Tuesday, 29 March 2016

LAPC Bank Holiday Photo Walk

Ensign Folding Klito de Luxe No.9 with Ilford Special Rapid Panchromatic plate
Yesterday I joined the LAPC Bank Holiday Photo Walk along the Parkland Walk from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace, led by Melanie King and Daniel Berrange. I took my Ensign Folding Klito with a dozen plateholders with a few different types of plates. Not wanting to carry a tripod on the walk meant that I was constrained to shooting the plate camera on fairly slow shutter speeds - 1/25th and 1/50th - and at wide apertures (for the 12cm Ica Dominar lens), either f4.5 and f5.6. The best results were from a box of Ilford Special Rapid Panchromatic plates, which had a leaflet inside the box dating to July 1946. These glass plates, seventy years old, are relatively free from deterioration and fogging, apart from the edges, which is partly due to the emulsion being thicker where it collects from pouring. Although I rated the plates at an exposure index of just 10, the negatives would have benefitted from at least another stop of exposure; however, there were periods of bright sunshine to facilitate using the plates hand held. Other plates I shot were one Ilford N.40 Process plate from 1958, some Ilford N.50 Thin Film Half Tone plates from 1957, and some Kodak plates: one Kodak P300 Special Rapid Panchromatic plate, and two Kodak P1200 Super Panchro-Press plates from two different boxes. The emulsion lifted entirely from the plates from one box; the other plate (below), from a box with a handwritten date '11/4/61', has 'frilling' where the emulsion is lifting from the edges and some very obtrusive patches which look like they could be due to mould.

Ensign Folding Klito de Luxe No.9 with Kodak P1200 Super Panchro-Press plate
Ensign Folding Klito de Luxe No.9 with Ilford N.40 Process plate
The Ilford N.50 Thin Film Half Tone plates are heavily fogged (with more exposure a usable negative might have been obtained, but this wasn't really possible hand held - the case of the Kodak P300 Special Rapid Panchromatic plate demonstrates this with the shutter at 1/10th sticking open, giving perhaps a couple of seconds exposure); the Ilford N.40 Process plate (above) is much better. The plates I used yesterday had already been loaded into the holders without intending that these would be shot handheld: had I wanted more consistent results I would have chosen carefully which plates to use. (I also shot some Kodak Photo Instrumentation SO-078 film, with a develop before date of 08/2002, in the Kiev-30M.)

Ensign Folding Klito de Luxe No.9 with Kodak P300 Special Rapid Panchromatic plate
Ensign Folding Klito de Luxe No.9 with Ilford N.50 Thin Film Half Tone plate
Ensign Folding Klito de Luxe No.9 with Ilford Special Rapid Panchromatic plate
Ensign Folding Klito de Luxe No.9 with Ilford Special Rapid Panchromatic plate

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Take Your Box Camera To Play Day 2016

Lumière Scout Box with Rollei RPX 400
For last weekend's 'Take Your Box Camera to Play Day', I reverted to using Lumière Scout Box rather than the Kodak No.2 Brownie as I had done last year; the Scout Box seems to give better results, despite there being less controls (the Brownie does have three aperture settings). With the Scout Box being more compact than the Brownie, I used the Brownie's case, as the camera fitted in the case with enough space for three cartons of medium format film, plus room to slip a yellow filter in the side.

I shot three rolls of Rollei RPX 400 for its good latitude to guard against variations in conditions, and shot most of the interiors using the 'pneumatique' or time setting, balancing the camera on any available flat surface while holding the shutter open for long exposures. All rolls were developed in RO9 One Shot diluted 1+25.

Lumière Scout Box with Rollei RPX 400
Lumière Scout Box with Rollei RPX 400
Lumière Scout Box with Rollei RPX 400
Lumière Scout Box with Rollei RPX 400
Lumière Scout Box with Rollei RPX 400
See the whole set on Flickr here.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Ic

Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Ic
The twin-lens reflex has been eclipsed by the popularity of single-lens reflex cameras. Excellent results are possible with some models of this design, however, and they often represent the least expensive way for a photographer to begin working in medium format.
Ansel Adams, The Camera, 1980
Twin lens focus cameras were around for many years before Franke & Heideke introduced the Rolleiflex, but, like the Leica with 35mm film, it became the archetype - and inspiration - for the many twin lens reflex cameras that followed, as well as establishing the 6x6cm square negative format. TLR cameras were produced by many different manufacturers for decades, the majority were made between the 1930s and 1950s, but the twin-lens reflex design fell out of favour from the early 1960s (notable exceptions such as the Mamiya C series and the Rolleiflex itself, as more fully-featured, prestige cameras, were made until the 1990s and 2010s respectively).

I bought my original Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Ic in March 1996. It was my entry into medium format as a student, being significantly cheaper than a Rolleiflex or MPP's contemporary Microcord/Microflex cameras, and a fraction of the price of medium format SLR cameras at the time. It cost £99 as a commission sale from a camera shop which meant there was no secondhand guarantee. A tutor at college described it as being "two-and-a-quarter-inch", and, although at that point I knew of medium format, I'd not heard it described as such before.

Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Ic with HP5 Plus
The above image is from the first roll of black and white film I shot with the camera. It's one of several shots made standing the Ikoflex on the floor for long exposures, easy to do with the typical twin-lens reflex waist level finder. The Ikoflex Ic I'd bought had a 75mm Novar lens, a cheaper triplet lens made by other manufacturers under license for Zeiss Ikon; it was also available with a f3.5 Tessar, but at the time I wouldn't have known to distinguish between a Novar and a Tessar. (Edit 30/11/18: looking through my images with this first Ikoflex - and images of the camera itself - I'm now sure that this was with the Tessar lens - although, again, I wouldn't have known the reputation of the lens at the time).

Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Ic with HP5 Plus
The immediate difference in image quality with the shift from 35mm to medium format (even with a cheaper lens), and also the changing relationship of depth of field with longer lenses on the format, was clear from the first few prints I made from the negatives from the camera. The photograph above shot in May 1996 after I'd had the camera for a couple of months embodied these qualities almost perfectly - almost, as there appears to be a small amount of either a fall off in definition from the lens to the corners, or possibly a little camera shake in a twisting motion, nonetheless the quality of images like that above suddenly looked more professional. Another student at college had a Lubitel 166B, and it was very clear that the images, with vignetting and light leaks, were poorer quality in comparison to the Ikoflex.

Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Ic with HP5 Plus
The Ikoflex also served as my introduction to night photography, using the camera on 'B' with a tripod. To calculate exposure times, I set my Praktica SLR to the same aperture and counted how many seconds between the shutter opening and closing, without factoring in reciprocity loss. This method worked well enough with regard to the Ikoflex's selenium meter being unusable at night. While at college I mostly shot Ilford HP5 Plus in the Ikoflex. On my contact sheets from the time I didn't write down developing details (curiously, I did so for most contemporary 35mm contact sheets). The developer at college would have been ID11, and usually used 1+1. Although I didn't write down any information about the developing, I also didn't push process any of the medium format at the time, which I had begun doing in 35mm. Later, once outside college and not having access to a darkroom, I shot a wider variety of films which I had professionally processed, mostly at Jessops. One film that I did use was Delta 3200 (the film itself hadn't been introduced until after I left college) for some handheld night shots, possibly shot on 1/10th. I used the Ikoflex much less when I bought my first Canon A-1: I last used it frequently in 2000, and it was stolen in 2003. Unlike the Canon A-1 or Olympus Pen EE3, I didn't feel the need to replace the camera as soon as I could, (or even, much later, the Brownie). However, a few weeks ago I saw an Ikoflex Ic in an online auction for half the price I paid for it twenty years ago, and bidding it up by a few pounds to nearer two-thirds that price, I won the camera. Ideally, I should have probably waited for a version with a Tessar, or the last Ikoflex model, the Favorit, but in replacing the Ikoflex Ic two decades on from first buying it provided a sense of resolution.

Ikoflex Ic with viewing hood and meter cover open
The Ikoflex Ic was the penultimate model in Zeiss Ikon's TLR series. It has a typical frame size of 6x6cm on 120 medium format film, with a 75mm Novar or Tessar f3.5 lens, stopping down to f16. The viewing lens is a 75mm f3.5 Teronar. The Prontor SVS shutter has a full range of speeds from 1-300, plus B, and a switch marked VXM for self timer (V), electronic flash (X), and flash bulbs (M). The self timer on my camera doesn't work, and in my experience rarely works on Prontor shutters from fifty to sixty years ago. The shutter can appear stuck if the switch is inadvertently knocked on V, easy to do, but switching to X releases the shutter (I have wasted a few frames with my new camera this way). Both lenses are provided with screw threads, but in different diameters. The taking lens has a 35.5mm thread; externally, it will take 37mm push-on filters or hoods. Two windows around the taking lens display aperture and shutter speeds; the aperture settings have a red dot for a hyperfocal distance between f8 and f11.

The focus knob is on the left hand side of the camera when holding it. On my camera it's marked in feet denoting an export model. Close focus runs down to 3.6 feet, with depth of field markings, and a hyperfocal dot on the scale between 48 and 15 feet to correspond with the dot on the aperture scale. On the right hand of the camera is the shutter release - lower on the body than older Ikoflex models - and the cable release socket in the top corner position where the older cameras had the shutter release. The release pivots outwards for shooting, with the shutter locked when it is pushed in. This shutter release is key to the ergonomics of the Ikoflex: the weight of the camera is taken in the right hand while focusing with the left hand, but the thumb of the right hand operates the shutter and also helps steady the camera between both hands. I haven't used older Ikoflex cameras, but I can imagine having a shutter release on the top of the camera makes it less easy to use handheld. The right hand side of the camera also has the frame advance knob, with a film reminder with "PAN/IR/ORTHO COLOR NEG/POS" inscribed on it, the COLOR section doubled, presumably for tungsten or daylight film and the frame counter, with its reset dial, and a PC socket for flash.

The waist level viewfinder hood is nicely sprung to pop open when the catch is released on the body. Rather than just plain ground glass, the viewing screen is actually a fresnel lens (fine concentric lines can just be made out). There's a flip up magnifier lens for fine focusing, and the cover of the viewing hood with the nameplate itself flips up to create an eye-level sports finder. The viewing screen has ruled horizontal and vertical lines to aid composition, and also displays the lightmeter needle. The Ikoflex Ic's built in lightmeter was one of the reasons for buying it (not heard of the 'sunny 16' rule at the time). The cover on the front of the camera flips up, and the needle in the viewfinder has EV markings from 2-16; on the focusing knob there is a calculator on focus knob with ASA settings from 5-320, including -2 -4 adjustments for filter factors, where the EV numbers can be read off against shutter speed and aperture combinations. Exposure times are listed up to 60 seconds; whole seconds are marked in green, and can be seen appearing at the far end of the calculator in fast film settings with a high EV, which the manual warns about. The selenium meters on both cameras I've had worked perfectly well with black and white and colour negative film; there are some references online referring to the Ikoflex Ic having a CDS meter, but I've found nothing conclusive, perhaps some cameras were customised with CDS cells replacing the selenium meter.

The Ikoflex Ic has an automatic frame counter with double exposure prevention. This was initially confusing, and, with no manual available when I bought my first camera, had to be worked out by trial and error. The man in the shop when I bought the camera loaded it for me, and the frame counter reset fooled him initially: he got this to return to 1 after having wound a whole film through the camera. I found the very first film from the camera had only part of one frame exposed. The correct way to load the camera is to ensure the frame counter has passed '12', which will then freely rotate (this may have to be done manually). On loading the camera, the film is advance to the first frame using the red window on the bottom plate, then the frame counter is reset to '1'. Once the shutter has been fired, there is an interlock which prevents the shutter firing again before the film is advanced (it's possible to cock the shutter without advancing the film, but it will not fire).

Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Ic with Ilford Delta 400
Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Ic with Ilford XP2
Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Ic with Kodak Tri-X
Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Ic with Kodak Portra 160VC 
Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Ic with Ilford Delta 3200
When I first used the Ikoflex twenty years ago, the square format was a novelty and provoked more care taken over composition. This is partly helped by the lateral reversal of the image in the viewing screen, which does need some experience to become familiar. Although typically twin lens reflex images were often cropped when used professionally, composing to a full, square format is more challenging; picking up the camera again after many years brought this back with a distant sense memory of how it felt to use. It has also been an excuse to sort through old negatives, many of which I had never previously printed or scanned. Except for Kodak Portra 160, I didn't use any film slower than 400 ISO with my first Ikoflex camera - which was the case generally, in 35mm as well as medium format. Twenty years after first using the Ikoflex Ic, I recently shot some slower, finer grained films with the new camera: Agfa Superpan 200Ilford FP4 Plus (rated 200), Rollei RPX 25 and a roll of Kodak Plus-X with a develop before date of 03/2006, which I happened to finish on Expired Film Day 2016.

Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Ic with Agfa Superpan 200
Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Ic with Ilford FP4 Plus at 200
Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Ic with Rollei RPX 25
Zeiss Ikon Ikoflex Ic with Kodak Plus-X (develop before date 03/2006)

Sources/further reading
Ikoflex range on TLR-Cameras.com
Ikoflex Ic on Matt's Classic Cameras
Ikoflex Ic on Early Photography
Ansel Adams, The Camera, 1980 

Friday, 18 March 2016

Expired Film Day 2016

Kodak Plus-X, develop before date of July 1972
Having missed the last couple of 127 Days for a variety of reasons, on the 15th this week I participated in the new Expired Film Day ('Take Your Box Camera To Play Day' also happens to be this weekend, 18th-20th March). I frequently use decades-old photographic emulsions, notably in glass plate night photography. I did consider shooting some glass plates on the day, but instead, as part of an unrelated ongoing project of large format photographs around Walthamstow Marshes, I used the opportunity of Expired Film Day to shoot some 4x5 sheet film with the MPP Micro-Technical Mk VI: a box of Ilford FP4 with a hand written date of 11/4/78; Kodak Plus-X with a develop before date of July 1972; and Kodak Panchro-Royal, not dated, but the box looks older than the Plus-X, possibly 1960s. I had previously tested all three films to get a usable exposure index: the FP4 was rated half box speed, while the other two were shot at an exposure index of 25.

Ilford FP4, with handwritten date 11/4/78
Both the FP4 and Plus-X provided results which do not look like forty-year old film (and as such wouldn't win the Expired Film Day prize categories 'Most Obviously Expired Film' or 'Best Use of Overexposure'), but the Panchro-Royal clearly shows characteristic deterioration with age. I used both the 16.5cm Tessar and the Bausch & Lomb Rapid Rectilinear which I've written about in the post Old Lenses; the Rapid Rectilinear is the oldest lens I have, and so it seemed appropriate to use it for the day.

Kodak Plus-X, develop before date July 1972
Kodak Panchro-Royal sheet film, possibly 1960s
There's very little information on Kodak Panchro-Royal online, and this gave the worst performance of the three films I shot (the FP4 and Panchro-Royal came from the same collection of photographic material, and may - or may not - have been stored in the same conditions). As well as having much more obvious fog, it also suffered from a good deal of cusping, the film being far from flat, and this made scanning more difficult. Some of the shots were taken using only the rear elements of the Rapid Rectilinear lens, as described in Old Lenses, as the Panchro-Royal image above, and the shot below on Plus-X. All the sheet film was stand developed in RO9 One Shot diluted 1+100 for one hour, partly due to developing all the films together, but some unevenness was evident in the development discernible in the featureless skies of most of the negatives.

Kodak Plus-X, develop before date July 1972
In addition to the sheet film I also finished a part-used roll of medium format Kodak Plus-X, which had a develop before date of 03/2006 - a neat ten years out of date. This was exposed at box speed and developed in RO9 One Shot diluted 1+29 for 9 minutes at 20ºC. Incidentally, I had intended to use this time and dilution with Ilfotec LC29, and only realised my mistake when the wrong developer was mixed and in the tank. However, the times and dilutions being relatively similar, I stuck with the time for Ilfotec LC29, which resulted in perfectly usable negatives.

Medium format Kodak Plus-X, develop before March 2006
Medium format Kodak Plus-X, develop before March 2006