News and commentary about film and Nikon film SLRs:

Another New Film SLR

When it rains, it pours. 

Last week we have a new film SLR, with a modern twist. This week we have another new film SLR hitting Kickstarter, this time with a old twist. 

bythom elbaflex

The Elbaflex is back. What's an Elbaflex? Well, it's a bit of a strange history, but it's basically what the Exakta's became when the naming rights disappeared in a court case. This time around we have some former Leica and Schneider technicians doing the re-engineering, with a factory in Ukraine lined up to do the manufacturing.

This is a fully manual camera (no batteries) with a Nikon F-mount up front. The shutter runs from 1/2 second to 1/500 second, and includes Bulb. Flash sync speed is 1/60. Because this is a fully mechanical camera with no automation, virtually any F-mount lens built that doesn't intrude into the mirror box will work on it. The right hand grip is made of wood, the left side is a leather coating of one of four colors you can choose. 

Earliest backers will get the camera for US$499 in August of next year. Eventually the camera will sell for three times that amount, as it will be hand made on demand. 

A New Film SLR Hits the Market

bythom reflex

Reflex, a new 35mm film-based SLR, is now out of the bag and approaching reality.

Basic specs are that the camera is manual focus, manual exposure (or aperture priority) via a spot/averaging meter, has a shutter that works from 1s to 1/4000 (plus Time and Bulb), and is a magnesium body construction that weighs in at 490g. ISO settings from 25 to 6400 are supported. Inside, an Arduino controller and Bluetooth (for metadata capture) make it a bit more modern in design. Indeed, the camera not only has a small flash (and a hidden hot shoe on the rewind lever ala an old Nikon design), but it also has a small continuous LED light.

But the big design point is modularity, which comes in two pieces. First, the lens mount is modular, and you can get M42, Nikon F, Canon FD, Olympus OM, and Pentax K mount modules for the camera. Second is that the film back is modular, too. Initially this means that you can buy multiple backs, load them, and switch between film stocks as you shoot (I think you lose one shot doing this, but that's unclear in the details at the moment). But I'll bet that we see a digital back for this camera if they successfully get it off the ground.

Which brings me to this: it's a Kickstarter campaign, though one run by people who should be able to get this to market. 

Price for an initial unit with the M42 mount is about US$460 (it's a Euro-based company, so the 350 Euro price can fluctuate for us on the other side of the pond). 

The Latest Fujifilm Retirements

bythom fujifilm acros

Fujifilm continues to trim and modify their available film stocks. Fortunately, they are giving shooters plenty of warning about when products will be killed. Moreover, this round really seems a bit more about trimming the edges of inventory rather than a shot at the heart of the operation.

In March 2018, the 3- and 5-pack options for Supra X-Tra 400, Velvia 50/100/100F will be retired. Single rolls will still be available, it seems, but its a little disturbing that the multiple-pack options are going away. That seems to indicate demand may not be very high for these film stocks.

In May 2018 a few films will be completely terminated:

  • Natura 1600 (36 exposure)
  • Fujicolor 1600 (27 and 36 exposure)
  • Neopan 100 Acros 4x5 (20 pieces)
  • Neopan 100 Acros 8x10 (20 pieces)

Curious, I did a quick check at B&H: for roll film users there are currently 227 choices still available today. Now obviously some of those are different inventory of the same stock (e.g. different size, different number of shots), but I was a little surprised to see that there's still a reasonably wide choice of options for a 35mm or 120 roll film shooter. 

The way I read Fujifilm's string of announcements over the past few years is that they're going to continue to cater to film shooters for as long as that's viable, but they're closely monitoring demand for their offerings, and trimming accordingly. 

The big problem with this round of cuts comes for sheet film users: Neopan 100 Acros is a classic black and white choice, with really fine grain and wonderful reciprocity characteristics. A large format monochrome landscape shooter's first choice in black and white, I'd say. 

Because Neon 100 Acros will remain available for 35mm and 120 roll film formats, this tells us something about the big format usage: it's declined to the point where it isn't viable for Fujifilm. The current alternative for the 4 x 5 shooters would be something like Ilford HP5 Plus.

Film Seasoned in Oak Casks?

Lomography color negative (C41 processing) F2/400 film is now available in 36 exposure ten-packs, directly from Lomography.

But it's a bit difficult to fully believe Lomography's story behind the new film: "In 2010, we bought the last ever Jumbo Roll of original 400 ASA film from some renowned Italian filmmakers. Then, ever the ones to experiment, we left the film to age like fine wine in oak casks in the Czech Republic. Thankfully, our crazy instincts were rewarded — seven years later, we went back to discover that this fantastic film still produces refined colors with a beautifully unique tone." Film doesn't just stay inert in color rendering unless you keep it refrigerated. It's unclear here how Lomography was storing the film and whether they were sampling it from time to time to test color shift. It seems unlikely that they'd just stick it away somewhere and then check back seven years later to find it ready to share with the world. 

But then again, this is Lomography, the company that started with a now defunct Russian camera that had excessive vignetting and light leaks, so who knows? 

More New Film Choices Show Up

bythom bergger pancro400

Bergger has announced Pancro400, a new ISO 400 black and white film. This French-made film will be available in 35mm, 120, and even as sheet film. The new emulsion should be available in Europe this month, and in the US sometime in March. 

bythom ferrania p30 alpha

Meanwhile, Italian filmmaker FILM Ferrania has also resurrected an earlier stock, to be called Ferrari P30 Alpha. This was an ISO 80 movie stock reverred for its fine grain and high silver content. P30 Alpha will be available in 35mm rolls only, and in limited edition.

An Old Favorite Returns

bythom ektachrome

Not often do I get to write about something being added to the existing film choices, but apparently the Kodak Pension Plan needs to be funded ;~).

The company formed as part of the spinout of Kodak's pension plan, Alaris, has announced that they intend to bring back Ektachrome, a film that was discontinued back in 2012. The new 135 format (35mm) version in 36-shot spools will once again be manufactured in Rochester, NY, and a Super 8 version will be produced as well (though that will be marketed directly by Kodak). 

The announcement was made at CES, and attributed to "a resurgence in shooting film."

The new film is expected to become available in the last quarter of 2017.

Another Fujifilm Price Increase

(news & commentary)

Fujifilm is raising prices on its film offerings, effective immediately. The increase applies to all color negative, color reversal, black and white, and even Quick Snap boxes. Fujifilm’s justification for the increase is that “demand for film products is continuously decreasing and the cost of production…stays at a high level.”

Fujifilm then goes on to say that the price increase “will be applied to each market based on its individual conditions.”  In markets with lower demand, prices may rise more than in markets with higher demand. While no particular prices were noted in Fujifilm’s press release announcing the increase, they did say that the increase would be “at least double digit.” I take this to mean “double digit percentage increase.” 

While the increase is immediate, most stores haven’t raised their prices on existing stock, so if you want to save some money, you’d best stock up now before they have to reorder at a higher price. 

Lomography Kono! Donau Film


bythom lomography kono donau

Lomography introduced a new film for 35mm cameras, Kono! Donau, an ISO 6—yes, that’s right, 6—color negative film. The film uses C41 processing, and comes in a three-pack of 24-exposure cartridges for US$38.

Fujifilm Increases and Decreases

(news & commentary)

Fujifilm has announced that a 20% price increase will take effect in October on the following 35mm films:

  • Fujicolor 100
  • Fujicolor Superia Premium 400
  • Fujicolor Superia X-Tra 400
  • Fujicolor Superia Venus 800
  • Fujicolor Natura 1600
  • Fujicolor Pro 400H
  • Fujichrome Velvia 50
  • Fujichrome Velvia 100
  • Fujichrome Provia 100F
  • Neopan 100 Acros

120 sizes of many of those films also get the price increase, as do Fujifilm disposable cameras. 

Meanwhile, we get another round of discontinuations (date of discontinuation in parentheses):

  • Fujicolor Pro 160 NS 220 (Dec 2016) (use 120 size instead)
  • Fujichrome Provia 400X (Dec 2015)
  • Fujichrome Velvia 50 for 220 (April 2016) (use 120 size instead)
  • Fujichrome Velvia 100 for 220 (March 2017) (use 120 size instead)
  • Fujichrome Provia 100F (August 2016) (use 120 size instead)
  • Fujichrome Velvia 100F 4x5  and 8x10 (March 2017) (use Velvia 100 instead)

The good news, of course, is that we have plenty of warning about both things and can stock up if we rely upon any of these films. The bad news is that the trend towards discontinuation—especially of lesser used formats—is continuing, and costs of producing what remains in production are going up.

Meta35 Brings SLRs into Modern Age

(news, commentary, a bit of a review)

source of item: review copy supplied by Meta35

Meta35 is a small USB dongle and cable that you plug into data port of your film SLR, plus a Windows or Macintosh program. In the Nikon world Meta35 supports the N90(s), F100, F5, and F6 models. The Canon 1V is supported. And if you’re an A-mounter, the Minolta Maxxum, Dymax, and Alpha 7 and 9 models all are supported. If you’re interested in what exactly is supported, see here.

A bit of history: the Nikon N90 was the first commercial film SLR I know of that kept shooting information in memory internally, and had a way of getting that out of the camera into a form you could use on your computer. Originally that worked via a Sharp Wizard, but Nikon also created a piece of software called Photo Secretary and produced a 10-pin to Serial cable. All the Nikon prosumer/pro film SLRs after the N90 had the ability, and it formed the genesis upon which the Nikon DSLRs did EXIF, too. 

Minolta eventually jumped on this bandwagon, though I’m not sure what software they provided. Canon was also a little late to the game, with the EOS 1V being the only camera they built that had accessible shooting memory. 

When the F6 appeared, Nikon built a new accessory, the MV-1, that essentially moved the camera data to a card, and then you could use that card with your card reader and another Nikon program to grab the data in spreadsheet form. 

The Meta35 disperses with the intermediary step of a card: you plug the Meta35 into your camera (10-pin port on the Nikons) and your computer (USB port) simultaneously and run their software program to grab data.

Meta35 was released a bit before I expected, so I haven’t gotten the rolls of film back yet I shot to use with this article. Instead, we’ll pull data from when I was reviewing the F6.

bythom meta1

Here I’ve performed the first step: data import from camera. Apparently I left data from two shoots in the camera (you have to erase camera memory from time to time as it is finite). The image we’re looking at here was one of a series of focus checks I was doing, which I later digitized into a JPEG with my Nikon slide scanner. At the bottom below the image note the EXIF-like data: this image was shot in Manual exposure mode, 1/250, +0.3EV exposure compensation, f/5, using the matrix meter, ISO 400 film, and the 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 24mm:

bythom meta2

Note that you can create and attach further metadata to the image with Meta35 (see lower left of main window, shown magnified here):

bythom meta3

With some cameras (unfortunately not my F6), you can set custom functions, as well, including being able to load a preset of functions you’ve previously made with a single click):

bythom meta4

Meta35 isn’t without a few warts, though these are generally things built into the camera that they had to program around. For instance, on some cameras you have to disconnect the camera when you exit Meta35 (the camera thinks it is still talking to something ;~). As I noted before, you need to be disciplined about erasing the camera’s memory or else you may end up shooting without recording new data. 

In general, the Meta35 software is straight forward and prompts you on many of those gotchas that might catch you up. Using Meta35 is a little labor intensive if you’re going to do it right: (1) erase your camera’s memory; (2) go out and shoot; (3) have your film processed, (4) scan the film and place each roll into its own folder; (5) hook the camera to the computer and run the Meta35 software; (6) grab the data from the camera; (7) load your scanned images; and (8) enter any additional metadata you want. 

Step 4 is trickier than you think. What you’re really going to want to do there is not only scan, but do a full post processing to create a finished image, I think. Meta35 backs up your images before it embeds the added data, by the way. 

So why would you want Meta35? 

Well, the classic film SLR problem was this: you’d go out and shoot in the field, then you’d come back and you (a) couldn’t exactly tell what you messed up; and (b) you couldn’t distinguish image 1 with settings 1 from image 2 with settings 2 unless you took copious notes. Moreover, those notes didn’t exactly embed with the images ;~). So a year later and you have a question, you have to figure out which notes apply to which image.

If you’re shooting film for customers or publication, the ability to now tag additional metadata into the scans you might provide them is also useful. Sure, you can do that in Lightroom, but Lightroom doesn’t have the camera shooting information in it, and sometimes (photo publications, for instance), they want the shooting information. 

At US$150, Meta35 isn’t cheap. But it’s useful. Indeed, I find it more convenient than Nikon’s MV-1, which costs US$250. Moreover, Meta35’s software is decidedly better than Nikon’s crude program. 

text and images © 2017 Thom Hogan — All Rights Reserved — Twitteremail