In my previous post I uploaded images taken with Fuji X100 taken while visiting a trains station with old trains. Today, I am posting images with the Plaubel Makina 67 and Kodak Portra 400 film.
First of all, I have to say I am really impressed by the Portra 400 which is by all means, a superb film. Wonderful color, minimum grain for a ISO 400 emulsion and a huge dynamic range. The latitude of this film is very impressive and it helps to get great results even in the most contrasty scenes. I shot it a box speed, and it’s probably the only film I consider safe to do that.
Until recently, I had decided to shoot only b&w film with my analog cameras, since with digital I get good color photos (slide film is a different story, but I haven’t used a slide film for a long time). But this film may change my opinion, I have a couple more left and if the results are equally rewarding then I will probably order some new Portra 400.
A ISO 400 film is very helpful when shooting a medium format camera, since I can use a smaller aperture and increase my depth of field. Scanned with my recently repaired Coolscan 9000, the results are simply at a different level than my flatbed Epson. At 4000 dpi, I was able to print a 40 inches wide print with great detail, and I could go larger if I needed to.
You can easily spot the difference in color and tonality from the Fuji X100, and although on the screen the digital images can look more impressive in terms of contrast and sharpness, when printed the medium format photos have a very different look. The tonality is fantastic and the colors seem more natural. That has to do with the different transition from shadows to highlight that a film has (transition is smoother) and of course the different rendering of a 6×7 “sensor”. The Nikkor 80mm of the Plaubel, has a soft contrast and reveals tones beautifully, and of course you can add contrast and saturation if you want to.
At the image above, a lens hood would be very helpful, still I was impressed with the image I got, I really expected it to be completely washed out given the lighting conditions.
Overall, I find Portra 400 to be a fantastic film for those who want to shoot color with a medium format camera. I have already loaded my Plaubel with a new film and I am expecting to use it during next weekend.
During my visit to a train station, I spotted some old trains, mostly locomotives, and that was a good chance of making some images. Rusty metal was dominant and a few plants had emerged, a very contrasty scene.
I had with me the Fuji X100 and the Plaubel Makina 67, on this post I am uploading photos from the Fuji.
Rusty metal has a very specific look and i things its best to take photos during the golden hour. Actually, it was a couple of hours before, but still the images look pretty good. Once more I was impressed from the way the X100 renders a subject, great color and sharpness. Although this was a good opportunity to use the Velvia mode I preferred to stick with RAW files.
In some situations I used macro in order to close as much as I could to the rusty surfaces. This is also a good way to create a narrow depth of field. In most cases, the X100 performed excellent, as it was expected.
As a travel camera, the X100 has permanently replaced my Leica M8, which I am only using in cases I need a longer or shorter focal length than 35mm (and of course as an infrared camera). I have listed the reasons for that in a previous article.
Tomorrow, I am posting photos from the same location with the Plaubel Makina 67, which has a focal length close to the X100 (40mm equivalent) but the 6×7 negative creates a different look.
Leaving home for a walk or or a short trip, is the way to get some good images, but even when you stay inside, there are also things you can photograph. A macro lens (or a camera with macro mode) is a good way to improvise and make some interesting images.
I placed the Nikon D800E on a tripod, mounted the Tamron 90mm macro lens and used a glass bottle to shoot some splashing water photos.
Using 1/320 shutter speed and the built in camera flash I was able to freeze water motion and get these images. Now, I should have used my SB-900 flash for (probably) better results but surprisingly I didn’t have any spare batteries (!) and since it was more of a test photo shoot I didn’t mind using the camera’s flash (next time I will do that the right way).
The results can be very interesting and with some post process you can either get a good splash photo or even create an abstract looking image. It was a good way to take advantage of my macro lens since I don’t really shoot macro like flowers, insects etc.
I am repeating this experiment soon and will post some more photos.
Panoramic photography is a great way of presenting a landscape. Anything above the 2:1 ratio can be considered as a panoramic photo. Back in the days of film there was the wonderful Hasselblad XPAN for 35mm format, and then the large medium format cameras from 6×12 to 6×24. I believe the most representative panoramic format was the 6×17, and it was one of he reasons I purchased the a Gaoersi 617 camera.
With digital cameras, panoramic photography became much easier to do with any type of camera, since stitching digital images was relatively easy and it could also create photos with huge megapixels count. Today, any decent smartphone can automatically capture a panoramic photo, but of course creating a good quality pano which can printed at large size (as it is meant to be) it’s a different story.
Last weekend I was once again at the wonderful location of Meteora to shoot some pano images. I also took the opportunity of making a short video showing both the beauty of this location, and also the procedure of making a pano photo with the Gaoersi camera. I also used the Nikon D800E and had a chance to compare the results of both cameras.
For starters, here is the video.
Operating a 6×17 camera requires some effort comparing to a normal camera. It approaches the way someone uses a large format camera. You only get 4 frames in roll, so each frame counts. The Gaoersi has a ground glass which you can use in each shot since it has a removable film back. You frame, focus, place the filters in the position you want and then insert the film back. I always use my Sekonic meter to calculate exposure, set the aperture and shutter speed, remove the dark slide and make the shot. It is a straightforward process, but there is room for errors if you are not careful enough. Most common mistakes is to forget to remove the dark slide before the shot, or forget to close the diaphragm blades before inserting the film back (you need to open the diaphragm blades in order to use the ground glass). I don’t make these mistakes anymore, but I have ruined some good images in the past this way !
The digital approach in making a pano image, also requires much attention. First of all I calculate exposure, and then set the setting manually. Manual mode ensures that each image will have the same exposure (besides ISO, aperture and shutter I also set the White Balance manually). I focus the lens and then turn to manual focus mode to ensure that focus remains the same for each shot.
While the Gaoersi viewfinder allows you to frame the shot exactly as you want, with the Nikon I do not have that option. What I do is use the Gaoersi viewfinder to frame a shot, and then start shooting with my digital camera consecutive shots. I always shoot some extra shots around my subject to be sure that I have included the full picture I planned to capture. It is better to crop later than find out that there are parts missing. An overlap of about 30% is what use when shooting my consecutive images.
Using filters is quite difficult since you are not dealing with a single shot, so I usually underexpose a little to retain highlight. The D800E is excellent at shadows recovering, so underexposing is not a problem.
Finally, something that is crucial is levelling correctly the camera. A panoramic head is ideal for this purpose, and there are technical things like nodal point, but so far, I had excellent results with my normal tripod head, so I am not going to get into this subject. The most important thing here is to remember to properly level the camera between shots, in order to “help” software make a better stitch in post process.
Let’s see some photos now.
Both cameras did an excellent job. The use of a red filter in the Gaoersi reveals better details in the sky and background (you can see the mountains at the back) , you cannot emulate that by adding a b&w red filter preset in post process.
Now, let’s see a zoom crop of the images above.
The Nikon D800E has clear advantage in terms of resolution, since it’s actually a collage of eight 36 megapixels photos. But I was really impressed by the resolution a single 6×17 frame carries. Keep in mind that the scanning was done with a flatbed Epson V700. A scanner like the Nikon Coolscan 9000 or a drum scanner would reveal a much better detail closing the gap between the the two cameras. Of course you can shoot more digital photos and further increase the resolution but there are things to consider here.
The more images you shoot, you increase the odds of creating a stitching problem. This specific shot does not have any moving elements like water, visible leaves on trees which could be moving in a windy day, people moving, etc., so it was a an easy stitch.
The Nikon D800E is a game changer in many things, and the huge 36mp resolution is invaluable for this kind of photography. It allows the creation of multi megapixels images (panoramas included) with just a few shots. With other cameras there are more shots required to reach the same results, increasing the possibility of making an error. I use my Gaoersi much less than before since I purchased the D800E, but still I much prefer in certain situations to have a single panoramic shot than having to deal with corrections in post process. I have seen Gigapans on the net very impressive and without any stitch faults, but I know this required a great effort in post process. As I have mentioned repeatedly, I prefer to spend more time in the field than in front of a computer monitor, so in difficult subjects I will always prefer the Gaoersi over the Nikon. For people who don’t mind or have the patience making corrections in post process, it could be the other way around.
Again, the red filter allowed the film camera to capture more details in the background, but it also increased contrast and reduced tonality.
Now, the crops.
The D800E is once more ahead in terms of resolution but not by far. Again, a better scanner would yield better results and a large number of stitched shots would also increase the resolution of the Nikon.
One thing that cannot be shown in the computer screen is the way these images look when printed. I have printed these images at 180×60 cm size (that’s 70×23 inches) and they look spectacular. I was expecting that from the Nikon since the final digital stitch was 140 megapixes (20700 x 6920 pixels), but I was really impressed by the printed film photo, since I didn’t expect the Epson V700 to be able produce such good results at these print sizes. I can only imagine a scan from a dedicated film scanner will look like. I also was impressed by the performance of the Fuji Acros 100 film. I have mainly shot landscapes with Ilford Delta 100 and Kodak TMAX 100 films, but I will definatelly use more Acros 100 rolls in the future. One more thing that look great on paper, it the tonality of the black and white film, even with the use of the red filter. These are things you cannot easily notice on the sreen, the 300dpi resolution of a print seems completely different.
Now, comparing both cameras is possible, but this was not the point of my article. A good 6×17 panoramic camera in not cheap, and the film also costs money. I believe that someone should really be dedicated to panoramas to go the analog way. The results can be stunning with black and white film, and of course with using slide film like the unique Fuji Velvia, but with digital you can also produce stunning panoramas. With proper technique, you can create huge images and today we have digital cameras with amazing image quality, so each one can choose the medium he/she prefers.
I enjoy using both my analog panoramic and my Nikon cameras and choose the one which serves my needs better, according to the situation.
Some technical info: I used the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 with the Nikon D800E, at 50mm. It’s away form the zoom edges and provides a great image quality. Shot at f/7. 1 which I consider it to be a good spot between the lens and sensor’s optimum aperture. On the Gaoersi I have the Nikkor 90mm f/4.5 SW lens. Although large and heavy, the f/4.5 provides adequate light for the ground glass. For filters, I use the LEE system which is very helpful with ND Grads and using multiple filters at the same time. Finally, the video was shot with a Sony CX730E video camera and the close ups with Sony NEX 5N and Voigtlander 50mm f/1.1 which allows a razor thin depth of field for creatives shots.
A close up photo of a vintage Lambretta scooter. Taken with Polaroid SX-70 and Impossible Project Color film. Due to the low light conditions shutter stayed open for about 1 second, that’s what caused the blur you can see at the brake pedal, nevertheless it came out quite good. The look on the original Polaroid is much better than the scan I made.
After a long time, today I am posting a few images taken with the Fuji X100 camera. My relationship with the X100 has gone from various stages. At one point, I reached a step before selling it, but thankfully, I decided to keep it. The last firmware update has transformed it to a much much better camera and this is something that no other company has ever done to a discontinued model (at least to the level of update Fuji did).
I always had a dilemma between the X100 and the Leica M8, and at certain times I could not justify keeping both of them. There were also times when I chose to take with me the M8 despite the fact that the Fuji was more suited for the kind of shooting I wanted to do (that’s what happens when you are biased and love a camera so much that it blurs your judgement !)
The X100 has certain features that make it a better choice for those times when I just want a small camera with me. It has a flash (with high speed sync due to its leaf shutter), can do macro, better high ISO performance, can shoot video for those times you need it and has auto focus. For me, with a rangefinder at 35mm equivalent (which means the Elmarit 28mm), focus was never a problem, and I also use a lot zone focus. But as years go by, there are times when manual focus can get more difficult than it used to, or I am simply spoiled by the convenience of auto focus.
The X100 is a fantastic all day camera, and the only thing I cannot do properly is portraits. Actually I can, but they are not so flattering since I need to get very close to my subject.
The image quality of the Fuji is beyond any criticism, it’s simply wonderful. I find my M8 to produce better tonality and a better look at base ISO, probably due to the CCD sensor, but shoot beyond ISO 320 and the Fuji gets ahead. And of course the price with an f/2 lens is much much higher.
Since both systems are quite different (the Leica M is an interchangeable lens system and the prices difference is huge), comparison cannot be straightforward, but since I own both of them, I can express my opinion. For those times when I want to carry a larger camera bag, I have found that both cameras can coexist and supplement each other. Instead of investing on a 28mm Summicron I can carry the X100 with me and take advantage of the extra features of the X100.
Overall, I think the X100 (and the newer X100S) is a wonderful camera, and a used X100 can be purchased at a great price. Despite its age, this is a camera that even today can produce beautiful images which satisfy even the most demanding photographers.