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.

Count the leading lines

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.

Yashica – Kodak Tri-X

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.

Nikon – Kodak Tri-X

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.

Fomapan 100 – handheld

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.

Fomapan 100

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!

Fomapan 100
Yashica – Fomapan 100

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.

Fomapan 100 – YG filter on the Nikon and I believe the Yashica fired the flash!

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.

Nikon L35AF & Kentmere 400
Yashica T2 – IlfrdFP4+

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.

But, which is best?

Yashica T2 – Ilford FP4+
Nikon L35 AF & Kentmere 400

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.

John Martin … if you make it this far, this one’s for you!

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 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.

“RAW” image
Processed – I enhanced the vignette for effect

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.

Left – metered negative and conversion
Right – +2 negative and conversion

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?

Red filter doing its stuff

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.

Travelling light

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.

Worried about the 35mm Nikon f2.8 lens and sharpness? Don’t be.

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.

All the images here were edited with Snapseed on an iPad

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.

Around a 50% crop

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.

Shallow depth of field is achievable with some thought

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.

Rather flat light which was a shame but we work with what we have

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.

With added vignette!
Friday morning, 7:30am and for thirty minutes we enjoyed the best light of our visit.

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!

120 into 5×4 does go

Some time ago I bought a 120 roll film back made by Horseman which has a plate to mount the back to a 5×4 camera fitted with a Graflok back. The Graflok fitting has been the de-facto large format accessory mounting standard internationally for the past seventy years or more. My simple aim was to use 120 roll film with my Intrepid 5×4. My first roll was a disaster, I simply couldn’t get the film advance to work correctly, and try as I might I couldn’t get to grips with it. I had been able to load it correctly and that first test roll eventually became a sacrificial lamb as I struggled in vain. I decided to leave it for another day, but I was at least confident in actually loading the back so I loaded a roll of Fomapan 100 ready to try again in a day or so.

That was last October.

Yesterday afternoon, I came across the back, along with its cardboard template, in a cupboard and with time available decided to work it out once and for all. I reread the manual, not once but a few times, and after playing with the back noted what I’d been doing wrong. There’s a silver switch you move to the left to enable wind on. I’d been holding it to the left which was why the film was continually advancing as I stroked the wind on lever. It needed pushing to the left and immediately releasing! Bingo! And Doh!

The template sits on the ground glass of the 5×4 Intrepid to show the area of the scene covered by the 120 film (see example of the mask in use below)

Time to expose some film in earnest. I’d used my Zero Image 5×4 as the host camera whilst I experimented, and eventually solved, the problem yesterday and had ended up with six exposed frames (the back is 6×9 so I should have got eight.)

Zero Image 5×4 pinhole camera and 120 Fomapan 100
I just love pinhole sunlight scattering – flare? Fomapan 100

Encouraged, I developed the film to make sure all was well. It was – see examples above. So, I loaded a roll of Fomapan 400, collected the Intrepid 5×4, and exposed a couple of frames in the dining room with the 180mm lens fitted.

The next morning I took the Intrepid and the 90mm lens into the backyard and exposed the final six frames. Forty minutes later there is a roll of film hanging to dry with eight successful negatives.

Cracked it!

The 6×9 mask in place. I remove the mask for focusing.
This what happens if you don’t use the mask – that’s the full negative on the right. The view of the ground glass has been rotated for ease of comparison – it is usually upside down

The beauty of this is four-fold I think. Firstly, I can practice with the Intrepid without wasting more expensive sheets of film. Secondly, it gives me access to a much larger range of films to use in my 5×4 cameras. Thirdly, I can change film whilst out; as I finish a roll I can put another in and keep working. Finally (fourthly), I can also use this film back on both my Zero Image 5×4 pinhole and my Intrepid field camera meaning I can get both pinhole and lens-based images on one roll of film.

90mm Fomapan 400
90mm f16 1/4sec Fomapan 400

Despite the unintended crop I do like the image of the two wine bottles (one mine and one the Boss’s). It was an oversight to forget the mask but serendipity was on my side as I had photographed the ground glass with my phone so it was an opportunity to illustrate the value of the mask.

Backlit (window light) 180mm f16 with front tilt and 230mm extension.
3.5 minutes exposure allowing for reciprocity failure and bellows extension. Fomapan 400
Only here because I was pleased with my spot metering! Fomapan 400

So, there you have it. A 5×4 camera and a 120 roll of film. All the benefits of tilt etcetera and quality large format less with the convenience and economy of medium format roll film. Eight 5×4 sheets of Fomapan would set me back around £6 whilst a roll of 120 is around £3.50. But, cost isn’t the big factor her, film choice is. In particular colour film. I have stopped using colour film almost totally but with Autumn approaching I’m beginning to wonder what a few rolls of Ektar 100 would look like through this combination. I can send the exposed film to Peak Imaging for developing and if needs be scanning too – a tempting proposition.

An A-F of the KMZ

I introduced the KMZ FT-2 swing-lens panoramic camera in an earlier post and today I would like to talk about operating the camera. Loading the camera is … let’s say interesting. I will therefore dedicate all of the next “KMZ post” to the subject. Finally, in a future post I will try to reflect on my experiences using and composing images with this camera and offer some thoughts on getting the best from the format.

First off, the top plate, which contains all the controls, looks complicated but in reality this is a very simple camera to operate. Handling and getting the best from the camera may not be simple but the mechanical operation is. Let’s look at these.

  • A – wind-on knob
  • B – shutter cocking lever
  • C – shutter release
  • D – frame counter
  • E – shutter speed selectors and aide memoire
  • F – bullseye level

So, let’s take A and D together. The wind-on knob (A) can only be turned in a clockwise direction and there’s a small arrow to remind the user which way this is. With film loaded the action of turning the wind-on also moves the indicator on the frame counter (D). Given the length of each negative three full turns are required following each exposure ro advance the film to the next frame. It’s not difficult though, before winding on, check what frame number you are on. You then turn the knob three times, each time it comes back to that starting number counts as one rotation. Do this three times and then finally twist a little more to move the dial to the next frame number. In fact, it’s easier to do than explain in writing.

Because it’s my blog post I’m going to turn now to E. Two little levers which can be set in four different configurations as displayed in the handy reference schematic. You will have noticed that there are only three configurations shown. Placing both levers horizontally gives the equivalent of 1/50th second. It’s not well documented but an open “secret” amongst users. The levers apply brakes to the rotating lens turret which in turn enables the different shutter speeds. In the vertical position the relevant brake is off so when both levers are set to vertical the brakes are truly off. More of that in a moment.

Moving to B, the shutter cocking lever. When you are ready to make your exposure, simply turn it to the right and click it in place. It needs a positive action, no namby pamby twists here. When you trip the shutter release (C) the lever will clunk back in place with a very definite thud, especially at the 1/400th setting. At this point, let’s take a short detour and talk about torque.

Having done some reading, I believe that torque is the rotational equivalent of linear force … and boy does the FT-2 have some torque, especially at 1/400th second when all the brakes are off. 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. You can feel the camera kick in your hand too. All of 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. But, let me stop before I digress even further.

Double, triple … multiple exposures are yours with the KMZ FT-2

The final item on the top of the camera is a bulls-eye spirit level (F). A bull’s eye level is a type of spirit level that allows for the leveling of planes in two dimensions — both the ‘pitch’ and ‘roll’ I’m told by those who talk in nautical terms. Standard tubular levels only consider one dimension so this is a handy addition. It takes practice but is easy to use once you get the hang of it. However, it’s only really of any use if you can see the top of the camera whilst using it, which means when using the camera at eye level, you’re on your own!

One quirk of this camera is that it doesn’t accept our usual 35mm film cassettes. Film has to be transferred into one of the special film cassettes before it can be loaded. Owing to the fact that Jon’s camera came with both of these bespoke film cassettes whereas mine has just the one, operation of the two differs slightly and I’ve also had to create some workarounds for my own circumstances. But more of that next time.

So, there we have it. A simple enough camera to operate once the film is loaded (more of that next time). It’s almost a point and shoot in some ways, albeit a very quirky one with manual exposure control. It’s biggest selling points, the 120° angle of view and triple-sized 35mm negatives, however make this a fabulous creative tool especially with some practice.

Going with the swing

My partiality to Russian-made, swing lens panoramic cameras is no secret. I’ve owned and used three Horizon cameras in the last ten months: the Kompakt, 202 and S3 Pro. I eventually made a decision to reduce my collection to just one, mainly because two of them were gathering dust as I evolved a workflow that combined the flexibility of the S3 Pro with the spontaneity of the Kompakt.

Horizon S3 Pro

I was therefore comfortably set up with the S3 Pro, a pocketful of Ilford HP5+ (Tri-X on the rare occasions when it was affordable) and my eye was becoming ever more attuned to the panoramic 24 x 58mm format and the 120° field of view. And then along came … not Johnny but Jon!

Once more down the rabbit hole …

That short exchange on social media contains two seeds which bring us to where we are today. The offer of the loan of a KMZ FT-2 and the lead which ended in the subsequent purchase of my own copy of this quirky, odd-looking camera. Rather than re-hash what’s already been written into my own words here’s what the Lomography website has to say about the KMZ FT-2:

Manufactured by the Krasnogorsky Mechanichesky Zavod (KMZ) between 1958 and 1965, the FT in its name stands for “Fotoapparat Tokareva” which means “Tokarev’s camera.” Interestingly, camera historians say that “Tokarev” actually refers to the Russian weapon designer Fedor Vasilievich Tokarev, who was a personal friend of Joseph Stalin.

Lomography.com

Odd-looking certainly, but this is a compact and surprisingly hefty little camera. In theory it should give you 12 negatives measuring 24 x 110mm on a roll of 36 exposure film. However, in my, admittedly limited experience thus far, I’ve only reached the dizzy heights of 11 frames on one occasion and never 12! The film also needs to be loaded into special light-proof cassettes which are notoriously difficult to get hold of. The camera I borrowed had both but (spoiler alert) the copy I bought had just the one.

Unlike the S3 which has a 28mm lens the FT-2 sports a 50mm lens which swings through 120° from right to left. The viewfinder is a simple metal frame that can be folded over the camera’s back when not in use. On top of the camera, amongst an initially bewildering array of knobs and dials, is a very basic, round spirit level. Let’s take a look.

Confused? It’s easier than it appears at first glance.

My regular reader has already seen some images from both the borrowed FT-2 and my own copy. In my next FT-2 post I will cover the challenges of loading this camera, the added complications of only having one cassette instead of two and my initial thoughts on how the camera handles.

The FT-2 packs a lot of real estate into every frame

Metering with the Horizon

As I’ve already noted elsewhere the Horizon panoramic cameras I’m using are basically point and shoot models with no electronics. This includes, or perhaps should say does not include, the light meter many of us are used to finding on our cameras these days. As a photographer of a certain vintage this is not a deal-breaker for me. I have many manual cameras and a choice of traditional light meters in my arsenal. I have a large spot meter, a smaller multi-purpose light/flash meter and an older Weston light meter. I also have an app on my phone these days.

Horizon Kompakt | Ilford HP5+ | Kodak D76 (1+1) Shot 15th Fenruary 2021

Now, the Kompakt has no meaningful controls so there is no need for a light meter. I make a judgement as to what speed film to load before I leave the house and forget about bourgeois concepts like correct exposure. It’s a very liberating experience as I’ve also noted before. However, wandering looking for compositions freed from the tyranny of exposure calculations is fabulous until the light changes or until a really good scene presents itself and I start to hope that the exposure latitude of my film will be enough.

Calder & Hebble Navigation 10th February 2021 Horizon S3 Pro | Kodak TriX | Kodak D76 (1+1)

The S3 however has a decent set of exposure controls and I’ve been able to be a little more precise with choice of settings. Initially, I read the light for each exposure using a light meter but this spoilt the spontaneity and freedom I’d experienced with the Kompakt. I eventually settled on an approach whereby I took a base reading with the phone app as I left the house and then used my experience to tweak settings from this base as necessary only taking a new reading if the light changed materially. The restored much of the freedom and has been the approach I’ve happily used for several months now. And then the sun came out!

March 17th we saw something we’ve not seen that much of for months – the sun! Deep shadows, blue cloudless sky and bright, bright sunshine. After months of grim, damp days who could resist the chance to take a walk without dozens of warm and waterproof layers.

Horizon S3 , Kodak Double XX film, developed in D76(1+1) 17th March 2021

By chance I had a short roll of Kodak Double X to use as I’d just finished the bulk roll. I estimated a dozen frames on the Horizon which would be great for a short walk around the block. Rated at 320 I was getting a base reading of f16 and 1/250th of a second – the top end of the S3s range. It didn’t leave a lot of room for manoeuvre so I popped a light meter in my pocket as a precaution. Not one of my aforementioned devices though but a Reveni Labs light meter, about the size of the dice used in many board games. So small in fact that my biggest fear is not about its accuracy but about losing it! This isn’t the place for a review or full product description but you can find out more on the Reveni website.

The Reveni is designed to sit in the hot (or cold) shoe of a meter-less camera and does what it’s designed to very simply and easily. This was its maiden outing and as the lighting on each scene was quite different from the last due to the bright sun and deep shadows I found myself using it throughout the short walk. Apart from the fiddle factor (the Horizons have no cold shoe and the Reveni is tiny) it worked very well. I decided to trust it, at least as much as I trusted my bigger handheld meter, and see what the results were.

Eleven and a bit – not twelve frames!

As the negatives above show the Reveni didn’t miss a beat – and Kodak XX in D76 looks quite good too. The image above, taken in the memorial park, is a straight “scan” which has been inverted with a curves adjustment and a few tweaks in Adobe Camera Raw. My approach to digitally produced negatives is very minimal; I adjust to bring the negative on the screen looking like the negative on the light pad, invert with a curve and then apply minor adjustments as if I were split-grade printing or dodging and burning in the darkroom. It’s less an aesthetic choice and more that I do not enjoy computer processing!

So, I was very happy with the Reveni meter. It will make a good addition to my kit bag, so long as I don’t lose it. I will look into adding a cold shoe to the S3 at some point for those days when I want the security of a meter but not the hassle of a larger handheld model. I will still stick to the way of working that I’ve evolved over the last six months for the most part though as it frees me to look for compositions and create images rather than concentrate too much on technicalities. That’s been my favourite part of using the Horizons and I don’t want to lose that if I can help it!