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

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Kodak No.2A Brownie

Kodak No.2A Brownie
In the early years of photography, most negatives were printed by contact, which in turn, helped to define the size and design of cameras. This was essentially true with the burgeoning popularity of amateur photography at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Kodak definitively helped in this by producing extremely low-cost cameras, embodied by the Brownie range of box cameras. As the range expanded, cameras were made for larger image formats: the Kodak No.2A Brownie was introduced in 1907, and took 116 rollfilm, with a nominal negative size of 6.5x11cm (2½ x 4¼ inch). The original Brownie and the No.2 Brownie both had new rollfilm formats (117 and 120), with the same negative dimensions, 2¼ x 3¼ inch, but on different spools. For the larger negative size of the No.2A Brownie, the camera was designed to use the existing 116 film, which had been introduced a couple of years prior to the first Brownie camera, in 1899. As a result of the negative size, format and focal length, the No.2A Brownie is a moderately large box camera, measuring 13x8.5x15.5cm.

No.2 Brownie (front) with No.2A Brownie (rear)
Although it uses a different film format, the No.2A Brownie's specifications are very similar to the No.2 Brownie, which may be why it was named thus (and most of the detailed post I wrote about the No.2 Brownie could equally be applied to the No.2A); a No.3 Brownie followed in 1911 for 124 rollfilm, and a No.2C in 1917 for 130 film, both with larger negative sizes again (there wasn't a No.2B, a construction that Kodak appears not to have used for any of their cameras; the 'A' suffix is used for most 116 cameras, although not exclusively, while the 'C' was used for 130 film; following the success of the Vest Pocket Kodak, there was also a No.0 Brownie for the smaller format 127 film).

The original price for the No.2A Brownie was $3.00 (the No.2 was $2 when it was first marketed), and it seems that initially, at least, it shared a manual with the No.2 Brownie, although subsequently a manual for both the No.2A and the No.3, after the latter camera was produced. Thus, using the No.2A Brownie, apart from the film size, is the same as the No.2 Brownie: the rotary shutter has a single speed of around 1/30th and trips in both directions, while pulling a tab on the left above the lens provides a time setting for long exposures; there are three apertures punched in a metal strip that can be pulled into position using the central tab above the lens, approximately f11, f16, f22, but most likely non-standard, if the measurements I made for my No.2 Brownie's apertures were at all accurate; film advance is manual of course, using the bar winder with a red window for frame numbers; the vertical and horizontal reflecting viewfinders, although small and not very distinct, give a fair idea of composition. One difference between my No.2 Brownie, and the No. 2A is that the cardboard-bodied Brownie cameras do not have tripod fittings, unlike the later metal ones.

My version of the No.2A Brownie is the Model B, introduced in 1911, although, as I wrote in my post for this year's Take Your Box Camera To Work Day, details of the camera itself securely date its manufacture to some time between June and October 1917. On the Brownie Camera Page, the list of variations gives the following information- "June 1917: Film tension springs were moved from the center to the spool ends. Oct 1917: The case latches were improved with rounded ends and milled edges." My version of the No.2A Brownie does have what I would describe as the 'spool-end tension springs' (as can be seen in the images below), but the case latches have unmilled ends (this milling was a fine serration around the edge of the latch to improve grip).

Kodak No.2A Brownie with back removed for loading
The cardboard body model loads by removing the entire back. In the image above, a 120 spool with adaptors to fit 116 can be just seen in the supply side film chamber; the round hole at the bottom is for the winding key to be inserted into the take up spool end. The interior film carrier is made of metal. My version has a set of patent dates embossed in the metal; the patent for April 11 1899 must be for 116 film itself; with the other two dates, it's less obvious what these might relate to. In the early years of camera manufacture, Kodak was very liberal with prominently placing its patent dates all over its products, but generally these can't be used to date the cameras too securely.

Spring tension
One minor modification I made to my No.2A Brownie was to insert a piece of thin plastic sheet slightly wider than the take-up spool chamber to act as an additional pressure plate to ensure that the take-up spool is tightly wound. I added this specifically for 120 film, which is smaller in diameter than the original 116 spool that would be used in the camera, but kept it in the camera when I did use an old roll of 116 without any detrimental effect. When researching the Kodak Brownie 2A, I noted that the price list in the back of the manual lists two films for the No.2A - for six exposures or twelve exposures; later, 116 film was only available with eight exposures (similarly, 120 film was originally provided in six exposure lengths rather than eight). It's notable that in eight exposure rolls, the metal 116 spool ends are clearly wider than the diameter of film and backing paper; twelve exposure rolls would no doubt have much less of a gap.

Kodak No.2A Brownie case with dates and locations
Inside the crocodile-skin-effect case, a previous owner has written a list of places with dates, covering a span of 25 years, from 1927 to 1952 (with a large gap from the penultimate date of 1933 and the last in 1952; this final name is also in pen while the rest are in pencil, but it does appear to be the same handwriting). The camera was already ten years old at the beginning of the this list, although the reasons for this may be many and various; the camera may have been secondhand and imported, as all the locations are in England and Wales, yet the camera was made in America according to the details on the Brownie Camera Page. Although the No.2A Brownie was produced in UK from 1930-36, this was the later Model C version, with an aluminium rather than cardboard body, with a number of other refinements.

For a first test of the No.2A, I shot some Fomapan 200 using the adaptors that I had previously made to fit 120 film into 116 format cameras. When I developed the film, there were two clear problems: numerous scratches all along the film, but also there were light leaks from the red window along one edge of the negatives. The scratches were clearly from the rollers inside the camera, which I gave a good clean, although this did not entirely eliminate this problem, as was evident in later shots. The image below also shows a slight overlap of negatives on the right hand side where I did not get the frame spacing quite right. However, the first test roll did show that the size of the negative provided fairly good results with the meniscus lens; there is a small amount of barrel distortion to the image, perhaps exaggerated by the film not being held entirely flat.

No.2A Brownie with Fomapan 200 showing light leaks and scratches
The light leak appeared to be due to the fact that there's a very small gap between the edge of the 120 film, and the sides of the internal frame (nothing to do with the film being panchromatic as is sometimes stated when using cameras with red windows: the film's backing paper itself should be perfectly light tight). This small gap caused some internal reflections, but mostly what appears to be technically irradiation, as the light hits the very edge of the film from behind, and travels sideways into the film base and emulsion. My solution was to make a baffle, a mask insert from thin black card that would sit over the sides of the film and cover this small gap at the edge.

Mask for 120 film
Given the positioning of the frame numbers on 116 film, rather close to the edge of the backing paper itself, this baffle did partly obscure the frame numbers, but these are just visible. As I've previously written about in my post on the Zeiss Ikon Cocarette, with 120 film in a 116 camera, the 6x4.5 format numbers appear in the standard 116 red window, and I have been using the same sequence of numbers and marks: advance the film to the first circular mark before the number 3 appears for the first exposure, then 5, the first mark before number 8, the third mark before 10, the first mark before 13, and finally 15. This sequence is not perfect, as there are some slight overlaps between some frames, but it's the closest practical set to achieve six exposures on a roll of 120; being more generous with the film, one could easily get five exposures with no overlaps by just using the numbers 3, 6, 9, 12, 15.
Red window with 120 film and card mask
I tested this card mask I had made to solve the light leaks when I used the No.2A Brownie for this year's Take Your Box Camera To Work Day. Although I wasn't testing it in the brightest, sunniest weather, it does appear that this has solved the problems of light leaking when using 120 film; I did also shoot a couple of rolls of film taped to 116 backing paper, where this wasn't an issue, and I was therefore able to use the 116 numbers for the frame spacing. As I've written in relation to other box cameras, I believe it's a fallacy to think that one has to use a slow film with a box camera simply because these would have been the films available at the time. As the manual states, the for instantaneous exposures or snapshots, the widest aperture must be used and the subject should be in broad open sunlight; the middle aperture stop is for snow, sea and clouds settings with no heavy shadows. All other lighting conditions would have been using the time exposure and counted in seconds; for portraits outside the manual recommends using the middle or smallest stop and giving an exposure of one or two seconds. To replicate this experience, one could use a slow, currently available film like Rollei RPX 25, but this does seem restrictive for using an old box camera for most situations. With modern, faster films, it's therefore possible to use the camera hand-held in different conditions, with smaller apertures, other than for sunny exterior shots as designed.

No.2A Brownie with Kodacolor 116 film (process before July 1961)
However, when I shot the expired Kodacolor 116 film last year, I did just that. The film was originally 32 ISO when new; more than five decades after its process before date, I rated it at around 6, which meant that I couldn't use it hand held with the No.2A Brownie (I did shoot another roll of a similar age in the Zeiss Ikon Cocarette hand held, but that was due to its much faster lens). As the cardboard body isn't provided with tripod sockets, for these long exposures, I simply found any flat level surface that was convenient, benches, parapets on bridges, bollards; given that the No.2A has one entirely flat side and base, it's very easy to do this with the camera, covering the lens at the moment of tripping the shutter to eliminate any shake, and then letting it sit for the duration of a couple of seconds to a minute or so. When using 120 film in the camera, the slight cropping of the 116 frame makes for an image of attractive proportions and the meniscus lens proves more than adequate, with the large negative size being very forgiving set against the limitations of the simple box camera itself.

No.2A Brownie with Ilford FP4 Plus
No.2A Brownie with Ilford HP5 Plus
Sources/further reading:
No.2A Brownie on Early Photography
No.2A Brownie on the Brownie Camera Page
No.2A Brownie on
Kodak No.2A and No.3 Brownie manual (pdf) - May 1912

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Eastman Double-X

Eastman Double-X film in 16mm (7222) and 35mm (5222)
With the discontinuation of Plus-X, Eastman Double-X is Eastman Kodak's last surviving black and white motion picture film in 35mm (Tri-X Reversal is available in 16mm and super-8 cartridges). The film is often referred to online in full as Eastman Double-X 5222, but this explicitly refers to the 35mm film stock; I have also been using the 16mm version in various subminiature cameras, which is given the 7222 suffix: this post is titled Eastman Double-X to include both formats. As mentioned under my post for Ilford Mark V, motion picture negative film has a different perforation shape to standard 35mm camera film, but this is not significant enough to cause any problems when using it for still photography. Double-X's speed is half way between Plus-X at 125 ISO and Tri-X, originally 320, but rated 400 ISO in all but sheet film now. Kodak also made a fast 4-X film which was 500 ISO, although this film was discontinued around 1990.

Eastman Double-X latitude test
Double-X appears to have quite a following among still photographers posting their images online, with numerous discussions about different developing practices. As a motion picture film, Kodak's recommendations are naturally limited: an exposure index at 250 for daylight and 200 for tungsten light; the recommended developer is D96. However, the Massive Dev Chart currently has a fairly wide range of listed developers, dilutions and times (the listings do give the 5222 suffix, but the 16mm film has the same emulsion, and the information should be equally applicable). Given the relatively limited availability of new 16mm film stocks, I had already bought some 16mm Double-X for use in my subminiature cameras, but I wanted to try the film in 35mm. There are a number of sources online which sell Double-X: from Kodak as a motion picture stock, it's provided in 400ft or 1000ft lengths of 35mm; but there are resellers which either cut and package shorter lengths (I bought a 100ft roll), and a few that provide Double-X in standard 35mm canisters, such as the Film Photography Project.

For an initial test with the 35mm film, I made a series of exposures to test Double-X for latitude, using my Canon A-1. In the contact sheet above, I shot the top two rows at ratings of 64, 125, 250, 500, 1000, 2000 and developed the film in Ilfotec LC29 at a dilution of 1+29 for 8 minutes at 20ºC (the two shots on the end of the film were rated 250). Although the contact sheet above shows a steep drop off at the higher end of underexposure, in scanning the negatives I was able to pull out some detail, although at two to three stops under, there wasn't much shadow detail (it's instructive to compare the test above to that of Adox Silvermax, which has excellent latitude). The exposures at 64 appear to have very little highlight detail in the contact sheet, but this was generally present and could be preserved in scanning, although the highlights in some of my tests do appear to block out easily. Notably, of the two subjects shot for the test, the second (an outdoor table-tennis net) had lower contrast, and the results were better.

Double-X at EI 64 (two stops overexposed)
Double-X at EI 2000 (three stops underexposed)
Double-X's recommendations for exposure, with different indexes for daylight and tungsten, most likely holds true for any normal panchromatic film (excepting superpanchromatic films with extended red sensitivity like Agfa Superpan 200); I imagine that this is made explicit due to is intended use as a motion picture negative stock. For most still photographers, the difference between an exposure index of 200 or 250 whether under tungsten or daylight would no doubt fall well within an acceptable range of negative densities. In some of the tests I shot I did occasionally change the rating to depend on the type of light I was shooting in, but generally I either exposed the whole roll at 200 or 250, apart from tests in push processing. For a more rigorous testing of Double-X, I could have shot the same film in both daylight and tungsten light and used both recommended exposure indexes to get an accurate comparison, but this did feel unnecessary. However, in terms of looking at the film's spectral response, I did shoot some frames with a yellow filter, which I generally use to aid definition in skies with black and white films, but, in the image below, this appeared to affect the rendering of the green foliage more than I might have expected. Again, more tests would have helped to determine how Double-X precisely translates colour into black and white, although the few shots taken with a yellow filter looked promising.

Eastman Double-X, Canon A-1 with yellow filter
The rationalisation of Kodak's black and white motion picture film around Double-X appears in part to be a demonstration of the film's versatility (or at least Kodak's faith in its versatility); in the field of colour, Kodak still has (essentially) a range of three different negatives sensitivities from 50 to 500. Although making direct comparisons between the use of Double-X as a motion picture negative stock and its use for still photography is perhaps problematic, there's many examples online of Double-X being pushed by a number of stops to counter differing lighting conditions (less common is pull-processing, although some times for ratings as low as 25 are listed on the Massive Dev Chart). Part of testing the film led me to attempt to push the film as far as 3200. Some of the examples of rating Double-X at 1600 or 3200 appear to be simply underexposed - with almost no shadow detail, the highlights and mid-tones essentially carry the image alone.

Eastman Double-X rated 3200, Kiev-4, Ilfotec DD-X 1+4
Part of the problem in judging these results however is due to shooting the film in generally higher-contrast lighting situations, such as at night, and this complicates the results. My test roll shot at 3200 and developed in Ilfotec DD-X had few useable frames overall, with scanning able to pull out as much detail as possible from the shadow areas. The negatives would, I imagine, be tricky to print in the darkroom (when rating the film at 800 and 1600 the results were better, but not by a significant degree), but in general terms, Double-X does not seem an ideal film for pushing more than one stop. Other than contact prints, I have only made prints from Double-X in 16mm so far, largely because scanning from subminiature negatives doesn't quite provide enough clarity to the images. With the small size of these negatives, the film's grain is very pronounced and the difference between using RO9 or Ilfotec LC29 as a developer also appears to be visible, with Ilfotec LC29 providing a little smoother look to the grain. In some of the results shot on 35mm, the grain appears quite pronounced for the speed of the film, compared to other 200 ISO films currently available. Over and above the inherent grain of any film, its appearance depends on a number of factors, but developer is perhaps the most important, as well as differences in scanning or printing.

Having used the film for around a year, testing it with a few different developers, shooting it at a good range of exposure indexes, as well as printing a few 16mm negatives, I still feel undecided about Double-X: some of the results feel quite mixed to me, and I don't think that the film is necessarily distinct enough to be sought out as a film for regular use. On reflection, in the course of writing up this post, I realise that I neglected to explore shooting the film below its nominal speed and adjusting development accordingly, which may have modified how I feel about the film; having now shot all the 100ft roll of 35mm that I bought a year ago, I may try this in 16mm, but it wouldn't be a good comparison. Although Double-X has many fans, I can't help thinking that it is a shame for Kodak not to have kept Plus-X as a motion picture stock, as I found this a much more sympathetic film to work with as a still photographer.

Edit 10/05/20 - see also: Eastman Double-X Part Two, in which I reappraise Double-X with D96 developer.

Canon A-1 with Double-X. rated 200, Ilfotec LC29, 1+29
Kodak Retina IIa with Double-X, rated 200, Ilfotec LC29, 1+29
Agat 18K (half frame) with Double-X, rated 200, Ilfotec LC29, 1+29
Mamiya-16 Automatic with Double-X (16mm), rated 200, Ilfotec LC29. 1+29
Kiev-30M with Double-X (16mm), rated 200, Ilfotec LC29, 1+29
Rollei 16 with Double-X (16mm), rated 200, RO9 One Shot, 1+25
Agat 18K (half-frame) with Double-X, rated 250, developed in RO9 One Shot 1+25
Agat 18K (half frame) with Double-X, rated 250, Ilfotec LC29, 1+29
Voigtländer Vito CL with Double-X, rated 250, Ilfotec LC29, 1+29
Mamiya-16 Automatic with Double-X (16mm), rated 400, RO9 One Shot, 1+50
Kiev-4 with Double-X, rated 400, RO9 One Shot 1+50
Canon FTb-N with Double-X, rated 800, RO9 One Shot 1+50
Canon A-1 with Double-X, rated 1600, RO9 One Shot 1+20
Kiev-4 with Double-X, rated 3200, Ilfotec DD-X 1+4

Sources/further reading:

Eastman Double-X data sheet
Project Double-X (archived)
Eastman Double-X on Down The Road
Eastman Double-X on Alex Luyckx Blog