A few years ago I bought a Ricoh Diacord TLR. My goal was to find a medium format camera that is compact, lightweight, and has a built in light meter. As a long time user of a Pentax 6x7 system, I value the quality of 120 film images, but wanted something lighter and less cumbersome than the 6x7. The Ricoh Diacord - "Dia" being a reference to "Diamond" - was Ricoh's premium Twin Lens Reflex camera in the 1950's. Read on for a hands-on view regarding this camera's image quality and usability.
First - a quick summary of my take on this camera:
Build and Ergonomics: a solidly built camera, about as easy to use as any other TLR out there.
Lens: the 80mm f3.5 lens is razor sharp, even wide open. But the bokeh sometimes disappoints.
Meter: Amazingly, the light meter in the 60 year old camera I bought still works and is accurate. It is an uncoupled meter and has some limitations, but if you don't want to carry a handheld meter its there for you.
So let's dive into the camera with a little more detail...
Build and Ergonomics
This is a well built camera with simple controls. Focusing is handled with "Duo-Lever" controls - two levers on either side of the camera that control the focus mechanism. The levers are very precise and allow for fine adjustment of the image - and if you only have one hand free, one lever is all that is needed focus the camera.
Exposure is set by two levers, one on each side of the lens assembly. The "light value" / aperture lever controls aperture and is also used to set the baseline exposure from the meter (more on that in the metering section below.) Another lever controls the shutter speed. Per the manual, the shutter only supports the indicated speeds and setting the shutter speed between two speeds "will NOT give you an intermediate shutter speed." (Diacord L manual, page 15). Shutter speeds are in non-standard increments (1 -2 -5 -10 -25 - 50 - 100 - 250 - 500).
The shutter is not linked to the film advance mechanism and must be manually cocked before firing. This makes double exposures possible, which can be either a bug or a feature, depending on your perspective.
The shutter button is located in the lower right corner ("right" being from the user's perspective.) One limitation of this camera is that is does not accept a standard cable release. A cable adapter is mentioned in the manual, but I have not been able to find one. Some users mention that a Leica cable release adapter (a.k.a "Lieca nipple") can be used, but I have not found one that looks like it would work with the threading that the shutter release screws into.
Images can be composed using either the ground glass or direct view frame. I usually use the ground glass finder with the critical focus magnifier.
Lens The 80mm f3.5 4 element Tessar style lens is very sharp. A few sample images, all shot at f8 or f11:
The bokeh is something of a mixed bag, sometimes OK but sometimes not. It's a matter of opinion, but I don't think I've seen a really nice bokeh in any shot I've taken with this lens. Again, a few images, all of which were taken with the lens wide open in order to test the bokeh:
In the last image above - the milkweed seedpods - the trees in the background are quite far away from the focal place, but just never achieve a nice out of focus effect. The Diacord L has a 5 bladed aperture which is not considered ideal for bokeh, but since these images were shot with the lens wide open, the shape of the aperture has no effect. On the plus side, this lens does a great job rending scenes where a deep depth of field is needed.
It's somewhat amazing but the light meter in this 60+ year old camera is still functioning and is still measures light accurately, producing readings identical to the Polaris SPD100 exposure meter that I use with the Pentax 6x7. That said, the simple reflected light meter in the Diacord is fairly crude, often measuring the light at the camera's location as opposed to the light reflected from the subject. In the Diacord manual Ricoh makes note of this, and recommends tilting the camera downward and metering off the ground in front of the subject. For more accurate readings I usually resorted to the Polaris meter with its spot metering attachment, but if you don't want to carry a separate meter the Diacord's built in meter is better than nothing.
The Diacord's metering system is based on exposure value (EV) system and is simple and easy to use once you get the hang of it. Set the meter to the film's ISO and take a light reading. The meter reports a single number that represents all possible aperture / shutter settings for the light value. For example, here's an image of the meter on the camera showing light reading of EV 14:
To translate that into aperture and shutter settings, just slide the "light value" lever (see above photo of the Diacord L controls) until the yellow line on the "light value" / aperture control lands on the EV number from the meter. Like this:
In this photo the EV number is the red numeral in the middle row of numbers. Aperture is above it and shutter speed is below. The meter reading of EV 14 results in an aperture of f8 and shutter speed of 1/250.
This automatically dials in a correct exposure setting, though the aperture and shutter are arbitrary. To adjust the settings to the aperture / shutter combination you want simply release the "light value" lever and move the shutter lever to the desired shutter speed. The aperture and shutter levers are linked, so once the exposure value (EV) is set simply moving the shutter lever will change both shutter and aperture settings.
So - dial in the EV, let go of the light value / aperture lever, and set the shutter lever to the shutter speed you want. The aperture setting automatically changes. Like in this shot - where the shutter has been set to 1/50th of a second and the aperture is now f16+ (note that the EV setting remains unchanged):
The nice thing about this EV system is that it works with modern handheld meters as well, since most have an EV setting. I set the Polaris SPD100 to give EV values, and use the process noted above to set the exposure. If you are using a meter that just gives you the aperture and shutter setting, just grab the Diacord's aperture and shutter levers and move them to the position you want. The linkage between the aperture and shutter levers can be overridden by moving both.
The Diacord L uses a standard Bay-1 hood and filter system. New and used filters are available, as are lens hoods. The Bay 1 mount is designed for the hood to mount to an outer ring and filters to mount on an inner ring, which allows you to use both hood and filter at the same time. However, the modern Bay-1 hood I initially bought fit on the inner mounting ring and could not be used with a filter. I wound up buying an old Rollei hood to get one that would work with filters.
The Diacord's tripod mount is embedded in the knob that operates the latch that closes the back of the camera after film is loaded. On my sample the knob itself is not very solid, so the camera is prone to vibrations on a tripod. The solution is to use a mounting plate large enough to contact the four "feet" on the base of the camera. I wound up getting a Sirui TY 70-II Arca Swiss plate, which is just large enough for the job.
I'm enjoying making photos with my Diacord L. It takes up one slot in my camera bag, and with it I always have a medium format film option at hand. I find it to be well suited for landscape work, but would probably look to another camera if for images where bokeh was a central concern.
Since first embracing studio stacked macro photos a few months ago, I've been working on technique and also trying to explore avenues to get to higher magnifications. So today's test is of the Otamat 10mm f1.7 microfiche reader lens. A few days ago I posted on tests with the Otamat 20mm f1.7 lens, including an image taken at 5.5x lifesized. For this exercise, I used the shorter lens (which of course means greater magnification on extension) and tried to push up to 8x lifesize.
Here is a portrait of a wasp (I think it is a Braconid Wasp) taken with the 10mm lens mounted on a pair of short extension tubes:
This photo has some obvious flaws, but its a big step forward from my few past attempts at this level of magnification, so I'll take encouragement from that.
Here's the full subject mounted on a pin with crazy glue (click on the iamge for a larger view):
One interesting note - this stack was compiled in Photoshop CS6, not Zerene stacker. I initially stacked these images in ZS but was not satisfied with the results - lots of wierd artifacts in some areas of the image - and so I reverted to Photoshop. It did take many hours to stack just 50 images but the results were worthwhile.
A few days ago I tried some systematic (for me, at least) experiments with higher magnification macro photos. In the past few months I've gotten more comfortable with stacking images up to 3.5x to 4x lifesized. I'd like to increment that to the 5x to 6x range.
My most used lens - a 50mm - becomes somewhat unwieldy at those magnifications due to the amount of extension needed. While I have routinely photographed snowflakes at magnifications of 5x to 10x using a reverse mounted 50mm lens, in that case the camera is mounted in a straight vertical position and little stacking is used. For insects and plants, I've been mounting the camera horizontally and combining several dozen sacked images - all of which is difficult with extensive bellows and extension tube setups.
Here's the output from one experiment using an Otamat lens, a 20mm f1.7 on two medium extension tubes. Magnification was about 5.5x (click on the image for a larger view):
Test of Otamat 20mm f1.7
This is a 70 image stack. The stack was processed in Zerene Stacker, using both DMap and Pmax processes. The two output files were stacked in Photoshop PS 6. The original 70 exposures were also processed in Photoshop Camera Raw prior to being combined in Zerene Stacker. The image was taken in horizonal orientation and cropped to a square format.
Here are a couple of photos of the setup using the Otamat lens:
The led ring light is used only as an aid to focus - the amount of light it puts out is inconsequential to the exposure. A pair of flashes is used to obtain accurate exposure.
I have not found the Otamat lenses that I bought a few years ago to be as useful as I had hoped they would, but I am favorably impressed (and somewhat surprised) at its performance in this test. I should note that the images taken with the Otamat were extremely low contrast and I would up making some pretty notable adjustments to the images when preparing the raw files. The system with the Otamat lens was fairly easy to work with, being light and compact.
I plan to continue to experiment with this lens, and also with the Otamat 10mm f1.7 (I bought both of these a year or so ago, but have done little with them since.) A quick summation of the pros and cons of the 20mm lens: Pros - very good detail in a setup that is much more compact and stable than an SLR lens reverse mounted on extension. Cons - lacking in contrast and color saturaton (though this can be corrected in post exposure processing.
Since this is tagged as a review: I have no connection to Otamat or whatever company manufactures and distributes these lenses.
I recently received my Pentax K-3 and have been eager to test its high resolution, 24 megapixel sensor. This morning I had a few spare minutes and mounted a Tokina ATX 400mm f5.6 lens onto the K-3, along with an AF360FGZ flash for fill light. Then it was off to the bird feeder to snap some test photos of house sparrows having their breakfast. Here are some of the results, with actual pixel images below the full frame shots (click on the smaller image for a larger view: )
I went into this exercise with several questions in mind. Here is what I learned:
How would the Tokina ATX 400 work on the Pentax K-3? I wondered if this older lens, designed for film cameras, had the resolution and edge sharpness to work well on the K-3s high resolution, 24 megapixel sensor. Judging from the images - detail and sharpness is quite good, IMO. The backlit shot of the bird on the peanut wreath showed a small bit of color fringing, but that was easily corrected in Photoshop.
I should comment that while I have always considered this lens to be very good, it falls short of being truly excellent. Not to bash it - the sample I am using now was purchased used for a few hundred dollars. (My original copy developed a bad case of fungus.) So - I am hopeful that many older lenses from the film era will do just fine on the the K-3. (Good news for those of use with many older lenses from the film era….)
Shake reduction: Seems to have worked exceptionally well. While shutter speeds were in the 1/750 to 1/1000 range, for the equivalent of a 600mm (full frame) lens, the percentage of sharp images in this hand held exercise was quite good.
How would the K-3’s auto focus perform? AF was quite fast and accurate. It even tracked the moving birds pretty well, with minimal hunting. Overall, it was quite an improvement over the K-5 and earlier models that I have used – BUT the cam driven AF was as loud as ever.
How well did the camera handle white balance? The camera was set to AWB mode. The morning sun was still quite reddish when I shot these images. In shots where the flash did not fire the white balance looks very good. When the flash did fire the images have a noticeable greenish cast. This was easily corrected but suggests that the AWB adjustment for the flash is a bit off. (No surprise but the AF360 FGZ was underpowered for fill flash use in this case.)
How did the K-3’s metering perform? The camera was set to the new evaluative metering process, and performed excellently. Many of the birds were splashed with sun with a background that was in shadow, and the K-3’s metering adjusted the exposure to avoid any blown out highlights in the bird. However, some of the birds in the backlit shots were a bit underexposed, though this was easily addressed in post.
And what about image noise? All of these shots were taken at ISO 800. In general, noise is minimal. However, in backlit shots where the exposure was adjusted in ACR, some noise emerges. (See the image of the bird on the green peanut holder above) Probably not as noise-free as the K-5, though a much larger image size.
And lastly – How many files fit on a 32 gig card? I shot 441 images in the 20 minutes or so that I worked on it. Based on how much they filled the card, I would expect to get 760 images on one 32 gig card.
Overall – I’m pretty happy with the results here, given that it was an unplanned test, hand held, with a relatively inexpensive and old lens. When used properly, the K-3 will probably shine even more.
(Since this is tagged as a review I should comment that I am not employed by or paid by Ricoh / Pentax in any manner and bought the camera retail.)
About a month ago, I added a Nikon CoolPix P6000 to my camera bag. For some time now I’ve wanted a compact camera that’s easier to carry around than a digital SLR, but one that is also capable of producing decent prints. The P6000 isn’t without its problems, but does a good job of filling that bill.
Here’s a rundown of what I like and don’t like, about the camera:
1. Size, weight, handling: Like I said, I wanted something small and compact to easily carry around. This camera can easily fit into a jacket pocket, and in a pinch even fits in a shirt pocket. It’s light enough that you don’t even know you are carrying it. Nonetheless, the all-metal body has a solid feel to it – Nikon really hit the right compromise between diminutive size, lightweight, and rugged construction.
2. Image Quality – this hits on several of the camera’s features. The high megapixel count, great optics, image processor, and RAW file support result in excellent image quality. The one caveat is that noise levels above ISO 200 start to become problematic, and at ISO 800 and above they degrade image quality. That does result in slow shutter speeds and so it is hard to freeze action - but between the Vibration Reduction and the incredible depth of filed at all apertures (no need to stop down much) I find I can get good hand held results in many situaitons.
Here’s a hand held shot of the Kalamazoo River, taken from a bluff along the north bank:
The photo is unremarkable, but I printed it at 11 x 14 and then again at 16 x 22 inches in size. I was amazed at how well the detailed held up. I had hoped that the camera could produce acceptable 11 x 14 inch prints, and it seems to be well able to do that, and more.
3. Infrared Capability: Hey wait? That’s not on the spec sheet?!!
Shortly after I got my camera, I bought a filter adapter off eBay, and of course the first filter I tried was an R72 IR filter. Here’s a hand held shot of the park in downtown Kalamazoo, one of my first IR test shots.
There are issues and work arounds needed to get consistent results with the IR filter – I plan to devote a future post to that topic – but overall, the camera kicks out some great IR images with the R72 filter, at shutter speeds that are fast enough to hand hold. Nikon ought to put that on the spec sheet.
That’s what I like – and that covers almost everything I want from the camera - plus a little extra with the IR capability. Here are a few things I don’ care for, but tolerate.
1. Poor close focusing ability: It seems that every compact camera suffers from this. The macro focusing ability is at the wide end of the zoom range, and while you can get close to the subject there is poor magnification, limited ability to control the background, and wide angle perspective distortion in the shot. Here’s a shot of a very compliant Common Whitetail that illustrates these problems:
Yes - I was able to get the camera close to the subject, but so what? It’s a poor shot. Bottom line – this camera, without modification, is a poor choice for macro work. But, sadly, it seems that every other compact out there suffers form the same problems.
That said – I’ve had decent luck using close up filters and reversed lenses on the filter adapter. More on that in another post, but here is a better closeup of a much smaller insect taken with a 50mm lens reverse mounted in front of the camera;s built in zoom:
2. Mutually exclusive features: This is a minor nit, since I don’t use a lot of the bells and whistles built into the camera, but many of the features of this camera do not work with each other. Shooting RAW mode excludes almost all of the special features – no scenic modes, no digital zoom, no lens distortion correction, no high D-range shooting, etc. In the case of shooting RAW this is understandable – many of these features involve modifying the raw capture, and so are incompatible with RAW mode which aims to present the raw data in an uncorrupted format. But there’s no reason why auto bracketing is incompatible with RAW. Same thing with the macro scene mode - which simply restricts the lens to the zoom range when macro focusing is available, and sets the AF to focus on the closest point.
Bottom line – if there are some features you want to use, make sure they all work together.
Here are a few things that I neither like nor dislike:
1. GPS: I’m not sure that I’d want to use this, but it seems to work fine. It is slow to get a fix, though – in a field under blue sky with no trees nearby, it takes 5 to 10 minutes for the GPS to get locked in. By comparison, my rather old Magellan Explorist 200 was able to get a lock within 2 minutes in the same situations. But it does get a fix and it does work.
2. Optical viewfinder: it’s nice to have and I use it a fair amount, but the distortion is horrible and it crops so much of the image that it’s of very little value for serious composition.
3. Battery life: I read a lot about how the battery doesn’t last long, so I decided to test things out. Granted, I had charged my battery several times by the time I tested it, but I managed to get over 500 RAW captures from a single charge. No use of flash. Overall, I can’t ask for more.
Overall - I’m happy with the camera. Is it on par with a DSLR? Not quite… Does it produce Medium Format results? Are you kidding??? Is it a great little camera you can stick in your shirt packet and still use to get good 11 x 14 inch prints? You betcha!
After a bit of dawdling, I finally got around to downloading Photoshop CS4. Part of my reason for procrastinating with this upgrade is that I had heard about problems and limitations of running CS4 on 64 bit Windows XP Pro (the x64 edition.)
In my case, the rumors turned out to be completely wrong. I downloaded a trial version this morning and applied the registry tweak described on Adobes’s site (here). I then checked the “Enable OpenGL Drawing” box, found within Photoshop under the Preferences -> Performance tab. And voila – the zoom and rotate tools work like a charm. I can’t say that these tools are going to change my life, but the bird’s eye zoom looks like it will be very handy when doing detailed adjustments.
I was particularly happy to see that the GPU features worked on my x64 machine. It’s just my subjective impression, but CS4 actually seems to be a bit faster than CS3 – which is nice. FWIW – my rather aging PC is an Athlon 64 x2 4200 with 4 gigs of ram and a GeForce 7600gt video card. Definitely not a powerhouse.
I went back to a couple of RAW files I had passed over last summer, and ran them through the CS4 camera raw. It would be easy to not even notice the adjustment brush and the gradient filter tucked into Camera Raw – but they are worthwhile enhancements.
The interface is somewhat different – I can’t say that it strikes me as particularly better or worse. All morning I have been accidentally closing the whole application when I want to just close out a file… “Oh – the little ‘x’ is over there now, not up here…” But heck, it’s only been a few hours and by tomorrow the new interface will be old already.
Overall this was a worthwile upgrade and after a couple of hours of playing around I bought a serial number from Adobe. Here’s one of the shots from last summer, processed in CS4:
Update, March 12, 2009: After a few days of running it through its paces, I’m happy to say that 64 bit Photoshop is still working fine on Win Xp x64. The opengl effects are a lot of fun, and they’ve been working flawlessly – in the 64 bit version of the program. More important – the 64 bit version of Photoshop really sails through tasks. Even with large files, it is very quick and responsive – and I’m only giving it 2.75 gigs to work with.
The same I not true with the 32 bit version of Photoshop CS4. Here images break up, go blank in spaces, and even come together all akimbo after successive zooms and rotations. The situation is made much worse when a lot of images are loaded. As an experiment I loaded 6 different images, all in the 200 – 250 megabyte size - and ran them through a series of simple zooms, flips, and rotations. Everything worked flawlessly in the 64 bit version of PS, but in the 32 bit version the images quickly looked like a mess, with mis-rotated parts and blank areas. I should emphasize “looked like” a mess because the images themselves proved to be fine – only the display was garbled. I assume this must be a bug in the 32 bit video drivers for my video card.
Since I plan to work in the 64 bit version most of the time, this isn’t a major issue. I stumbled into it while scanning some prints today – the scanner drivers only work in the 32 bit version of the program.
Last week I hit a milestone of sorts – I finally replaced an ink cartridge on my new-ish Epson 3800. I purchased the printer last August when the Epson 2200 that I had been using died from a massive paper jam. Here are a few subjective observations about the Epson 3800:
Print Quality:Obviously the most important characteristic of any printer. As you’d expect, the print quality from the Epson 3800 is outstanding. I’m hard pressed to say that I actually notice much difference in color prints – they look great – the real improvement is in mono / B&W prints. Metamerism – which seemed to be the bane of B&W prints done on earlier printers – is finally at bay, though it not completely gone. As with any of Epson’s high-end printers, though, the 3800 produces fine results.
The Advanced B&W (ABW) print mode usually produces great results, but it can be pretty fickle. So far I’ve found that I have to print at the ‘darker’ or ‘darkest’ setting to get the kind of contrast and deep blacks that I’d like – which is kind of odd since I don’t do a lot with heavy blacks in most of my B&W shots. In a few cases, ABW mode has produced some seriously ‘off’ results – choppy gradients, poor tonality. “Spent” - shown above - is one image that simply refuses to print well in ABW mode. In those cases I just prep the image in Photoshop and print with profiles, as I would with a color print. That usually does the trick, and doesn’t leave me reliant on the print driver to get the results I want. But for quick and easy mono printing, ABW can work fine.
Printer Size: I initially planned to get another printer with 13 x 19 inch maximum output. While a larger print size is desirable, I’ve been pretty happy just sending the larger prints to a lab for output on a Chromira. Space is also a consideration since my office / studio does not have room for a really big printer. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the footprint of the Epson 3800 is only a few inches bigger than that of the Epson 2200 it replaced. It fit nicely on the stand that I used for the old printer. The printer is also light enough for one person to carry.
Build Quality: This is the one area that disappoints. I guess I can’t complain too vigorously, since I just said that one of the things I liked about this printer is that it is compact and lightweight. However, the plastic in the unit feels pretty lightweight. Both the input and output paper trays feel flimsy, and one good whack (or cat jump) would probably do them in. One particular annoyance is that the small metal plate that holds the front paper tray closed by attaching to a magnet on the unit fell off on day one. I’ve tried to glue it on a few times, but it doesn’t reliably hold. It’s annoying.
Paper Sizes:The Epson 3800 only handles cut sheet paper. At first, I didn’t think this would be a major limitation. In the past I have only used roll paper for mass producing small prints, or for the very occasional panoramic image. What I didn’t realize is that sheet paper selection is pretty limited at larger sizes. While there is a good selection of papers at 17 x 22 inch size, that reflects only a 1:1.25 aspect ratio – i.e. a 16 x 20 inch print. If, like me, you shoot at 1:1.5 or greater aspect ratios, paper selection become problematic. Some papers are available in 17 x 24 inch size, but even that is not a complete solution. One of the first larger prints I pulled on the 3800 is the Skegemog Swamp, shown here. It’s pretty much un-cropped, and the image prints to 16 x 24 inches. That calls for a 17 x 26 inch slice of paper – something I’ve been unable to locate.
My solution was to purchase roll paper and cut it into sheets the size I needed. So far I’ve printed several larger images on Epson Ultra Smooth Fine Art Paper, and Enhanced Matte Paper. It’s not an ideal solution because the papers have to be pressed flat before being used – something that took a few days under a very heavy pile of mat board to achieve. (The Ultra Smooth Fine Art Paper never did get fully flat.) I also picked up a roll of 16.5 inch wide Epson Premium Lustre Paper. I haven’t tried it yet but I’ve done a lot of printing on sheets cut from 10 inch wide rolls of this paper. The Lustre paper seems to flatten out pretty readily, so I expect it will work well. Call me fussy, but I wish it was 17 inches wide, as opposed to 16.5… So far, the largest prints I have made have been 16 x 24 inch images on 17 x 26 inch paper. Both Epson Enhanced Matte Paper and Ultra Smooth Fine Art Paper have worked well at this size. The printer driver lets you set up a custom paper size up to 37 inches, so a print of 17 x 36 seems to be possible, even though that is outside the stated specifications of the printer. If you are going to try to cut sheets form roll paper, be sure to use a good trimmer to get a clean, straight edge to feed into the printer. In my case I rolled the paper out on a work table, made an initial cut with a razor blade and straight edge, and then trimmed the final edge in a rotary trimmer. I also took car to not touch the coated surface of the paper and to blow any dust particles off the surface before printing.
Paper Handling: This seems to be one area where the 3800 gets some criticism, but so far I have had no complaints. I haven’t done anything extreme, but I did manage to produced a few hundred photo note cards on 9 x 5.8 inch Museo Artist Card paper. I just dropped the sheets into the sheet feeder, fudge the driver setting by telling it I was printing on Enhanced Matte Paper, and printed using the Museo profile. The result were great and the paper just chugged through the sheet feeder with no problems. While feeding sheets cut from roll paper has been a bit of a challenge at times, the rear paper feeder has worked very well for this. Cost Effectiveness: The larger 80ml ink cartridges means that ink costs with the Epson 3800 are much more reasonable than with the much smaller cartridges used in smaller printers. But then, the 3800’s 80ml cartridges are only a few dollars less expensive than the 4880’s 110ml cartridges. So while the 3800 is a huge leap forward in terms of ink costs, the real savings are to be had with the printers that use even larger cartridges. Many other sites have noted that, when the cost of ink is taken into account, the 3800 actually costs less than the smaller Epson 2880.
Driver: I’m using the 64bit driver on Win XP x64. Disregard my rant from last night - this morning I realized that I should install the latest version of the driver before critiquing. Guess what? All the main options are on the first page! Nice job, Epson. What can I say? It’s no worse that most pieces of software. If you are setting up a print that does not conform to your saved settings, you’ll have to click through a few screens to set things up. Paper type and basic print mode selection is on the main screen, but you have to drill into the ‘advanced’ table to fine tune color, dpi, and other settings. Paper size and paper feed options are on another tab. So, in general, you have to click on three separate tabs in the driver to set up basic print settings. It’s crazy that the most commonly used setting can’t be put on just on tab. Overall, I’m really happy with the Epson 3800. The larger print sizes, better ink prices, and improved B&W printing make it worthwhile – and I didn’t have to re-arrange the furniture to make room for it. However, if I were in the market for a new printer now, as opposed to a few months ago, I’d take a serious look at the new Epson 4880.
Note: Additional development times (stand process in HC110) can be found towards the end of this post: Ludington Dunes.
A few months ago I ordered what will no doubt be my last rolls of Kodak High Speed Infrared film. It’s sad to see an old standby pass on, but while online buying film, I decided to pick up a few rolls of Rollei IR400.
I was looking for a film that could produce the same startling infrared affect that the Kodak film delivered. After shooting a couple of test rolls, it seems that the Rollei film is certainly up to that task. Here are a few first impressions of the film, plus tips regarding exposure and development.
Infrared Photo of the Kalamazoo River taken on Rollei IR 400
Exposure: Without a filter, or with just a #25 red filter, setting the ISO to 400 and metering through the lens worked fine. As with most ISO 400 films, though, I prefer the results at ISO 320 or even 200.
As you’d expect, there is no IR effect when shooting without a filter. And, unlike some other IR films, there is very little IR effect when shooting with a #25 red filter. To get a pronounced IR effect I had to use a Hoya R72 infrared filter.
My first experiments with the IR filter were disappointing. I utilized a 5 stop filter factor, so I metered at ISO 400 with no filter and then increased the exposure by 5 stops – effectively shooting at ISO 12. I bracket up and down a stop, for ISO 24 and 6. Unfortunately, with the R72 filter in place, this still resulted in a grossly underexposed negative.
So the second time around I ramped up the filter factor to 7 - 10 stops – shooting at ISO 3, 1.0, and even 0.5. The shot above was metered at ISO 1.0 and was taken with the R72 filter in place. In bright midday full sun, with the lens at f16, this was a 1 second exposure – pretty darn long and comparale to the digital IR work I’ve been doing. (Just to be perfectly clear for folks trying to wrap their heads around adjusting exposure to compensate for filters – I metered the above shot with the camera set to ISO 400. That gave me a recommended setting of 1/500th of a second. I then clicked the shutter button to increase the exposure by 9 stops to 1 second even.)
The R72 filter was critical for getting the distinct IR effect. The image below compares two shots, one taken at ISO 200 with a #25 Red Filter, and the other with the R72. While Kodak HIE, Ilford SFX, and even the now long defunct Konica IR750 all produced good results with the plain red filter, with the Rollei film the red filter just doesn’t cut it. The technical specifications sheet recommends a deep red filter, but I have not tried that.
Comparison of Rollei IR 400 with #25 Red Filter and with R72 IR filter
Development: Having only shot two rolls of this filme, I processed the first in Rodinal 1:50 and the second in HC110 Dil H (1:66). The roll dipped in Rodinal was grainy – very grainy. The HC110 roll had much more subdued grain, and much better tonal range (of course, that is also a result of the second roll being better exposed.) The successful process with HC110 was 20 minutes and 20C, with agitation one per minute for the first 15 minutes, and every 30 seconds for the last 5 minutes. For the next roll I’ll probably drop the agitation for the first few minutes, and extend the time, in hopes of coaxing out a bit more shadow detail.
Rollei IR400 is the first 35mm film I’ve used that has a water soluble anti-halation / dye layer. While this is generally the rule for 120 and 220 films, I wasn’t expecting it in a 35mm format. As recommended on the Massive Development Chart, I pre-soaked the film for 5 minutes before developing .
In conclusion, I’m really happy with the rest results from this film, and am looking forward to doing more work with it.