Tag Archives: Agfacolor
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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.

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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

Kodachrome – In Memoriam – The first anniversary of Kodachrome’s demise –

2 Jan

This is the first of planned   10 or 12 Kodachrome-related posts, each will display roughly 10 Kodachrome images.

I wrote this on December 30 but apparently did not publish the article (New Year Eves tend to be hectic).  The photos below were made with Zenit E camera (Kodachrome 64) and old Minolta SLR (Kodachrome 200).  This first batch consists of 10 photos of St. Petersburg taken in immediate vicinity of my St. Petersburg home.  Click the image for a larger version (contact me if you need really huge files for whatever reason).

Today is the day Kodak turned off Kodachrome’s life support.

St. Vladimir Square (Vladimirskaä Ploşad', Владимирская площадь, Vladimirskaya) Kodachrome St. Petersburg (Autumn 2010)

St. Vladimir Square (Vladimirskaä Ploşad', Владимирская площадь, Vladimirskaya) Kodachrome St. Petersburg (Autumn 2010), Russia - baroque St. Vladimir Cathedral and (ugly) Dostoevskiï (Dostoevsky) monument. Dostoevskiï lived about 200 meters to the right from this spot.

On December 30, Kodak or rather its subcontractor Dwayne’s Photo Lab in Kansas, USA,  officially stopped processing Kodachrome.  A few of my  first and last Kodachrome rolls were made for the US market and the rest was sold in Europe.  US-market Kodachrome came back as if it were processed by Dwayne’s (well, as it was), each film in a plastic box with Dwayne’s label on it while the film that was sold in Europe came in original-yellow Kodachrome packaging, each slide frame numbered and bearing  Kodak logo. Although the official date of Kodachrome’s demise is December 30, 2010, it reportedly continued to live for almost three weeks a while after its death. Apparently an avalanche of film engulfed  Dwayne’s Photo in the last weeks of November 2010 (I think the shutoff date was December 26) and the company kept processing film until January 18, 2011,  according to Kodachrome project’s blog from December 26th to 1:36 PM on the 18th (of January), Dwayne’s Photo processed 20,564 rolls of 35mm, 3,565 of 8mm and 57,655 feet of 16mm Kodachrome motion and still picture film.

Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street - the street where I live in St. Petersburg (about 1.5 km from the previous image)

Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street - the street where I live in St. Petersburg (about 1.5 km from the previous image), St Petersburg Saint Petersburg Russia

While for US-born Americans  Kodachrome was something of a cultural icon, for me it did not mean much. I knew that in the past there were other color film processes like the Franco-English Dufay color,  French Autochrome and Autochrome based Alticolor, beautiful Agfacolor that preceded Kodachrome by 3 years, never mind that on the smaller scale level there were a few Russian color photography pioneers from the turn of the century era like brilliant Sergueï Prokoudine-Gorsky (in US publication his name also gets spelled  as Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky) who left a workable though complicated additive color process along with thousands of color photographs illustrating daily life of the entire Russian Empire which he took well before (first!) world war and Bolshevist coup which  brought it down.   I will publish all of Prokoudine-Gorsky /Прокудин-Горский photographs in a separate gallery one day;  those pictures are amazing and they are all in public domain .  Prokoudine-Gorsky’s photographs are surreal.  It is a time machine which   for me is somewhat scary to use, I don’t like looking at those images, – I would rather not see how our past looked like.  if there is any I would prefer to have it in monochrome.

 

A corner building and full moon over  Theatre Square (Театральная площадь) or rather improbably in English though closer to the original as Theatrical Square -  Theatralnaä Ploşad' phonetically rendered as Teatralnaya St. Petersburg, Russia Saint Petersburg Kodachrome

A corner building and full moon over Theatre Square (Театральная площадь) or rather improbably in English though closer to the original as Theatrical Square - Theatralnaä Ploşad' phonetically rendered as Teatralnaya St. Petersburg, Russia Saint Petersburg Kodachrome

Yes I’ve heard about Kodachrome and its commercial success in the 40s and 50s but I thought that Kodachrome was so overwhelingly triumphant against its European competition primarily because by 1945 entire Europe – from Atlantic almost to the Urals – was destroyed and the USA got healthy and rich by sucking all the juices from the rest of the planet. Something it still does though markedly less successfully.   There are many claims of Kodachrome’s technical superiority.  That’s a matter of taste but yes, I too prefer the look of Kodachrome to say Agfacolor.  Now – after having been digital user for quite long – I realize that one of film’s greatest attractions is its  diversity. Every film has its own characters, temperament,  unique shades and different colors (if it is color film) while with a digital camera you are stuck with one boring sensor or the future of churning out   Photoshop forgeries.

Day time Kirche street from Foundry Avenue (Kirochnaia, Litejny) - Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street - the street where I live in St. Petersburg (about 1.5 km from the previous image), St Petersburg Saint Petersburg Russia Kodachrome late October - 2010

Day time at Kirche street from Foundry Avenue - the street where I live in St. Petersburg (about 1.5 km from the previous image), St Petersburg Saint Petersburg Russia Kodachrome late October - 2010 - (Kirochnaia, Litejny) - Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street

But I admit that out of four contemporaries – Agfacolor, Dufay, Lumière’s Autochrom in its numerous varieties and Kodachrome, I like Kodak’s stuff best. It is not naturalistic looking but it is natural,  Kodachrome is also rich, it has deep beautiful hues and tones that range from etherial otherworldly warmth to  steely blue.  Kodachrome was fantastic stuff but it took me long time to find that out.  More recent films and expensive digital reproduce  reality more accurately  but to me another attraction of old or unusual film stocks is that they don’t, film distorts reality,  life documented on Kodachrome is fairly close to the real chromatic thing but is not quite there, it is different, and it is beautiful

two girls - I see just two females in the frame more could be lurking -  Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street

two girls (click for larger picture) - I see just two females in the frame more could be lurking - (Kirochnaia, Litejny) - Кирочная - Kiročnaä Ulica - Kirochnaya or Kirche Street

I am not a walking Xerox copier and when I need accuracy of color rendition, my Sony A900 does the job way better than does Kodachrome.  Skin tones in Kodachrome can appear earthly grayish and the look of the film is that of remote past,  it is or rather it was a photographic time machine, it is the way of representing the present in the past, a delicious endeavor  (there are still many opportunities to make pictures with historic color film stocks though no longer with Kodachrome)

 

domes of Resurrection of Our Savior Cathedral from afar , popularly known as the Tar (Smolny) Cathedral from 18th century works that produced shipbuilding pitch pine tar. Saint / St Petersburg, Russia  2010 late October Kodachrome

domes of the Resurrection of Our Savior Cathedral from afar , popularly known as the Tar (Smolny) Cathedral from 18th century works that produced shipbuilding pitch pine tar. Saint / St Petersburg, Russia 2010 late October Kodachrome

After the United States dressed warmly  in a NATO’s fig leaf unleashed a humanitarian war of aggression against Yugoslavia (http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23914) in 1999 I stopped buying products made by very large American corporations.  That it turn meant that after 1999 I only bought Fuji and Agfa films and then soon went fully digital which in practical terms meant going Japanese (I got my first digital camera in 1998, it was a Sony Mavica that recorded fuzzy images on a 3 1⁄2-inch floppy).  Since then  I mellowed down quite a bit – though only in matters that concern photography and do buy Kodak color film if it is cheap, though not their black and white stuff which is pretty awful (in my hands at least).  It would be sad to see Kodak  go bankrupt and follow other film manufacturers, of which there was a legion,  into oblivion.

A Convenience Store (a small supermarket rather)

Entrance to a convenience store (or rather small twenty four hour retail market) on Kirochnaya or Kirche Street - the street where I live in St. Petersburg (about 1.5 km from the previous image), St Petersburg Saint Petersburg Russia Kodachrome late October - 2010

That’s how I missed Kodachrome during its lifetime.  I shot little Agfa and then some Fuji but then went digital even before the wild masses began defecting from film. I remember seeing Kodachrome on the shelves though. Even in the  1990s Kodachrome was something of a fossil.

Kodachrome 64 120 box

This is a professional 5 roll pack that contained European market Kodachrome 64 in 120 format, manufactured about 1986-1987, expired 1991. This box is in my collection but unfortunately there is no film in it. The box is twice thicker that a regular pro pack as it is divided into two sections - one contained film and the other mail-in processing envelopes. Someone used 5 rolls of film but did not process them. All five envelopes are intact. Each envelope, alas not usable after December 30, 2010, was worth about 10 euros / dollars if sold alone (those envelopes had value!) but I have no idea who bought them as each pack of European Kodachrome contained such an envelop and Kodak only dispatched processed film to non-US addresses. In America processing and optional framing had to be paid for separately. I never got hold of any 120 Kodachrome film though.

In Europe it was always sold with a processing envelope (something as I recall Kodak was prohibited from doing  on its home turf because of a mid 1950s antitrust law suit that it lost ).  It used to cost – as it appeared to me then – a good fortune.  In Europe a roll of Kodachrome retailed for the equivalent of 20-25 euros or for whopping 30 US dollars in today’s terms or perhaps for 20 dollars with parity currency rate.  Kodachrome was only sold in “real” old Europe if we were to use Donald Rumsfeld’s terminology –  between 1945 and 1991.  With the exception of Finland, which is a new state but was in the “Kodachrome zone” this category actually included entire “real” Europe without Russia that existed before 1917-1918.  German Democratic Republic aside (on which territory a number of historic German states were located in the past), Soviet Union only held lands of newfangled states that did not exist before 1917.

Kodachrome

Surface scan of a Kodachrome slide, processed in France (they stopped processing Kodachrome in France in the late 80s or ealry 90s). This slide dates from 70s and comes from my "collection" (a box of unsorted) slides of French origin. I have no idea whose photograph apparears on it - I just grabbed a random Kodachrome slide out of the box.

The  Kodachrome border ran along the Iron Curtain and that wall that was never breached. Except for the territory of the annexed GDR, Kodachrome was never sold in the former Warsaw pact “states” or in Russia, not even after 1991. That of course was almost of irrelevance because by 1990s only some pros in the USA itself and Kodachrome enthusiasts were shooting this film.  Numerous E-6 process films, probably first introduced by Kodak itself, killed Kodachrome.  The price of 20-25 euros in modern equivalent (or 20- 30 US dollars ) might seem outrageous but in really it wasn’t. In America Kodachrome sold for roughly 10 dollars per roll (from 7.99 to 9.99) during the same period of time but did not include processing or framing. European price included processing, framing and return postage. So as it looks now it might have been even cheaper to shoot Kodachrome in Europe than in the US but very   few did and at the end  Kodachrome’s share of the film market went down to  fraction of a percent.

St Petersburg Kodachrome

St Petersburg (Saint Peters) Conservatory building, Theatre Square (Театральная площадь) or rather improbably in English though closer to the original as Theatrical Square - Theatralnaä Ploşad' phonetically rendered as Teatralnaya St. Petersburg, Russia Saint Petersburg Kodachrome late October 2010

In September  2010 I read somewhere, in some online blog or a magazine article, that Kodak has long discontinued Kodachrome and that it will no longer be processed. I didn’t know that. And another thing, I read, December 2010 is the cutoff date.  No more Kodachrome after that.  Now one disadvantage of the Kodachrome  versus its competitors like Agfacolor was that you need to build more or less a factory to process the stuff.  As I understand (in the plainest of layman terms) reversible Agfacolor like all subsequent films had its dyes incorporated within three photosensitive layers. You just need the right mix of chemicals to develop those films anywhere. Kodachrome had an extremely complicated processing procedure where dyes were introduced during development stage. Something that is impossible to do at home no matter how big a home you’ve got.

Idealnaä časka  - idealnaya chashka - kodachrome

A coffee shop of the Ideal Cup (Idealnaä časka) chain, St. Petersburg (idiots write it as fantastic Saint Petersburg) - obviously Kodachrome 64 is an extremely slow film, I was shooting it as ISO 25 in dim lightining, ISO 1600-3200 would be better suited for this sort of photography, sitll quite many painterly effects - idealnaya chashka - kodachrome

Getting my hands on Kodachrome became urgent. I realized that it is now or never situation and I need to buy a few rolls of Kodachrome immediately or I’ll never process it.  I saw old Kodachrome slides from the 40s and 50s, love  how the film looks and wanted to take pictures of my kids on Kodachrome as well. I began to look for the stuff on the Ebay, placed random bids here and there, and amazingly got three lots of Kodachrome fairly cheaply – probably for no more than 2 euros per American roll or 3 euros for the European “issue” along with the free processing mailer. That was a good deal because I saw people selling processing envelopes for 5 euros a pop. I have no idea what they did with the film. Already after Kodachrome’s demise I bought a case of Kodak color film (all expired stuff, Vericolor II stuff, some Ektar, lots of film. I haven’t shot yet any from that batch). The precious case contained a retail pro pack of Kodachrome – alas the film was gone but all five mail-in processing envelopes were intact. What happened to the film? Who knows.  Prices of Kodachrome nosedived right before November although the stuff that was unsold recovered the value after January 2011 – people sell intact Kodachrome boxes for 20 euros / 25 dollars online which are now of course only good for display purposes (developing the stuff in black and white chemistry is akin to vandalism).  If I did not use my Kodachrome but kept it until today I could have made a small, admittedly a very small, fortune.

ideal cup kodachrome

A coffee shop of the Ideal Cup (Idealnaä časka) chain, St. Petersburg (idiots write it as fantastic Saint Petersburg) - Kodachrome 64 is a slow film, I was exposing it as ISO 25 in dark lightining, ISO 1600-3200 would be better under the circumstances - still I like the results of the experiment- idealnaya chashka - kodachrome

My Kodachrome began arriving in  October, I had about a month to waste it. I photographed St. Petersburg, then went with my kids on a ferry to the federal   German Reich,  then drove straight to Mikulov (Nikolsburg) and after a short stay there proceeded (on wheels)  to Italy. By then my modest stock of expired Kodachrome ran out. Because of urgency I felt I have to take pictures fast and   with any sort of rush quality suffers.  I packed everything and sent it off to Kodak (in Switzerland, that was the last place in Europe that still took Kodachrome and forwarded it to Dwayne’s lab in the states). I got it back right after new year.

ideal cup kodachrome

A coffee shop of the Ideal Cup (Idealnaä časka) chain, St. Petersburg fisheye lens (that's one of the things you must get but then won't use). Zenit camera

I believe I might have been the last person who used Kodachrome in either Russia or the Czech Republic (where it was never sold anyway). Flickr has few, very few,  fantastic Kodachrome images of Leningrad, all taken by tourists in the 1970s and early 80s. Time frozen. But nothing afterwards.

I am   crazy about historic film and for me the experience of shooting Kodachrome and getting it developed was almost a divine pleasure. I am also happy that I now got some Kodachrome photos on my own.  I am thankful to Kodak that they kept it going for so long.

At 75 years (1935-2010) Kodachrome  is or rather was the longest surviving photographic process. With its 59 years Agfacolor which later became a ‘chrome (such as German Orwochrom) came second but a disclaimer should be made that it is still possible and in fact is fairly easy to process any Agfacolor / Orwochrom type filmstock at home.  If years of film production are to be counted, and that would be fairer, Kodachrome’s lifespan would  have to be reduced by a year to 74 but factually by 8, from 75 down to 67 as  most of Kodachrome production stopped in 2002.  I couldn’t locate any film fresher than that for my experiment. Nonetheless, even with that reduction Kodachrome still outlived its Agfa contemporary by almost a decade. I am unsure if color film stays in production for three more decades from now, that’s how much time is needed for the current C-41 and E-6 films to beat Kodachrome’s longevity record.

Kirochnaya 10 Kodachrome Russia

A rare example of private urban architecture (http://www.citywalls.ru/house1855.html) albeit much mutilated one. The townhouse or private house of architect Theodore Demercev (hated Americanized "spellers" might render his name in the language of Donald Rumsfeld and Obama as Fyodor Demertsev or worse), built in 1792. This elegant neoclassical building was apparently mutilated for commercial ends - in 1826 another massive floor was added on top of the structure. Kodachrome Zenit camera October 2010

Lifespan of commercial photographic color film processes:

Autochrom / Alticolor (France) – from about 1907 to 1955 = 48 years

Dufay / Dufaycolor –   France / Great Britain – from mid 1920s to until 1940, about 15 years.

Kodacolor (C-22)  1943-1972  (first Kodak then internationalized) =29 years

Kodachrome – 1935 to 2010 =75 years

Agfacolor reversible / Orwochrom – 1932 to 1991 = 59 years

Kodak C-41 and similar international processes (Fuji, Agfa) 1972 until today, the current most common negative process, 40 years, still alive.

Kodak E-3 reversible, about 1950 to 1972 – 22 years

Kodak E-4 reversible, 1972-1974 – 2 years

Kodak E-6 and its international derivatives, 1974 until today,  38 years, still alive.

European market Kodachrome 64 120 format box

European market Kodachrome 64 120 format box

Kodachrome 64 120 5 pack

Kodachrome 64 120 5 pack - Kodak officially discontinued the film in 1996 but probably stopped making it even earlier.

Film test: Orwochrom UT – 18 – at the ruins of Falkenstein Castle (Burgruine Falkenstein)

30 Nov

Color or Colour Reversal or Reversible Film

DIN 18 / ISO 50

Made in Germany (German Democratic Republic)

Estimated year of manufacture 1981

Expired 1985

Used in 2011

Camera used – Rollei SLX

Orwochrom

Orwochrome UT 18

I shot (in cold blood) a trial roll of Orwochrom UT-18. UT doesn’t stand for Unfinished Thought, of which I have  many, but for Umkehrtageslicht or Reversible, Daylight. The roll out of this batch expired in 1985 and was better preserved that the totally antique stuff from the 1970s which is however still useable for the purpose of faking art.
Film was developed strictly per instructions from the Orwo’s Holy Book (Psalm C 9165) though one heresy slipped through though – the first developer was intended for Fomachrom (a competing Agfacolor-derived film stock that was made at the time in the Czech and Slovak Socialist Republic),  and not the Orwo’s original.  The difference between the two is subtle – whilst Orwo uses phenidone and hydroquinone its Slavic sibling employs a mentol-hydroquinone combination.  I had to use the latter because I did not have phenidone for the former.  I developed the film together with (well, pretty much dead) Soviet Co-32D  (Tso-32D) – that entry describes the process perhaps in a greater detail.

Orwochrom UT 18

Orwochrom UT 18 120 format

I like the results. I wouldn’t have guessed off hand that those photographs were taken in the year 2011. The look is aged and reminds me of  delectable, original Agfacolor.
The setting.
The setting is Falkenstein in Lower Austria’s Weinviertel. A smallish though magic town of some 470 odd inhabitants that has one of Lower Austria’s most beautiful wine cellar streets.  In the Middle Ages Falkenstein was the site of a commercial court that dealt with disputes of all sorts with a geographically impressive extent of jurisdiction stretching from Vienna to Brünn (Czech name Brno).

Falkenstein has its own castle or rather ruins of one (Burgruine Falkenstein).  Fortified castle Falkenstein dates from the 11th century or from the time of original settlement of this part of Lower Austria – by primarily settlers from Bavaria – who also became the ancestors of the main group in the neighboring Southern Moravia until “democratic” Czech State under Benesch (Beneš), with American blessing, ethnically cleansed so-called German population of Czechoslovakia (mainly of Bohemia, Sudetenland and Southern Moravia) in a genocidal campaign of terror, murder and expulsion that was something even by the somewhat low humanitarian standards of the 1940s.  The Southern Moravia dialect was similar to that spoken in Lower Austria’s Weinviertel and was rooted in the Bavarian (Bayerisch), which is though nominally called German is all but.

Ruins of Falkenstein Castle (Burgruine Falkenstein) at Dusk, Orwochrom UT-18

Ruins of Falkenstein Castle (Burgruine Falkenstein) at Dusk, Orwochrom UT-18

The Lords of Falkenstein were vassals of the Babenbergs, the Ducal dynasty that founded Austria (as the term Ostaricchi became later transformed into Österreich) and predecessors of the House of Habsburg.  In the late Middle Ages the Burg Falkenstein was a site of knightly tournaments, pageants,  and feasts and it was probably very picturesque.  During the time of Reformation the Burg was used a prison for heretics,  mainly for Anabaptists.  I took a course in the history of Reformation at the University of Rhode Island under late professor Daniel and I still remember the Anabaptism  part of the course.  Only after I moved to Nikolsburg (now Czech Mikulov) I realized that I landed in what once was the hotbed of Anabaptist heresy and to an extent the place where North American evangelical sects (indirectly of Baptists, directly Mennonites)  spiritually originate. This is roughly the area from Lundenburg (Břeclav) to Nicolsburg (then Nikolsburg was spelled as Nicolsburg) and further deeper into Moravia and border lands of the Lower Austria. Nikolsburg was not a center of Anabaptism per se, but a refuge of sort – Adam von Dietrichstein, the owner of Nicolsburg (Mikulov) and then his son Franz allowed Anabaptists to settle in town because of their economic activities.  When the time was up, the trap closed.  Leaders of Anabaptists were  brought to Falkenstein castle, and this story deserves an entry on its own as well.  Anabaptists were chained in the dungeon of the castle – and there are still marks of iron in the cave that served as dungeon underneath the castle ruins where Anabaptists were imprisoned and were they sang their hymns before being dragged out and then marched on foot to Trieste, 600 km away. In Trieste, now Italy, Anabaptists were used as galley slaves, then a death sentence.  Austrian Emperors were waging wars – wars of defense really – against Turkey and Habsburg fleet under Admiral Andrea Doria was based at Trieste.  The galley based fleet was essential for the war effort. Two things that came to my mind there. Anabaptists were pacifists and did not fight even in self-defense, the sentence of forced labor in the navy must have been worse than death for them. The second thought was that although few people realize Peter I transplanted Italian and Greek warfare techniques, from the Adriatic to the Baltic,  andthose were based upoon a strategy of fighting galley fleets operating in fog covered bays and lagoons in Eastern Baltic . There is Galernaja or Galley Streets in St. Petersburg where Mediterranean and Adriatic style galleys were built during Great Northern War.

Path to the entrance to the Ruins of Falkenstein Castle (Burgruine Falkenstein) at Dusk, Orwochrom UT-18

Path to the entrance to the Ruins of Falkenstein Castle (Burgruine Falkenstein) at Dusk, Orwochrom UT-18

In the Northern War this Mediterranean technology and strategy ultimately defeated Swedish navy in the eastern parts of the gulf of Finland and then allowed Russian operations almost without opposition even along coast of Sweden itself.  It was about asymmetrical warfare at its best (or worst if you were at the receiving end) and its essence was that of breaking all rules,  something that kids get punished form but an art form in itself that Peter I, also known as the Great, became  great master of.   This somehow linked Falkenstein in Lower Austria to St. Petersburg on the Baltic.  As did the next stage in its history.  In the Thirty Years War civilized part of Europe became the target or rather the victim of what amounted to Swedish invasion which probably was worse than anything this part of the Continent had seen from the times of the Huns. The geographic scale of Swedish aggression was vast – from Novgorod in Russia to Vienna in the midst of Lower Austria and almost up to Swiss border; it was barbarous and savage, it was multinational as Sweden conscripted people from its old and newly acquired colonies like Finland, and it was semi-religious. Like the 2oth century was marked by the wars of ideology this was the era of the wars of religion – the idea of crusading Protestant power (in that respect both Nazi Germany and today’s United States meet the model of largely Protestant and ideological murderous empire bound on overseas contest, though of course Sweden in the 1600s was neither as bad nor as savage nor as mindessly murderous nor ideologically-motivated as the 20th century United States while the Nazi Germany, though evil enough, was not explicitly Protestant though it was in many respects,   at least in what was Austria before the Anschlüß,  distinctly anti-Catholic).  The Swedes (or rather a multinational Protestant horde under  Swedish guidance) destroyed almost all  castles and burgs in Southern Moravia and Lower Austria. In the immediate vicinity I can think of and drive daily around are  Nicolsburg itself (looted, rebuilt, though the Kozí hrádek / Ziegenburg was not restored in any way), the castle at Staatz (which I suspect was at one point owned by the Mozart’s employer or a member of that family),  Dívčí hrád  (Maidenburg – look here, the Lower Austrian or Bavarian word  for  Maiden is exactly the same as in English  and not at all like Hochdeutsch words  Jungfrau or perhaps Mädchen though there are of course Maid and Magd and even Mädel like in the Bund Deutscher Mädel , then  the smaller fortified castle Rassenstein, also known  Waisenstein (rather cheerily named Orphan’s Stone) in Klentnitz (Sirotčí hrádek in Klentice).   Falkenstein was also besieged and ransacked but it was apparently not destroyed.   When I first saw the ruins from afar a few years back I dated the destruction of the fortified Burg at the Thirty Years War , early 1600s that is, but I was wrong.  Swedes just looted it and proceeded onward with their pillaging business.  The castle was destroyed in peace time.  It was literally demolished. Its owners used it as a commercial stone quarry in the 18th century.   Living in fortified castle was no longer considered fashionable.

Bergfried / tower of the Falkenstein castle, Orwochrom UT18

Bergfried / tower of the Falkenstein castle, Orwochrom UT18

Austrians (or rather Europe’s Catholics) defeated the bad guys at Lutzen in Saxony, though it took Peter I and Sweden’s reckless war with Russia to put the end to that menace (from the Central European perspective and that’s the one I am writing from).  For over a century   Falkenstein  castle stood damaged by war but still pretty much intact though empty.  Bats, ghosts of Anabaptists and other heretics, this sort of thing. By then living in fortified castles was considered archaic. You were perceived as a dinosaur if you lived in one.   The burg’s owners – and the castle was and still is in private possession – decided to use the complex of structures as a source of income by converting it to a man-made repository of building stone.  So they broke the castle for construction materials but the structure was big and well-built like early medieval castles tended to be and so probably over a half of it survived to this day.  Some 200 years later, in  the 1990s the owners – helped by a local initiative – began cleaning the place up and then opened it museum-like to the public.  It is a beautiful and considering its history both an inspiring and a haunting place, which   certainly is  worth a visit.

When you enter the ruins you’ll see  is a real Mediterranean galley in the the court yard.   It was put there to commemorate the Anabaptists (Mennonites) who against their will were shipped off as galley slaves to the Adriatic to fight the Turks .

Because I shot more than one roll of Orwochrom at the Falkenstein ruins, I am going to post more images of the castle remnants at some point later and will make a separate entry  about the fortified castle and the town below.  One entry might not be enough, so perhaps I’ll split it into two illustrated chapters.

Burgruine Falkenstein - ORWOchrom UT 18

Burgruine Falkenstein - ORWOchrom UT 18

A final Orwochrom note – I am about to buy 200 rolls of supposedly properly stored Orwochrom (exactly like this one but in 135 format) from a dealer in Moscow. If stuff is still workable, then I’ll be prepared to share this historic film, exchange and sell to those who can afford to buy it and are willing to experiment.

Links: Burgruine Falkenstein, Falkenstein Commune, Lower Austria , Niederösterreich, Austria

Orwochrome, Orwochrom

slide film

Film test: Свема ЦО-32д – Svema CO-32D from the year 1986

20 Nov

Color or Colour Reversal or Reversible Film

Svema CO-32D color reversible film from the old Soviet Union

Svema CO-32D color reversible film from the old Soviet Union

DIN 16 / ISO 32

Made in Russia (Soviet Union) by Svema

Estimated year of manufacture 1986

Expired 1990

Used in 2011

Camera used – Rollei SLX

Old Russian Svema CO-32D color reversible film that was manufactured per old prewar Agfacolor process

Old Russian Svema CO-32D color reversible film that was manufactured per old prewar Agfacolor process

ЦО-32Д or CO-32D
Nowadays would probably be transliterated into English by most people semi-phonetically in the as TsO-32D though it stands CO-32D right there on the box.

CO is an abbreviation that means (in Russian) Color Reversible (Film), 32 is the film’s speed according to GOST (which is same ASA or ISO) and the letter D at the end denotes in Russian (abbreviation) as it would in English D means here means  ” daylight”.

Old Russian Svema CO-32D color reversible film that was manufactured per old prewar Agfacolor process

Old Russian Svema CO-32D color reversible film that was manufactured per old prewar Agfacolor process

So basically it is color reversible daylight film, 32 ISO film. If the name were to be translated as opposed to being transliterated into English, then it would be CR-32D or CRF-32D.   Creativity in approach to naming products was not the Soviet’s strongest point.

The film was made in 1986. Because it expired in 1990 and the ЦО-32Д (TsO-32D) film was discontinued in  early 1987, I assume it could only be made in 1985.

Svema CO 32 d also known as TsO-32d / ЦО 32д

Svema CO 32 d also known as TsO-32d / ЦО 32д

The film was baked in some window because the colors faded quite a bit and was tossed around because the state of the packaging is far from pristine.  Also the film was not packed in an individual canister – either made plastic like in cheapo countries or in beautiful aluminum canisters that ORWO / Orwochrom films used to come in.  The roll of film was just wrapped in a piece of waxed foil-like paper, 1930s style.

sacrificial lambs - old Svema CO-32d /TsO-32d, Orwochrom UT-18 in two flavors and an Orwochrom UK-17

sacrificial lambs - old Svema CO-32d /TsO-32d, Orwochrom UT-18 in two flavors and an Orwochrom UK-17

I bought the film on Ebay though I don’t remember how much did I pay for.

The film is dead for the purposes of practical photography though was quite usable when it was new. That alone is amazing because if you were to read through numerous Russian photography forums the impression you would get is that Soviet color film was useless.

There are quite a few though not many examples of old photos from the Soviet Union taken on the Svema CO-32d film stock.  http://images.yandex.ru/yandsearch?text=%D0%A6%D0%9E-32%D0%B4

What is this film? It is original Agfacolor slide film from the year 1936 with improved dyes. Soviet CO-1 (ЦО-1) film was the real Agfacolor and I would like to get my hands on one of those, better on a batch.

I bought my CO-32d – six rolls I think – through Ebay from a place like Bulgaria.

The test

Svema CO-32d / Свема ЦО-32д - my fiats in Nikolsburg - Panda, Croma and Punto

Svema CO-32d / Свема ЦО-32д - my fiats in Nikolsburg - Panda, Croma and Punto

I used two rolls for test though sadly I killed one during development – I promise it won’t happen again. Instead of second developer I put the film into the bleach. Amazingly the image did not disappear in an instant but during fixing stage the pictures were gone. There is perhaps a way to restore them, pull them out of there, chemically and that will be another, a different project altogether.

Exposure – I exposed originally ISO 32 film as ISO 12 which was apparently not enough. Now I think that ISO 6 would have been more appropriate.

Loading the developing tank. When I was loading the film into the tank I discovered that the backing paper grew into the film. It merged with it. The place where the film was stored all those years (shop window?) must have been pretty hot for the film and the backing paper to bake together. I had to wash the backing paper off the film.  Not everything came out.

Svema CO-32d / Свема ЦО-32д - a Panda in yellow
Svema CO-32d / Свема ЦО-32д – a Panda in yellow

Developing. I mixed all chemicals myself according to the ORWO 9165C procedure which is used for Orwochrom (Orwochrome) processing except three major or minor elements.

The first or the so-called black and white developer.  Soviet GOST (Svema and Tasma color reversible films) prescribes first developer with Amidol. This was probably the original Agfacolor developer. Because I haven’t found Amidol so far I had to skip that and replace the chemical with something else. Now the  ORWO 9165C process asks for a combination of phenidone and hydroquinone – I did not find phenidone either. Instead I used a developer from Bohemian Foma cookbook, originally Agfacolor 67 prescribed for Fomachrom film stock.

Here is the “recipe”

Metol     3,0 g

Sodium sulfate, dehydrated   50.0 g

Hydroquinone    6,0 g

Sodium carbonate (CAS 497-19-8)   40,0 g (I used baking soda)

Potassium thiocyanate (CAS No: 333-20-0)    2 g

Potassium bromide (CAS 7758-02-3).     2    g

Potassium Iodide (CAS No.7681-11-0(  0.1% solution   6    ml

I skipped the potassium iodide part for the reason that I don’t have it either.

At the edge of a forest between Stützenhofen and Poysbrunn, Weinviertel, Lower Austria

At the edge of a forest between Stützenhofen and Poysbrunn, Weinviertel, Lower Austria

That means that developed the Russian Svema CO-32d according to German ORWO reversible film process but for the first developer used one from Czech Foma (stolen Agfacolor) without one ingredient.  Potassium iodide is a fogging reducing agent and could be replaced with a pinch of benzotriazole but I did not bother.

The second short cut the was stop bath which I made from regular vinegar and tap water as opposed to a mixure of 99%  ethanoic acid, sodium acetate and water.  Vinegar and water dressing works as well.

Besides these two the entire process was more or less according to the sacred book of Orwo.

I developed five rolls of film altogether (two Svema CO-32d and three test rolls of ORWO reversible films – an ancient Orwochrom UT-18, an even more ancient ORWO UT-18 and an Orwochrom UK-17  (test reports are coming later).

A hint on developing Orwochrom, Fomachrom,  Soviet / Russian Tasma and Svema CO films as well as similar oddities that I never encountered but would love to get my hands on like Sakurachrome, Ferraniachrome, Revuechrome, Anscochrome, which all use Hitlerite Agfacolor technology.  I will develop those films in batches of 10 because 1 liter is the minimum quantity of ready chemical solutions I would make or I can weigh and pre-mix chemicals at the price or rather cost of about 15 euros plus shipping for 1 liter solution mix that would include everything except stop bath (get your vinegar at a local grocery store).  I would develop 1  roll of such film free of charge but you’d have to wait until there is a batch ready – I’d reckon the next Orwochrom-Agfacolor cookout will take place in about three months time.

“Raw” chemicals. I bought mine from the good people at the Calbe Chemie (http://www.calbe-chemie.de) in Germany which also used to make ORWO processing kits. Their minimum quantity is normally 1 kilo of stuff which is obviously a lot unless you plan on testing and developing Agfacolor-like films like I do.

A panda at the end of a long road

A panda at the end of a long road

The summary here though not quite yet the verdict.  When it was fresh the Svema CO-32d like the ORWO UT and UK products was a forgiving, usable film that had soft watercolor sort of quality. If one is fortunate enough to get hold of a refrigerated or at least unbaked batch today then he or she will come into a possession of a veritable treasure – Svema CO films produce is capable of producing unusual painterly effects and is easy to handle and process.

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.