Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Spotmatic Replaced Successfully

Pentax Spotmatic-1000 With SMC Takumar 55mm f1.8, Kodak Ultramax 400

Happy New Year everyone! I'd love to hear everybody's "photographic resolutions" for 2013. Mine is simply "don't keep spending money on this stuff - there's nothing else I need"!

Some money is well spent however. I had to replace my first real (non-toy) camera from 1978, I think it was - my dear old Spotmatic SP II, which still works fine up to 1/250 sec, incidentally. Although I've put it on a shelf, it could still be used for flash photography, as it has a hot-shoe, whereas my much older replacement SP-1000 does not.

I did 19 test shots on a roll of Kodak Ultramax 400, just to see how well it performs. I used my SMC Takumar 55 for all of these, which would have been the standard lens this camera was shipped with back in the early 70's. Overall, not bad. I believe the Ultramax film to be a real dud - the latest (and last) drug store special from Kodak, I think. Colour saturation seems to be all over the map with this film - sometimes way too much and other times, it's hard to tell what's going on. Maybe it's something to do with my scanning, but I found the Fuji Superia film I used in my old friend the SP II to be much more predictable, and just plain perfect. I think Ken Rockwell would probably like the Ultramax - let's see - nope, I just looked and he doesn't cover it. However, as you can see, I desaturated most of the pictures to B&W, and found that with a bit of curve and contrast tweaking, this really makes a great C41 black and white film - I highly recommend using it for that instead*. Or you could play around with a nice lonely - moody partial desaturation, such as here:

I really do like all of the B&W results I got from using this film. 

It's time for the Newbie lesson now. You might be saying - "this is film we're talking about here, right? So how can you use a colour film to get black and white?" Easy - you do it up the same way every One Hour Foto (all the ones that remain that is) are now doing it. First they develop your colour film and create a strip of negatives. That's where the old fashioned approach ends. Next they feed your negatives through a digital scanner, much like my Epson v500 I use at home, except it's industrial quality, and much faster - gone is the enlarger and chemical processed prints. Finally, they use a high quality digital printer to make your prints - again, no chemicals involved  - it's all digital. So, if you tell them you want shot #'s 1,3,4,6 and 8 to be black and white, that's how they'll scan and print it for you. 

It used to be that you could buy black and white films which were processed using the C41 (One Hour Foto) process. Ilford XP-2 is an example, and it's still being made, I think. But the dealer I take my films to no longer stocks it - "what's the  point" they say when you can get the same results with the less expensive C41 colour film and if a customer wants black and white prints, they use the digital scanner to make black and whites. Or, you can do it like I do at home with my Epson v500 scanner and my Canon Selphy CP780 printer.

Next Newbie question - "If it all comes out digital in the end, then why shoot film at all?" Why indeed? In fact, in my column yesterday, I demonstrated without question that financially, film is now a losing proposition. The only reason to use film now is for creative reasons - if you're trying to get that "film-look" to your photos, then film is the best way - in fact the only way - to get it. Digital scanning of film negatives is far different than using a digital camera. Digital scanners are very faithful to the actual medium being scanned - so that the "film look" of your film negative (or slide, or even old chemical film paper print) is completely preserved. That is why home scanners such as the v500 are so slow. Digital cameras on the other hand, very quickly create absolute perfection - crisp, sharp, perfectly coloured, jaw-dropping pictures. To make it look like film, you have to use "digital filters" - and because most people think that film is somehow "less than perfect", these filters always do something to "mess it up" a little. In actual fact, there's a "film perfection" and a "digital perfection" - one is not a "messing up" of the other, contrary to popular belief.

So, enjoy your day, and make sure that in 2013, you take at least one picture every day of the year!

*(meaning of course, use your "Photoshop" software to convert each picture to B&W)

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