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!

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.

New Horizons

Back in October 2020 I bought a new-to-me camera, the Horizon Kompakt. A Russian-made, swing lens camera for shooting 120 degree panoramas on 35mm film. In January 2021 I added the Horizon S3 Pro to the bag having also played with an Horizon 202 in December 2020. This post is a summary of the key things I have learnt whilst working with this incredible but very idiosyncratic tools. They are in answer to questions I’ve been asked over the last few months and are in the order they tumbled out of my head!

1. So long as you load the camera properly and wind on smoothly there should be no problems with torn film. Unlike my Kompakt and 202 the S3 is relatively very smooth.

It rained toay … all of the day! Horizon Kompakt | HP5+ | Kodak HC-110 (B) Shot and developed 20th January 2021

2. To the right of the film gate in the S3 there is a silver bar with sprockets – the film goes under this BUT make sure you also thread the film UNDER the black bar to the immediate left of the silver bar. This is important to ensure film lies flat and reduces tearing risk considerably. With all of the models the basic advice is that if it can go under then it should!

3. Some film stock is inherently thinner and prone to snapping, I’ve used mainly HP5+, Tri-X with the S3 although have used self-rolled Kodak XX successfully. The key as I’ve said is to be gentle.

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

4. I use an app on my phone to gauge exposure and it’s rarely too far out. It’s a wide field of view though so I use my experience to tweak if appropriate, especially high contrast scenes such as the one above. I rarely bracket but that’s an option too I guess. If shooting something like HP5+ there’s plenty of inherent latitude within the emulsion itself. 

5. Expect 21 frames on a 36 exp film. Around 14 on a 24 exp film. Don’t be tempted to try and squeeze an extra frame – therein lies film snapping potential 😀

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


6. Some users report banding at one end of the frame. Not regularly however and when it does appear it is mainly when the sun is around in my experience – so not that often up here! There’s some debate as to whether it’s light leaking in through the shutter hood as it travels. Myself and many other Horizon users I know tend to keep the camera in our shoulder bags until we are ready to shoot. Anecdotally this does appear to work. In my experience, it’s not as big a problem as many make out though and in any event the negative is wide enough that you can crop it without an issue. Interestingly, the more basic Kompakt seems to suffer less from this phenomenon in my experience.

7. If your Horizon has the handle use it as it really helps keep stray fingers out of the shot. I also hold the right hand side of the camera from the back between finger tips to keep stray fingers out of harms way when pressing the shutter. It feels (and looks) a little odd to start with but is worth persevering with.

8. I used HP5+ exclusively to start with as it’s a film I’m very familiar with. Now I’m confident with how everything works I’ve used all sorts of film stock with success, even home-rolled Redscale. In short, I would say that once you know what you’re doing then anything goes film-wise!

9. Metering: I took my spot meter out just the once but decided that this just slowed me down and took some of the spontaneity out of using the S3. Now I take a basic reading when I leave the house using my phone, set that and then tweak as I need to based on my assessment of the scene. If the light changes dramatically I take a new reading. 

10. One last thought, make sure the film is tight on the take up spool too as this helps ease pressure on the film as it moves through the film gate. 

I’ve not talked about composition here, just the mechanics of using the camera and creating images. I may well pen some thoughts in that area too … but don’t hold your breath as this post is my first in almost six months! I must rectify that.

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.

On the Street – again!

It’s been a while but the X100t and I took to the streets over the past couple of days after quite a long gap. With an open mind and a fully charged battery we pottered from Liverpool Lime Street down to the Albert Docks with many a detour along the way.

For once I left the splash of colour

I’m back home now and have just had a little chimp at the back of the Fuji. I’d posted a handful of images Thursday evening to Flickr so knew I had some “keepers” but the acid test will come when I download the files to the computer and have a proper look.

A second too quick in pressing the shutter!

Some of my iPad edits look promising and there are a couple which will warrant a blog post of their own. It wasn’t just the Fuji that I used however so expect a “Street – shot on iPhone” post too. I also explored the RC Cathedral and it’s crypt with a 360 camera before I left so that is to follow in due course I hope.

Grittier processing than usual – shot and processed on iPhone

Morning constitutional

I have captured this with many different cameras

Most mornings I wander down to the local newsagent for the wife’s paper and sometimes venture as far as the local supermarket. Reading my recent posts it would be easy to think that I only go out with a film camera these days but that wouldn’t be accurate. My Fuji X100t still accompanies me everywhere.

This morning I took the Diana F+ in order to shoot the last six frames of Lomography 400 colour negative film that had been in the camera for months. It’s a camera I will be selling as soon as I’ve confirmed it’s working properly by developing the roll of film. With those six frames completed I pulled the Fuji out of my pocket and shot the equivalent of a roll of 35mm film with that.

With “red filter” option

The X100t is an old friend and a camera I’m completely at home with. When the X100f came out I didn’t even look at the specifications of this successor such was my total faith with the “t”. The X100v was released recently, with tilting screen and a new processor, but other than briefly looking at the press release I’ve not even considered it – within the X100 series I’ve found the iteration of this camera that suits me nicely. I did buy the original X100 but it’s idiosyncrasies were too much for me and I sold that camera before returning with the third iteration in the guise of the X100t.

Versatility and great tones straight out of the camera are key features of the Fuji X100t which is why it lives in my pocket

So, three images here all captured whilst I walked to the supermarket this morning using the Fuji X100t digital camera that I carry with me everywhere even when primarily shooting one of my film cameras.

Loving the Ricoh 35ZF

A week or so ago I was considering selling this little camera … but since then I’ve shot five 36 exposure rolls with the Ricoh and haven’t left home without it.

Elland, West Yorkshire

I’ve shot with it in the rain, on the bus and even in the sunshine (although not many sunny frames) and it hasn’t missed a beat. So, it will be staying – it’s sat on the table next to me already loaded with a roll of TMax – but I still need to decide on a camera or three to release back into the wild!

Contre-jour
Time for a Cuppa

“Street” with the Ricoh 35 ZF

I think he spotted me!

I’m in the process of down-sizing my camera collection and am currently considering my small rangefinder style cameras. Today it was the turn of the Ricoh 35ZF.

Loading with a roll of Berlin Kino black and white film I hit the first key consideration: could I push the film beyond its box speed of 400? It was dull and overcast so rating the film at 800 would have been useful. The ISO selector goes from 64-800 so that was a tick in the box. In the event I chose to rate the film at box speed but it was nice to have the option.

The Ricoh 35 ZF is a zone focus, shutter priority (or fully manual) 35mm film camera from the mid-1970s. It has a fixed 40mm f/2.8 lens, shutter speeds from 1/500 to 1/8 (plus B), and an ISO range of 50-800. When shooting in an urban setting I have tended to set the shutter speed to 1/125th with the Ricoh, putting the aperture on ‘A’ and setting the focus pictogram depending on how close I expect to get to my subject.

Repeating shapes are always something I look for

The camera’s diminutive size means it fits in the palm of my hand so I carry it without a strap to make it even more discrete. It’s small size and unobtrusive shutter sound, a brief “click”, means I can shoot from the hip as I did for the opening shot here. Pre-setting the aperture and shutter speed and by using the zone focusing pictograms means I can also shoot quickly from the eye too as in the image above.

I won’t comment on the film beyond saying that it has its strengths and weaknesses both of which I tested today. For the very varied lighting situations I encountered today, indoors and outdoors, I would usually use HP5+ but that said there are some images on the roll that I’m very pleased with.

As for the camera, I think that it’s ideal for a walk-around, shoot-from-the-hip camera and I’ve had an enjoyable morning with it.

I’m 90% certain it’s staying in my collection too!

Calder & Hebble (Drone)

I was very fortunate recently to have three consecutive mornings where I not only rose early but conditions were ideal for some flying practice.  On all three I headed to the closest stretch of the Calder & Hebble which affords sufficient space for me to fly a drone without getting in peoples way. That said over the three mornings I saw just two people so I was hardly a nuisance.

I used a polarising filter on the Mavic for the first time and that together with some bright early morning light produced some punchy, colourful images.
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The image below falls partly into a landscape but also partly into an abstract style of image to me. It was for these types of straight-down abstract/semi-abstract images that I originally purchased the drone.
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Bold colours, strong contrasts, a polariser and careful positioning of the drone all combine here to create one of my favourite drone images to date. I am still smiling several days after making this one!

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Woodside Mill (remains)

This particular spot lends itself very well to images like the one below with strong lines, an almost graphical look but also when you look closely you see road, canal and river broadly running together.

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All of the images above were shot with the sun either behind the drone or to the side and mostly with the camera pointing down so not receiving any direct sunlight. Shooting into the sun though as in the image below creates a far more contrasty scene and less saturated colours.

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Undoubtedly though it’s the “straight-down” images that I like best especially when you can create layers and patterns.

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I was lucky to get three good mornings, and almost an hours flight time over the bank holiday weekend and greatly benefited from the opportunity to practice my flying and aerial photography skills.

© Dave Whenham
And the inevitable mono!