Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Agfa Optima 6000 Pocket Sensor

Two rolls Photo Instrumentation shot 29-30/7/17 developed in RO9 One Shot 1+25 6m30s 19ºC

One roll Photo Instrumentation shot Beckton Alps check date 29-30/7/17 developed in RO9 One Shot 1+25 6m 20ºC

Monday, 28 August 2017

The Hand Inside the Frame


Earlier this year when invited to participate in the exhibition Pinhole and the Art of Invention, I instinctively wanted to turn the premise on its head (“Pinhole and The Art of Invention celebrates the art of invention and the inventiveness of artists by including photographers who build homemade cameras and mechanisms to serve a specific purpose. These innovative apparatuses will take centre stage…”), and, instead of the camera being the inventive mechanism, I wanted to use that invention as a means of showing a sequence of animated pinhole images. For the exhibition, with the pinhole as a constraint, I wanted to use the most minimal means to create a moving image, which meant using pre-cinematic optical devices that produced a form of animated image, specifically the zoetrope, flip book, and phénakisticope. Although commonly thought of as optical toys, these began as instruments to demonstrate theories around the idea of the persistence of vision. Probably the least well-known, the phénakisticope was invented first, and simultaneously, by Joseph Plateau and Simon von Stampfer in 1832 (called the stroboscope by Stampfer), based on work by Peter Mark Roget and Michael Faraday; the zoetrope (in its definitive form), designed by William Ensign Lincoln, and the flip book, by John Barnes Linnett (under the name kineograph), were both invented in the 1860s.

It struck me as a remarkable coincidence that during the same decade that photography was being invented, a number of scientists were independently investigating visual phenomena that could produce the appearance of motion from a sequence of rapidly changing still images. A primitive form of photographic animation would have been theoretically possible from its very birth - although, with the long exposure times then necessary, this would have had to have been constructed through stop motion. The use of the pinhole rather than a lens was simply a consideration in order to fit the remit of the show, but this necessity, and the long exposures that resulted from the pinhole, did provoke the idea that, given the fact that these optical devices were as old as (and separate to) photography, the ‘instantaneous’ photograph (which would become the individual frames of cinema) was not necessary for animation, that the long exposure times of the mid—nineteenth century, replicated in part by the long exposures of the pinhole, could still have created moving images. Yet the desire to do so appears to have only developed after motion had been analytically broken down by the instantaneous photograph, and the subsequent realisation that it could be recombined into movement.

The subject for the animations needed to be simple and repetitive, easy to comprehend and limited to a very few frames. As a model for animated sequences shot with a pinhole camera, I turned to the very beginnings of the moving image, and, specifically, the work of Eadweard Muybridge. Of course, Muybridge didn’t use a pinhole for any of his work, but to animate his photographs, he made a modified version of the phénakisticope, combined with a magic lantern, to project moving images with what he called the zoöpraxiscope of 1879 (these were generally painted versions, rather than photographic, stretched in order to combat the distortion of the figures caused by the rotation of the disc against the counter-rotation of the viewing slits). I had previously used photographs from Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion when at college, re-animating some sequences, in my ignorance thinking that in this I was doing something unique, ignorant of those who had done same thing before me; I had also made some flip books using photocopies taken from illustrations in Aaron Scharf’s book, Art and Photography (where I also encountered the chronophotography of Marey, although Marey is best known for using multiple exposures on a single plate, and so most of his work does not have the ease of Muybridge’s for appropriation, at least for animation). My interest in Muybridge’s work had been rekindled by the Tate Britain exhibition in 2010, which put the Animal Locomotion in the wider context of his entire career as a photographer.

Drawings after Muybridge, 1996
For the exhibition, I shot sequences based on two plates from Animal Locomotion, ‘Movement of the hand; drawing a circle’, and ‘Movement of the hand; lifting a ball’, both of which were simple, repetitive motions; the first plate was one that I had used in one of the simple animations I had made while at art college twenty-one years ago. In the original plates, Muybridge constructed his sequences from twelve images, shot from in front of the figure, and a second set from the side; to replicate or emulate these twelve shots on a continuous strip of film, with the 6x6 negative size, a roll of medium format film would provide twelve square shots. I shot the images with an MPP large format camera with a 9x12cm rollfilm back, with a mask for 6x6 negatives. I made a 4x5 to 9x12cm plate back adaptor to use this back, which changed the camera’s film plane, but using a pinhole lensboard, focus was not a consideration. The photographs were shot at a focal length of around 50mm, a wide angle at 6x6, useful as it was difficult to calculate exactly what would be in the frame. For the exhibition itself, I displayed the work in the three forms previously mentioned: my initial idea was to make zoetropes to show the sequences, which were made contact prints from the uncut strip of negatives on Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating film; to these I added phénakistocopes, printed from scans, and also flip books made from contact prints on paper. The latter were the most successful for showing the sequences moving; the luminance of the image does have some bearing on how well the effect of animation was perceived, and the pinhole images I had made were not bright or clear enough for both the zoetropes and phénakistocopes. However, the best representation of these image sequences is as animated GIF files - the perfect form for short, repetitive sequences of images: at one point almost a footnote, an anachronous remnant of the early internet, now social media has made the animated GIF the perfect visual form for the easily digestible meme of the social media age.


That my own hand appears in the frame is a coincidental echo of the Moebius film made earlier this year, while the theme of emulation or re-enactment also ties it to the photograph of my hand holding a photograph in Gelsenkirchen as part of my project around Wim Wenders' locations used in his road movies trilogy in the 1970s. With all of these pieces, projecting oneself into the work, as these were all made on film, taking the photographs entirely myself, there was a difficulty of knowing exactly how much of the image was in view or in focus; someone else could have operated the camera, but it was never practical in these cases. The hand inside the frame stands in for the hand of the viewer; in these two other pieces, the camera placed to suggest a subjective viewpoint, while the pinhole animations attempted the ostensible detachment of Muybridge’s work. The invisible surface of the photograph and its ability to render texture in a close-up image provokes a desire for a tactile confirmation - the viewer wanting to touch - and the hand in the frame provides an imaginative access into this depicted realm. This may be a sublimated response, and only really relates to a certain type of photograph, but perhaps the close-up of any near object has this potential, whether the subject is animate or inanimate, one can imagine the feel of the bark of a tree, the worn surface of steps, the side of a face, a wisp of hair, or in the animations, the textures and responsive pressures of the resistance of a graphite pencil against a sheet of paper. Once made, I had the odd realisation that they (my hands) looked like the hand (or more specifically the forearm) of my father, but reminiscent of the experiences of childhood intimacy, bound up with demonstrations of dexterity - the hands of my father as he demonstrated how to do things: drawing, painting, cutting lino or wood, coupled with the idea that my hands are older now than his were when this would have been the case.


Although Muybridge himself does appear in a number of the Animal Locomotion plates, the hands in these sequences are not his. They belong to J. Liberty Tadd, the director of the Industrial School of Art in Philadelphia. One wonders if he introduced the idea of the subject of the hand to Muybridge; certainly, the plate of the hand drawing a circle has overt art historical references, most clearly to the anecdote of Giotto drawing a perfect circle freehand, a feat that Albrecht Dürer repeated two centuries later to demonstrate his parity with the artists of the Italian Renaissance. Its circularity is also ideal for the limitations of the twelve-image sequences that Muybridge was working with. Once animated and looped, the circle is infinitely drawn and erased. In my own re-enactment, I marked out twelve positions around a lightly traced circle where my hand would rest for each minute-long exposure, and in doing so made explicit an analogy to the clock, both in the motion and duration of the twelve images. The 'Movement of the hand; lifting a ball' has less immediate associations, although perhaps the clock of the previous plate has now become a globe; these exposures were two minutes long each, and with my hand unsupported for most of the shots, this time duration is more evident in the final pinhole photographs.


The two plates that I drew on for the exhibition were part of a larger sequence of five of Tadd; these five plates all appear at the very end of Part Five of Animal Locomotion, being ‘Males and Females (Draped)’. All five plates are titled 'Movement of the hand', with the explanatory suffixes: plate 532 is 'Movement of the hand; drawing a circle', 533, 'clasping hands', 534, 'lifting a ball', 535, 'beating time', and 536, 'hands changing pencil' (Part Six which follows is 'Abnormal Movements’). Having re-enacted the first two plates, it seemed logically necessary to tackle the other three plates, to complete the project outside of the exhibition; two of these, clasping hands and hands changing pencil, lack the visual clarity of the other three, in that the representation of a simple gesture or movement does not naturally form a circular unit; one plate in particular, 'Movement of the Hand; beating time', had a richness to it that merited further consideration. Intriguingly, the plate of 'hands changing pencil', although in itself perhaps the least interesting (it appears almost as if it is a preparation for the drawing of the circle - although it is in fact a different tool), in  J. Liberty Tadd’s obituary from the American Art News, in its short paragraph, among other achievements, it mentions a demonstration of ‘ambidextral drawing’ to the Royal Arts Society of London in 1891, so this plate might acknowledge Tadd’s ambidextrousness. All five plates of the hand demonstrates dextrousness of course: the fine motor skills and opposable thumbs of the human hand. That Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion is in some senses a comparative anatomy, one could infer that evolution might be an implied, unconscious subject.


Plate 535, the 'hand beating time' plate clearly suggests music - and therefore sound. A few of the Animal Locomotion sequences explicitly do suggest the idea of music in mind of the viewer, namely those of figures dancing; less than a decade after Animal Locomotion, under the aegis of Thomas Edison, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson’s ‘Experimental Sound Film’ of late 1894 or early 1895 achieved the feat of recording sound and moving images simultaneously, showing Dickson himself playing the fiddle into a phonograph while two men dance. Sound was present from the very birth of cinema, and all through the silent era (the 'silent era' was of course never silent) there were numerous attempts to record sound simultaneously with the images; although the problems with synchronising playback were not conquered until the development of sound-on-film (the earliest successes with ‘talking pictures’ did in fact use sound-on-disc), amplification was as much an issue as synchronicity. I emulated the positions of Tadd’s hand through this sequence rather than beat time itself, given the long exposures. Was Tadd beating time to a tune in his head - or to music provided by one of Muybridge’s assistants? (It would be too fanciful to suggest that he was beating time to music being played on an Edison phonograph; a few short decades later, silent films would use music on set to create an emotional atmosphere for actors - ‘silent’ film sets were themselves notoriously noisy, and in larger, open studios several different scenes might all be being filmed at the same time). Although there is no possibility if reconstructing a tune, Tadd’s hand appears to be beating in triple-time - not itself surprising given the date of the sequence, but I was struck how strongly the visual rhythm suggests this.


Muybridge and Edison met in 1888. Muybridge’s account of the meeting suggests that they discussed using Edison’s phonograph to accompany his zoopraxiscope, although, with the very short duration of Muybridge’s sequences, logically, the phonograph would have needed to simply produce a short loop of sound if these were to be synchronised; the phonograph’s two minutes of recording time must have seemed vastly expansive to Muybridge. The form of the phonograph - a cylinder with a linear, spiral track - informed Edison and Dickson’s initial approach to moving pictures: a glass cylinder with microscopic frames arranged in a spiral. However, after Muybridge, Edison met Marey in 1889, by which time Marey was working with rolls of film rather than fixed plates. Thus Muybridge’s closed, circular motion in the zoopraxiscope led to an open, cylindrical motion, to the linear motion of a continuous strip of film of (theoretically) unlimited length. This was also a transition from the inflexible glass plate to flexible celluloid film (via some experiments with paper) and a host of other inventors (Janssen, Anschütz, Le Prince, Friese-Greene, Donisthorpe, to name a few), as detailed in Rudolf Arnheim’s ‘The Thoughts that Made the Picture Move’.

Muybridge's photographs were cropped significantly for publication in Animal Locomotion: the frame was imposed retrospectively, and what we see in the neat modernist grids of the published plates is not the whole photograph. The cyanotype contact prints of the photographs that make up the 'Movement of the hand' series show Tadd as a half-length figure, with a hat shading his face against the sun. As with almost all early cinema (and proto-cinema), Muybridge depended on natural light for his sequence images; although the dark, gridded background appears airless, the grid itself was an open screen of twine: in some of the oblique views it's possible to perceive this background as a shallow space beyond the grid that it is possible to enter, not merely the limit of the picture in depth. That the 'Movement of the hand' plates have a unique position in the Animal Locomotion as a whole is emphasised by the fact that these five plates (as “Class 9. Movements of a man's hand”) were available as one of the separate sections when Muybridge reissued Animal Locomotion at the time of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, which had a ‘Zoopraxigraphical Hall’ where he lectured; there is some dispute over whether Edison demonstrated his Kinetoscope at the fair or not. The 'Movement of the hand' plates do not appear to have been translated into zoopraxiscope discs for projection, but one particular aspect of the sequences does foreshadow cinema: they are the only plates which could be said to constitute a close-up in the whole project. David Campany describes the close-up, along with montage, as part of the distinguishing grammar of cinema, and, that, “…as Beaumont Newhall noted in 1937, ‘photographs of portions of objects (close-ups) were most uncommon before the moving picture.’” This uncommoness is represented in Muybridge's distinct five plates of the 'Movement of the hand':
The close-up can show us a quality in a gesture of the hand we never noticed before when we saw that hand stroke or strike something, a quality which is often more expressive than any play of the features. The close-up shows your shadow on the wall with which you have lived all your life and which you scarcely knew; it shows the speechless face and fate of the dumb objects that live with you in your room and whose fate is bound up with your own.
Béla Balázs, Theory of the Film

Bibliography

Hans-Christian Adam, Eadweard Muybridge: the Human and Animal Locomotion photographs, Taschen, Köln 2014
Rudolf Arnheim, ‘The Thoughts that Made the Picture Move’, in Film as Art, Faber, London 1958
Béla Balázs, Theory of the film: character and growth of a new art, translated from the Hungarian by Edith Bone, Dover Publications, New York 1970
Philip Brockman, Eadweard Muybridge, Tate, London 2010
David Campany, Photography and Cinema, Reaktion Books, London 2008
Kevin MacDonnell, Eadweard Muybridge: The man who invented the moving picture, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London 1972
E. J. Marey, Movement, translated by Eric Pritchard, D. Appleton and Co, New York 1895
Eadweard Muybridge, Descriptive Zoopraxography, Lakeside Press, Chicago 1893
Aaron Scharf, Art and Photography, Allen Lane, London 1968
Rebecca Solnit, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West, Bloomsbury, London 2003
Spencer Sundell, The Pre-History of Sound Cinema, Part 1: Thomas Edison and W.K.L. Dickson
J. Liberty Tadd obituary, American Art News

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The Mycro IIIA

Mycro IIIA camera
The movement away from contact printing to enlarging negatives in the first half of the 20th century led to cameras in general becoming much smaller, especially once the 'miniature' format of 35mm became more widely used. The price of film itself was also a factor, especially in Japan after the Second World War, which produced by far the greatest number of subminiature cameras (while perhaps also leading in part to the perfection of miniaturised manufacturing techniques). The first widely-used subminiature film format was 17.5mm, derived from splitting unperforated 35mm film; there had been some, essentially isolated, precedents such as the Ticka watch camera from the early years of the 20th century, and 17.5mm film had also been used as a motion picture format in amateur cine cameras. In the years immediately following the Second World War, there were numerous 17.5mm format 'Hit-type' cameras (named after one of the most ubiquitous models), most featuring a fixed-focus, single-aperture lens with a single-speed shutter; the more sophisticated 17.5mm cameras had faster lenses, shutters with a limited range of speeds - and a select few even had focussing lenses. Most were modelled on typical 35mm camera designs, but some were inspired by medium format twin-lens reflex cameras. The majority of these cameras were sold to the US market as novelties. The use of 16mm film in still cameras overtook paper-backed 17.5mm film; a few rare cameras were available that took both formats, but as a subminiature format, 16mm film in cassettes appears to have supplanted 17.5mm by the late 1950s, with cameras that were generally better made, had more features, and were less novelties, more intended for serious amateurs. These 16mm cameras were themselves to be replaced by Kodak's introduction of the 110 cartridge just over a decade later.

Mycro IIA with 35mm canister for size comparison
The original version of the Mycro camera was introduced by Sanwa in 1939, two years after the Midget, the first camera to herald the 17.5mm craze, on which it is closely modelled. It has similar dimensions: about 50mm wide, and 32mm in height and depth. The above image gives an indication of its size; having seen many images of the Mycro online, I still was not quite prepared for how small the camera was when I first held it in my hand. There were a number of Mycro variants, including a 16mm format camera, before the final version, the IIIA from 1953. There were also a number of accessories: ever-ready cases (mine came with a slightly battered case); lens hoods and filters, and combined lens-hood-and-filters; tripods and tripod adaptors; developing tanks and enlargers. Common with all Mycro cameras, the Mycro IIIA has a fixed-focus 20mm Una lens, stated to provide focus from feet feet; this is coated in the post-war models, and stops down to f11 on the underneath of the lens. Shutter speeds are 1/100th, 1/50th and 1/25th, as well as 'B' setting, on the top of the lens, and the camera also has a cable release socket. The shutter requires cocking, with the small toothed lever the left side of the lens from the user, with the shutter release itself in appearance reminiscent of a cocking lever from a leaf shutter on a much larger camera. The viewfinder is small but when put right against the eye, is clearer in use than one might expect.

Mycro IIIA top plate
As the Hit-type cameras were very popular for a brief period, it's still not too difficult to find original 17.5mm rollfilm; a number of different manufacturers made film for the cameras, and the rolls do appear to be interchangeable. The metal spools have a slot in one end, meaning that the take-up spool can only be inserted into the camera one way up, not dissimilar to the design of 127 spools. I bought a handful of Kiku-branded films: the Kiku was another 17.5mm camera, with a different body design from the classic Hit-type. Although there was nothing to securely identify the date of the films, given the period during which 17.5mm cameras were popular, the film is likely to be from the 1950s, but like with other uncommon formats, the film may well have been manufactured for many years after the cameras were no longer being made.

Kiku Panchro film
Film is advanced by means of a red window (in my camera this is a rather pale pink), which has a sliding cover; the standard format for 17.5mm was ten frames, nominally 14x14mm. Advertisements at the time suggested that these negatives could be enlarged to postcard size. Although the negatives are larger than most of the 16mm cameras which succeeded them, other factors may well be more important to the resulting images produced by the typical 17.5mm camera, notably the quality of the lens and film flatness. The Mycro IIIA has a curving film plane, a design feature often used in cameras with a simple lens to ensure better definition around the centre of the image; the Mycro also has a cradle for the supply side spool, which appears to have been used to keep the film taut by adding pressure to the roll, although this would lessen as more film is advanced.

Mycro IIIA with film loaded showing supply-side cradle
I ran one of the Kiku films through the Mycro IIIA to test the camera and the films - these all appeared to be from the same batch, although one film later turned out to have a band identifying it as Panchro XX film - although the adhesive band on the exposed side neglected to specify this; perhaps all the films were identical, although I suspect that this was not the case, given the results and the different backing paper for the XX film. From the tests I made, the film appeared to be usable at an exposure index of 50; the camera's shutter had a tendency to stick open a 1/25th, and when set to 1/50th, the speed selector also tended to slide over to the 1/25th position by itself.

Kiku rollfilm backing papers
The test roll that I shot with the Mycro turned out to provide better results than the other films: the film marked as Panchro XX had the backing numbers transferred to the negatives, as can be seen on the right hand edge below. This roll was also less sensitive, with more fogging, and could have benefitted from more exposure.

Mycro IIIA with Kiku Panchro XX film
On one of the other rolls, the sixty-year-old tape that held the film to the backing paper came loose inside the camera. This projected its shadow onto all the negatives from this roll, as seen in the image below - the tape is the large black shape upper left.

Mycro IIIA with Kiku Panchro film
The last original roll of Kiku film was perversely shot at night, mostly hand-held on 'B' - the photograph below might be an exposure of around a second, or possibly a double exposure. The Kiku film, although 17.5mm, did fit on the 16mm reels in my universal developing tank, and were stand developed for one hour in Ilfotec LC29 at 1+100. The image below does also show a fingerprint - the original Kiku films were difficult to load as these had a very pronounced curl.

Mycro IIIA with Kiku Panchro film
Having the spools and backing paper, I also shot some FP4 and HP5 Plus, previously cut down to 16mm. These did show up some problems with focus in the images. This might have been due to the 16mm film not being held firmly to both sides of the curving film plane, as the out of focus area was mostly in the centre of the image, although this might not be the cause -  it's clear on some negatives from the edges of the image that these were flush with the internal frame at both the top and bottom, but still appear soft in the middle, so some other cause may be to blame, however the film could still be bowing in towards the lens. Shooting on smaller apertures may have mitigated this to a degree in a number of images. The shots on FP4 and HP5 Plus also showed up the vignetting from the lens; having cut the 16mm film from 120 format, the printing on the edge of the film also intrudes into the image area.

Mycro IIIA with FP4 Plus
Using the Mycro IIIA today is even more of a novelty as it would have been in the 1950s. Having an adjustable shutter and wider apertures than most 17.5mm cameras makes it more ambitious than a simple toy camera, although the camera has its limitations: it is small enough to be fiddly to use, and given the size of the film itself, loading the camera is not especially easy. However, although the results were a little unpredictable, some of the frames I shot do demonstrate the tiny camera's ability, and, in the 1950s, if one wanted a very small snapshot camera, at a budget, which could make acceptable four-inch square prints, the Mycro would not have been a bad choice.

Mycro IIIA with Ilford FP4 Plus
Mycro IIIA with Ilford FP4 Plus
Mycro IIIA with Ilford HP5 Plus
Mycro IIIA with Ilford HP5 Plus

Sources/further reading:
The Mycro camera on Camera-Wiki
Submin.com's pages on the Mycro
<ycro cameras on Subclub
The Mycro Camera Page
Mycro IIIA on the Living Image

Friday, 21 July 2017

127 Day Summer 2017

Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor with Ilford FP4 Plus
I shot two rolls of cut-down film on last week's 127 Day, one Ilford FP4 Plus and the other HP5 Plus, with the Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor. In between the two rolls, as with the 116 Day last month, I cut and taped a piece of yellow gelatine filter inside the camera behind the lens, to improve definition in the skies and to act as a one-stop neutral density filter when shooting the HP5 Plus in the bright sun, while the FP4 Plus had been a fortuitous choice for the more overcast conditions earlier in the day.

Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor with Ilford FP4 Plus
Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor with Ilford FP4 Plus
Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor with Ilford FP4 Plus
Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor with Ilford HP5 Plus
Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor with Ilford HP5 Plus
Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor with Ilford HP5 Plus
Zeiss Ikon Baby Box Tengor with Ilford HP5 Plus

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor 54/18 - The Baby Box Tengor

Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor 54/18
'Miniature' cameras became increasingly popular around 1930, the term either used to mean films smaller than 120 medium format or sometimes applied to cameras with negative sizes less than 6x9cm. One imagines that there were a number of reasons for this, one of which being economy; hardly an economic camera, the original Leica began the popularity of 35mm film as a miniature format for still photography; another way of using film more economically was to simply get more negatives on an existing rollfilm format. Paper-backed 127 rollfilm was already well-used for 6x4cm negatives after being introduced for the Vest Pocket Kodak in 1912. The Zeiss Ikon Kolibri was reputedly the first camera designed for its 'half-frame' size of 3x4cm, and both the Kolibri and Zeiss Ikon's Baby Box Tengor were introduced to the market in the same year, 1930, suggesting that the Baby Box Tengor may already have been planned as a cheaper alternative to the Kolibri. As the original 127 rollfilm cameras shot 6x4cm negatives with 8 frames on a roll of film, to use the film for for 16 images, the same numbers on the paper backing had to be employed (only later did more expensive cameras with automatic frame counters make the red window no longer a necessity). As a result, the camera, and other 3x4cm 127 cameras, uses two red windows for the 3x4cm frame, with each frame number appearing twice, once in each window (unlike 120 film which now has three sets of numbers, although 127's backing paper was redesigned with numbers for 4x4cm frames, it didn't gain numbers for the 3x4cm frame sizes).

The original Tengor cameras were made by Goerz, and appear to be inspired by the Kodak Brownie series of box cameras. The Box Tengor was continued by Zeiss Ikon after its formation, and some models were provided with aperture selection and supplementary lenses for close focus, making these amongst the most fully-featured box cameras. As with the larger Box Tengors, there was a model of the Baby Box camera which had these features, with a focusing f6.3 Novar lens, stopping down to f11, and a shutter with I, B and T settings. However, this model was only produced for a couple of years, while the standard Baby Box Tengor, with a fixed-focus 50mm f11 Goerz Frontar lens, and a shutter speed of around 1/25th, was made until at least 1939. As an inexpensive camera, with an economic negative format, the Baby Box Tengor was marketed to children (in the catalogue page here, it is subtitled Die Schüler-Camera).

Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor 54/18 with frame finders erected
My example of the camera is a very early version of the camera: the most obvious sign is the lack of the hexagonal design around the lens, which was introduced in 1931 (this design also has the name BABY-BOX inscribed on the front panel, while my camera has just Box-Tengor impressed in the leatherette on the back); however, the wire frame finder has a straight top to it - later models have a upwards-curving section in the centre, no doubt to make it either top pull into position. This wire frame finder also functions as a lock on the shutter on later models, with the shutter not firing unless it is erected. With the film moving through the camera from top to bottom, thanks to the 'half-frame' negative size on 127, the Baby Box Tengor is designed to shoot in a horizontal format; rotating the camera through 90º for a portrait shot, the shutter release is then in a position on the top right hand side. Above the shutter lever, on the same side, is a tab that prevents the shutter from closing when pulled out, providing a time-exposure setting. Although a very simple box camera, it is also has a cable release socket just under the shutter lever. As a quirky design feature, the shutter lever is directly connected to an internal cover behind the lens, in front of the aperture, which is mirrored; behind this is the actual shutter mechanism itself. This may be a clear visual sign to see whether the shutter is open when in time mode.

Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor 54/18 - opened for loading
The back of the body removes entirely for loading, with a catch that needs to be pulled out before opening. In the image above the two red windows on the back can clearly be seen, as well as the two tripod sockets for horizontal and vertical formats. Inside the camera is stamped with the Zeiss Ikon's own designation for 127, A8, and it also specifically gives the original 127 frame format in metric and imperial.

In use, the Frontar lens is tolerably sharp in the centre of the image, with definition falling off to the corners (which, in some cases, almost gives the appearance of tilt shift to the image); with a fixed focus lens, single speed shutter and fixed aperture, it is very similar to the later V. P. Twin (both cameras' dimensions are comparable, but the metal bodied Baby Box Tengor feels rather more solid). The dimensions of the camera (with the finder down) are compact: 8cm high by 7cm wide including the film advance, and 5.5cm deep. Where it does differ in performance from the V. P. Twin is that the film appears to be held much flatter inside the camera, and the Goerz Frontar lens, an achromatic doublet performs better too.

Baby Box Tengor with Ilford HP5 Plus
As I have written in regards to using other box cameras, using modern, faster emulsions than those that would have been available when the camera was first made, give greater flexibility in shooting conditions, such as in the interior above, admittedly with plenty of light from the window. I shot all the images in this post with 120 format film cut down and rolled with 127 backing paper. For a camera nearing 90 years old, some aspects of its operation are not working quite as new: the shutter does not always 'reset' itself, generally turning the camera upside down will do this on my camera; in addition, the time setting does not always keep the shutter open with the camera in landscape orientation (clearly gravity is acting on some components inside in a way that it shouldn't - in my tests with the camera, I only used a long exposure with a couple of shots on Kodak High Resolution Aerial Duplicating Film). Neither of these problems is especially obstructive when using the camera. The focussing version of the Baby Box Tengor with the Novar lens may well be more sought after, if greater user control is desired, however, the standard model, as a very small, pocketable box camera does have its own charm.

Baby Box Tengor with Agfapan APX100
Baby Box Tengor with Ilford FP4 Plus
Baby Box Tengor with Fomapan 200
Baby Box Tengor with Kodak Tri-X
Baby Box Tengor with Ilford HP5 Plus

Sources/Further Reading:
Camaras sin Fronteras - in Spanish but with a good overview of the different variants.
Overview of the Box Tengor series: Mike Elek

Monday, 10 July 2017

Ferrania P30 Alpha

Film Ferrania P30 Alpha
Earlier this year, Film Ferrania made a surprise announcement: their first commercially available product was to be a black and white negative film, Ferrania P30 Alpha, based on a discontinued motion picture emulsion. The announcement generated a great deal of excitement among film photographers online, more perhaps than other new film stocks that have appeared in recent years, such as Adox Silvermax or Foma Retropan 320 (there have been quite a number of 'new' films, but many of which are essentially the same: namely the 100 and 400 speed Kentmere/Rollei RPX/Agfaphoto APX/Fotoimpex CHM films). This excitement no doubt reflects the enormity of Film Ferrania's project of restarting production of colour transparency film at the original Ferrania factory in Italy, and the support and goodwill that initially accompanied the Kickstarter project of three years ago, and following its success, the numerous problems and delays that followed. The P30 film was initially made to test coating machinery that would be used to manufacture the colour transparency film that was Film Ferrania's original intention; given the delays to this, that a usable film could now be produced, after all the difficulties encountered in getting production running once more, no doubt it has made commercial sense to release this onto the market, albeit in limited amounts, in 35mm only, against what seems to have been a huge demand. I didn't support Ferrania's original Kickstarter campaign, in part due to rarely shooting colour film, but when the first product from Ferrania was announced to be a black and white negative film, I was keen to try it. My order was the from the second production batch, arriving from Germany, not Italy, from Mahn, suggesting that Mahn is handling Ferrania's logistics at this stage.


The cartons have no information inside; the plastic tubs have a sticker with the year and production batch. The film canisters are not DX-coded, with labels stuck on to them, rather than designs directly printed onto the metal. Peeling the labels off out of curiosity, the canister underneath was that of a C41 film, Centuria HD 200. Another observation about the packaging is that the film is described as 80 ASA, not ISO, although this makes no practical difference.


As with using other films for the first time, my approach was to test the film for its latitude. For most of the tests in this post, I divided the film in half, which I did for the first test, shot with a Canon FTb-N. The first two rows of the contact sheet below were successively rated at exposure indexes of 20, 40, 80, 160, 320, 640, reading left to right. The test was shot early on a day with bright sunlight; from examples I'd already seen online, I knew it was going to be contrasty.

Ferrania P30 Alpha latitude test contact sheet
On the online 'Best Practices' sheet, the only listed developer I use regularly is Rodinal. At the time that I developed my first roll, the developing time given with a dilution of 1+50 was 8 minutes (all rolls of Ferrania P30 Alpha in this post were developed by hand in a small tank with intermittent agitation). The results when I pulled the first roll out of the wash did indeed show negatives of high contrast with very little shadow detail; the results appeared to demonstrate there was little latitude to the film: when overexposed by two stops, the tonal separation between the highlights and midtones made scanning difficult, while the underexposed frames were extremely thin and not worth scanning.

Ferrania P30 Alpha shot at 80, developed in RO9 One Shot, 1+50, 8m at 20º
In the image above, there is very little shadow detail; the lower contrast subject below was better, but the first roll of film was initially unsatisfactory.

Ferrania P30 Alpha shot at 80, developed in RO9 One Shot, 1+50, 8m at 20º
I decided to make a second latitude test, using the same ratings (and camera), this time choosing stand development with Ilfotec LC29, diluted 1+100 for one hour. Ilfotec LC29 was not listed on the 'Best Practices', sheet but it's a developer I use regularly, and seems to give equally good results for stand development as compared to RO9 (the developer does appear to exhaust more rapidly at higher dilutions however).

Ferrania P30 Alpha stand development latitude test contact sheet
From this test, the results when rated at 20 and 40 were clearly better than at 80, but the higher-contrast subjects again had no shadow detail at all, appearing to show a very sharp falling off. I had hoped that stand development in highly dilute developer might reduce the contrast of the negatives, but the results from this second test were less successful than the first roll. After the results from the first two tests, I was however able to appreciate that the film's grain is extremely fine (in some dense areas of the negatives, there is scanner noise visible rather than grain itself). In addition, the base has a light grey tint, but is very clear, and the clearness of the film base did show up dust (and a few scratches and my own carelessness in washing) very well in scanning, with the result that I spent a fair bit of time in digital spotting. In comparison to other emulsions, P30 Alpha was quite reminiscent of Rollei RPX 25, which has a number of comparable considerations in exposure and development.

Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 20, stand developed in Ilfotec LC29
I did wonder whether there might have been problems with metering, having shot both tests with the same camera, and both showing a complete lack of detail in the shadow areas in negatives where the subject contained a wide range of tones. Closer-toned subjects did have better results, but were notably thin when rated at box speed, being better at an exposure index of 40 or 20.

After shooting a third roll in a different camera (a Canon A-1, which I generally trust on metering - and this camera had also just received a new battery), and rating the film at 50, before developing, I checked the recommended time for RO9 online, and found that the time given for a dilution of 1+50 had increased to 14 minutes. Evidently one issue with using a new emulsion is the lack of information about developing regimes, and with the release of Ferrania P30 in its Alpha phase, the manufacturers are relying on the film being tested by its purchasers. I first downloaded the 'Best Practices' sheet (as version 1.1) on the 12th of last month; the recommended time with RO9 had changed two weeks later, the 'Best Practices' sheet at that point being version 1.3 (the version at the time of writing is now 1.4). The metering recommendation for the new time was still 80 ISO; however, with my experiences so far, I rated the film at 50 instead.

Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 50, developed in RO9 1+50, 14m at 20ºC
The negatives when developed at 14 minutes revealed a fuller range of tones, the image above being one of the best at the new time; however, with this roll, I shot a number images with a large amount of sky. I used a yellow filter to attempt to retain detail in the sky, but the balance between the highlights and shadow areas, made the negatives difficult to scan.

Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 50, developed in RO9 1+50, 14m at 20ºC
In addition to the new time for RO9 One Shot, there was also a new developer listed, Ilfotec DD-X. As I happened to have some DD-X, it seemed worth trying this as well. Ilford's standard dilution for DD-X is 1+4; the 'Best Practices' sheet gives a dilution of 1+5 (perhaps to give slightly lower contrast), and to rate the film at 50. I shot some P30 Alpha with the Agat 18K, and developed as on the 'best practices' sheet. This roll was shot mostly in overcast conditions, with the lower contrast in the lighting giving a good, rounded tonal range. Incidentally, the film's fine grain was a good match for the smaller negative format of the 35mm half-frame, while shooting at an exposure index of 50 meant using wide apertures with the Agat 18K, sympathetic to the subject below.

Ferrania P30 Alpha, Agat 18K (half frame), developed in Ilfotec DD-X
Returning to using RO9, feeling that the contrast in the negatives could be reduced further, I decided to try a higher dilution - but not with stand development. As with the best results that I had with Rollei RPX 25, I chose a dilution of 1+120. Logically, the time needed to be extended from the 14 minutes at 1+50 in the previous RO9 test; in addition, following the old adage to 'expose for the shadows and develop for highlights', I rated the film at 40: the high developer dilution should take care of the highlights, and shooting at a lower exposure index should ensure better shadow detail. The negatives from this roll appeared to demonstrate that this approach was an appropriate one.

Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 40, developed in RO9 1+120 for 18m at 20ºC
I did bracket some shots, rating a few alternate frames at 80 for comparison. As the pair of images below show, the results at 40 provide much more shadow detail, while the higher dilution of developer appears to have prevented the highlights from blocking too much, making the negatives much easier to scan. The conditions that many of the photographs were shot in continued to be

Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 40, developed in RO9 1+120 for 18m at 20ºC
Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 80, developed in RO9 1+120 for 18m at 20ºC
For this test with a higher dilution, I shot the film with a Kiev-4. At the end of the film, in attempting to advance one more frame, the film tore (something I have occasionally done with the Kiev-4). The 'Best Practices sheet' does state: "No Motorized Cameras Please: We have seen some motorized cameras break the film, especially less-expensive point-and-shoot cameras from the 80s and 90s. We really think it’s best to use a fully manual, non-motorized camera".

Having found what seemed to be a good exposure and developer combination with RO9, I also was concerned to find an exposure index and developing times for Ilfotec LC29. This is the other main film developer I use, in conjunction with RO9 One Shot, and as well as using it for stand development, it seemed that it might be worth finding a time for standard development with agitation.
I shot some film with a Kodak Retina IIa, choosing to rate the film at 80 once more. For the choice of dilution with Ilfotec LC29, I used 1+29, which is considered a 'one shot' dilution (rather than the developers other dilutions of 1+9 or 1+19). For a developing time, I picked a rather speculative estimate, based in part on making comparisons to DD-X, taking 9 minutes, at a slightly lower temperature of 19ºC. These negatives were dense, but did appear to have a good tonal range.

Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 80, developed in Ilfotec LC29 1+29 for 9m at 20ºC
I made a further test, reducing the developing time to 7 minutes, at 20ºC, keeping the same exposure index of 80.

Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 80, developed in Ilfotec LC29 1+29 for 7m at 20ºC
The results with Ilfotec LC29 might have been better with a little more exposure, but as I had just one roll of film left, I wanted some confirmation of what I considered the best results so far, developing the film with RO9 One Shot at 1+120. Given that the negatives appeared a little thin, I decided to extended the development time by a couple of minutes. As I had done perviously, I divided the roll of film, shooting half in the Canon A-1, rated 50, and the other half in the Kiev-4, rating this at 40. Both films were developed together in RO9 One Shot at 1+120 for 20 minutes at 20ºC. The first shot below is with the Kiev-4, the second with the Canon A-1.

Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 40, developed in RO9 One Shot 1+120 for 20m at 20ºC
Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 50, developed in RO9 One Shot 1+120 for 20m at 20ºC
Again, I had a number of shots in which the sky predominated, with the continuing bright and fine weather giving high contrast lighting conditions. These were difficult to scan and keep detail in both highlights and shadows. Taking advantage of the Canon A-1's capability to double-expose, I also tried to use the technique of 'pre-exposure' on some frames. Essentially, this means exposing the film to a minimum threshold of density, which should provide higher values in the shadow areas in the subsequent exposure while leaving the highlight area unaffected. In practice I used a white door, shooting the pre-exposed frame around three stops below the meter's recommendation (a grey card may have been better). The results are not clearly different; the pre-exposure levels might have been higher, although the danger is that this might appear as a grey veil, the same as fog.

Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 50, developed in RO9 One Shot 1+120 for 20m at 20ºC
Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 50, with pre-exposure, RO9 One Shot 1+120 for 20m at 20ºC
Having used Film Ferrania P30 Alpha quite extensively through all the tests that I made, I did begin to get a feel for how the film behaves and how I would tailor exposure and development to suit my personal preferences. The 'Best Practice' sheet does state that "The cinema heritage of P30® ALPHA means that the film is rather precise in the way it “wants” to be shot and processed. As such, we firmly recommend shooting this film at the box speed of 80 ISO." - in all the tests I made, I found that this was rarely the case. As a qualification of this conclusion, this does of course very much depend on the 'look' one wants to achieve with a particular emulsion, and how successfully this can be done with its inherent characteristics. I generally prefer to start with as long a tonal range as possible in my negatives (within reason), which can then be affected in scanning or printing (all the images on this post with the exception of the contact sheets were scanned from the negatives) - high contrast in a negative itself can be limiting in this regard. With none of the developers I currently use would I rate the film at 80 - with the exception perhaps when using Ilfotec LC29, although I don't feel that I quite got the combination of exposure and development right there. To my mind, P30 Alpha does suit certain subjects over others: the difficulty in retaining detail in bright skies while maintaining good tonal separation in landscape shots was occasionally frustrating; still-life subjects, dramatic, abstract geometrical compositions really benefit, as does any subject with fine texture where the tight grain of the film is beneficial. Hopefully, Film Ferrania will gone on to achieve their original ambition of making colour transparency film in all formats promised; and hopefully there will be a P30 Beta, and then perhaps, in a wider variety of formats other than just 35mm, a large scale production version of the film.

Ferrania P30 Alpha rated 80, developed in RO9 One Shot, 1+50, 8m at 20ºC

Ferrania P30 Alpha rated 50, developed in RO9 One Shot, 1+50, 14m at 20ºC
Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 50, developed in Ilfotec DD-X 1+5, 7m30s at 20ºC
Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 80, developed in Ilfotec LC29 1+29 for 9m at 19ºC
Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 80, developed in Ilfotec LC29 1+29 for 7m at 20ºC
Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 40, developed in RO9 One Shot 1+120 for 18m at 20ºC
Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 50, with pre-exposure, RO9 One Shot 1+120 for 20m at 20ºC
Ferrania P30 Alpha, rated 40, developed in RO9 One Shot 1+120 for 20m at 20ºC