Boston’s Chinatown, near the Theatre District, has some amazing opportunities for street photography. While waiting for a musical to start, I took the AE-1 down the Chinatown streets, near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and off of Kneeland Street. Once again, the glass was the 50mm f/1.4 FD SSC, and the film was Portra 400.



Even shot at box speed, Portra never looks overexposed or washed out in the afternoon sun. I was fearful that might be the case. In fact, at first glance, I thought this might have been 160.

Underexposed at ISO1600.

Underexposed at ISO 1600

Of course, Portra really rocks when you take advantage of its wide exposure latitude. Resetting the film speed knob on the AE-1 on the fly is a little painful. But it is well worth the effort and patience. I will take the above shot, at ISO 1600, over any low light scenarios I’ve shot with my D300. Fantastic results, with no pushing or pulling necessary in development.

True High Dynamic Range, Without The Need For HDR Post Processing

True High Dynamic Range, Without The Need For HDR Post Processing

I loved the supermarket above as a subject. Closed for Sunday, it made a great test for Portra’s unbelievable shadow detail, and true high dynamic range. If all of the bad HDR photographers want real results, well, just shoot Portra 400. HDR without the wonky color extremes.

One could spend days taking in Chinatown, and what it has to offer. It really is a photographer’s paradise. I really do need to get back there soon.


13 thoughts on “Chinatown

  1. Great shots Arthur! I have to give Portra 400 another try. The last shots where I tried to underexpose it weren’t that successful, but that might be the fault of the Selenium light meter in the Rolleiflex.

    • Thanks, Urban. I think the AE-1 likely has the most accurate light meter I’ve ever used. It seems to nail exposures with Portra 400. The wide latitude of the film really is astounding. Of course, FPP really got me hooked on it. To the point where I have been neglecting my home black and white developing. I need to get back to it. I want to develop some 120 this summer. But the color 35mm, which I have done locally at CVS, is so easy and convenient. And inexpensive! A

      • Oh! I hadn’t thought of getting a AE-1 myself, but they are amazingly cheap! As are the AE-1 Programs. Hm. Too bad, one more camera for me 😉

        Unfortunately my local CVS equivalent returns the negatives with dust and scratches on it so I have to send them out and it’s a bit more expensive.

      • My local camera shop had a machine that stopped running, and now they are sending out 120. Two week turnaround time. I think now I am going to look for a mail order lab. Which kills me, but why not, as that is what the local shop is doing anyways? It is getting harder and harder to get color film processed. I only bring my 35 to one local CVS, that does not screw up the scans. Once you find a store that works, best to stick with them. Another CVS in the next town over always does grainy scans.

      • I’m almost at the point where I’ll start processing C41 myself. I already have the chemicals. The thing is that I don’t even find the time to process my BW so doing it all by myself would make my backlog even bigger. On the other hand, my (expensive) mail order lab returns dusty negatives on occasion, too.

        Well, but now to sell some stuff on eBay to pay for the AE-1 (as I’ve set myself a budget for photography stuff so that I don’t spend all my money on it).

      • The thing keeping me from processing C-41 has been the narrow temperature tolerance before colors shift. But, all it takes is for one roll to get badly processed by a lab or drug store to make you want to try it. They say it is easy, but I have my doubts. You will love the AE-1- my favorite 35mm right now. As a long time Nikonian, this was THE Canon I’ve always wanted. The FD glass is so great. And affordable, certainly compared to Nikkors.

      • You are right. For now I will keep sending out my color.

        I still have my doubts if I’ll like shutter priority mode, but I guess I’ll have to give it a try. How easy is the camera to use in manual mode?

      • I was afraid at first, as aperture priority is what I am accustomed to. But, once you know the ins and outs of exposure, and the desired DOF and effect (sharp, stop action, motion blur, etc), it is quite easy, and lots of fun. The manual mode is odd in so far as the display shows you the recommended aperture based on the chosen shutter speed, which it does not display. You can either use it, or of course, choose another setting. I do like the match needle of, say, the FE-2 better. But, as far as metering accuracy? I think it is a remarkable light meter system. The ergonomics, well, are not great. But then again, automation was what they were striving towards, so the manual mode is somewhat of an afterthought.

      • Well until my budget allows me to buy one I will have some time to ponder which one to get 🙂 After all the A-1 isn’t more expensive and has full “PASM” support.

      • Or, you could go for the AE-1 program. Programmed Auto, plus interchangeable screens, and an easier ISO/ASA control. The A1 does have slightly beefier build quality, but does also suffer from ‘The Canon Squeal” which I repaired on my AE-1. There is a plastic gear in the mirror escapement which over time has a lubricant that eventually dries up. If you know the right spot to get at it after pulling the bottom plate off, it is maybe a 10 minute fix. Very simple. All of the A series bodies apparently are prone to this.

    • Congratulations! The FD glass has a look to it unlike any other 35mm system. You will be very pleased. Did you ask the seller if the camera has “The Canon Squeal’? If so, I can point you towards a very easy do-it-yourself solution that took care of it for me.

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