Goodbye Zeiss Ikon ZM

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The last film camera that leaves my hand. That should say a lot about this camera I guess? I can still recall the time when I was deciding what film camera to get, probably over 2 years ago. To go the SLR route or rangefinder route? If rangefinder route, to go with the Hexar, a Leica, a Voigtlander or a Zeiss? In the end, I had chosen to go with the Zeiss for all its excellent attributes, and I had never regret for doing so.

I sold off my Fujifilm GW690 III and Hasselbld Xpan earlier on, and was contemplating whether I should keep this camera with me as my only film camera moving forward should I choose to continue to shoot film. The camera feels good, much better than a Leica in my opinion. No nonsense, practical and just a pure joy to use. It had never let me down, not even once. Hence, I’m reluctant to cut away this emotional tie that I have with this camera.

I pulled out my last roll of film from my drawer, loaded up this camera and went for a shoot the other day. I enjoyed the feeling of using this camera, I really do. As the frames tickling down, I kept pondering in my head about “What’s next? What will our future be? What will my future be?” I was trying to think logically and rationally, without being influenced by my emotional connection with it.

As the last frame was shot, film rewinded, I made up my mind to put a pause to my journey on film photography once again. I want to take a break out of it, and I think now is the time to move on to something else. I might come back again in the future, just like how I did in the past. But for now, is time to take a break. I sold off my Zeiss Ikon. I hope the new owner will take good care of it. Till then.

Goodbye Xpan

I will start off this post by saying this: “I’ll probably regret for selling this camera in the future.” Why? Well, because this is really a one of a kind camera that you will hardly find elsewhere… this is the Hasselblad Xpan (or Fujifilm T-X1). I was equally in love and equally frustrated when using this camera. Due to its panoramic aspect ratio, it was extremely difficult to compose, and yet extremely rewarding when everything falls into place.

I had been shooting with this camera for close to 2 years, and I really enjoyed my times with it. And now I had decided that its time to move on. I sold it off to another guy who is doing cinematography, who plans to use this camera to practice his vision and framing under the panoramic aspect ratio. I believe this camera has found a good owner who will make full use of its potential.

I think I had shared about my love to this camera in the past, together with the frustrations of scanning the film etc., so there’s no need for me to repeat that again. After I think hard about it, I finally made the decision to sell it away. A painful decision, but then again, all good things need to end some time… some where.

For film camera, I’m left with only the Zeiss Ikon. Will I keep it? Will I sell it away too? I’m still pondering. We’ll see how things unfold in the days to come. Till then.

Goodbye Fujifilm GW690III

Fujigilm GW690III with Kodak Portra 400

“What was all the hype on medium format?”

That’s the question I had awhile ago, and in order to answer it, I got myself the Fujifilm GW690III, a medium format fixed lens camera. It shoot film at 6×9 ratio, probably the largest you can get, completely manual for both focusing and exposure, built like a tank, and works like a charm. I wanted a taste of medium format myself, so instead of buying a digital back with interchangeable lens system, I decided to just keep it simple.

The Fujifilm GW690III was a great medium format camera. But why I decided to sell it? Well, my issue was not too much on the camera itself, but rather on handling of film. As the negative was so huge, it’s hard to get it flatten for a proper scan, and you really need a good scanner to extract the very best bits of it. Hence, I can’t do the negatives justice, and getting them scanned by the lab cost a bomb.

Fujifilm GW690III with Ilford HP5 Plus 400

So is medium format really worth the hassle? Well, it really depends on what you want to use it for. For landscape, hell yes. The amount of details you can extract, the huge print you can enlarge and make, it’s really jaw dropping coming from full frame. The same advantages go to shooting still life products and portraitures. Everything else? Well, I personally don’t see a need but you will be your own judge.

Looking beyond film, currently there were a few high megapixels full frame digital cameras that offer similar advantages at a much lower price point, hence eating into the pie of medium format cameras. However, digital medium format still has some other advantages (such as tonality) that position them better, but that’s a whole different story that I’ll not go through today. All in all, I really enjoyed using this camera and shooting with medium format, but it’s not what I need at the moment. So it’s time to say goodbye and hopefully someone will make better use of it. Till then.

Between the Line of Film and Digital

Dakota Crescent. Shot with Sony A7R Mk II. RAW files edited in Lightroom.

Recently I had noticed something when I switch between shooting film and digital camera. When I shoot on film, usually I will end up with a roll or two rolls of films after each walk, and I will get them developed by a local lab and once done, I’ll scan the pictures, clean some dust spot, follow by minor adjustment on level and curve and that’s about it.

When I shoot digital, I’ll probably start by selecting good pictures from all I have shot, then edit them to taste. I’ll probably spend more time experimenting things like HDR, playing with colours and HSL, deciding whether to convert one to monochrome and so on.

Dakota Crescent. Shot on Fujifilm X-Pro1. Straight out of camera JPEG.

Based on the way I work on film and digital, there are a few notable differences that interest me:

  1. Obviously, I will end up with less picture and, in a way, more keeper when shooting film. Less picture means less to be processed.
  2. There will usually be a gap from the day I took the shot until the day I get the processed film back in my hand. Hence, I’ll have some time to “cool down” myself before processing them. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. Usually I will process the digital files very soon.
  3. I’m more lenient when it comes to flaws on my film picture as compared to digital. I can accept some degree of out of focus, or some minor dust or scratches on them. But when shooting digital, I’ll try to strike for “perfection”.

Reflecting on both mediums, it seems that shooting digital is a more “tedious” and time consuming process for me, and it certainly defeats the purpose for those who wanted instant sharing of their works on social media.

Dakota Crescent. Shot with Zeiss Ikon and Ilford Pan 400. Scanned and slight adjustment in Lightroom.

I certainly enjoyed the process of shooting and editing my film pictures more. So does it mean I should shoot more on film instead of digital? The easy answer is yes, as instant sharing isn’t really something that I really need. But why don’t we look at it from another angle, can I simplify the digital process to be as close as the process I have while shooting film?

Perhaps it’s possible, and that’s something I’ll try out and see how things unfold eventually. Shoot with smaller capacity SD card maybe, be more critical on the shot I take, let my pictures sit for awhile before working on them, don’t be too fancy with post editing and so on. Sounds about right. Hopefully by simplifying my digital workflow I will get to focus more on shooting instead. Till then.

Shooting Slides

Xpan + Provia 100F
Slides, or positive film, is another type of film that has been favoured by most in the past for producing extremely sharp and detailed print with very little grain. Unlike ordinary colour film or black & white film which were negative film, when slides exposed and developed, you get to see the picture itself on the film in full colour. I can still recall the feeling of receiving my first roll of slides… it’s magical.

Xpan + Provia 100F
In the past, people prefer to mount the film onto holder, then project the film directly in order to share and view the picture. This is something that can only be done on positive film but not the usual negative film.

Zeiss Ikon + Velvia 50
I had shot a roll of Velvia 50 sides before this, and the result were horrid. From there I learned on how to work with slides and expose them properly, as they have very limited room to push and pull in post, and luckily my second roll of slides, which was Provia 100F, came out pretty well in terms of exposure.

Zeiss Ikon + Velvia 50
Slides certainly produced very good image quality, and it’s not hard to understand why there are photographers who are still swear by slides and using them, especially for large format shot. But the trouble of getting slides processed and the price of it do put me off to shoot more. Perhaps once I get a hang of it, I’ll work out some personal projects that shoot on slides. But for now, I’ll probably stick with negative film.