Sunday, 3 March 2019

Colour Conundrum pt. 1: "Kodak 5"

Colour Photography and me, sometimes I just don't know. It isn't that I have issues with it as a creative medium. Sure, black and white is it for me 90% of the time but there are times when colour is an important element. The trouble is more of a practical thing. It's easy enough to carry and extra back loaded with colour film for just those occasions. The problem is what to do with the stuff once it's been shot. Gone are the days when it was a simple matter to find a local business that could handle the processing for you. The answer should be simple enough - I know my way around the darkroom (I can do it with my eyes closed!) and colour chemistry isn't that hard to get my hands on. The trouble is a batch of C-41 chemistry only lasts for a couple of months once mixed. On average over that time span I'll probably not even shoot a single roll of colour. If I were to shoot E-6, which I'd love to, that's even worse. 

A popular option these days is to ship film away to a lab but shipping one roll at a time adds a lot of expense and if I'm going to wait until I have several rolls I might as well just do it at home. I have all the stuff after all. And so it is this is the option that I have gone with. Sounds like a near perfect plan given the circumstances, right?

Well... maybe. I'm no stranger to the C-41 process. It's fixed, predictable if you stick to a few simple guidelines with no adjustments required in time or temperatures to match a particular film, they all get processed the same way. In many ways it's easier and faster than processing a typical black and white film. Still, for reasons I'm sure had little to do with problems or inconsistencies at the development stage, recent results have fallen a little outside what I was expecting.

To begin with I had 6 rolls of film to develop: One roll each of Kodak Portra 400 and Ektar in 120, two rolls of Agfa Optima 400 in 220 that expired some time in the late 90's, a 120 roll of Lomo 100 and a roll of Fuji Superia 800 that went though one of my Nikons though I can't remember which. Together these represented all the colour film that that completed it's journey through my various cameras roughly over the past year, though in many cases they seem to have been sitting in camera for a much longer time than that. All were developed in the same batch of a 1L Unicolor C41 kit that I ordered from the Film Photography Project. It was recently mixed though I had the kit sitting around as dry chemicals for about a year and a half which should be well within expected shelf life for the unmixed chemicals. This is a two part series and here I'll be discussing the results from the Kodak emulsions and I'll follow up next time with some thoughts on all the rest.

Given that these were the most mainstream of the emulsions and, except for the Lomo, the freshest, these films gave me the most surprising results. Both of these went through my RB67. Like the other two medium format SLR systems I own it has interchangeable film magazines allowing me to switch mid-roll from one film to another and I've used this capability in the usual way to switch from the usual black and white to colour film when it seems appropriate. For the record it has always been a consistent performer the black and white images I have made with it come out just fine.

Portra 400

The Portra 400 had been loaded into the camera no more recently than 2015. I know this only because it contains a particular image, the black and white version of which first appeared in my portfolio in that year. There were only 4 (out of a possible 10) shots on the roll but it's been so long since I shot it I can't remember what might have happened that it was never completely shot. That's just how seldom I use that camera to shoot colour. For all the time it's been sitting there it's still surprising that there were such obvious issues with it. All of the images showed some degree of odd mottling. The first image was by far the strangest with a series of discoloured lines running the width of the film. Here's the straight scan:

The remaining exposures weren't nearly so affected but this odd mottling was evident in all of the exposures. Yes it's been sitting around for a while but I've developed film much older than this, including some that I'll discuss in the next instalment that was developed at the same time in the same batch of chemistry without any such issues. It's hard to say what's causing this. It's clearly not any sort of light leak as it seems to be just a variation in colouration and is worse on the first frame that would have been sitting closest to the centre of the exposed roll. One clue might come from the last of the 4 frames in which the otherwise random mottling shows one clear pattern. A cropped in image of this should make it plain enough...

And in case it's not clear where this might have come from here's a portion of the backing paper from that same roll:

I can only guess that this is the result of some sort of chemical reaction with the ink used to print the frame markings on the backing paper though curiously, to me anyway, there are no markings on the backing paper to match the lines seen in the first frame. Maybe the readership has some better suggestion?

I liked this final frame though, so just I decided to take the scan and clean things up as best I could digitally. The "Kodak 5" was gotten rid of easily enough but you don't have to look too closely to see the mottling.  If you can ignore this though I'd say I like the shot


The second film that had gone through the RB67 was a roll of Ektar 100. It came out of the camera several months ago. If there were thoughts that the issues with the roll of Portra might have had something to do with whatever the problem must have been that caused me to shoot less than half of it most were dispelled by comparing it with this roll. Though it hadn't been sitting on the shelf nearly as long as the Portra, it also had a random mottling pattern throughout the roll and here the first three frames were plagued with particularly prominent lines that again spanned the width of the film, and again it was the same sort of greenish discolouration. Here is the third frame from that roll.

Image anomalies aside though it seems to me this roll came out much differently than any of the others. Ektar is known for it's reasonably bold colours but these seem punchy beyond reason to me. I mean it's still a fairly standard film not unsuited for standard portraiture. For example, while I'm no geologist I'm sure the rocks in this images are practically identical to the ones in the example Portra image above it that was taken about 30km away along the Lake Erie shore. They certainly don't strike me as being this sort of Mars red when I look at them. Curious indeed.

If Kodak C-41 films were generally problematic like this then I'm sure my experiences here would be old news. On the other hand if something is wrong on my end like I got a bad batch of chemistry or maybe I've just really gotten out of touch with good colour processing practice then you'd expect these problems to carry over to the other rolls I developed in this batch as well. In my best go at creating a cliff hanger then, that's what I'll look at in the next instalment so please stay tuned.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Sack O' Beans

There are a lot of reasons I gravitate to medium format SLRs and one of the major joys of using them, to me at least, is how naturally they work with waist level finders. I'm not the only fan of the WLF out there of course, but not everyone loves them for the same reason. Some street photographers appreciate them for the unusual chest to waist level perspective, the not so off-putting way it has you looking down rather than directly at your subject, and for some I'm sure just the fact that it's the way Vivian Maier worked is reason enough. As someone who focuses primarily on landscape subjects however merely getting down to waist level is often not good enough. The ideal perspective for me usually has little to do with the standard eye-level view of the world we see day to day, and more often than not I find that means getting low. How low depends on the subject but waist level, knee level, even ground level, I find occasions for them all. The WLF saves me from having to get down in the muck for low level shots as would be needed if I were using a camera with an eye level finder. But just because I can frame and focus down at ground level is only half the battle. Since I rarely shoot hand held supporting the camera down there presents challenges of its own.

My trusty Manfrotto 055 at its lowest.
My trusty Manfrotto 055 tripod with its splayable legs and sawed off centre column is set up as well as it can be for the low perspective. It's just fine for most of what I do, but even at its lowest it only goes down to about knee level. If I chose a different tripod head it could probably go a bit lower still, but not much I don't imagine. I even own an old Manfrotto Super 3D head that would in theory allow me to invert the centre column so it's hanging underneath the tripod then flip the head around to keep the camera upright and go down nearly to ground level. If this sounds a bit awkward I have to say that until you've tried actually shooting this way you don't know the half of it. Even in the normal upright position I've always found this head less than ideal and at any rate it's not really made to handle larger cameras.

I've tried other solutions for getting lower. I have a clamp that attaches to the tripod leg and supports the camera from there but when you add the necessary tripod head to it it's as bulky to carry as the tripod itself and not much more fun to use than trying to invert the centre column. There's other solutions I'm sure, and probably much more workable ones such as more flexible tripod designs, ground boards, and the like but it's going to be hard to justify the price of any of those even if they can match the simplicity, reliability, and portability of something I found lying around the hall linen closet unused and forgotten about for probably over a decade.

My Sack O' Beans (pictured at the top hiding under the RBeast) was never intended by its manufacturers to be a photographic accessory. If memory serves it was made to be thrown into a microwave until suitably toasty then placed against a sore back or some such. The practice never caught on around here and it eventually wound up on a box of things to donate until the notion occurred that there might have a place in my camera bag. I'm sure there are other kinds of equally suitable bean bags sold for other purposes. There are even bean bags made for photographers but for my purposes I'm not sure what if any advantage they would have over my closet find. It's about the right size for the cameras I like to use, neither too light nor too heavy, enough give to accommodate itself to the shape of the camera and whatever surface it's on but firm enough to hold steady once it has. I don't believe it's water tight but it's tough enough to throw in the wash if exposed to any soggy nastiness. For something that would otherwise just have been thrown or given away I could hardly do better.

The Sack O' Beans in use. Results below.
 Now using bean bags as support for a camera is hardly a new idea but most of the ones I see on the market are targeted at wildlife photographers. These usually have a sort of folded over design intended to be thrown over the edge of a window or car door, which is great I suppose if that's how you're likely to be shooting. I don't know that these would be particularly good in situations that didn't involve a window, especially not when the idea is to get right down to ground level. For more general use I don't know if there's a better design than a simple pillow type bean bag. Mine was purchased at a pharmacy originally and I haven't modified it in any way. I don't know what other purposes suitably sized bean bags are sold for these days but I'm sure there are many I'm just not thinking of right now. If you're handy sewing, or know someone who is and would be willing to help, it would be a cinch to make one. I tried this myself years ago by re-stuffing an old decorative pillow with navy beans. Not a bad idea but navy beans are too large in my experience. I'd go with something more pea-sized if I were to try that again. Also decorative pillows aren't very tough when it comes to field use. Just sayin'.

While using a bean bag for support might seem like a step down from the stability of a tripod I have successfully used mine for long exposure photography without issue. Using mine with either the Hasselblad 503cx or RB67, so long as I can get the mirror pre-released without nudging anything and use a cable release for the shutter, there's little chance anything is going to move during a longer exposure. Just pressing the shutter release by hand is a little tricky with most medium format cameras designed around a waist level finder, both of mine included, because the shutter release is at the bottom where it tends to sink into the bean bag if it's not carefully positioned. I tend not to shoot this way and can't really attest to what kind of shutter speeds you might be able to get away with shooting this way.

The image above was shot at 1/2 second using mirror lock and a cable release. (All the "something seems to be afoot here" jokes have been made in advance so let's just move on then shall we.) I imagine I could have made something of the subject if I had to shoot from the tripod but I'd be pretty much shooting down at it, losing the sky, and it just wouldn't be the same. I may not use it every outing but the Sack O' Beans tucks away into a little bottom compartment in my large camera pack where I can pretty much forget about it until needed.

The Sack O' Beans is the most obvious example of a photographic accessory that was never intended to be photographic accessory but there are others, especially in the darkroom. They often offer neat solutions without the price tag associated with specialty photographic items. I'm sure there are plenty of useful examples, maybe some worth devoting a future episode to?

Saturday, 16 June 2018

The Graflex Graphic 35

One way or another a small hoard of old cameras has come into my posession. There's assorted box cameras, a few pseudo-TLRs, some musty old folders and one or two I'm not even sure how to classify. I lack the soul of a true collector though. While I like to look at old cameras on the display shelf as much as the next person I suppose, my thought has always been that any functioning photographic instrumentis are there to be used.

That's how it is in theory at least. To say to oneself "what an interesting old clunker, I really ought to do some shooting with that" is one thing, but to actually choose to devote the time and the film to doing so when it's easier still to grab the backpack of Hasselblad gear on the way out the door is quite another. There is one little gem of a camera that seems to have offered enough of the right combination of useability and retro charm to have made it into semi-regular use, a fun and rather unusual Graflex Graphic 35.

The name Graflex probably conjurs images of classic large format folders like the iconic Speed Graphic and along with it flash guns with reflectors like small satalite dishes and fedora's with the word "press" stuffed into the band. But in the 1950's they also produced a line of 35mm cameras as well as medium format TLR's. According to Camerapedia the Graphic 35 was produced between 1955 and 1958.

In essence the Graphic 35 is just a 35mm rangefinder like so many others, but as its appearance might suggest, it's a quirkly little thing to use. If you're looking for a traditional shutter button on top of the camera, there is none. Instead you have a shutter lever on the front of the camera. In the photo above, that's it on the left just above the "Graphic 35" name plate. You pull it away from the lens to trip the shutter in a motion that might feel natural with a good amount of practice. I have not yet had that much practice, it still feels awkward to me.

Equally strange is the focus mechanism. Focus is achieved not with the twist of a helicoid mechanism or even the turn of the focus wheel, but with a sort of see-saw lever system accomplished by depressing buttons located on either side of the lens. The button above the shutter lever (on the photographer's right) moves focus further out while the one on the opposite side brings it in to a minimum distance of 3ft. The rangefinder window is separate from the framing window and is split top and bottom. The mirror in my unit is a bit misaligned so the two images are slightly off kilter with respect to one another but not enough to throw things into too much doubt. I seem to nail the focus the vast majority of the time.

The lens itself is a 50mm f/3.5. It is stamped "G. Rodenstock" on the outer rim of the barrel. This portion easily screws off by the way to expose the shutter blades and, when these are opened, the aperture blades just beneath. I been able to find any reference to suggest the optical design but if I had to guess I'd say it's some variant of a Tessar. This would be about right for a camera of this age and price range, and as can be seen when the front elements are removed the rear of the first group is nicely concave as would be expected with a Tessar design. Just my speculation. As a side note my inspection of the front elements revealed that my copy is suffering from minor fungal growth. I will probably let this be and chalk up any effect on the optics to vintage character.

The Graphic 35 features a hot shoe. At least it appears to be hot. The trouble is that the shoe seems a bit shy of the standard width. I was unable to get any of my flash units to slide on, at least not without the use of more force than seemed wise. If it were that important I suppose a few minutes with a small file or a bit of sandpaper on the foot of a small cheap flash unit might get it to fit but this isn't something that seems worth while in my case.

Changing film is not too unlike most 35mm cameras you might be used to although rather than the standard hinged door the back/bottom cover of the camera comes right off to allow access. A lever switch on the bottom is used to unlock it for removal revealing a fairly standard left to right film transport system with sprocket wheel and built in take-up spool that shouldn't be any mystery to anyone familiar with loading just about any mainstream manual wind 35mm camera from more recent decades. Rather than counting up the frame counter dial can be set to the number of exposures on the roll you just loaded and it will count down to zero as you go through the roll. There is no rewind release button. Instead pulling up on the winding knob and giving it a small twist to keep it from falling back into working position will releast the film to be wound back into the cassette. 

The top front of the camera above the lens is the real control centre of the Graphic 35. It's unusual arrangement seems to bring thought back to things that might be a bit routine on cameras with a more standard layout of shutter speed dials and aperture rings. The focus distance is displayed via a rotating dial similar to a mechanical bathroom scale. Moving away from the body from there we come to the aperture slider. It's continuously adjustable from f/3.5 to 22 with colour coded zones for each stop. These zones get narrower at the smaller apertures and there is only a few millimetres separating f/16 from f/22 so a little care may be required. Next is the shutter cocking lever because, yes, there is no automatic cocking mechanism. This is the hardest part about using this camera because you don't expect to need to cock the shutter on a small handheld camera like this. 
Finally there's the speed dial for the between the lens Prontor shutter. Unlike the other dials that can be read and set from the top, setting the shutter speeds requires the photographer to view the camera face on. The dial itself is on a ring surrounding the lens in a manner will be familiar to large format photographers. Available shutter speeds are 1/300th, 1/100th, 1/50th, 1/25th, 1/10th, 1/5th, 1/2 and 1 second plus "B". Not surprisingly for a leaf shutter camera of the slower shutter speeds in my copy stick as you go down and at a full second it needs to be coaxed along to close at all. This isn't so bothersome for me as it might be on a larger format camera as the Graphic 35 is really made to be hand held and I will probably only ever use it set to one of the top three speeds where it's fine. 

The first few rolls I put through the camera were hand rolled from a bulk spool of Kodak Plus-X that expired since the late 70's. Interesting but needless to say not a good indicator of what the camera itself might be capable of. I had the notion that this could be a viable take-along, sort of a side-arm camera on photo treks for those more off the cuff shots I wouldn't want to drag a larger camera out for. Loaded up with a fresh roll of Kentmere 100 it was there for the grabbing when it was decided one brilliant one brilliant Saturday that I would lead a small party of bored teenagers on a fun little jaunt down the Niagara Glen.

Though it was the kind of day I spoke about in the previous episode, better suited for barbecue, I couldn't quite tear myself away from the idea of taking along the Hasselblad outfit. I didn't anticipate using in much, and on that count I was not wrong, but you never do know when you might regret not having it. The Graflex saw much more use on this day, in part because it was a little handier, and in part because using it didn't entail burning through a little more of my precious supply of endangered (though not yet extinct) Fuji Acros.

When I say it was a bit handier than the 'Blad, I do mean a very little bit handier. In fact if I wasn't so careful about keeping the larger camera coddled in a padded backpack I might have found it a somewhat easier to use. That's probably largely a matter of familiarity. The Graphic 35 takes some getting used to. Much of this is simply getting used to the notion of a compact 35mm rangefinder that needs to have the shutter cocked for every exposure. Time and again there was that first false start then ended with the realization that, oop, I forgot to do it again. As the day wore on I got a little better with this. If it were my only camera I'm sure this would become habit and I'd never need to think of it.

As it is though, while I'm sure my little Graphic 35 will see continued use as a fun little take-along or perhaps a functional novelty at gatherings, its practical limitations will likely mean it will never be much more than that. This means I'll probably just go on eternally forgetting to cock the shutter on the first go.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Sunny Days Are For Barbecues

In my part of the world we've been having a lot of the kind of weather you normally spend most of the year hoping for. I'm glad of it, it's good for so many things. It's just that photography isn't really one of them. That's not to suggest that brilliant warm cloudless days and worthwhile photographs are mutually exclusive. The above image was made on just such a day and I'm happy enough with it. It's just to say that if I'm looking for weather that will lend itself to interesting images, perfect is less than ideal.

 All of the images you will see in todays episode were made during a single afternoon jaunt down one of the many out of the way and relatively unknown glens the Niagara area is blessed with. The day was, by most standards, ideal - warm though not at all uncomfortably so and not a cloud in the sky. Take away the fact that I had come intent on doing a bit of photography one might have deemed the day perfect. The perfect day for a hike, or if that's not your speed maybe a picnic or a back yard barbecue. For photography though, not the kind of day I would have chosen.

Many of you will know what I'm talking about here and the images below should atest. Though I worked as meticulously as possible with the spot meter to keep as much shadow detail as possible without sending highlights into that irretrevable upper plateau of the contrast curve the images still look, I don't know, blasted. It's not a technical thing that can be managed. I could be wrong but I imagine that even if I was one of those photographers who used the Zone System in it's full form and had worked out an N-1 development I can't imagine it would have helped much. Harsh light is harsh light. The things that typically lead us to describe this kind of day as beautiful just don't translate well onto film and/or light sensitive silicon chips if that's more your thing.

These are all straight up quick and dirty, un-played-around-with scans. As I'm sure most of you would be quick to point out they are all long exposures made with a 10 stop ND filter. Long exposure images on film can be contrastier once reciprocity failure kicks in, but all images were 60 seconds or less shot on Fuji Acros which, as I discussed last time, is well within the pre-failure portion of that film's reciprocity curve so I don't think this has contributed to the overall sun-blasted look.

Now some of you may be thinking some of these images are pretty okay-ish. It might be interesting to re-scan one or two of these a bit more carefully and see just how much could be done with them. If these were images taken in some some exotic location I was unlikely ever to get back to I might be tempted to try. As it is I usually visit this place a few times a year.

For comparison here is an image made in the same glen on a different sort of day two years previous. The light wasn't completely bland but it has a feel I don't think could ever be extracted from any of the examples above.

And just to make the obligatory point that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to this sort of things there's that image at the top that I think is a keeper. It was made on the same day and in the same conditions as all the much too harsh image examples. Hard light has it's strong points, especially earlier or later in the day when it comes from the side rather than straight down from above. It's often what's behind those particularly dramatic effects, backlight, grazing light and whatnot. I think something like that happened in the image with the girl below the waterfall. (Every photographer should know a girl who is fond of waterfalls.) It was still mid-afternoon when this was taken but the slope of the north-facing waterfall seemed to be just such that it was catching the light at a bit of a grazing angle. This was helped along by the difusing gossamar like quality of the water in long exposure (it also helps when the girl who likes waterfulls is really good at holding still!)

In the end the message is that if you head out with a camera on a bright sunlit day you might come back with something more than just tan-lines. You might also want to wait for a day when your chances will be better. After all, it's the perfect kind of day for a barbecue.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Deathbed Vigil for an Old Favourite

Unless you're brand new to film photography you/ve been witnes to the buzz in the photographic community that comes with the announcement that a new film stock is about to hit the market, or more likely an old one is being re-introduced. Just as surely you've seen the the reverse play out when a film stock disappears from the market. While inevitably these announcements are accompanied by lamentations by some about how this is a sign that choice in the film market is drying up, the wiser among us realize that in the wider picture there is no such trend. Of course things will never be the same as they were when film was the only viable way to do photography, but that's a done deal now. For the most part anyone who was going to give up using film for digital has already done so. What we see today is not a decline. Films come, films go. They always have.

Of course it's a little easier to keep this perspective when the film whose immenent demise has just been announced is not one of the mainstays of your own working method. Sure it was a shame when the Kodachrome process was shut down for good, but honestly I hadn't shot with that particular film in the ten years prior to that. In the past all of these discontinuations came and went with me sad to see another emulsion go, but happily going on with my work no differently than before.

This time though, with Fuji's announcement that they will be discontinuing their Neopan Acros in all formats as of October 2018, five short months from this writing, it finally hits home for me. It has been roughly five years since I returned to shooting film for virtually everything creative that I do. Over that time, though I haven't kept count, I'd say at least half of the rolls that have gone through my cameras have been Acros, and it wouldn't surprise me if I were to learn that it had been a good deal more.

If you're not familiar with it's characteristics, Acros has all the basics covered. It's a 100 ISO black and white negative film with sharpness and grain that put it in roughly the same league as Kodak's T-Max. While it's almost purely a subjective thing, its tonality is something I find pleasing, and at the very least few find it objectionable. Acros has a few other tricks up its sleve though. It is uniquely good at handling highlight detail. This makes it particularly useful in contrasty situations. This also means over exposure is less of a worry, so if you're struggling with shadows you want to see detail in you can usually give it an extra stop and let that lattitude cover the rest. If one were looking to fault Acros you could accuse it of being so forgiving as to invite carelessness.

To me though shooting Acros comes with one over riding delight that beats all the others, and that is that reciprocity failure is something you almost don't have to think about (For those not familiar with reciprocity failure please see the excellent explanation by Mat Marrash on the FPP web site.) Given that I, like many photographers who share a love of the landscape, enjoy experimenting with long exposure techniquest, this makes it a very special film. With many black and white emulsions exposures as short as one second may require an exposure adjustment to compensate for the film's deficiencies with lower light levels. With Acros no adjustment is needed for exposures of up to two minutes.

Now I'm not above bringing along a reciprocity cheat sheet or even doing a bit of math in my head, so why worry too much about having to compensate? It's simply that reciprocity failure can quickly get out of hand, and the more prone to reciprocity failure a film is, the more easily this can happen. With some films for example, if after accounting for reciprocity failure I determine and exposure of 30 seconds at f/8 is appropriate, but feel the scene requires me to stop down to f/16, my new exposure time may become not 2 minutes as we might expect, but 7 or 8 minutes. And if the light may be changing on you over that duration of time the shutter is open any real chance at an accurate exposure may come down to little more than a semi-educated guess. For my money, its' best just to keep things as linear and predictable as possible.

Of course the final factor is simply that Acros is what I'm used to, it's what I've learned to handle. For me it is a known and predicatable commodity. In my case it even has an added bonus in that processing time in my developer of choice, PMK Pyro is exactly the same for Acros as it is for HP5, which is the film I usually turn to when I need a bit more speed, so I can just develop everything together.

Change is inevitable of course, but that doesn't mean we can't fight it. Even though I probably had enough Acros on hand to get me through the summer as it was I immediately put in a panic order as soon as I heard the announcement. Shortly after this Acros was nowhere to be found at any of the online outlets I knew or could find. This was probably due to a rush created by all the other fools who made the same panic buy I did when they heard. When they went out of stock I saw that B&H simply listed Acros as discontinued making me wonder if that was it, so when it was again listed as in stock earlier today, you guessed it, I put in another panic buy. I imagine there will be one or two more in the coming months, as well as the need to buy a larger freezer. I may be in Acros for a few more years yet.

Of course that's only prolonging the inevitable, but so is all of life if you think about it. What happens when it's finally gone? Seems I should have a while to think about it. By then there may be something new.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Counting Down to the Countdown

Perhaps not unlike many of you reading this I have been keeping half an eye on the Film Ferrania site for the past couple of years now. Tonight I checked in for the first time in a while expecting the usual reports of slow steady progress but happily I found more than I expected. Much more. Admittedly some of you may be way ahead of me here so apologies in advance if this is old news to you. Any new film is welcome news, especially when it is introduced by a new (or at in this case resurrected) manufacturer. Given that Ferrania set their sites on the E-6 market and I'm primarily a black and white guy however my interest has been more along the lines of wanting the best for the overall health of the analog photography industry. Sure I plan to get myself a few rolls once they hit the market and still kick myself for waffling over whether to contribute to the kickstarter until it was over, but if my overall pursuit of photography could be described as a journey, I can't see it being much more than a quick side trip.

Not that long ago Ferrania noted another mile stone on their site, having produced their first test film. Naturally enough it was a black and white emulsion. They even shot the film and posted results. Looking at them it's easy to see why this is an important step. For a first ever go it looks like they made a pretty decent film, but the results revealed production problems that need to be solved, streaks in the emulsion and blotches caused by bubbles in the emulsion. You can't solve a problem if you don't know about it. Baby steps right?

Well, that was a couple months ago and as news often trickles out of Ferrania rather slowly I didn't think to check the site again until tonight. Featured heavily are images of a box of Ferrania P30 Panchro film. This in itself seems no big deal. Prior to the demise from which they are currently being resurrected Ferrania was a company with a long and storied history and P30 is the most classic of their black and white emulsions. This doesn't look like any of the classic packaging I've ever seen though and as I read on I quickly learn that it's not. It seems that first go at producing a black and white film for testing was more than just a stepping stone on the way to producing a much more complicated E-6 emulsion, it's also become the basis for a new version of P30 that Ferrania is getting ready to introduce to market. I don't know about you but this is something I'll be keeping my eyes actively peeled for.

It's hard to know how long this is something Ferrania has had a notion to do. When the kickstarter was launched it was clear they had determined E-6 was the way to go. It only made sense.  E-6 was, after all, something that the old Ferrania had experience with. More importantly, at the time Fuji was the one and only company making colour transparency film, and their history of dispassionately discontinuing any emulsion the moment it appeared demand no longer warranted its production meant there was no guarantee even they would remain. But while Fuji remains the only manufacturer currently producing E-6 films, as noted last time Ferrania is no longer the only company gearing up to join them. With Kodak expecting their new Ektachrome E100 to hit the market some time next fall it seems the colour transparency market is no longer relying on Ferrania alone to shore it up against the possibility that Fuji's offerings will eventually dwindle down to nothing. I can't help but think that this had something to do with Ferrania's decision to turn what might have been just a stepping stone into a landing of its own.

Hoping to get your hands on some? As of this writing Ferrania's Shop page makes it clear an announcement is imminent. There's a line of large text reading "This text will become a countdown clock in just a few days! Watch this page!!". Presumably the coutndown will start soon. We're just counting down to that.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

The Once and Future Ektachrome

This isn't a regular post, but I thought if today's announcement from Kodak was enough to warrant a double take from me it might be something readers would be interested in knowing. In this post truth era when I saw this my first instinct went something like "yeah, right", but the words are right from the horse's mouth and up there from the world to see at In short, those words are:

"KODAK EKTACHROME. We're Bringing it back."

Kodak made the announcement today at CES 2017 in Las Vegas and there are a few more details available in their accompanying press release such as:

  • Ektachrome will be in development over the next 12 months with initial availablility expected in the last quarter of 2017
  • It will be manufactured by Kodak factory in Rochester
  • Plans are to release Ektachrome as a Super 8 motion picture film and additionally in 35mm cassette format for still photography. 

The decision to bring back Ektachrome seems largely to intended as a compliment to Kodak's efforts to revive Super 8 film making by offering a film stock that can viewed directly in a projector. With the dwindling lineup of reversal films being offered by Fuji this, along with the progress still being made in the heroic efforts to revive Ferrania, can only be good news for fans of E-6 colour photography. Even more, for any photographer who has seen a treasured emulsion disappear, it's affirmation that a favourite film, though possibly somewhat transformed, can indeed come back from the dead.