landscape 70 – Holga 120N

landscape 70

I guess it was inevitable that at some point I’d buy a Holga 120N. Somehow these low-quality, medium format film cameras, with plastic bodies and lenses, a single shutter speed, and only two apertures, are capable of pure magic (as well as creating some of the most dreadful photos you’ll ever see).

The above shot is from the first roll I put through my new Holga, which cost me all of £29. I like what I see so far. No doubt there will be more to come.




I wasn’t looking forward to doing flatbed scans of colour film. I’d heard horror stories about how difficult it is to get accurate colours. So far I’ve not had any problems – though certainly some tweaks to white balance in Lightroom, both tint and temperature, were required.

It’s hard to go wrong with Kodak Portra anyway, it’s a wonderful film.

medium format film madness: sorted


(Bronica SQ-A. TRI-X 400. f8 1/500. This spot has become my default test-shot location.)

In two earlier posts, medium format film madness and medium format film madness: update, I detailed my attempts to get moving in medium format film photography. It wasn’t going so well. There was dust (lots of it) all over my scans. I was having under-exposure and softness issues and I was having doubts about the whole faff and expense of buying and developing film.

Well, I’ve resolved the big issues by taking drastic action.

In desperation I did some test blank scans and noticed that the dust pattern was suspiciously similar from one scan to the next.  I therefore took the scanner apart and sure enough it was full of dust on the inside. It was also full of bits of plastic that looked like they should be attached to something. At this point I realised that I’d been sold a dud.

So, step one: I purchased a brand new, factory sealed, Epson V500. You don’t see many of those as it’s quite an old model so I was pretty lucky. Using the new scanner there’s still some dust on my scans, and it’s still a pain, but there’s a lot less of it, it’s manageable and it feels like the effort is worthwhile.

I’d also not bonded with the camera, a Fuji GW690. It’s huge – a beast of a camera – and it’s not that easy to hand-hold… yet it felt really weird using a rangefinder on a tripod. In fact what I learned was that I don’t think I like the idea of a medium format rangefinder at all, especially for portraits (which is one of the things I want to use MF film for); I want to see what’s actually going on! I want to be able to see where the point of focus is at any point in the view, not just in a small and hard-to-see central rangefinder patch. How the hell am I going to focus on someone’s eye, when the depth of field is razor-thin, with a rangefinder on a tripod? It simply does not work. Focus and recompose? Yeah right – that may work at f11 but not at f3.5. I realise that some of you may be happy to work like that, but with larger format cameras I like to actually see what’s in focus.

Processed with VSCOcam

So, step two: I purchased another medium format camera to see if that would help; I picked up A Bronica SQ-A. I instantly fell in love with it. The moment I looked down into the waist-level finder and onto that ground-glass screen, where I saw a beautiful, clear, bright image of what was actually coming through the lens I knew that the Bronica and I were going to get on. My first test shots have been sharp and perfectly exposed, so it wasn’t me after all – perhaps that Fuji needs a service.

Processed with VSCOcam

And the square negatives from the Bronica are so lovely. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t really like the 4:3 aspect ratio, preferring 3:2 (which is why I ended up with the GW690 in the first place) but I’ve now discovered that I really like 1:1.

Step three: I have started using iso 400 film to give me more flexibility with shutter speed.


(Bronica SQ-A. TRI-X 400. f16 1/250.)

As for the faff and expense of film, it’s not so bad with the Bronica because, being a 6cm x 6cm format, I get twelve shots per roll instead of the eight I get from the GW690. I’ve also got used to sending the rolls to Peak Imaging, who are quick, offer good quality, and are reasonably cheap. They even have a freepost address for getting the film to them. Waiting for the negatives to come back is actually rather pleasurable.

I should sell the Fuji because I promised myself I would when I got the Bronica – but somehow I’m not sure now. Perhaps after shooting with the Bronica and getting my medium format skills in order I might just want to try that huge rangefinder again :-). Isn’t Gear Acquisition Syndrome a terrible thing?

I’m having fun now. Expect some proper medium format postings soon.


medium format film madness: update

Some of you may remember an earlier post, medium format film madness, about my entry intro the world of medium format film. Well here is the first result even vaguely worth posting:

industrial branches 2

“Industrial branches 2”. (Fuji GW690. 1/125 sec @ f11 (I think!). Ilford FP4+ 125)

It’s a revisit to the location of this polaroid shot.

I have to be honest, this whole film process continues to be rather tedious and so far I have few results that I am happy with. I have had under-exposure problems, despite metering with both a light-meter and a digital camera, and I have had some focus and sharpness problems. Most of this is likely down to user error, though it’s possible that there are some mechanical issues with my Fuji GW690; I simply don’t know because I don’t have another medium format film camera to compare it with.

Worst of all, I continue to have terrible dust and hair problems during scanning, despite using cotton gloves and constantly cleaning the negatives and the scanner (and even hoovering the room frequently). The amount of spot removal I end up doing in Lightroom is shocking.

I have also shot a roll of 35mm film on a Yashica Electro 35 recently – I dread to think how bad the dust issue is going to be on those smaller negatives.

I’d love to pay someone else to do the scanning but it’s really way too expensive

What’s especially awkward is I don’t really know what to expect: How much dust is normal? Just how sharp should a 10,000 pixel wide scan of of a 9cmx6cm negative be at 100%?

Paying for film and dev, and the rigmarole of posting it (to Peak Imaging) is a grind too.

There’s no exif either – all the shooting info has to be written down manually somewhere.

So am I a little down on the whole process? Yes.

Am I seeing some film magic, some glorious tonalities, some medium format lushness? No, not really. Not yet.

Am I going to give up? No. Not yet.

Stay tuned…