Film photography, digital photography and general camera thoughts

I do struggle to commit to this blog on any kind of regular basis, despite a great enthusiasm for the idea. Perhaps it is the ongoing battle to decide whether I have anything interesting to say…..

Looking at my saved drafts, I obviously intended to create a series of posts about our efforts to rejuvenate the garden of the rental property we are in. We had considerable success with native plantings in the bed area of the garden, but the lawn is an ongoing battle. We will have to pass that on to the next tenants because we have finally purchased our own house here in Australia and will be moving on soon. We are excited about this new chapter in our lives and the beautiful house we will be living in. There will be a few projects there, including hopefully water tanks and solar, as well as a recreation room downstairs.

Many other things have changed for us since the last post. I am now an active, operational volunteer firefighter and a Consultant in Critical Care Medicine in my day job as well as an aeromedical retrieval physician.

Having scrapped the garden series of posts, my last post talks about Samuel and I exploring film photography. Samuel’s interest is more in the line of video these days, leaving me exploring my photography. I have continued to explore analogue photography and am in awe of the medium and the challenges and thought behind it. I have even purchased developing equipment with a view to developing my own black and white film at some point over winter.

As I said at the end of the last post, film had given me my mojo back. I now spend more time on photography, but take fewer photographs. I look in more detail at what is before me as I contemplate how to photograph it. I am more in tune with colours and seeing what is there. I use digital far more than I use film, but I have also significantly reduced my iPhone camera use.

Sitting at my desk here, I have before me four cameras. It seems excessive, but it has been an evolution. The first is my Canon EOS600D. I have barely used it since October, when I purchased a Fujifilm XE-3. My history of Canon goes back to early 2006 when I purchased a 350D, with an 18 – 55mm kit lens and a 70 – 210mm telephoto zoom. This camera lasted me the best part of ten years and some of the images I took with it are the most important to me that I have ever taken. There are tens of thousands, so it is hard to pick a favourite. Here are two.

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Caister Beach, 2007
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Caister Beach, 2007

There are some important lessons from these images. I had not had the Canon very long. My photographic journey was still in its infancy. I had some understanding of ISO, shutter speed, aperture etc., but little experience. I had no real understanding of RAW photography, other than a vague notion that it was highly detailed and would allow greater editing flexibility. My composition skills were still random, rather than considered. I shot these images in RAW and JPEG. Last year, having learnt more about post-processing in the intervening period, I ‘developed’ them. The lessons are that sometimes the image is right without all the preparation. The image is made by the moment and the subject as much as the photographer. Expensive equipment is not necessarily essential.

Sadly, the 600D has never quite lived up to the 350. In theory, it should be just a more advanced version, but there is something lacking in sharpness and atmosphere from the photographs. Perhaps it is just me, because Samuel manages to get some amazing images at different times from it. I suspect that is his superior artistic talent.

I spent quite a period of time last year researching cameras and systems as I felt it was time for an upgrade. I was very keen to get a full frame digital camera, but similarly I wanted to move to a more practical and portable high-quality camera as the size of my Canon had become a barrier to taking it with me on various excursions. As if to prove that too much choice can become a hindrance, I did all this research and then made the wrong decision for me. I must emphasise “for me”. Your mileage may vary and there is no doubt that the Fujifilm XE-3 that I opted for is an excellent camera.

It has many qualities. It is a nice, compact size. Battery life is good. The control system on top and the aperture ring on the lens is all I really need as the only settings I tend to access are ISO, aperture and now exposure compensation. Shutter speed is on auto. It fits in my pocket and I certainly have it with me much more than I ever had the 600D. Mirrorless facilitates more certainty about the eventual exposure.

But…. it is APS-C and although there is good objective evidence that the crop sensor/full frame debate is a bit meaningless, I still have full frame envy. The electronic viewfinder is pretty good but not quite the same as an optical viewfinder. This is something I need to just accept as I think mirrorless is the future. It has focus zoom which can be useful, although invariably gets activated by mistake just when I am checking another aspect of composition. I occasionally use the screen on the back which is excellent, but fixed.

I have taken quite a number of images with it that I am extremely happy with, but sadly there are also many that are just not quite right. Whilst I am usually quick to blame myself, I have come to the conclusion that something about either the sensor or the software and algorithms that Fujifilm use are just not to my taste. Pages have been written online about the difference between the Fujifilm sensor and other manufacturers, but I do not begin to understand any of it. For me it simply seems as though the images are in some way too vivid, too saturated or somehow CGId. This is a particular issue in bright light conditions with blue skies. A bit of work in Lightroom can help, but overall I am frustrated. Is it enough for me to sell it? No, probably not. As an entry level Fujifilm, it is unlikely to attract much value and I have an adaptor that allows me to use my Minolta lenses on it. With these lenses, I can often create images that I am much more satisfied with, than when I use the 18 or 27mm Fujifilm lenses. So, if I do make a further purchase, I will keep the body and shoot only with Minolta lenses on it.

 

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My favourite image with the Fujifilm XE-3 and the 18mm lens.
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This is an example of a frustrating image, in full light. I just cannot put my finger on what I don’t like, but the foliage in the trees is a pixelated mess for a start.
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The Fujifilm comes alive when combined with the Minolta lenses. This was taken with the 50mm lens, giving an 80mm equivalent.
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A portrait of Caro with the Minolta 50mm f1.4 on the Fujifilm XE-3

The next camera along is a Minolta XG-M. It is currently loaded with an AGFA ISO100 black and white film. I have temporarily lent both Minolta lenses to a friend to use on his XT20, so the film is on 16 exposures. 20 to go. I have now shot a number of films with this camera, most recently some Kodak E100 slide film, a medium that I had never shot before. Sadly, the prism of the Minolta stuck up two-thirds of the way through that film and in pursuit of fixing it, I had to sacrifice the last 12, unexposed images. I was blown away by the clarity of the images that came from that E100 slide film. There is a high chance I may never shoot another colour emulsion after I use up the ones I have in my drawer. Whether that eventuates will depend upon the results with Fujifilm Provia and some Kodak Ektar 100 colour negative film.

I use a 50mm MD Rokkor lens and a 28mm MD Rokkor lens on the Minolta and I love both of them.

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Our garden, last winter. Kodak T-Max ISO100 black and white film
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Country Fire Authority Scania Medium Pumper. Kodak T-Max ISO 100 film. I love the silky effect to this image.
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Beach path, Waratah Bay, Victoria, Australia. Kodak T-Max ISO100
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Mt Buffalo Chalet. Kodak E100 slide film
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Mermaid Pools, Mt Beauty. Kodak E100 slide film.
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The lake at Mt Beauty. Kodak E100 slide film. Minolta MD Rokkor 28mm lens.

The final camera on the desk is a Nikon FE with a 50mm lens. It currently has a roll of Fujifilm Provia loaded. This is the first film I am exposing with the Nikon, so no images to share just yet.

Of course, there is another camera in my pocket, the iPhone 8 Plus. Whilst I was regularly able to get images I quite liked with my 6 Plus (see the photograph of MFB Station 2 in this post), I rarely am with my 8 Plus. In fairness, the images don’t look too bad on the iPad or iPhone, but as soon as I look at them on my 5K 28″ iMac, they appear so artificial and digital they are unpleasant. That has dramatically reduced any desire to take photographs with it.

So, I suspect in the coming few months there will be another camera purchase in pursuit of a suitable replacement for my much-missed EOS350D. I love Canon colour. I think the Nikon Z6 is probably a better entry level full frame mirrorless than the Canon R. The Canon RP may be enough for me, given how much I liked the entry level 350D. I spend far too much time trawling Flickr trying to evaluate those cameras, but that’s no guarantee I will like my results. Tricky.

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