Tag Archives: Soviet
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Kitchen de light

25 Jun

Kitchen de light

Tasma NK2 film and Zenit E, light in my St. Petersburg kitchen, a delight

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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: an early Komsomolec (Komsomolets)

1 Sep

Komsmolets (Komsomolets, Комсомолец)

The Long Story of the Komsomolets

Komsomolec (Komsomolets) is a Russian camera made by LOMO / Gomz inLeningrad,St. Petersburg, from 1946 to 1951. I own 2 specimens and both are of the 1947 vintage. One camera works pretty much like if it were new and the second one has a problem with the shutter. The release lever is loose in its socket, doesn’t fire when it is supposed to but thank Lord it looks fairly repairable, like if someone attempted to disassemble the contraption but then got interrupted by a call from the kitchen and had to put things back hastily together.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Komsolets is a first postwar consumer camera that was designed and made in a in a bombed out and burnt factory complex located in city that just lost over half of its population to the brutal three year long  Nazi siege,  one of the most horrific events in the World War. It was sold in a market that was hungry for any photography equipment and would consume anything.  Its history and its appeal has its roots in the siege ofLeningrad, the defining experience for all who survived it (the before and after thing, like the atomic bombing ofHiroshimaandNagasakibecame the before and after moment for its survivors); the survivors of the siege at the Lomo made this little camera after the war.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

As the Nazi hordes approachedLeningrad, in the  Fall of 1941 the Soviet authorities outlawed photographic cameras. Yes they did.  Every inhabitant of the city had to turn in his or her camera. The reasoning of that was fairly simple, there should be no record of what was about to transpire save for the official one.  By Nazi hordes I don’t mean the Germans because the invasion of the Soviet Union was an international affair let by a NATO-style coalition which at its utmost geographical stretch may be even exceeded current NATO – fromFinlandtoSpain.  WhenLeningradwas besieged the Northern approaches were encircled by the Finns asFinlandwas an enthusiastic Hitler’s ally and a leading Nazi power (more politically correct way of saying this is an Axis power). WithoutFinlandthe encirclement ofLeningradand murder of over one million civilians that ensued would not have been possible. BecauseFinlandbecame Soviet Union’s “friend” after the war all references to Finnish war crimes (which by far exceeded anything Germans did in the territory), political and popular racism or toFinland’s role in the siege ofLeningradwere suppressed by Soviet authorities. The encirclement was complete when southern approaches to the city were seized by the Wehrmacht units supplemented by a motley force that resembled the recent  Coalition of the Willing – from Estonian SS murders to Franko’s Spaniards, and from Romanian units to Norwegian SS volunteers.  Leningradremained besieged and encircled for almost three years until the siege was broken and remaining the Nazis later themselves encircled and killed off. When the Soviet authorities realized that the city is encircled, shut tight in fact,  they decided they need to do something about population control. The city had two or two and a half million inhabitants though perhaps almost half of the population had wisely fled by then. My grandmother didn’t. She spent the entire siege in the city from the first to the last day. She had to become medical doctor in 1942 but by 1942 the medical school was shut down because there were no professors and no students and the buildings were locked, frozen solid or burned out. She became a doctor of medicine in 1945, the first year the school opened.  When I browsed through her photo graduation album, I realized that out of entire group of perhaps 30 fresh doctors of medicine, there was only one, just one male graduate.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

With the city encircled in the late 1941 the authorities passed emergency decrees confiscating all photographic cameras and all radios. The punishment for disobeying the ordinance was espionage charge and death. Only one person was convicted of possessing and using a camera illegally, a fellow named Alexander Nikitin, who was turned to the authorities by his own neighbors, as usual, but got a milder five year sentence in imprisonment, possibly of starvation, in a couple of years  In 2002 three negatives he took which were kept in KGB archives all these  years were professionally enlarged and exhibited as part of a larger Unknown Siege or Unknown Blockade (Неизвестная Блокада) photo exhibition  together with photographs taken by reporters whose works likewise were classified and stored in secret archives.  Professional photographers employed by Soviet news agencies and newspapers could photograph almost freely but the pictures they took were subjected to military and political censorship with expectant results. Over 90% of all images were classified.  Nikitin’s photos (the condemned amateur photographer who escaped execution but instead died from in a camp) show that the authorities were not exceedingly paranoid in their fears of what subjects would amateur photographers pick when they permitted to.  Nikitin photographed bomb damage. There were way worse things to photograph.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

In late 1941 theLeningradauthorities turned all private phones off for fear that phones could be used to spread panic among large numbers of people.  Phones remained turned off until 1944.  I became distracted from the topic of Komsomolets camera, which is unique in the way that this was the first postwar camera made in ravished burned out and to a great extent an extinct ghost-like city, and sold to public that was deprived of opportunity to take pictures with own cameras for almost four years.  If you did not turn your camera in, there was another problem – film and photographic supplies were unavailable throughout the war.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Soviet film manufacturing facilities were located in the territory overrun by the Nazis, were used for the Reich’s benefit and were destroyed at the end.  This explains that although there are literally countless tons or tonnes (if those are metric) of war images taken by ordinary Wehrmacht personnel photos from the opposing side are non-existent.  All just major German film manufacturers like Agfa and Perrutz operated throughout the war and even provided mail-in processing services for the troops in the field, but like with weapons industries and automotive manufacturing, the entireEuropemade stuff for Hitler and contributed to the Nazi cause.   Czech Foma , Belgian Gevaert, Italian Ferrania and Lumiere inFrancemade film stock and supplies until at least the middle of the war when pursuing hobby of photography and cinema became a somewhat lesser priority for the Nazis.  The other side left little amateur photographic evidence: Soviet soldiers were not allowed to have own cameras until later in the war but even if they were they was no film except what they could get from the dead Nazis.  The 1945 Victory Parade inMoscowwas filmed on captured German Agfacolor stock which then was flown in to defeatedBerlinfor processing.

 

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

The Soviet experience of confiscating cameras and radios from the citizens inLeningradwas by no means unique.  Nominally “democratic” Czechoslovakia confiscated all private radios from its German speaking citizens right before Hitler’s march into Sudenland and in 1945 the “democratic” Czechoslovak state requisitioned cameras and watches along with other valuables from 2.3 million individuals, who were also stripped of their citizenship, all rights to property and then expelled (perhaps as many as 240 000 were murdered because they were alleged to be German). I have no idea what didCzechoslovakiado with all those cameras but apparently they still provide inexhaustible supply of merchandise for Czech antique shops.

RevLomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 -Soviet built Viru hotel in Reval (Tallin or Tallinn), expired Kodacolor film, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 -Soviet built Viru hotel in Reval (Tallin or Tallinn), expired Kodacolor film, summer 2011

Komsomolets was a special camera because in the minds of people who made it and who bought it, the Komsomolets signified a return to normal life or to a semblance of normal life.  From what I understand the film production was not restored for a few years, so the situation must had somewhat resembled the digital age, getting a film camera was easier than finding film.

Komsomolets is supposedly a knock-off from German Voigtländer Brillant. Or rather from an earlier version of Brillant because it is not a true TLR but a fake, a camera that appears like a TLR but is in fact just a box camera with no focusing arrangement, the user has to guesstimate the distance and the top part of the structure with the faux focusing lens acting purely as a decoration..

Why it is supposedly based on Brillant? Well, a number of fake TLRs were produced, most notably in theUS(a number of Argus cameras or Spartus Super R-I) though Komsomolets does remind one of a Brillant in styling perhaps more than other contemporary imitations.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a (hopefully) Italian made Vespa scooter in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), Ilford PAN F film

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a (hopefully) Italian made Vespa scooter in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), Ilford PAN F film

Komsolets, a relatively rare camera, is often advertised as a copy of Brillant. Ebay sellers form the former Soviet Union have a tendency to say this less than half truth in their description of the merchandise they put up for sale. Brillant (and I own one or two of those apparatuses) is a better camera. It produces square images that are reasonably sharp without much vignetting while Komsomolets, at least the earlier models that I’ve got, is equipped with the simplest T-21 anastigmatic lens (there was a prewar Czech tank, Skoda T-21, though it was hopefully not related to this pathetic lens). The lens produces horrific vignetting and is quite blurry, perhaps blurrier than late plastic lenses of Holga and Holga-like toy cameras.  Though technically not classified as such, for all known purposes Komsomolets is a toy camera that has somewhat complicated controls.  Brillant is not a toy – it is a better built piece of equipment that is also more useful than Komsomolec (Komosomolets).

 

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a Russian (1913) empire built theater, now an opera theater in Reval (Tallin or Tallinn), expired Kodacolor film, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a Russian (1913) empire built theater, now an opera theater in Reval (Tallin or Tallinn), expired Kodacolor film, summer 2011

The main difference between the two is of course that most later, post 1937, versions of Brillant were   true TLRs even equipped with an exposure frame counter (like the Brillant I have) while Komsomolets is a pseudo-TLR, the upper lens really serves no purpose,  in fact it could as well be a box camera.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a harbor view  Reval (Tallin, Talinn), Ilford PAN F film

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a harbor view Reval (Tallin, Talinn), Ilford PAN F film

In an inexact translation Komsomolec (Komsomolets) is normally rendered as a Young Communist. That product name alone would be shocking to Nazis and Americans (especially of the 1950s variety, when the USA assumed the role of the global anti-Communism crusader and accepted Third Reich’s heritage it preserves so diligently and the role it so dutifully carries forward until this day) but at the same time the name was of course totally innocent sounding to most Russians of the era. Now  it does strike one, even a Russian speaker, as both grotesque and dated.  Komsomol is syllabic  abbreviation that meansUnionof the Communist Youth and Komsomolets is a masculine noun produced from that abbreviation. Komsomol had members as young as 14 and membership in Komsomol could have lasted until early 20s (officially and much later the age was extended to 28 to keep older functionaries in place). Since a Komsomolets was someone in his or her teens, it is obvious that the camera was targeted at the group of very young users.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - uncle Sven in   Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - uncle Sven in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Why did Lomo or Gomz decide to develop a fake TLR is beyond comprehension . In capitalist economies of the day where matter of market prestige was important, the advent of fake TLR or pseudo TLR was understandable or can at least be explained rationally. A person who could not afford an exorbitantly expensive Rolleiflex or even Rolleicord, or other great twin lens reflex cameras made in other countries like Semflex in France or Microflex in Britain, could always buy a fake TLR and look like the rich fellow in a Horch (Citroen, Rolls Royce) who had the real thing: a fake TLR from the 30s and 40s as a progenitor of fake mobile phones from the early 1990s. Prestige pressure was probably not that great in the Stalinist Soviet Union, especially in respect to a product made for kids and young adults, and the manufacturers could have just saved some raw materials and labor and produced a very good box camera instead but for some reason the designers at Lomo – and the party apparatchiks who had to approve every decision at the planning authority – went along with a fake TLR. Perhaps even they thought it would be cool to give survivingLeningradkids a visual resemblance of something that at least looks like a Rolleiflex.

 

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 -  some street flowers in  Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - some street flowers in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Nonetheless, the body of the Komsomolets (that sounds quite macabre) was later used for producing the first generation of the Lubitel cameras.  A Lubitel  means an amateur in Russian which, like in the original French sense of the word amateur, signifies someone who loves the thing he does, like photography, but not necessarily does it poorly or inferiorly to a pro, who in turn can be quite inferior to a good amateur in all respects, the difference between the two is that a professional who does the work for money, a photographic mercenary,  while an amateur is someone who does it out of sheer pleasure or love (for the occupation and art of photography in this case). Obviously in modern American English the meaning of the word has somewhat mutated from the value of its original French importation and the amateur now is just somebody who is a dilettante.

Unlike Komsomolec the Lubitel that followed it was a true TLR and quite remarkable photographic instrument considering its very low retail price.

The Summary:

Komsomolets is a twin lens reflex camera that uses 120 format film and produces 12 images in the so called 6×6 format.

From 1946 until 1950 the first two versions of Komsomolets cameras were equipped with simplest T-21 (Triplet) lenses. The lens was 6.3/80 and had centrally built shutter (had to be cocked manually before  each exposure) , and a modest exposure range of 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and Bulb.

The last, 1951 model, came with a much better T-22 lens, the same lens was used in the early Lubitel cameras.

The very first models of Komsomolets were supposedly equipped with a mechanical frame counter, I never saw a specimen of those mythical species. These are proto-Komsomolets.

The second version of Komsomolets, known as the Model I or Issue I (Выпуск I) – and  from 1946 to 1948 had the inscription Ленинград (Leningrad) underneath the lower lens, I’ve got two of those and had one tested with film.

The third one, named Model – Ia or Issue – Ia (Выпуск Ia) was identical to the previous model but had no wordLeningradunderneath the lens.

The last one or the Model II or the Issue II ((Выпуск II) had a different T-22 lens and was replaced by the Lubitel in the year 1951 (Lubitels were made from the year 1950 onward so for one year at least Lomo made both Komsomolets, a pseudo-TLR and Lubitel, a real TLR in the same body, concurrently).

In total almost 400 000 Komsmomolets cameras (some 370 000 to be precise on official count) were made.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 -  a tram (street car) stop in  Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a tram (street car) stop in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

The conclusion:

Komsomolets (Komsomolec) cameras, at least the first models with T-21, are a photographic curiosity. A collector of Soviet cameras might buy one for his or her collection but as far as photographic capabilities of the cameras are concerned, they are quite limited.

If one is to shop for Komsomolets with practical photography in mind, I would suggest getting the last year model with a T-22 lens but better still go for a cheaper and more  capable Lubitel.

With shipping on Ebay Komsomolents would cost an international buyer anything from 50 to 100 euros. The price inRussiaor formerSoviet Unionstates would range from 30 to 50 euros, therefore this piece is more expensive than far more capable Lubitel.

Komsomolets like early Lubitel uses 27mm (supposedly) push-on filters but Rolleiflex 28.5 filter fits as well. A way to reduce vignetting somewhat would be getting a lens hood (27, 28 mm lens hoods are readily available).

I ran my test with two rolls of film – a black and white Ilford PAN F (was sorry to waste the film on a Komsomolets) and a roll of expired Ektacolor 160

 

Film Test: Svema Foto 32

19 Aug

Film Test

Today is the Anniversary of the so-called anti-Gorbachev putsch or coup which failed because organizers of the coup were yokels or possibly did not want to win.  The coup to preserve the Soviet Union was followed by another constitutional coup of Elcin (Yeltsin as his name is spelled phonetically) and two other accomplices, that led to the dissolution of the USSR and in the words of Vladimir Putin to the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.  I was even more catastrophic that conventionally assumed because the causes of the disaster were so foolish.

Svema Foto 32

Svema Foto 32 (Russian Soviet film, made in 1989 or 1990, expired in 1993

A few weeks ago I was lucky to buy not 30 rolls of Lucky but  of Svema Foto 32, Russian black and white film made in the old Soviet days. My batch was made probably sometime between 1989 or 1990 and expired in 1993 (after Soviet Union’s self-caused dissolution).

There is a strong sentiment in Russia, especially in two of its consumerist centers, Moscow and St. Petersburg (Leningrad in Soviet days though that  toponymic appears and sounds so awkward   to my eye and ear ) that can be expressed as “we cannot make anything”, what they mean that Russians cannot manufacture anything and whatever they make is vastly inferior to comparable foreign stuff.  And there is truth to that, as inhabitants of Moscow and St. Petersburg, the Soviet Nomentlatura and the Thieving Classes indeed cannot produce anything of any value. So when they say “we cannot make anything”,  it’s true as they cannot make anything while other people can.

Svema Foto 32 (Russian Soviet film, made in 1989 or 1990, expired in 1993)

Svema Foto 32 (Russian Soviet film, made in 1989 or 1990, expired in 1993)

One discovery for me was the Kiev 60 camera which is an exquisite piece of photographic equipment but even now you hear from predominantly Muscovite human  garbage that the camera is not worth its weight in pig iron.  That it is totally worthless, unreliable,  incapable of producing any sorts of photos except for childish snapshots and even Pentacon Six is a better piece of equipment. As I discovered it is not. Pentacon Six is less reliable but the finish is a bit better while design is… I would rather stick with square-ish looks of a Kiev.

As of Soviet photographic film, the stories I hear was that the film was just awful. Horrible grain.  Cracks. Human hair sticking out of emulsion.

Enough of folklore.

Svema Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

Svema Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

Oh though wait a minute. The film is ASA/ISO 32 (odd Russian rating but it corresponds to the GOST value, so the film speed was supposedly ASA 32, not more conventional 25 or 50). It was made by two factories.  Svema and Tasma. One group of old timers say Tasma made somewhat better emulsion while others say that Svema produced film was superior though quite possibly the film was identical. While researching the history of black and white film production at Svema and Tasma, I discovered that they shared technical staff.  So engineers and chemists from Tasma would travel to Svema facility for production runs and emulsion cooking and vice-versa which tells me that the film they produced was more or less similar.

Svema Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

A motorcycle rider, Svema Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in tSvema Fotohe summer 2011

While Tasma survives in a zombie-like state by making chemicals and special application industrial films, the Svema factory is long dead as it went extinct together with the Soviet Union.  I found a small series of photos taken in the ruins of the Svema plant last year, though text is in Russian and is perhaps not accessible to those who neither read the language nor are capable of using translate.google.com, black and white images serve as a visual witness of what has become of this film manufacturer.

I shot two rolls of Foto 32.  This was not a scientific test. Far from it. I ran two rolls through a Kiev 60. There are no artistic merits to  those photos,  I just walked around and shot the Svema Foto 32 film to see what if anything comes out of it.

a sailboat -  Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

a sailboat - Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

Although 20 or 21 years passed since the film was manufactured the fogging is insignificant, the grain obviously increased as it should have had but  I can’t say it is all that horrible. In fact I am satisfied with the results and can well guess what this film was like when it was fresh.

a mask -  Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

a mask - Foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

It was exquisite.

When the stuff was fresh it was beautiful black and white fine grain film that was probably comparable to Ilford PAN-F 50.

birds - foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

birds - foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

Very good stuff.

Delicious.

Developed in Tetenal Ultrafin and fixed with an old ORWO fixer.

sailboat 2  - foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011

sailboat 2 - foto 32 Soviet film made in 1989/90, expired 1993, film used in the summer 2011