Monday, December 29, 2014

More From the Helios-44

EOS5D, Helios-44, DxO Optics Pro, DxO Film Pack Agfa Ultra Color 100 Emulation
I thought some fans of the Helios-44 Lens might enjoy a little more "sunshine" today. It's cold here in Atlantic Canada, but a lot of us still have green grass. It's lovely, really.

What would be the value of using a manual focus / manual exposure lens on one of today's great 35mm (sensor size) DSLR, especially with this rather odd Focal Length of 58mm?? As I mentioned in my last Post, it would be a very good Portrait Lens, especially on a 24mm (APSC size) DSLR, where the Focal Length actually becomes 93mm (on a Canon). I personally use it for it's ability to zero in on the details of something bigger - like this:

EOS5D, Helios-44, DxO Optics Pro, DxO Film Pack Fuji Superia 200 Emulation
Or this:

EOS5D, Helios-44, DxO Optics Pro, DxO Film Pack Agfa Ultra Color 100 Emulation

Remember this - artsy photographers like what I'm trying to be, tend to prefer to walk around with a wide angle lens like a 28mm or 35mm; in fact you'll find that "Boutique" digital compacts, such as the Leica X2 are equipped with a non-removable 35mm, and Fuji, Sony, and Ricoh all produce some expensive pocket cameras with the same fixed wide angle formula, so there must be a good reason for it. And there is. Creative photography often is at it's best when a wide angle lens is used. Going through the normal vision range of 45mm to 60mm is boring, and gets to be more of a challenge to creativity, and finally, a Telephoto, or Long Zoom Lens of 100mm and up becomes less and less about creative photography, and more about technical, portrait, or Journalist photography. A long lens can be used to great effect taking a shoulders-up portrait, catching birds in flight, or zooming in on a ball game, but there's not much creativity in such things; rather, they lean toward the technical.

This brings me to some basic technical stuff. My lens is a 44-4 (meaning Version 4), Serial# 839021. It has the Aperture Stop Pin, which means it requires the flanged adapter (an M42 thread-mount adapter with an inner flange to hold the Stop Pin in. If this doesn't mean a thing to you, don't fret about it.) I prefer the earlier versions, up to the 44-2 which I had before, with the manually operated Stop Down Ring - I thought I wanted to get out of M42 and manually focussing, so I sold the whole lot. Now it's creeping back into my life; with this 44-4 basically given to me. All it amounts to is different ways of controlling the Aperture, but with the earlier ring-control, it behaves better on a DSLR, because you can pre-select the F-Stop you want to use, then have the second ring to turn between wide open (for a bright viewfinder) and stopped down to your selected aperture (the viewfinder darkens, sometimes to the point you can no longer see your Meter Setting).

Naturally, it's a manual focus lens, which can make life a lot easier if you want to use Hyper-focal Distance Focussing, which I did at f8 in the above shots. It's truly a "set and forget" method that is handy, unless you have a close subject and want a blurred background. This lens isn't the best at doing blurred backgrounds ("Bokeh"), as you'll see in the next shot:

EOS5D, Helios-44 at f2, DxO Optics Pro, DxO Film Pack Agfa Ultra Color 100 Emulation
The Bokeh is linear instead of circular, kind of a confused triple-vision blur, like when you forget your spectacles. However, on the plus side, this lens creates a kind of "visual vibration or buzz" in the background, I think. In some situations, people are reporting a "swirly" effect with this lens, again with the earlier models, which is well liked.

I also notice that the focus is happening a bit toward me when compared with what I'm seeing in the Viewfinder - you can see that the last two letters of "Squire St" are sharp, but the rest quickly recedes into blur - I thought I was focussing on the Stop Sign itself. This is almost certainly due to my Viewfinder Diopter adjustment being off by one step away from the camera - easily fixed.

Here's another one at f2:

EOS5D, Helios-44, DxO Optics Pro, DxO Film Pack Agfa Ultra Color 100 Emulation
This wasn't so obviously bad, as I was standing further away, but if you look closely, you'll notice the #8, which was what I was focussing on, is a but blurred compared with the big wooden box in the lower right foreground.

I do like using a "real" old school manual focus lens, and there is certainly a place for it. And while the Helios-44 isn't the sharpest lens in the drawer, it gives a unique look, and works well with software film emulations. I would highly recommend it for "walk-about" or street photography, with the lens set at hyper-focal, or if you really know what you want at wide open (f2), it makes a rather unique buzz-bokeh in the background.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Elusive "Film Look" ... Again

EOS 5D Classic, Helios-44 Lens, DxO optics Pro RAW Conversion, DxO Film Pack AgfaVista-200 Emulation
EOS 5D Classic, Helios-44 Lens, DxO optics Pro RAW Conversion, DxO Film Pack AgfaVista-200 Emulation

Once again, I'm trying to create the right mix of qualities which will emulate the look of colour film with a digital camera. This time, I've added a film-era lens to the mix, the Russian made Helios-44, which is a 58mm focal length f2 lens, with the M42 thread-mount. I had one of these years ago, but sold it, but what goes 'round comes 'round in my world, so I got a great deal on another one recently. These lenses typically came as the "high-end" kit on Zenit SLR cameras, and so, many would argue they range from "not remarkable" to "just plain bad", but in my world, being a bad lens isn't necessarily a bad thing. The Helios is a rather un-sharp lens IMHO, and we've gotten so accustomed to the super sharpness one gets with DSLR cameras nowadays, even the "kit lens" is more than adequately sharp. I would argue back - isn't there a place for an un-sharp lens in the tool-kit?

What I've re-discovered is that the Helios-44, when combined with Film Emulation software, creates photos remarkably similar to the Smena Symbol camera. Even though this lens looks well built, it belongs in the Lomography drawer, I think, where non-sharp gets described by words like "dreamy". In fact, the "low-end" option on Zenit SLR cameras was the Industar 50-2, which, in spite of it's almost silly appearance on a big Canon DSLR, is a super sharp lens, and manages to do everything well, except at f3.5, is not as good as the Helios in low light.

It's also important to note that "film-like" doesn't necessarily mean "not sharp". In the 1970's, if one were using a Takumar MC lens on a Pentax Spotmatic, there was oodles of sharpness to be had, which still looks right at home today.

As it turns out, having a Helios-44 lens is ideal if you want to distinguish yourself from the super-sharp photo crowd, and get into something that's a lot more retro, especially when combined with emulation software techniques. Also, at 58mm, as opposed to the far more common 50, it provides a bit more reach, and a narrower field of view, which with it's inherent softness, would make it a great portrait lens.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Little More About Sony's Xperia Phone Cameras

Silver Lake At Sunset

I had a lot of good things to say about Sony's Xperia Z2 in my last post. This time, it's still good, or at least as good as the above sunset photo I took with it. This time, the Phone-Cam was truly the only camera I had with me, in other words, the "camera of last resort". But I can now see why perhaps Phone-Cams have become so popular, and maybe deserving of being more than "this will have to do --- it's all I've got with me".

This made a good exposure for a sunset, and it was the colours in this scene that made me want to pull over to the side of the road and take the picture. I am not disappointed at all - the colour is very well captured here. In this case, the ultra-wide angle lens didn't let me down either, although if I wanted to capture a distant cormorant in flight, I would have been brutally out of luck.

While it's true that Phone-Cams keep getting better, and the Sony Xperia line is one of the top contenders in a very competitive field, the nature of the beast is what makes for the greatest limitations for this type of device. After all, the "Super Phone" is not built to be primarily a camera. Rather, they're the pinnacle of today's communication technology, capable of being a personal assistant in every direction, including GPS / Mapping, music and video streaming / storage, truly the only computer you might really need if you take the time to bother mastering it, and of course the more lowly telephone and texting device that started the whole thing many Decades ago. Cameras have been built into cellular phones for many years already, but it always has come down to one obvious problem - a device that is meant to be so many other things does not handle very well as a camera. With lens limitations aside, getting a smart phone up and running, and fitted into your hand ready to take a shot is usually a tricky business. I keep mine holstered to my belt, but turned off, because I'm still very suspicious of the harm that all the near-field radiation can do to my person (right or wrong, I am afraid about such things). So, unlike turning on a compact digital camera, a smart phone, like the full blown computer it really is has to be booted up before you can use the camera, and that's a process that could take up to a minute or even more.

The Sony Xperia phones are among the few with a dedicated three-way camera function button, which helps speed the process along, and provides a very convenient focus / shutter button, but the downside of this feature is that if you keep your phone turned on, every time you un-holster the phone for other than photographic reasons, you'll invariably turn the camera on as you accidentally hit this button. But again, it's a matter of learning the right moves, because Sony has provided lots of real-estate on the top and bottom, not to mention ample thickness and weight, to allow you to get a more goof-proof grasp on the device, unlike many other makes, especially Samsung.

To summarize, yes, smartphone cameras have come a long way when it comes to picture quality, and there seems to be a lot more attention being given to their own breed of the mega-pixel race. In particular, if you're into wide-angle photography, these truly amazing multi-devices will serve you very well. There's also a tremendous advantage when it comes to on-device picture editing, with hundreds, if not thousands of Apps now available to give you the most personalized shooting experience possible. But for me, handling the device is, and as far as I can tell always will be, the most challenging issue. A smartphone is just a small, very thin rectangular slab, which by necessity must throw a Century of good camera ergonomics to the wind - case in point - nothing can replace the feeling of confidence you get from shooting with a Canon EOS series SLR camera, whether film or digital. And if you're accustomed to Nikon, same goes. A camera must be able to get itself up and running very quickly (or, as I've often said here, many of my favourite film cameras are fully mechanical, and always ready to snap a picture in the blink of an eye). A camera must also have a bit of heft, body depth, and a good hand-grip, and many still legitimately insist on a good optical viewfinder, although I personally am finding this less important all the time - but that's a great subject to be left for another Blog Post.

But at least from what I can see, if a good scene presents itself to you, picture quality should no longer be an issue when it comes to your "camera of last resort. They're all good, if not great now, when it comes to image quality - just as long as you're able to handle the damn things.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sony Xperia Z2

Yard Sale - Sony Xperia Z2 Smart Phone Camera
It seems like forever since I last posted - it has been over three weeks. I guess I must be slowing down, and it concerns me that I'm down to posting only when I get something new. I suppose Mr. Rockwell does the same, but then, he's in the favourable position of getting something new at least twice a week, and I see he's doing a lot with Audio lately. If I were to follow suit (hmmm... why not?) I could add a few Audio reviews here too, having recently acquired a Zoom H4n Digital Recorder, and a pair of vintage Realistic Headphones - so vintage in fact they're actually made in the USA!!

But back to Photography, for now. The time came up for me to upgrade my Smart Phone, with almost three years having passed - at least enough that I didn't have to buy out my old contract. There are a lot of great phones out there now, which are better in every way compared to what was being offered in early 2012. I've switched brands, having hung up my old Samsung Galaxy S2 for a Sony Xperia Z2. The Z2 came out earlier this year, but a mere six months later, Sony is now offering the marginally improved Z3 model. I got the Z2 because it allowed me in at $0.00 down on a two year plan. It is true - the new phones are bigger, brighter, faster, and have more processing power and better cameras than they did even a couple of years ago - all of which makes for a better user experience. They can all multi-task now, whereas in 2012, there were only a few models with enough power to do that. I guess from a sales perspective, Apple is still king of the heap, but with some experience a few years ago with both an iPod Touch and Nano (remember those), I couldn't stand the high entry prices, both for the Hardware and the iTunes nonsense. In spite of the fact that I only use these devices 99% to play music and for GPS navigation, with only occasional browsing, and E-Book use, I need more autonomy than Apple can deliver, and to my way of thinking, any Android phone offers autonomy up in spades.

Once I saw that even Panasonic's least expensive Optical Zoom Compact Camera took a noticebly better picture than my Samsung Galaxy S2, I never used it's camera again; instead I got "the best" Panasonic compact - the DMC-LX5, which is now in fact, the camera I use the most (which has now been replaced by the extremely well reviewed LX100).

But now I have this >> Sony Xperia Z2, << which boasts a 21 MegaPixel camera! Imagine! Talk about a numbers game! My real cameras only can boast 12 MP for my big clunky Canon EO 5D, and even this super nice new Panasonic LX100 "only" offers 16 MP - and my now 4 year old LX5 gives a mere 10 MP. But every photographer these days knows what this is all about, so I won't get into it.

So, what do I think of the Xperia Z2's camera? Well, for starters, one glance shows how much it blows the Samsung Galaxy S2 out of the water for image quality - if you want to know how it compares with Samsung's new S5, or even Apple's iPhone 6, read here. There's no doubt, this new (Z2) and newer (Z3) Sony line-up is getting top marks. But how does it do against my 4 year old Panasonic "real camera"? Can I now say that the Sony Phone-Cam will become the only camera I will always have with me? Sadly, no, but before I explain why, here are some more pictures from the Sony:

(Note - this is NOT mine!)

First off, you gotta love that colour! It's brilliant, and of course it looks even better when viewed on the phones state-of-the-art 5.2" display. I would say that it's a great lens too, being a very wide angle 25mm which couples extremely well with the camera's native 16:9 widescreen. I am a real sucker for light and shadow - and texture, all of which are what I mainly compose my pictures for, and the Z2 really delivers. It also handles direct sunlight like a real trooper. The Z2 also sports a dedicated camera two-step shutter button, while retaining the on-screen touch button too. Yes, it ticks a lot of the right boxes, and if you really want one of the greatest Phone-Cams out there, this one is truly top-class. I've yet to try some of the many features offered, some of which are quite novel, like the blurred background feature. I also imagine the Digital Zoom makes great use of all those 21 MegaPixels too, but I've not tried it yet; so far, I've rather enjoyed shooting at the native 25mm.

Why then, would I say that I still prefer carrying a compact digi-kam with me all the time as opposed to a phone-kam? Here's the main reason. I know, many studies have been done which determine cell-phones as "safe", but I'm overly cautious with my own health, thank you very much! No matter how you look at it, a cell phone is a very "hot" device, and with recent additions of LTE, Wi-Fi, Blue-Tooth and NFC connectivity, they just keep getting hotter. So, I suppose I could carry my Xperia Z2 on my person switched off - that would solve the problem - but what would be the point of buying a $700 device whose primary purpose is communication, only to have it shut off so it won't communicate? On the other hand, I got my Panasonic compact camera for under $200, and it takes better pictures, turns on, ready-to-go much more quickly, produces RAW files and it's smaller - I can carry it in my shirt pocket with no danger to my personage. I could also mention that it is a real camera, complete with a nice rubber grip - it would've been impossible for me to have taken a whole series of spectacular through the wind-shield shots like this with a phone camera:

Through The Wind-shield, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
There isn't a phone-kam on the market that handles well enough to safely pull a stunt like this! Did somebody say "dashboard cam"?

So, why am I still buying a new Smart Phone, camera or no camera? Pretty much the same old reasons - to play my MP3's in the car, and have access to GPS. Also, I like reading E-Books while waiting at an appointment. I don't mind having a phone turned on in the car, where it's safely stowed in the centre console, somewhat away from my delicate bodily tissues. Finally, there are those extremely rare times when I must take, or make a phone call when not at home - I guess I need a cell phone for that ... or do I??

Friday, October 24, 2014

Yes Subject Isolation Is Possible With a Small Sensor

Inner Brace With Serial Number
Although it's more difficult to achieve subject isolation with a small sensor (compact) digital camera, it certainly isn't impossible. In the above photo, I used my Panasonic DMC-LX5 at f2, where the Serial Number and upper course of strings are in focus, the rest is not. The secret, of course, is the Macro Mode. Granted, the DMC-LX5 has a slightly larger Sensor than most other older compacts and smartphone cameras. If you are looking to buy a compact, pay attention to the Macro Mode specs and maximum lens aperture. The LX5 will focus less than 1 centimetre from the subject in Macro, which is superb, but the downside is that getting in that close is really the only way it will achieve good subject isolation with a blurred background... but it can be done.

Now, on to the subject - it's a 1920's era Mandolin. The Mandolin has become my other passion, and lately I've been spending more time with them  than I have my cameras. This one is almost certainly made by Larson Brother's - here are some more pics:

Ebony Shelf Under the Fretboard

Enclosed Tuners

Fold-Top Construction

This One Had the Top Crushed, and Nicely Repaired, but it still sags a bit

The Back Covers Up the Neck Joint.
These pics all show some Larson Brother's unique construction practices (except for crushing the top of course), but there were a few copy-cats. This one's labelled "Century - Chicago" inside. Whether authentic Larson or not, it's a great little player.

Mandolins are great little instruments. They cover three Octaves with only 4 strings (or more commonly string pairs). Guitars also cover three octaves, but need six strings to do it, with the exception of a Tenor Guitar, which also does it with four strings. It's because Mandolins, and Tenor Instruments are tuned in fifths, while a normal guitar tuning is in a combination of fourths (with one third). That "third interval" between a guitar's G and B strings, adds weirdness, compared to instruments that are tuned in all fifth intervals between every string. Mandolins also have a lot of chord that can be played with just two, or at the most three fingers, making the learning experience almost instantaneous, and the fifth interval tuning makes for much quicker mastery, compared to a standard guitar. Add to this, you have the mandolin's take-anywhere size, and great tone and projection - it all spells F-U-N!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Yashica FR Review

Stock Photo
This is one of two cameras that were given to me by a very gracious Sister-in-Law; the other being a Yashica Lynx-14, of which I now have two. I immediately wanted to start using the FR, simply because it feels so well built, with a very strong metal exterior, and a sense of quality throughout. I could tell that the light seals had deteriorated over time, and so I sought out a case wrap-around for the bottom half, and immediately scored a very similarly sized Yashica FX-3 - a piece of plastic junk by comparison. Besides the case, I also got a smoother working 50mm f1.9 kit lens, an "Image" brand 80-200 Zoom, and a flash unit, all for $80.

"113" With Yashinon 50mm f1.9 Lens Wide Open
The image quality is both totally unique and magnificent. Even though the "Bokeh" (that out of focus region that results from close focussing on a subject with the lens wide open) is a little rough, showing that this isn't a Zeiss Lens, I immediately fell in love with the rich colours. I was expecting something a little more "Yashica" in character - and for me that means the lens built onto my Lynx-14, but such is not the case. These are two very different lenses.

"Cormorant", taken with the Image 80-200 Zoom

I didn't use the Zoom a whole lot, but very glad I had brought the FR, with this lens attached, on a little trip down Pugwash way recently. This bird was striking up quite a pose! In fact, he was posing for so long, he allowed me to take a pic using my digital pocket cam too, to allow me to make yet another film - digital comparison:

Lumix DMC-LX5 With a Lot of Digital Zoom 
The Cormorant was now joined by his mate! I know I'm comparing apples and bananas here, but the digital shot has better white balance - a digital camera always seeks perfect WB when set to Auto-WB, but with film, you take what you get - which was Daylight Film on a cloudy day. I could have corrected it with software, but I tend to leave my film shots untouched. I think that neither of these is perfect, but there are simply two very distinctive "looks". Somehow, the film shot provides more natural "weight and roundness" to the lamp and lamp-post, and yet, the digital, although a bit blurred due to the digital-zoom (crop), managed to show up more detail in the bird's feathers - totally lost in the contrast of the film shot.

"1962 Morris Minor" - Yashica FR With 50mm f1.9 Kit Lens
This shot of an original Morris Minor came off perfect - it was a very hot, bright sunny day, and I recall using 1/1000 sec and an f4 Aperture, pushing the 400 ISO film well into overexposure, yet all shadow detail was captured (note the tire-tread), but no highlights are blown out - this is where film still trumps digital with real honest Exposure Range. Absolutely nothing about this fine camera and lens stood in the way of letting this shot come out perfect.

"Horse and Barn"
If you're a fan of even more vintage horsepower, here's another over-exposed shot in which all shadow and highlight detail is naturally preserved, with no HDR digital funny business.

Although the Yashica FR SLR camera and lens makes wonderful image quality, almost rival to a Yashica Rangefinder, I must say I was disappointed in the way this camera's controls are executed. The worst part is the primitive electronic metering. At the very right edge of the viewfinder, you are given a green light in the middle, and two red lights - one at the very top of the frame and one at the very bottom. It is extremely difficult to visually locate these indicator lights, which simply mean "correct, over and under-exposed", but nothing tells you by how much. I really prefer a moving analogue needle - something which the much older Lynx-14 provides, both on top of the camera body, and within the viewfinder. Another usability issue is having both a micro-prism and split-image focussing aid in the middle of the viewfinder window. At first, I though I was going to love this feature, but in real life, I found it confusing for some reason.

In real world usage, both of these issues got in my way and slowed me down. The Yashica Lynx-14 Rangefinder camera has far better indicators for exposure and focus that are a pleasure to use, and do not slow down the process of getting the shot quickly.

I'll end this review with a few more shots, to show off the image quality of what could almost be the best film SLR camera of the 1970's:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Film Emulation Made Better

Those of you who have been following this Blog for some time will know how much I obsess over "the film look", and my rather reluctant conclusion that "if you really want it, you have to shoot film". I've been somewhat disappointed by Film Emulation Software from DxO Labs, and the GIMP Plug-in G'mic, although I was amazed at how similar the results are when comparing these two. I won't say that G'mic copied DxO, because they've both got the same goal in mind, but I will say that G'mic has so-successfully reverse engineered the DxO product (without actually knowing this is actually the approach they took), that if you are a GIMP user, you needn't bother purchasing DxO Film-Pack 4.

I find myself asking these same question over and over - "what is the film look? What influences it" Can it truly be well emulated digitally? As an owner of many film cameras, do I really want to emulate it?" The answers are below.

DMC-LX5, Photivo pre-Treatment, G'mic Fuji Astia 100F Emulation

DMC-LX5 Jpeg Straight From Camera
1) What is the "film look?"

This is so difficult to answer, because often, film can be a lot more pristine, and high-res in comparison, depending upon the camera used, the quality of the film stock, and the care taken in processing it. But most often, it is not - when using consumer grade film like Ultra-Max 400, developed at Walmart, and scanned at home with a consumer grade scanner, film does come off quite "botched" in many ways. When compared with a pristine digital photograph, film is not-so-pristine. I've found that out time after time. But film is, for many reasons, easier on the eyes, more exciting to look at, and most importantly, seems to make much more exciting digital CMYK prints.

2) What influences the "film look"?

I listed some things above - the camera used, etc. I will add to that list two things - the lens used, and, of utmost importance, "white balance". Herein lies the secret, I think, and I'll explain this further below.

3) Can the film look be well-emulated digitally?

Yes, with some work. First of all, Film Emulation Software can only do a generic shift with your JPEGs to create the most obvious qualities of any given film. I find that they never "improve upon the perfection" of a JPEG, but rather, apply specific Degradations to create emphasis of a given film's best known qualities. If this is true, then what, if any further work can be done with a Camera RAW file for more successful film emulation?

4) Why do I want Film Emulation when I can still get film, and own some great (and not so great) film cameras?

I am getting less and less certain of film's future. It will certainly never go away completely, but film processing will most likely disappear from all places which I personally can easily drive to, do some shopping, and pick my developed negative up in less than an hour. Another factor is what I said in my previous post - film contains some real problems of it's own, being chemical in nature, far more-so than you'd get with a digital camera. Also, many of my cameras are broken in some way - bad light seals, film counters that don't work, things like that. They'e getting as old as I am in most cases, and I find myself breaking down too!

So why do I want Film Emulation? The bottom line is that I love film photographs, but doing film photography sometimes gives me trouble that can be avoided with digital. Consider the two sample photos of little "Sprocket" the Pygmy Goat. Starting with a bit of a disadvantage of using my digital pocket camera instead of my DSLR, I will point out that the straight from camera JPEG is good, but not great. Actually, I can say exactly the same thing about the JPEGs from my DSLR too - it would've been almost identical to what you see in the second picture above. This, I remind you, is why I always shoot with RAW + JPEG enabled.

Lately, I've been secretly re-processing a few RAW files taken with this same camera, with a specific goal in mind - try to create a "Film Emulation" photo I can be real happy with, and make the approach re-producible. I began this with the premise that one of the biggest issues with film is "white balance". With a digital camera, you can simply set it to "Auto White Balance" and forget it - 90% of the time, the camera will get it perfect - this is a big part of the pristine-ness of a digital photo. Beneath that setting of "Auto-WB", there are many values the camera can choose from, such as sun-light, cloudy, shade, flash, incandescent and fluorescent. There is also a continuous range of "Degrees Kelvin" values that the camera will choose to provide perfect WB, if none of these WB colours is correct.

But White Balance with film is entirely different - historically, there were two available - "Daylight" and "Tungsten", and I'm not sure that Tungsten is available any more, leaving Daylight film to cover the entire range. To make this work back in the film era (those golden decades), one had to fix Filters which had some compensation tints to the front of their lenses - they were just a few - "Daylight", Incandescent" and "Fluorescent", which would provide a degree of compensation to be used at the discretion of the photographer. I've never used these, mainly because I have so many film cameras, with many different sized front lens threads - in my film shooting, I just take what I get. And it's what you get with film shooting in all of the above lighting conditions with  only one single WB type available, which is what makes Film Emulation Software miss the mark - the software writers cannot possibly know what lighting conditions were actually used in any given shot, and so a "Vanilla" WB value is always used. Today, this means that "Daylight" balance for film is fixed and un-movable at around 5100 K.

When I took the picture of lil' Sprocket, it was in an overcast sky, but the surrounding colours were combinations of green, and warm browns, so the camera selected a "perfect" temp of 5820 Degrees Kelvin (K).

But, to make my picture "look like film would do", I had to use software (in this case, Photivo) to cool the colours - so I manually moved the White Balance slider to a much cooler setting of 4960, which tended to "blue" the overall tint of the photo. You can notice especially how the green grass "ain't quite as green green as it used to be", and the grey barn shingles, and the fencing wire, are quite a bit bluer, but I find this more pleasing than the "perfect" WB the camera gave me. I then made some further minor brightening and micro-contrast adjustments to the RAW file, then exported it as a JPEG, which I opened with GIMP, and used the G'mic Film Emulation filters to select from it's wide range of film types. A fave of mine is Fuji Astia 100 (a colour reversal (slide film)) - I love the way it turns green things into a yellow-green; that is to say, if there's any yellow within a green, Fuji Astia 100F will emphasize it. This is just slightly noticeable in the upper photo, in the dead leaves laying on the ground.

I love this result! To me, it looks like it could've been taken with my Yashica Lynx-14 Rangefinder. It is full of air and life, much better than the flat looking Camera JPEG. Keep in mind, these are exactly the same shot taken with the same small-sensor digital camera... and from some previous experimentation I've done, I would say that I've gotten a simple, reproducible method of making great film-looking pictures from a RAW file, using all Open Source (freee!) software.

Monday, September 15, 2014

What Disappoints - and the Hot Car

I am now having a permanent GAS attack - that's "Gear Acquisition Syndrome" as most people are now familiar with the term. My interest in film photography has grown real big this summer - it usually gets big every summer, but this time, it's gotten even more sizeable. I'll cover off all my gear in total perhaps in  the next post.

But what happens when one's favourite set of Gear ends up being disappointing? Let me explain - for many reasons, I favour my Canon EOS Elan-7 - it's super light, even with the battery grip attached, it handles superbly, all controls are very familiar to me, because they're in exactly the same positions as with EOS Digital cameras, it has the biggest, brightest and most accurate viewfinder of all, and as it goes without saying, I can interchange the Canon EF Series lenses between this film camera, and my two EOS Digital's.

The problem is, I'm constantly disappointed by the Elan-7's image quality, and I've only now realized what a struggle it is, although many previous Posts have certainly hinted that something might be wrong here. The thing is, I don't know why this would be the case. When using other film gear, I seem to get exactly what one would expect - for example, with the Yashica Lynx-14, I get absolutely superb photos on any film I try in it; with my FED-5 / Industar-61 combo, I get an "etchy" look that many people have adoringly spoken to in other Blogs referring to that particularly cheap piece of Russian glass, and with the Smena Symbol, I get exactly the Russian plastic LOMO look which people buy (and love) this camera for.

But with the Elan-7, I get results that are simply far worse than I'd expect, usually. Once in awhile, it pulls off a great looking shot, but generally speaking, there is a lack of detail that seems to be limited by exposure range - see the examples below:

Digital - EOS 5D, EF 28-105

Film - EOS Elan-7, EF-40mm, Kodak Ultramax 400

Digital - Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
^ See how even my little digital Panasonic pocket wonder outshines the Elan-7!

Film - EOS Elan-7, EF-40stm, Kodak Ultramax 400
Before saying "it must be the film", well consider this - as I said above, no matter what film I use in the Yashica Lynx-14, the results are always spectacular. What about the common denominator with all my film photos - my Epson Perfection v500 Scanner? Well, again - that scanner always gives me what I would expect from every camera I own - consistently I might add; in fact, it's the scanning of my own processed Negatives that keeps me hanging on with film as a major factor. There doesn't seem to be a "Epson v500 look" that comes out common for all cameras - each camera's individuality shines through the scanning to my own eyes at least.

But it occurs to me - the Elan-7 is actually my go-to camera for summer vacation which means it is actually the only film camera I have which spends a lot of time locked up inside a hot car! Extreme heat can rapidly age a roll of film, quickly making a brand new roll behave like an expired roll. This is why it is always a good idea to keep your film refrigerated, or even in the freezer - but film cameras and hot car interiors are a really bad mix. This may go a long way toward explaining what I'm experiencing.

I'll end this with a few more very recent shots from the Elan-7, with no digital camera comparison made:

Field of Soy (I Think)

Roma Inlet

Kathy's Mom Playing Soduku

Friday, September 12, 2014

Starlight Diner Revisited

Two Strangers, Sept. 2014 Panasonic DMC-LX5, DxO Film-Pack, Kodachrome 200 Emulation
It's hard to believe that three years have passed since we last toured Prince Edward Island. There is one "must eat" place that I cannot miss, and that's the Starlite Diner near Summerside. It is the most authentic retro-50's eatery that I know of, although I'm certainly not all that well travelled. The Starlite is done up with plenty of authentic 50's and 60's memorabilia, although it's not necessarily placed appropriately, I'll admit. But two things are important - 1) the food is made to match, and 2) it's a dream spot for retro-photography.

Three years ago, we went here for supper with a group of friends, and, as it was obvious that I was having some focus problems with some of the shots, I must've been using a Canon Digital Rebel with a manual lens - probably a Mir-1 Russian 37mm. This time, I was using my sweet little Panasonic DMC-LX5

Melody and Kim, Aug. 2011, Canon EOS 400D, Mir-1 Lens, No Film Emulation
There's no need to try making comparisons - I'm just showing the best-of this Diner from 2011 and 2014 - never mind the cameras I was using, unless you're really interested.

Kathy's Mom, age 100, Sept. 2014, Panasonic DMC-LX5, DxO FilmPack, Kodachrom 200 Emulation
Sept. 2014, DMC-LX5, DxO FilmPack Kodachrom 200 Emulation
Naturally, B&W goes well with the 50's period, as it was much more common. Only the wealthy were shooting colour slides back then.

Pam and Agnes, Aug. 2011, Canon EOS 400D, Mir-1 Lens, GIMP Ilford Delta 400 Emulation
Kathy & Mom, Sept. 2014, DMC-LX5, DXO FilmPack Ilford Delta 400 Emulation
Me, Aug. 2011, EOS 1000D (Kathy), GIMP Ilford Delta 400 Emulation

Delightful Artefacts, Sept. 2014, DMC-LX5, DxO FilmPack Kodak Tri-X Emulation

Aug. 2011 Outside the Joint (No Film Emulation)
Sept. 2014 Outside the Joint (With the KodaChrom 200 Emulation)
Photographs make memories - that's the most imporant part for me. Sometimes, I like to try different things, whether it's digital or real film, or film emulation, or by using ultra-cheap film cameras, to make my photos even more memorable.