another shot from the shoot ‘paradise lost’ in Corsica.
• have a drink, my dear … •
shot with Rolleiflex 3.5 TLR, on Kodak TMax400 film
the exhibit is soon, October 14th and 15th, grab your agenda’s
I shot this series of images in February, it took me some time to scan and develop the negatives, but here they are at last. I hope you like the story, I loved making it.
A big thank you to Rachel, for being a very patient model, on this cold and dull day. To Nathalie, for being my assistant, model hairdresser, camera-crew and guide. To Home Providentia, for giving me another opportunity to shoot at this unique location.
All images taken on Rolleiflex 3.5 camera with Kodak TMax100 and TMax400 film. Reproduced with a Canon 5Ds and Canon 100mm F2.8L IS macro, developed in Lightroom and Photoshop.
• teddybear blues or … the story of self realisation •
behind the scenes video of this shoot here: Shooting with the Rolleiflex
thank you for watching
I told you before I would talk a bit more about the Rolleiflex I use for shooting on film.
The camera is a Twin Lens Reflex, built in the late 50’s, so the camera is about 60 years old.
The construction with the two lenses, of which the upper lens is for viewing only (viewing lens) and the lower lens is for taking the image (taking lens) has advantages and disadvantages. In comparison to the older camera’s that used flat film sheets, where one had to remove the matte focusing screen before putting in the film holder for taking the image, this camera allows to shoot multiple images without moving anything. There is a 45° tilted mirror behind the viewing lens, projecting a mirrored image on the horizontal focusing screen.
Of course viewfinder camera’s existed as well, but they had no visual reference of the focusing plane, or the sharpness of the subject when changing focus. A photographer using a viewfinder camera had to use the distance scale on the lens, and the not so trusty guesswork for camera to subject distance.
Both lenses of the this TLR move forward and backward while focussing, and so provide an identical image on the ground glass as the image to be expected on the film. Still, the smallest amount of inaccuracy of the lens focusing mechanism leads to bad focusing, and I believe this camera suffers at least some looseness in the forward-backward movement.
Dealing with this complex mechanism of focusing, meant also that these camera’s are mostly fixed focal length. Some camera’s came in different focal length versions, but camera’s with interchangeable lenses where very rare. (Except for the Mamiya C)
This camera comes with a 75 mm f3.5 lens, it also existed in a f2.8 version, usually much more expensive on the secondhand market. 75 mm on 6×6 film format has an equal viewing angle to a 38 mm lens on Full frame DSLR, or a 24 mm lens on a 1.6 crop camera, so a rather ‘wide-standard’ viewing angle.
The lens is certainly not paramount, and suffers heavily from flare, as can be seen in the images below (does somebody have a lens hood for this camera for me?). An aperture of 3.5 gives a good amount of image unsharpness on medium format. 2.8 would be nicer of course. The images lack a bit of contrast and sharpness.
Composing with the mirrored image on the focusing plane is a bit of a habit.
Shutter speed range is limited, from 2 seconds to 1/500th of a second, thus mostly limiting the wide open apertures in bright light. The mirror does not move, since it is not obstructing the film plane, so there are not vibrations from this side. Activating the shutter however demands some finger movement (unlike today’s DSLR’s where pushing the shutter entirely only takes some tenth of a millimeter) causing some hand stress and maybe movement unsharpness. Shutter speeds as long as 1/15th. of a second seem not possible to me without image shake. Maybe with some more experience.
The camera has a built in exposure meter, but it no longer works, so exposer should be metered with another camera, or with a hand held meter, I use the latter.
Film for this camera is widely available here in Belgium, both black and white and color film. Not sure about slides. Development is still available too, although it can take a while (1-2 weeks) before getting the negatives back. Scanning the negatives, as well as retouching them (from dust) is a tedious process.
The biggest advantages for me is that I spend more time composing, and checking out if everything is well in place before taking the image. It learns me to concentrate more on details, on exposure, on posing etc. … One roll of film equals 12 exposures, after that the fun is over. 😀 The fact that you see the image mirrored gives you a fresh view on your scene, revealing flaws in your image/composing remaining unnoticed as you set it up. (But I still have a lot to learn)
A second big advantage is that the images are square format. This gives me a more relaxed feeling when composing, and I believe that the images are more harmonious too. I kind of like this square format more and more. (This made me thinking about modifying a matte screen for my 5D mark II to indicate ‘square’ cropping).
changes I have had:
I had the original focusing screen replaced with a focusing screen with split prism and microprism focusing aids, and that adds to the accuracy of focussing with the camera. I also had the shutter speeds checked out by the same specialist repair shop that also changed the focusing screen.
To be continued. Enjoy this small portrait series I made with Pauline lately – Rolleiflex 3.5E – Tmax 400 film.
thank you for reading, see you soon,
I have shot some rolls of film now, during my beauty shoots, working with an antique 6×6 cm Rolleiflex with planar 3.5 lens on it. It takes 120 Roll film. Film is available in every better camera/development shop in Belgium, so that is no issue.
It has been revised for shutterspeeds, since the longer shutter speeds had some lag, and the shutter had tendency to stay open longer than the selected speed.
I also had a new focusing screen fitted to this camera, since the normal focusing screen provided only little accuracy in focusing. The new screen has split prism, which is a great aid in focussing accurately.
Of course I still need to work a lot on swift handling and manipulating the camera, but for now, I’m pleased with what I’ve got.
I gave a lecture last week in my hometown, and people asked about the advantages of working on film, in this era of high end digital camera’s. I will try to do an honest pro and contra list, based on my very limited knowledge right now.
Con’s for film photography with this particular camera (Twin lens reflex Rolleiflex (from somewhere in the 50’s of the preceding century):
It is a very slow paced form of photography, you need to load film, advance to your first frame, measure light with an external light meter, set your exposure accordingly on the camera, manually wind to next frame, …
It is hard to focus, even with the split prism focussing screen, I get a lot of ‘half sharp’ images.
It takes a while to get used to the left-right mirrored image, and the camera movements that are reversed in your viewfinder.
It has limited sharpness, partly due to limited lens quality, and limited film grain resolution. I have the impression that my scans at 7000 x 7000 pixels are not nearly as sharp as my images taken digitally on a Canon 5D mark II
There is no possibility to verify your results instantly. We are so spoiled with our digital camera’s, which have an immediate visual representation of your last exposure, that it is very difficult getting used to not having any immediate feedback at all.
It takes an awful lot of work to scan your negatives (I’m not talking about developing the negatives, because I have them developed by a lab). I scan the entire roll at lower resolution (similar to the old contact sheet) and then decide on the better images to make a high res scan only from the best. Even then, I’m occupied longer with a roll of 12 negatives, than with the 200 digital images I took.
It is quite difficult to get a good gray tones distribution in your scan. (that is probably me missing experience) I have an epson 3170 Photo scanner, which is ok, without being to expensive or cumbersome on my desk top.
In my case (taking B&W film rolls only) it is not possible to use different colors in the process of converting to black and white. With a digital color image, you can decide for every color tone, how light/dark it should be represented in the B&W conversion. Since I use black and white film, I have no color tones to play with. Film also gives you less play in exposure settings. Over a stop of wrong exposure, and you’re done with it.
Pro’s for film photography
It is a very slow paced form of photography (sound similar to the first con, don’t it?) which means you will be much more attentive before pushing the button. Remember, you only have 12 exposures on one roll, better get it right first time. I believe I have been more aware of composition and exposure settings than ever before.
My camera has a square format, which means you no longer have to deal with the horizontal vs. vertical question. What a relief, really. This has been such a comfort I couldn’t have expected it myself. I wish I had the possibility to cover up my viewfinder on my 5D II to only show a square format. I suppose you have noticed that in my last shoots already. I’m getting addicted to square.
Film grain is much nicer to look at than digital grain. Digital grain structure is getting pattern like when too obvious, film grain is absolutely random.
Medium format film camera’s are available at affordable prices (vs. digital medium camera’s, which cost a leg). A used Hasselbladt will be about 1000-2000 euro’s, a new digital middle format camera will be 10x as much.
These camera’s need no batteries. They have mechanical shutters. All you need is your camera and some rolls of film.
Its nostalgia, like a small kid you just keep staring at your negatives when they are ready. Touching the film strip only by the edges, gently wiping of the dust before scanning, …
The negatives give a physical backup, no hard drives needed. I keep some glass negatives that are over 100 years old, they have suffered neglecting, but would have been spotless if well preserved.
Anyway, I also love the look of the images. It is as if these lenses give a different form of bokeh than the new digital lenses. It is hard work, and not so rewarding compared to digital photography, but it keeps some magic that the digital images no longer have. Maybe it is an idea, but for now I will keep experimenting with it, till I get a clearer understanding of the differences, and maybe I’ll quit, or I’ll get the money once to buy a digital equivalent when I get rich.
Some scanned images from the shoot with Kimberly at The Mansion from some weeks ago. Kimberly had been a model in one of my lectures at her school, and she has been waiting for her 18th birthday to get a ‘real photoshoot’ with me. I hope you enjoy the images. Click for bigger.
Come back soon, for Kimberly at the mansion (the digital version). You’ll be able to decide for yourself then, which you like the best.
see you soon,