Some months ago, I acquired a vintage Nikon F2 Titan in the hopes of both fulfilling a longtime photographic dream, as well as perhaps shooting a little film again in the name of stimulating creativity. Many of you have been anxious to see the results; I bet none more so than myself. The trouble is, I feel that I’ve set a standard here that I must uphold; if the images from this roll don’t meet that standard, then I think there’s going to be a lot of hand-wringing, rude gestures and cries of ‘pah, amateur’. In this post follows the highlights of that first roll.
Before I show any images, I want to give some background: I’ve shot film creatively before. I’ve even processed it before, as part of my dissertation on improving measurement precision using short-wavelength laser holography (don’t ask, because I don’t really remember). But I’ve never done both, and my processing days predate my creative photography days by a considerable period of time. Finally, the last time I shot film was in mid 2009, with a Leica M6TTL. Before that was 2005, with another Nikon – an F2A. Note: EXIF data will say ‘D800E and 50mm’, because that’s what I used to digitize the negatives.
This roll is both the first roll of true B&W I’ve shot*, processed and scanned entirely singlehandedly. It shows, too: it’s grainy considering it’s Ilford Delta 100 exposed at ISO 100; in places it’s uneven, and there’s a streaking problem from where I got impatient and decided to try to wipe the film dry with a microfiber cloth. In hindsight, one of those Dyson Airblade hand dryers would be awesome for the task.
*An embarrassing, dirty confession: all of my previous film B&W work was C41 process (BW400CN, XP2-400) for convenience – finding somebody to develop black and white film in Kuala Lumpur is not a trivial task because serious shooters do their own, and consumers don’t do it at all.
The ‘scanning’ was accomplished with an interesting hack-rig: my product photography lightbox, lit by a speedlight within, film passed through a cardboard mask (to prevent scratches) and the camera resting above, spaced perfectly with the long hood from a Zeiss ZF.2 2/100 Makro-Planar but fitted to the 2/50 Makro-Planar which coincidentally has the same bayonet. Add a 20mm extension tube, and the spacing is not only perfect, but I now have a 4000+DPI scanner.
I’ve spent some time in Photoshop to automate the conversion process as much as possible, to try and keep the character of the film intact and consistent, and minimize the amount of individual work required on each image. I can’t say I’m 100% happy with the results yet, but we’re getting there. If I can run an entire roll of RAW files as an automated action – cropping excepted – then the total scan and process time is actually about the same as a comparable number of digital files.
Anyway, more on that in another article. For now, I just want to leave you with one thought: resolution both matters, and doesn’t – we’re seriously spoiled by the degree of image quality obtainable from the current state-of-the-art FF digitals. Enjoy! MT
These images were shot with a 1979 Nikon F2 Titan on Ilford Delta 100, with a mixture of lenses – Voigtlander 28/2.8, Nikon 58/1.2 Noct-Nikkor, Nikon 45/2.8 AI-P, Zeiss ZF.2 2.8/21 Distagon, Zeiss ZF.2 2/50 Makro-Planar, Zeiss ZF.2 2/100 Makro-Planar. Can you tell which is which, other than through perspective? I can’t.
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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved