I need a new film scanner

My Epson V750 Pro, purchased in 2009, has scanned thousands of rolls of film, slides, and prints. After making strange grinding noises recently, it has finally ground to a halt.

Here are the last images it was able to scan from the most recent roll (2022-Roll-066)…

Alice, 2022
Self-portrait, 2022

So now what? I guess I need a new scanner. I have a PrimeFilm XAs but it’s 35mm only and can be quite fidgety to use. And it only does 35mm. I need to scan 35mm, 120, and 4×5 negatives.

I am trying to decide between two options: A new flatbed Epson V850, or a digital camera scanning setup. I already have most of the doo-dads needed for digital camera scanning. I just don’t have a feasible digital camera and macro lens up to the task.

I’m leaning toward the Epson V850 flatbed because I’m used to the workflow and, although expensive, it would be cheaper than buying a new camera setup. On the other hand, I can use the new camera as, you know, a camera too, which would be nice.

It’s just that I tried scanning with a digital camera before (Fuji X-T3) and didn’t like what it did to the grain. I don’t know that a higher-resolution camera and better macro lens would fix it.

What I might do is rent something like a Nikon Z7 and one of their macro lenses for a week and see if I like the results. The Nikon Z is probably what I’d look at if I were interested in a new mirrorless kit for general photography anyway.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Comparing film and digital: Mom

I had lunch with my parents recently and took a few photos with both my film and digital cameras. I shot about the same number of photos with each camera, with close to the same number of “keepers”. Which do I prefer?

Here I’m showing one of each, digital and film, of my favorite from the visit.

Film: Leica MP (HP5 Plus)
Digital: Leica M10-R (B&W conversion in Silver Efex)

I prefer the film image. I manipulated the digital shot in Silver Efex Pro and added a bit of grain to try and get the look I like, but I still prefer the film image.

The difference might be partially due to using the 50mm Summilux on the MP. It’s my favorite lens. The digital shot was with the 35mm Summilux. Also a great lens, but lacks that certain “something” of the 50.

I don’t think the lens difference explains it, though. A large part of what makes me prefer film photos is just knowing they’re film photos. That means something to me, and influences how I respond to an image. One could probably use a decent HP5 preset on that image in Lightroom and I wouldn’t be able to tell it from a film photo in a blind test, but I don’t view my images that way. I know how they were made, and it matters.

Additionally, I can make beautiful silver gelatin prints of the film photo in my darkroom. That’s important, too.

I’ll probably always shoot both film and digital, but more often than not I prefer the results I get from film.

Fiber-based silver gelatin prints are a wonderful PITA

I hate making fiber-based silver gelatin prints in the darkroom. But I love having them to hold and to hang.

Fiber-based papers have this deep, magical sheen, and the surface is smooth yet has a distinct, subtle texture that is missing from resin-coated (RC) papers.

Compared to RC papers, fiber-based paper takes twice as long to process. It requires additional washing and optional toning steps. It eats up fixer and takes more trays than I have comfortable room for. It must be washed for up to an hour. And then there’s the curling, so I have to press the prints under heavy books for a few days before I can do anything with them

Just look at this example. It’s ridiculous.

A recently-dried fiber darkroom print.

I gave up on fiber a few years ago, but have been having second thoughts. A fiber print feels so good in hand. Heavy, smooth, and solid, somehow. And there’s no escaping how great they look. I’ve been asking myself if maybe it’s worth the trouble after all. I made a few prints this week and yes, it is definitely worth the trouble.

A recent print of a favorite negative. On fiber.

I enjoy processing film

There are things that I dislike about shooting film, but processing isn’t one of them. I actually enjoy it.

I shoot a roll or two of film each week and process it in my bathroom darkroom. Developing black and white film is quite simple. I have gotten to a point where the process is muscle memory. I shoot mostly the same type of film (HP5 Plus) and develop it in HC-110. I know the dilutions and I know the time, temperature, and agitation schedule.

It takes me about 20 minutes to develop a roll of film. I have to pay attention for five minutes in the developer, one minute in stop bath, then five minutes in the fixer. After that, it’s a hands-off ten-minute wash, a quick dip in Photo-flo, and that’s it.

Standing at the sink during the processing steps is meditative. I can stand there and just let my mind wander. It’s usually silent, but sometimes I have music playing. And there’s nothing like seeing the images unfurl when taking the roll off the reel. Magic.

Scanning, on the other hand, is 🤬.

The Kodak Retina IIIC

Kodak Retina IIIC

My dad called me from Florida and said that one of his neighbors had died and left a bunch of camera stuff to be given away or sold. He mentioned there was “some old Kodak” and wondered if I was interested in it. I said “Sure, why not” and he said he’d send me a box with the camera and some other stuff that came in the box.

The box arrived yesterday and I was thrilled to find a working Kodak Retina IIIC inside. I didn’t know much about the Retinas except they were around for many years and were very high quality cameras, which isn’t something Kodak is known for.

The last of the Retinas, the “Big-C” IIIC was made from 1957-1960. I assume that mine was made somewhere late in that range, based on the serial number. It doesn’t have the absolute latest changes, so let’s guess 1959.

I was surprised by how nicely the camera is built. It’s dense and feels very solid. All the movements, from focusing to folding the lens, are smooth and dampened well. It’s not quite Leica-level build, but much closer to it than I expected, especially considering the price.

I put a roll through it immediately and everything appears to work perfectly. Not bad for a 60-plus-year-old camera.

One of the lauded features of the IIIC is the 50mm f/2 Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon lens. I haven’t shot enough to get a good feel, but even after one quick roll I can see that it’s no slouch.

For more details about the camera, there are a few good resources. I enjoyed this Retina IIIC review by Kurt Munger . For everything you need to know, Chris Sherlock has a ton of info on the Retina series .

I don’t know yet how often I’ll use this new camera, but it’s certainly not going to spend the rest of its days on a shelf.

Here’s the camera’s page on my wiki

Studio self-portraits

I finished a roll in the MP today by taking a bunch of self-portraits in my basement “studio”.

The shots in which you can see both my hands were triggered by stepping on the release bulb. Clever! 🙂

I really like the look of these. They were shot in my basement with a new canvas backdrop. I used two Profoto strobes. One with a softbox (octogon) to camera left, and a second with a reflector at camera right pointing at the backdrop. I’m learning.

Large Format: Challenges

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There are too many things that can go wrong when shooting large format (4×5) film.

I made four exposures of my friends Steve and Bryan this afternoon. Two of the four were ruined right off the bat: The first, because I’d left the shutter open when pulling the dark slide. The second because I didn’t expose it at all and processed as though I had.

Large format is hard.

There are so many opportunities to fail that making a successful image is really quite rewarding. Today wasn’t a rewarding day. Both of the photos that weren’t completely ruined were spoiled in other ways.

The above image was taken while facing into the sun. That was dumb. I was so flustered after accidentally exposing the first negative that I basically ignored the actual subject of the shot.

And the following image shows some blooming/flair around the overexposed decking and table areas. I’m not sure why it’s so severe. The lens may have been dirty.

Bryan and Steve (Linhof Master Technika | Rodenstock APO-Sironar-S 135mm | HP5+ 400 Scanned with Epson V750 D-76 1+1)

Oh well, I’ll just need to keep practicing because when it works, it’s awesome.

The Linhof Master Technika

Anyone who’s dabbled in large format photography knows the name “Linhof”. It’s one of those companies with a long history and a reputation for building some of the best 4×5 field cameras available. I’ve always been curious about them. Are they really “the Leica of large format”?

My first 4×5 camera was a beat up Burke & James press camera. Then a beat up Crown Graphic. Then a Speed Graphic, and finally a Wista Field Camera. The first three were super cheap. The Wista was bit more serious, but it was such a beautiful wooden camera.

The problem I have with large format is that I hate tripods. I had the most fun shooting the Speed Graphic hand-held. This is not how large format is done today, though. Maybe back when Weegee was doing his thing, but now it’s for sharp and super-detailed landscape and architectural work, mostly. Maybe studio portraits. Nonsense, I want to do hand-held, informal, environmental portraits. My Speed Graphic has a light leak, though, so I haven’t been shooting much 4×5.

Then one afternoon I spotted a Linhof Master Technika kit in one of the forum classified sections. It was the camera, lenses, grip, viewfinder, cams, and film holders. The camera was recently CLA’d and had the bellows replaced with genuine Linhof replacement bellows. Basically, it was everything I’d need for handheld 4×5 work. Plus, it was the mythical Linhof.

I bought it. The gentleman who sold it to me included a stack of large format photograph books, negative sleeves, a cool Grafmatic film holder and a bunch of hand-written notes with details about many of the items. I couldn’t be happier with the purchase.

And the camera? It was made in 1972 but looks and feels almost new. The short version is that it’s as well-built and smooth as I’ve been told. Everything is solid and tight and moves like butter. Its build quality feels so far beyond that of my old Graphics that it’s hardly fair to compare them.

It came with three lenses: A 90mm Schneider-Kreuznach Super-Angulon f/8, A 135mm Rodenstock APO-Sironar-S f/5.6, and a 240mm Fujinon A f/9. All three lenses have lens-specific custom cams that allow for accurate focusing using the rangefinder. This means I can focus and shoot hand-held with any of them. And just look at that giant grip!

90mm, 135mm, and 240mm

I’ve only had the camera for a week, and shot maybe a dozen sheets so far. It’s a joy to use, and I hope to use it often. Here are a few photos I’ve made while getting used to using the camera.

Linhof Master Technika | Rodenstock APO-Sironar-S | Ilford Delta 100 100Scanned with Epson V750Home developed in D-76 1+1 | 11min at 20C
Linhof Master Technika | Rodenstock APO-Sironar-S | Ilford Delta 100 100Scanned with Epson V750Home developed in D-76 1+1 | 11min at 20C