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A Nice Problem to Have

I realise that I appear to suddenly be in possession of many cameras: Sony a57 (my only digital), Minolta x300, Nikon F3, Zenit EM, Holga 120N, Brownie 6C, and from next month (following a significant birthday), a Leica R6. Honestly, that’s enough. No more.

For now at least. (I’m sure I used to have an Olympus Mu, but where did it go?)

So the [nice] problem is what to do with the 35mm SLRs at least (the Holga can travel, the Brownie just a bit specialist). The Zenit, bless it, my first SLR from when I was 15, is not very usable so can be excluded. So that leaves 3 very nice cameras, Leica, Nikon and Minolta. I feel like each needs a preferred purpose, so if going out and I want to grab a camera then I pick up the one that’s going to be best for the occasion. All three are very similar in functionality (90% manual) and I have same range of lenses (30 – 70mm zoom + a 50 prime, roughly speaking). So what’s left?

Film type.

And that I is the solution that I’m thinking about at the moment:

Minolta = Colour film – I love this camera – it’s light, has a great view finder (and best metering functionality of the 3), but perhaps the least reliable in that in the cold the battery seems to fail. It’s also only a matter of time before the capacitor conks out. Given that I mostly shoot mono, then this is going to be best to use for colour film that will get occasional use, rather than a regular go to.

Now the trickier problem, Leica and Nikon are 2 great, classic SLRs – arguably the best 2 manual SLRs ever made – here’s what I’m going with for now at least:

Leica = XP2/HP5 400 – This will be the principal camera for a day trip somewhere, or to pack on holiday. Standard film and the usual types of images that I take (buildings, scenery, still life).

Nikon = Kodak Tmax 3200 – This camera has 2 features that the Leica lacks: 2000th sec shutter speed, and A mode*. Neither of these really matter to me particularly, but if I’m using fast film then a quicker top speed will be useful. The other thing is that using fast film with A mode on would be better for grabbing a quick shot if shooting street [when do you ever do that? -Ed]. Tmax 3200 is usable in lower light so that’s the main decision point though. Going to a museum, something indoors, Scottish winter? Then it’s Nikon time.

Not necessarily problem solved but let’s just go with it for now. The Tmax arrives tomorrow but the Leica’s not in my hands for a month, so will just have to hold my water till then.

[*A mode – aperture priority]

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You can’t have too many cameras – especially if one of these

Out for meal last night with some friends and I start talking about how I want to get a Leica for my birthday, and that I’ve just bought a Holga, and I’ve been unsuccessfully bidding on eBay for Minolta X-700’s and X-500’s (luckily so since my  X-300 is perfectly good) when Gus says “Oh I have a Nikon F3 in my drawer gathering dust, do you want it?”

Do bears take their ablutions in forested regions? And look what got dropped round this morning:

So now my film SLR camera list is getting rather long. Once the Leica arrives (in May) what will I do with all these cameras? I thought (until today) that the Minolta could be reserved just for colour film. I may still stick with that, but what do I do with two top-rated pro cameras?

My only thought is that I will get a feel for each and, when about to go out on an expedition I look at both and think… hmm, today feels like the  _____ will be the best camera for this. Meanwhile my wife thinks I’m losing my mind, or having some sort of mid-life crisis taking an unhealthy interest in vintage cameras. But that’s true, and doesn’t solve my problem.

Oh, and to make matters worse, I’ve started thinking about a Sony α7 ii as an eventual replacement for my α57. Like I have £700 to spare….

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A new toy – literally

Last week I got a delivery from eBay: a Holga 120N (a snip at £15) in essentially new condition. I’d already purchased a roll of Hp5+ 120 film so immediately got it loaded up and ready to take some nice big medium format images.

A couple of images already taken, but with only 12 in a roll (rather than take the 16 option) I need to think carefully about what to photograph. And goodness knows what images I’ll get out this plastic lens toy camera. I still have film in the Brownie (and this takes larger negatives in fact, with just 8 on a roll) but it really needs better light (i.e. Summer). Moving forward I don’t really see myself using the Brownie now that I have the Holga (assuming quality isn’t too bad) – the problem with the Brownie being, not only is it larger, I can’t be bothered having to re-spool 120 film onto a 620 spindle. The Holga is very light (being that it’s engineer from the finest Chinese injection moulded plastic) and easy to throw in a ruck sack on any trip out.

Looking forward to seeing the results.

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Presenting images in a movie – another outlet

I’ve meaning to do this for a while, partly because it’s actually rather easy, and took about an hour to do – presenting some photos in a YouTube video with a pleasant soundtrack.

The sound track is just standard free stuff that you can download from YouTube Creator. I used Windows Media Director (free in Windows), import the images and every 3 or 4 add a zoom effect. That’s it.

More to come I think, though I’d like to have a go at my own soundtrack, then it’s all mine: the narcissistic circle complete.

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Colour development: success-ish

I plucked up the courage and developed 2 rolls of colour film, one a old film found at the back of a drawer with “Exposed?” written on it, and the other, out of date random colour film from Supaprints or something. that I’d loaded into the Minolta in November.

Compared to black and white development, colour is much trickier. Having made up the dilutions of solutions in the BelliniFoto C-41 kit, the problem was mainly trying to ensure the solutions were at 38oC. The chemicals are rather nastier too, so extra care needed too.

I went through the process and I have a feeling the developer wasn’t warm enough, and the bleach step may have overrun (I’m not sure of the effect of these problems) but when done I still had colour negatives that were scannable but look perhaps dark and underdeveloped?

The recently shot expired film appeared to be lacking green. As a result, the images were quite pinky-blue. The statue below (in Dundee) is a cupric green but not now.

To calm things down I needed to tweak things in Photoshop: de-saturate a little and add a subtle green tint. The result still have a nice, expired filmic quality but a little less nauseating.

Before you ask, no the lack green wasn’t a byproduct the development process. The other roll of film was only partly exposed and consisted of images taken in 2003, mainly of my kids, but here’s one of a younger me – with green. Ha!

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Looking back over 2017

Nearly at the year end and I think this has been an interesting year for me on a number of fronts.


This has been the biggest thing 2017 for me. Although I start using film at then end of last year, this year has seen me start to develop my own back and white negs. Taking this further, as of Christmas day I’ll be in possession of chemicals for colour film development (more on this once I’ve actually had a go).

In 2018 I hope to take the film photography further by getting my hands a classic Leica SLR. I’m already obsessing over the Leica R-range and what I’ll be able to get hold of (R6.2 is perfect but crazy expensive, R7 cheaper but bigger and heavier as it has more electronics for the bells and whistles). I’m also fretting over which lens. Even more expensive than the camera, do I get a Summicron-R 50mm or a Leica Vario-Elmar-R 35-70 mm (the latter meaning I probably never need to fork out on another lens again).

I still have an old film in the Brownie to use up but I’m interested in buying new 120 film and doing to medium format (if I can figure out how best to scan these negs).

Instagram (@timrpbrown)

Much of this year has been spent uploading my back catalogue from Flickr into Instagram. An interesting exercise in seeing which images get many or not so many likes. I’m not that bothered about the number of followers I have (about 156 last time I looked but this yo-yos around these days). One thing I get from Instagram is that I look at a lot images but other photographers, and in many cases they’re very good, so this helps me learn and develop.

GuruShots (my profile)

This is my latest wheeze that I’ve playing around with for that last few weeks. It’s a photo gaming site where you enter your photos into challenges and see who many votes you get. Again, interesting to see what floats people’s boat. The odd thing is that it can be quite contextual: a photo used in one challenge scores highly – the same photo in a different challenge doesn’t. I’m trying to avoid reusing images now. Again, I seem to be working through the flickr back catalogue, but unlike Instagram, I’m seeking out a photo that will fit into challenge remit. What I’d really like to start doing is to see a new challenge listed and go out and shoot a image specifically for it.

Printing photos

I’ve started getting my photos printed (the loverly Saal Digital book being my favourite) but I’ve also produced 3 small books (via a free photo book app by FreePrints that’s not very free, it’s still £6 postage). My very first outing into arty photography when I was bout 14 years old saw me run off a roll of black and white using my Dad’s Prakita SLR (not sure what happened to that camera but the lenses live on as they fit my mostly never used Zenit EM). When I do the roll developed and printed I put them into a photo album and titled it “Obscura Camera” (see what I did there, clever huh….). So picking up on this, I’m titling my little books as the same; I’m up to Obscura Camera 3 and will produce another one in the next week or so.

The FreePrint people also have an app to print up to 44 “free” prints every month (£4 p and p): I’ve done this a couple of times but loose 6×4 photos don’t do it for me and I’ll just stick to books I think.

I’m an Artist, darling!

I think 2017 will be the year when I had the revelation that I was rotten at trying to produce a sellable image on ShutterStock and it dawned on me I’m an artist, so I don’t care if people like my photos or not, they are what they are. It was a liberating moment. This isn’t an excuse to not keep learning and critiquing my work, but I think you have to have the confidence to stand by what you do. Unlike professional photographers I have the luxury of not having to make a living out it, pros have to be (and are) brilliant at what they do, cos anything less and the mortgage doesn’t get paid.

My favourite photo of 2017

The negative got a little mangled in the development process and the damage seems to have given the image something extra, albeit a little odd

Man resting at the back door (Minolta X-300/50mm, Ilford XP2 400)


The biggest highlight of the year was getting selected into one of Ted Forbes’ photo assignment videos (see previous post). I’ll try and see if I can repeat this feat in 2018. Otherwise I’m anticipating a film filled year, and with any luck that will include getting my hands a Leica and creating some keepers.

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