Pixel freak…

More on 4″x5″: a classic 100% crop of a previously posted image.

The original 140Mpix picture cannot be displayed properly on the web (or I’d have to master dynamic flash viewer or such a mess) but I selected an area which is displayed at native resolution.

4"x5" example: Delta 100 + FX32

100% of the selected area (Super Angulon 90mm @f32):

Détail (cliquer dessus pour avoir vraiment 100%)

Détailed crop (click to see actual 100% view)

If you’re bored to death (maybe waiting for a 250 NEF panorama to crash your computer while stitching and dropping 130Go of temporary files before dying, as mine did) you can count the flowers surrounding the Apsara sculpture.

This is a 3200dpi un-sharpened scan. As can be seen the Delta 100 (in FX39) grain is not even noticeable

I guess there is more in my negative than displayed, and maybe sharper. However, having used f32, I may suffer lens diffraction, so maybe I already got almost everything out of this shot. The only issue may be the Epson 4870, which, while good, doesn’t produce scans as crisp as an Imacon or a drum scanner.

Anyway as it is, it can produce huge prints, which I may not dare to order to a lab, except if I get a place for an exhibition. Even then, a 40″x50″ laminated print would cost me an arm and a leg!

One thing I didn’t mention yet : seeing a scene on a groundglass is breathtaking. I already had this feeling while using the Hasselblad without a prism, but on a huge groundglass, I’m amazed each time I use my Graflex. It looks like 3D picture popping out, even if I know it isnt’ 3D. And you can focus using a quality loupe on the groundglass, so the focus is insanely precise.

I’m really pleased about my “LF wide angle kit”, even more when I think about the Hasselblad SWC, a camera dedicated to a single lens: Carl Zeiss’ 38mm Biogon. I think about the price, the fact that it’s not easy to use either, and that it shoot “only” 120 film. No troll there, it’s just my opinion.

I didn’t mention it yet, but for an architecture freak like me, a great feature is the “rise” movement, to avoid perspective issues. While being a large format camera, my antique camera only allows rise, no fall, shift nor tilt. This handicap is no big deal (I paid 130 euros for it!) and made it possible for me to get used to it in two photographs, and then jump in the plane that brought me in Cambodia. I hesitated before taking it on a trip given the fact I didn’t master it well, but I had to try. And I’m pleased I did. Had I played with tilt, I may have gotten lost.

In the next posts I’ll show the camera and the lens in detail, explain how I built a lensboard and how to load film holders (and how to fight monsoon humidity!!!)

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First steps in large format

As told in my former post, here come the first images done with a pre-anniversary Speed Graphic and a Schneider Super Angulon 90mm f8:

Ta Som, Angkor, Graflex & 90mm-f32, Delta 100 & FX39

Another one with a decent light (5 mn sunlight before the daily monsoon storm…)

Preah Khan, Angkor, Graflex & 90mm-f32, Delta 100 & FX39

As stated before, before I took the decision to enter the large format “madness”, I read a lot, especially  http://www.largeformatphotography.info

It convinced me that, while on a budget (this time I didn’t sell my other gear), one could buy a vintage (1936) camera and a used coated lens (manufatured in the 70’s) and produce breathtaking results, at least technically. I haven’t forgotten that a good photographer with a crappy camera can produce stunning pictures, while the other way around, a fool with the best gears ever manufactured will still shoot crap. This is why I struggle to improve my skills, but having a LF camera kind of motivates me while it forces me to slow down. And that’s a good thing in my opinion, even if it keeps you from taking some pictures.

I won’t mess with “is it better than the top digital cameras + top lenses?“.

What matters is how I enjoy the 15mn I need to set it up, how it forces me to go back to the basics, and how pleased I will be if one day I shoot a photo I love, it will be stored on an amazing media.

So, how come it’s the cheapest kit I ever bought?

  • Speed graphic pre anniversary + 1936 135mm Zeiss: 130 Euros
  • 5 film holders: 100$
  • Schneider 90mm f8 (Biogon “like”) with shutter: 250 Euros

My bare FM2 cost me 600 Euros back in 2002, My bare F100 800 Euros, My bare D300 1000 Euros, same price for my Hasselblad kit.

My LF gear cost me less than 500 euros. And I get 4″x5″ (-;

I know I have to pay big bucks for film, but B&W is rather cheap (less than 0,7 Euros a sheet) and I process it myself. And as I already mentioned it, LF is a slow process, I shot 12 scenes (with backups on Portra just in case) while staying one week at Angkor. All in all 24 sheets for a trip. Quite furgal isn’t it? The 12 were exposed OK and sharp. And 8 out of 12 were “keepers”.

You may see for yourself:  http://stephanelecoanet.com/portfolios/Angkor-LF/

In the next post I’ll deal with the detail I manage to squeeze out of film sheets with and “OK” flatbed scanner. Stay tuned!

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This is the inaugural post of DreamLenses, AKA “Lenses, film and silicon”.

My wish is to share my love for photography in general, especially the film photography and the huge amount of wonderful cameras and lenses available on the used market.

I say used but one may want to buy new ones. They cost almost the same price as when they ruled the market… Fancy a Mamiya 7II and a 43mm? This kit is around 5400$ if you buy it new today. The same kit in good condition may be found for 2000$ used. This is still a huge amount of money, but it could be achievable by an amateur.

My personal journey towards film photography was a bit “disturbed” buy the emerging DSLR lineup in the past few years:

  • 2002

Being horrified by my Ixus (the first one, remember!) results I decided to learn”from scratch” by borrowing my stepfather’s Minolta SRT101 and his trusty fixed focal manual lenses.

I enjoyed it so much I bought a used Nikon FM2 and a 50mm f1.8 AIS. Back then I didn’t realize how good this lens was: “natural” FOV, bokeh, sharpness when stopped down. It was just the only one I could afford!

  • 2003

I’m keen on tennis, so, to shoot at Roland Garros I treated myself with a used F80 and a used 180mm f2.8 (the same that’s still in Nikon catalog as of 2010). Adding a used film scanner (LS2000) I like to think about it as a 10Mpix set, when the 6Mpix D100 and EOS10D was the first “serious” DSLR, quite expensive indeed.

  • 2004

I was lucky enough to travel to New York and buy a F100 there. A new one I must confess, it was less than a used one in Paris.

Back then I tried many slides and negatives both for sport and landscape photography, and became fond of PROVIA and TMAX400, while I still struggled to find a colour negative that pleased me. And I’m still looking.

  • 2005

Being used to find deals in the US, I bought a Mamiya 7 (the “old” one) with a 43mm Biogon at MPEX. I guess my love for lenses come from this one. I loved photography, but I wasn’t aware lenses could perform so well, so a lens could add to the soul of pictures. I still think it’s not about the camera, it’s about the eye brain behind it. But has any of you ever used what he would call “THE” lens? Then it makes you want to shoot better and more. That was the case for me, it fueled my interest in photography.

By the way with this gem, I bought a decent flatbed scanner to squeeze the most I could (not enough, this is no drum scanner, but hey…) so then I had kind of a 60Mpix rangefinder camera (-:

I made  a big mistake the year after: I sold it to avoid having 2000$ sleeping on my shelves: I could only use it for specific work (landscapes, and not any landscape, you need a foreground…) and thought I didn’t use it often enough. Now I regret this choice, but as you’ll see my love for non reflex lenses grows on, and the 43mm was the initiator.

Enough theory, here’s what I was able to get with it:

M7II+43mm from top the Empire State Building

M7II+43mm from top the Empire State Building

M7II+43mm: Manhattan bridge

M7II+43mm Manhattan bridge

M7II+43mm: Time Square

M7II+43mm: Time Square

  • 2007

The DSLR were then mature enough to my taste so I threw big bucks in a D300 while in NY. I don’t regret it, since it hasn’t suffered “digital rot” yet and it already performed well (night shots, panoramas, tennis, landscapes). While I was shopping, I couldn’t resist an Hasselblad kit with the 80mm f2.8 planar with a back and a prism for 1000$. NY is great for camera deals, especially if you live in Paris where used Hasselblad trade for three times this price.

By reading these lines you could think I’m a spoiled kid, but I almost always sell my gears to be able to move on. And that’s true , I’m a spoiled kid.

  • 2010

Still dreading the day I sold my 43mm, I was reading through forums and websites, and the idea of stepping into large format grew, especially after I found out this could be the cheapest set of hardware I’d have to buy. And that’s the case! What’s the link with the 43m? Well, for 4″x5″, you can afford to buy a multicoated Biogon for 250$ or so, and it gives sheet film quality. Even not as sharp in terms of pure FTM as a Leica or Zeiss M-mount 21mm, a huge sheet of film produces far more detail than a 135 image (at the same FOV of course).

In the next post I’ll explain it, what made me brave enough to try it and why I’m pleased I did.

A little image to tease a bit:

Pre anniversary Graflex Speed Graphic

A clue: 1936

The next post will feature images taken with this vintage tool, which tend to draw attention and even often gentle sarcasm when people see me use it. You see, the have such wonderfull DSLR (some are even full frame,My oh My,  figure it out (-; ) and I use an outdated gear made of wood and leather (and a bit of glass), my head hidden under a crappy black T-shirt. Poor me.

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