Rollei Retro 100

Nikon FM2n with out of date Rollei Retro 100 shot at box speed and developed in Rodinal (1+50)

It’s not often I shoot 35mm film these days despite a drawer full of film and twenty-plus 35mm cameras to chose from. However, on a whim, I picked up the Nikon FM2n over the weekend and noticed it had a part exposed roll of film in. It was also fitted with a 24-70 zoom lens I had been sent aa while back but not yet tested so I decided to finish the roll.

Nothing formal however, the live-in grandsons were playing in the back yard, in and out of their paddling pool, so I took a few snaps of them first. When they saw what I was doing they both wanted a go too, so that used a few more frames. Harry then decided to pose; composing a fast-moving, naked subject so as to preserve everyone’s modesty was a challenge. That the lens was manual focus with a sloppy focus ring just added to the fun!

Reaching the end of the roll I decided that, as everyone was outside and the kitchen therefore empty , this would be a good time to develop the film and see what I had. The first surprise was that I had loaded Rollei Retro 100 in the camera. Why that had been so I couldn’t decide and having now seen what the first few frames were I still don’t know why I had a 100 speed film in the camera. I’ve been using Perceptol a lot recently, mainly because I’ve been shooting mainly Ilford PanF+ and FP4+ in my Bronica ETRS but reached for the Rodinal, mainly because I wouldn’t have to make up a new batch of Perceptol rather than any aesthetic choice on this occasion.

After consulting my notes I settled on 13 minutes at 20 degrees C in Rodinal diluted 1+50. The result was, as expected, good negatives with a reasonable amount of contrast. I left them hanging to dry in the bathroom and later in the day cut and sleeved them ready for a proper look on the light pad the following day.

As soon as I placed the first strip on the light pad I knew that all was not well. I had a good range of tones and the negatives were not overly contrasty so I was confident that they would print well in the darkroom. They also scanned well it turned out. Even from inspecting the negatives however, I could see immediately that the lens was, to say the least, a little “soft”. Excluding the frames ruined by camera shake (due to the low shutter speeds the 100 film required) and the erratic mobility of my subjects, very few of the images were the crisp, sharply focused negatives I had expected. That was disappointing especially as there appeared to be some nice images at the first glance of the still-wet negatives the afternoon before. But not the fault of the film.

Thumbs up!

So, frustrations with the now-discarded lens aside, what did I make of the out of date Rollei Retro 100 (also known as Agfa APX 100)?

Despite the film being out of date, I made no compensation in respect of exposure, mainly because I didn’t know what film was in the camera and the ISO dial was set to what I realised afterwards was box speed. I liked the “look” of the images from the film, although defining “look” is a futile exercise as it will vary from person to person. The grain is very apparent in these negatives but I don’t mind that at all; as someone who used to regularly shoot Kodak Tri-X at 6400 ISO in the 1970s I’m used to a bit of grain! Purely digital shooters with no history of working with film will probably be horrified at all the “noise” however.

It‘s a thumbs up therefore from me. I shoot mainly 120 film and my emulsions of choice are Ilford PanF+ and HP5 but I would not be averse to putting a roll or two through the Bronicas if the subject was right.

Bronica ETRS – point and shoot?

I wanted to see if the Bronica ETRS could be used as a P&S relying on the prism to set the shutter speed. This would make it easier when shooting family snaps such as these. Whilst I prefer the 6×6 format for most of my “serious” photography I am finding the 6×4.5 format of the ETRS works ideally for this type of “informal” photography.

Bronica ETRS with 250mm – a family snapper point and shoot?

Above: Frames 9 – 12 from a roll of HP5+ shot using a Bronica ETRS with a 250mm lens and relying on the AEII metered prism for correct exposure. I set the speed to 400 and aperture to f5.6 and left the prism to set the shutter speed. The film was processed in Rodinal (1+50).

Brrrrrr!.

Looking at the strip of negatives hanging up to dry I thought that and overall it had worked and this was confirmed when I scanned them on my Epson Perfection V550. To include the rebate I needed to lay the negative directly onto the scanner glass but I seem to have got away with no obvious moire patterns so it was probably my lucky day.

Lockdown not shutdown

It was mid-morning on Wednesday 18th March that I received the not-unexpected call from my consultant – please stay home for your own safety. It was an instruction dressed up as a suggestion/recommendation. She conceded that I could use my back yard for fresh air but insisted that this should be my boundary until further notice.  Like so many others with medical conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 I was in Lockdown before the phrase had been uttered by HM government. When Lockdown officially started and with it the concession of an hours exercise a day I got in touch with my consultant; again, I was not in the least surprised to be given a firm “No”, so I was resigned to stay at home until 14th June at least– ironically Amanda’s birthday and the day after our 39th wedding anniversary.

Random images from isolation 72
Even when I have managed a slightly more urban-looking subject I’ve chosen colour!

From the start I was determined to keep my 366 Project going.  This might be Lockdown but I was determined it would not be a shutdown photographically.   As of today, 9th May 2020, I am 923 days into my long-term picture-a-day challenge, and I was not going to let this “inconvenience” stop me from going past the 1,000-day mark; my eyes are still firmly fixed on the end of July!  I had recently been producing a lot of urban black and white images, many from around the small town where I live, and these had become a trademark of sorts, but I would need to reconsider this strategy. Looking back there was definitely a strong bias away from colour. We only have a small back yard and a tiny front yard (three metres from the front door to the public footpath – I measured it) so it was going to be challenging.

Random images from isolation 100

So how am I doing?  Well, fifty-plus days into isolation (shielding, or whatever today’s name is) and I’ve not only kept the challenge going without having to resort to pictures of my dinner, I have also posted an additional 120+ Random Images from Isolation and it is these that I have drawn on for this post.

Random Images from Isolation 111
Poppies have often featured in the past
Random images from isolation 107

I have continued to use a range of cameras for the 366, including my film cameras, and the iPhone has only featured a couple of times in my daily posts so that aspect of the challenge is unchanged from pre-Lockdown. My cameras live under the coffee table next to my armchair at the moment however which I never got away with prior to isolation.  The only major change from my workflow is that most images have been post-processed using the Snapseed App on my iPad rather than Photoshop as I’ve used my Mac only occasionally during this period for some reason I’ve yet to fathom.

World Pinhole Photography Day 2020

I enjoy the occasional foray with a pinhole camera, even building one myself not so long ago and so was annoyed with myself for missing World Pinhole Photography Day (WPPD) in 2019. I was determined not to miss it this year however and had even scouted out a couple of suitable locations on the River Calder ready for the big day. I was it seemed all-set and ready to go.

I missed WPD-2019 and had big plans for 2020

WPPD is held on the last Sunday in April – the 26th this year – and of course, I’m being shielded at home and not allowed out of my yard! Best laid plans and all that.

I was determined not to miss the fun though and so the night before I loaded a fresh roll of Acros II into my wooden Zero Image 612 pinhole camera and dug out a mini tripod. At 7.30am on WPPD morning I was out in my backyard with pinhole camera, mini tripod and light meter to capture my first WPPD submission.

366-2020-117 (World Pinhole Day 2020)
World Pinhole Day 26th April 2020 – my submission

When set to 12×6 my pinhole camera takes five frames (you can shoot six but the sixth is truncated) and as exposure can be hit and miss it is important to think before opening the shutter. I took three compositions, two of which I ended up scanning. The first two compositions were bracketed, two frames at different exposure times, and I used an App on my phone as a light meter having first checked with my handheld meter that it was reading sufficiently accurately. The benefit of the App is that it will display the exposure for an f-stop of 150 which my light meter does not.

After breakfast I processed the roll of film in Perceptol (1+1) and was chuffed to find some decent exposures; indeed, every frame could be darkroom printed if desired and the negatives scanned very nicely on my Epson scanner. My chosen image (above) was uploaded the following morning although I did upload it to my Flickr photo stream on the Sunday afternoon along with one of the other compositions. The third composition I chose not to use as it had not worked as well as I’d hoped but two out of three is not bad!

The image is awaiting moderation by the WPPD team but will eventually be viewable HERE I believe.

Scanning colour negatives

With all the differences between different colour negative film stocks, scanning can be a bit hit and miss. Here I briefly demonstrate the method I use, it is not perfect but produces acceptable results most of the time. I’m sure with a far more rigorous approach it could be done better but who wants to spend hours scanning and processing negatives – I’d much rather be in the darkroom!

Some Bronica images

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post so I thought I ought to do something to reassure my reader that I’m still here! With a compromised immune system I’m being a little careful about social interaction but have been very busy indoors including a full day in my makeshift darkroom recently.

Bronica ETRS / 250mm

Looking at my notes I see I’ve shot over thirty rolls of film this year already, a mix of 35mm and 120 medium format. Twenty six of those I developed before cracking my tank last week so I have five awaiting the delivery of a replacement tank. I’ve opted for a larger tank this time so I can develop two 120 rolls, or three 35mm, at the same time.

Bronica – from my front garden!

A few of those rolls have been created by a newly acquired Bronica ETRS and a trio of lenses (40mm, 75mm and 250mm). I’ve shot medium format many times over the years. I’ve previously shot with a Pentax 645 (the only camera I’ve ever regretted selling), I also have a Hasselblad 500CM, Mamiya C3 TLR and a Mamiya RB67 in my bag all of which I’ve used recently. So I’m no stranger to medium format. But, the Bronica has stolen my heart at the moment. At 6×4.5 it’s the smallest of my medium format cameras but it’s SLR-like handling is a joy. I also have the option to swap in a waist level viewfinder for that traditional MF experience too.

Bronica ETRS

There will be more to come over the months I’m sure but for now stay safe and take care!

Picture of the day – 3rd March 2030

I made a conscious decision today to shoot my 366 image with my iPhone during the school run (which would include a detour to get the wife’s newspaper). I took half a dozen images, two of which I liked a lot but this was the final choice for the 366 once I’d “lived” with both images for the day.