Friday, 21 July 2017

127 Day Summer 2017

Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor with Ilford FP4 Plus
I shot two rolls of cut-down film on last week's 127 Day, one Ilford FP4 Plus and the other HP5 Plus, with the Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor. In between the two rolls, as with the 116 Day last month, I cut and taped a piece of yellow gelatine filter inside the camera behind the lens, to improve definition in the skies and to act as a one-stop neutral density filter when shooting the HP5 Plus in the bright sun, while the FP4 Plus had been a fortuitous choice for the more overcast conditions earlier in the day.

Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor with Ilford FP4 Plus
Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor with Ilford FP4 Plus
Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor with Ilford FP4 Plus
Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor with Ilford HP5 Plus
Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor with Ilford HP5 Plus
Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor with Ilford HP5 Plus
Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor with Ilford HP5 Plus

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor 54/18 - The Baby Box Tengor

Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor 54/18
'Miniature' cameras became increasingly popular around 1930, the term either used to mean films smaller than 120 medium format or sometimes applied to cameras with negative sizes less than 6x9cm. One imagines that there were a number of reasons for this, one of which being economy; hardly an economic camera, the original Leica began the popularity of 35mm film as a miniature format for still photography; another way of using film more economically was to simply get more negatives on an existing rollfilm format. Paper-backed 127 rollfilm was already well-used for 6x4cm negatives after being introduced for the Vest Pocket Kodak in 1912. The Zeiss Ikon Kolibri was reputedly the first camera designed for its 'half-frame' size of 3x4cm, and both the Kolibri and Zeiss Ikon's Baby Box Tengor were introduced to the market in the same year, 1930, suggesting that the Baby Box Tengor may already have been planned as a cheaper alternative to the Kolibri. As the original 127 rollfilm cameras shot 6x4cm negatives with 8 frames on a roll of film, to use the film for for 16 images, the same numbers on the paper backing had to be employed (only later did more expensive cameras with automatic frame counters make the red window no longer a necessity). As a result, the camera, and other 3x4cm 127 cameras, uses two red windows for the 3x4cm frame, with each frame number appearing twice, once in each window (unlike 120 film which now has three sets of numbers, although 127's backing paper was redesigned with numbers for 4x4cm frames, it didn't gain numbers for the 3x4cm frame sizes).

The original Tengor cameras were made by Goerz, and appear to be inspired by the Kodak Brownie series of box cameras. The Box Tengor was continued by Zeiss Ikon after its formation, and some models were provided with aperture selection and supplementary lenses for close focus, making these amongst the most fully-featured box cameras. As with the larger Box Tengors, there was a model of the Baby Box camera which had these features, with a focusing f6.3 Novar lens, stopping down to f11, and a shutter with I, B and T settings. However, this model was only produced for a couple of years, while the standard Baby Box Tengor, with a fixed-focus 50mm f11 Goerz Frontar lens, and a shutter speed of around 1/25th, was made until at least 1939. As an inexpensive camera, with an economic negative format, the Baby Box Tengor was marketed to children (in the catalogue page here, it is subtitled Die Schüler-Camera).

Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor 54/18 with frame finders erected
My example of the camera is a very early version of the camera: the most obvious sign is the lack of the hexagonal design around the lens, which was introduced in 1931 (this design also has the name BABY-BOX inscribed on the front panel, while my camera has just Box-Tengor impressed in the leatherette on the back); however, the wire frame finder has a straight top to it - later models have a upwards-curving section in the centre, no doubt to make it either top pull into position. This wire frame finder also functions as a lock on the shutter on later models, with the shutter not firing unless it is erected. With the film moving through the camera from top to bottom, thanks to the 'half-frame' negative size on 127, the Baby Box Tengor is designed to shoot in a horizontal format; rotating the camera through 90º for a portrait shot, the shutter release is then in a position on the top right hand side. Above the shutter lever, on the same side, is a tab that prevents the shutter from closing when pulled out, providing a time-exposure setting. Although a very simple box camera, it is also has a cable release socket just under the shutter lever. As a quirky design feature, the shutter lever is directly connected to an internal cover behind the lens, in front of the aperture, which is mirrored; behind this is the actual shutter mechanism itself. This may be a clear visual sign to see whether the shutter is open when in time mode.

Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor 54/18 - opened for loading
The back of the body removes entirely for loading, with a catch that needs to be pulled out before opening. In the image above the two red windows on the back can clearly be seen, as well as the two tripod sockets for horizontal and vertical formats. Inside the camera is stamped with the Zeiss Ikon's own designation for 127, A8, and it also specifically gives the original 127 frame format in metric and imperial.

In use, the Frontar lens is tolerably sharp in the centre of the image, with definition falling off to the corners (which, in some cases, almost gives the appearance of tilt shift to the image); with a fixed focus lens, single speed shutter and fixed aperture, it is very similar to the later V. P. Twin (both cameras' dimensions are comparable, but the metal bodied Baby Box Tengor feels rather more solid). The dimensions of the camera (with the finder down) are compact: 8cm high by 7cm wide including the film advance, and 5.5cm deep. Where it does differ in performance from the V. P. Twin is that the film appears to be held much flatter inside the camera, and the Goerz Frontar lens, an achromatic doublet performs better too.

Baby Box Tengor with Ilford HP5 Plus
As I have written in regards to using other box cameras, using modern, faster emulsions than those that would have been available when the camera was first made, give greater flexibility in shooting conditions, such as in the interior above, admittedly with plenty of light from the window. I shot all the images in this post with 120 format film cut down and rolled with 127 backing paper. For a camera nearing 90 years old, some aspects of its operation are not working quite as new: the shutter does not always 'reset' itself, generally turning the camera upside down will do this on my camera; in addition, the time setting does not always keep the shutter open with the camera in landscape orientation (clearly gravity is acting on some components inside in a way that it shouldn't - in my tests with the camera, I only used a long exposure with a couple of shots on Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating Film). Neither of these problems is especially obstructive when using the camera. The focussing version of the Baby Box Tengor with the Novar lens may well be more sought after, if greater user control is desired, however, the standard model, as a very small, pocketable box camera does have its own charm.

Baby Box Tengor with Agfapan APX100
Baby Box Tengor with Ilford FP4 Plus
Baby Box Tengor with Fomapan 200
Baby Box Tengor with Kodak Tri-X
Baby Box Tengor with Ilford HP5 Plus

Sources/Further Reading:
Camaras sin Fronteras - in Spanish but with a good overview of the different variants.
Overview of the Box Tengor series: Mike Elek

Monday, 10 July 2017

Ferrania P30 Alpha

Film Ferrania P30 Alpha
Earlier this year, Film Ferrania made a surprise announcement: their first commercially available product was to be a black and white negative film, Ferrania P30 Alpha, based on a discontinued motion picture emulsion. The announcement generated a great deal of excitement among film photographers online, more perhaps than other new film stocks that have appeared in recent years, such as Adox Silvermax or Foma Retropan 320 (there have been quite a number of 'new' films, but many of which are essentially the same: namely the 100 and 400 speed Kentmere/Rollei RPX/Agfaphoto APX/Fotoimpex CHM films). This excitement no doubt reflects the enormity of Film Ferrania's project of restarting production of colour transparency film at the original Ferrania factory in Italy, and the support and goodwill that initially accompanied the Kickstarter project of three years ago, and following its success, the numerous problems and delays that followed. The P30 film was initially made to test coating machinery that would be used to manufacture the colour transparency film that was Film Ferrania's original intention; given the delays to this, that a usable film could now be produced, after all the difficulties encountered in getting production running once more, no doubt it has made commercial sense to release this onto the market, albeit in limited amounts, in 35mm only, against what seems to have been a huge demand. I didn't support Ferrania's original Kickstarter campaign, in part due to rarely shooting colour film, but when the first product from Ferrania was announced to be a black and white negative film, I was keen to try it. My order was the from the second production batch, arriving from Germany, not Italy, from Mahn, suggesting that Mahn is handling Ferrania's logistics at this stage.


The cartons have no information inside; the plastic tubs have a sticker with the year and production batch. The film canisters are not DX-coded, with labels stuck on to them, rather than designs directly printed onto the metal. Peeling the labels off out of curiosity, the canister underneath was that of a C41 film, Centuria HD 200. Another observation about the packaging is that the film is described as 80 ASA, not ISO, although this makes no practical difference.


As with using other films for the first time, my approach was to test the film for its latitude. For most of the tests in this post, I divided the film in half, which I did for the first test, shot with a Canon FTb-N. The first two rows of the contact sheet below were successively rated at exposure indexes of 20, 40, 80, 160, 320, 640, reading left to right. The test was shot early on a day with bright sunlight; from examples I'd already seen online, I knew it was going to be contrasty.

Ferrania P30 Alpha latitude test contact sheet
On the online 'Best Practices' sheet, the only listed developer I use regularly is Rodinal. At the time that I developed my first roll, the developing time given with a dilution of 1+50 was 8 minutes (all rolls of Ferrania P30 Alpha in this post were developed by hand in a small tank with intermittent agitation). The results when I pulled the first roll out of the wash did indeed show negatives of high contrast with very little shadow detail; the results appeared to demonstrate there was little latitude to the film: when overexposed by two stops, the tonal separation between the highlights and midtones made scanning difficult, while the underexposed frames were extremely thin and not worth scanning.

Ferrania P30 Alpha shot at 80, developed in RO9 One Shot, 1+50, 8m at 20º
In the image above, there is very little shadow detail; the lower contrast subject below was better, but the first roll of film was initially unsatisfactory.

Ferrania P30 Alpha shot at 80, developed in RO9 One Shot, 1+50, 8m at 20º
I decided to make a second latitude test, using the same ratings (and camera), this time choosing stand development with Ilfotec LC29, diluted 1+100 for one hour. Ilfotec LC29 was not listed on the 'Best Practices', sheet but it's a developer I use regularly, and seems to give equally good results for stand development as compared to RO9 (the developer does appear to exhaust more rapidly at higher dilutions however).

Ferrania P30 Alpha stand development latitude test contact sheet
From this test, the results when rated at 20 and 40 were clearly better than at 80, but the higher-contrast subjects again had no shadow detail at all, appearing to show a very sharp falling off. I had hoped that stand development in highly dilute developer might reduce the contrast of the negatives, but the results from this second test were less successful than the first roll. After the results from the first two tests, I was however able to appreciate that the film's grain is extremely fine (in some dense areas of the negatives, there is scanner noise visible rather than grain itself). In addition, the base has a light grey tint, but is very clear, and the clearness of the film base did show up dust (and a few scratches and my own carelessness in washing) very well in scanning, with the result that I spent a fair bit of time in digital spotting. In comparison to other emulsions, P30 Alpha was quite reminiscent of Rollei RPX 25, which has a number of comparable considerations in exposure and development.

Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 20, stand developed in Ilfotec LC29
I did wonder whether there might have been problems with metering, having shot both tests with the same camera, and both showing a complete lack of detail in the shadow areas in negatives where the subject contained a wide range of tones. Closer-toned subjects did have better results, but were notably thin when rated at box speed, being better at an exposure index of 40 or 20.

After shooting a third roll in a different camera (a Canon A-1, which I generally trust on metering - and this camera had also just received a new battery), and rating the film at 50, before developing, I checked the recommended time for RO9 online, and found that the time given for a dilution of 1+50 had increased to 14 minutes. Evidently one issue with using a new emulsion is the lack of information about developing regimes, and with the release of Ferrania P30 in its Alpha phase, the manufacturers are relying on the film being tested by its purchasers. I first downloaded the 'Best Practices' sheet (as version 1.1) on the 12th of last month; the recommended time with RO9 had changed two weeks later, the 'Best Practices' sheet at that point being version 1.3 (the version at the time of writing is now 1.4). The metering recommendation for the new time was still 80 ISO; however, with my experiences so far, I rated the film at 50 instead.

Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 50, developed in RO9 1+50, 14m at 20ºC
The negatives when developed at 14 minutes revealed a fuller range of tones, the image above being one of the best at the new time; however, with this roll, I shot a number images with a large amount of sky. I used a yellow filter to attempt to retain detail in the sky, but the balance between the highlights and shadow areas, made the negatives difficult to scan.

Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 50, developed in RO9 1+50, 14m at 20ºC
In addition to the new time for RO9 One Shot, there was also a new developer listed, Ilfotec DD-X. As I happened to have some DD-X, it seemed worth trying this as well. Ilford's standard dilution for DD-X is 1+4; the 'Best Practices' sheet gives a dilution of 1+5 (perhaps to give slightly lower contrast), and to rate the film at 50. I shot some P30 Alpha with the Agat 18K, and developed as on the 'best practices' sheet. This roll was shot mostly in overcast conditions, with the lower contrast in the lighting giving a good, rounded tonal range. Incidentally, the film's fine grain was a good match for the smaller negative format of the 35mm half-frame, while shooting at an exposure index of 50 meant using wide apertures with the Agat 18K, sympathetic to the subject below.

Ferrania P30 Alpha, Agat 18K (half frame), developed in Ilfotec DD-X
Returning to using RO9, feeling that the contrast in the negatives could be reduced further, I decided to try a higher dilution - but not with stand development. As with the best results that I had with Rollei RPX 25, I chose a dilution of 1+120. Logically, the time needed to be extended from the 14 minutes at 1+50 in the previous RO9 test; in addition, following the old adage to 'expose for the shadows and develop for highlights', I rated the film at 40: the high developer dilution should take care of the highlights, and shooting at a lower exposure index should ensure better shadow detail. The negatives from this roll appeared to demonstrate that this approach was an appropriate one.

Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 40, developed in RO9 1+120 for 18m at 20ºC
I did bracket some shots, rating a few alternate frames at 80 for comparison. As the pair of images below show, the results at 40 provide much more shadow detail, while the higher dilution of developer appears to have prevented the highlights from blocking too much, making the negatives much easier to scan. The conditions that many of the photographs were shot in continued to be

Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 40, developed in RO9 1+120 for 18m at 20ºC
Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 80, developed in RO9 1+120 for 18m at 20ºC
For this test with a higher dilution, I shot the film with a Kiev-4. At the end of the film, in attempting to advance one more frame, the film tore (something I have occasionally done with the Kiev-4). The 'Best Practices sheet' does state: "No Motorized Cameras Please: We have seen some motorized cameras break the film, especially less-expensive point-and-shoot cameras from the 80s and 90s. We really think it’s best to use a fully manual, non-motorized camera".

Having found what seemed to be a good exposure and developer combination with RO9, I also was concerned to find an exposure index and developing times for Ilfotec LC29. This is the other main film developer I use, in conjunction with RO9 One Shot, and as well as using it for stand development, it seemed that it might be worth finding a time for standard development with agitation.
I shot some film with a Kodak Retina IIa, choosing to rate the film at 80 once more. For the choice of dilution with Ilfotec LC29, I used 1+29, which is considered a 'one shot' dilution (rather than the developers other dilutions of 1+9 or 1+19). For a developing time, I picked a rather speculative estimate, based in part on making comparisons to DD-X, taking 9 minutes, at a slightly lower temperature of 19ºC. These negatives were dense, but did appear to have a good tonal range.

Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 80, developed in Ilfotec LC29 1+29 for 9m at 20ºC
I made a further test, reducing the developing time to 7 minutes, at 20ºC, keeping the same exposure index of 80.

Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 80, developed in Ilfotec LC29 1+29 for 7m at 20ºC
The results with Ilfotec LC29 might have been better with a little more exposure, but as I had just one roll of film left, I wanted some confirmation of what I considered the best results so far, developing the film with RO9 One Shot at 1+120. Given that the negatives appeared a little thin, I decided to extended the development time by a couple of minutes. As I had done perviously, I divided the roll of film, shooting half in the Canon A-1, rated 50, and the other half in the Kiev-4, rating this at 40. Both films were developed together in RO9 One Shot at 1+120 for 20 minutes at 20ºC. The first shot below is with the Kiev-4, the second with the Canon A-1.

Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 40, developed in RO9 One Shot 1+120 for 20m at 20ºC
Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 50, developed in RO9 One Shot 1+120 for 20m at 20ºC
Again, I had a number of shots in which the sky predominated, with the continuing bright and fine weather giving high contrast lighting conditions. These were difficult to scan and keep detail in both highlights and shadows. Taking advantage of the Canon A-1's capability to double-expose, I also tried to use the technique of 'pre-exposure' on some frames. Essentially, this means exposing the film to a minimum threshold of density, which should provide higher values in the shadow areas in the subsequent exposure while leaving the highlight area unaffected. In practice I used a white door, shooting the pre-exposed frame around three stops below the meter's recommendation (a grey card may have been better). The results are not clearly different; the pre-exposure levels might have been higher, although the danger is that this might appear as a grey veil, the same as fog.

Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 50, developed in RO9 One Shot 1+120 for 20m at 20ºC
Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 50, with pre-exposure, RO9 One Shot 1+120 for 20m at 20ºC
Having used Film Ferrania P30 Alpha quite extensively through all the tests that I made, I did begin to get a feel for how the film behaves and how I would tailor exposure and development to suit my personal preferences. The 'Best Practice' sheet does state that "The cinema heritage of P30® ALPHA means that the film is rather precise in the way it “wants” to be shot and processed. As such, we firmly recommend shooting this film at the box speed of 80 ISO." - in all the tests I made, I found that this was rarely the case. As a qualification of this conclusion, this does of course very much depend on the 'look' one wants to achieve with a particular emulsion, and how successfully this can be done with its inherent characteristics. I generally prefer to start with as long a tonal range as possible in my negatives (within reason), which can then be affected in scanning or printing (all the images on this post with the exception of the contact sheets were scanned from the negatives) - high contrast in a negative itself can be limiting in this regard. With none of the developers I currently use would I rate the film at 80 - with the exception perhaps when using Ilfotec LC29, although I don't feel that I quite got the combination of exposure and development right there. To my mind, P30 Alpha does suit certain subjects over others: the difficulty in retaining detail in bright skies while maintaining good tonal separation in landscape shots was occasionally frustrating; still-life subjects, dramatic, abstract geometrical compositions really benefit, as does any subject with fine texture where the tight grain of the film is beneficial. Hopefully, Film Ferrania will gone on to achieve their original ambition of making colour transparency film in all formats promised; and hopefully there will be a P30 Beta, and then perhaps, in a wider variety of formats other than just 35mm, a large scale production version of the film.

Ferrania P30 Alpha rated 80, developed in RO9 One Shot, 1+50, 8m at 20ºC

Ferrania P30 Alpha rated 50, developed in RO9 One Shot, 1+50, 14m at 20ºC
Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 50, developed in Ilfotec DD-X 1+5, 7m30s at 20ºC
Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 80, developed in Ilfotec LC29 1+29 for 9m at 19ºC
Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 80, developed in Ilfotec LC29 1+29 for 7m at 20ºC
Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 40, developed in RO9 One Shot 1+120 for 18m at 20ºC
Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 50, with pre-exposure, RO9 One Shot 1+120 for 20m at 20ºC
Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 40, developed in RO9 One Shot 1+120 for 20m at 20ºC

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

International Brownie Camera Day 2017

Kodak No.2A Brownie with Ilford HP5 Plus
After posting about the 116 Day at the weekend, I hadn't intended to write another post with the Kodak No.2A Brownie so soon, but after scanning the negatives shot that day, the presence of scratches throughout the negatives (and the work needed to mitigate them once scanned) prompted me to attempt to rectify this. It seemed clear that these scratches were caused by the film passing over the rollers; the first test roll through the Brownie had be badly scratched, and I had given the rollers a clean then, thinking that the presence of a small amount of corrosion was causing this. Subsequently I also surmised that the scratches were also caused by the rollers not turning freely. I removed the two rollers from the camera entirely and I sanded them using the finest emery paper I had, followed by using metal polish on the rollers. Replacing the rollers, I tried to ensure that these turned freely, and wound some backing paper through the camera a couple of times. It so happened that I found myself doing this on 'International Brownie Camera Day', June 18th this year. I decided to put roll of film through the camera to see how effective this fix had been; the results were certainly better, without scratches the entire length of the film, but the scratches were still there. Generally the more dense the negative, the less obtrusive the scratches appear; in the final image below, shot for about a second and a half on the camera's 'T' setting, through both the denseness of the negative, and the profusion of detail, the scratches barely register.

Kodak No.2A Brownie with Ilford HP5 Plus
Kodak No.2A Brownie with Ilford HP5 Plus
Kodak No.2A Brownie with Ilford HP5 Plus
International Brownie Camera Day 2017 image gallery

Sunday, 18 June 2017

116 Day Summer 2017

Kodak No.2A Brownie with Ilford HP5 Plus
For last weekend's '116 Day' I shot some 120 film in the 116 format Kodak No.2A Brownie (by coincidence, today, 18th June, is International Brownie Camera Day, as announced on the Brownie Camera Page). I shot some Ilford FP4 Plus and HP5 Plus both rolled with 116 backing paper, and also used the adaptors I'd made to fit 120 spools into the 116 spool chambers. As the weather was bright and sunny, I taped a yellow gelatine filter behind the lens on the inside of the camera body, meaning that, of course, all shots on a roll would have to use the filter; I could have taped the filter on the outside of the camera, but this would be likely to be scratched, as well as, given the construction on the camera's front, I was concerned that there might be some internal reflections between the filter and the lens. Using the filter reduced exposure by a stop, but, given the speed of both films (and the films' latitude), still meant that I used the smallest aperture stop for the open landscape shots, where the yellow filter provided good definition for the sky; some of the photographs with more shadow areas should have had more exposure, most of these being shot on the middle stop. Although not as obvious as when I first used the camera, the negatives still had some scratches from the rollers (probably due to a small amount of corrosion), the worst of which I mitigated in Photoshop; before using the No.2A Brownie again, the rollers would benefit from being removed and being polished.

Kodak No.2A Brownie with Ilford FP4 Plus
Kodak No.2A Brownie with Ilford FP4 Plus
Kodak No.2A Brownie with Ilford FP4 Plus
Kodak No.2A Brownie with Ilford HP5 Plus
Kodak No.2A Brownie with Ilford HP5 Plus
Kodak No.2A Brownie with Ilford HP5 Plus
Kodak No.2A Brownie with Ilford HP5 Plus
Kodak No.2A Brownie with Ilford HP5 Plus
Kodak No.2A Brownie with Ilford HP5 Plus