Restless for Film
I am impatiently waiting for a roll of film to be processed. Does anyone remember that feeling? It has been a few years since I last shot film, and I had forgotten the feeling of wanting to see the results. Sooner. Not later. Thank you very much.
I have to wait until Tuesday afternoon.
The other day I happened across this little camera in a thrift store, for the extravagant price of three dollars. It is the original Olympus Pen, a half-frame camera that is very basic, no light meter for instance. I am guessing that some of you might have owned one of these or the later models as they became popular throughout the 60’s and well into the 70’s.
The camera has 4 shutter speeds – 1/25th, 1/50th, 1/100th and 1/200th (and bulb). Since it is more than 50 years old I thought I should get the shutter checked. I took it to Camera Traders for a check up, a local store that does a lot of business on-line and has nice vintage camera gear. Unfortunately, it now only has two shutter speeds – 1/60th and 1/125th. But those are good options and I thought I would try it out. What I like about it is that it is small, really quite small, has good optics (by reputation anyway) and is thrifty with film (a roll of 36 exposure 35mm film will take 72 shots).
Another thing I like is the lack of light meter. My Gossen Lunasix-F is on walkabout and unlikely to return. So, this camera represents an opportunity to finally learn how to estimate exposure values without a light meter. I never did before as I always had a built-in light meter, and spare batteries too. But I think it is a good skill to have and after just a couple of sessions I notice I am more sensitive to subtle gradations in light and shadow. I got the camera on Thursday lunch break, had the shutter checked on Friday lunch break at which time I bought a roll of Fujifilm Neopan 100 and took some pictures on my way back to the office. Today I finished of the roll and took it in for processing. Now I am twiddling my thumbs all restless with impatience for Tuesday afternoon to roll around.
For exposure estimating, I used the Sunny 16 rule, which I had completely forgotten about. The rule starts you off with a bright sunny scene for which the aperture is f-16 and the shutter speed is the reciprocal of the film speed. So, I have shot at 1/100th on the dial most of the time (1/125th in reality) and adjusting the aperture depending on the degree of cloud or shade that I was shooting in. On Friday that is all I did, with some bracketing for luck.
Today I went out with my Canon 5Dii as well. I would arrive at a place I wanted to shoot, decide on an exposure, take the shot, and then I would take one with the DSLR. The digital was in shutter priority mode, set at 1/100th (not sure why I did not choose 1/125th, but it makes little difference) with an ISO of 100 and pattern metering mode. I would compare the exposure of that shot with what I took with the Pen, and then I would reset the Pen exposure, if needed, and shoot brackets from there. The idea was to see if there is the need to compensate the Pen exposures if I decide to go on using it, and to confirm my ‘guesses’ at exposure. I found my estimate was usually within one F-stop of the 5Dii metering, and frequently the same, which was very gratifying. However, I am still having trouble getting close when 4 or 5 f-stops away from the f-16 starting spot.
When I pick up the film, I still won’t know what I have as I am not good at reading negatives, and have never dealt with half-sized images. I have a good scanner and that is what I will be doing Tuesday evening. It is going to be interesting to see how it all works out. I will bring the results to you sometime next week – I am hopeful that they will be worthwhile, and that this camera can become something I use from time to time.
It has been fun shooting with this camera. It slows me down a lot, which is good. I have to think about the exposure, do some mental math and select the aperture and maybe also a different shutter speed. And, I have to remember to figure out the distance to the subject and set the focus. That is the least familiar part of this as I have never used a rangefinder camera before and the idea of estimating focus without seeing is going to take some getting used to. The 28mm lens will help on that front as it gives a pretty wind range of focus even at the widest aperture of f-3.5 (f-22 is the other extreme). Another thing I can imagine I will be forgetting is to set the number of exposures for the counter – this camera counts down from what ever I set and does not set automatically. One odd thing about the camera, which I found easy to adjust to, is that when the camera is held horizontally, in a normal way, the framing is in portrait mode. To get landscape you have to turn the camera on end which is a bit of an odd sensation after decades of the opposite.
This camera was designed for slow film, and with the shutter not fully functional the choices are even more limited. It is clear that if I use this camera I am going to have to shoot slow ISO film in brighter daylight conditions. Fortunately Camera Traders carries 25 and 50 ISO B&W film, though it could get expensive. Anyway, mustn’t get ahead of myself here – the image quality may not be good enough, the waiting and hassle of scanning might be an obstacle, there could be light leaks, or some other issue that makes the camera not worth using. I can hardly wait to see!
The camera came with its original lenshood, which I take it is a highly collectible accessory. It also has an original Olympus Skylight 1A filter so the lens itself is in perfect condition.
Canon 5Dii, Canon 50/1.4 lens, f1.4-f2.0, 1/60th – 1/40th, natural light, hand-held