Friday, 14 December 2012

127 Day - Winter 2012

Bicycle, Baby Ikonta, Agfa Retro 80S

The future of the 127 film format currently looks uncertain: earlier this year Fotokemika announced that it was ceasing production; Fotokemika were the manufacturers of Efke films, including R100 in 127 format. The production line also handled the Retro 80S 127 film from Maco, sold as either Rollei Retro 80S or Agfa Retro 80S, meaning that there are now no black and white 127 film in production. (Maco do currently sell a couple of 'experimental' colour films in 127, but it appears that these are from Agfa 46mm filmstock on 127 spools).

I had one roll of Retro 80S to for the Winter 127 day on 7th December. Loading the film into my Baby Ikonta, I took a walk along the perimeter of the Olympic Park from Leyton to Stratford. Having left my Weston light meter at work, I used the Sunny 16 rule for exposure: this is a lot easier when there is actually some sun to go by, as a grey winter's morning in the northern hemisphere can be very dark indeed.

Skeltons Lane Park, Baby Ikonta, Agfa Retro 80S

When it came to developing the film, I got to the darkroom to discover that the thermometer was missing. Impatient to develop the film, I opted to use stand development at something approaching ambient temperature. From my previous experience of Retro 80S, where I've found the film to be high in contrast with the highlights all too easy to 'blow out' (although the flat overcast light would have taken the edge off the contrast in itself), I used Rodinal in a dilution of 1:150 rather than the more usual 1:100 for stand development. I've used this dilution with other high-contrast films such as Tech Pan and the Ilford data film HS23.

Drapers Field, Baby Ikonta, Agfa Retro 80S
Stratford City, Baby Ikonta, Agfa Retro 80S

See more photographs from 127 Day in the Flickr 127 Format Group Pool

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Stand Development

Having mentioned stand development in a number of my posts on this blog, I've decided that this technique warrants a post of its own. There is plenty of information on stand development available online, but I thought it worthwhile to give an account of my own experience of using it. In summary, stand development is a method of developing a film using highly dilute developer, minimal agitation and long developing times. It's an old technique, first described in the 19th century, however I have only begun to use it recently.

Bear Lane, Southwark, Agfa Optima Sensor with FP4, stand developed in Rodinal 1:100 for one hour.
My first experiments using stand development was with Ilford FP4 in 35mm. For the very first roll I developed this way, having filled the tank and agitated for the initial minute, the idea of simply leaving it alone for an hour seemed counter-intuitive to the way I'd been developing films for years and required some blind faith that it would actually work. I used Rodinal, the developer I use regularly, but rather than the more usual dilutions of 1:25 or 1:50, the standard procedure for stand developing with Rodinal is to dilute it 1:100, and then let the film stand without agitation in the developer for 1 hour. This may not give the best results for all films, but it's certainly a very good starting point. The image above is from the first roll of film I developed using this technique, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well the negatives came out.

Southwark, Agfa Optima Sensor with FP4, stand developed in Rodinal 1:100 for one hour
Stand development works by the highlight areas on the film developing to exhaustion: the developer here is most active, and so exhausts (regular agitation would normally prevent this from happening by keeping the developer moving in the tank); meanwhile in the shadow areas the developer continues to work to completion. This gives a long tonal scale to the image, and the lack of agitation also appears to benefit the appearance of grain. Additionally, using a highly-dilute developer increases perceived sharpness due to edge effects. The first results I got with stand development appeared to have these all these benefits.

 I subsequently used this technique for developing out of date and colour film (such as with found films) with success, but using it on medium format film showed up some limitations. In the image below, there was a notable increase in the density of the negative towards the bottom of all the frames on the film, with some unevenness too. This may be due to the fact that when I first began using stand development, I mixed the developer at 20ºC; over the course of an hour's development the developer must cool towards ambient temperature, and perhaps, with convection currents, warmer developer rises in the tank and develops here more quickly.

Mini Roundabout, Fomapan 400 (medium format), stand developed in Rodinal 1:100 for one hour
The two methods of avoiding uneven development are to use the developer at room temperature and to agitate during development (additionally, soaking the film in water before developing may also help). I now invert the tank a couple of times half an hour through the developing time, which technically makes it semi-stand development. There are more exacting semi-stand agitation regimes, which can mean inverting the tank every five or ten minutes. However, this does remove the joy of just leaving the film alone and getting on with something else while it's in the tank.

FP4, found in a bulk film loader, stand developed in Rodinal 1:100 for one hour
Having established a way of using stand development that seems to work with a good degree of consistency, there's a number of situations that I use it for. It's my first consideration for developing any unknown film, such as films found in secondhand cameras, or the film I found in a bulk film loader, with no indication of what was inside, or, as recently happened, I lost the tab on a roll of medium format film (it got caught inside the camera when I unloaded the film, torn from the backing paper the wind then carried it off the bridge I was standing on and into a river below; I could see from the backing paper it was an Ilford film, but I wasn't sure which; it turned out to be Delta 100). It also works very well with out-of-date film (and plates): the loss of sensitivity with age is compensated by increasing exposure, and I then stand develop. Lastly, there are films that I simply like the look of in stand development, in particular, Ilford FP4 (HP5 less so, but I do use stand development when push processing this with Rodinal).

Finally, as I referred to in my post about Kodak Technical Pan, when using Rodinal at high dilutions, there is a minimum amount of developer per film. Agfa recommended a minimum of 10ml Rodinal per film, no matter the dilution used. At 1:100 this would mean a litre of working solution. In practice smaller amounts of Rodinal work well enough (although I've had uneven development when using 5ml); I tend to use 8-9ml of developer to 800-900ml of water in a 3-reel Paterson tank, and when developing 35mm film, I place an empty spool at the bottom of the tank to raise the film being developed to its middle.

Sources/further reading:
An entry on stand development from Cyclopedia of Photography, Bernard E. Jones (1911)
An Introduction To Stand Development at Daniel Hewes Photography
Efke 25 stand development by Martin Zimelka

Edit 26/11/14

Since writing this post two years ago, I have also been using Ilfotec LC29 for stand development, as well as developing with its recommended dilutions and agitation regime. Although of different composition, Ilfotec LC29 is, like Rodinal/RO9 One Shot, a highly concentrated liquid film developer. Standard dilutions for Ilfotec LC29 are 1:9, 1:19, and 1:29; the first two dilutions can be used for a number of films in one developing session, while at 1:29 Ilford state that it should be treated as a one shot developer. For stand development with Ilfotec LC29, I have been using the same dilutions as with Rodinal: diluting it 1:100 for most films with a normal contrast curve, and developing for one hour; for higher contrast emulsions I have been using 1:120, 1:150 or 1:200 with the Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating film. The results using Ilfotec LC29 for stand development are comparable with Rodinal and the negatives exhibit similar qualities.

Adox Silvermax 100, stand developed in Ilfotec LC29, 1:100
Rollei RPX 100, stand developed in Ilfotec LC29, 1:100
Ilford Special Lantern glass plate, stand developed in Ilfotec LC29, 1:120
Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating film, stand developed
in Ilfotec LC29, 1:200

Ilford Ilfodata HS23 - continued

Graffiti, Ive Farm, Ilford Ilfodata HS23, shot at 25 EI, stand developed in Rodinal 1:150 for 1 hour
Following the exposure tests with the Ilfodata film in my last post, I also wanted to experiment with the dilution of the developer to see how this would affect contrast. With the first couple of rolls, I had stand developed the film in Rodinal diluted 1:100 for one hour. Taking a cue from the development of Tech Pan at 1:150, I shot another roll with the exposure index of 25, although this film I shot using my Kodak Retina IIa, and used the 'sunny 16 rule' as a guide for exposure, bracketing the shots, such as the one below where the two frames overlap.

Ive Farm Lane, Ilford Ilfodata HS23, shot at 25 EI, stand developed in Rodinal 1:150 for 1 hour
There's a stop difference between the two shots that overlapped on the film, I'm not sure which one is 'at' 25 EI, but both exposures provide a usable negative, although the shadow areas in the left hand image are beginning to lack detail. I developed this roll of film at a dilution of 1:150, and, although I did not shoot the same subjects with the same lighting conditions as the second test roll for an accurate comparison, this increased dilution may have reduced the contrast: certainly it is low enough to use for pictorial purposes.

Hackney Substation, Ilford Ilfodata HS23, shot at 25 EI, stand developed in Rodinal 1:200 for 1 hour.
I then shot another roll, with the same camera and the same exposure index, and developed this with a dilution of 1:200. In practical terms, this meant reducing the amount of developer to 5ml, and making this up with water to a litre (as opposed to 6ml to 900ml for a dilution of 1:150). The results at 1:200 showed up the limitations of further increasing the dilution. The development was visibly uneven in any large dense areas of the negatives, which meant the sky. In the shot of Hackney Substation above the cloudy sky obscures this, but in the picture of the flood relief channel below, the clear sky shows it well enough. Examining the end of the film exposed to the light when loading the camera proved uneven development to be the case: on any normally developed film, this will usually be a featureless black, but on this film there are lighter patches and streaks. This may be due to simply not having enough developer present, and it's certainly compounded by a lack of agitation while developing. A solution to this problem would be to increase agitation during development.

Lea Flood Relief Channel, Ilford Ilfodata HS23, shot at 25 EI, stand developed in Rodinal 1:200 for 1 hour.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Ilford Ilfodata HS23

Ilford Ilfodata HS23 Type J500 document film

This tin of bulk film was a speculative buy from a well known auction site, specifically because I'd never heard of the film before. The only reference to the film I've found online is Viewfinder from June 1979, Ilford's in house magazine; indeed typing "Ilford Ilfodata HS23 Type J500" into Google returns just that one result. The underside of the tin has a label with the code "SZ 79 C" - possibly meaning it was manufactured in Swizterland in 1979 by Ciba (who bought out Ilford in 1969) although the label on the front of the tin does state "Made in England". The film is referred to on page 4, in an article headed 'Ilford in Microrecording'. It's worth quoting at length:

The ever-expanding range of ILFORD microrecording films ensures that the right product exists for the majority of applications. Where business documents, continuous stationery, cheques, statements or invoices are to be microfilmed, one of the ILFODATA High Speed films is particularly recommended.
  • HS 22 2.5/1000 polyester base dye resin backing.
  • HS 23 5/1000 acetate base dye resin backing.
  • HS 24 5/1000 acetate base carbon resin backing.
These products offer the combination of fine grain, high speed, high resolving power and - because of their panchromatic sensitivity - are recommended for accurate recording of multicoloured originals.

The article then goes on to mention Ilfodata HR31 specifically having an anti-halation underlayer, so I assume that the other films do not, although they have the backing as described. After loading a length of film into a canister to use, the colour of the backing was quite noticeable, being a deep, intense, almost ultramarine blue.

Vine Leaves, Ilfodata HS23

I shot two rolls of the film using my Olympus OM10. For the first roll I didn't accurately meter the shots I took: on the film canister I did note "last grapes 1000th at f5.6", but I may have meant 'eucalyptus' as that was the last series of shots on the roll. I stand developed the film with Rodinal diluted 1:100. The results were mixed: many frames were barely legible; those that were are clearly high contrast as one would expect from a document film. The film itself has a very clear base, with no markings in the film rebates and in the frames I scanned the grain is as good as indiscernible. In the image below the bright sky appears to have a 'glowing' effect, which may be a result of the absence of an anti-halation layer.

Eucalyptus, Ilfodata HS23

I shot a second roll less impulsively, exposing five frames successively with the camera's film speed dial set at 25, 50, 100, 200, and 400 in an attempt to work out an ISO setting for the film. Using Rodinal diluted 1:100, I stand-developed the film for 1 hour. The results on the contact sheet shown below indicate clearly that an exposure index of either 25 or 50 gives a usable result: the highlight areas are becoming blocked on the top row of 25 EI; some shots in the second row of 50 EI show very little detail in the deeper shadows. The Viewfinder quote about the film describes it as 'high speed' which, like the Kodak Technical Pan film in my previous post (which can be used at 200 EI), may refer to its use as a document film; using the film for pictorial purposes would indicate a much lower EI setting. Possible directions for further tests might be to use a lower exposure index and to dilute the film developer even further to lower the contrast.

Second test roll contact sheet of Ilfodata HS23
Tomatoes, Ilfodata HS23, exposed at 25 EI
Tomatoes, Ilfodata HS23, exposed 50 EI
Climbing Beans/Tomatoes/Clematis, Ilfodata HS 23, exposed 25 EI
Climbing Beans/Tomatoes/Clematis, Ilfodata HS 23, exposed 50 EI

Viewfinder, June 1979 (PDF file)

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Kodak Technical Pan

Kodak Technical Pan in 35mm & 120 medium format
It was announced in 2003 that Kodak Technical Pan (or simply 'Tech Pan') had been discontinued. The announcement confirmed that the film had not been manufactured for some time and Kodak had been simply selling their existing stock: "The last Tech Pan coating was several years ago. Since that time, the old coating room has been shut down, the gels used in the product formulation have become obsolete, and we no longer manufacture the ESTAR support on which the 35 mm product was coated."

The information leaflet that comes inside the film box states:
This is a black-and-white panchromatic film with extended red sensitivity. It has micro-fine or extremely fine grain (depending on the developer used), extremely high resolving power, and a wide contrast range for pictorial, scientific, technical, and reversal-processing applications.
Kodak's technical data sheet P-255 lists the range of applications as:
  • Pictorial photography
  • Photomicrography
  • Microphotography (Microfilming)
  • Solar photography
  • Photographing electrophoteric gels
  • Laser recording
  • Other applications such as slidemaking, copying, and microfilming that require high or moderately high contrast combined with fine grain and high resolving power
35mm Technical Pan with information leaflet
The leaflet gives a suggestion of exposure index settings and specific contrast indexes, from 16 to 200. For 'pictorial applications' it suggests an EI of 25 and development with Technidol. Having picked up a handful of rolls of Tech Pan from online auctions, on one of the sunniest days of the summer, I shot a roll of 35mm Tech Pan in my Werra camera, exposed at 25 EI. The bright conditions were needed to shoot hand-held with a low exposure index (using the 'sunny 16' rule at 25 EI, bright sunshine would indicate an exposure of 1/25th at f16, although I would tend to give bright sunshine in the UK one stop more exposure, which in practice meant shooting at 1/50th at f8 or 1/100th at f5.6). 

The Massive Dev Chart has a section on discontinued film which includes Tech Pan. I developed the film in Rodinal 1:150 for 13 minutes at 20ºC, much longer than the recommended 7 minutes from the Massive Dev Chart. The results do appear overdeveloped, but a dilution of 1:150 for Rodinal seemed very low and the film was 16 years past its 'process before' date. However, judging by the results, the age of the film does not appear to have needed compensating for in development. At these high dilutions of Rodinal, consideration must be given to the capacity of the developing tank: Agfa, Rodinal's original manufacturer, recommended a minimum of 10ml per film, no matter the dilution used, which at 1:150 would mean a litre and a half of working solution. In practice a smaller amount of Rodinal works perfectly well; I used 6ml of developer to 900ml of water in a 3-reel Paterson tank.

The Banks of the Thames near Erith, Kodak Tech Pan (35mm), rated EI 25. Developed in Rodinal 1:150, 13mins at 20ºC.
In the scanned negatives, grain is not discernible. Presumably the grain is beyond the limit of the optical resolution of the flatbed scanners I've used. There is what looks like grain in the sky of some shots, but it appears to be noise introduced by the scanner. Having shot the photographs in bright sunlight, the images were always going to be high in contrast, regardless of the qualities of the film used. However, the blue skies reproduced darker in tone than might be expected with heightened contrast. In the section about pictorial photography in the data sheet, it states that "the extended red sensitivity has a haze-cutting effect in photographs of distant landscapes and in aerial shots." As well as cutting haze, this extended red sensitivity presumably compensates for the usual over-sensitivity to the blue end of the spectrum that normal panchromatic film has.

Concrete Defences near Thamesmead, Kodak Tech Pan (35mm), rated EI 25.
Developed in Rodinal 1:150, 13mins at 20ºC.
I subsequently shot a roll of Tech Pan in medium format using my Baldalux camera, exposed at 25 EI and developed in Rodinal at 1:150 again, but for 12 minutes at 18ºC (roughly equivalent to 10 minutes at 20ºC; this film had a 'process before' date of 02/1995).

Roding Lane South Pumping Station, Kodak Tech Pan (medium format) rated 25 EI.
Developed in Rodinal, 1:150, 12mins at 18ºC.
The contrast of the images is still there, perhaps a higher dilution of developer would provide lower contrast (the Massive Dev Chart does list times for dilutions of 1:300 for Rodinal). Interestingly, the absence of discernible grain in the sky proved a problem in scanning and processing some of the negatives. In the photograph of the River Roding below, there is some banding in the image, noticeable in towards the top corners partly due to vignetting; attempts to reduce the vignetting using Photoshop's lens correction filter made the banding worse. The solution to banding in smooth tonal gradations in a digital image is to introduce noise, which I haven't done.

River Roding, Kodak Tech Pan (medium format), rated EI 25.
Developed in Rodinal 1:150, 12mins at 18ºC.
Gants Hill Telephone Exchange, Kodak Tech Pan (medium format), rated EI 25.
Developed in Rodinal 1:150, 12mins at 18ºC.
London Defensive Ring, Kodak Tech Pan (medium format) rated EI 25.
Developed in Rodinal, 1:150, 12mins at 18ºC.
Newbury Park Tank Traps, Kodak Tech Pan film (medium format) rated 25 EI.
Developed in Rodinal, 1:150, 12mins at 18ºC.

Technical Pan data sheet P-255 (PDF file)

The nearest equivalent in terms of Tech Pan's characteristics currently in production is Rollei ATP

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Ilford HP5 Plus

Ilford HP5 Plus in 35mm, medium format and sheet film
HP5 Plus is Ilford's best selling black and white film. The first Ilford film designated HP (for Hypersensitive Panchromatic) was introduced in 1935 and had a speed of 160 ISO (by revised, post-1960 ASA standards). By the 1950s the HP emulsion had its speed increased to 400 ISO. Its current iteration, HP5 Plus, remaining at 400 ISO, was introduced in 1989. HP5 Plus was developed to compete with Kodak Tri-X, the photojournalists' film of choice: in the field of press photography, high-speed, good latitude, 'pushability' and ease of development were all desirable qualities over fineness of grain in the final image. HP5+ is currently available in 35mm, 120, and numerous sheet film sizes.

For many years when choosing a black and white film, HP5 Plus was simply the 'default' film for me. In my post about Delta 3200, I described how, when I began developing my own films at college, I was frequently taking hand-held shots in low-light conditions, and speed was more important to me than fineness of grain. Using ID11 as a developer, I was able to take advantage of being able to push the film, and rate it up to EI 3200. However, since I've returned to developing my own films and use Rodinal instead of ID11, I've become more discerning about the combination of film and developer, and I've explored a wider range of films than I used as a student. As a consequence I don't shoot HP5 as often in 35mm as the grain can be obtrusive, but this does depend on the subject matter (the images on this post are from 35mm negatives, unless indicated otherwise). Of course, 35mm film tends to stay in a camera longer than medium format, so while I might load a camera for taking low light shots, often the film is used up on other subjects entirely. However, I still use HP5 regularly in medium format, and being a traditional cubic-type emulsion, HP5 does has a particular look (which is difficult to define in words) and a great tonality I really like, especially when combined with a yellow filter for landscape work. By comparison, I've found Ilford's Delta films have a slightly 'harder' look to them (at least the 100 and 400 speed versions), and are more finickety in terms of exposure to get good results. I've only tried a couple of rolls of Kodak Tri-X, which I know lots of photographers love, but I prefer HP5.

Berlin from the Teufelsberg, HP5 (medium format, 6x9, with yellow filter) developed in Rodinal 1:25
Apart from the look of HP5, the main reason to use the film is its versatility: Ilford state it can be used at meter settings from 400 to 3200, and give a range from 250-3200 on their developing chart; I have inadvertently used it as low as 64. Ilford also mention its wide exposure latitude; it's described as 'bullet-proof' by Ag Photographic (the comparison to other 400 ISO films on Digital Truth appears to confirm this). I've personally found that the film takes overexposure well while retaining highlight detail. For example, a couple of long-exposure night shots from Paris appeared nearly white on the contact sheet compared to other frames on the roll, yet when scanned revealed much more detail than the contact promised.

Carreau du Temple, Paris, HP5 developed in Rodinal 1:50, 13m45s at 18ºC.
HP5's versatility does lend it to push processing. The Ilford fact sheet for HP5 recommends Ilfotec DDX/HC/RT Rapid or Microphen for push processing, none of which I've used. The two developers I have used with HP5 are ID11 when at college, and Rodinal. For the box speed of 400, I prefer the results using Rodinal diluted 1:25; however when rating the film at 1600, I've used a dilution of 1:100, stand developing the film for 2 hours or more. It may seem counter-intuitive, but push processing works best with plenty of light: low-light or night time scenes are often high contrast, with highly localised sources of light, and achieving shadow detail can be a problem.

Zinnowitzer Straße, HP5, push processed to EI 800 in Rodinal
Shepherd's Lane, HP5 push processed to 1600, stand developed in Rodinal 1:100, 2 hours 20 minutes
Liverpool Street Decorative Stonework, HP5 rated at 3200, developed in ID11 stock solution, 18m at 20ºC.
I rarely pull-process films of any kind, but I have shot HP5 at 64 ISO by accident. I thought my camera was loaded with outdated FP4 and exposed it at half of FP4's normal speed. I only realised my mistake when I took the film out of the camera. To compensate for the accidental over-exposure, I developed it at 100 ISO (the slowest rating on the Massive Dev Chart; the film could easily take a little more exposure, giving a slightly thicker negative). Incidentally, I shot the film in my Kodak Retina IIa, and didn't meter it in any way, relying on the 'sunny 16' rule (something I often do with manual cameras, partly out of laziness). Apart from accidents, I have occasionally used HP5 at EI 200 to reduce contrast. This can useful on bright sunny days with deep shadows, in spring or autumn, when the sun can be as bright as summer but the angle of the sun casts longer shadows; this isn't the case with the second image below, but the metal roof of the fire escape and the rendered wall are bright in comparison with the brick wall facing the street, and as such the subject benefits from a lower level of contrast.

Ceramic studio, HP5, rated 64, developed (as 100 ISO) in Rodinal 1:50 for 9mins at 20ºC.
Gate & Buddleia, HP5 (medium format, 6x9) pull processed to 200, developed in Rodinal 1:50
Through years of use and experimentation, I've come to appreciate all the qualities of HP5 which were those that appealed to the photojournalists the film was originally developed to cater for, without being aware of this. In film photography there's no one ideal film that covers all subjects, all lighting situations; even with the contraction of the market, there are still many different films available. This is, incidentally, one benefit of film photography: the ability to tailor film, and its development to the effects one wants to achieve. However, in the hypothetical position of only being able to choose one film to have with me for all eventualities, it would be HP5 Plus.

Gare de l'Est, HP5 (medium format), developed in Rodinal 1:25, 8 minutes
Klosterstraße, HP5 (medium format), developed in Rodinal 1:25, 8 minutes
Bocca Dell Verita, HP5 (medium format) developed in Rodinal

Friday, 13 July 2012

127 Day - 12th July 2012

Flooded Underpass, Baby Ikonta, Agfa Retro 80S
Having had a couple of months away from the darkroom, yesterday's 127 Day was the perfect excuse to shoot and develop some film. Unlike previous 127 Days, I wasn't at work in one form or another, so I wasn't constrained by that (in some respects constraints like this can help give shape to the day); with all the recent rain, the morning was bright and sunny, so I went out to shoot some film.

I took my Baby Ikonta, already loaded with out of date Efke R21 (now branded R100, the '21' relates to the film's DIN number, 100 being the equivalent ISO). I had a roll of Agfa Retro 80S, and a roll of Kodak Verichrome Pan, with an expiry date of 12/81. I also shot a second roll of Verichrome Pan with an expiry date of 1968 in the Foth Derby. All films were developed with Rodinal, the expired films were stand developed for 1 hour, at a dilution of 1:100 (the expired films were also rated at half their nominal speed).

Previously, I've had mixed results with expired Verichrome Pan. The roll of Verichrome Pan with the more recent expiry date wasn't stuck to the backing paper, unlike the older roll, a problem I've encountered before. The more recent film was packaged differently, with a sealed foil-backed wrapper: the older films were simply packaged in twisted foil paper, which may have let the film get damp at some point, although I have no knowledge of how either of the films had been stored through the years. The expired R21 had a similar problem, with a mottled texture on the negatives, possibly transferred from the backing paper.

Lea Bridge Road Station, Baby Ikonta, expired Efke R21
Argall Road Industrial Estate, Foth Derby, expired Verichrome Pan
Graffiti, Shadows, Baby Ikonta, expired Verichrome Pan
Forest Road, Baby Ikonta, Agfa Retro 80S
See more photographs from 127 Day in the Flickr 127 Format Group Pool

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Summer 127 Day

Having been engaged with other projects and not posted for some time, I am planning to shoot some film for next week's 127 Day - 12th July. Sadly, I don't have any more out-of-date FP4 in 127 format, but I do have a couple of rolls of 80S to shoot.

127 Format Group on Flickr

Friday, 4 May 2012

Stereocrafters Videon

Sterocrafters Videon 35mm stereo camera
I first became interested in stereo photography about ten years ago when I bought a couple of stereo cameras, the fairly well known Sputnik, a medium format camera, and this, the Videon, a 35mm camera. I don't have the camera any more, but I thought it might be worth writing it up in a blog post as there is relatively little about the Videon on the net (and much that is on the net isn't necessarily in English). I bought the camera, with a case, from a secondhand camera shop, before these were effectively wiped out by auction sites.

Stereo or stereoscopic photography is simply the means of taking pictures that replicate binocular vision, that is the impression of three dimensions achieved by combining the vision from two eyes which see from slightly different viewpoints (it is sometimes, inaccurately, referred to as '3D photography'). The easiest way to replicate this in photography is to have a camera with two lenses, roughly the same distance apart as human eyes, which take two photographs simultaneously. The two photographs then have to be viewed in such a way that the right eye only sees the right side image, and the left eye the left one. Stereo photography was invented just a few years after photography itself, and has experienced periods of popularity since. There was a post-war boom in 35mm stereo photography, from which the Videon dates (1953, according to Massimo Bertacchi's Innovative Camera site). It was made by Stereocrafters of Wisconsin; apart from a Videon II, it appears the company made no other models.

The Videon is simply and cheaply constructed. The body is moulded in two halves from bakelite, with pressed or stamped metal top and bottom plates, and the lenses and shutters housed in a metal surround. The lenses are Ilex "Stereon" f3.5 35mm anastigmats; the shutters are un-named, but perhaps also by Ilex, with a limited range of speeds, 1/100, 1/50, 1/25, 1/10 sec., and 'B' and 'T' settings. These are set by rotating a pin, one under each lens. Framing is by a simple viewfinder on the top plate, equidistant between the two lenses. Focus is manual by turning one or the other of the lenses, with a metal arm joining the two, and a V-shaped notch that indicates the focus on the scale.

The Videon takes 35mm film, loaded by sliding off the back and bottom plate. However, the image format, like most 35mm stereo cameras, is a non-standard size, c.24x25mm. After loading the frame counter is set manually; this goes up to 25, which are stereo pairs, i.e. 25 pairs of photographs. The counter is a simple rotating disc directly on the top plate, with nothing to stop it being accidentally turned, meaning it's very easy to lose one's place on the film. There is a release button next to the frame counter, which needs to be pushed forwards before the film is wound on - and also when rewinding the film.

Videon top plate, showing from left: rewind knob; depth of focus scale; viewfinder;
frame counter; wind release (shutter release above this); wind on knob.
As the scan below shows, the Videon frame advance winds the film after each exposure to take three pairs in a row, then has to wind on past the second set of three frames so as not to double expose them, and then take another three pairs of exposures. The image below also shows how narrow the image circles of the lenses are, leading to heavy (and uneven) vignetting in the corners. The exposures also overlap a little on the film at the edges. I imagine in practice the stereo pairs would be cropped down to avoid these flaws showing in the final prints. In practice, the brass sprockets in the camera easily tore the sprocket holes on the film, leading the film to frequently slip, and part-double exposures were not uncommon. Damage to the sprocket holes can be seen to the right hand side of the strip.

The stereo pair are the two outermost frames of the four pictures.
When I bought the Videon, I didn't have access to a darkroom, so generally used chromogenic black and white film, and had it developed and a contact sheet made, which I then scanned. I have recently scanned some of the negatives directly, which makes for better image quality. To view the images I convert the stereo pairs into anaglyphs, requiring red-green glasses for viewing.

Generalife, Alhambra, Spain - anaglyph from the pair on the strip above.
The anaglyphs are created in Photoshop, by selecting the red channel in the Channels palette (in RGB mode), then selecting the right hand of the stereo pair and moving it until it sits over the left hand image, and then cropping the whole. This does create a red-cyan image rather than red-green, but it works sufficiently well. This technique can also be used with colour images, but with less success perhaps.

Botanical Garden, Potsdam
Overall, I found the Videon to be less than reliable as a camera, mostly due to the winding on mechanism: when relying on taking two pictures at a time, frequently one half of a stereo pair would be partly obscured by a double exposure occurring, thus rendering the pair unusable for stereo purposes. However, compared to the Sputnik camera I've still got, it had certain advantages. Using 35mm film rather than medium format has its convenient aspects, which also meant the camera was more compact, and the Videon had an ever ready case with strap lugs (for some reason the designers of the Sputnik didn't conceive that users might want to put a strap on it to make it easier to carry around).

View in Naples
A Street in Naples

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