Category Archives: Equipment

Cameras and camera gear.

Build a Film Developing Kit for Under $50

12-step bathroom-sink-darkroom program
Creative Commons License photo credit: willsfca

The intent of this article is to present a list of one-time expenses for developing your own black & white film. I would guess that many people shy away from film photography because of the cost or difficulty. And I agree that it can get quite expensive if you have somebody else develop your film (if you can manage to find them, especially b/w).

But film photography doesn’t have to be expensive. We’ve already shown that there are a huge number of film cameras out there for under $50, and I wanted to see if I could put together a list of film developing supplies for the same price tag. After a few minutes of research, whad’ya know? Again, for under $50, we can put together a set of black and white film developing equipment. So let’s dig in!

THE BARE ESSENTIALS

LARGE MEASURING CUP

You’ll need at least one of these measurement cups (or beakers) to measure out the water for your chemicals. I’d suggest getting a 600ml version so you can use it for double batches or 120 film. You can get 3 of these (1 for each chemical solutuion), but if you’re cheap (like me) you can use old plastic cups for holding the chemicals after they’ve been measured.

$9
SMALL GRADUATED CYLINDER

This guys is used for measuring out the concentrate chemicals, since you might be needing anywhere from 10-100ml of concentrate (if you’re using liquid concentrate supplies). Just be sure to rinse between chemical pours and clean very well before measuring out the developer.

$3
THERMOMETER

These cheap-ass thermometers work just fine. They take a while to register the actual temperature, but they work. They’re also a handy little stir stick.

$5
FILM REEL

The cheap film reels will bend-up pretty easily, but something is better than nothing. Just like lenses, buy the best you can afford (you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration).

$10
DEVELOPING TANK

I’m hooked on the steel tanks. You can beat the hell out of them and they keep on truckin’. You can really slam them down on the counter to knock the air bubbles off of the film after your inversions.

$10
HANGING CLIPS

I use these clips for film and print. They’re pretty gnarly, but they have quite a grip. Useful for when you’re wiping down the film at the end.

$6
DRYING CLOTH

I’ve tried the film squeegees, but they always seem to leave a bunch of water spots. I like to wipe down the non-emulsion side of my wet film with a good clean micro-fiber cloth to take care of water spots.

$5
TOTAL $48

OK, so those are the absolute minimum equipment requirements for developing your own black & white film. There are definitely some other items that will make your life easier, but those things aren’t always necessary. Again, these things above are the one-time equipment costs. Immediately below, you’ll find a list of consumable items that you’ll have to buy up-front and periodically throughout your film developing adventures.

CONSUMABLES

DEVELOPER

Use whatever developer you want, but I prefer to use Ilford’s Ilfosol 3 solution for most of my film. The stuff works great on fine-grain film. The only downside is that it’s less versatile than other developers… and it’s a one-shot.

$8
STOP BATH

Stop baths aren’t as important as the developer, but they do a critical job. I like to stick with the Ilford stop bath just for consistency. * Water can also be used if a stop bath is not available.

$6
FIXER

Like the stop bath, fixers aren’t extremely important, but I like to stay with my brand. You can choose whatever fixer you want. * To clarify this statement, I meant that which specific fixer you choose isn’t as important as which developer you use.

$10
WETTING AGENT

For those of us with really hard water, a wetting agent can be a life saver. This little solution helps to clear your film of hard-water deposits while making it dry faster.

$8

* Added for clarification based on reader comments

Remember, these are things that you’ll use-up over and over again (in addition to film). They’re actually pretty cheap, but you have to remember to keep them stocked so you don’t run out and inconvenience yourself. In addition to these consumable items, I’ve got a list of “luxury” items below that might make your “film developing” life easier, but they aren’t completely necessary (unless you’re a film addict).

LUXURY ITEMS

CAN OPENER

These are nice to have when trying to pry the bottom off the film cassette in complete darkness. But you can also use some types of regular bottle openers to get the job done.

$11
DELUXE REEL

Like I said before, buy the best reel you can afford. Get the cheap ones and you’ll be fighting with the film after a couple of rolls. These expensive ones are built to take typical abuse.

$20
DOUBLE TANK

If you shoot a lot of 35mm film (or medium format film), you might consider buying a double tank rather than a single tank. These guys will fit two 35mm reels or one 120 reel. Handy for saving some extra time and effort.

$14
MEDIUM FORMAT REEL

And of course if you’re shooting medium format, you’ll need a medium format film reel. These guys are easier to load than the 35mm reels, but sill buy a decent one.

$13
CHANGING BAG

Changing bags are helpful if you don’t want to seal off a whole room (which is a requirement for loading film on a reel). I don’t have one of these, but it sure would save me some time.

$16
ARCHIVE SHEETS

Of course, after you develop you film you’ll need somewhere to put it. Use archival quality sleeves to preserve your negatives. And use the 7×5 sheets so you can make contact prints later in your career (yes, I made the mistake of using 6×6 sheets and I’m now regretting it).

$10

I could probably go on and on about all the other pieces of equipment that would make developing easier, but we’ll cut it off right here. The point is, you can shoot and develop your own black and white film for a relatively inexpensive upfront cost. Operating costs beyond that are fairly minimal, with the actual film being the most expensive component.

What Camera Should I Buy?

I Don't Have A Problem...

At some point in time, this is a question that every photographer asks. It’s also a question that I get asked frequently — probably several times per week. And that’s totally cool! It’s just that I find myself usually giving the same answers to people. So I thought I’d wrap a few thoughts into a post for those who haven’t ventured out to ask the question yet.

First of all, you have to understand that I never give out the answer as a specific make and model. If you ask that question of anybody and they give you a specific answer, don’t listen to it. The process of selecting a new camera is so involved that somebody else can’t answer it for you. But if you’re in the market, here are 3 important things to ask yourself:

1. Do You Own Equipment?

If you already have lenses, flashes, and other accessories for a specific camera brand, it’s probably a better choice to stick with that brand. The main reason is cost — starting over with a new brand can be a real hassle. This applies to those of you who shot film in recent years, and you still have equipment that fits modern cameras. If you don’t have existing stuff, just ignore this question.

2. What’s Your Budget?

Money makes the world go ’round. Before you even start comparing brands or models of cameras, think about how much money you’re willing to spend on a camera. This is VERY important — set that limit, and stick to it. Otherwise, you’ll be having nightmares for the next two years.

3. How Does It Feel In Your Hands?

Once you get past the first two questions, it really boils down to this. If a camera feels out of place in your hands, you won’t enjoy it (and it’s all about fun, now isn’t it?). Put aside all the resolution-noise-speed-focus-format-button-menu-stabilization-etc… CRAP! And make sure you’re comfortable with how the camera feels in your hands. You’re the one who has to hold it and use it for the next long while, so you might as well make it enjoyable. Once you get a feel for the cameras, then you can jump back into all the technical stuff and proceed to torment yourself.

And if you’re looking for some follow-up reading material on the subject, here are a few good ones:

What other tips and advice do you have for buying new (or used) cameras?

Birthday Gift #2 – Three Equipment Rentals

The second gift for the birthday party will be camera equipment… but you have to give it back. Yup, three lucky winners will get their choice of equipment rentals from BorrowLenses.com.

BorrowLenses.com

BorrowLenses.com offers up a rental service for photographers in the United States. You can get a wide selection of lenses and camera bodies for the Canon and Nikon systems, along with things like tripods, camera bags, and lighting equipment.

For the birthday party, they’re giving out three two-week rentals. Here are the terms and conditions attached to the offer:

  • You need to be in the US.
  • The order will need to be made online and you will need to provide a credit card number. This won’t be charged but they will need it to ensure you don’t run off with their lens :-) BorrowLenses.com is a reputable business but if you don’t feel comfortable with this condition please don’t enter.
  • The offer excludes super telephoto lenses and pro camera bodies.

… so anything else is game!

TO ENTER THE RAFFLE…

Same as the last one — leave me a comment and let me know you’d like to be entered. REMEMBER — this offer is limited to US participants and it excludes pro bodies and super-telephoto lenses. I would highly encourage you to visit their site and browse their inventory before entering the giveaway. And if you’re not a Canon or Nikon user, you might consider picking up a rental for a tripod, camera bag, or lighting equipment. The winners will be randomly chosen one week from the date of this post.

Photography Gift Ideas for Last Minute Holiday Shoppers

Purple-Orange-Blue
Creative Commons License photo credit: code poet

I’m a procrastinator, and Christmas gifts are no exception. If you’re anything like me, you still haven’t finished your holiday shopping. Lucky for us, Amazon.com has a great selection of goodies and they have one and two day shipping available on most purchases.

So here are a few items to browse through for your fellow photography enthusiasts — we’re not picky, anything photography-related is an awesome gift. And even if you can’t get it to them by the 25th, I’m sure they’ll forgive you.

Feed readers will probably have to visit the the actual webpage to see the selection of gift ideas.

eBay Camera Buyers Beware

1 pound of fury
Creative Commons License photo credit: jj look

I’ve had a decently positive buying experience on eBay when it comes to old cameras. I’ve purchased six cameras and four of them arrived in great condition just as the seller stated. But I was disappointed with two of them.

In both cases, the seller stated “Camera is in good working condition. Now generally, if I see that I’ll assume that the camera is operational in every aspect and that I won’t have to pull it apart to fix it. But I guess the phrase “good working condition” is open to interpretation.

The first camera had a screwed up rangefinder with sticky joints and a half-silvered mirror with far less than half the silver left on it. I got the sticky joints fixed, but the half-silvered mirror is probably worth more than what I paid for the camera — so now it’s a nice little viewfinder camera that has to be used at f/16 to ensure focus.

The second camera (which I just received in the mail) was in far worse shape. The latch mechanism for the film compartment door is totally beefed up. It holds the door closed as long as you don’t touch the camera. And the viewfinder… well, it’s more than a little foggy. Oh yeah, and the focusing ring feels like it’s running on sandpaper. So I’ll be pulling this one apart to see what I can do with it. But, for a $10 camera I’m not too disappointed — I just wish the seller’s description was a little better.

The point of my whole rant: “good working condition” on eBay doesn’t always mean that the camera is in good working condition. Many times, the people selling the camera know nothing about cameras so they really wouldn’t know the difference. Anybody else have bad experiences with eBay camera purchases? Do share.

RED Gives Birth to the Modular Revolution

RED Digital Cinema has announced some revolutionary news regarding two of their new camera lines: Scarlet and Epic (hey, cool name!). But these are more than just cameras — they represent entire collections of interchangeable and modular components. While RED cameras are aimed at the cinematography crowd, there are a few things that we photographers should pay attention to.

First of all, the cameras have the ability to shoot motion and stills. We’re seeing the same thing happening from the dSLR market with the Nikon D90 and the Canon 5DII. So RED is bridging that same gap, but from the other side. Eventually, I’d expect that the line between still and motion cameras will be hard to distinguish. In fact, doesn’t the camera below look an awful lot like a medium format dSLR?

Aside from the actual hardware that they’ve announced (which is quite impressive), the real revolution here is the modular approach they’ve taken. You pick out the “brain” (or sensor/processor), you pick out the accessories that you need, and you pick out your lenses. How cool would that be in the dSLR market? When something like a new sensor comes out, you would just replace the sensor unit rather than the entire camera. Or maybe you’re fine with your sensor but you want to upgrade your old 2″ LCD and backpanel.

You get the idea… Does anybody else out there think the concept is downright amazing? Is this kind of approach even useful for digital photographers? Be sure to check out the links below for more information.

OFFICIAL SCARLET AND EPIC ANNOUNCEMENT FROM RED
SUMMARY, SPECS, AND THOUGHTS FROM 1001 NOISY CAMERAS

Less Gear Equals More Enjoyment

I was recently speaking with Sam Abell, a very experienced photographer, and we landed on the subject of photographer mentality while out shooting. Sam mentioned that he takes a minimalistic approach to his gear, and that he’d take photos without a camera if he could. Since that’s not feasible, he usually heads out with just two camera bodies equipped with two different prime lenses.

Sam went on to say that, for him, less gear allows him to be more “in the moment”. And this is coming from a photographer with years of experience shooting for National Geographic.

Stop and think about that for a second. How often do you go out shooting fully geared and you end up fussing around with all your lenses and accessories. Not to mention hauling around a bag full of stuff that gets in your way or weighs you down. At the end of your session, did you really need everything you brought? Or did you take it just because you might have needed it?

Sam’s thoughts on the subject made me realize that I had already discovered the same for myself, I just hadn’t been cognizant of it. Some months ago, I started ditching my camera bag and running out with just one or two (or sometimes three) cameras around my neck. OK, three gets to be cumbersome, but I can’t help myself sometimes. In doing so, I’ve found that photographing is more enjoyable and I’m not missing shots while messing with a camera bag or swapping lenses. I’m more “in the moment” when I have less gear on me.

So here’s a tip: Every once in a while, just head out with one camera and nothing else (alright, a pocket camera bag is allowed). If you really want to go minimalist, slap on a prime lens and leave the zooms at home. Oh, and while you’re out shooting, don’t ruin the moment by being regretful for leaving your equipment behind… just be in the moment and enjoy it.

Oh, and you’ll find out more about the conversation with Sam Abell on October 21st.

Photo Backup: It’ll Cost You

Dollars !
Creative Commons License photo credit: pfala

Digital photography is often thought of as “cheap” or “free” when it comes to snapping away. True, you don’t have to shell out the bucks each time you use your camera (as is the case with film). Also true is the fact that storage media is inexpensive.

But the brutal truth of photography, film or digital, is that it costs money to take and store photographs. And if you get serious about your photos and protecting them from loss or damage, the expenses only go up.

As your photo collection grows, you’ll need more hard drive space. Backing up those photos on other hard drives, DVDs, and online services… they all cost money. Additionally, things like hard drives and DVDs have a limited shelf life — so they’ll need to be replaced eventually.

My point is this: Save some money for storage and backups. The costs are recurring and ever-increasing. What good is that $800 camera body you just bought if you don’t have anywhere to put the photos? And how bad would it hurt if you lost all your photos from a hard drive crash and you had no backups?

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
TOC — PHOTO BACKUP GUIDE
BACK — HOW MANY PHOTO BACKUPS DO YOU HAVE?
NEXT — WHEN DISASTER STRIKES

Photo storage and backup is an essential part of photography. Don’t skimp on this stuff.

And the Final Winner of the $50 Film Camera Project is…

The_Wolf_Brigade with his trip to the asylum review of the Yashica Samurai X3.0 half frame camera! He had the most votes from the audience, and an honorable mention from each of the two official project judges. If you haven’t read his review yet, do yourself a favor and check it out! Here are our 3 project winners again:

Project Winner #1 - (49) Marine XI, by Erick CusiProject Winner #2 - (14) Handy Box, by Jan MorenProject Winner #3 - (15) Yashica Samurai X3.0, by Tomas Webb (aka The_Wolf_Brigade)

And if you still haven’t done so, make sure you scan through all 80 camera reviews in this project (or at least bookmark the page so you can find it when you’re ready to shop). And again, a big thanks to all the project participants and their hard work that went into those camera reviews.

Sony Steps It Up With the A900

Sony DSLR-A900

Big news today for all the Minolta/Sony fans in the crowd. They’ve announced their “Flagship” dSLR model, the A900. Similar in appearance to their semi-pro model, the A700, the A900 sports some fancy upgrades. The big hype has been around the 24MP full frame sensor, but the new model also has dual processors, improvements on the viewfinder, autofocus, user controls, and some shiny new lenses to go with that full-frame sensor.

Geared to compete with Canon’s 5D and Nikon’s D700, the price is also set in the same arena at $3000 for the camera body. I’m a Sony user, but I won’t personally be upgrading from the A700 to the A900 anytime soon. If I were a professional who relied on my equipment to make a living, I certainly would.

What do you guys think of this new camera from Sony? What did they get right? What did they miss?

SONY UNVEILS FIRST FULL-FRAME ALPHA DSLR MODEL
NEW PREMIUM LENSES SUPPORT FULL-FRAME ALPHA DSLR CAMERA

Preview at Digital Photography Review
Preview at Photography Bay
Preview at Imaging Resource
Preview at CNET