A few vertoramas and panoramas from the KMZ FT-2 and a roll of Polypan F. I like to put these together in diptych or triptych combinations partly for convenience and ease of display but also because somethings the resultant images are greater than the sum of its parts.
Month: August 2021
My experiences using the KMZ FT-2
I’ve already written several times about this camera. I have talked about the camera itself, cogitated on my first experiences using a loaned KMZ FT-2 and of course written about loading the film into the cassettes and into the camera itself. To conclude the series I am going to reflect on my first few months with this camera and what I’ve learnt.
Perhaps I should start by saying that this camera can be a fair bit of work. For a start, as we’ve already discussed, it needs two special film cassettes (I only have one) but even with two, loading is a bit of a chore. I borrowed one with both cassettes before buying my own. Firstly, film has to be transferred from a standard 35mm cassette into a special cassette, in the dark. This then needs to be attached to a second special cassette, in the dark, before being loaded into the camera … in the dark. I made a video demonstrating this aspect. To make it more helpful I made the video … in the dark (not).
Let’s skip the using of the camera at this point and jump ahead to unloading the film from the camera … in the dark. I simply dump the camera in the changing bag, pop in a pair of scissors, tank and reel and take the film directly from the camera onto the reel and into the tank. From that point on its business as usual as the film is standard 35mm film. With negatives the size of three “normal” 35mm negatives however there’s only two per strip in the filing sheet.
Now, if you like using a camera one-handed then this one isn’t for you. Similarly, if you like to “run ‘n’ gun” then this one isn’t for you. Shaped like a brick and weighing in at just over 1kg in its case this isn’t a camera you carry about just-in-case you might need it. With just 12 frames (assuming you respool a 36 exposure film) and an awkward loading/unloading regime it is best used when you’ve a definite plan in mind. Not that I take my own advice there of course! I tend to pop it in my shoulder bag alongside my main camera for the day although do occasionally make a trip with just the KMZ FT-2 or, more often, take it partnered with the Horizon S3 Pro.
I’ve never thought of these panoramic cameras as being for specific subjects or situations. My approach has always been to proactively look for compositions that work well in the format. Over time my hit rate has improved and one thing I’ve learnt is that a straight, long, thin, linear subject only works occasionally. In general it is better to look for compositions where the viewer has a choice of where to let his eye be led. Urban images at intersections of two, three or more streets are usually more effective (see below) than a straight-on view of a row of houses for example. There’s exceptions to every “rule” however.
In truth, the principles that apply to other formats also work with the panoramic form. Don’t be afraid to turn the camera on its side to create long, thin and tall vertoramas.
I’ve found that leading lines work very strongly in this vertical format, really dragging the viewers eye up through the frame.
Presenting these vertoramas as diptychs or triptychs works nicely too.
The speed of the exposure is determined by a spring which pulls the lens turret around. Brakes are used to vary the speed giving the four shutter speeds found on the FT-2. At 1/400th second when all the brakes are off the camera physically bucks in your hand from the force. Pop the camera on a tripod, set it to 1/400th, cock the shutter and watch the whole thing shudder when you release the shutter. Which explains why I believe the best results from this camera come from using it on a tripod. That said, I do tend to use it handheld, especially when photographing urban locations such as my own local patch.
Book-ending subjects can work well too, as in the example above where a very simple scene has been bookended by trees which give added context and hold the viewers attention in the central portion of the frame.
One thing I’ve not mentioned is that as the film wind-on and cocking of the shutter are two distinct operations the opportunity for double, triple, whatever exposures is the photographers for the taking. The one below is three or four exposures for example.
Don’t be frightened to crop as there’s plenty of real estate available.
In summary, it isn’t the easiest camera to work with but I’ve never been afraid of working for my images. Despite everything I’ve said about its idiosyncrasies it is however great fun and worth the effort in my view – your mileage may vary of course!
A tale of two cameras
I have a couple of fully automatic point-and-shoot cameras from the 1980s in my collection, as those who have read some of my recent posts will know. Both are well-respected members of the 1980s P&S community and both have produced some very pleasing results for me. But how do they compare?
I don’t propose providing the full technical specifications of these two cameras, that information is readily available on the internet for those who might be interested. I am going to consider how they have handled for me over a few different scenarios. If you are looking for test charts and graphs then I will save you some time and suggest you stop reading now; this post relates to my real-world usage of both cameras and I definitely did’t get my white lab coat out for this comparison.
SCENARIO ONE: Both cameras loaded with bulk-rolled Fomapan 100 from the same batch. We were indoors with a toddler and a three-year old in a dimly lit room who’s play was mainly running around giggling interspersed with sitting on the floor. Both cameras kept up with what was going on and the leisurely pace suited them both. See also the section on Flash below.
SCENARIO TWO: Outdoors in a back garden, changeable light and four youngsters (aged three to nine) were playing on a makeshift water slide. Both cameras had 400 speed films loaded (one had Fomapan 400 the other Kentmere 400). In the event I mainly used the Yashica, given the overcast light I was forcing fill-flash to try to freeze motion and the fast refresh cycle of the Yashica proved a clear winner.
SCENARIO THREE: Urban wanders in Salford (Nikon) and Elland (both). This is my main photographic activity at the moment. Wandering the urban environment making images of whatever takes my eye has since the pandemic been the mainstay of my photographic output. Both handle very well for this type of photography. The automatic exposure on the Yashica particularly impressed on its first outing whilst the Nikon performed consistently and reliably. The filter thread on the Nikon would make it my preferred choice for B&W work (see below) but that would be my only reason for choosing the one over the other in this scenario.
In terms of handling then there is very little to choose. Both have a decent grip, both feel comfortable in the hand and on both the few controls that they do have all fall easily to an appropriate digit. The speed of the auto-focus was generally OK although pre-focusing and recomposing was a big feature as both use a single, central focus spot. The Nikon didn’t miss a beat focus-wise although the Yashica only missed on a couple of occasions. The shutter release is fairly sensitive on the Yashica whereas the Nikon needs a very definite push downwards. Not a major problem as you know about it so can adapt, however, if using both cameras simultaneously its easy to forget and I’ve several “premature exposures” from the Yashica as a result.
Batteries – being fully automatic cameras both need batteries to enable them to function. No mechanical fall-back either – it’s either working or it isn’t. The Yashica uses the 2CR5 6v battery, not something I tend to keep in the drawer whereas the Nikon uses two AA batteries which I not only keep in the house but are also readily available in all sorts of shops. I use rechargeable AA batteries which helps with cost but all told the Nikon is cheaper to set up; what I don’t know yet is how this works out longer term as I’ve not used other for long enough to judge. The manufacturer claims 1,000 exposures for the Yashica (500 with and 500 without flash). The Nikon manual claims around 100 24 exposure rolls without flash or 10 with constant use of flash. My crude calculation equates this to around 1,320 frames on a 50/50 like for basis compared to the Yashica’s 1,000. Even if they were the same the Nikon with its AA batteries would be more economical to run however.
But there’s another side to the battery equation – flash recycling times. As I mentioned in scenario two above the Yashica’s bigger battery and faster recycling times proved a real winner when the flash was being used for very image. This might be a consideration when deciding which camera to take with me therefore depending on what I think I will be photographing. I think I’d chose the Yashica for a family get-together over the Nikon for example.
Flash – the Yashica tended to bring the flash into play much quicker than the Nikon especially in the indoor scenario one. So, it was helpful that the 6V battery enabled almost instant recycling on most occasions; meaning that I wasn’t waiting for the camera to catch up with me before taking the next image. The same couldn’t be said for the Nikon sadly.
Several times I forced the Nikon to use the flash to give me some comparison images but looking back at the scenario one negatives the Yashica fired the flash on EVERY frame. As was to be expected from small, onboard flashes the results were nothing special although on a couple of occasions the Yashica managed a nicely balance image (bottom left in the grid below). The top two images are from the Nikon, with the lefthand one being flash-free. The bottom two are both Yashica and both used flash. Image-wise there’s little to choose however when using flash indoors although on the whole I don’t really like the results from either camera in this situation!
The little storage area above was very dim, with very little light penetrating the gloom. The Yashica did a sterling job with the help of its flash. This was a “grab and run” as I was leaving the cafe.
In the second scenario I was photographing the kids coming down a water slide in a back garden. I forced the flash to fire during this experiment. The recharging speed of the Yashica meant that I favoured it in this instance – however, when I looked at the negatives the Nikon had captured the kids more sharply, more often relative to the Yashica which surprised me. There was a fair bit of motion blur evident in some of these images.
Now, filters, particularly coloured contrast filters, are primarily of concern I guess to black and white workers but it’s something that I certainly look for. You’d look in vain for one on the Yashica although the proper 46mm filter thread on the front of the Nikon lens will be a delight to those who use contrast filters in particular. For an urban photographer, with a tendency to keep a yellow/green filter in place, this one facto alone makes the Nikon the first choice for urban or even landscape photography.
I have been more than happy with the quality of the negatives from both cameras. The first roll from Yashica for example scanned very easily and responded to a gentle Curves adjustment very nicely too. I’ve not yet printed from any of the negatives in the darkroom as that’s a Winter occupation for me. Negatives have been sharp though showing the quality of both lenses. I’ve used a variety of films both 100 and 400 iso and I’ve developed them in both my go-to Ilford ID11 and Kodak HC-110.
I’ve used both cameras a lot over the last couple of weeks putting a dozen or more films through them during this time. With little to choose between them its fair to say that either camera would be worth looking at in my view.
Well, as ever, it depends. Indoors or at family gatherings the Yashica definitely gets my vote largely due to the speedy flash recycling. This means I’m not left waiting before I take the next frame – important when your subjects are grandchildren! There is a “no flash” option too if needed which is worth knowing given the Yashica’s tendency to pop the flash whenever it fancies (it even did it outdoors yesterday).
For general outdoor use however then the Nikon wins hands down for me simply due to that filter ring. I am a traditional black and white worker and the use of contrast filters is second nature to me. Given that both cameras produce lovely images out of doors then the choice comes down to what some people might consider minor differences but which to me are of some importance.
I hope that my ramblings are useful to someone, somewhere and if even one reader finds them helpful then my job is done. Thanks as ever for reading this far (unless of course you’ve simply skipped to the end – in which case shame on you! 🙂
FOOTNOTE: I used both cameras with home-rolled Fomapan 100 from a bulk roll. I put two rolls of each through each camera and on one occasion the wind-on motor of the Yashica ripped the film straight out of the cassette. It cannot be rewound in that situation and unless you have the means of providing a completely dark space (I use changing bags) it is impossible to rectify without losing the roll. Mind you, if you’re rolling your own you probably have a changing bag at least but I thought it prudent to mention it.
Another point-and-shoot story
There’s been quite a few posts from me over the last week* linked to a short break in Salford with a Nikon L35 AF, an extremely well thought of and capable point and shoot from the early 1980s. Well, I do have another very similar camera in my collection, one that I’ve only recently acquired.
Step forward the Yashica T2, hailing from the latter half of the 1980s this is another well regarded fully automatic 35mm camera. Like the L35 this is a camera you can take out and simply enjoy using. I’ve only used it twice so don’t feel qualified yet to write too much on the subject but I will do a quick comparison between the two cameras fairly soon.
For now, enjoy some pictures from a quick wander around town.
So, a handful of images from a first outing with the Yashica T2. It certainly won’t be the last though!
* I’m not ruling out another either!
The great indoors
I checked this morning and this is the eighth blog post I’ve managed to squeeze out of a two-day trip to Salford Quays. Not a photographic trip either, some time away with my wife away from domestic and child-minding duties.
One thing I rarely do is make images in indoor situations such as shopping malls. Partly it’s too much hassle and likely to upset security and partly that I rarely see anything that takes my eye. Part of the hassle is getting exposure right and using a light meter in these places isn’t always the easiest thing to do. However, with a fully automatic point-and-shoot in my hand most of these obstacles disappeared. With no need to measure the light and no manual camera controls to fuss over I could do what it says on the tin … point-and-shoot.
So I did.
Oh, and one last thing that I love about the Nikon L35 AF. The auto rewind leaves half an inch of film poking out once it’s finished. A big deal if you home process your films rather than send them away for developing.
I’ve lost count of the number of blog posts that have been spawned by two days and six rolls of film with the Nikon L35 AF camera. But, I’m back with another. This one is mainly pictures though and very little of my wittering you will be pleased to know. Well, that’s the plan anyway.*
As is my normal practice, I’ve “scanned” the negatives with a Fujifilm X-T3 and a Nikon macro lens. One day I will get around to writing about my process for digitising negatives but today isn’t that day. Most of my recent posts have used images that have been processed using the Snapseed app on my iPad or iPhone (other technology providers are available) mainly because I’m too lazy to turn the computer on most of the time.
The two images above were each processed with a simple Curves adjustment – one (A) in Snapseed (which I’m very familiar with) and the other (B) using the Photoshop iPad app (which I downloaded today). One is cleaner straight “out of the box” especially in the sky. There is also a difference in the overall look of the image. Unsurprisingly perhaps, B for me is the nicer looking of the two. After all Snapseed is free whereas Photoshop is part of a paid-for plan. But, Snapseed is easier to use. I know that with practice Photoshop for iPad will become easier to use … but do I have the patience?
But why haven’t I considered this before? Well, this is the first time I’ve ever blogged for an extended time with 35mm negatives as my subjects. There’s also a lot of sky in many of them. The physical size of a 5×4 or even a medium format negative is generally bigger than the digital images I publish. The same cannot be said of standard 35mm negatives. The quality of the conversion is affected by many factors but as a rule of thumb I’d suggest that the bigger the negative the better the end result, all other things being equal.
But, given the perceived (to me) increased quality of the Tablet PS-converted images, the real question is am I going to continue with the easy route or am I going to commit to learning how to use PS on the tablet? As ever, it depends.
As I’ve said, I’m fundamentally opposed to work but, yes, I’m going to make the effort to learn to use the PS app. However, I won’t be giving up Snapseed just yet as there are many occasions when it does just fine. After all it’s powered many a blog post over the last few years.
* It didn’t go to plan did it? In my defence there are seven/eight new images in it.
POSTSCRIPT: The issue doesn’t really arise when writing blog posts on my computer as I convert and process the images in Photoshop or Lightroom.
The 37 Club
I’ve been digging around on the internet for background information on the Nikon L35 AF that I was using in Salford Quays recently. Lots of opinions on the noise the camera makes, vignetting of the lens and the lack of manual controls. But none mentioned a big positive in my eyes – 37 frames per 36 exposure roll! I’ve just developed five rolls of black and white film, four Tri-X and one Kentmere 400, and every roll has 37 frames. Bargain! Did some of the other reviewers not get through a whole roll I wonder? [takes tongue out of cheek]
On the subject of vignetting, yes, there is a slight vignette but its not obtrusive and in my case I often add a more obvious vignette myself. The image below is un-processed apart from inverting the “scan”. There is a slight drop off in light at the edges but it isn’t objectionable to my eye.
Another thing that gets mentioned, albeit generally positively, is the +2 exposure override function. As I’ve mentioned previously its easy to use and the lever is well positioned. With the benefit of hindsight I found that in most cases it wasn’t needed, even though I made liberal use of it. I suspect that for portraits, especially closer in than I typically get, this function will repay its deployment but for the urban photography I practice it’s simply nice to know that it’s there. Overall I found the cameras exposure to be pretty good. Possibly a tad over at times but none of the negatives from this trip are problematic and as I’ve already noted my “scanning” might be a factor. Certainly the negatives look fine on the light pad.
In the example above the automatically derived exposure is pretty close whereas the +2 is definitely over-exposed. In both cases though the negative would be usable, especially in a hybrid workflow. My take-out from this is that for general scenes such as these I really don’t need to bracket as I was doing last week on occasion.
The other thing mentioned regularly is the filter ring. This point and shoot accepts proper screw-in filters and automatically adjusts the exposure accordingly. Neat. I only had a red filter with me but left it on for the whole of one roll to see what happened. The camera didn’t miss a beat and I’ve a nicely exposed sheet of 37 negatives … did I mention 37 frames from all five rolls?
So, there we go a few more thoughts on the Nikon L35 AF, and another blog post squeezed from a two day trip with one point and shoot camera and a pocket full of 35mm film.
The wife and I recently took a 35-mile trip up the motorway to spend a couple of days at Salford Quays. The agenda was a wander, some retail therapy (not for me sadly – no camera shops), a coffee and later an evening meal and a few beers. A plethora of camera paraphernalia was definitely not on the agenda. So I packed very light, just a small(ish) point and shoot camera and a few rolls of film.
I’ve owned the camera for a while now but until this week have only ever used it for short walks and only ever used a single roll at a time. This was to be the first trip with just the camera, a red filter and half a dozen rolls of film in my bag.
Spoiler alert: I had a blast!
Did I mention filters? Yes, the L35 has a proper 46mm filter ring – a real boon for a black and white photographer who enjoys using contrast filters. The observant however will wonder why a red filter and not my habitual yellow or yellow/green filter. I couldn’t find it amongst the disorganisation that is my gear cupboard is the truthful and slightly embarrassing answer.
It turned out a good choice though as I found a roll of Washi Z in the bottom of the bag and I’d intended using it with a red filter so that was a bonus. Together with this rogue roll I took five rolls of Tri-X and a single roll of Kentmere 400.
Let us just dwell on that lone roll of Washi Z. It’s the lone sour note in an otherwise fabulous two days. I decided to load it on Friday morning as the route we were taking had plenty of greenery amongst the urban. It was the only part of the Quays that we were not traversing more than once too so these images would be unique. I spent a happy hour using all 24 frames, started up the automatic rewind and popped the camera into my bag. It takes 20-30 seconds to rewind and I used that time to get another roll out of my pocket and consult my phone. When I took the camera out of my pocket it had stopped whirring and so I popped the back to remove the roll.
You guessed yet? Yup, it hadn’t rewound. Roll ruined. Back at home I was to find, by measuring, that only one frame had been rewound. However, stood outside the BBC Studios, my immediate concern was do I load another roll? I did, it wound on correctly, and I proceeded to the wharf side to capture some gorgeous clouds. Click. Whirr. Click. Whirr. A vertical and a horizontal composition. So far, so good. But, on the next attempt the shutter wouldn’t release. There was the hint of movement in the focus indicator needle but other than that the camera was locked solid. On a hunch I popped fresh batteries in.
Click, whirr and the third frame was exposed.
So, the thing this episode taught me is that the batteries will become exhausted without warning. I always carry spares so wasn’t in a spot but that didn’t make me feel better. My take out from this is that in future I will keep the camera in my hand whilst it rewinds as there’s no warning when it runs out of juice.
Now, whilst this isn’t a camera review it would be remiss of me not to talk about how the camera handled and frankly how much fun it was. It’s a bit of a boxy, brick-shaped camera and not quite pocketable. I could slip it in my fleece pocket, just, but there was no chance it was going to fit in the pocket of my shorts like my usual “travel-light” camera, the digital Fujifilm X100T. It does have a neck-strap so I was able to walk hands-free when required.
Camera-handling is difficult to nail down in a sentence or two, not least because it is such a subjective and personal experience. I have bigger than average hands and this camera sits very nicely whether carrying or using the camera. There are very few controls on this mostly automatic camera but ergonomically they all fall easily to an appropriate digit enabling the camera to be used without removing it from the eye. Despite only using the camera occasionally I didn’t miss any images through fiddling with controls. The +2 exposure switch is easily found on the side of the lens and holding the flash down to prevent it firing is easy to achieve with just a slight shift in the way I hold the camera.
This is basically a fully automatic point-and-shoot 35mm camera albeit with a superb little f2.8 lens. Creating images with minimal depth of field is at the mercy of the prevailing light as the camera makes all the decisions regarding aperture, shutter speed, even focus point. However, it is possible to force the camera to focus where you want it to by placing the focus point over the desired object, half-pressing the shutter release to achieve focus, keeping the release half-pressed you can then recompose and complete the exposure.
Similarly, there is a back-lit switch which, when held down during the exposure, will add two additional stops to the chosen aperture/shutter speed combination. I used this a fair amount.
In conclusion, the camera delivers some lovely crisp images and is very easy to use. The control freaks won’t like the very limited amount of control they can exert but it is possible to be creative with some thought. However, if you are a fully manual kind of photographer this camera is best avoided. If, like me you enjoy photography and at times need to make life easier in order to preserve domestic harmony then this camera needs to be on your shortlist.
The proof of any camera’s worth though is the pictures made with it. Despite rather “meh” light over the two days it performed well. Five rolls, 180 frames, and it didn’t miss focus once. Exposure is perhaps a tad over but well within the latitude of the film I was using and could even be down to my scanning technique. It even handled the red filter well. Some people have mentioned a slight vignette but I didn’t find that a problem. There is a very faint drop off around the edges but it isn’t that noticeable and in fact I add a stronger vignette to many of my images.
Finally, and incredibly, this is the fifth blog post that I’ve squeezed out of our mini-break. However, all of the images here are from a single roll of Kodak Tri-X that I exposed on Friday morning. With another four rolls of film to work through don’t rule out another blog post or two!
Salford Quays Panoramas
Have you ever tried working with a KMZ FT-2, in its (n)ever-ready case, in the rain with an umbrella in one hand and the camera in the other?
I have … and even attempted some “street” at the same time.
The thing though, is that this camera has such a wide field of view that even with people just a few feet away they are still very small in the frame! This couple were no more than six feet away when I pressed the shutter release.
As ever, the FT-2 excelled with the architecture and not for the first time I was a little frustrated that I only get 12 images when I take the camera out. I’m not yet ready to take out a changing bag and the rest of the kit that would enable me to change film on the go however! You really need to think with this limitation. Perhaps next time I will take the kit and change rolls in the hotel overnight and that way get a roll, or twelve frames, a day. One to ponder.
I did try the typical “street” approach of finding a spot and waiting for someone to walk into frame but could only devote two frames to the experiment. Again, even with people reasonably close they are still tiny in the frame. However, I did manage to combine my two “allocated” vertorama frames with people in the frame so made the best of it.
A developing situation
So, a couple of days away have ended and we are back home. I travelled light (blog post to follow) but still got back with six exposed rolls of 35mm film. Time for a morning on my feet in the kitchen and the developing of six rolls of film. I find this a very relaxing process. That might not resonate with everyone but I’ve developed over 340 rolls of film and almost 100 sheets of film in the last twenty months so it’s done mainly on auto-pilot which makes for a reasonably stress-free morning. I’m a stickler for order and method too and this means that muscle memory is strong as my routine barely wavers.
I took two cameras this time. The KMZ FT-2 had the last roll of Rollei Blackbird and as you need a changing bag to load and unload this beast it was going to stay in the camera until I got home. The other camera though was a Nikon L35 and I used four rolls of Tri-X and a roll of Kentmere 400. I was asked by someone recently how I remember which film is which when I am away from home and therefore having to store film up for developing later, especially with more than one camera.
The answer is simple. I carry a permanent marker pen with me and use this to clearly number each roll, sometimes adding date and the ISO used. I then use the note taking facility on my phone to record all the relevant details. If I’m working with large format I have a notebook in my bag because I record full details for every single exposure but for a day out with a 35mm the phone app works well. If I’m using 120 I sometimes want exposure details etcetera for some frames and these are easy enough to jot down too.
Back home as I load each film into the tank I prepare a slip of paper with the relevant number on and keep this with the developing tank, noting where appropriate which film is on the bottom reel and which on the top (see picture above). This slip gets pegged up next to the corresponding film on the drying line (see below) once I’ve finished.
So, there we have it. My very simple method of keeping track when working with multiple rolls of film. Most days I only expose and develop one roll in a day so this level of organisation isn’t a daily routine but it works well at times such as these.
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