Dec 22 2014

Canon Elph LT and scanning APS film with a cheap film scanner

 

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Having found a way of scanning my APS film that produced good quality images it only stands to reason that I would find a worse way to do it, after all it is APS film.  Okay this is easier to do its just that the results aren’t as good.  This is a cheap film scanner of the type you find in a business supply store or at a garage sale or laying on the side of the road.  This one has the ability to pull the film through it without cutting and that is the key to how this works.  Although the holder is designed for 35mm film the smaller APS film can be kept square against one edge.  Unfortunately it gives an image that looks like it was shot with a cheap 3 Megapixel camera.  On the positive side again the image is already converted from a negative and only requires cropping.  Ultimately despite the greater effort required I think I will revert to my macro lens flash system.

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I shot these images with the impossibly small Canon Elph LT more from this camera here Canon Elph LT

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Dec 20 2014

The business of cameras or ‘The camera industry isnt dying its just has a little cold’

When ever I read any photo gear forums it seems that the state of the camera manufacturing industry crops up, with discussion around camera phones and their impact on camera manufacturers.  There has definitely been a decrease in the number of cameras being sold in the last few years and a large portion of that is attributable to the lack of sales of basic point and shoot cameras as they have overlap with smart phones in their image making capabilities.  However I think that in the last decade with camera technology constantly improving all these companies needed to do was keep churning out new models and there would be a market there to buy them.  And people did in the tens of millions. More per year than was the case ever with film cameras.  In fact at its peak film camera production was around 36.5 million units in 1997 while digital cameras peaked in 2010 at 121 million units both of these pale when compared to the 968 million smart phones sold in 2013 but even those will have to level off at some point.

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If you look at this graph where I brought together the data from several sources you can see that new film camera sales all but disappeared within 3 years of the point that digital camera sales reached the same level.  The same is not true with digital camera’s and smart phones they really are co-existing. Yes camera sales are declining but not at the same rate that smart phones are proliferating.  Some of the slow down can also be attributed to the fact that many people are satisfied with their current imaging technology, the ‘good enough’ factor.  If what they are currently using meets all their needs there is no reason to go looking for something new.  This is perhaps hard for ‘gear heads’ to come to terms with but they really don’t drive the larger market even if they have a greater individual influence through their dedicated forum posting and social media presence.  So yes Digital camera sales have been declining back to 2005 levels at the same time that photography is burgeoning and cell phones are the primary reason but good riddance to bad cameras. I say bring on the awesome and the lenses more lenses.

I believe the point at which digital image quality reached that ‘good enough’ status for the average consumer (If they truly exist) was around the 6-7mpixel mark about the year 2004.  Most of what has occurred since then has been improvements in sensors and camera operation but the leap in quality that we saw in the first few years of consumer digital cameras has not and likely will not be repeated.

There is a lot and I mean a lot of discussion around image sensor size and its impact on image quality but I wanted to illustrate a different point independent of the sensor size.  The image that follows shows the relationship of different megapixel images if they were to be printed at 300DPI (the typical resolution of a minilab print)  The 24Mpixel Pentax K-3 image would print natively at 20 in x 13.3 in. while the 7Mpixel DSC-V3 would be a 10 in x 7.68 in. print at 300DPI, then there is the 1.3Mpixel Olympus D370 that would yield a tiny 4in x 3 in print at 300 DPI and still look terrible.

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What this means for me is that for prints up to around 8×10″ I have had the necessary photographic tools at my disposal for the last 10 years.  Yes my latest greatest cameras provide much better low light performance and quicker operation but if I hadn’t bought them it isn’t like I couldn’t have continued to make images.  And that’s the thing if that is true of a camera from a decade ago then it’s doubly true of a camera purchased in the last several years.  What will camera manufactures do to continue to be profitable or will they need to adapt and scale their operations.  I think what we are seeing with high-end compact cameras is evidence of the shift camera companies are undergoing.  They are creating high quality niche products because customers can justify them when compared to smart phones. Which is not true for basic point and shoot models.

So while smart phone sales have decimated the inexpensive point and shoot market companies continue to produce terrific image making tools and at ever lower prices, we the consumers have benefited from this.  More people than ever before in the history of the world are taking pictures today, it’s just that for most of them the camera in their phone is good enough for what they want.  It’s not shown in the image above but I also captured the same scene with a Samsung Gallaxy S4 phone and when you look at the pixel level you can see that a dedicated camera of similar pixel count still produces a higher quality image, I’m just sayin’.

I think its interesting to consider that practical digital photography has only been around for less than 20 years while photography as a whole has been around for over 175 years,  What purpose and form will cameras have in 2172?

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Rather than a rigid image comparison tool that you will see elsewhere on the internet here is a little game you can play while comparing image quality of a few cameras.

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Dec 18 2014

Olympus Stylus Epic

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One thing about one camera: Did you know that the Stylus Epic will  provide fill from the flash even in bright conditions if it detects odd wavelengths such as those from fluorescent lights? 

Okay two things: Did you know that the Stylus Epic uses spot metering when you select spot focus?

Three but that’s it: Did you know the Stylus Epic has 400 autofocus distance zones to provide great focus accuracy?

These and more things make the Epic well…epic.  The fact that so many were produced means that they are readily available and cheap and everyone shooting film should consider having one or two or three.


Dec 16 2014

Instax Mini 90 neo classic

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The Fuji Instax mini 90 is a fun camera to play with and because the final result is a physical object it opens up the idea of sharing beyond the posting of an image on the internet.  You can actually give someone a photograph.  The Mini 90 adds much more control over image making than is offered by older Instax models.  Things such as multiple exposure, bulb mode and exposure overrides, my favourite though is the ability to suppress the flash.  Instant photography isn’t cheap but if you consider the fact that you are also receiving a print it’s a lot more reasonable.  I recently brought the Mini along on an outing for a highschool photography club and they all seemed to love the novelty of it as they immediately took pictures of the pictures with their cell phones.

Here are some resent sample images from the Fuji Instax Mini 90

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Dec 13 2014

Home Developing C41

As a teen I converted the family camper into a darkroom and even did some colour printing from slides, that was a long time ago, but the closing of yet another camera store that handled my film has prompted me to begin developing my own C41.  I’m glad camera stores havent determined that my stepping through their door is the harbinger of doom, but I digress.

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After amassing 12 rolls of colour film, and all the necessary items I needed to process them, it was time.  There was no more ‘Oh I just need this’ there were no more reasons to procrastinate.  Here are a few things I learned.

  1. You really do need to have the temperature higher than you will process at when you mix your chemicals (The Blix powder did not dissolve easily at 102′F, I had been hoping that it would so that I only needed to use one temperature).
  2. Leaning into a tub for hours is hard on the back
  3. Squegeeing the film is necessary to reduce the chances of water spots
  4. Thermometers for film developing are slow to react to changes, the digital thermometer I also used allowed faster checks and setting the wash temperature.
  5. Be safe around electricity. All of this goes through a GFI outlet, the controller is fused and I have double sealed the heater because of its age.
  6. Developing your own film is time-consuming but awesome

What you don’t see in this picture is a critical component, my changing bag.  The film needs to be put onto the reals and loaded into the tank in complete darkness of course.

The key thing that made this marathon developing session possible though is my modified aquarium heater controller.  It works with a thermister that changes its resistance based on temperature.  It’s an inverse relationship, the higher the temperature the lower the resistance.  So to hack it to run at a fish cooking 102 degrees Fahrenheit I increased the resistance therefore changing the range it runs at.   This kept a bath of water and the chemical bottles floating in it at the required temperature by turning on the heater any time the temperature dipped.

 

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While I had plans to make an Android app to assist with the timing I ended up using Lab Timer on my iPad which allowed me to easily set up 4 timers for the major processes I needed to do.

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Here is the distilled water I used for mixing my chemicals coming up to temperature

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Here you can see the heater keeping everything at the right temp, for hours.  As a side note it is plugged into a GFI outlet and I completely resealed the heater with new high temperature gasket goo for vehicles and topped it off with a silicone high temperature grease sealant. You can never be too careful around electricity and water.

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After a few fumbles getting the film on the reels I managed to get pretty good at handling the film inside the bag… by the 12th roll.

Not having to worry about the temperature allowed me to concentrate solely on the timing so I was able to do all my agitation and chemical changes accurately and consistently.  There was far more variation in the film that I had used than in the processing.  The worst offender was some outdated Polaroid 400 that nearly turned my developer black.

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To finish each pair of rolls I hung the film to dry in the shower, a very dust free location.

It was all well worth the effort and if you discount my time it was about half the price of the cheapest place I have available to me for developing.   I also squeezed in one more roll of Ektar 120 film the next day pushing it from 100 ISO to 400 by increasing the development time.  The chemistry may not be as exhausted as I was but I will start fresh the next time I have a pile of film.  That shouldn’t be too long.  Update: in the time since I first wrote this I’ve sucessfully processed another batch of 13 rolls.

I’m also planning to recover the silver so it doesn’t end up in the environment using the metallic replacement process outlined in Kodak j300 Environmental information from Kodak

 

And everything fits in a Rubbermade container

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Dec 9 2014

Carolin Mine British Columbia

The Cariboo gold rush of the 1860′s is a seminal event in the creation of the province of British Columbia.  The idea of finding gold essentially laying within the gravels of an ancient creek bed captures the imagination even today.  Placer gold like that though is not the only source of the precious metal.  It is also found trapped within rocks elsewhere in British Columbia, mining of this type is refered to as ‘hard rock’ or ‘lode’ mining.

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An example of the interesting geology found around the area

 

The Carolin mine sits in such a location near the Coquihalla river.  While small quantities of gold were removed in this area during the early 1900′s it wasn’t until the Carolin mine operated beginning in 1982 that a significant amount of gold was removed.  43,500 oz are recorded for the 27 month period of operation.  Since that time there have been a number of owners of the mine claims and small amounts of assessment work but mostly the mine buildings and tunnels have been left to decay.

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The surrounding area is beautiful though marked by human hands through logging and mining. Of course without either it also wouldn’t be accessible.  It’s never a good idea to go inside an old abandoned mine but it’s clear that the tunnels here are quite stable and do not require any shoring aside from the portal area.

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That being said I still left my motorcycle helmet on.

I have since learned that the different levels of the tunnels are interconnected which also explains the cool breeze traveling through the mine delivering fresh air.

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The above image is from the New Carolin Gold Corp.

On a photography note, when deciding what camera gear to take I had to balance weight verses capabilities.  Choosing to use the Pentax K-3 for its resolution and low light capabilities was easy but I had a more difficult decision with what lenses to take and which to leave behind.  In this case I opted for the lighter weight Pentax DA 18-55 WR and HD DA55-300  WR lenses as opposed to the faster and better optics of the DA*16-50 and DA*50-135 but with their greater weight.  (The DA* lenses together weigh 608grams more. If the differnece was gold it would be worth about $26,000 CAD).  608 grams may not seem like that much but it can be the difference between carrying an additional lens or a couple small film cameras or the difference between a sore back or not.

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After 35km of riding around on some pretty rough roads I was pleased with my choice though I did miss the wider angle and the extra light gathering ability especially being without a tripod (those are pretty heavy too)

 


Dec 5 2014

Braun Super Paxette Images August 2014

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It’s no secret that this is one of my favourite little blocks of steel.  It’s hard to believe sometimes that this camera is nearly 60 years old when you see the results.  My favourite characteristic of the images though has to be the film mask with its wavy edges.  It gives each image a postage stamp like look and proves that you didn’t crop your image.  More images and information about this camera can be seen here Super Paxette Photographers dont crop Paxette More Images Braun Super Paxette (Part 1) Braun Super Paxette (Part 2)

Because of the number of images I will break this into two seperate posts as well but here are the first 20.  There was a lot of smoke from forest fires so many of the landscape images relect that.

 


Dec 2 2014

Not for walkers

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I may have discovered the worst place in Canada to try to go for a walk.  The area around Toronto’s Pearson airport is a wasteland, the sidewalks are littered with holes and obstacles besides the fact they lead to nowhere. The obstacles seem to be primarily signs telling you to use a different non-existent path and unidentifiable  flattened metal things that have come off of vehicles.

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My favourite non helpful thing though was the cross walk that led to an island in the roadway with no other exit other than to push the button and wait to go back the way you had come. Later I discovered a less palatable frogger style run across a highway offered but I declined.

I think that the Cab industry must be in charge of the sidewalks

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Some of the images from my survival of this pedestrian dystopia can be seen bellow but the most colourful thing and people happening there was the Jem and the Holograms convention that was meeting in the hotel I was staying at. (Ah the 1980′s what joy you continue to give the world)  All of the images were shot with the Pentax Q7.

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Nov 29 2014

Braun Super Paxette Let the light shine on you.

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After rewinding this film  for what seemed like twice as long as needed and it also becoming much easier, it seemed reasonable that it was time to open my Braun Paxette. I was wrong.  The light came streaming into the back of the camera like someone opening the blinds at a seedy motel.  The worst part of it was the not knowing what was damaged and what was lost for the entire rest of the trip.  Well it turned out that not that much was lost and a few of the images might have been improved.  Someone is bound to ask me what app I used when I post them to Instagram.   I might tell them I used the ‘Open the back App’.

 


Nov 26 2014

Signs with the Pentax Q7

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The full-sized SLR lens is just there to give some scale for the Q7 and the 02 zoom lens.  There may be some overlap with my film shots mostly because I use my Q7 as a lightmeter as well as a camera.  These pictures are just some fun snaps of signs from a trip earlier this year.  For many things the Q7 is perfectly adequite as a photography tool and there is no denying it’s diminutive nature can be a real advantage both in size and inconspicuousness.