Monday, May 23, 2022

Canon 7 film experiment

Those who have been following along know that a few months ago I picked up a Fujica GW690 film camera, and have been out with it several times. The most recent trip was Lesueur ridge walk. Those shots are part way through the roll. I'm hoping to finish the roll this weekend and see what I got. This is a rangefinder style, which I find is fun to use, though I'm still coming to trust the distance scales on the lens.

But I'd been thinking that a similar style camera for 35 mm film would be fun, and easier to deal with in an urban setting, or under less composed circumstances. Plus, it's easier to experiment with a film or exposure technique when there's 36 shots, rather than 8. 

The most well known choice is a Leica. Even non-photographers know the name. Most photographers know that some of the most famous photographers used them. They are considered to be some of the most desirable cameras to own and use because of their superb build quality. Many people think they are the most perfect camera of that style yet produced, and are often the standard by which others are measured.

The only problem is that they are expensive. Really expensive. Now, I'm a firm believer in the idea that you often get what you pay for, and that buying cheap is a false economy. But this is over the top. I have held in my hands a Leica about my age old, and could have bought it. (Let's not say too loud it looks much better than me, with far less wear and tear.) The body and a good lens were north of $5000. Yes, 3 zeros. 

I continued my research, and came up with the Canon P and Canon 7. They're of a similar vintage and considered excellent quality. There were others on the list as well. So during the most recent trip to the store in Longview with the Leica I asked if he ever came across either of those two in his travels. As it turns out he had two Canon 7 cameras in stock. The camera, a lens, some film, and some other odds and ends was less than $1000. (As a side note, if you know that store, and are burning to buy a Leica, be advised he knows perfectly well what he has there, and doesn't haggle.)

Now imagine putting the same kind of film into the 7 and that Leica, and carefully taking the same shot with each. Same settings and everything. Develop the films in the same batch of fluids. Scan or print them as identically as possible. Even experienced photographers would have trouble identifying which image was shot by which camera. Which is another illustration of why the photographer is the important part of the image taking equation, not the camera.

When I got home I told Linda I had saved more than $4000, and if I did this every day, I'd make far more than when I was working. Except, as she gently reminded me, it doesn't work like that. Sigh. For the photographers out there, the lens is a Canon 50 mm f1.4. Please don't drool on it.

Here's both cameras posed on a pile of film, the Canon 7 on the left.

I started off with some Visions3 50D cinema film wound into a 35mm canister. This is a film that loves colour, so I loaded some up on a sunny day and went looking. I was trying to be careful of the settings (pretty much dead on what the light meter and sunny 16 advised) and how the camera felt in my hands. Overall I was astonished at how vivid the colours are! Tweaking the white balance was a bit tricky, but these are shot with a DSLR, and run through NegativeLabPro with pretty much the default settings. 

Here's some of the photos. 

1. Those yellows!


3. For me, one of the tests of how a photo looks is how it handles green. We all know what grass, and plants, and trees look like. Pushing the settings to get an 'artistic' effect can sometimes drive those greens into looking strange. Do these look strange to you? I thought not.

4. The chairs, blue vases, and the stone wall look like this in life under strong sunlight.

5. I've never really liked digital reds, but I swooned when I saw this garden decoration. That is exactly what colour it is. I can't wait for the red peony to bloom.

6. An attempt to produce art out of shipping containers, but the colours are very true to life.

7. More industrial colour. I think it's been a while since it was painted. Or cleaned.

8. Our car is that blue.

9. The graffiti  really pops, although remember the orange.

10. More graffiti, no tweaking required.

11. Yes, it really is that lurid.

12. My one downcheck. Remember the orange above? I remember these scooters being a similar orange. Yet they come out as a peculiar red orange, and nothing I did would change that.

Am I going to get more of this? Maybe. I love the colour, but I'm still getting a grip on what Ektar 100 looks like, and I want to shoot some of the new Kodak Gold, and I just picked up some Fujifilm Superia 200. The downside of the cinema film is that it takes a specialty developer process, ECN-2, and my lab has a two roll minimum for it. 

At the moment I've got Ektar 100 loaded in both cameras, so I'll probably take them both out and try to do at least one photo of the same scene, using equivalent settings. 

Am I loving the Canon 7? Yes. More than the GW690? Not more. I'm thinking they'll be used for different kinds of photography.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

A city walk in film

My intent was mainly to go for a film walk with friends. It's always more fun with friends. Kelly had to bow out at the last moment, but Cam and Ann came along. Cam was shooting infrared, Ann was shooting both film and digital, and I only brought the GW690 and 2 rolls of Ilford Delta 100. I was looking for contrast and texture, and places where there's some detail to see how it shows up, although I'm still getting the hang of B&W. I put a yellow filter on the lens. 

We met up in Kensington mid-morning. The day started cloudy, and gradually cleared. It ended up being a lovely day to stroll and look for photos. I took careful notes so if you really want the settings, and ask nice, I'll tell you.

If you've skipped ahead you know there are only 12 images, out of the 16 you were expecting. No, I'm not holding out on you. I blew focus on one of them, even though I was trying really hard. Maybe I moved the camera a smidge. I don't have a lot of luck shooting up at buildings so far.  Two of them were the same shot with different settings and neither worked out, not even a little bit. And the last was another skyline shot with different settings. Trying to expose to bright and dark clouds is tricky.

These are generally fairly lightly edited in both Negative Lab Pro and Lightroom. I'm still trying to get a feel for how much to edit film photographs, and which program to do it in. There were only a few dust spots and one hair to deal with.

1. I was liking the tangle of vine stalks on one side of the window, and the shadow of the tree on the other, but I didn't 'see' the vertical shadow. Then I saw it on the negative and wondered what had happened. I'm pleased with it as a focus exercise, and to get a grip on the detail the lens can capture on film.

2. The textures of the white wall, the concrete, and the newspapers caught my attention, but somehow the photo doesn't capture what I saw.

3. We all loved this house. It took forever to get the shot because there was a group of kids picking up garbage along the sidewalk, and they hung out in just the wrong place. I'm not sure what the pentagonal reflection above the door is, but the same thing showed up in the Plaza shot later, so I'm wondering if there's something on the lens or yellow filter that catches the light just like that.

4. This really should have been a colour shot. 

5. Cam working on an idea.

6. One of the better images from the day. I liked the contrast between the two buildings and the trees. Kind of a pity I didn't have someone posing in front of the gate, but they would have been tiny in any case. That building on the right was dark, and it took a bit of doing to brighten that up, (and nothing else) to bring up the texture of the brick. The detail in the tree branches is just amazing! Embiggen and enjoy.

7. This image turned out exactly like I envisioned it! I loved the play of light on the stairwell and door, and I'd love to try to convince you I saw the hand rail and shadow alignment. This is my winner from the two rolls.

8. I wasn't in quite the right spot for this shot, but there was a car in the way. The difficulties of street photography and all. 

9. There's that pentagon of light again. This was one of the shots I wanted to get from the walk, and it's mostly what I envisioned. I needed a bit wider of a lens, but the other problem is that they've parked an Airstream trailer just out of frame on the right. I just thought of this; I don't have a lens hood, so maybe the solution would be to have someone holding something so the camera is in shade. Or I could clean the lens and filter really well.

10. Photographers have taking black and white portraits since forever, and I wanted to see how this film would work out. We're in pretty direct sunlight, and in hindsight, I should have got a bit closer. I'm pleased about how the skin tones and textures are handled. We actually got a tour of the Plaza and chatted to the nice lady running it, and she was happy to pose with Cam and Ann. I'm not sure if she is the manager or the owner. Their coffee is good. 

As a side note, Linda and used to go there all the time, back in the day. We'd get their magazine and plan out the month taking the movie showings into consideration. I can no longer recall when we stopped, but I suspect it was late 90's or so, when we started ballroom dancing lessons. 

I'm glad to see that someone bought it after the former owners sold, and hope these guys can make a go of it. I sometimes wonder how movie theatres are still in business when you consider the amazing technologies available now to watch just about any movie or TV show ever made, at any time you like, in the comfort of your own home, with the sound at a comfortable level, and being able to hit pause whenever the bio-pressures make it necessary. But then, why did I let people know I was going for this walk? Like I said, it's more fun with friends.

11. You're probably wondering what the heck is going on here. This used to be a Mexican restaurant at the corner of Memorial and 10th st. I don't know what else it might have been. I'm shooting through the filthy window, trying to get both the reflection of the intersection behind me, and some of the interior details. I'm pretty pleased at how it turned out, since I had no expectations.

12. I ended the walk with 4 shots left. The next day I was off to find them. I was thinking about Strathcona Ravine, but I couldn't figure out where to park. I had to go into the Signal Hill mall anyway, and saw the giant numbers behind it. At the same time I was looking at the dramatic clouds, with a little hole to see some of the mountains. I walked up the hill to the lookout point and tried a couple shots with different exposures. I'm not going to show you those. They're mostly grey clouds with no definition, though my eyes could see it. Even the digital shots didn't show any detail.

Two shots to go. This is a spot I knew existed, and had almost been to it before, stymied by snow. Another try produced this view, which I was  quite pleased by. I used the light meter and took several digital photos trying to figure out exposure and composition. I did better here than the mountain view.

I'm not entirely sure what I think of this. I've done lots of skyline shots, but this is almost more a cloud shot than skyline. (For those that don't know, Calgary is an amazing city for skyline shots. They can be had from almost every direction.) The buildings kind of blend into the the ground, rather than stand out from them, yet trying to brighten them up didn't go so well. Nor am I convinced this composition is good, but just cropping doesn't seem to make it any better. What do you think?

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