The Sprocket Rocket has bitten the dust. After using four rolls of film last month testing the thing and working out its personal film speed with Kentmere 400 it has gone to that darkroom in the sky.
The sun was shining this morning. A cold, bright wintry morning and made for photography. To avoid being distracted from my purpose I took only the Sprocket Rocket, loaded with it’s February roll, and set forth. I was confident that I had everything in place for a successful roll this time after January’s disappointing experience.
Spotting some lovely light on a house wall (incidentally, it’s the house used as the pharmacy in Happy Valley) I stopped, metered, and settled on four shutter actuations to get the February roll underway.
click, click, click, click
Something is wrong here … it should have been KER-LICK!! KER-LICK!! KER-LICK!! KER-LICK!!
Mission aborted. Phone snap of the scene captured and return to base.
Whilst I walked home I cogitated. This camera has been very problematic and the likelihood is the piece of wire that acts as a shutter has given up the ghost. It’s not worth worrying about though as I bought it several years ago for very few pounds. I would take the camera into the darkroom, transfer the roll into a Holga and continue on my way. Being a 120 camera, if I don’t put the dedicated 35mm back on, I will get a similar result to that from the now defunct Rocket. The lo-fi aesthetic would continue as would shooting the film sprockets and the slightly panoramic format.
Back home in the darkroom I removed the film from the Sprocket Rocket RIP and using some 35>120 adapters successfully transferred the roll to a Holga 120N. With the lights back on I had a look at the now deceased Rocket and sure enough, the shutter assembly was even dodgier than a very dodgy thing. I carefully placed said piece of precision equipment in the bathroom bin and went downstairs with the Holga in hand.
Heading back out I found that the sun had shifted enough to render the planned shot unobtainable – cue a dilemma. In addition the bright blue sky had given way to a uniform greyness through which the sun was struggling to make itself felt. Pragmatism came to the fore, the Holga went back in my pocket ready to try again another morning.
Another day, another attempt to make my February images for the Frugal Film Project. Not that it’s been that frugal; four rolls last month working out the best way to expose the frugal film in this idiosyncratic frugal camera, a camera which is currently on its way to landfill . Still, I wanted panoramic format with full on sprocket holes so the Holga will hopefully be a good substitute.
A full-on day of childcare today but I did dive out quickly to make the image of shadows and light on the end terraced house (see Monday above). Fingers crossed. However, duty calls so I put the Holga away until tomorrow.
Some heavy duty thinking and soul searching overnight. The Holga will give me the near panorama and exposing over the sprocket holes I would have got from the Sprocket Rocket RIP.
Much as I love the Holga I couldn’t see me loading a MF camera with 35mm film for the next eleven months without losing enthusiasm for the task. I also couldn’t realistically change camera again so it was time to be pragmatic and I looked over my shelves for something suitable.
There, at the back, was a camera I bought for £35 a few years back but haven’t yet film tested. Surely, nothing else can go wrong … I’m hoping that isn’t famous last words. Spoiler alert: it functioned fine.
So, the February roll of film is now in its third camera body in as many days. I’ve hopefully wound it on sufficiently to protect the three frames I made with the Holga. That said, of my two Holgas this one produces a huge flare across the middle of the frame (see above) and on 35mm this will probably mean the full height and width of the negative. Hadn’t thought of that before, probably another reason to justify my final choice of camera.
Immediately after taking the grandson to school today I had a quick wander around the block taking in a range of lighting situations. The 12XP is a fully manual camera but does have an onboard, uncoupled, light meter. Mine wasn’t working due to a lack of suitable batteries but I will remedy that on another occasion. I used an app on my phone to determine exposure and quickly fell into my usual routine of measuring once then adjusting the speed or aperture based on a gut- feel. Some call this experience I believe, but good old photographic intuition works for me.
The camera was a joy to use, a real throw back to the 1970s for me. Manually focusing the 58mm f2 lens was a lot easier than I’d expected and the lens is so well damped that it instils confidence that it will stay where you leave it regardless of what else happens. I liked using it. I found the 58mm focal length a little long for my usual style though so will probably try to find a 28mm or 35mm which are both more within my comfort zone.
So, the Zenit 12XP will be my Frugal Film Project companion for the next eleven months. The roll of film is hanging to dry but watch this space for the February images from the Frugal Film Project 2023.
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