Here are some of the film photography scans I took on my last trip to Ukraine last summer. I cancelled my return trip to Ukraine in July 2017 as wanted to concentrate on my Ironman triathlon training but managed to fit in another trip before the end of 2017 to catch up with my model friends. It feels like ages since I was last there!
When packing for Ukraine last time I planned to do strobist work so decided to take my Nikon F4 SLR instead of my usual Leica film cameras. The Nikon F4 has a flash sync speed of 1/125 instead of 1/50 so it is easier to balance ambient light and strobes. For the Nikon F4 I took the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 pancake lens as it is small and sharp and the Nikkor 60mm f2.8 Micro. All the film scans seem to be shot on black and white Kodak T-Max 100 so it looks like I was keeping it simple! All photos were home developed using Kodak Xtol and scanned with a flatbed Epson v800 scanner.
Nikon F4 and Kodak T-Max 100 Film Portraits
Nikon F4 vs. Leica Rangefinder – Any difference?
As I normally use Leica film cameras such as the Leica M3, M2, M4-P, M6, that are all rangefinder style film cameras I thought I would summarise how I find shooting with the more modern Nikon SLR that accepts auto-focus lenses.
I am short sighted and don’t wear glasses for photography so an SLR style camera is OK for me to use accurately if I use up close to a model (perhaps at =<1m distance) with a manual forcus lens such as the Voigtlander Ultron 40m f2. For longer distances I have to rely on auto-focus lenses to capture a subject in focus.
The Nikon F4 is quite chunky and heavy with the 4x AA batteries in the battery grip vs. a solid yet more compact Leica film camera. When I am packing small I would always pack a Leica as both the cameras and lenses are smaller.
Leica cameras such as my 1950s design Leica M3 are built to last and just keep going. That said they do need recalibrating now and again to be able to capture accurately focused images using fast lenses with a shallow depth of field. The Nikon F4 too is built like a tank. I dropped my F4 down a flight of concrete stairs on a workshop in Zurich and to my amazement both the camera and Nikkor 60mm Micro lens continued to work when I caught up with it! You couldn't do that with a modern camera (I think!).
For image quality with film cameras it is down to the lens and choice of film probably more than the camera body itself. If you select a good lens for the Nikon F4 I would say I probably could not tell the difference vs. a photo taken with a Leica film camera. I think I compose better with a rangefinder camera like a Leica and probably work faster with it but in terms of sharpness I think generally speaking the images would be quite similar in most cases with both cameras.
Lastly if I could pick only one film camera I would chose a Leica M3 as I prefer cameras that don't rely on batteries, that are as small as possible, it's simplicity and the magnified viewfinder for accurate focusing.
Full details of the trip
For full details of this trip to Ukraine please see my Ukraine Models (#2) linked below.
To my knowledge Kodak Plus-X 125 film was discontinued by Kodak in 2011 and dates back to before Kodak Tri-X. Kodak Plus X is said to have been first on sale in 1938 to use with movie cameras similar to the modern Kodak Vision3 motion picture film that I am now using today for colour 35mm photography. I bought my expired Kodak Plus-X film as a bulk roll short end on eBay. I spooled some of the film and took it with me on my model photography trip to Poland. I shot the Plus-X at ISo 100, developed the film in Xtol and scanned the film on an Epson v800 scanner. Here are some samples –
Kodak Plus-X – Thoughts
I was impressed by the lattitude and fine grain expecially considering it was expired film. I would happy use Plus X 125 again if I acquired some. I would say it is perhaps like a finer grain Ilford FP4 plus film with a creamer look. On the whole I found Plus-X to be lower contrast than the modern Kodak T-Max 100 T grain film.
Here is me in my scruff testing my first roll of bulk loaded Kodak Plus-X in a mirror in the garden with my Leica M2 camera before taking it to Poland! 🙂
Last year I bought myself a Nikon F4 SLR so shoot alongside my Leica M3 double stroke and various other film cameras. I thought it might be quite nice to compare the 35mm Nikon SLR to the 35mm Leica rangefinder. For each camera I chose my go to lenses (at the time) and loaded both cameras with 35mm Ilford Delta 100 film. It was a bright day so I shot both lenses at f5.6 for the shoot. Harriet was modelling for me and kindly offered to be the subject for this short series of shots.
I developed both rolls of film together in the same tank using 1:3 Xtol developer solution at about 20 degrees (I guessed as no thermometer to hand) for 11 mins and once dry the photos were scanned with an Epson v800 flatbed scanner.
35mm Ilford Delta 100 Film Test:
Nikon F4 SLR + Nikkor 50mm f1.2 Ai-S
Leica M3 double stroke + Leica Summicron 50mm f2 DR
35mm Ilford Pan F 50 Film:
On a seperate occasion I was again shooting with Harriet and the Nikon F4 + Nikkor 50mm f1.2 Ai-S lens but this time the F4 was loaded with Ilford Pan F 50 film. Here are a couple of Pan F 50 images to compare to the Ilford Delta 100 film scans. I am a huge fan of both of these film stocks.
Nikon F4 vs Leica M3 – Thoughts
Unlike digital photography film cameras of varying price ranges from my low cost Nikon FM or Olympus 35RC film cameras to the more expensive Leica M6 and Leica M3s can all produce similar quality results with decent film loaded. I would not say that is the case with digital. I think with digital, to an extent you get what you pay for. For example I would expect significantly better results from a £30k medium format digital Hasselblad vs a Leica M240 or Nikon D800 and the same with the M240 or D800 vs an entry level camera. I recently tested my Hasselblad 501C medium format film camera against my 35mm Leica M6 film camera. The 6×6 film negatives did hold more detail but the gap between the two cameras is less noticeable to my eyes. This may also be the case for the photos from the aforementioned digital equivalent cameras but I would generally expect better results the more I paid with digital (to an extent)(some brands are perhaps over priced such as Leica!) 🙂
F4 or M3?
The Nikon F4 SLR is much bulkier and heavier than the Leica M3 so if I am travelling light I tend to chose a Leica. For film photography when I am using lenses shot wide open at say f1.4 I would always chose the Leica as I feeel the results are better at the maximum apertures. If I am stopping the lenses down to f5.6-f8 I could use either film camera happily. For close subjects I prefer the close focusing Nikon F4. For a subject more than a few meters away I prefer the Leica rangefinder focusing. The Nikon accepts autofocus lenses for fast action and has various other advantages being around 30yrs newer (approx) than the 1954 Leica M3. The M3 accepts some of the smallest lenses I own such as the Leica Elmar 50mm f2.8 collapsible and Vougtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5 so both cameras have their pros and cons. I normally select my camera to use based on size and weight restrictions for that particular shoot if overseas. In the UK and moreso if in my studio I tend to rotate all the various film cameras to keep things interesting!
In December 2015 I took my Hasselblad 501C medium format film camera to teach a 1-2-1 model photography workshop for a week in New York. I took two Hasselblad lenses; a Zeiss Sonnar 150mm f4 CF lens and a Zeiss Distagon 60mm f3.5 CF lens. I took all photos on 120 Kodak Tri-X 400 film which was then developed at home in Xtol and scanned with an Epson v800 flatbed scanner.
Here is a selection of 6×6 Hasselblad portraits from the models we worked with on the first of two photography workshop weeks in New York. Click any photos for more details about the model, lens and developing.
I have used and still use many different film cameras and digital cameras and I think my 500 Series Hasselblad is the best of the best. I enjoy using the Hasselblad and I love how it makes and ordinary scene look really special with minimal effort. Some of my film photos may look perhaps over edited but in reality all I do is adjust contrast, sharpness and remove dust specks to the majority. The Hasselblad does the rest.
I do like the small size and convenience of Leica cameras (as seen on the second NYC workshop) but when I revisit Hasselblad portrait photos I think the extra effort involved is more than repaid by higher image quality. By this I mean the weight and bulk of the Hasselblad camera (and if I use a monopod too) is worth the effort as I get higher resolution images from the medium format film and Zeiss lens combination. Medium format gives me sharper sharp areas and softer soft areas next to each other all in the same photo. With 35mm I can have soft or sharp, not both in the same image. The Hasselblad XPan 35mm rangefinder camera bridges the gap with resolution to match a 6×7 panoramic 120 film image yet shot on 35mm film. An awesome combination that you will see much more of!
Colour film Hasselblad portrait photos still to come from NYC plus all those photos with the Leica M3, M6, M8 and XPan on the second trip.
Mamiya RZ67 Photos – Medium format film photography model shoot with Nella and my Mamiya RZ67 Pro II. For this shot I used the Mamiya Sekor 65mm f4 WA lens which is super sharp. No sharpening needed in PP.
Photo is a Epson V600 scan of the Kodak TMax 400 negative home developed in a brew of 3:1 Xtol and Rodinal at 20 degrees standing for 23 minutes without agitation.
The medium format Mamiya RZ67 film camera is currently my go to camera for any key shots whether wedding photography or model photography. My Nikon D800 gets the rest and light meters for the Mamiya.
Here more Mamiya RZ67 photos with Nella:
Some shots taken with Agnieszka:
I will add more to the blog as I edit the scanned negatives.
For film photography I like to use my own home brew of Xtol and Rodinal developers mixed together to develop my black and white film negatives. I have used various ratios of each but all giving acceptable and pleasing results.
Question: Are Xtol stock and diluted Rodinal one shot developers?
After speaking to a camera shop I was advised that it is recommended to dump your developer after each roll of film developed…
Answer: (Based on my own experience). I am self taught so learn as I go. My first disappointment was using a batch of developer that was a week old (since dilution from Xtol stock/ Rodinal concentrate) and the film negatives came out almost blank. The developer had been kept in a clear soft drink bottle in a dark cupboard. My first valuable lesson was diluted developer does not last as long as diluted fixer solution. I now aim to use a developer batch within 2-3 days of dilution and then dispose of it.
However, unlike the guy in the shop, I do not use the developer as one shot. I mix 1L of developer brew and develop as many as 6 rolls of film (mostly 120 medium format film but also the occasional 36exp 135 film) during a 2-3 day period.
Here is an example from the 6th roll of film developed last weekend:
Bridal Photography with Contax 645 & Fuji Neopan 100 film
Conclusion: Obviously the active ingredients in the developer becomes more exhausted after each roll of film developed so developing times will need to be increased accordingly. Even if you only develop 2-3 rolls of film per batch of developer you have still made a 100% or 200% saving on developer costs.