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Batteries Not Included

A blog focused on cameras with no batteries - and the photos they take

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Choose Film

Last week I was the happy winner of 'Photo of the Month' at a new site named Choose Film.

Sites dedicated to film are not very common these days and it triggered me to sit down 'virtually' with Mr Jerry Deeney - a very friendly and accommodating representative from Fujifilm UK - to ask him some questions about the site - Choose Film.

Q: Good morning Mr Deeney. What is your position within FujiFilm UK?
"I'm the Marketing & Business Development Specialist for Professional Imaging, Fujifilm UK Ltd…which basically means I look after all of the marketing activity for the Fujifilm Professional film range in the UK. "

Q: It does not take long to realize that there are some very strong ties between the site Choose Film and Fujifilm. Who is behind the site - is it owned or sponsored by Fujifilm?
"We at Fujifilm UK created the site and Choose Film is fully owned by Fujifilm UK Ltd. "

Q: When did Choose Film
open up:
A: "We launched Choose Film at the Focus-on-Imaging photo trade show in Birmingham, UK at the beginning of March 2007. "

Q: Why a site dedicated to film now? What triggered the idea of this site?

A: "We wanted to build a community for photographers that shoot on film. Everyday we speak to photographers who are tired of constantly being force fed that digital photography is better. Many of the magazines and photographic stores are spreading rumours that are frankly not true about the discontinuation of certain products and the demise of film photography. We wanted to quash these rumours and to build a home on the Internet where photographers could help to answer each others questions on film. Buy and sell film camera equipment, find film suppliers, second-hand film cameras and decent processing labs, show off their own work to the world and to generally have the knowledge that Fujifilm are still 100% behind film.

We are often asked why choose film is ‘non-Fuji’ branded. The reason is that we want Choose Film to stand on its own. We openly encourage members to upload any images shot on any brand brand of film. The site is a celebration of all things film. If we imposed ‘Fujifilm only’ rules, I think it would have spoiled the whole ethos of the idea."

Q: So it would be fair to say that Fujifilm continues to see a future for film in this increasingly digital world?
Q: "Absolutely! There will always be a market for film.
It has obviously become more of a niche market over the last few years. But, those that have gone digital for practical reasons – news, sport etc, went digital years ago. Film is a choice now, hence the name – ‘choose film’. It is a creative choice. People that choose film are choosing it for quality not for convenience."

Q: On that note, are there any planned, future releases of either new or updated emulsions from Fujifilm?

A: "Fujifilm Professional has released eight new emulsions in the past two years. The latest this year being the new Fujichrome Velvia 50 and the new Fujichrome Provia 400X films. The total number of films in our Professional and Consumer range is currently 27 different emulsions."

Q: What can you tell us about the future plans for Choose Film
A: "We are never short of ideas for choose film. We are currently developing more functionality options for the members personal profile pages; we want to create a tighter network between the members, so that members can find other photographers with similar interests or that are local to each other.
We have a number of competitions and promotions planned for the year, which will be exclusive to the members of Choose Film"

Q: Are you yourself a film user and if so what is your choice of gear - and film?
A: "Yes, of course. I have been using film and film cameras for 20 years.
My current favourite is my Lomo LCA camera. For me, there is something about its unique polariser and vignette built into the lens that cannot be beaten. As for film, I don’t need to look any further than Fujifilm. For neg, I mainly use PRO400H, for Black & White – Neopan Acros 100 is an unsung hero, one of the finest black & white films on the market. For transparency it’s the new Velvia 50 for contrast and saturation or Astia 100F for subtlety and skin tones."

Q: Thanks again for the opportunity to find out more about the site and Fujifilm's plans for it.
Any closing comments?

A: "We were quite overwhelmed by the response of Choose Film. We initially launched the site to the UK market, but quickly realised that the Internet knows no boundaries.
We found it very refreshing to hear from photographers all over world that they still love using film. No matter what Country, photographers are faced with the same problems – being forced by magazines to ‘go digital’ and finding a lack of support for film from the places it once thrived.
We hope that Choose Film can address some of these problems and can help its members to continue using film.

Choose Film is still only less than three months old, yet we have nearly 3,000 members signed up from all over the world. We feel there are many exciting things to come. Film technology is getting better everyday and our latest emulsions are best we have ever had.

For and its members, this is just the beginning."

So, if you like me still enjoy the use of film - and appreciate seeing others working with that media - then take a moment and check out this new site and see what it has to offer.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Soft Touch

Several months ago I received a 'Softie' as a gift from Luigi when ordering one of his excellent leather camera cases. I had never used - heck even seen - one of these little accessories before and truth be told I had always questioned the value in using one.
But seeing as it was a gift and that I was also pretty sure that I would lose it if I didn't do something with it I promptly attached it to my Leica M3's shutter release button and thought little or at least close to nothing about it.
I did have a few lost shots as the Softie makes the shutter easier to trigger by accident due to it being a bit more elevated and more sensitive but I still kept it on the camera for months as I didn't feel that it was too much of an intrusion.

Then, earlier today, when walking around with my Leica in hand snapping random street scenes I suddenly realized that I had lost the Softie. This in itself was not that unexpected as one of the challenges with at least my Softie was that it had a tendency to come loose and I had more than once found it rolling around in my camera bag. What surprised me, right there on the street, more than the actual loss - was the realization that I really missed it.
Especially when shooting street scenes with the camera at waist level (which granted is more 'fun' and any good results are of the gratuitous kind) I found that having the Softie in place made it so much easier to take the photos as I tend to press the shutter with the mid-part of the finger instead of the finger-tip in those situations.

So backing up a bit and to answer something that some people may be asking themselves - what is a Softie?

A Softie is the commonly used term for Camera Soft Release Button. It can be flat, concave or convex and screws into the camera's regular shutter release button providing a elevated shutter button with, often, an increased surface area. Some people claim that by using one they are able to handhold their cameras up to an additional full stop but the most commonly perceived benefit is to be able to squeeze of the shot using the mid-section of your finger instead of the tip of it (that and 'comfort' which obviously is a matter of taste).

There are a number of soft release buttons currently manufactured and sold and if your camera's shutter release button accepts the attachment of a cable release then odds are you would be able to use one of the many available soft release buttons out there.

One of the more popular sources is for instance Luigi's concave and convex softies available on his Leicatime site.

Concave soft release button. Photo courtesy

Convex soft release button. Photo courtesy

Tom Abrahamsson of Rapidwinder also offers the dome shaped soft release button - and in a number of different colours. Tom also manufactures and sells the 'Minisoft release' that fits a number of additional cameras such as the Rolleiflex and the Olympus OM series.

So who 'invented' the soft release button - and when?
I have honestly no idea and would be interested in hearing from anyone out there that may know the answer. One of the oldest soft release buttons that I know of is Leica's OZTNO (part number 14088) that was manufactured around 1955:

OZTNO soft release button mounted on a Leica M. Photo courtesy camera-kotobuki.

But even before that one Leitz produced a soft release 'dome' for their Barnack cameras back in the 1930's which could be the first commercially available soft release button:

(I'd be interested in learning more about the Leica part code for this contraption as well if there is anyone out there with information about it).

Bottom Line: If you haven't used a 'Softie' before you may want to spend the ten dollars or so that it will cost you just in order to see if it something that works for you.
I didn't think I would ever find the need for one but after today's loss I must admit I am planning to replace mine as soon as possible as my Leica now feels 'incomplete' without one.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Push it!

Found myself at an outdoor 'Antique Fair' this past weekend even though a more appropriate name for it would had been 'Junk Fair'. Having said that it was fun to stroll along the tables seeing everything from a framed NSync poster to a rather impressive collection of radios from the 20's-30's. There were also quite a few cameras and lenses to be found and hidden amongst home-knitted pot heaters and grizzly-bear bookends I came upon Rolleicords, Kodak instamatics, Olympus OM's but also the one camera that triggered my interest - the Graphic 35.

Graflex Graphic 35, Photo by Wayne Cornell

The one I handled at the fair was fairly beaten up and had some parts missing but what intrigued me about it was the focusing mechanism - both how it worked internally as well as externally.

The image through the viewfinder is split horizontally. Pushing two buttons located on either side of the lens moves these two images until the two halves are lined up. Pretty much like a rangefinder split image but - different.
See an illustration attempt below for how the view through the viewfinder looks like:

Line up the horizontal slices to focus your photo

Reading up a bit on the introduction of this camera it appears as if I was far from the only one that found this way of focusing rather...unique.. or at least much different to what I have experienced in the past.
Below are some of the ads used to introduce this camera to the public in the mid-to-late 1950's:
The camera was amazing people on planes... well as on trains

And even found its way to underneath the Christmas tree

The Graphic 35 went through a number of updates and the later models had the F/3.5 lens replaced with a faster F/2.8 version and for the collectors out there, if there is anyone for these cameras, the versions produced (many in parallel) were;

F/3.5 (single color band): Feb 1955 - Apr 1956
F/3.5 (double color band): Apr 1956 - May 1957
F/3.5 (universal color band): Apr 1956 - July 1957
F/2.8 (double color band): Nov 1955 - Apr 1956
F/2.8 (universal color band): Apr 1956 - July 1957

But even with a number of updates the camera never really hit it big with the public and was discontinued no more than three years after its introduction in 1955.

Now, I didn't buy the one that I found at the fair but having read up a bit on this somewhat quirky camera I must confess that I'm considering picking one up at some point in the future. If I do I'll be sure to post a more thorough user experience here along with samples of how well (if at all) it works.

eBay prices fluctuates from $20 to $200 depending on condition and accessories.

If you find one in good condition and for a good price it may well be worth getting one just for the 'push focusing' experience :)