April 27, 2016

Using Instax Mini in medium and large format cameras - plus hand developing Instax film

The image above may tell you all that I've been up to lately.

The thick white border at the bottom is a chemical pack. The narrow format indicates "mini." Yes, my dear Watson, he has been using Fuji Instax Mini instant film in his 6x6 Yashica twin lens reflex camera."

I learned how to get film out of an Instax Mini pack from the video below.

I don't have a darkroom. I have a bathroom. But loading the Yashica at night worked.

The real problem ended up being development. In the video above, J. Caldwell reloaded the film back into an Instax Mini film back and then processed the film through a proper Instax Mini camera.

I didn't have one. Instead, I went back to the dark bathroom and edged the film, pod first through rollers from a Fuji PA-45 4x5 instant film film back.

I discovered it was easier to remove the rollers when trying to get the film through the rollers. It's quite tight.

 Also, I took a while to get even a passably well developed shot. I have yet to get an even spread of the developer across the whole of the film surface. I found it worked best with the rolling unique on my belly and I pushed the film towards me. Working the top roller with your thumb can help ease the development pack through (it must go in first!).

All of this was practice, however. What I really wanted was a pic of the twins. For that, I loaded a 4x5 film holder with two Instax Minis. I put the development pods at the bottom so that when I put the film holder in they would be at the top (where the bottom of the image would strike as cameras see things upside down and mirrored [?]). Anyhow, this is how I loaded it. Note, the exposed side IS NOT the picture side. The exposure side is the purple and grey part. But we look at the image from the white border side. Which I suppose, takes care of the whole mirroring problem.

Also note, Instax Mini are too small to use the runners at the top and bottom of a 4x5 film holder. I had to tape the film down and make sure the dark slide did not catch on either of the Minis.

I exposed the film, put back the dark slide, dashed  into the washroom and hand-developed the film, ie jammed them through the PA-45 rollers.

Here's how they turned out. Not perfect, I took it this morning and I have a print.

I have to get a better roller technique. I tried a typewriter this morning. No dice. The roller puts pressure but there's no bottom roller.

Next step will be Instax Wide once I figure out a good way to develop the film by hand.

If you want to see a video of Instax Mini being load into a sheet back...this is a good one.

Interesting discovery, you can expose Fuji Instax film from either side. I think the white side is FASTER and has an ISO of 1000 or 1200. Pure eyeball guessing. It will be a mirror image. My self-portrait (very top image) was exposed on the white side. I'm sure of it though the lettering is still mirrored. Oh well, I'll have to double check it all.

The dark grey/purple, which I think of as brown side (probably me holding onto negative process film paradigms), shoots at the actually rated ISO 800.


Oh, and here's the camera I used to make the picture of the boys, a Burke and James 4x5 Press Camera with a Rodenstock Ysarex 127mm f4.7 from a Polaroid 110a camera.

April 25, 2016

Vancouver Camera Show find: my second Voigtlander Vito B

It's a bit of a bust.

As I rode home on the train, I opened the film door, cocked the shutter, and fired on B (bulb).

Looking through the usually wonderful 50mm f3.5 Color Skopar I noticed crazing or cracked glass near the edges. I hoped it was actually crazing, yellowing, or delamination of glues they use to assemble Tessar-formula lenses or maybe some dried lubricant and NOT actually cracked glass. But does it matter? It was way less than perfect. A lemon. A dud. In the end, the deal was too good to be true.

(Note, I don't blame the seller. It's always buyer beware.)

This evening, I was tempted to go into the lens assembly and see what was what. I thought maybe I could save the camera. I had cleared the table and had my tools out but stopped myself.

Let me say, before I go on, a Vito B is a brilliant camera. Really under appreciated because it can appear to be broken when you first look at it at the local thrift or camera show. The main reasons are Vito Bs are double stroke. You have to cock it twice to advance the film one frame (this may be why the camera is so compact).

ALSO, you have to have film in the camera to load the shutter spring. ie cock it. Or, you can open it up and roll the sprocket (not the winder spindle) but the toothy thing above the top film rail. It has to click TWICE to fully cock the shutter. (I suppose a picture would be useful.)

Because, lots of people don't know this, the camera can be sold as a broken item. I've bought a great one for $25 and it took one of my favourite images of my boys.

But I sold it. So when I saw this new Vito B on the table I snapped it up....and then I saw the gunky lens.

I started thinking about about vision and limitations. I wondered how this camera would see. The great thing about viewfinder cameras in general is you really don't know what you have until you develop the film. Vito Bs-even when they are mint and perfect by nature of their design (great lens on affordable, extremely compact body) just do their thing.

We often think of the photographer as the one who sees and envisions and captures. The camera is merely a conveyance for the photographic seeing. This is especially true in the digital age, when the shot, the image making, and the image viewing shares nearly the same moment.

But with this film camera I could not possibly know what it could see. Would it create flaring or softness at the edge? Would it be entirely out of focus? Whatever caused the cracks may have been violent enough to hold the whole lens assembly out of alignment.

This camera had its own sovereignty. It could take in the world only on its own terms. It could only take the picture the way it was able to.

I no longer had the full range of creative flexibility. It could only do what it was capable of doing. I was merely the conveyance of what was already there in the camera and lens. I felt I should surrender to the camera. Suddenly I wanted to load it and shoot it.

Of course, anyone can say stuff like this about any piece of sh*t gear.

But it reminded me how unique each camera is and how much personality and mystery an older piece of kit has.

It could never take a perfect picture but it could take one that completely surprises me.