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Wide is the new narrow

in Hasselblad XPan , Thursday, August 29, 2013

I’m besides myself with excitement as I announce that snowhenge.net has just had a minor facelift.  A few little twirls here and there, but mainly I’ve rebuilt the photo gallery part to improve the display of photos, and in particular, the XPan panoramic photos which are closest to my heart.

At the same time I’ve updated all the panoramic galleries with higher resolution versions, perfect for pirating. Well, for pirates with low standards, anyway. I’ve also revised the selections for the Iceland and Antarctic galleries, and added a brand new 13 year retrospective set, featuring an ad hoc selection from my archive.

Oh, and it won’t work in antique versions of Internet Explorer anymore. At last.

Snowhenge dot net photography other stuff gallery

I hope you can spend a few minutes exploring these new and revised galleries.  Do let me know what you think.

Posted in category "Hasselblad XPan" on Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 09:02 PM

(Black & White Slide) Film’s Not Dead

in Film , Monday, June 17, 2013

I’ve always been aware of the existence of Agfa Scala film, but never got around to using it. I even had a few rolls, with prepaid processing at Joe’s Basement in Soho, London. Both are now gone. Well, at least that’s what the internet says. Joe’s, certainly, sadly shut up shop quite a while ago, and Agfa-Gevaert discontinued Scala around 2004, I think, shortly before parachuting out of the photography business altogether. There are still a few rolls floating around on eBay or elsewhere with a process by data of 2009. So that’s it … or is it ? Because, strangely, I have in front of me a 5 pack of Agfa Scala 200X, produced, apparently, by AgfaPhoto, in Leverkussen, Germany, and with a quite healthy expiry date of October 2014.

So what’s so special about this film ? Well, first, it is one of the very, very few black & white reversal films (“slide films” to you & me) ever produced. It is nominally rated at ISO 200, but can be used up to 1600 with no problem (although apparently not if it is expired). Second, it produces smooth, crisp photos with a very wide tonal range and a sensitivity that touches on the infrared. Third, and most important, it a niche within a niche on an obscure periphery, and totally and utterly pointless in 2013. And its provenance is a little mysterious. Therefore, irresistible.

I was a little bit nervous about using it - I’m a complete novice when it comes to black & white film, but then on the other hand, it is essentially a slide film, which I’m quite familiar with. Anyway, I loaded the first roll into my XPan, rated it a 400 ISO and just trusted it’s ever reliable meter, and tweaking it up by half a stop, just so that I felt in control. And I wandered around the upper part of Colle di Val d’Elsa in Tuscany and took a few photos. Twenty one, to be precise.

Untitled

My first 18 Agfa Scala panoramic shots, including 2 fantastic shots of the inside of a lens cap. Aren’t rangefinders great ?

Scanning Agfa Scala is easy, just so long as you don’t use any kind of infra-red cleaning (like Digital ICE or LIDE). I discovered this to my cost after about 15 time consuming HDR scans.  And HDR scanning (in Silverfast terminology) is also not really necessary in this case.  Also, don’t trust auto focus. Otherwise, no problem. I scanned at 16 bit grayscale - there might be some advantage to 48 bit RGB, but I haven’t had time to experiment. Here are a few examples:

Xpan toscana1305 sl 02
Xpan toscana1305 sl 05
Xpan toscana1305 sl 15
Xpan toscana1305 sl 20
Of course, these are reduced down to 590 pixels wide. The scans are 12500 pixels wide, and the detail is pretty amazing. So, although I’m very, very late to the party, it’s not over yet, and I’m discovering that Scala 200X is fun to use.  What its status or future is, I really don’t know, and neither, it seems, does the internet. Although it carries AgfaPhoto branding, and AgfaPhoto acquire trademark and marketing rights over a range of Agfa Films (see here, although word has it that Agfa CT Precisa 100 is none other than my old friend Fuji Provia 100F in disguise), Scala 200XT is not mentioned on the website.  So, I’m going to buy a few more rolls while I can.  You can too, but only if you email me to ask for the details, I’m not making that mistake again! Processing is still carried out by a number of labs in Europe at least, including Studio 13 in Zürich.
Posted in category "Film" on Monday, June 17, 2013 at 11:11 PM

Lee RF75 polariser on Hasselblad XPan

in GAS , Friday, May 17, 2013

This is a quick note which will be of interest to almost nobody, except perhaps the person who asked about it on Flickr, but whatever, I’m in a public service kind of mood.

A while ago I invested in the Lee RF75 filter system, which fits nicely on both my Hasselblad XPan and Olympus micro four thirds lenses.  My source for this kind of equipment is the ever reliable Robert White.

On their website they state:

“The RF75 will take 2 filters as standard and can be adjusted to take a single filter to enable its safe use on the widest angle lenses, like a 30mm on the Hasselblad XPan.”

However, I’ve found to my cost that this is not 100% accurate, at least not when using the RF75 clip-on polariser. Skipping the point that using a polariser on a ultra wide angle lens is not always a good idea - at least not if you’re using it for the basic make-the-sky-prettier application - unfortunately it is not safe on the XPan 30mm lens.

The examples below are straight uncorrected scans direct to JPG.

Evidence, case 1.  The “blue sky” test.

Rf75 1 30mm 2slot

XPan 30mm lens, clip-on polariser, RF75 holder as shipped with two filter slots. Extremely intrusive.

Rf75 1 30mm 1slot

XPan 30mm lens, clip-on polariser, RF75 holder with one filter slot. Still some intrusion, but salvageable (not that you’d want the sky looking like that. This is a TEST!).

Evidence, case 2, Vegetation, reflections test - something you might conceivably want to do even at 30mm.

Rf75 2 30mm 2slot

XPan 30mm lens, clip-on polariser, RF75 holder as shipped with two filter slots. Extremely intrusive.

Rf75 2 30mm 1slot

XPan 30mm lens, clip-on polariser, RF75 holder with one filter slot. Still some intrusion, barely noticeable in this case. Probably you’d get away with it in this kind of scenario

So, in conclusion, the RF75 polariser can be used on the XPan 30mm, but you need to remove all but one filter slot, and be very careful. And take a safety shot without it on.

This is really an extreme case, and is in no way a criticism of either the Lee RF75 (or the similar “7” system) or of the Robert White team. They’re both excellent.

p.s. - there is no issue using the polariser on either the 45mm or 90mm lens, or indeed any Olympus lenses I’ve tried it on. This, I repeat, is an extreme case.

Posted in category "GAS" on Friday, May 17, 2013 at 12:43 PM

Using the Belairgon lens

in Film , Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Just a quick note, as I don’t have a lot of time right now, but I have now received and made quick scans of the first films I shot using the mighty Belair Belairgon 114mm lens hand-welded in Russia from genuine ex-Soyuz engine nozzles.

The results are sort of heading in the direction of encouraging, at least in the sense that they indicate it my be possible to consider the Belair 6x12 as a valid photographic tool in ideal circumstances.  There are hints that something like acceptable sharpness can be obtained, but the total lack of any real control over shutter speed (apart from being certain it’s never going over 1/125th, which is fairly tragic for a 114mm lens on a medium format camera) means that it’s not going to work terribly well hand held.

I also had “fat film” problems which each of the 5 rolls of Velvia 100 I put through it.  I had better luck - perhaps helped by the camera modifications I made - with a subsequent batch of Lomo negative film, but I haven’t seen that yet. And, well, Lomo negative film… hmm.  I also used a tripod. We shall see.

Anyway, the Belairgon 114mm does actually seem worth at least a little perseverance. The scans here are absolutely not optimised, just quick default scans on a flatbed Canoscan 9000F at 2400dpi.  When I have time I’ll see if they’re worth film scanner time.

Bel set2 02
Bel set2 04

Bel set2 05

 

Posted in category "Film" on Wednesday, May 08, 2013 at 05:21 PM

From Russia with love

in Product reviews , Saturday, April 27, 2013

Well, well, look what DHL dropped off yesterday. A brand new Lomography Belair “Belairgon” 114mm lens, apparently hand machined from a solid block of aluminium by Zenith in Russia.

The packaging is quite impressive, and the lens is built like, well, something Russian. It’s quite hefty, and apart from back lens cap, which is standard Lomography low grade plastic sh*t, generally it gives a good impression. Very firm but fluid movement, well put together. Unfortunately, the companion viewfinder is of the same type as the standard Belair lenses, so absolutely hopeless. Actually, it’s worse, as for some incomprehensible reasons the hipster designers have coloured it some virulent shade of orangey-red on the inside, which reflects in the (dim and blurry) view. Awesome.

So, first impressions, without having actually used it yet, are of a lens built to a standard way above the body it fits on to. Next step will be to see if it can actually rescue the Belair by delivering some decent photos.

Personally I find “Zenith. Russia” far sexier than “Lomography”....

The focus scale is far more useful than the one on the plastic lenses. Due to the Belair design, there are only 2 aperture settings, f/8 and f/16, which is fairly useless. Coupled with the lack of any manual exposure setting, there is a strong element of chance with any Belair shot, which I suppose is what “lomography” is all about. But “spray and pray” gets pretty expensive when you’re dealing with 120 format film.

Posted in category "Product reviews" on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 03:07 PM

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