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Opticfilm 120 revisted

in Scanning , Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The day I got back from Colombia, just after I stumbled out of bed, very jet-lagged, the postman delivered a large box. Inside it was a replacement Plustek Opticfilm 120. Back in October I had discovered that the month-old original was producing a long streak in the infrared channel, contaminating the “iSRD” dust and scratch removal. Plustek tech support identified the cause as dust inside the optics, and said that the scanner needed to be returned for servicing. Unfortunately Plustek do not have formal distribution in Switzerland, so it had to go back to the dealer, under warranty.  It took a while, but this wasn’t too noticeable as I was away for over 3 weeks. And eventually I received a completely new scanner, directly from Taiwan.

Apart from this issue, I was satisfied enough with the first copy. But the second seems actually to be better. Looking at film grain, the focussing, which was ok with the old one, is a little better. And the iSRD now works fine, also, so far (touch wood) with no alignment problems (possibly also thanks to improvements in Silverfast v8.2). Multisampling still doesn’t work, due to slight alignment (or possibly blooming) issues. But in any case, I don’t see any improvement in density with slide film.  The single sampling DMax seems quite adequate in this case. Possibly it is more effective with negative film - I’ll try again one day.

Anyway, at least this justifies one key argument in favour of the Opticfilm 120 over an old Minolta or Nikon scanner - warranty, dealer and manufacturer support.

I’ve been able to quickly deal with a small backlog of film to scan - editing digital files from Colombia will have to wait.

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Bachalpsee, Grindelwald, Switzerland

For now I haven’t got much planned, film photography-wise.  My stocks of E100G are almost exhausted.  Hopefully they will stretch until the first rolls of Ferrania’s new slide film turn up.

Back from Bogotá

in Travel , Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Things have been quiet around here for a while. I was away in Colombia and wasn’t much in the mood for blogging or indeed any kind of connectivity. As was well stated outside a vividly decorated bar in Cartagena, “no tenemos WI-FI, hablen entre ustedes”.

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one out of many good reasons to go to Colombia

Colombia is just plain fantastic. Incredible landscapes, huge variety in climate, friendly, helpful and fun people. It’s also huge, and 3 weeks barely scratches the surface. The main purpose of the trip was travel, vacation and relaxation, but I did nevertheless manage to find time to take 1,649 photos (and 3 videos), some of which will doubtless emerge in various channels in the coming weeks and months.

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Film’s not dead in Colombia

Hasta mas tardes…

Hello (again) Ricoh

in Ricoh , Monday, November 10, 2014

Just under 2 years ago I became unwillingly separated from my Ricoh GRD4 due to a bit of carelessness in Buenos Aires and some anonymous Argentinian who doubtlessly is now roasting in hell for his/her misdemeanours. This interrupted something like 14 years of continuously using Ricoh GR series cameras. Although I had (and still have) a GRD2, it was falling apart and frequently refused to work. I adored the look of the “new GR” when it first came out, but it was a bit too expensive for me.

But no more. Thanks to a very low special offer from Digitec here in Switzerland, I am now the new owner of an APS-C sensor Ricoh GR, quite a different proposition from the GRD4 from an image quality point of view (although not always necessarily better) but with the same fantastic usability, design and build quality. And I’ve got it just in time for our next Latin America jaunt, to Colombia, where discretion is highly advisable. Hopefully it won’t get “liberated” like its predecessor.

Ricoh group

GRs old and new - the GR1S film camera, GRD2 digital, and new GR.

Due to the large sensor and subsequent shallower depth of field, it isn’t quite as forgiving in use as the the GRDs.  Closer in a way to the film GR, and also closer in size.  But from my first hurried attempts in grim weather, it gives great results. And it fits in my pocket.

All the photos here are pretty much straight from camera…no time for faffing around right now.

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Stylejacking

in Film , Thursday, November 06, 2014

In film circles, Kodak Portra 400 is a very popular choice. Actually there’s not all that many alternatives left these days, but even if there were, I suspect Portra 400 would still have a considerable following. Based on the name, I always assumed that the film was designed for portraiture, and as I’m not really into that, I never really tried it. I think I used a few rolls of Portra 800 many years ago to shoot a flamenco show, and that’s about it. But it also has developed a following in landscape circles, where it seems to be the anti-Velvia option.

As a negative film, Portra lends itself very much to broad daylight photography, unlike most slide film, given soft, luminous, pastel tones. I’ve read advice to overexpose it, so I did so, using it in my Xpan with +1 stop exposure compensation. The fun thing about this film is that it seems almost impossible to burn the highlights. On the other hand, the shadow density is a bit weak.

One drawback of negative film is that it can be very trick to scan. However in this case, using the Silverfasrt Portra “NegaFix” profile worked pretty well straight out of the box. As you can in a previous post, the overall colour compared to an E100G slide film shot is pretty close.

Here are a few examples, shot in and around Dorgali and Oristana in wonderful Sardinia:

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This was possibly the first time I’ve really set out to mimic a style. It seemed to work out quite well. However, as enjoyable as it was, it’s not really me. I’d just better remember to reset the exposure compensation on the XPan before I go back to slide film!

 

Sigma Merrill: good in parts

in Photography , Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On a few days wandering around the trails of Grindelwald, under the shadow of the Eiger, I decided to take my Sigma DP2 Merrill out for another outing.  Although it’s a nice camera to use - at least I find it to be - it is ultimately so frustrating that sometimes I’m tempted to just bin it.

In good conditions, which for the Sigma means flat, diffuse light, it is an absolute dream. It produces colours so real they’re surreal, and detail which just goes on and on without getting overwrought or artificial.

But, Lord help me, point it any kind of interesting sky, or indeed snow, and it’s a total lottery.  This, below, for example. Is the sky that colour on your planet ? Does it have gorgeous purple rainbows in the corners ?

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But then again, what camera that size could extract this kind of detail ? The Eiger ridge Mittelegi Hut is clearly visible at 100% zoom. You can even see the light.

Eiger detail2

In more subdued light, it really can be quite remarkable…

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...but on the whole, it’s just too unpredictable, and using it has a feel of being different for the sake of being different. The experiment of using it in Antarctica was a disaster, and although probably I’d do a bit better with it now, last weekend’s outing underlined that wintery landscapes can really trip it up badly. The white balance goes so wrong that it is near unrecoverable.

It some surroundings it is great - along with it’s sibling DP3, it has let me produce some very satisfying photos of Venice. But otherwise, it’s too risky to rely on. I doubt I’ll be buying the new Sigma Quattro.

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