I used to have a Zenit 12XP with a Helios 44-2 lens bought brand spanking new in 1989. This was long before I was into photography proper. I bought it because you had to if you wanted to take pictures. It was a tank and went all round Europe with me plus a while in London. Then it went into a box in the attic for the next twenty years. I threw it out a few years ago thinking I'll never use it, I'll get a DSLR or use my phone if I ever want to take snaps. Oh am I regretting that day.
Move forward a couple of years, inspired by my brother Peters love of film, and I went for the top of the range last of the pro Canon EOS1HS V 35mm film cameras. That's another tank as well. Weighs a ton but is by far the most ergonomic camera I've ever held. Even my brother agrees and he has a Nikon F4. It fits like a glove. Why on earth aren't my 6D or 70D like it!! It's also a 10fps beast. Waste a 36 exposure roll in under 4 seconds, scary!!
Move forward a bit more and I was never really in love with 35mm, seemed a bit small and didn't use it much at all. Then I heard about medium format and the game was up. Like a moth to a flame it all seemed to just slot into place and I was in. Big, noisy, show off, not too expensive and to cap it all Pentax made one, well three to be precise along with lovely smooth and brilliant Takumar lenses. Oh how could I resist.
I already had a 135mm f4 Macro which I had got with an adapter for use on my 6D but never really took to it. The camera I managed to get was a very abused 6x7 MkI with a huge 55mm f3.5 lens. The back had a vacuum unit for astronomy work. It was cheap and with the back from another spares one I had a working camera. Unfortunately it wasn't the mirror lock up version and it was a bit passed it with poor film transport and indexing plus a possible light leak not to mention no meter and a cracked diopter lens. This little combo is now with my brother Peter who will make good use of it i'm sure. But I was hooked and got a good deal on a nice 67 MkII and a 105mm f2.4 lens. What a world apart. The MkII is a different beast all together with a hand grip and proper 6 segment zonal meter plus lots of other modern bells and whistles. So I was set with a good camera and three lenses covering most of the lengths I wanted.
So on with the gear itself....................
Pentax 67 MkII
A beauty of a camera. It's big, it's bold, it's beautiful. As I have said it's a world apart from the MkI. I would highly recommend you get this version over the MkI if only for the hand grip. As you can see from the last picture the MkI has nothing to grab onto. It's too much of a weight not to have anything. Go for the MkII
The beat up old MkI pre MLU - It served it's purpose with no regrets and has gone to a new home with my brother.
Takumar 105mm f2.4
A fantastic lens famed for it's bokeh. I do love it but it's not my usual. As with all Takumar lenses these are all wonderfully built and with the increase in size over the 35mm ones it shows even more. This is the equivalent of a 50mm in the 35mm world.
Takumar 55mm f3.5
This is a whopper! It's got a 100mm filter ring on the front which there are a few filters available but impossible to find. The first picture shows it with the 35mm equivalent 28mm Takumar lens and hood. This lens is now with my brother as I was getting a bit fed up of the weight and size.
Takumar 55mm f4
The replacement for the f3.5 version above. A little more sensible with a 'tiny' 77mm filter ring and a newer version in general. Good news is I have got a polarising filter for it as they are more common. This is the lens I usually plump for when out. Odd that as in 35mm equivalent I'm mostly using 50mm or there abouts.
Takumar 135mm f4 Macro
And finally this one. Not used often but still a nice one to have. The macro element isn't much to shout about as it's about 1:2 if I remember correctly so your not going to get very close to anything. It's good for flowers etc and a general portrait type lens. It comes out once in a while.
I haven't used the waist view finder much as I'm happy to use the meter on the pentaprism but handy to have. The polarising filters are a must in my view. Use them pretty much all the time. the 67mm dia are very plenty and cheap so your ok with most of the lenses such as the 135mm and 105mm above. The 55mm takes a 77mm which are a little harder to find but still out there. If you have the 55mm f3.5 with a 100mm ring your shagged. There isn't one and good luck finding any of the other filters Pentax made for it.
Waist view finder and Polarising filters
In a bid to delve into the world of macro with the Pentax I got a set of extension tubes and a x2 converter. With all this lot strapped together and a 28mm baby Takumar 35mm lens from the other collection I managed to get to the ridiculous magnification of 14:1 This is the Queens eye from a £20 note!
Queens eye through the view finder
The bits laid out. The tubes are tubes, what can you say. The reversing adaptor is specifically made for the Takumar 49mm filter lenses. Nice bit of kit. The x2 converter is oddly coloured grey and doesn't even match the colour of the big lenses. Odd that.
And heres it all cobbled together and in action
Do I want anything else? Well I would like the 35mm f4 Fisheye but have you seen the price of those things?
Guess what I've got!!
Takumar 35mm f4.5 Fisheye
An absolute bargain compared to usual probably because it looks like it's been kicked down the street a few times. Having said that it's a Takumar so apart from a few scratches it works perfectly. There is one scratch and one dink on the lens but nothing major and wont show in the pics. There are three versions and this is the mid Super Multi Coated one. The early one is only Multi Coated and the later is a rubber gripped SMC version (Like the 55mm and 105mm above). They are all the same optically. There are 4 filters built in and selected by a ring. These being UV, Yellow, Orange and Red. I do like a Fisheye. So versatile and can give amazing results.
For comparison next to my M42 mount 17mm f3.5 Takumar Fisheye
Theres a rather nice 165mm f4 winging it's way from Japan as we speak............ erm and a nice set of extension tubes for the macro................. Don't want anything else I promise...............
And here it is...........
Takumar 165mm f2.8
Another lovely lens from Pentax. I like this even though it's technically a bit 'long' for me. Approximately 80mm equivalent in 35mm speak. It's an excellent portrait lens despite the minimum focal length being about 8 feet. This and the 105mm are my 'go to' lenses at the moment. The f2.8 is rather handy as well. Pentax your old lenses have never disappointed me yet!
Now that really IS all I'm going to get. Promise. I have all I want!!
But what about 35mm?
I haven't completely forgotten about 35mm. There is a project involved called 'One camera, one lens, one film.
The camera is a wonderful little (Remember I'm used to a Pentax 67ii) Canon A-1 with a rather nice Canon 50mm f1.4 SSC lens. I had the notion to get a 35mm camera after I realised I had the 50mm lens sitting in a draw for ages. I had got it for a song on Ebay. It had a stuck aperture and the idea was to practice repairing lenses and this was going to be a tester. The test went well and after an hour it was working perfectly and has ever since. Unfortunately as you may know these cameras and lenses were of the FD fitting. A complicated system by Canon. Even more unfortunately due to the film back distance you can't use them via adaptors on modern Canon EF cameras. You can on Mirrorless ones though. So there it was useless in a draw. This is where the plan evolved as above. Not, of course, an excuse to buy another camera oh no! After reading all about which one to get I went for an AE-1 Program. I hated it! Ergonomically it's as nice as any 35mm film camera can be. There are lots of features I would add to the A-1 but the control settings don't suit me. It's auto mode is either fully or TV (Time Value) which means it changes the fstop to get the exposure. I'm an AV (Aperture Value) sort of guy. The hunt was on again. The F-1 was out my range and I didn't fancy such a big thing anyway. There are loads of this FD range but I plumped for the '5D' of it's day. The A-1. It's got everything a modern day digital camera has less all the nonsense that you need for sorting out the digital element. I was sorted, a pack of Delta 400 was purchased and I was off. I had no options just use what I've got.
At the moment I'm still finding my ammo of choice in the world of colour. So far there has been Fujichrome Velvia 100 and Provia 100 for colour slide. I'm erring on the side of Provia at the moment but that may swing back to Velvia who knows. I like slide for some reason. Possibly because you can 'Lightroom' it easier. Down side is you need to get your exposures smack on however up to now they all seem to come out ok. For colour negative I've got Fujicolor Pro 160NS. I really do like the look of colour film in all it's guises and will be trying it a lot more.
As for B&W there is only Ilford. I've mostly been using Delta 100 & 400. I have shot a roll or two of HP5 but will stick to Delta. I like the tones you get from Delta so why change. I did dabble with Kodak TMX 100 but not too keen on it.
It's funny how you just 'like' stuff. It's not as if there's anything actually wrong with any of the films you try it's just something that looks right be it contrast or cast or saturation. Each to they're own and all that. I prefer high contrast so Provia suits me well. Velvia is nice but I don't like that much contrast!
A lot of people consider colour film photography as not 'real photography' however I disagree entirely. I love the colours you get, there is just something richer than digital and as for comparing it to Black and White then you shouldn't. They are two different worlds that use different methods to convey your art.
There's an App for that! It would be nice to have a dedicated light meter but a good one costs as much as a camera and is just something else to carry around. I've tried a few apps for my Android and settled on this one called Light Meter Tools. A couple of quid and it's yours if you don't want the adverts. I've tested all of them against my 6D and 70D readings along with other tests and it gives exactly the same readings every time so how 'out' can it be!
Oh boy is this a pain!! I've tried all sorts of ways but in the end I plumped for a Canon Canoscan 9000f Mk2. It comes with film holders and scans anything from prints to negatives to colour slides in all shapes and sizes through the software you get. You'd think that was it wouldn't you. Oh no you haven't even started yet. I also forked out on Vuescan Pro software, Betterscanning 120 film holder and Velvia 100 calibration slide.
This is the scanner. Nice bit of kit for the money
It comes with a medium format scanning frame but was never happy with it as it suspends the film above the bed. This means it can buckle easily and doesn't give good results. I splashed out on a Better scanning frame complete with Anti-Newton-Ring glass and little adjuster feet to get the best focus. Experimenting I found that the best focus was with the film flat on the bed glass with the ANR glass on top. The frame from the Betterscanning was redundant. I rigged up a template on the glass and got good results.
Better Scanning frame on the left and the Canon frame on the right
Masking tape template direct on glass to position the film and the ANR glass in place
I had a plan! I got some nice thick black rubber and cut a proper template that the film and glass sits in. Works a treat and is very quick. I use the little card which you can see in the pic above to take out the film.
Final rubber frame with ANR glass plate
Quite simple really. Place film on glass, place ANR glass on top, close lid and scan. Well thats where the simplicity ends. You scan it through Vuescan with all settings nice and flat and output it as a TIFF. Then you open it in Photoshop and change the gamma between 2.0 and 2.8 depending on scan. Plus invert it if it's a negative. Save it as a TIFF again and open it in Lightroom and modify as usual. It's taken about eighteen months to get here. Thanks to this guy who gives the basics of what I do.
Thats it. This is my gear and how I do it. Keep popping back to Manualfocusuk.com where there will be regular posts on film. Thanks for reading.