Wednesday, 25 January 2023

1990's Camera Challenge with my Nikon F801s

 The 1990's Camera Challenge started out on Twitter, thanks to Papa Shitty Cams, as a bit of fun for photographers to dig out their 1990's cameras and give them some love. I wrote in a previous blog about this when I bought my Praktica Sport Royale point and shoot. The challenge comes to an end on January 31st so I figured I had better pull my finger out and start carrying a 1990's camera with me when out and about. The camera I chose is my Nikon F801s which was first released in 1991 and AF Nikkor 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 D lens.

I have been getting back on track recently and catching up with various projects I have on the back burner. I began carrying my F801s for recon shots of locations and compositions as well as general street photography around town. I loaded a roll of Agent Shadow 400 into it and it has been living in my camera bag since christmas, waiting for the weather to improve.

The Nikon F801s, lovingly labelled N8008s in the US, has a history as a second camera. It was released as a high end prosumer model below the legendary F4. A lot of Nikon users who bought the F4 for their professional photography often bought an F801s as a second camera to hold in reserve during weddings, studio work and sporting events. This means there are a lot of low mileage F801s cameras out there for a reasonable price that simply do the job with little fuss.

It's also a very robust camera as I discovered last week, I managed to drop mine when I slipped on a muddy path whilst out shooting my Frugal Film Project roll of Kentmere 400. I learned why Professional Nikon photographers found them to be reliable additions to their kit, they were well built and weather sealed. It set a standard that photographers continued to enjoy with the F80, F90 and F100. 

Whether I am out in a biblical downpour or a sunny day with blue skies and fluffy clouds, my Nikon F801s does what it is supposed to and does it very well indeed. The cameras that appeared in the 1990's laid the ground for the DSLR's that started appearing during this decade. Nikon's first DSLR the D1 counts as a 1990's camera for the challenge thanks to its debut in 1999 and one of our regulars has indeed bought one especially for this challenge. I must also give kudos to Keith Devereux for using a Game Boy camera and having fun with it.

Here's a few of my photos from my F801s and as always I have posted them and more in an album on Flickr you can visit via the link below. You can see more photos from the folks taking part in the challenge by using the hashtags #1990sCameraChallenge and #ShittyCameraChallenge on Twitter, Tumblr and Mastodon. I hope you enjoy them.

Agent Shadow & Nikon F801s
#1990sCameraChallenge on Twitter 
#1990sCameraChallenge on Mastodon

Bridle Path

Sheep Grazing

Shortly after this photo I dropped my Camera

Mesnes Park

The Wiend

Road Works

Nikon F801s, 24-120mm lens and Agent Shadow

Tuesday, 17 January 2023

Frugal Film Project 2023 - January

With the new year comes the first instalment of the Frugal Film Project 2023 and I had to bide my time to get started this year. January began with rain and strong winds and I swear it didn't let up for a fortnight! Last weeks blog was evidence of that, but we finally got a day of sunshine which I tried to make the most of. I loaded my very first roll of Kentmere 400 120 medium format black and white film into my Agfa Isolette I and headed off around the local farms and nature trails to see what I could find.

It felt good to be out in the sunshine as I wandered up the lane to the farms. Staying indoors over the festive period and the first days of the new year was getting to me and this walk was a welcome change from the biblical rainstorm I endured the previous week. I took my customary shot of the gate with my Vivitar 45 light meter helping me get the settings dialled in and headed up the lane to my next shot.

The intersection between the lane and the route of the railway that serviced the mines in the area is always worth a look, I set up a composition and then had to wait several minutes as a cloud blocked the sunlight that had attracted me as it shone through the leafless trees. It soon returned and I bagged the shot and carried on my way.

My third composition was going to be of the intersection where the tarmac runs out and the lanes become tracks. However there was a slight problem that I discovered after I had taken shot 3. I hadn't wound the film on from shot 2 and ended up with a double exposure. It turned out to be a happy accident as I got both lanes lined up by sheer luck and decided to keep it as a lesson to try and remember.

The rest of my walk was pretty uneventful as I studiously kept track of my compositions from that point onwards. I hadn't used the camera for a while and got a little too confident I could remember how to use it properly. I visited some reccurrent locations and did some recon for future reference but the challenge for me on the spoil heap was navigating my way through the muddy clay without falling on my arse.

I almost managed to get back down onto the farm track when I slipped and dropped my Nikon F801s that I had been using for recon shots. This is possibly the only time I was glad my camera landed on soft ground as the worst that happened was it got muddy. I only just managed to keep my arse off the ground thanks to my walking stick giving me something to dig into the clag and keep me off the floor. Thankfully I carry a few paper towels in my pocket and soon had the worst of the mud removed from my camera.

I had just about had enough of the mud and headed home, grabbing a few shots along the way and finishing my film near the pond where the Moorhens live. I was glad to be home too as a few minutes after I walked through my front door the heavens opened and the rain hammered down.

As this was my very first roll of Kentmere 400 in medium format I decided to be gentle with development and used Kodak HC-110 dilution E, 1+47 from concentrate, for 9 minutes at 20 celcius. On hanging my film to dry I was happy with what I saw and left it to dry overnight. I digitised it with my Nikon D700, Panagor macro converter, Meyer-Optik 30mm f/3.5 Lydith and a Pixl-Latr to hold the film. I processed the RAW files with Affinity Photo 2.

I enjoyed getting out, but not the dropping my camera bit. Thankfully I only needed to clean the mud off and everything works fine, but it dented my pride. Here are a few of my images from the walk and as always I have put them and more in my Frugal Film Project 2023 album on Flickr you can visit using the link below. I hope you enjoy them.

Frugal Film Project 2023

Agfa Isolette I and Kentmere 400

The Starting Gate

Which Way?

Happy Accident

Favourite Tree In January

Parking Lot For Farm Equipment


Wednesday, 11 January 2023

Pentax K1000 - Does It Deserve The Hype?

 During the second half of 2022 I was contacted by a friend who wanted to find a home for a couple of Pentax cameras owned by a family member whom sadly passed away. All my friend could tell me was the cameras looked in good condition, but he doesn't know anything about cameras. I decided to accept the cameras and see what I could do and sent him some money for the postage.

A few days later the parcel arrived and inside I found two holster style bags, one with a Pentax MZ-5 in it and the other a Pentax K1000. The MZ-5 needed batteries so I couldn't really test it, but the K1000 was clean and needed a lens fitting. I popped my Hoya 28mm lens on it and held it up to my eye. "Oh dear" was a polite way to describe my feelings when I discovered its flaw.

It had a black splodge in the viewfinder.

I gathered my cleaning cloth and rocket blower and removed the lens to clean the mirror and focus screen. I also cleaned the viewfinder and tried again. Nope, still there. The camera needed a repair and I did a little research to see if could it be fixed or not. An article on Johnny Martyr's website (link below) caught my eye and revealed the root of the problem.

Pentax had reduced the budget to make the darling of photography students more affordable.
This K1000 had been assembled in China and there is a known issue with the prisms in the Chinese K1000's de-silvering over time. I needed a solution and got in touch with Pierro at PPP Cameras to see if he could help me out.

We discussed a few ideas via email and it appeared that a prism from a later camera, the Pentax P30 might just fit. I was in the fortunate position of having a spare P30 as a parts donor thanks to my friend Mike who gave me three of them in May 2022. Pierro did a little research and as it looked promising, he was willing to give it a try. I booked the repair and posted both cameras to him.

Pierro never ceases to amaze me with his skills and he
repaired and tested the camera for a very reasonable price. It was delivered to me during the first week of the new year and I set about choosing a lens and film to shoot with it. Agent Shadow 400 was loaded, my Tamron Adaptall 2 28mm f/2.5 wide angle prime fitted and I went for a walk.

With this being my first taste of the most recommended student camera in history I looked for ease of use and all I can say is "yep, It's a doddle". My Pentax Spotmatic SP1000 is exactly the same layout as the K1000. It uses the same match needle type of light meter in the viewfinder and has that reassuring Pentax "clunk" when you release the shutter. Bar cosmetics, a built in hot shoe and an easy to find battery, the only real difference is the lens mount.

The K1000 introduced the Pentax K mount to the photography community and it is still in use to this day on Pentax DSLR's. When Pentax refreshed the Spotmatic range in the mid 70's they left everything good about the Spotmatics in the K1000 and decided to change the lens mount rather than continue with the universal M42 screw mount the Spotmatics have.

Pentax took the opportunity to refresh their Takumar lens range with better coatings and the K mount. They also introduced an adapter that enabled long time Pentax owners to use their M42 mount lenses on the new camera. This allowed Pentax to take a bit of time to pad out the K mount lens range with the popular focal lengths and zooms over the next few years.

I have said in a previous blog that "KISS Theory" works. "Keep It Simple Stupid" is what Pentax did with the K1000 and 40+ years after it's introduction it is still the camera that every college has in stock to loan to students as they begin their photography course. This popularity with colleges and students kept the K1000 in production from 1976 through to 1997, outlasting all
that came after it. It also spawned a multitude of K1000 clones made by Centon, Cosina and Ricoh who liked it so much, they bought the company.

With an introductory price in 1976 of $229.50 for a K1000 with a 50mm lens, (that's around $1100 today), it was a big investment for a student. As the years have gone by its value on the used market has remained pretty healthy despite there being around three million of them out there. Yeah, Pentax sold 3,000,000 K1000's, I checked. I am going to enjoy using it for many years to come.

Please check out Johnny Martyr and the PPP Cameras websites via the links below. Here's a few shots from my first roll of film shot with the K1000. I chose the soggiest day of the year thus far here in Wigan to take photos, but that just showed me what great performance Pentax cameras have in the direst of weather. It also showed me I haven't learned a damn thing about leaving my blog to the last minute! To be fair it has been persisting down a lot this week and I might shrink in the wash. I have placed them and more in an album on Flickr you can visit using the link below. I hope you enjoy them.

Pentax K1000 - Tamron 28mm f/2.5 - Agent Shadow 400
PPP Cameras
Johnny Martyr Is There A Gremlin Lurking In Your K1000?

Thursday, 5 January 2023

The Year Ahead - What does 2023 have in store for me?

 For my first blog of the year I want to have a quick look at what 2023 has in store for me. As I mentioned in my previous blog, 2022 was a good year for my photography. I learned a heck of a lot, fell in love with three cameras and completed the Frugal Film Project 2022 in the most challenging circumstances.  It was definitely a rollercoaster ride of emotions. So, what does 2023 have in store for me? it can only get better, right?

I have two cameras to review in January and February. One is a sought after workhorse and the other is a "what the heck?" camera from the late 1980's to early 1990's that didn't last long and I find out exactly why. The Workhorse has been in the care of Pierro at PPP Cameras for some TLC andis on it's way back to me as I write this blog. The "WTH?" is  being used straight out of the posh case it arrived in. I'm literally giving it a wipe with a cloth, scraping dead battery juice from the contacts, putting in some fresh batteries and a roll of film and seeing what the fuss is about.

I'm finally able to take part in 127 day! My daughter bought me a very nice Kodak Brownie 127 camera for christmas and as it was a gift and I have never shot 127 film ever, it would be rude not to use it. I have managed to buy a couple of rolls of film for it from a retailer here in the UK that I haven't bought from before. Fresh 127 format film is a little scarce, but it is being manufactured. One retailer had it in stock and they got it to me in three days between christmas and new year which impressed me more than just a tad. The first 127 day of the year is January 27th (1-27-2023 in that 'muhrica!).The others are 12th July (12-7 imperial) and December 12th (12-7 'muricah! again).

I am going to be publishing some 'Zines this year of my photos. I have been working on a review of my favourite shots from the Frugal Film Project that I am close to finishing. I also want to publish more photos I shoot through the course of 2023 with my Goodman Zone Z1. I enjoyed learning how to put a zine together in 2022 and managed to sell a few that helped me pay for a camera to be serviced. Thank you to everyone who bought one.

It wont be the only 'Zine I will be involved with. As well as publishing my own 'Zines I am also going to be involved in a collaboration to pay tribute to John Whitmore from the Sunny 16 Podcast who passed away in 2021. His family and friends spooled his stash of Kodak Double-X and named it Black and Whitmore Bananachromatic. It was sold via Analogue Wonderland to raise money for the Asthma and Lung Foundation here in the UK. We hope to add to that by shooting the rolls we bought and hopefully have enough decent shots for a zine that will be on sale at some point in 2023.

Here's a couple of photos you may not have seen in 2022 and if you fancy joining the Frugal Film Project for 2023 click the link below. It's a lot of fun and a great community.

Frugal Film Project 2023 On Facebook

My Secret Santa gift, it's exactly what I wanted

This years Frugal Film Project camera and film

Kodak Brownie 127

Beauty of a VW T2 Kombi

Frozen Fountain

It had to be photographed

Friday, 23 December 2022

My Top Three Cameras of 2022

*Edit* I have added four more excellent blogs for you to read at the end of this article.

My friend and fellow blogger Alex Luyckx wrote an article as a collaborative exercise with a few other bloggers about three cameras they enjoyed using in 2022 or maybe haven't reviewed yet and want to give a little taster of things to come in 2023. I had to be cheeky and ask if I could join in the party and Alex being a thoroughly nice bloke said yes go for it.
I will post links to a few of those blogs at the end of this article.

This week I am going to talk about three cameras that I have already raved about and want to rave about a little more. 2022 has been an interesting year that took my photography in a new direction with an unexpected gift, so my first choice is no surprise to my regular readers.

1: Goodman Zone Z1
Little did I know that "making up the numbers" would see me win this camera in a giveaway from PetaPixel.com in conjunction with Dora Goodman Cameras in December 2021. That's the mindset I had when I dutifully ticked the boxes to complete my entry, I figured I was making up the numbers and wouldn't win. When Dora emailed me telling me I had won first prize I had to read it twice before replying in case I was seeing things. Nope, it wasn't an illusion, I really had won! When it finally arrived I must have stared at it for an hour wondering why the Photography Gods had seen fit to smile upon me with such a beautifully made camera.

It took me a little while to fix the method of using this camera in my mind. It's a hybrid of a Large Format Schneider-Kreuznach 90mm f/8 Super Angulon lens and a 3D printed box designed to take a Mamiya RB67 Pro S film back or the bespoke 3D printed 6x6 film back the camera came with. I saved up to buy a Mamiya film back whilst I got used to using the 3D printed one. The "First Ten Rolls" learning curve definitely held true as I got aquainted with my Goodman Zone Z1. I went through a lot of Fomapan as I battled with my nemesis, the Dark Slide!

When I was able to buy a Mamiya film back I fell in love with its 6x7 format and used the camera even more. I was even gifted a Dark Cloth by a chap named Dan in Hong Kong. It was the missing link that finally pulled all the pieces together to make using my Goodman Zone an absolute pleasure. I love the #BelieveInFilm community, it's filled with folks like Dan who are a constant source of inspiration. I was so inspired I produced an e-book of photos I have taken with my Goodman Zone which is for sale in my Ko-Fi Shop.


2: Minolta X-700
My second choice surprised the heck out of me when I discovered the joy of using it. I purchased this from a friend for the price of a £50 donation to a charity here in the UK that we both support, The National Association for Bikers with a Disability. He had bought it from a mutual friend for the same donation, so I was happy to do the same deal. I had wanted to try a Minolta camera for a while and had already bought a fully auto all singing and dancing auto focus Minolta Dynax 500si that I really enjoy using, but I wanted a manual camera too. The X-700 was a whole new level of awesomeness.

It's a Manual Focus camera with Aperture Priority and Full Auto modes to chose from and boy does it deliver. I tried the full auto mode first to see what the camera could achieve and then tried to match it on manual. Let's just say the X-700 set the bar high. I was used to aperture priority with my Olympus OM-2, but the electronics in the Minolta X-700 have a decade more of development behind them and it shows. All my fully auto exposures were absolutely bang on the money.

I have since used it many times in manual mode and it's a joy to use. Matched with a Minolta MD 50mm f/1.7 or a Vivitar 28mm f/2.8 close focus lens it produces the goods time and again, advancing my skills in the process. It's a camera that a seasoned pro or an amateur like myself could load up with film and go out happy in the knowledge that it will reliably produce the shots we want. If this camera has a downside, I have yet to find it.

3: Pentax SP500
My third choice is an old favourite and the camera I shot my Frugal Film Project 2022 photos with. The bargain bucket Spotmatic may not have the hot shoe or self timer that its more capable siblings have, but don't let that fool you into thinking it isn't worthy of your time. The Pentax SP500 just works every time. I was fortunate enough to buy this camera back in 2017 when I returned to film after a 15 hiatus. It came with a Helios 44m-4 58mm f/2 and for a few months it was all I used. I could get Agfaphoto Vista 200 from Poundland for £1 a roll and I got through a heck of a lot of it as I learned the basics again. Developing was still cheap then too and I gt to know the staff at Max Spielmann in town quite well.

The Pentax SP500 is the perfect student camera. Cheap to buy and with an M42 lens mount, it opens the door to some of the finest lenses from that era. The Pentax K1000 always gets put forward for the crown of perfect student camera, but it also put the price beyond the reach of many, myself included. I bought my SP500 with Helios lens from ebay for £20 and I was lucky, the light meter works. Even if it doesn't you can pick up a Gossen light meter for £10 or less, or use an app on your phone.

Keeping it simple with this camera taught me the shutter triangle better than any of my fancy dan cameras with lots of bells and whistles. I like automation to keep me covered for any eventuality, but sometimes you just want to go commando! Pentax were bloody good at producing reliable workhorses, at 50 years old mine is still going strong. I used it for the Frugal Film Project 2022 with a Meyer-Optik Gorlitz 30mm f/3.5 Lydith lens and shot Ilford HP5. It never let me down all year.


That's my three cameras of 2022 that have taught me a heck of a lot, surprised me even more and given me the most joy as I have continued my journey. I have grown a lot as a photographer this year, thanks to my Goodman Zone in particular, and I know I can develop my skills even more as we head into 2023. I'm looking forward to it and I shall be back at it in January for the Frugal Film Project 2023. They will not be shelf queens in 2023 as I have a plan to use my favourite cameras as often as I can. I can't just go out with one camera, a guy has to have a plan B, right?

Check out the links below to see what my friends and fellow bloggers have been using in 2022 or what they will be raving about in 2023. M
aybe they can inspire you to try some different gear out or even pick up a film camera for the first time and share the joy we all have for photography. I hope you enjoy their blogs. I'm having a break for the holidays, I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and hope you enjoy health and happiness in 2023.
Alys Vintage Camera Alley
Down The Road - Jim Grey
Camera Go Camera
Alex Luyckx
Photo Thinking
Mike Eckman 3 outstanding cameras from 2022
Kosmo Foto - Three Cameras For 2022
Canny Cameras
Johnny Martyr - Trois Cameras De 2022
Aperture Preview - Three Other Cameras Of 2022

Monday, 19 December 2022

Frugal Film Project 2022 - December

 The Frugal Film Project 2022 is drawing to a close with my final submissions of the year shot on 35mm Ilford HP5 using my Pentax SP500 camera and Meyer-Optik Gorlitz 30mm f/3.5 Lydith lens. I chose the camera and film as I am most comfortable with them and the lens was one of my bucket list lenses. I have to say I learned a heck of a lot this year with this combination. It proved that "Keep It Simple Stupid", also known as "KISS Theory" really does work.

I managed to shoot this last roll of film during a cold snap that hit the UK in mid December, plunging temperatures ensured frost and ice was everywhere. I'm not exactly fleet of foot these days and I waited a day or three before venturing out to Mesnes Park in Wigan to take some photos of the Coalbrookdale Fountain.

The freezing temperatures had an amazing effect on the fountain. It didn't just freeze, it produced wonderful icicles and built up ice around the cherub at the top that almost totally encased it. Just the nozzle at the top was clear. As water was pumped upwards to it, it kept the fountain going and stopped it from freezing completely.

I couldn't leave it alone. I tried to take other photos around the park, but the fountain held me in its thrall. I was not alone either as a steady stream of folk were also paying the fountain a visit to take photos as it has been a long time since it froze to this extent. I certainly haven't seen it freeze in all the years I have lived here.

It was nice to talk to people and share this experience with them. We are living in tough times here in the UK. Seeing the Coalbrookdale Fountain and Nature put on a wonderful display put a smile on plenty of faces and helped us forget the worries we face, if only for a few moments. It wasn't long before I had finished my roll of film and headed on my way.

I shot my film at 800 iso and developed it as 800 iso for 7 1/2 minutes in HC-110 dilution B and soon had it hanging to dry in my bathroom. I scanned it with my Ion Slides2PC 35mm scanner and tidied my photos up with Affinity Photo. Here are a few of my favourites and I have placed them and more in my Frugal Film Project 2022 album on Flickr. I hope you enjoy them as it brings this years project to a close.

I have had a lot of fun this year and I'm happy to say I will be taking part in the Frugal Film Project again in 2023 with a different camera and film format. Ilford have recently made Kentmere 400 available in 120 medium format, something I have wanted them to do for a few years and I simply had to buy a few rolls for the project. I will be shooting it in my Agfa Isolette I 6x6 vintage folding camera, the point and shoot of the 1950's. Let the fun commence!

Frugal Film Project 2022 complete 

Wednesday, 14 December 2022

Goodman Zone and Rollei Superpan

 This week I managed to get out and about with my Goodman Zone. I haven't touched it since I shot a roll of Ektachrome with it in August, so I made a point of making that right. A bright Sunday afternoon made my choice of film easier as it was asking for a roll of Rollei Superpan 200, which I duly loaded into my RB67 film back ready for an hour or two walking around the local woodland and see what was happening.

It was bitterly cold despite the sunshine as winter has well and truly arrived here in Wigan. We had a bit of snow at the start of the weekend that froze in the sub zero temperatures, thus making me a little hesitant to step out the door. However, I was determined to get out and make the most of the sunshine and boldly went forth to the woods.

I wanted to take photos at a couple of locations I visited in spring and summer and practice some compositions I hope to study in 2023. I have watched plenty of videos on my favourite you tube landscape photography channels and they have inspired me to take a year long look at my local woodland. I would use this walk as a reconnaissance and to see if I could navigate my way around in the icy conditions.

Most of the trees have all shed their leaves now, with the exception of the Beech trees that manage to hold on to their copper-brown leaves a lot longer than the rest. There's a few conifers mixed in too. When the Coal Mine that once stood there was closed and demolished the council took on the land and planted several varieties of trees which have been left to grow naturally. This has brought a rich eco system to a once industrial landscape and it's thriving.

I really enjoyed using my Goodman Zone again. I know I have neglected it of late, but I took my time and gently eased myself back into the method I had worked out earlier in the year when I was using it a lot. It still makes me think a lot more about my photography than 35mm does and that's a good thing as it has taught me to be patient. On a sunny day like this one I could afford to take my time and it paid off.

When I got home I developed my roll of Rollei Superpan in Kodak HC-110 dilution B for 6 minutes and I soon had it hanging to dry in my bathroom. I got a full ten shots with no double exposures or missed frames. Yay me! I digitised my film with my Nikon D700 and tidied the images up with Affinity Photo. Here's a few of my shots from my afternoon out and I have put them all in an album on Flickr you can visit using the link below. I hope you enjoy them.

Rollei Superpan - Goodman Zone

1990's Camera Challenge with my Nikon F801s

  The 1990's Camera Challenge started out on Twitter, thanks to Papa Shitty Cams, as a bit of fun for photographers to dig out their 199...