and the FM3A is still a fully mechanical camera: all shutter speeds can be used (up to 1/4000s) without battery, that is amazing for a camera for a 21st century camera!
The two main features which are unique to the FM3A compared to the other Nikon manual camera are its shutter which goes up to 1/4000s and its support for modern TTL flashes. I can use it with my Nikon SB-910 spedlight in TTL mode and bounce the flash, great!
Sample Images (Kodak Gold 200)
Sample Images (Ilford HP5+)
This is now my main SLR, I really like it and have yet to find any down side to it. At the time of writing this I have shot 10 rolls of film with it, 6 in black and white and 4 in colors. I have used only the manual mode but I am fully relying on the camera meter. It seems to be very accurate and I have not had any surprises with exposure.
When shooting film, I almost exclusively use black and white Ilford HP5+ film. I do not have much experience with other films but the results I am getting with HP5+ are consistent and I am quite happy with the pictures. I am following the advice of trying to keep things as consistent as possible in order to avoid surprises and only change few variables at the time. Today, I am looking in more details at result obtained when pushing HP5+. Ilford HP5+ is rated at 400 ISO, that is a good speed but a bit slow when it comes to indoors and low light situations (which are quite common here in Norway). To cope with that, I am often pushing the film 2 stops and shooting it at 1600 ISO. Again, to avoid too many variables I have not experimented with pushing to many different ISOs but I stick to either 400 ISO (the box speed) whenever possible or choose 1600 ISO when I need to.
What is pushing film?
The principle of pushing film is quite simple: underexpose the negative by a number of stops (in my case two stops) and then increase the development time in order to compensate for it (that is what the term pushing actually refers to). When underexposing the film, it has received less light so if developed normally, the negative would come out very thin, meaning rather transparent or bright. As expected the corresponding positive image would be dark. When developing film, the developer reacts with the silver salts which have been exposed to light and slowly builds little blobs of silver metal around them. The longer the film stays in the developer and the more these grains of silver build up and grow in size. This makes the negative darker and darker and hence the final image brighter and brighter in order to compensate for the initial under-exposure.
Using this technique, in theory any film can be shot at any speed as long as the development time is adjusted accordingly. In practice each film is designed and rated at a specific speed (such as ISO 400 for Ilford HP5+), it corresponds to the best overall performance for the film. Some films will maintain very good performance and image quality for a wide range of ISO and some wont. Ilford HP5+ (as well as Kodak Tri-X) is quite well known for its versatility and ability to maintain good performances when pushed. That is one of the reason I chose it in the first place.
One important thing to note is that the choice of developer also play an important role when pushing film. Some developers with provide better results than others and allow pushing film further than others. There again, I have not tried much but I selected Kodak HC-110 because (i) according to the Ilford development chart it gives good results from 400 ISO to 1600 ISO, (ii) it is a one shot developer, and (iii) it was available and reasonably priced at my local shop. In terms of my development, I always develop at 20°C with HC-110 dilution B (1+31). That gives me a development time of 5 min when shooting at ISO 400 and 11 min when pushing to ISO 1600.
"Side effects" of pushing film?
The drawback of pushing film to a higher speed is a penalty in terms of image quality. Typical effects of pushing film are a higher contrast, more grain and a possible loss of details in the shadows. In practice over the last 2 month I have shot over 20 rolls of HP5+ among which about half were pushed to ISO 1600 due to poor lighting conditions. Based on this experiences, I can kind of confirm that I typically needed to adjust contrast when scanning the images (actually adding more contrast to the images shot at ISO 400) and I can also confirm that I have notices that the grain is more visible when the film is pushed to ISO 1600. However, it is quite hard to quantify so my idea today was to have a little bit more "scientific" look at it.
Looking at the negatives side by side
This image bellow is a single photo of 4 strips of negatives from two different rolls. The first 2 stips on the top are from a roll shot and developed at box speed (ISO 400). The two bottom strips are from a roll shot and developed at ISO 1600 (pushed 2 stops).
I specifically chose those two rolls for this comparison because they were shot and developed within a few days of each others, I have used the exact same camera and lenses, the same developer, same agitation techniques, etc. Of course the pictures are not the same, the lighting is not the same, etc. Lets see if I can still learn something.
Differences in the contrast?
The two images bellow are extracted from the single contact sheet picture discussed in the previous section. All I have done is to copy/past parts of the images in order to make a group of 4 pictures from the negative shot at ISO 400 (on the left) and a group of 4 pictures from the negative pushed to ISO 1600. I have inverted them both but did not apply any curves to them in order to keep them fully comparable.
Of course, here again the pictures and lighting conditions are different so one needs to be careful before drawing conclusions. However, the picture on the right seem to have visibly more contrast than the pictures on the left. Especially the two pictures on the bottom left seem very low in contract despite a scene with a wide dynamic range.
Differences in the grain?
The grain is a bit easier to check: just zoom in until it can be seen. When zooming in 100% in the scanned negatives (which are scanned at 2700dpi), the grain is typically quite visible but comparing the grain on different images is not obvious because at the scanner resolution the individual grains are not resolved and that is actually the point of the scanner to make smooth tones from the grain of the negatives. So instead lets put the negatives under the microscope and zoom in way more!
For this test I selected one image from each roll. For the ISO 400 roll, I picked the bottom right image the ISO 400 samples above and zoomed on the face and the left eye of the little guy on the left. For the pushed film I chose the top left image image of the ISO 1600 samples above and zoomed tight on the most left Lego figure. Bellow are the images from the microscope with two different magnifications (I have put the scale in red to give a reference).
The first set of image was shot with the microscope 10x lens and I calculated that the digital image I get corresponds to a resolution of about 42,000 dpi (each pixel correspond to about 0.5 microns). The second set of image was shot with a 40x lens which gives me a resolution of about 203,000 dpi (each pixel corresponds to 1,25 microns). That is way more than any scanner can provide (also way more than needed) but it allows to clearly see the grain of the film.
The result shows quite clearly that the film which was pushed to ISO 1600 has coarser grain. That naturally leads to more visible grain on the image. It make sense if we think about the way the film was processed. When the film is underexposed, less silver salts are exposed to light compared to a proper exposure. When increasing the development time, the negative gets darker by growing more silver around the exposed salt so to get the same kind of tone, the underexposed film will grow fewer grain to a larger size compared to a properly exposed film which will grow more grains but each to a smaller size. So in the end, the pushed film will result in a more grainy image.
Differences in shadow details?
This is a quick test to see if we can notice a significant difference in terms of capturing shadow details. I picked two frame which have relatively underexposed zones and bumped the shadow exposure by about 2 stops on the scanned file. Bellow are some crops of the images (to keep things comparable, the crops have the same size and the exact same processing has been applied to the images). We can confirm on those images that more grain is visible for the film which was pushed. In terms of shadow details, we can see that the tones seem smother on the ISO 400 image on the left with quite good details on the back of the chair. On the ISO 1600 image, it seems that the transition to black is less smooth. That is about all we can say given that the images are different.
This is by no mean a rigorous comparison or evaluation of image quality when pushing HP5+. None of the image were shot with this comparison in mind, this is more of a post analysis to see if I can learn something. This has been interesting for me to understand better the processes involved and the results which can be expected when pushing HP5+. My experience before looking at this what that I really likes the look I got when pushing the film to ISO 1600. When shooting at ISO 400 I typically found the images a bit dull and needed to add quite a bit of contrast. I most situations the grain is not bothering me but when trying to enlarge pictures for printing, I sometimes find that the grain was becoming distracting. Since I liked the look of ISO 1600, I was wondering if I should just always shoot at ISO 1600 or if I should continue to bother with ISO 400 whenever possible. The fact is that based on this little investigation, I am now convinced that there is significantly more resolution, more tonal range and probably more dynamic range when shooting at ISO 400 so I will continue to (i) only push film when required, (ii) add contrast to images which are too soft. It is definitely easier to add contrast than to remove contrast!
Let me know if you have any comments or advises!
Today, I am looking at the different steps required to make a cyanotype print from a 35mm negative using a microscope. The point of this experiment is to see if there are any steps which is loosing a lot of details and/or sharpness. I am also curious to look at the negatives under the microscope (both the analog and and "digital" one). Here is the image used for the test:
To make the cyanotype, I started from the scan of the 35mm frame, inverted it, made a few adjustment to the levels and contrast and printed it on a transparency film using my inkjet printer (see previous post about digital negatives). Then, the digital negative is contact printed to make the cyanotype.
What can we conclude from this experiment? Well, first it is fun to look at things with a microscope. Second, I am quite amazed by the image quality, details and sharpness which is achieved by cyanotype printing. Third, it look like the digital negative is able to capture all the details needed for printing. Before this experiment, I was concerned that the resolution of the digital negative was somewhat too low and could be a weak link in the process. It does not seem to be the case.
For this experiment I have selected 3 photos. The first one is a picture of the Astrup Fearnley Museum (Tjuvholmen, Oslo) which was shot on Ilford FP4+ 35mm film, I think it can look nice printed with cyanotype. The second and third are two portraits shot digitally. I chose one with a bright background and one with a dark background to see how it will look. Here are the pictures:
All these pictures were made into negatives using Darktable (on Linux). For these first experiments with digital negatives, I kept it simple: I boosted the contrast and sharpening and inverted the image. I also mirrored the image in order to do the contact print with the ink side of the transparent directly on the paper. The size of my digital negatives is A5 because that is the largest I can currently expose with my UV LED panel. In terms of printer settings, I used "Canon Photo Paper Plus Glossy II", printed in Grayscale set Luminosity to "Dark" and Intensity to +25. All this in an attempt to make the negative dense enough. I do not think that these are the optimal settings but that is my starting point before adding any colors or other tricks to try to improve the contrast of the prints. Here are the results:
For each of these prints, I used my small UV LED panel. I have remove all diffusion on the LEDs and put the panel at a distance of about 30cm. The exposure time for those prints were between 10 and 15 minutes. The results are not too bad, but clearly shows that A5 is really the maximum size for the LED panel. The sides of the prints are underexposed. I like how the first picture of Tjuvholmen came out. The portraits are an OK starting point but it was not easy to get a good exposure, maybe a slightly lighter negative would give better tones on the faces.
As a first attempt with the cyanotype process, I am trying to make tiny cyanotype prints from 35mm and medum format negatives. For this experiment, I have got some ready made cyanotype sensitizer and a lot of good advises from Vladimir Longauer.
Bellow are the images I have used for this experiment. The first one is a 30 years old 6x6 negative (ILFORD FP4) which I selected because it has a lot of contrast, the background is solid white and it is very sharp. The second and third images are two consecutive images on a 35mm roll shot last week. The film is ILFORD HP5+ pushed to 1600 ISO which also makes it quite contrasty.
The benefit of the cyanotype process is that it is quite simple and it does not require a lot of chemicals and equipment. The 20mL cyanotype sensitizer solution I got should be enough for 10 A4 prints, that is more than enough for this experiment. Cyanotype is sensible to UV light so the other essential of course a UV light source. The "easiest" is to use the sun but here in Norway, it is not really reliable. For this experiment I am using an array of 48 UV LED lights which I built back in 2008 for etching electronic circuit boards. I do not know the exact type of LED I used back then but it worked for making circuit boards. The exposure wad about 3 times longer than when using the UV tube light box I built earlier but the point was the the LED setup was much much smaller. Here are a few pictures of the LED array which dates back to when I built it.
Bellow are some pictures of the process. The first step is to coat the paper with the chemical. For the first attempts, I did it in the dark and my coat was too thin and rather uneven (second picture). It worked good enough to do some exposure tests but the results were not very good. For the second attempt and to start working with the negative, I used a bit more solution and made sure the center part of the paper was evenly coated (I did not take picture). After coating I let the paper dry completely. To expose, I just put the negative on to of the coated paper (emulsion down) and put a glass plate on top in order to press the negative. Using the LED array the exposure time for the prints bellow was around 30 minutes. That a bit longer than what I hoped for. After exposure, the image is visible on the paper but it is not very clear and it is a mix of blues and yellow. The next step is to wash the print in water to develop and fix it. All the leftover chemicals are washed out and the blue image appears. The last step is to dry the paper.
And here are the result scanned using a flatbed scanner:
I am quite pleased with the quality, details and tones of the prints for such a quick and dirty experiment. Now I need to larger negatives to print, probably a better UV light too :-)