Category Archives: Film

What’s Your Experience With Film Photography?

As many of you know, I’ve been addicted to film photography for about the last year. And maybe its just the crowd that I associate with, but it seems like more and more people are shooting film lately. Some are picking up their old film cameras for the first time in years. While others are brand new to film photography.

So where do you sit with film? I put a small set of answers in the poll below, so try to fit your own experience to one of the items listed. If your own situation is a bit unique, leave a comment and let us know!

{democracy:61}

Also, check out the results from the last poll titled “How Much of Your Work Do You Share?” The question was based around what percent of your photos actually end up online where other people can see them. I’m a bit surprised at how heavily the answers came out to one side of the spectrum.

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.

Birthday Gift #3 – Three Analog Prints

Analog Fruits

These are NOT the prints I’m offering, the photo above is just for illustration purposes. Winners of the raffle get to pick ANY photo of mine to be printed.

So… I’ve been wasting spending a lot of time in the darkroom over the last few months, and I think it’s appropriate that I offer up some prints for a birthday present. Here’s the deal — I’ll give out three 8×10 black and white prints, the winners get to choose the photo… any photo. These aren’t pre-printed, so I’ll make the prints once I pick the winners and they choose the photo they’d like. And the catch? Well, the prints won’t be signed and they’re printed on resin coated paper rather than fiber paper.

Metal and Glass It's Lonely Out Here A Dreary World Cruisers Subway Shuffle Rescue Board

What’s all that mean? They’re basically just decoration photos — they’re not worth much from a collector standpoint. I’ve already decided that I won’t sign anything but fiber paper. It doesn’t mean that the prints won’t look good or last quite a while. It just means that they’re not signed, limited, and guaranteed to last longer than you. So if you’re up for a free decoration print, feel free to browse my stuff on Flickr:

Take your pick, anything goes… except for photos of my family and stuff. The b/w photos will look pretty close to what you see on Flickr. The green xpro photos tend to turn out pretty cool too — really high contrast. I didn’t include regular color film in the links because it doesn’t turn out well when printed in b/w.

TO ENTER THE RAFFLE…

Just leave a comment on this post and let me know you’d like a print of your choice. Worldwide raffle entries are welcome. I’ll choose the three random winners in one week from this post date.

And I’d appreciate hearing from you which print you might like to have. This type of feedback is useful to me so I can better understand what people are interested in. And if you’re looking for a signed limited print… I just might offer up one of those in another post… who knows?

Will You Help Me Stock My Darkroom?

I’ve got an enlarger and a whole mess of film, so it’s about time that I start making black & white prints. This is something I’ve been anxious to do since I started shooting film earlier this year. The problem is that I’ve only got the enlarger and none of the other items necessary to make a print.

It's Lonely Out HereWhat Lies BeyondMetro TimetablesKiteboarderMarlinSubway Shuffle

After pricing things out, I’ve determined that it will cost about $300 to have a fully stocked darkroom (aka the kids bathroom). That’s a chunk of change that I can’t fully justify quite yet, so I’ve devised a plan that could make it possible — but it all depends on you guys.

Big White BoxesRescue BoardThe LifeguardBeach GhostsLifeguardCount the Lines

I’m considering offering black & white prints (silver gelatin process using traditional darkroom methods) at a seriously low price for a very limited time. My hope is that I can raise enough money to cover the cost of the darkroom supplies and maybe a little extra so I can buy film developing supplies too.

IF there seems to be enough interest, I’ll probably offer the following items from my collection of public b/w film photos:

  • $20 for an 8 x 10 print, not signed
  • $100 for a 16 x 20 or 11 x 14 print, signed and limited

The price includes shipping, to any location (I’m assuming that the average cost of shipping will be less than $10). If I go ahead and do this, I’ll probably take orders for a month or two at the rates listed above. After that point, only signed prints will be available at the typical $300+ range (because they are limited prints, typically 30 to 50). So…

{democracy:58}

And as always, feel free to comment on this little experiment before I decide to pull the trigger.

Cross Processing Tips and Suggestions

XPRO

It’s no secret… I love film photography. But if there’s one thing I love more than film, it’s cross processed film. There’s something so intriguing about it — adding a touch of unpredictable to the imperfect nature of film. Many photographers tend to either hate it or love it. Some love it so much that they attempt to recreate the look with Photoshop.

I’ve had this article on the half-finished backburner for a while. I figure we’ll take a slight detour from the photo backup series and get this one out there. One reader recently commented on another cross processing article, asking some questions about it. So I’m guessing that at least one person will find some of this useful.

Here are some tips for choosing films to cross process, exposing the film, getting it developed, and color correcting it. So grab a cheap film camera start cross processing!

WHAT THE HECK IS CROSS PROCESSING?

It’s a beautiful thing… simply put, you shoot a roll of film (most commonly slide film, or E-6) and develop it as if it were something different (most commonly color negative film, or C-41). Intentionally processing a film in the wrong chemicals. Doing this with slide film works out well for several reasons: the results are very cool and C-41 processing is much more available than E-6.

DIFFERENT FILMS = DIFFERENT RESULTS

Darkness Creeps InWe Have LiftoffThe Wind CatcheruntitledjesusLanterns

The largest differences in the outcome of your cross processed photos have to do with the film you’re using. Each film has it’s own unique look, and they can vary drastically. The most obvious difference is the color cast produced during development. Here are some results from those that I’m most familiar with:

Kodak EktaChrome (or EliteChrome) = very green
Fujifilm Velvia 50 = green + some blue
Fujifilm Velvia 100 = very red + some magenta or yellow

And here are some others that I have yet to try:

Fujifilm Sensia 400 = blue + green
Fujifilm Sensia 100 = red
Fujifilm Provia 400 = green + yellow
Konica Centuria 100 = little color cast

It’s also worth noting that different developer solutions will have slightly different effects on the outcome of the film. For any given slide film that can be cross processed, I’ve seen a vast array of colors show up from different photographers.

UNDER-EXPOSE BY ONE STOP

Color slide film has a lower dynamic range than color negative film. On top of that, cross processing tends to boost the contrast between highlights and shadows, thus requiring that you properly expose your shots. But cross processing (in my experience so far), tends to over-expose the film by about one stop. The first few rolls I got back were overexposed — some being unusable. So I figured out that if I underexpose the shots by one stop, I got better results with the exposure of the developed film.

To underexpose by one stop, you just have to set your ASA/ISO value to double what it should be (assuming that you have a light meter on your camera). So if you’re shooting with ASA100 film, set the camera to ASA200. This makes the camera “think” that you have a faster film loaded, so it lets in less light.

FIND A GOOD PHOTO LAB

Cross processing requires the C-41 process, and most of us aren’t equipped to do this ourselves. However, just about any lab that develops film will have this capability (since it’s the most common process for consumer film). The tricky part is finding somebody who will cross process your E-6 film as C-41 film.

When film is developed, a lot of chemical reactions are taking place. The end result is a stable piece of film with an image on it and a bunch of extra “stuff” that gets left in the developer solution. Developer solutions have to be changed out on a regular basis to continue to work properly.

From what I understand, developing slide film in C-41 chemicals can leave behind stuff that normally isn’t left behind. I don’t think this does a great harm to the solution or to the other film being processed in the developer, but shops with less-experienced technicians will shy away from cross processing because of this. You’re better off finding somebody who knows their stuff.

It’s also recommended that you find a shop with a higher volume. Developers that are used more often have their solutions changed out more often. For example, I’ve got a place downtown that changes the solution every day, and they have no problem cross processing as much as I want. But my local place has a lower volume and they only change out the solution once per week. They’ll cross process for me, but they ask that I don’t bring in more than a couple rolls at a time.

CORRECT THE COLORS WITH WHITE BALANCE

As I mentioned above, cross processing can produce some very strong color shifts in addition to other things. Sometimes these color shifts work really well with the subject and you’ll want to keep them. But other times, it’ll be too much an you’ll want to back it off a bit. This section is aimed at those of you scanning your film and processing the digital files (but this can also be done in the darkroom).

The best tool that I’ve found for this is the white balance adjustment found in software such as Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom. A color curves adjustment in Photoshop might be slightly better, but the white balance is so quick and easy in comparison.

For photos with a strong green color shift, increase your “tint” into the magenta region (or away from green). Depending on the film and the specific color shift, you may also need to adjust the “temperature” toward yellow or blue to take care of secondary color shifts left behind.

For photos with a strong red shift, move your “tint” into the green region (away from the magenta). Again, you may have to adjust the “temperature” to clean up the rest of the colors.

The same rules apply with yellow and blue color shifts — just move adjust the white balance in the opposite direction. So basically, you’re just evaluating the color shift of the photo, finding that color or combination of colors in your white balance adjustment, and compensating for it by negating the colors.

Another thing that works well with Adobe’s raw processor is the White Balance Tool even with cross processed film scans. Just find something in the photo that “should” be a neutral gray and sample it with the tool. This will adjust the white balance for you, then you can fine-tune it from there. I usually like to leave a bit of color shift in my photos (and sometimes all of it) — if you go too far with the white balance adjustments, you’ll start to see weird colors showing up in those neutral gray or white areas.

JOIN AN XPRO FLICKR GROUP

If you’re on Flickr, one of the best ways to get excited about a topic is to join a group dedicated to that topic. Seeing the photos and reading the discussions is a great way to get inspired and educated. Here are a few cross processing groups:

XPRO CROSS PROCESSING
Cross Processing – XP – XPRO
Kodak Xpro
Cross Process Masterpieces
Cross Processing Anonymous

Other than that, all I can do is suggest that you get out there and try things out for yourself. Try different films, different cameras, different developers, etc. Cross processing can be quite interesting, as it adds to the “unknown” factor already inherent in film photography.

For you seasoned cross processing film photographers out there, what other advice would you give to photographers just getting into 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.

80 Film Cameras for Under 50 Dollars!

I want these awesome camera reviews to be the main focus of this article, so all the text will be below the mosaic. As a result of a group project, here are 80 film cameras for under $50!

And if you’re into film, be sure to check out my film photography blog.

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)

(1) Minolta Hi-Matica AF2, by narruemon(2) Diana+, by Stephan Kaps(3) Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim, by Rafi Abdullah(4) Elikon 535, by Johann Affendy Mahfoor(5) Polaroid Pronto 600, by nan(6) Beier Beroquick KB 135, by Stéphane Heinz(7) Fed 3, by Brenden Delzer(8) Smena 35mm, by Matt Steinbrecher(9) Polaroid Fun Shooter, by Chica(10) Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim, by Toycamper(11) Akira PC-606, by Toycamper(12) Olympus OM-2, by Sam Galope(13) Olympus Trip 35, by Matt Charnock(15) Yashica Samurai X3.0, by Tomas Webb (aka The Wolf Brigade)(16) Lomography Diana+, by Brian Auer(17) Fujica Mini, by Bernd Saller(18) Argus C-3, by Brandon Babbitt(19) Minolta AutoPak 470, by Rex Auer(20) Ricoh 35 ZF, by Mikhail Fludkov(21) Kodak Vigilant 616, by Gary(22) Fujifilm Nexia Q1, by Toycamper(23) Meikai Point & Shoot, by Toycamper(24) Minolta X-370, by Bob Simmons(25) Kodak Retinette 1A, by kristarella(26) 25mm Panorama Camera, by Michele Ferrario(27) Olympus Pen EES-2, by Javier Odriozola(28) GP Hero, by Dane Doerflinger(29) Lomography Diana+, by Gavin McDougall(30) Zorki 4K, by Hitesh Sawlani(31) Zorki 10, by Toycamper(32) Villa Avto, by bLind-Shutterz(33) Kodak Instamatic 33, by monika mitterdorfer(34) Praktica B200, by Marco van Egdom(35) Reporter, by Stefan Bucher(36) Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim, by Rodrigo Monteiro Gonçalves(37) PhotoFlex MX-35, by Toycamper(38) Split-Cam, by Toycamper(39) Mamiya C330, by Jeremy Johnsen(40) Zenit TTL, by Dima(41) Pentax K-1000, by Nick Jungels(42) Chajka II, by Rodrigo Monteiro Gonçalves(43) Agfa Isolette I, by Mustanir Ali(44) Pentax K-1000, by Derek Dysart(45) Minolta SRT-Super, by Bryan Villarin(46) Lomo Action Sampler, by Udi Tirosh(47) Sears KS Super II, by Scott Coulter(48) Vivitar IC100, by Erick Cusi(50) Vivitar Avon, by Erick Cusi(51) Praktica Super TL, by Victor Ionescu(52) Baby Company Yellow Green Camera, by Erick Cusi(53) Sunny Fruit Juice 35mm, by Rodrigo Monteiro Gonçalves(54) Gevaert Rex Lujo, by Maria Eugenia Quiroga(55) Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim, by Claire Lu(56) Golden Half, by Kristoffer Marklund(57) FED 4, by Daria Sukhanovska(58) Agfa Billy I, by Antonio Marques(59) Konica C35, by Jim Davies(60) Canon Rebel 2000, by Monte Landis(61) Lomography Fisheye Camera, by John Hawkins(62) Time Camera, by Erick Cusi(63) Yashica J-7, by Mattias Wirf(64) Pinhole Camera, by Violeta Riera(65) Voigtländer Vitoret, by Jes Consuegra(66) Pentax Espio, by Ani Castillo(67) Nimslo 3D, by Hugo Pereira(68) FED 5C, by Suzanne Offner(69) Pentax IQ Zoom 835, by Monte Landis(70) Yashica-A, by Jason Hall(71) Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim, by Elaine Mesker(72) Yashica-Mat LM, by Sarah Gerace(73) Nikon One Touch L35AF-2, by Raquel Stanton(74) Tura Underwater Camera, by Stephanie Briggs(75) Lomography Holga, by Nathaniel Perales(76) Nikon F3, by Luke Rossin(77) Minolta X-370, by J.P. Stephens(78) Minolta XG-M, by Rey Berrones(79) Lomography Holga 135, by Matt Maldre(80) Olympus OM-1, by Amber Lupin

When I announced this project, I wasn’t sure what to expect for the level of participation. I asked for people to buy a sub-$50 film camera (or use one they already had), write a review of the camera, and publish an entire roll of photos from the camera. I was kind of hoping for 30 or 40 entries.

But the community exceeded my expectations and surprised the heck out of me! We had all kinds of crazy stuff showing up: rangefinders, SLRs, TLRs, toy cameras, underwater cameras, point & shoots, box cameras, folding cameras, Polaroids, and even a 3D camera. 80 of them in just one month! I applaud your efforts — you guys are awesome! With all this enthusiasm for film photography, I feel like we’re on the brink of a film-revolution. It was great to see so many people picking up a film camera for the first time in years (or for the first time ever!), and having such a good time with it.

So if you’re ever looking for a cheap film camera — just go through the list above and I’m sure you’ll find something that sparks your interest. The photographers who participated in this project have essentially created a huge resource for other photographers that may be interested in film photography.

OUR SPONSORS ROCK!

How cool is it that ILFORD Photo and Lomography have sponsored this project to give away a Diana+ and 10 rolls of film to 3 winners!? These two companies are at the heart of present day film photography and it’s pretty awesome that they’ve taken an interest in our project.

ILFORD Photo

I’d like to offer my thanks and gratitude to both companies for joining us, and I encourage all of you to check out what they have to offer.

A BIG THANKS TO OUR JUDGES

I asked each of our two external judges to choose their favorite project entry — which is a daunting task with 80 participants! I’d like to extend a huge “thank you” to Jim Talkington and Udi Tirosh for taking on this role. Two of the three winners are shown at the very top of the list, and will each receive a complimentary Diana+ from Lomography and 10 Rolls of film from ILFORD Photo. And don’t forget to cast your votes for the third winner!

A few words from Udi of DIYPhotography.net

Participation was amazing. Now, this is not your ordinary “shoot a pic and submit” kinda contest, it requires effort, discipline, and commitment. After all it is film and it takes at least one day to chimp. Not to mention getting a camera for less than 50 greens.

It is not easy going through 80 entries so here is the process I used: I divided the submissions into 8 groups of 10, and browsed through each group, limiting myself for one or two selection per group based on general impression, first paragraph, and camera reviewed. I ended up with 12 reviews. I skimmed through the 12 and narrowed it down to three. that was not easy as there were more than three that actually were really good.

It was a though competition between Nick Jungels’ Pentax K1000 review, Erick’s Marine XI, and Mr. Wolf’s Yashica SamuraiX3.0.

The Pentax K1000 review was written right from the heart. It is packed with the technicalities that would interest me when considering a film camera like the viewfinder, the aperture ring, and “feel” of the camera. However, Nick is not just talking about the K1000, he is talking to the K1000, and for this he gets my full appreciation.

The Wolf’s interview with Dr. Lomo was fun to read and was both amusing and informative. and earned points for “sucking up to the prize givers” (yes wolf it was worth it).

The last review that made the final trio was the Marine XI. I could not resist a review that brings GAS in the first paragraph. This certainly got my attention. This along with the creative use of flash got Erick the winning vote. This and the Cohaagen-Give-those-people-air expression on the set taken with the camera.

And a few words from Jim of Pro Photo Life

It’s been a great deal of fun getting to judge these entries. From the moment Brian first announced the contest I’ve been looking forward to seeing what readers would come up with and the results have exceeded expectations. This contest rocks, on many levels.

There was a great deal of diversity and many interesting cameras: toy cameras, half-frames, Soviet SLRs…you name it. And being totally honest, I always like a good bargain. Part of the intrigue would be seeing just how much camera could be purchased for $50. Just what bargains are out there?

So it was with a bit of a personal surprise that I found my winner to be Janne in Osaka with the simple “Handy Box” box camera. Rather than seeing how much camera could be purchased for $50, Janne showed how little camera is actually needed to enjoy photography and create beautiful photographs. The text was informative, explaining the camera, company background and tips for shooting with the simple little box. And the photos sealed the deal for me. Shot in a variety of situations and obviously more than just a test roll, they were a pleasure to view.

But the tech junkie in me still wants to buy a Zorki, Fed or Olympus Pen. As a runner-up I have to go in the other direction and point out the very unique Yashica Samurai half-frame camera (and equally unique review) from The Wolf Brigade. The little Yashica is about as high tech and over-engineered a $50 camera as you’ll find, a complete contrast to the little Handy Box. Long live the endless variety and possibilities of the $50 film camera!

Again guys, thanks so much for judging this contest!

DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!

[UPDATE] The official voting is over and all three winners have been awarded their prize — but you can still leave a comment about your favorite entry!

Like I said, we’re giving away 3 prize packages. The first two winners have been chosen by our judges, and the third will be chosen by the masses. Leave a comment with your vote for best project entry. Look for those who put in the extra effort and/or got creative. You can vote by listing the entry number or the name of the reviewer — if you hover your mouse over the thumbnails, you’ll see this information show up. More than one vote is OK if you can’t decide between a few really good ones. One week of voting, then I’ll tally-up the points and announce the third winner.

Tips for Finding a Film Developer

I recently got an email from a reader, Genaro Orengo, concerning workflow with film — specifically going from analog to digital. Here’s that email:

I recently read your post “Diana+ Camera Review”. I am curious as to your workflow for getting the shots from the film to the computer. Is there anyway you can share that with me? I am interested in shooting with the Diana, but am a little uninformed when it comes to medium format film.

And my quick response:

I get the film developed at a local photography store — most places will be able to process 120 format film (it’s still pretty standard stuff). Actually, I should say that most places will do C-41 (color negative) processing of 120 film. Slide film and b/w film are a little harder to find developers for. I just have them “develop only” — meaning no prints and no cuts. Then I cut them into the appropriate lengths and run them through my scanner (CanoScan 8400F) as full resolution TIF files. Then I just treat those files like RAW files and process them through Bridge/ACR or Photoshop if needed. If you don’t have a scanner (and if you don’t want to invest in one), most places that develop film also offer film scanning. The resolution will be somewhat low, but certainly large enough for web display. So really, you shouldn’t shy away from 120 format film just because it’s “medium format”. You just need to find a place that has the right equipment to handle it. Call around and ask them if they can develop 120 film, if they can process E-6 or b/w, if they do cross processing (E-6 as C-41), if they offer film scanning, and at what resolution.

But I wanted to expand on this topic and broaden the scope to finding a film developer that will suit your needs.

QUESTIONS TO ASK THE DEVELOPER

Once you locate some local places that claim to develop film (by Google Maps, Yellow Pages, etc), you’ll want to call around and find out if they can do what you need. Here are some things to ask potential film developers, depending on your current or future needs.

  • CAN YOU PROCESS 35MM AND 120 FILM?
    35mm is the most common film format, but 120 is also very common. Most places will be capable of developing both of these formats.
  • WHAT OTHER FORMATS CAN YOU PROCESS?
    Formats like 110, 220, 240, large formats, and others are less common, but still used. If you use a less common film format, you’ll want to find somebody that can deal with it. And find out if they can do it in-house — some places will claim they can develop these formats, but they really just send them off to a different lab. If you don’t want prints from these formats, be sure to ask if they could develop only — they may just be lacking the film holders for doing prints.
  • CAN YOU PROCESS BLACK & WHITE FILM?
    I’ve seen places handle b/w in two different ways: send it off to a pro-lab or do it by hand themselves. Black & white film developing is usually done by hand, so not too many places offer this service. The alternative option is to get the chemicals and do it yourself.
  • CAN YOU PROCESS SLIDE FILM?
    Slide film has to be processed differently than color negative film and b/w film. If you like slide film, make sure you can find somebody to develop it. Most places I’ve encountered will send slide film out to pro-labs.
  • WILL YOU CROSS PROCESS SLIDE FILM?
    Cross processing slide film as color negative film can be very interesting, but not all developers will do this for you. The slide film will alter the chemistry in the developer, so not everybody is willing to do this. Typically places with higher volume and more knowledgeable staff will be willing to do this.
  • DO YOU SCAN FILM? AND HOW LARGE?
    Most places will offer some sort of scanning capabilities. The resolution is typically around 1200 pixels on the long edge — so good enough for the web, but not for digital printing or stock uploads.
  • DO YOU PRINT? HOW LARGE? AND WHAT PAPER?
    Prints are handy to have — but will you be needing anything larger than the standard 4×6? How about 20×30? Can they print on matte paper, photo paper, or canvas?
  • WHAT ARE YOUR TURNAROUND TIMES?
    It really only takes about 10-15 minutes to run a roll of color film, and most places will give you a 1-hour turnaround for one or two rolls. If they do b/w, you might have to wait until the next day.
  • HOW ABOUT PRICES?
    If this is a concern, ask them about prices before you even bring the film in. I usually go with develop only to help cut the cost from a bunch of prints (plus I scan everything myself). I pay $3.50 per roll of color and $4.50 per roll of b/w.

I hope this helps address some questions that others may have about getting started with film photography. It’s really not scary, expensive, or difficult. Find yourself a knowledgeable film developer and they’ll take care of you.

I ended up finding a great place just a few miles from my house. The guys at Foto Finish Digital can handle all my 35mm, 120, and 110 format films. They even do black & white and small quantities of cross processing for me. They can enlarge up to something like 30″ on a few different types of paper (though I still need to try this out with them). I’m totally happy that I found such a cool place nearby.

Diana+ Camera Review

There’s something to be said for the latest camera bodies and professional grade lenses — it certainly seems to be the focus of many photographers. But there’s also something to be said for a cheap plastic camera body and an equally cheap plastic lens. Meet the Diana+ from Lomography.

This review is my own entry to my $50 Film Camera Project. With a price tag of $50, the Diana+ fits right in to the project requirements. This also happens to be the camera that Lomography is giving away to three lucky winners (along with 10 rolls of film from Ilford Photo). I purchased this camera (and yes, I bought it), not because it’s a prize for the project, but because I’ve been wanting one for a while now. So let’s get into this review…

THE TECHNICAL STUFF

The Diana+ camera is almost completely made of plastic, lens and all. It is a medium format camera that takes standard 120 rolls of film. It can produce 5.2cm x 5.2cm shots at 12 per roll, 4.2cm x 4.2cm shots at 16 per roll, or panoramic images. These different formats are achieved by using a specific mask in the camera body.

The shutter speed on the Diana+ has two settings: “Normal” and “Bulb”. The normal setting gives you about 1/60 seconds of exposure, while the bulb exposes for as long as you hold the shutter. The shutter release is located on the lens barrel along with the shutter mode adjustment. Bulb is intended to be used for pinhole photos or dimly lit situations (or whatever other reason you may want to use it for).

The aperture has four settings: “Sunny”, “Overcast”, “Cloudy”, and “Pinhole”. This setting can be adjusted on the bottom of the lens barrel. The indicated apertures are intended to be used with ISO400 film. Using a slower or faster film means that you’ll have to compensate for the difference in exposure. The pinhole setting will require the use of the bulb shutter setting.

The focus is controlled by twisting the actual lens. It’s kind of a guess, and the lens has three indicators: 1-2M, 2-4M, and 4M+. Since the camera is a viewfinder, you don’t actually “see” the focus — just the framing. And speaking of framing, just watch out for that parallax error!

Other than that, there are a few other technical aspects to operating the camera: lens removal for pinhole photos, double exposures, panoramic exposures, setting bulb exposures for pinhole shots, etc. But in general, the camera is very easy to use because of the minimalistic approach to the camera controls. Watch out though — just because it’s considered a “toy camera”, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have to think about what you’re doing from time to time. You still have to set the exposure, compensate for lighting conditions and film speeds, watch out for parallax error, remember to wind the film, set your focus, and so on.

And the best part of this camera… no batteries! I’ve really come to embrace a camera that can operate without electricity. It’s so liberating!

THE INTERESTING STUFF

The most interesting aspect of the Diana+, to me, is the fact that it’s so basic. Once you open it up to load the film, you basically see a big empty space. You think to yourself “where’s all the… stuff?” I mean, there’s really nothing to it. You’ve got a piece of plastic as a lens, then a plate with a few holes in it for the aperture, then a simple little mechanism for the shutter. Other than that, you’ve got a couple of spots to hold the film spools, and a little window to look through.

This is all very interesting because the camera also uses medium format film, which is typically used in higher-end cameras. But this coupling of simple technology with medium format film goes back to the days of the original Diana camera. Back then, 120 film was more of a standard than it is today because 35mm film hadn’t become popular until the late 1960′s. Prior to that, most cameras used 120 film or other formats that have basically been phased out.

THE QUIRKY STUFF

For as basic as this camera is, you have to expect things to be a little different than your shiny new digital camera. Most of the stuff is easy to get adjusted to, but there are a few things that come off as a little quirky. Nothing that would prevent me from using the camera though.

My biggest issue with the Diana+ is the film loading procedure. 120 film is sort of painful to load, but this camera doesn’t make it any easier. The spool holders are pretty flimsy and don’t really hold the spools in place before the back is placed on the camera. The spools have a tendency to pop out of place and thwart your efforts to get the film started. I’m sure this will get easier with experience, but it’s pretty frustrating when you spend 5 to 10 minutes loading a roll of film.

The other thing that got me was the viewfinder. Yes, I totally forgot about the parallax error. But I was also under the assumption that the viewfinder showed less of the scene than would be captured on the film. The opposite was true with my particular camera, and this caused me to crop out a few things on a couple of photos.

THE INSPIRATIONAL STUFF

This camera is such a kick in the creativity, I can’t even fully describe it with words. When the Diana+ is in your hands, you see things differently. You act differently. You take photos differently.

There’s a certain amount of “letting loose” that occurs with this camera. Some of it probably results from the photos that most of us have seen from these cameras (or similar cameras such as the Holga). If you let it, the camera will allow you to take the mindset of “don’t think, just shoot” — which is one of the mantras of Lomography (and I suggest you take a look at the 10 golden rules of Lomography to get a better feel for this stuff). This is also probably a result of knowing that you don’t exactly have a Hasselblad in your hands — if your framing or focus is slightly wrong, who cares?!

I found myself “shooting from the hip”, trying double exposures, taking long exposures without a tripod, and not giving a crap about straight horizons. The photos won’t come out completely perfect, so why shoot for perfection? You end up with heavy vignette, occasional light leaks, lens flare, and motion blur — and all this stuff adds to the mood of the photos produced. Without these things, Lomography just wouldn’t be Lomography.

In conclusion, the Diana+ is a really awesome camera! It’s so different than your typical digital camera, and it can really open your eyes to a completely new world. For $50, you can’t beat it. I would definitely suggest this camera to any photographer wanting to get a little crazy with their stuff.

MY TEST PHOTOS

So here it is. I shot 3 rolls of film in my Diana+ one day after I got it in the mail. The project only calls for one roll of film to be posted, but I wanted to show how different the results could be with different types of film. I shot a roll of black and white (Ilford HP5 Plus, ISO400), a roll of color slide film cross processed (Kodak Ektachrome E100VS, ISO100), and a roll of color negative film (Expired Konica Centuria 100, ISO100 that The_Wolf_Brigade sent me). You can see the entire set on Flickr. Here are two of the best shots from each roll:

Ocean Breeze GeneratorMerry-Go-RoundFlying and FloatingPurple DressMy HeiferChit Chat

And here are the rest of the shots from each roll:

Back Seat DriverBoat ParkingFilm NoobSailboats SailingKickin BackFerry LandingJust Another Brick in the WallBeach GhostsTwo Middle Aged Bald Guys With No Shirts Riding Beach Cruisers Down The StreetMain Street DrugIt's All Just A Blur To MeNewport Beach PierBinocular ExcitementThis Way and ThatCabo CantinaBad AimWorkin On The BoatCommodoreMr. Two Camera GuyThe Brave Little PigeonUS Post OfficeFunny Little CarWindow SaleSt. John Vianney ChapelA Colorful SoulI've Lost My HeadFlagsSticker ScooterBikini SaleThrough These Eyes

If you’re still contemplating whether or not to participate in this project, think long and hard about what you might be passing up. Like I said, we’re giving away one of these cameras plus ten rolls of film to three winners. And be sure to look back at the project announcement — I’ve added links to five project entries as good examples of what I’m looking for.

And you know what? The hardest part of shooting film… is deciding to shoot film. Once you get over that little hump, a whole new world opens up for you.

Don’t Forget About Parallax Error

Film Noob

If you happen to venture away from the security blanket of digital point & shoots or SLR cameras, try to remember that not all cameras allow you to “look” through the lens and see what the camera “sees”. Twin Lens Reflex (TLR), Viewfinder, and Rangefinder cameras all have this problem at close range, called Parallax Error.

Parallax Error occurs in these non-SLR cameras because you’re not actually looking through the lens. With a TLR, Viewfinder, or Rangefinder, you’re often seeing a perspective that’s slightly higher than where the photo will be taken. This error is most apparent at short distances, tapering off to no noticeable difference with subjects at a greater distance.

I fell victim to the dreaded Parallax Error just recently when I took my Diana+ out for her first shoot. With the wide angle of view on this camera, it’s easy to want to get up close to your subjects. I typically shoot with SLR cameras (and a TLR occasionally), so I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I wasn’t looking through the lens. Needless to say, a lot of my close-up shots (from 3 rolls) were way off on the framing. You can spot these oversights by the chopped heads in portraits (as shown in my photo above).

Oh well, I guess trial and error is one way to learn a lesson.

And by the way, in the photo above, that’s our buddy Bryan Villarin testing the waters on this film thing with one of my cameras (Yay Bryan!). Hey, at least I didn’t put him on a viewfinder his first time out — we’d probably both have head-chopped portraits.