Quite some time ago (more than a year, anyway), I sniped my way into a Speedex Special R. I’ve had dozens of these over the years. They’re fun to fix, fun to shoot, and produce wonderful results. I used to spend an awful lot of time fixing old cameras. A sickness, really. But it had been years since I’d worked on one of these. I contacted Sandeha and ordered a new bellows, knowing that the stock ones would be trash. Camera arrived. Not in stunning shape, a little corrosion on the metal, and the usual maladies – stuck focus, wonky rangefinder, loose coverings, and bad bellows.
Then I stalled. Decided it would take more attention than I would have to put into a flip camera. Everything went in the drawer. It all sat long enough that I eventually listed the bellows for sale, figuring the odds were against ever finishing the camera.
Well, no one bought the bellows, and I got to thinking about it again. Read some of my old threads about the work, and yesterday had a couple hours to play. Broke into the shutter, cleaned and adjusted the rangefinder, replaced the bellows. The camera’s now ready to load and test the focus. I remember now why I used to do this.
I’m sure I’ll sell this someday, but not today. I have two kids interested in playing with it. My wife and I have a summer vaca planned, and I’m thinking about bringing the Speedex along with some Ektar just for kicks. And now I’m trolling for more projects.
Had an idea for a non-portrait today: Shoot one of my benches with a single shop light above. Seemed like a good idea, really. I’m still learning the Ektascan, and there’s scant info about reciprocity failure. What started as a 12 second exposure (metered) ended up as a 10 minute exposure in order to get the shadows under the bench near zone III.
Clearly pushing the limits of the film. Pulled the developing about 30% to bring the contrast down to something reasonable. Still, lots of flare, the and contrast is poor.
So, after spending several hours running through half a dozen sheets of Ektascan, changing developing times and exposures, I set up the 70D and shot this in about 30 seconds. Desaturate, upload, done. Some things are better suited to digital, a lesson I never seem to learn…
I’d resigned myself to selling my 8×10 Eastman #2 recently. Hadn’t been shooting it: I couldn’t quite dial in the Ektascan BR/A in Adanol, the camera was unweildy, the Ries heavy. Got discouraged, annoyed, and checked out mentally. Went so far as to put the 14″ f/6 Petzval I’d bought for it on the block.
Gratefully, it seems to be a buyer’s market right now. Got no bites. As I was mowing this weekend, I figured I’d shoot something outdoors with the 8×10 and the 14″-er and maybe that would help it move. Decided I’d put the boy in front of the lacrosse goal for an end-of-season picture. I’d had a moment of developing success with the Ektascan in HC-110; I had just enough syrup left for a couple sheets.
I set the camera up, pre-focused and waited for some clouds. Stood my son in front of the net with his stick, and fired off the shutter.
Now, I’ve been shooting the same ol’ portraits for a long time. Bored with them. Wasn’t expecting much out of this shot, but was nice to shoot something a little difference. I was not ready for the rendering this lens would give, though. I’m in love. Have some ND filters on order so I can slow things down enough to shoot my local waterfall with this lens, too. I’m reinvigorated, and the rig is off the market.
Okay, while you can bottom feed with large format, it’s really not *cheap*. Usually. Lemme ‘splain: Years ago, Mark Sawyer published an article in View Camera about using dollar store magnifying glasses as objectives in LF. I immediately started looking for cheap glass. But everything I found was plastic, small, and had a secondary focal length diopter built into the lens. Didn’t seem like that would work, so I kept looking.
About a month ago, our local Ace had a sale on real, glass, single FL magnifying glasses. Three sizes, a dollar each. I bought one of each size. Mounted one for the 8×10 a couple days ago, but have no film. Tacked the midland length lens (which, turns out, is 7″ f/3.5) into a 4×5 board tonight, strapped a Packard to the front (literally – held on with a bunch of rubber bands) and aimed it at the boy.
I’m happy with what I got. And I’m a little disappointed – all those expensive lenses got very little on this’n. I’m reassessing my Magic Bullet chasing.
Took this photo this weekend of my wife and son, on 4×5. And I’m dissatisfied. It has me, again, ready to swear off large format portraiture. And I’ll tell you why:
My daughter gets her giggles from her mother. While my son is capable of sitting stock-still for multiple seconds, my wife couldn’t handle this 1/2 second exposure, and my son couldn’t stand still while he was telling her *she* wasn’t standing still. So, on large format, with a modern Sironar-N lens, the image is soft. Not what I was going for.
The exposure and lighting were not what I was shooting for. When I’m using period lenses, I tend to over expose a bit, which is easier for my scanner to recover. With this shuttered lens, the sensitivity to under exposure (using Arista film, which has horrendous reciprocity) is acute. The negative was under exposed by, maybe, half a stop, but that’s thin enough that I lose shadow detail. And it makes my scanner wacko.
Post-processing, while simple and full of opportunities and options with digital, are greatly reduced with a thinly-produced, wonky scan. No color option, no post application of various filters.
I’m back to where I used to be: Unless I have a specific reason to use LF for portraiture (i.e. – using a period/specialty lens), I can’t justify it anymore. This image should have been shot on digital, would have yielded a more expressive, technically stronger image. Shame on me – I was more about the process than the result.
Sometimes there’s nothing as satisfying as having a clean shop. Only took a few hours, but now the garage/shop is rearranged into something usable, sensible, and appropriate for actually making things. The trash pile is large (the garbage men won’t be happy tomorrow), and I still have to store the mower and gas cans in the shop area when I’m not working. But the power tools have a logical layout now, there’re room to move, and there’s clear benchtops.