Pelicans on Portra

I used to be able to walk to the beach. It takes me about an hour to drive there now.

I made some time a few Sundays ago and drove out to Sonoma Coast State Park. Found a nice quiet place and sat awhile, eating some sliced cheese and Italian dry salami. Some pelicans riding the thermals near lands end kept me company.

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I shot these with my Leica R5 with a 60mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit R lens on expired Kodak Portra 400 film. My R5’s meter has been giving me some fits lately. I think a trip to DAG is in order.


Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f/2 Nikon F-Mount on Kodak Ektar 100

I am not always rational when it comes to feeding my photography hobby and once in a while, I buy a camera or lens for no good reason other than “I want one of those!” Such was the case with the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f/2 lens for Nikon F-mount. This is a brand new lens made to look like the classic pre-Ai Nikkors. And that’s precisely why I bought it…I thought it looked cool. And I do think it looks mighty nice on my F3. It would probably look even better on one of my chrome body F2s.

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I had a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 near the bottom of my film stash, so I loaded it into the F3 and fired off some test shots with the Voigtlander lens.

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Yes, it really was over 100 degrees the day I shot these!

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Not sure about the 40mm focal length, but this lens has nice fit and finish, clicky f/stops and very smooth focus. It’s a well made lens, renders colors nicely and is reasonably sharp. I’ll shoot it again on a day when it isn’t over 100 degrees.


1901 Eggleston Camera Straps

A bad camera strap can really foul an otherwise wonderful day of photography. There’s nothing worse than having your strap constantly sliding off of your shoulder or getting in the way of your film advance lever. Or straps that make your camera hang in some weird, out of balance way.

I have tried loads…and I mean loads…of different kinds of camera straps and there is one that I keep coming back to time and time again: The 1901 Eggleston camera strap from 1901 fotografi. Owner Mark Lewis is an award-winning portrait photographer based in the UK and for years he searched for a comfortable, long lasting and good looking camera strap. Unsatisfied with what he found on the market, he began to make his own out of top quality Italian leather and only the best metal hardware.

Unboxing a new Eggleseton leather strap is such joy!

Unboxing a new Eggleseton leather strap is such joy!

Mark makes several different styles of straps, but I first discovered his simple fixed length Egglestons when I was looking for a nice leather strap for my Leica M2. I didn’t want a big, wide bulky strap on the graceful little Leica rangefinder and the Eggleston was perfect.

These straps are so nice and comfortable, so well made and good looking, that they quickly found their way onto my larger and heavier SLR bodies. Even with the size and weight of say…my Canon F-1, the Eggleston is just perfect!

And here is the best part of Mark’s great camera straps…the split rings. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I really struggle with camera strap split rings. Many are just so hard to pry open that after moving a strap from one camera to another, my finger tips end up hurting. Not with the 1901 straps. Mark told me he spent a lot of time searching for just the right ring and the time spent was worth it. These splits are so easy to open!

The 1901 Eggleston straps cost about $30 USD plus shipping. They come in a wide variety of colors. Mark makes these straps by hand, responds to email inquiries promptly and ships quickly. And unwrapping a new Eggleston and taking it out of its box and little pouch is a sublime experience. The leather is so soft and the smell is just fabulous!

I love supporting photographers who create products for other photographers. If you are looking for a high quality, reasonably priced strap for your camera, take a look at the wonderful leather straps from 1901 fotografi.

Analog on Analog

I love macro lenses, especially those that are close to the normal 50mm focal length. It’s great to have a walk around lens on your camera that has the added capability of allowing you to get in close if necessary. I have three macros I just adore; the Leica 60mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit-R, Pentax 50mm f/4 Super Macro Takumar and the 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor. I think every lens manufacturer offers some sort of macro/micro lens. They are a versatile and fun to use addition to any kit.

On a recent Sunday, I was organizing my photo man cave and got the grand idea to shoot some close ups of some of my gear. I exposed these shots hand held with available light using my Nikon FM2n, 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor and some Kodak T-Max 400 film. I could have gotten in tighter and increased sharpness if I had taken the time to use a tripod, but these are still satisfying.

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I am not sure why, but my Nikon F4 body attracts dust even when stored in a Pelican case.

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My end-of-roll self-portrait, which reminds me which camera and lens I was using. The 55 Micro-Nikkor is a great lens for everyday shooting. It’s fast, small and light. And if you want to blow an afternoon shooting close-ups of your camera gear—it’s the perfect co-conspirator!

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Self Portraits: Volume 2

I started taking mirror self portraits several years ago as a way of keeping track of which camera I was using when I received a roll of film back from the lab. I have never liked photographs of myself, but don’t mind hiding behind a classic film camera.

Olympus OM-2n

Olympus OM-2n

Nikon F3HP

Nikon F3HP

Pentax Spotmatic SP

Pentax Spotmatic SP

Nikon F100

Nikon F100

Leica R6

Leica R6

Canon A-1

Canon A-1

Nikon F3HP

Nikon F3HP

Even though I can easily flip my images in post processing, I rarely do. Whenever I post one of these selfies to Facebook, someone will invariably flip the image for me.

Leica R5

Leica R5

Habits are hard to break…even when I shoot digital.

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A Day with the Olympus OM-1n

Throughout my “return to film photography” odessey, a properly functioning Olympus OM-1 has eluded me. I have purchased a couple off of eBay over the years with any number of issues—stuck shutter speed dials, grindy film advance levers and de-silvered prisms. And all of my previous OM-1 bodies still used the 1.35 volt and unavailable mercury batteries.

It would not be a complete journey for me if I didn’t try this legendary camera with everything functioning as Yoshihisa Maitani intended when he debuted the OM-1 in 1972. So I reached out to one of my favorite camera repair guys, John Titterington who often has refurbished OM-1 and OM-2 bodies for sale on his eBay page and asked him to keep his eyes open for a nice OM-1n for me. The OM-1n was released a few years after the original OM-1 and has a few refinements, including a redesigned film advance lever.

Within a week of my request, John emailed that he had received an Excellent++ body and if I wanted it, he would do a complete CLA and convert it for available 1.5 volt photo cells.

Olympus OM-1n fitted with the 50mm f/1.8 Zuiko kit lens

Olympus OM-1n fitted with the 50mm f/1.8 Zuiko kit lens

I am always amazed at how wonderful an old film camera can feel after a proper cleaning, lubrication and adjustment. I often read film camera reviews online where the photographer dismisses a camera because something was just not functioning as designed. I too had been guilty of that with the OM-1n, judging this camera only on the bad examples I’ve owned. The camera I received from John arrived clean and shiny with a bright and beautiful viewfinder, silky smooth film advance, calibrated shutter speeds and responsive light meter. And it uses 1.5 volt batteries!

While I was waiting for my OM-1n to arrive, I went looking for a period correct chrome-nosed 50mm f/1.4 Zuiko lens to round out the shooting experience. I found one from a seller in Japan.

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Camera and lens in hand, I loaded up some Portra 400 film and headed out for a day of fun.

Grapes on the vine at Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, CA

Grapes on the vine at Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, CA

Castello di Amorosa castle detail.

Castello di Amorosa castle detail.

The Bale Grist Mill in Napa Valley

The Bale Grist Mill in Napa Valley

The water wheel at the Bale Grist Mill

The water wheel at the Bale Grist Mill

Another shot of the water wheel at Bale Grist Mill. The Mill is a historic site, but they grind every day!

Another shot of the water wheel at Bale Grist Mill. The Mill is a historic site, but they grind every day!

I stopped by one of my favorite wineries…Markham Vineyards

I stopped by one of my favorite wineries…Markham Vineyards

It was over 100 outside, but 65 in the cellar!

It was over 100 outside, but 65 in the cellar!

I stopped by Darioush Vineyards to photograph the Water Lilies.

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And once back home, my roses.

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I am discovering that the more I shoot these old film cameras, the more I appreciate simple, minimalist, mechanical ones. The OM-1n is one of the purest of all the mechanical SLRs. The meter is very accurate and it’s quite easy to frame, meter, adjust and shoot. These little Olympus cameras are so well built, almost jewel-like or similar to a fine watch. They feel so good in the hand and you can carry one around all day, like I did on this wonderful Northern California day, and hardly notice it.

I am glad I didn't judge the OM-1n on my earlier experiences with unserviced examples. This camera is an absolute joy!

To make my OM-1n even more of a pleasure to use, I picked up a nice leather half case.

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More Fun with the Leica 60mm Macro-Elmarit-R f/2.8

The Leica 60mm Macro-Elmarit-R f/2.8 lens I picked up from Ken Hansen late last year has quickly become my favorite walk around lens when I shoot my Leica R4s MOD-P, Leica R5 or Leica R6 bodies. The 60mm focal length is close enough to a 50 to make it a nice normal lens. It’s pretty fast at f/2.8, not overly large or heavy and having macro capability gives me the option to get in and up close on interesting subjects I come across.

Here are some shots from a recent photo walk I took with my Leica R6 in St. Helena, CA. I shot Kodak’s Portra 400 film and overexposed by a stop.

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Of course, there is always the mirror selfie at the end of the roll so I can remember which camera I was using at the time.

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Servicing the Leica R4s MOD-P

When I first began collecting and using classic film cameras ten years ago, I discovered pretty quickly that these vintage machines would, at some point, need service. At the very least, a camera that is decades old will probably need new internal light seals.

At that time, the analog film community was much smaller than it is today. There were only a handful of film photography blogs and scant few online reviews of camera repairers. That is why today, I always try and do a quick little review whenever I use a new camera repair shop so others might benefit from my firsthand experiences.

I bought my Leica R4s MOD-P camera body from a member of the Film Photo Gear group on Facebook. I have bought and sold several times to members of this group and have found everyone there honest and nice to deal with. The R4 completes a trilogy of Leica reflex bodies that I have wanted, the other two being the R5 and R6.

Leica R4s MOD-P black body with 35-70mm f/3.5 Vario-Elmar-R

Leica R4s MOD-P black body with 35-70mm f/3.5 Vario-Elmar-R

The Leica R4 was introduced in 1980 as the first multi-mode Leica SLR. It featured program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual exposure modes. The early R4 bodies suffered from a number of electronic gremlins which gave Leica SLRs a bad name. Electronic issues were resolved later in the production run and those later cameras are very reliable. All of the Leica SLRs were insanely expensive, so a dumbed down R4 was introduced in 1983 to beef up sales; the Leica R4s, which offered only aperture priority and manual exposure modes and no shutter speed indication in the viewfinder. In 1985, the R4s MOD-P was introduced which added shutter speed indication to the viewfinder and some nice ergonomic touches. The MOD-P has the later reliable electronics and the fabulous benefit of both spot and average exposure metering.

My R4s MOD-P arrived in nice cosmetic shape and everything seemed to function as designed. When I opened the camera back though, I found the foam seals very questionable, especially the thicker seal around the little window that allows you to see the type of film you have loaded in the camera. Replacing seals in an SLR is not difficult, but with my fumble fingers and aging eyes, I prefer to leave it to a professional. And while the tech is re-doing the seals, it’s a great time to give a classic camera a good multi-point inspection.

Some years ago, when I was having an affair with Leica M rangefinders, I had considered sending my M3 to Sherry Krauter for a CLA. I ended up trading in the M3 on another Leica, so it never ended up in her shop. With my R4s needing some work and seeing that Sherry is one of the few techs left who work on Leica reflexes, I emailed her to ask if she would work on my R4.

I had read some reviews that said that Sherry has a unique personality—straight and to the point. I sent her a very long email request and she answered with “Call me. 1PM-3AM. Best, Sherry.” So I called her and she was…delightful! First, she tried to convince me that I could do the foams myself, it isn’t rocket science she told me. And a nice conversation about Leica SLR cameras followed with an invitation to send mine in. She did warn me that she was very busy and it might take a while.

A month later, my R4s MOD-P came back from the shop, new seals and everything else checked out fine. Sherry’s prices are very reasonable and her work is top notch. Don’t expect long email responses. Do expect you might be asked to call her. And if you need work on your Leica R or M, she comes with my recommendation. She also has some very nice Leica cameras, lenses, enlargers and accessories for sale on her website.

Leica R6 Post Script

A few posts back, I wrote about the passing of legendary New York City Leica dealer and good friend Ken Hansen at the end of April. I still can’t believe I can no longer shoot him an email with a Leica question or browse and drool at the items in his eBay store.

My last purchase from Ken was a used Leica R6. The R6 is one of the most desirable of the R-series cameras because it is a dependable, purely mechanical camera with spot and center-weighted metering. Like most of the used Leicas Ken had for sale, the R6 he sold me last August appeared to have been kept in a time capsule. This is one of the photos of the camera Ken sent me pre-purchase…

Leica R6 (Ken Hansen photo)

Leica R6 (Ken Hansen photo)

The camera still had the protective foil on the baseplate…

(Ken Hansen Photo)

(Ken Hansen Photo)

Like every transaction with Ken, the camera was in a box on its way to me before I sent him any money for it. When it arrived, it was as described, cosmetically great and functioning as designed.

I shot a few rolls with the camera and noticed that the meter was off a bit, not much more than a half a stop or so, but enough to require some fiddling in Lightroom. And while the light seals were still pretty good, after nearly 30 years, it was time to replace them. Since this was my last ever Ken Hansen camera and I intend to keep it forever, a proper service was in order.

While there are many places to have Leica M bodies serviced, there are only a few options for service on Leica SLRs. One of those is DAG Camera Repair. Don Goldberg is well known as a master Leica service technician with great reviews and I have always wanted to try him. Seemed a perfect fit for this camera with so much sentimental value.

I contacted Don via email and he responded promptly with instructions and anticipated wait time. It’s always nice when a repair shop lets you know in advance how long it will take to get your camera back. I sent my camera off and had it back exactly as he promised.

The seals did need replacing including the one around the little window on the film door that show what kind of film you have loaded in the camera. This is a common source of light leaks in Leica R bodies. My R6 came with a weird grid matte focusing screen, so I also asked him to change out that screen for a split image one. Don also calibrated shutter speeds and meter, bringing the camera back to factory specs.

Very pleased with the service from DAG Camera and it’s nice to have my R6 back home. I’ve made a lot of nice analog photography friends over the past decade and my serviced R6 will always remind me of one of the best.

Leica R6 with 50 Summicron lens

Leica R6 with 50 Summicron lens

Calistoga with the Pentax K2

Since receiving my Pentax K2 back from Eric Hendrickson with the split image focus screen modification, this nifty camera has become one of my favorite shooters. The K2 was, for a short while, the top 35mm SLR in the Pentax line, only surrendering that position to the amazing LX pro body in 1980.

I took my K2 and SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.2 lens, loaded with Kodak ProImage 100 film, out for a Sunday walk around Calistoga, California. It was a pleasant day with lots of warm sunshine. I sent this roll off to Boutique Film Lab for processing and scanning and tried their full frame scanning option which adds an interesting border to the images.

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I like the border effect on the images, but it made me realize how much I have depended on the crutch of post production in my photography. I need to spend more time thinking and composing. In the back of my mind, there is always this little voice that tells me that everything can be fixed in post. Perhaps a little more time visualizing before clicking the shutter will make me a better photographer.

I went back to my digital crutch for this last shot, a selfie in the window of an oyster bar.

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I am beginning to really like Kodak Pro Image 100 film. I have no idea what it is and opinions vary widely on the internet, but it renders colors nicely, has fine grain and scans well. And the K2 is such a joy to use now with the split image screen!



Best of The Beach (VOL 5)

During my nine years living on the Northern California coast, I experienced some awesome storms. Rain, wind, high surf, road closures, power outages…even watched the Coast Guard perform some dramatic rescues. Coastal storms are one thing you just go through to experience the rush of living near the Pacific.

During the fall of 2016, one such storm swept an old fishing boat up on the beach. The Verna A II ended up stuck in the sand on the beach near me. She sat there for several weeks drawing lots of attention. As suddenly as she appeared, she disappeared at high tide one night. Before the ocean took her back, I got down there with my Nikon F2AS and 50/1.4 Nikkor.

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Ken Hansen

I am without words this morning, but one of my readers said it nicely. I will miss my friend.

“Ken Hansen died yesterday in New Jersey. His loss is great to the photographic community as he touched thousands of people with his honesty, integrity, and vast knowledge of all things photographic. Oh yeah, and he used to sell Leica cameras, too... Thanks for your post here. It was heartfelt and really portrayed Ken for the great man he was, selling much more than cameras since the 1970's. Now it's up to the rest of us to pay it forward. Good thing he showed us how to do this!”

Patrick Murphy-Racey, Knoxville, Tennessee.

Best of The Beach (VOL 4)

Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time with a camera and a frame of film left.

Most of my hikes along the Sonoma Coast were day long affairs and by the time I returned to the trailhead, my roll had usually been shot up. There’s never much to photograph at most trailheads anyway; parking lot, port-a-potties, trash cans and cars.

On this Sunday however, I had one or two frames of Kodak Portra 400 left in my Pentax Spotmatic SP. I also had one of the most pedestrian of all Super Takumars mounted out front; the 55mm f/2. As I approached the parking lot, I saw a young couple standing close to each other on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. There was another person nearby, a woman with cameras. It appeared that she was preparing to take some photos of the couple. Maybe engagement or pre-wedding or something.

I could never be a good street photographer because I have such a hard time invading anyone’s space, no matter how far away I am, but they seemed oblivious to me. It would have been better to have a faster camera…the Spotmatic requires stop down metering…or autofocus. But everything came together yielding one of my favorites photos taken along the coast, lens flare and all.

Sonoma Coast State Park, CA

Sonoma Coast State Park, CA


Pentax K2 Modification

I loved my Pentax K2 right from the start as you can easily tell when I wrote about it here. Beautifully made, metal-bodied SLR with aperture priority automation. It was also the first Pentax with a vertically running metal focal plane shutter which just sounds sublime. For a short while, the K2 sat atop the Pentax line.

Most every old film camera has one thing that you wish you change. Some things you can’t, like the fumbly ASA setting ring around the K2’s lens mount. Not sure why Pentax did that. It wasn’t a feature that carried on to any other Pentax camera that I know of. Perhaps they knew they made a mistake and never did it again. I am usually pretty good at figuring out how to use cameras without having to look in the online instruction manuals, but darn if I couldn’t figure out how to adjust the thing. Turns out there is an obscure little button around the bottom side of the ASA ring that must be pushed just the right way to allow it to turn. It’s not very user friendly, but since I don’t have to adjust it much, it is not a deal breaker.

What was missing from my K2 and is pretty critical for the eyes of an aging photographer, was split image focusing. Most of the K2s came with just a micro-prism focusing screen and while I could focus ok with it, having a split image screen in the K2 would make it pretty close to perfect.

Focusing screens in the K2 are not user changeable…at least not by someone with hardly any repair skills like me. But I was curious to see if perhaps my go to Pentax expert Eric Hendrickson might be able to help me modify my K2. Eric responded that he had one split screen left that would fit my K2 and would be happy to change it out for me. Ten days later, my K2 is back in hand with modified split image focusing and WOW! It makes all the difference. Eric had already CLA’d this camera for me last year, but it came back with an added bonus of a thorough cleaning. Nice!

Pentax K2 back from the shop!

Pentax K2 back from the shop!