New Year, More Gear- 1st Roll with The Nikon N55

Now with the holidays out of the way, a New Year’s resolution is to publish more of what I have shot, and keep the blog more updated. Reading some of what is posted online, there are many excuses as to why a blog suddenly becomes dormant or orphaned. I have no excuses.

Nikon N55

Nikon N55, Zoom Nikkor 28-105 Macro

I spent the fall shooting with, and loving, the Nikkormat FT3 that I purchased from KEH. The camera they originally shipped was the chrome model, which was missing the battery door for the light meter, as well as the clear viewfinder diopter. After receiving parts from KEH, the next issue was a film compartment door that stubbornly refused to stay closed. KEH then replaced the whole camera with the slightly rarer and more exotic black model. It is a stunning piece of true Nikon 1970’s technology, with an amazingly accurate meter.

Which brings me to this neat little N55 one of my managers at work gave me. It was an entry level SLR with a surprising group of features. Complete in the box with the factory strap, manuals, and kit 28-80 zoom, it really is a film version of the Nikon D40. With all of the limited Vari Program scenic modes, as well as the more useful Aperture Priority, Program, Shutter Priority, and Manual choices. I shot this roll in Aperture Priority. It features automatic DX coding and film rewind. Well, not quite a rewind, Upon loading film, like many Canon Rebels of the day, this camera, extracts all 24 or 36 frames right off the bat, and pulls them back into the cassette as you shoot. It sounds odd, but actually becomes kind of neat to use. Just remember, Frame 1 will actually be the last frame of the roll that you shot!

What doesn’t the N55 have? Depth of Field Preview (which I hardly ever use). Nor can it meter with N-AI, AI, or Ai-S manual focus lenses. Nor will it autofocus with AF-S or VR lenses. Have a lens like the 50mm f/1.8 D, the 28-105, or the 28-80, and you are good to go. I do believe that D-style Nikkors were in their heyday circa 2002, when the N55 was introduced. It is mostly plastic- so, be gentle. but it is undoubtedly a very sturdy polycarbonate that is used. The handgrip is a dream, and I have large hands.

As for the light meter, well, I love it. It is advanced matrix metering most of the time, switching to partial center weighted metering when using full manual exposure. It just nails exposure. Accurately and consistently. And makes shooting with a film SLR almost like shooting digitally. With its hard plastic modern-day construction and LCD panel display on the top, it even looks like a digital SLR, without the back panel.

I decided to use a different lens other than the 28-80 kit, and mount my beloved 28-105 Macro. A highly esteemed zoom known for its rounded aperture blades, sharpness, and beautiful out of focus areas (I no longer am going to call it bokeh), the lens seems to be a perfect companion for the N55. I shot this first roll with Ilford Delta 100 which I developed at home in Rodinal, using semi-stand development. Here are a few favorites-

Bible Billboard

Bible Billboard

Amazingly, the 28-105 has beautiful wide-angle performance, blowing away any of the DX digital zooms I have ever used. It’s OOFA (out of focus area), is also quite good, especially with the Macro switch on-

Cassette of a shot and developed roll of Tri-X.

Cassette of a shot and developed roll of Tri-X.

The camera has a simple pop-up Speedlight that can be useful in a pinch. It syncs at 1/90th of a second. And came in real handy for the above shot, given the reduced aperture speed when using a zoom.

Traffic

Traffic

The above shot of a bus sign and traffic light helps to show the beautiful exposure accuracy of the camera. No blown out highlights. Digitally, there likely would be little to no detail in the sky. Maybe using 100 speed film helped. But It really does well in high contrast scenes.

Window Buoys

Window Buoys

The shadow detail was likely a benefit of semi-stand Rodinal development, but I’d like to think the light meter also helped.

Hopefully, winter will serve as a great opportunity to update the blog with the backlog of film I have shot over these last 6 months or so. No excuses!

Extended Break

From blogging, that is. I’ve been photographing like a maniac, mostly 35mm film, and even some digital. Even managed to add this gorgeous Nikon Nikkormat FT3 to the collection-

IMG_2552-1.JPG Plan on dedicating several articles to this amazing instrument, soon. Until then, back to shooting.

Fitchburg Rides, 2014

In what promises to be the first of many years of this event, I recently attended Fitchburg Rides on June 21st. It featured a vintage bicycle exhibit at the Fitchburg Historical Society, which hosted a similar event last year. There was a bike swap, a display of BMX stunts, even a competition up Fitchburg’s steepest hill, near the old Fitchburg High. This was indeed a very packed day. I packed the Hasselblad, Nikon F3, and Nikon D300. Here are some Hasselblad shots taken with the 150mm, and Ilford Delta 100. Semi-stand developed in 1:100 Rodinal for one hour.

Fully restored Mini-Twinn Schwinn.

Fully restored Mini-Twinn Schwinn.

Another restored classic, the Schwinn Lime-Picker.

Another restored classic, the Schwinn Lime-Picker.

Schwinns were everywhere!

Schwinns were everywhere!

Other bikes really did have that vintage look.

Other bikes really did have that vintage look.

Sharing stories.

Sharing stories.

Colon Cycles

Colon Cycles

Master Schwinn bicycle restorer, Pedro, is interviewed by Fitchburg Access TV.

Master Schwinn bicycle restorer, Pedro, is interviewed by Fitchburg Access TV.

I plan to post more about Pedro when I get up my 35mm negatives He truly is a craftsman.

St. Spyridion- Another Roll, Another Developer

Inside the cathedral, at a much higher speed! ISO400, instead of 100.

Inside the cathedral, at a much higher speed! ISO400, instead of 100.

Ok, now it was time to load up a second roll into another magazine. While I was somewhat confident of good frames with Delta 100, it was simply too slow for the light I was reading. A roll of yellow wrapped Kodak legend was in the bag. Tri-X to the rescue!

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Stained Glass

This roll captures the interior shadowing and textures in a way that I remember from the day. There was such a gray overcast outside that there is no way that any decent light could have helped being able to use 100 speed film inside the cathedral. I decided to develop this roll with good old standby D-76. Yes, I could have used a different dilution of Rodinal, and done traditional developing. But I had no experience with the developer other than semi-stand, and with Tri-X, semi-stand is likely best saved for shooting Tri-X at one or two stops faster. If I had used Rodinal and developed traditionally, I’d encounter different grain structure. So, I went with what I know.

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Ceiling

By the time I had got back outdoors, the sky was clearing. Tri-X at ISO400, with now bright skies? Stop down, stop all the way down! Not a bad thing to do with a Hasselblad…

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The beautiful dome of St. Spyridion.

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This roll represented somewhat of a first.

Of note- this represents the first time I have developed any film in a stainless steel developing tank. While I liked cleaning the tank after development, I will admit, loading the tank takes a lot of getting used to. After several practice runs with a dummy roll, it was into the darkroom. Getting the film under the spring-loaded clip is tricky. And, as you can see in the lower left of this last frame, I ran into some uneven development due to a loading issue. It may call for going back to the Paterson tanks, with some changes. But shooting, developing, and scanning these rolls represented pure joy.

Baklava

Some more shots from last month’s Grecian Festival. Yes, the Hasselblad is heavy, but well worth the workout. Lesson learned- next time, come with just the body, one lens, and magazines and film in cargo shorts pockets, or a vest, as opposed to a kittled out Hasselblad bag. The lighter the better when walking through large crowds.

Little Greek Tavern

Little Greek Tavern

 

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Placing an order.

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Greek and American flags, flying high.

100 speed film under the tents of the festival did indeed prove to be a challenge. with a little patience, and some good metering thanks to the Gossen Luna Pro F, I was able to pull it off. Really happy that the semi-stand development captured the light streaks bouncing off the tent ceiling as I remember it.  But I did also notice faint streaks from the stand development (lower left). I may try a longer presoak, and see if that serves as a remedy.

“Get Him To The Greek”

Beautiful ceiling inside St. Spyridon.

Beautiful ceiling inside St. Spyridon.

Every summer, Worcester’s historic Saint Spyridon Greek Orthodox Cathedral hosts their annual Grecian Festival. This was the first year I’ve been. Assuming an outdoor event was in the works maybe behind the church, I arrived with the Hasselblad and a magazine loaded up with Ilford Delta 100. After about a week of pounding rain, the weather cleared out nicely. I did also pack some TriX. Oops!

The event was mainly held indoors, in a massive tent behind the church, and inside the cathedral itself. Thankfully, I had my trusty Vivitar flash, and a flash sync cable fitted with a Hasselblad connection. This would have to rescue me inside the church. It did, as did Rodinal semi-stand development after the fact.

The Altar

The Altar

The Vivitar has a great little sensing window that does distance calculation, and returns the information back to the flash, essentially telling it how much light to burst. I think it worked amazingly well. After taking a few shots inside, it was time to venture out into the tent, and some natural light.

Preparing food.

Preparing food for the festival.

I think I took the above shot with the 80mm, based on the bokeh of the wide open aperture. I do remember using both that and the 150 on that day. It was great fun. Indoors and out.

Stand And Deliver – First Attempt At Rodinal Semi-Stand Developing

Rodinal has always been that “scary” developer to me. How do I use it? How do I dilute it? what does it do to film grain? Why, if it is Rodinal, is it referred to as cryptic brand names like “Adonal”, and “Compard R09 One Shot”? Well, I decided to order a bottle from Freestyle (http://www.freestylephoto.biz/12054-Adox-Adonal-Agfa-Rodinal-Formula-Film-Developer-500ml to find out. After about a week, the bottle arrived. Ironically, the copyright  battle in the US involving Adox (the original formula, I believe, was made by Agfa), has seemingly been resolved, and Freestyle now ships the formula in the US as, Rodinal! I have only worked with Kodak D-76 and HC110 developers, so this is a big step.

Anyways, to the chemistry. It is essentially a compound, 4-Aminophenol. It is one of the longest lasting film development formulas still in use today. It is very versatile, and known for super sharp negatives. For stand, or semi-stand development, it is best used for low to medium speed films. Unlike the Kodak developers I mentioned, it is not known as a fine grain developer. What it does provide is high edge sharpness.  I decided to use it with the beautiful Ilford Delta 100. I settled on semi-stand methodology. There are, of course, a million ways to do this, and ask a thousand film photographers, you might get 1000 workflows. But here is the approach I went with:

  •  1 min presoak in distilled water
  • 1:100 Rodinal to H2O (temperature in this methodology does not matter
  • 30 secs initial agitation
  • 30 minutes stand
  • 5 gentle agitations
  • 30 minutes stand
  • dump
  • stop, fix,  hypo clear, wash, all followed normally

The results? I love them. Great contrast, more shadow detail, smooth tones, less wonky anomalies, like white blobs of undissolved D-76 powder, or syrupy HC-110. Those are chemicals I will likely still always work with, but, this Rodinal stuff? Well, it’s really special. After years of fighting it, well, this film photographer is drinking the Kool-Aid.

On the way through the park to a Greek Festival, I saw this group practicing in the park. What sport, if any, they were practicing, I do not have a clue. Co-ed football, maybe. Taken with the Hasselblad and 80mm Zeiss-

Not practicing their film developing skills.

Not practicing their film developing skills.

A couple things that I noticed right away upon reviewing the dried negatives. The shadow detail is amazing. I am guessing, for example, that the towel in the shadows in the lower left of the frame, might be darker, or completely unseen, if the film had been developed in D-76, maybe not as much so with HC-110. The grain is there, but it is beautiful. Smooth, not blocky.  The image is almost too sharp, individual blades of grass clearly defined.  The contrast, beautiful, definitive and well-defined. It has its own “look”.

A myth shattered here- Rodinal CAN indeed be used with higher speed film, such as Kodak Tri-X, or Ilford HP5 Plus. Stand or semi stand is not recommended. There are several dilutions available on The Massive Dev Chart, and corresponding temperatures should be observed.

That's a UHaul truck way in the background- clear, and sharp.

That’s a UHaul truck way in the background- clear, and sharp.

Not only is semi-stand with Rodinal a lot of fun, it can yield some beautiful results. Off to the Greek Festival.