Tag Archives: Agfa

Doubts no doubt

9 Feb

Sorry the photography photoroobit blog has migrated to its own domain and is now at www.photoroobit.com

 There is a new post today. Please check it out.

Image

Agfachrome 50 RS – cold stored, still excellent

19 Jun

Agfachrome 50 RS - cold stored, still excellent

Mikulov
on the grounds of the park in front of the Schloß Dietrichstein, film – Agfa Agfachrome 50 RS – absolutely perfect, expired 1996 or so but shot as is (ISO 40) and the colors are vibrant and rich, not much/any worse than Velvia. As far as I am concerned they killed the E6 process and perhaps color film in general, so I’d keep shooting while I can.

Image

Foundry Avenue

18 Jun

Foundry Avenue

Liteiny Prospekt
St. Petersburg
Night
Horizon panoramic camera
Polypan/Omnipan
Rodinal

Demonstration against ACTA – Reval / Tallinn, February 11, 2012

14 Feb

Demonstration Against ACTA – Reval, Tallinn, Estonia, February 11, 2012

Demonstration against ACTA, the criminal and secretive treaty that is being pushed by the Evil Empire against and down the throats of the world’s inhabitants. ACTA and the Evil Pusher will fail. Reval / Tallin / Tallinn February 2012

Just developed the film

Black and white images on Agfaphoto APX 100

Color (well the roll of BW film ran out pretty fast) on an expired (1999) Agfacolor

This post is not yet finished as I want to write some more stuff but for now am just uploading photos that I just scanned.

Demonstration against ACTA, Ferbuary 11, 2012

Demonstration against ACTA, Ferbuary 11, 2012

Ferbuary 11, 2012, Agfaphoto Agfapan APX 100. Revalm / Tallinn, Estonia, February 11, 2012

Ferbuary 11, 2012, Agfaphoto Agfapan APX 100. Revalm / Tallinn, Estonia, February 11, 2012

Ferbuary 11, 2012, Agfaphoto Agfapan APX 100. Revalm / Tallinn, Estonia, February 11, 2012

Ferbuary 11, 2012, Agfaphoto Agfapan APX 100. Revalm / Tallinn, Estonia, February 11, 2012

Demonstration against ACTA, February 11, 2012

Demonstration against ACTA, February 11, 2012

Demonstration against ACTA and American malfeasance , February 11, 2012, Tallinn, Estonia  Zenit 122, Agfaphoto APX 100, developed in Rodinal

Demonstration against ACTA and American malfeasance , February 11, 2012, Tallinn, Estonia Zenit 122, Agfaphoto APX 100, developed in Rodinal

Demonstration against ACTA and American malfeasance , February 11, 2012, Tallinn, Estonia  Zenit 122, Agfaphoto APX 100, developed in Rodinal

Demonstration against ACTA and American malfeasance , February 11, 2012, Tallinn, Estonia Zenit 122, Agfaphoto APX 100, developed in Rodinal

Demonstration against ACTA and American malfeasance , February 11, 2012, Tallinn, Estonia  Zenit 122, Agfaphoto APX 100, developed in Rodinal

Demonstration against ACTA and American malfeasance , February 11, 2012, Tallinn, Estonia Zenit 122, Agfaphoto APX 100, developed in Rodinal

Demonstration agaist ACTA, Reval / Tallinn, February 11, 2012

Demonstration agaist ACTA, Reval / Tallinn, February 11, 2012

Demonstration agaist ACTA, Reval / Tallinn, February 11, 2012

Demonstration agaist ACTA, Reval / Tallinn, February 11, 2012

Demonstration agaist ACTA, Reval / Tallinn, February 11, 2012  Agfapan APX 100 developed in Rodinal

Demonstration agaist ACTA, Reval / Tallinn, February 11, 2012 Agfapan APX 100 developed in Rodinal

Demonstration agaist ACTA, Reval / Tallinn, February 11, 2012  Agfapan APX 100 developed in Rodinal

Demonstration agaist ACTA, Reval / Tallinn, February 11, 2012 Agfapan APX 100 developed in Rodinal

Demonstration against ACTA, Ferbuary 11, 2012Demonstration against ACTA, Ferbuary 11, 2012Ferbuary 11, 2012, Agfaphoto Agfapan APX 100. Revalm / Tallinn, Estonia, February 11, 2012Ferbuary 11, 2012, Agfaphoto Agfapan APX 100. Revalm / Tallinn, Estonia, February 11, 2012

Demonstration against ACTA; Februarz 11, 2012, Agfa APX 100

Demonstration against ACTA; Februarz 11, 2012, Agfa APX 100

Demo

Folks at the demo February 11, 2012

Demonstration against ACTA, February 11, 2012

Demonstration against ACTA, February 11, 2012

Demonstration against ACTA, February 11, 2012

Demonstration against ACTA, February 11, 2012

Ferbuary 11, 2012, Agfaphoto Agfapan APX 100. Revalm / Tallinn, Estonia, February 11, 2012

Ferbuary 11, 2012, Agfaphoto Agfapan APX 100. Revalm / Tallinn, Estonia, February 11, 2012

Demonstration against ACTA, Ferbuary 11, 2012, Agfaphoto Agfapan APX 100

Demonstration against ACTA, Ferbuary 11, 2012, Agfaphoto Agfapan APX 100

Demonstration against ACTA, Ferbuary 11, 2012

Demonstration against ACTA, Ferbuary 11, 2012

Expired Agfacolor (1999) demonstration against ACTA

Expired Agfacolor (1999) demonstration against ACTA

Expired Agfacolor (1999) demonstration against ACTA

Expired Agfacolor (1999) demonstration against ACTA

Expired Agfacolor (1999) demonstration against ACTA

Expired Agfacolor (1999) demonstration against ACTA

Expired Agfacolor (1999) demonstration against ACTA

Police is dragging away a reluctant protestor

 

Expired Agfacolor (1999) demonstration against ACTA

Expired Agfacolor (1999) demonstration against ACTA

 

Expired Agfacolor (1999) demonstration against ACTA

Expired Agfacolor (1999) demonstration against ACTA

 

Expired Agfacolor (1999) demonstration against ACTA

Expired Agfacolor (1999) demonstration against ACTA

 

Expired Agfacolor (1999) demonstration against ACTA

Expired Agfacolor (1999) demonstration against ACTA

Film test Svema DS – 4 / Свема ДС -4, beautiful pastel colors of the Soviet film

2 Feb

Svema DS 4 – a test

click image for larger view, huge scans are of course available.

Soviet Svema Russian DS-4 pears and red wine
Soviet Svema Russian DS-4 pears and red wine

I am going to copy what I wrote in the flickr post although I will add a few more images of the packaging.

Here is the look of Svema DS 4 scan (as is) – developed in related Orwocolor chemistry.

The experiment began in an improvised manner, I made a Communist salad (meaning I made it without any intent of selling it or leasing it to other human beings who can’t afford it at a usurious rate) which was something of a deficient  salade niçoise to begin with  that suffered a Mongol or a Germanic invasion or, worse,  was liberated and democratized . Messy. The salad  was deficient as I had no capers, no olives, and no anchovies to put into as I was supposed to. Non tuna either. Total flop. But there were enough colors on the pallet to test this ancient film.

Communist salad on Svema DS 4 a Communist crime

Communist salad on Svema DS 4 a Communist crime

This Soviet film (I won’t call it Russian or worse Ukrainian as the only films produced there nowadays are of pornographic variety) was much abused, physically and verbally, in the by gone age when it was made (available to the ungrateful masses which had since then defected to digital en masse).

Svema DS 4, a frontal view

Svema DS 4, a frontal view

A test of Svema DS-4 film, made in the glorious Soviet Union.
A blog post comes soon as a follow up to its relative the Orwocolor.

This was the first occasion I shot old Soviet negative film – not that I remember that I had any before.
I only have seven 120 rolls in my possession, all at different places, but perhaps would buy a few “bricks” as I happen to like the film quite a lot though not as much as Orwocolor NC19 – though Svema DS-4 could be used for different artistic purposes. It is an unusual film.

another view of the Svema DS4 packaging

another view of the Svema DS4 packaging

As I know in Russia before Russia,  Svema color film was considered somewhat inferior (though it was cheapest, not that you get what you pay for, you usually don’t)

DS-4 was made from late 1950s until 1990 without changes.
Mine expired in 1992 / made in 1989/1990 – likely the very last batch ever made
The film cost 95 kopecks per roll  (that is less than a rouble) versus – if you were lucky to get – Orwocolor that cost four or five times as much.

Свема ДС 4 / Svema DS 4

Свема ДС 4 / Svema DS 4

It is essentially the first generation Agfacolor but re-developed in the Soviet Union to work with locally produced dyes.

It has had a 1950s predecessor, a Russian version of the Agfacolor transformed to a negative film use (the original proto Agfacolor was a  transparency film), that species was called DS-2 but I never saw a specimen alive (in fact I never saw an empty box). .

colors are not natural
not saturated
a bit water color-ish or water color-ly look
watery is the word

Experiment conducted  – Kiev 60 camera
Developed in Orwocolor chemistry (described here <a href=”https://photoroobit.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/orwocolor-nc-19-an-historic-test-sacrifice-of-a-historical-film/&#8221; rel=”nofollow”>photoroobit.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/orwocolor-nc-19-an-h…</a>)

Svema DS 4 atop of a camera used in the test

Svema DS 4 and a Kiev 60

Scanned as Agfa Optima – actual scan is 6000 x 6000, and I reduce it for the web but not to 1000, so the actual scan can well be seen.

A good scan
Software – Lasersoft light version that came together with my cheapo Canon scanner.

Kodachrome – in Memoriam – St. Petersburg and Kronstadt, post 2

4 Jan

The story of how and why I started shooting Kodachrome – belatedly, in the last months or rather in the month before its demise is in my previous post.  That post also contains pictures of St. Petersburg taken on Kodachrome while I’ll move on. Below are a few more very last pictures of a locale in Russia taken on Kodachrome, late October 2010.  Needless to say that I also took pictures of my kids and friends on Kodachrome (that was the point) but being a private person i don’t of course post those never mind I can’t see how they can be of anyone’s interest. Click any image for larger view;.

 

Russia on last Kodachrome, continued:

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street - the street where I live in St. Petersburg  St Petersburg Saint Petersburg Russia

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street - the street where I live in St. Petersburg St Petersburg Saint Petersburg Russia

Kirochanya 25

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street - - building 24, a nice Art Nouveau building constructed for a Jewish rentier Back in 1904, has a few surviving Art Nouveau mosaics, stained glass - rare for the city that saw so much barbarism within a century - and decor elements, St Petersburg Saint Petersburg Russia

 

chernyshevskaia

(phonetically Americanized mutilation Chernyshevskaya, Чернышевская). entrance too, close to midnight-.

 

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street

 

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street , nighttime - fairly long exposure, the Kodachrome recorded all three states of the traffic light - red, yellow and green

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street , nighttime - fairly long exposure, the Kodachrome recorded all three states of the traffic light - red, yellow and green

 

Domes of the Smolny Cathedral from afar, Kodachrome

Domes of the Smolny Cathedral from afar, Kodachrome, officially the Cathedral of Our Savior, a baroque beauty of rare quality by any standard, is popularly called Smolny or Tar Cathedral though there is not tar-like about it, the origin of the name is toponymical, it was built next to the works that produced pitch pine tar for shipbuilding purpose in the age when ship used to have sails and were made of wood.

 

 

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street -

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street -night

 

St. Vladmir Church St Petersburg

The church dates from 1746 but its current late neoclassical appearance with numerous baroque elements is from the late 18 century (foundation laid in 1761, completed 1768) . The Cathedral and the separate Belfry is a collective work of several architects - Giacomo Quarenghi (the belfry) and the Bartholomeo Rastrelli (the main building) shared with later additions by Abraam Melnikov, Alexander Holm and Luigi Rusca. Behind the Cathedral is an ambulance station - my grandmother was born in Petrograd in 1918 and worked first as a nurse during the Leningrad Siege and after getting her doctor's diploma in 1945 as an ambulance doctor well past her retirement until 1990.

 

 

Somewhere in Kronstadt

Somewhere in Kronstadt (evil Americans and their helpful Russian idiots spell it phonetically as KronsHdadt), anyway these are ruins of apparently 19th century buildings that probably belonged to the navy.

 

Kronstadt fountain autumn scene

Kronstadt fountain autumn (fall scene) - a compact camera loaded with Kodachrome 200 that i took up to Umbria. Kodachrome 200 is a different film that acts differently and has ir rather had as Kodachrome is dead atrocious grain unlike smooth and silky Kodachrome 25 and 64

 

Kronstadt / Kronshtadt - a Soviet monument of some kind

Kronstadt / Kronshtadt - a Soviet monument of some kind

 

Kronstadt Kronshtadt

Kronstadt Kronshtadt on Kodachrome - 18th century warehouses or packhouses and old navy canals where tall ships were repaired equipped or rigged (not like American elections though) and there are ammunition, rope, ship pine tar and other stores. In state of beautiful decay.

Kronstadt / Kronshtadt

Kronstadt / Kronshtadt - Гостинный двор - Gostinny dvor - Merchant yard

 

lada 2105

lada 2105 on Kodachrome, Kronstadt

A failed film test: Agfa Isopan (Agfa Super Special Film) from probably 1930s.

1 Dec

How a roll of Agfa Isopan got butchered.

Film: Agfa Isopan Super Special Film (SSP)

Year of manufacture – estimated middle to late 1930s.

Format – 620 – metal spool, got a bit corroded at the ends though the film is perfect.

Why did I murder  a roll of innocent film? Because I did not believe in this film’s innocence.   Here is a short though illustrated story.

I do have some very old Agfa stock from the 1930s, like this one and I am not crazy enough to stick it into developer. I would be happy to put one through a camera if I got a dozen of those photographic mummies but otherwise no, wasting

Agfa Isopan - this one still lives, that's just an illustration and not a picture of the victim

Agfa Isopan - this one still lives, that's just an illustration and not a picture of the victim

one seems like an incredible folly.  A film that was exposed however is a different story altogether, only because it might, just might, tell a story and leaving it unprocessed would be a sin.  One of traditional,  real photography’s real attraction,  its absolute magic as opposed to the digital stuff, is that the image is latent, it is there preserved for posterity but is invisible and inaccessible to ordinary mortals. It can be brought to life at some in the future – perhaps years after its birth.   This is a magic trait of photography that I find profound, moving and disturbing all the same time.

Agfa Isopan - this one still lives, that's just an illustration and not a picture of the victim

Agfa Isopan - this one still lives, that's just an illustration and not a picture of the victim

In this case I got a roll of Agfa Super Special 620 film probably from the 1930s – judging by the spool and old Agfa inscription on it that was used in the 1920s and early 30s. I did not look at it  too carefully  – it looked like something good that could as well contain a mystery. It came from England (I bought it for 2 euros), it was German, it was probably used around or during Second World War. I must develop it.

Agfa Isopan SSF

Now, the problem with the film was that it was unexposed.  Not for an instant did that possibility occur to me because all the ancient  “unused”  film I encountered before came in original packaging complete with the wrapper or aluminum canister. This roll of Isopan came naked, no wrapper, no box, no nothing, and to confuse me further there was a rubber band died around its waist and remnants of adhesive tape glued to the red  skin of its backing paper. Later upon a more careful examination I realized that it wasn’t adhesive tape after all but a piece of original foil-like wrapper that became embedded in the surface of the backing paper.

Agfa Isopan film

vintage Agfa Isopan film

I loaded the film into the Paterson tank in the darkness of my bathroom, brought it into the kitchen, and to give it a presoak I  filled the tank with fresh tap water.  As I prepared to mix the developer – I thought of giving it a bath of Rodinal diluted 1 to 25, a sudden thought occurred to me – may be  there was something wrong with my project. I should double check   I went  back to the bathroom to check the backing paper  I left there on the table next to the sink after having skinned the roll. Here it was. I looked at it for a few seconds and mixture of anger at my own stupid self and self pity overcame me.  The film was never exposed.  It was a virgin. The “exposed” sticker was right there at the end of the roll, it was  pristine  new because  it never saw the light since the moment it left Agfa factory in the 1930s.

Agfa Isopan 620 format spool / side of the 620 format Agfa spool from the 1920s and 30s

Agfa Isopan 620 format spool / side of the 620 format Agfa spool from the 1920s and 30s

Needless to say that I did not develop the film.

It is still in the developing tank.

I poured the water off.  It came out emerald green washing off the ancient anti-halo layer from Agfa’s emulsion backing.

I have no idea what to do with it now? Feed it to the animals?  Keep it until it dries up in a month or two time and then should I try to reattach to the backing paper?  It won’t be same film. The antihalo layer is now gone.

Old Film Agfa Isopan antique 620 format

Old Film Agfa Isopan antique 620 format

Perhaps it wasn’t even murder.

Manslaughter. Or filmslaughter. I slaughtered an innocent film because I thought it was not innocent and had a mystery to reveal while it hadn’t any and so has apparently  died for nothing.

Auferstanden aus Ruinen

20 Nov

Auferstanden aus Ruinen

It Is Risen

I got a comment which I would have normally classified as spam, but which in this specific case wasn’t because my previous post was about ORWO films – the message came  from someone apparently in the USA who did not introduce himself but might be the distributor of what calls itself resurrected … ORWO.

Here is their website

Apparently though the old ORWO is dead and its equipment was destroyed in the wake of annexation of the German Democratic Republic , a new company was formed that continues producing batches of photosensitive film in Wolfen.

http://www.filmotec.de

and that’s theirs, ORWO’s, website

I will drop them an email (as an ORWO’s long-time fan and devotee) asking what is going on and perhaps ordering a canister of bulk film.

Judging by the  “new” ORWO’s  current repertoire, they do not make any films in the 120 format, this places  ORWO in the same category as more or less defunct Tasma, that now only makes specialty photosensitive products and black and white industrial films.

Most manufacturers of photographic film went bankrupt in the last decade (though the old ORWO perished even earlier, right after the Anschluß) and established brand names disappeared .  I do hope new ORWO stays around for a while.

So who is left:

Rollei / Maco – Germany, located in what was/is US/NATO protectorate called Federal Republic

Orwo (?) – Germany, located in what was the German Democratic Republic

Adox (www.adox.de) – boutique film manufacturer from the  Federal Republic

Foma Bohemia – Bohemia, Czech Republic, located in what was Holy Roman Empire, read Germany and then in Austria, in the city of Königgrätz, where the catastrophe of Austrian defeat by the bad guys probably led to what happened in Europe in the 20th century.

Efke – located in Croatia, an ethnic statelet with memories and roots in a Nazi protectorate, the company is run by Maco, Germany

Tasma, Russia – located in the city of Kazan,  Tatarstan, once Tataria,  on the Volga, besieged and taken by the Czar Ioann IV (better known as Ivan IV or John IV perhaps more appropriately known as Ivan the Terrible in English though not in Russian) in the year 1552 and Russian ever since.

Bergger, France – a boutique producer of sheet film only. I haven’t yet used large format camera but when I venture into this sort of admittedly scary endeavor, I will for sure buy Bergger film and I do hope the company stays around longer than its other compatriots that made traditional film.

and finally, and amazingly,  bucking the thread shines the bright star of (British)Ilford which survival is a mystery though I wish it well  as well and buy Ilford film just to support that company though am unsure if my contribution would be sufficient for to keeping afloat.

The picture we get resembles entire EU or rather Europe’s economy,  wounded by changes in technology, handicapped by fascistoid  ideology, wounded by so-called free trade (with Red China primarily, a very bad thing indeed, an economic and societal equivalent of suicide though self-infection with black plague),  something that is neither free nor is trade but an addiction to Far Eastern imports in exchange for paper money or a swap of cheap or almost free junk for consumption in return for progressing unemployment and rapid deindustrialization . Fine, I got carried away again.

Although the CIA-run Wikipedia has a grotesquely incomplete  list of film manufacturers  which is skewed toward America’s vassals, the more though not by any means complete list of film manufacturers in Europe would read like this (those are the few that come to mind)-

Svema –  Russia,  but separated from the main country ended up in an entity of so-called Ukraine  – bankrupt

Gevaert, Belgium,- part of Agfa, bankrupt, Agfa, Germany, is out of photography business, extinct

Lumiere – France, the photography pioneer, the company behind first commercial color process,  gone

Guilleminot – France, disappeared

Forte – Hungary, bankrupt

Revue Foto – Germany,  gone

Foton –  a manufacturer of photographic film in socialist Poland, new Polish Foton was supposedly using technology and equipment bought from Ilford. The company was bankrupted during 1990s forced deindustrialization but produced film at Bromberg or Bydgoszcz  (Bydgoskie Zaklady Fotochemiczne) probably from the 1920s onward. It is dead now.

Voigtländer film, Germany / Austria – whereabouts unknown

Tura film, Germany

Perutz, Germany, long bankrupt taken over by Agfa, also bankrupt.

Ferrania, Italy, bankrupt, film production stopped.

Out of 20 European manufacturers of film I counted off hand, which represent entire continent, including Southern Europe,  amazingly enough 8 are extant. Out of those 7,  three are in Germany and counting  historic Germany in the cultural sense, four are in Germany, and counting those controlled by Germans, then five are in Germany – of them

3 in Germany proper – Adox, Rollei/Maco, Orwo

2 in the German periphery – Foma Bohemia, Efke

1 in Russia – Tasma

1 in Britain – Ilford

1 in France – Bergger

the rest are gone

And here is another encouraging hint about future of Franco-Russo-German Europe so to say if geographical location of surviving film manufacturers could be used as a metaphor for anything.

Out of  dozens of world’s manufacturers – only 3 are outside of Europe – Lucky / Shanghai film in the People’s Republic of China, Fujifilm in Japan and Kodak in the EE although I am unsure either about Shanghai or Kodak while Fuji might still be making film for prestige reasons.  Even huge Hindustan film went extinct.

So the score for surviving film manufacturers as of the end 2011 is as follows:

3 in Germany proper – Adox, Rollei/Maco, Orwo

2 in the German periphery – Foma Bohemia, Efke

1 in Russia – Tasma

1 in Britain – Ilford

1 in France – Bergger

1 in Japan – Fujifilm

1 in China – Lucky Film

1 in the USA – Kodak

that’s the score for entire world, does it remind anything?

and the final, final note on the great Orwo news which wasn’t really the news, the so-called Cold War or the struggle between the Good and the Evil is not yet over if photographic film manufacturers longevity is of any use – who in the 1990s, the years of the evil triumphant all over the place, could have possibly foretold that ORWO would outlive then omnipotent Agfa?

Film test: ORWO NP 20 from the year 1970 or 1971

1 Oct

Film Test – ORWO NP 20

Orthochromatic Black and White Film

DIN 20 / ISO 80

Made in Germany by  ORWO

(German Democratic Republic)

Estimated year of manufacture 1970 or 1971

Expired 1974

Used in 2011 (at the time of improvised test the film was 41 to 42 years old).

Test camera – Zenit E

Orwo NP 20 black and white film test year 1970, expired 1974 and used in 2011

Orwo NP 20 black and white film test year 1970, expired 1974 and used in 2011

This test – if one can dignify the wanton and indiscriminate wastage of film with the almost scientific sounding appelation “test”. This destruction of a roll of Orwo NP 20  occured  concurrently with the mindless sactifce of a NP 27, which I’ve depicted and described here along with a longish story about ORWO , its now (not yet) extinct manufacturer. Oh I worship ORWO.   Everyone should.  Because I am not going to repeat all the incoherent thoughts I jumbled together in the Orwo NP 27 entry, I’ll just stick with the images ORWO NP 20.

Orwo NP 20 black and white film test year 1970, expired 1974 and used in 2011

Orwo NP 20 black and white film test year 1970, expired 1974 and used in 2011

The film comes from the same batch of the late 1960s, early 1970s stock I got from a German old junk dealer. This film is by one year newer or younger than the NP27 and was probably made in the year 1970. It is also a slower film, rated by its manufacturer as DIN 20 or ISO 80.

Sad Monster - Orwo NP 20 black and white film test year 1970, expired 1974 and used in 2011

Orwo NP 20 black and white film test year 1970, expired 1974 and used in 2011

Lower sensitivity, slower films are supposed to last longer than older high speed emulsions which, as the common wisdom goes, should become pretty much unusable by the throw-away date that is stamped or printed on their retail packaging. In this case, though the film was procured from the same source and dates from the same era (and it is beautiful, the packages are gorgeous, shiny, with a few exceptions the whole batch looksand smells like new though even by standards of human life never mind the expected longevity of photographic emulsions this stuff is firmly in its middle age zone and approaching just aged. Ancient in fact.

Nikolai is painting - Orwo NP 20 black and white film test year 1970, expired 1974 and used in 2011

Nikolai is painting (1) Orwo NP 20 black and white film test year 1970, expired 1974 and used in 2011

Anyway, the NP 20 film did not keep as well as NP 27 from the same source (which was older and faster at its inception), which is surprising. The film was shot at ISO 25, is usable but barely – in a sense that the images it produces have the look of  old worn out  newspaper illustrationsrather than of real black and white photographs.

Orwo NP 20 black and white film test year 1970, expired 1974 and used in 2011

Orwo NP 20 black and white film test year 1970, expired 1974 and used in 2011

Camera Test: Smena 8M

31 Jul

The Camera Test

A Lomo Smena 8M

(cameras from my collection)

I grabbed a Smena 8m (I’ve got a bunch of those things), cut two strips of film – wouldn ‘t waste the whole roll on something so useless, one of black and white Tasma NK-2 and another strip of a long expired Agfa color Vista, and run through the camera under different conditions just to see what would come out.

The experiment is hardly scientific as I am not the kind of person who writes down exposure times, aperture values, developer temperature (I don’t even bother to measure the temperature of black and white developer, though color is a different story).

A few snapshots of my Smena 8m and a few black and white and color images taken with that particular Smena follow this longish narration.

Smena 8m

The Story.

Basics.

With 21 041 191 million copies made by LOMO from 1970 to mid 1990s, this is supposedly the planet’s most mass produced photographic camera.  If we take all Smenas into account, from the mythical prewar proto-Smena to the Smena 35, the number of those things made would probably be double the 21 million figure or … 40 million cameras?

This meant that every kid in the former Soviet Union had one because Smenas were cheap (though Smena 8m was not the cheapest camera, the Etude was more than twice as cheap).

Smena is a fairly uncomplicated – though not that simple – viewfinder camera.

It requires some photographic skills, attention and a great deal of stubborness to get any kind of useable pictures out of it. As most kids – from 7 year olds to early teens, the category that I would associate with Smena users in those long gone years,  have short attention span and cannot guesstimate aperture (most adults can’t do that either) the results folks got were poor at best and the camera did a great job at dissuading people from pursuing their photography hobby further. Because  minilabs were a rara avis in the 1970s and 80s Soviet Union and that most people want cameras to take recognizable photographic mementos of their precious selves and “their friends and relatives”,   at the first opportunity Smenas went right to the trash can.  It also explains why among the masses in Russia the switch to Oriental point-and-shoots in the 1990s was both instantaneous and complete and why the country abandoned film altogether – faster and with a greater zeal that in such developed places like France, the US, Japan or Germany, where film still hangs on. Though barely.

The story in brief. I am not write a novel about the genesis of Lomo (it is the child of the First World War, and that’s another story altogether), or what became of it, or what happened to the earlier prewar Smenas (they are extinct) or why did they go extinct.  In the 1970s and 1980s Smena was the second or third  cheapest camera on the market.  The Soviet Union had a command economy that in the 1960s and 70s (under Chruşev and Brežnev, also spelled semi-phonetically in American English as Khrushchev, though there is no k, sh or ch in his actual name ) allowed less initiative on the manufacturing and distribution level than was the case under Stalin (though other things were notably easier and should I say… safer and less scary).  It seems the production choices were determined arbitrarily or by chance. Some party idiot went somewhere, saw something and decided that the same thing has to be replicated in the USSR – sort of blind importation of ideas, concepts and even product designs without comprehending what are they for or knowing their cultural or aesthetic background. In the 1970s some high ranking Soviet parasite went to some civilized country like France and saw that the French drive bright colored hatchbacks.  Two things followed. First – no black cars were allowed for ordinary people (actually that might happened even earlier, a sensible restriction though  – I would ban black cars in Russia today as well, though for the opposite reasons because  there are too many of them and cities look like they are taken over by the mafia and funeral agencies, which is partially  true).  Second – all new cars introduced for the consumer “market” from the mid 1970s onward were hatchbacks. No sedans. A similar thing happened with the cameras. Today’s hypercentralized authoritarian Russian Federation functions in exactly the same way – an unelected or nominally elected official just comes up with something he stupidly borrowed from somewhere else and it becomes the rule or worse the law.  But let’s get back to the cameras – in the late sixties and early 70s, the Soviet planning officialdom decided that amateurs are going to use 135 format (35mm that is) film.  That meant that although old cameras like Lubitel were kept in some minimal production and even the cheapo Etude was made in modest  numbers, all new mass produced cameras were to be of 35mm format.  All slide projectors were also to be of 35mm format (so people with medium format cameras stopped shooting slides unless these guys were pros doing work for magazines or publishing houses). Because there were no minilabs in the country and people actually made prints at home – in either improvised or more-or-less permanent darkrooms, amateur photographers needed enlargers. You could get your prints done by a lab of course but it took time and was fairly expensive, more expensive than if you made your own prints. In this respect Soviet photo amateurs were similar to their brethren in Western Europe and North America in the 1920s, 1930s and early 1950s but not 1970s as that was the era in which minilabs already reigned supreme.  I am using the word amateur here in the original French sense or someone who loves what he is doing –   while professional is someone who merely does it for money, perhaps poorly, so I would not automatically rate a pro higher than an amateur.  So what happened next was that affordable medium format enlargers disappeared by command.

If the cheapest 35mm camera – a Smena 8m – cost 16 roubles and the least expensive 35mm enlarger was 13 roubles, then the combination maked sense.

But you could not get a low cost enlarger for the  medium format – so for a Lubitel at 20 roubles or Etude (which I read was just 6) the enlargers available were all “professional” and say, sold, in the 600 rouble range. That made no sense. Perhaps a Kiev 60 at 600 roubles and an enlarger at 600 roubles made sense to a pro but not a Lubitel at 20 and enlarger at 600 for a high school kid.

It meant in turn that a far more capable LOMO camera, such as Lubitel, did not sell well – because enlarging in the medium format got difficult (no enlargers) and the lower segment became dominated by Smena, an inferior product.

The name

Smena is a word that cannot be simply translated into English, the literal translation means a change or a time shift – in the sense of a different factory shift. In this case I would roughly translate it as (new) generation or replacement with the allusion here being that this camera is made for a young generation.

Design.  Not bad, clean Soviet industrial design. Decent finish – no nails or pieces of wire sticking out. It has worse finish and the camera is visually less attractive than its German contemporary – the Beirette VSN. On the other hand, Beirette is a gentle, soft piece of machinery that breaks down  easily. Finding a working Beirette VSN nowadays is difficult. Finding a nonworking Smena is difficult. Smena is almost indestructible.

My experience with Smena 8. Many people from the former Soviet are attached to Smenas for emotional reasons.  They say the camera is great and easy to use and that it produces quality images.  In reality it is a camera that is difficult to use and the images that come out of it are  mediocre though they can be unusual.  The first Smena I got was at the age of may be two and a half or three or as long as I can remember myself there were a few Smenas used as toys – just thrown into my toy box. A got a new working Smena 8m at the age of about 10 and there is a picture I took of my brother when I was 11 and he was 3 and a half – I have a print that I did myself. The print is blurry – but well it is something.  Using my own resources (a long story) at 13 I undertook a trip on my own to Central Asia – which wasn’t that difficult as I flew with Aeroflot and the relatives met me in the airport of (ancient) Samarkand at the other end of the journey – which was a journey as with stopover it took about one day to get there. I shot a few rolls of ORWO Orwochrom slide film – in Samarkand and Boukhara – not many rolls, like four altogether, because the film was very expensive, and back in Leningrad I developed those slides on my own as well. They came out well but got lost somewhere. I cannot find them.  Because results for the most part were patchy, color film  expensive, I stopped taking pictures.  Already when I escaped from the Soviet Union – still a teenager – I got a present from my Austrians, a small Kodak Instamatic camera.  It was 1988 back then and now when I look at the Instamatics they appear bizarre and ancient. Mine used flashcubes and produced square color pictures.  I loved it. So much better than Smena 8 – at least for someone who just wants to take snapshots.

I just finished developing the film I put through my Smena 8m. There are two important observations.

The shutter release is extremely tough. This makes the camera highly unsuitable for the 10 year old category of photographers for the simple reason that they would get blurry pictures.  In my experience, the desire to pursue photography, when it happens, goes from least complicated to more complex. First you just want to take snapshots, and then perhaps you would want your hobby to evolve into something else.  Smena is a camera with actual manual controls and you need to think in order to use them.  Taken together – tough and hard shutter release and somewhat complex manual controls make it a difficult camera for most adults to use never mind children and adolescents.

Economics.    in the 1980s the price of a new Smena 8 was 16 roubles which translated into the equivalent purchasing of about 70 euros today (the estimate is  fairly rough).  As a comparison – the price of a new Pentacon Six was 750 roubles (if you could get one), of a Kiev 60 it was whopping 600 roubles, a Zenit E series retailed in the range of 120-130 roubles while the cost of a  brand new piano was the same as of a Kiev 60 or around 600 roubles. The price of a new car like Zaporožec 968 (spelled semi-phonetically in English as Zaporozhets), a badly executed copy of the NSU Prinz, the muted Russian answer to the much more amiable and cuter Trabant was 4500 to 5500 roubles. The cheapest photographic camera, a medium format Etude, with a plastic lens and 6×4.5 negative frame had a retail price of just 6 roubles. You could buy 100 Etudes for the price of a single Kiev 60.   Prices now – Lomography.com retails a Smena 8 for unbelievable, breathtaking, astonishing, mind-boggling and outrageous 80 euros. This is a shameless rip-off.  If you look through  classified ads and flea markets, the price of Smena 8m   in Russia and the former Soviet Union now ranges from 2 to 10 euros. That is what this camera is worth.  Though I’ve got a deep suspicion it is worth nothing. I’ve got a bunch of them and I don’t recall paying more than 10 euros even for “like new” specimens in the original factory packaging.

Possible use: can’t think of any.  But wait… because the lens is so contrasty, produces  shallow images even at the highest aperture setting and distorts colors, the camera can in theory be used for weird looking painterly still-life photography.  The problem of course is that getting decent enlargements from 35mm film is a challenging (or let’s be honest, an impossible) task. You can also somehow attach a magnifying or close-up lens or hold one in your hand if the exposure time is long enough and make weird semi macro images though I haven’t tried that. With its informal Leninist motto of “the worse, the better” Smena 8m can used by the lomographers because the pictures it takes are bad and thus are suitable for lomography purposes (the Lomo compact is an overall better camera, besides it is automatic but unlike Smena 8, the Lomo Compacts are notoriously  fragile and unreliable).

The Verdict. This camera is both waste of money (certainly at lomography.com prices) and of film. Yes, you can obtain passable pictures with this piece of equipment but you can likewise get far better pictures with other kinds of camera. Cheapest Zeniths and Prakticas, never mind magnificent early autofocus Minoltas though not earlier fully manual Minolta SLRs which for some reason are pricier than 1980s AF models though you can use an autofocus Minolta in fully manual mode  (I bought my specimen of Minolta AF 7000 for 5 euros) are incomparably better. There are so many analog decent cameras that are now dirt cheap that I am puzzled as to why anyone,  myself included, would waste film with and on this unloved Soviet monstrosity.

Technical data (roughly translated from Russian):

“Smena-8M” is  a small format compact camera, intended for a wide range of amateur photographers.
The viewfinder camera has a coated lens, a full frame viewfinder,  pictographic distance scale, a central shutter and a flash hotshoe. The camera is capable of producing high quality black and white and color negatives (perhaps a mild exaggeration here).

With the help of pictograms and distance symbols even amateurs with rudimentary photographic skills can take quality pictures in and outdoors.
Film rewind mechanism permits using a single cassette but  the design of the camera also provides for operation with two cassettes, which is convenient as it saves the photographer the necessity of rewinding exposed film.
All these qualities, as well as simplicity, reliability and modern appearance make the camera “Smena-8M” attractive to both beginners and experienced amateur photographers alike.
The camera can be operated under  temperatures in the range from -15 to +45 degrees Centigrade in the absence of direct solar radiation or strong precipitation.

Date of introduction – 1970.
Manufacturer – Leningrad Optical and Mechanical Association (LOMO)

SPECIFICATIONS:
Film format – 135, mm – 35
Negative frame size, mm – 24×36
The number of frames per  the film – 36 (well could go up to 40 or as few as 6:)
Lens – coated three element anastigmat T-43:
– Focal length, mm – 40 /- 1:4
Shutter speeds, s – 1 / 15, 1 / 30, 1 / 60, 1 / 125, 1 / 250 and “Bulb”
Distance scale, m – from 1 meter  to “infinity”
Scale diaphragm or aperture values  – 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16
The scale of the film speeds in GOST / ISO 16, 32, 64, 130, 250 (GOST is similar to ASA and to ISO); DIN 13, 16, 19, 22, 25
Thread diameter at the lens rim filter – SpM 35,5 x 0, 5 (what is 35.5mm filter?)

Retail package contains:

1. The camera “Smena-8M” – 1 pc.
2. Film spool – 1 pc.
3. Carrying case – 1 pc
4. Instruction Manual – 1 copy.

A few photos of my Smena 8m

Smena 8m

a Smena 8m from my collection

And a few images I just took with this Smena 8m – for entertainment purposes. Note if I used better film, not expired Tasma for black and white and Agfa Vista for color, images could have come out better, but I am not going to waste a roll of Ektar on a Smena. Those pictures are deliberately taken in “different styles” to show what camera can do (not much).

Komsomolets and his bottles

Komsomolets and his bottles -

Komsomolec (Komsomolets) and his bottles – picture taken with Smena 8m camera on Agfa Vista 200 expired (1996 film), overexposed and overdeveloped for “painterly” effect. Lomo Smena 8m

Who knows

Some idiots - well perhaps geniuses - but I hate men wearing slippers (and even sandals are disgusting) -

Reval or Tallinn - night street shot with Lomo Smena 8m on

Reval or Tallinn – night street shot with Smena 8m on Agfa Vista 200 film (hopelessly expired). Lomo Smena 8m

Reval / Tallinn gravesite crosses from abandoned grave (for scrapping?)

Alexander Nevsky Cemetery Reval / Tallinn gravesite crosses from abandoned grave (for scrapping?)

Reval / Tallinn gravesite crosses from abandoned grave (for scrapping) at the Alexander Nevsky Cemetery. Lomo Smena 8m and expired Agfacolorn Vista.

Grave of Hyacinthov Giacintov

Grave of Erast Giatsintoff (Giatsintov, Hyacinthoff) and his daughter

Alexander Nevsky Cemetery. Grave of Erast Giatsintoff (Giatsintov, Hyacinthoff) – mayor of Reval (currently Tallinn) from 1905 to 1908 and administrator for Wesenberg (Rakovor, Раковор, Везенберг, Раквере, Rakvere) from 1885 to 1905. Lomo Smena 8 M – Agfa / Agfacolor Vista expired.

a deliberate double exposure of the same roll . lomo smena

a deliberate double exposure of the same roll film with Lomo Smena 8m

a deliberate double exposure of the same roll film with Smena 8m, expired Agfacolor Vista 200

mannequin or dummy - lomography lomo smena 8m

mannequin - smena 8m tasma nk-2 film

mannequin or a dummy, lomo smena 8m – Tasma nk-2 black and white film, developed in Rodinal.

Reflection in a puddle

puddle

puddle – lomo Smena 8m and Tasma NK-2 film

the herd is moving aimelessly

the herd

bottles and low quality camera porn

bottles and low quality camera porn

Bottles, low quality camera porn, books, flash, Tasma NK-2 film, lomo Smena 8 m

night street - same view with Smena 8m and black and white film Tasma NK-2

night street - same view with Smena 8m and black and white film Tasma NK-2Camera test Smena 8m - walking aimlessly and taking snapshots of thing

Camera test Smena 8m – walking aimlessly and taking snapshots of things, in this case of my bookshelves with Smena 8 m on Tasma NK-2 black and white Russian film, developed in Rodinal

white on black

half and half, black on white, white on black, Russian Tasma NT-2 film, Lomo Smena 8m, Rodinal

That’s it.

That’s the end of this test; I am going  post pictures taken during experimental test drive of another junk camera from my collection soon.