I picked up a used voigtlander 75mm lens for my Bessa R shortly before a business trip to Europe. What a great chance to test it out I thought. I loaded up a roll of my favourite film (Neopan 400) and started snapping. I took pictures in the various airports, then more in a some quaint little villages in the french alps. I was enjoying the focal length immensely.
I continued to take shots, even switched lenses a few times for my 35mm and even the 15mm (which is hard to get used to after shooting with a 75mm!). Then it happened… I took shot number 36 on the roll and started to rewind. To my horror the film rewound with about two turns of the crank. The film hadn’t caught on to the spool and non of my shots had been recorded. It was pretty tragic, loosing all those potential “incredible” shots. Although judging by past performance, I usually only get 5-10 “great” shots on a roll, so add to this a new lens and that number could have been significantly lower. But that’s all beside the point, I enjoy taking pictures, and while I’m sad to have lost those shots on that roll, I enjoyed taking every single one of those pictures, regardless of them working or not. For me photography is about the process, and while I do enjoy my shots turning out really well, I’ve come to expect this not to happen for many of them, and so I have learnt to enjoy taking the pictures as much as seeing the results.
I realized afterwards that my many months of Xpan usage led me to be lazy with my film loading. The Xpan loads automatically, and I forgot the voigtlander wouldn’t (it is a manual camera). On a happier note, I found a great camera store in Southern Germany that had a great selection of film with good prices. Picked up some Agfa APX400 which I’m looking forward to try.
I very much enjoy processing my own BW flim, especially when it is my ultimate favourite, Fuji Neopan. Although when I first started I was developing 1-2 rolls/week, however lately I’ve dropped to closer to 1 roll/month. This gets dangerous as you get out of practice and start making little mistakes. I’ve been very fortunate to have never had a major screw-up, all my rolls have always worked out, even the first one. This has always worried me as I was sure this streak could not last.
Then about a month ago I went to a friends wedding. I was NOT told that they needed a photographer, and so for fun I thought I would try something new (and this is where it all started to go wrong). I bought some Ilford Delta 3200, put it in my Bessa R, and headed off to the wedding. Got there and it seemed like everyone had a camera and was snapping away. I took a few shots, not really sure if the meter was reading accurately in the very dark restaurant. I got home and decided to process the film. I really didn’t have enough time to do it properly, and so I rushed. Took me 3 tries to get it on the reels, didn’t quite seal the door correctly, etc. etc. When I checked the film, most of the shots were underexposed and the light leakage from the door had wrecked about half the film. I wasn’t too choked until the bride called me up in a panic because all of the other pictures people had taken were terrible, and no one had got a good one of her and her husband, THE WHOLE NIGHT! After much work scanning and in photoshop, I managed to save one photo, it was the shot of them cutting the cake. I didn’t think it was all that great as it had tons of grain, but they were thrilled.
Fast forward a month and I am developing a roll of 120 Neopan 400. Things were going smoothly but I couldn’t help but notice the developer was awfully dark. Then each time the chemicals came out of the tank, the colours seemed off. When I pulled the film out at the end of the developing, I was staring at a completely blank film. My developer had expired.
Two in a row was a bit much for me to handle, and I had a roll from a recent trip to Norway which I absolutely could not screw up! Bought some new developer (Ilford Microphen DD-X), and set to work. Was I ever relieved when it worked out perfectly, well except that I used enough chemicals for 120 when it was a roll of 35mm, but I am definitely back on the horse…. The lesson to be learned here is take your time, and take A LOT MORE PICTURES!!!!!
Well once again the curse of ebay struck me. Although I’ve had an SX-70 for a while, I love it too much to make any of the suggested modifications to it. So while it works with 600 film (and a hap-hazardly placed filter), it isn’t perfect, and I often feel like I am wasting the few shots I have left with ridiculous pictures. My uncle has an Instax 200 which he keeps in his guest room, making sure all visitors take their own portrait and write a little note below it. While I liked the size of the Instax 200 film, the camera is LARGE. I was hoping for something more portable so when a good deal was to be had on an Instax Mini 7, I laid down my cold hard cash ($7 to be precise), and 2 weeks later, it arrived from jolly ol’ England. Unfortunately it was missing part of the viewfinder (eventhough the ad described it as in good shape, complete). Doesn’t seem to affect the photos so I kept it.
My first problem was finding film Fuji has only recently started selling the instax mini film in Canada, so I took advantage of another ebay deal from Hong Kong, and soon enough 5 packs of film were in my mailbox. Prices of film are cheaper than Polaroid 600 at $40 for 50 pictures (shipping included). The local camera store just got some in last week but charges $15 for 10 pictures. But back to the camera.
The Instax Mini 7 uses Instax Mini film which is quite a bit smaller than the old square polaroids (see pic for comparison). The camera is plastic, and doesn’t feel like it would survive much wear and tear. It runs off of 4 AA batteries, which are lasting so far after 25 shots (I should hope so!). It has 4 exposure settings, bright sun, sun, cloud, and flash. The flash is quite strong and adequately lights up the room for shots. I did find that the bright sun was sometimes over-exposed on particularly bright days. The camera turns on and off by extending and retracting the lens (manually). Film takes about 1 minute to develop and is sharp with rich colours (compared to my SX-70 film, not exactly apples to apples here.)
I think this camera could take off with the right marketing. It would be a ton of fun at parties, or any social gatherings for that matter. Hopefully Fuji recognizes the potential and gets the word out as this camera has been available world-wide for several years now.