Film Fun Folio #25: Seagull 4A103 and Expired Agfa Ultra 50

Periodically, I'll be posting scans of some complete rolls of film on here, showing both the good and the bad, and giving some basic information as well a little write up of the shoot as well as the reasons why I selected each camera and film.  Enjoy the trip! 

Feature #25:
Camera: ca. 1992 Seagull 4A-103 TLR Camera.
Film: Agfa Ultra 50 (expired 2002)
Locale: Central Maryland and Washington DC.

Color negative films really are not my thing.  Compared to color transparencies, I find their rendition to generally be quite anemic, their white balance often looking a touch sickly, and their contrast level just unrealistic compared to the dynamic world at large.

Getting back into film, I had read people posting comments online referring to Kodak Ektar 100 as "the Fuji Velvia of Color Negative Films." Well, my friends, I have tried many rolls of Ektar and while it is certainly nicer than the Kodak Gold of olden days, it certainly seems a far cry from Velvia.  

But there WAS a print film worthy of that splashy moniker, and it was not made by Kodak, nor was it even made by Fuji.  This film was a product of none other than Agfa, named "Ultra 50" and it was an incredible product.  It, along with its less saturated sibling "Portrait 160," constituted the only color negative films that I ever loved.

Sadly, Ultra 50 is no longer made, but its dwindling expired stocks can still be acquired at a rather sizable premium.  I recently elected to snag a roll of 120 stock that had expired in 2002, and elected to see if it was still any good.  I loaded it into my long-owned Seagull (which almost certainly saw a roll or two of this film decades ago) and rated most of the shots at about ISO 25 to account for expected loss in sensitivity.  Still I worried about how the color in this vivid film might portray after all this time.

Well, let's just say the old film still has that special something.  See for yourself!

1 - Washington, DC - f/4 - 1/300 - I elected to do a little bit of deliberately shallow depth of field on some of the shots since I had a TLR to assist in focusing, and the results were generally pleasing.  What is really pleasing is the color rendition on the Ultra 50! 


Bantam Bridgade: The Prince (Bantam RF) and the Pauper (Bantam f/8)

Every once in a while, good deeds are met with unexpected and unsolicited rewards.

I'd been collaborating with fellow collector/shooter/web documenter Mike Eckman to whom I'd sent some surplus and cut down 828 film, and who knew me as quite the 828 format enthusiast. I'd raved in great length about how much I had come to love my Bantam and similar Bantam Flash camera, mostly with the interest of encouraging him to make use of an 828 camera he had picked up a while back, and secondarily, encouraging him when he considered adding a very affordable addition to his 828 collection.

Still, imagine my surprise when he told me "Keep an eye out, as I have a package I'm mailing to you."  I didn't know what to expect, and thought maybe he'd stumbled upon a stock pile of 828 spools to enable more cut downs.  Well, indeed he had stumbled upon some spools that he was sending to me.  And to keep those spools safe, he enclosed them within A PAIR of Bantam cameras he had recently acquired, both for about a dollar.  He simply asked me to hang onto the spools in case he wanted more created 828 film sent to him, but that the cameras were mine.  And with that, I now had a Bantam Brigade at my disposal.


Film Fun Folio #24: Balda Lisette and Efke 50R

Periodically, I'll be posting scans of some complete rolls of film on here, showing both the good and the bad, and giving some basic information as well a little write up of the shoot as well as the reasons why I selected each camera and film.  Enjoy the trip! 

Feature #22:
Camera: ca. 1938 Balda Lisette 645 with Meyer Trioplan 75mm f/2.9 lens.
Film: Efke 50R (Recently Expired)
Locale: Central Maryland and Washington DC.

Winter doldrums are never fun, and for me, they have tended to send any camera I own into a state of hibernation.  This year, however, with a new setting around me, I vowed to keep the shutters clicking as the days grew shorter, the temps got colder, and the palette grew increasingly more bland. 

Fortunately, I'd seen a lot of good black and white work online that became an inspiration for me to try to get the most from a medium that I too often downplayed.  It had been a while since I'd played with the creamy tones of Efke's 50R film so I loaded a roll in my pretty reliable little Lisette and shot through it over a period of weeks.  A few frames into the roll, I decided that I would do something offbeat and try and shoot the entire remainder of the roll wide open at f/2.9, trying to take full advantage of the Trioplan's fast lens and interesting bokeh. Doing this on a "guess focus" camera was quite risky, but I hoped for the best as I made my way through the roll. 

In addition, I decided to "tone" the results in an online photo editor, since I felt the originals were just a bit too bland.  I tried not to overdo it, and I think in that regard I did well, though the results are likely to be subjective.  

Washington, DC - One of my favorite classic signs in the Nation's Capitol for photos only comes out so-so in this image that is contrasty and uninspiring.


Medium Format Cameras on a Budget: Five Under $50

There comes an inevitable time for most people who shoot 35mm to consider stepping up a larger format.  The 135 format is certainly tops when it comes to convenience, film and camera selection, and image quality in relation to its size and yet despite all of these great attributes in this comfortable format, there is often something alluring to the moving into medium format to get a larger image size, or simply to broaden one's experience in photography as a hobby.  

For the medium format novice, the options are often a bit confusing, and this combines with price tags that can provide some "sticker shock" to someone used to being able to find a trusty old SLR on the cheap.  Given this, it is readily understandable that many who may actively shoot 35mm and are looking to do some exploratory dabbling in medium format, may never elect to try it out based upon the prices they see for gear.

But there ARE options out there; options that will enable the photographer a great deal of photographic control and provide some outstanding image quality without breaking the bank.  At the challenge of my buddy James at The Casual Photophile, I've assembled a nice starter list of medium format cameras that one can find for under $50 that run the full gamut of what medium format has to offer. These vary between formats as well as camera style to encompass the breadth of the "medium" so to speak. 


Fast, Cheap, Good - The Konica Auto S2 Rangefinder

I recall something in the frame of workplace logic that says "Fast, Cheap, Good - Pick Two." The implication behind this is that having all three of these things is just not possible.  At best, one will sacrifice one of the three qualities in order to have the other two.  

While the "fast" in this analogy refers to the amount of time in which something is produced, the logic does roughly carry over to the world of photography where "fast" is an extension of quality that tends to refer to a lens with a good maximum aperture compared to other lenses of similar focal length.  In most cases, one can get a good camera with a fast lens, but they may carry a hefty price tag. Thankfully this isn't always the case, and with a little searching, one can pick up a good film acquisition with a pretty fast lens for a very good price whose quality is exceptional.

I had gradually been turning my sights to Japanese made range finders, and was nearly to the point of pulling the trigger of a $7 Samoca camera of unknown working condition, when I elected to give the online marketplace one more look.  I was pleased to discover before me the option to buy a camera with a faster lens and more shutter speeds for just $18 including shipping.  Its working condition was also unknown, but it looked to be in great condition, so I took the chance.  And with this chance, I added a Konica Auto S2 to my collection.

A tad blocky, but certainly still manageable, the Auto S2 provides an affordable and quality entry to the world of Japanese Rangefinders in a sensible package.