Camera

Pentax 67 review

Ever since I first picked up a film camera and got slowly drawn deeper into the wonderful world of film, I’d heard tell of a mythical monstrous machine called the Pentax 67, today dear friends I am happy to report that my long held dream of owning such a mechanical marvel is realised - behold! the behemoth!!

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So… another new camera eh? yes dear friends - let me take a moment to explain… I’ve sold all my Digital camera equipment!! I’m officially now full time film only! regular visitors to the website will have noticed a different look/format - no more commercial/events/wedding pages, in fact I’ve completely re-imagined my photographic practice so that it’s more in line with my passions and interests and one thing that i had realised for some time was that my digital gear only ever saw the light of day for commercial/events work - having decided to forgo that area of work my digital kit was effetively rendered redundant - i loved my Canon 6D, it served me very well in the 33,000 ish clicks that i made with it.

Having decided on this course of action and sold off all my digital kit and studio lights i was in the market for a suitable main battle camera to replace my 6D and of course in a very short space of time my attention rested upon the Pentax 67!

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I’ve spent the last couple of weeks putting the Pentax 67 through it’s paces,adding a few more lenses and accessories to the set up, just generally getting to grips with it and starting a complete overhaul of my portfolio with the resulting images, let’s take her out for a spin and I’ll show you around….

A BIG part of the draw towards this camera was this lens - the Super Multi Coated Takumar 105mm 2.4 - it is properly LEGENDARY!! able to simultaneously render dream like out of focus areas alongside super sharp and crisp details, giving a wonderfully 3D effect - it’s my favourite lens ever, ever, ever! Here are three of my fave portraits shot with it so far :)

The 105mm fulfills the ‘standard’ focal length on 6X7 format giving an equivalent field of view to a 58mm lens on standard 35mm format, what’s even better is that thanks to a cheap adapter I can also use this amazing lens on my other Pentax medium format camera the Pentax 645 (see review of that camera HERE) when used in this way thanks to the smaller negative size of the 645 it works as an 85mm portrait lens :)

Anyway back to the Pentax 67 - in use it’s actucally a very simple and surprisingly ergonomic experience for such a large camera, as usual the internet is rife with ill judged, misinformed claptrap perpetuated by people who’ve never even held the camera - first and foremost being the “you can’t shoot it handheld” to which i say (insert swear word of choice) I’ve had sharp results hand holding this beast consistently at 1/60 of a second with no problem at all and with a bit more care and attention 1/30 is totally doable too, the mass of the camera is such that any mirror slap is soaked up by the sheer weight of the camera body, plus most of the vibrations/noise comes from the mirror returning to it’s start position i.e. after the shutter has closed and the frame has been exposed so total myth about handholding.

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My version of the Pentax 67 is the thrid version and dates from about 1989 - 1994 (I have no idea how to specifically date the camera by it’s serial number) and to my mind is the best version; earlier models had some mechanical issues present within them from the outset and of course are also much older, there is also a later model the 67ii which is the pinnacle of the range but… it’s EXPENSIVE! and really the only thing it adds is a built in grip (I don’t need this) and an aperture priority mode (I don’t need that either)! so if you’re looking for one of these cameras then go for one that says ‘67’ on the front of the body (earlier models have 6x7 written on the front)

It’s a modular system which means that you can change the prism finder to a wasit level if you like or a metered/non metered head - mine came with a metered head. looking through the prism the finder is about 90% of the actual image which is a bit of a shame but i guess having a 100% finder on a camera this big would have rendered it too unwieldy, it’s not the brightest viewfinder in the world but it’s good and pops into focus well, remove the prism and the focussing screen is HUGE and wonderful!!

let’s get this out of the way… it’s heavy… no denying that, you’ll notice that you have this camera slung over your shoulder!! it’s also big, no getting away from it - although considering the format of negative you’re working with it’s actually smaller than other 6x7 cameras, I really like the straight forward SLR format too - this makes it very easy to transition from your 35mm manual SLR camera and just start shooting straight away.

My latest fave camera combo - the P67 alongside the lovely Nikon F2 a perfect match

My latest fave camera combo - the P67 alongside the lovely Nikon F2 a perfect match

My camera came with the wonderful 105mm 2.4 lens already- i swiftly added the very cool looking lens hood to this and then started casting about for more lenses to try out, the great thing about this system is that these lenses are generally very large and so aren’t really coveted by the mirrorless digital camera crowd, this means they are pretty cheap! By shopping around (in the case of the 200mm that meant importing from Japan and in the case of the 55mm it meant not being too picky about cosmetic condition of the lens body) I was able to put together a selection of three amazing additional lenses for my 67 for less than £250 in total! here they are:

From left to right:

55mm f4 - a wide angle lens equivalent to about 28mm on 35mm format

165m f2.8 - a short tele lens equivalent to about 85mm on 35mm format

200mm f4 - a medium tele equivalent to about 100mm on 35mm format

I’m still testing these lenses out and deciding which to keep in my line up, since I love the 105mm 2.4 so much the two portrait lenses don’t get much of a look in at the moment, despite being fine lenses in their own rightonly time will tell if they will remain in my collection; the 55mm on the other hand is a keeper! Just to prove that the P67 is a flexible camera and suitable for landscape as well as portraiture here are a few shots I got on a short hike in the wonderful West Yorkshire Moors near my home and all shot on the 45mm f4.

It’s a bloody brilliant landscape shooter - I don’t know why this surprised me since it is basically an oversized 35mm SLR, but i was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it was to shoot on this walk, it’s weight is a bit of a limiting factor for longer walks and as someone who enjoys the great outdoors I’m not sure I would i regularly take the P67 on a long hike as it is a heavy beast to lug up hill and down dale but I’d definitely take it on shorter walks or to shoot specific scenes with the intention of darkroom printing the results, the 6X7 negatives are wonderful, lots and lots of lovely detail and the 45mm lens is amazing, I’m looking forward to getting into the darkroom soon and printing some of these!

So there we have it, my dream camera is living up to expectations (if not exceeding them) the P67 has helped me to transform my portfolio in a way that no other camera has, it’s flexible enough to shoot on location for portraits and is a very capable landscape shooter too - as with any camera nothing is perfect, but the Pentax 67 is the next best thing!

Learning how to make Darkroom Prints

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As I've become more involved with film photography over recent years I've come to appreciate and value working with a tengible substance - a film negative. I find the challenge of working with a physical substance requires a different thought process and approach than working on digital there's the lack of an immediate opportunity to see if you got 'it' so you need to be more careful about your lighting and compostion but also I can't just hit delete and start again like I can with digital not only does this slow my creative process down it makes me much more intentional when I do (eventually) press the shutter button.

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So if you're such a big fan of actual factual 'things' then why the flipping heck don't you print more of your work I hear you cry! great question!! I am the first to admit that I don't print enough of my photographic work - film or digital! In fact I hardly print any of it! In this digital age the vast majority of photographs I've shot in either format are just floating around on the web somewhere or hidden away on hard drives or filed away in actual files in the case of negatives - probably never to see the light of day! Worse than that, in the case of my digital files - if I wait too long they might NEVER see the light of day.

Have you tried extracting files off a zip drive lately? what about a floppy disk?remember them? Where is technology going to be in 5 or 10 years time? Who knows what kind of electronic storage devices we'll all be using in the future and even if I can access them, data routinely gets corrupted and is lost for all time. But a 35mm negative is here with us in the real world! A different proposition entirely! My interest in film photography as tangible 'thing' is a combination of the challenge of working with a finitie, physical substance and there are literally physical limits to how far I can push this physical 'thing' to achieve my creative intentions (this is a good erm 'thing' - note to self, stop saying thing now)

OK so we get it, negatives are physical things (aaargh) and this is interesting to you, but then you just scan them into the computer so....what's that all about? Exactly my point!! A film negative is a finished article in waiting - it's a halfway point a pre-photograph, these days most people digitise their negatives to complete them but then we're back in the realm of electronic ephemera again, originally the negative was a halfway point on it's journey to becoming a photographic print and I want some of my film negatives to finally reach that destination!

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I've been wanting to learn how to make proper darkroom prints of my work for aaaages and a recent BIG birthday presented the perfect opportunity to do so (thanks mom)! I found a course being run by Dave Butcher a master printer who worked for Ilford and was trained by them in darkroom printing techniques, Dave is also a professional photographer too and his work is A-mazing! You can check out Dave's work here http://www.davebutcher.co.uk and also the oodles of resources and guides on darkroom printing he has created too by visiting http://www.darkroomdave.com if you are so inclined then I can heartily recommend Dave's Darkroom workshop, it was an awesome experience! I would like to say a huge thank you to Dave and his wife Jan for making feel so welcome during the course, it was fantastic and I cannot recommend it enough! :)

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I won't try to explain the finder details of how to use a darkroom becasue a: there are a few steps involved and b: there are load of resources out there that explain the basic steps including Dave's websites linked above - suffice it to say that I spent the day at Dave's house being shown how to use all of the darkroom kit and process invovled to create black and white prints of my negatives - I took a selection of some of my fav images and I was away!! The process itself is remarkably straight forward although there is a significant amount of kit and caboodle required to enable all this - Dave is a fantastic teacher and it was great to be able to learn from someone with such a depth of knowledge on the subject, of course I am only scratching the surface and just at the beginning of this journey, what I discovered is that with the right kit, some knowledge and a bit of practice you can make decent prints and be happy - but then spend an entire lifetime learning how to make GREAT prints!!

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I was over the moon to leave my first day in the darkroom with these prints to show for it! the detail, sharpness and tone of images that until now I had only viewed on a screen blew me away - I chose a selection of travel, street and architectural images along with a couple of shots of my little boy (had to be done) it was difficult to choose a small selection! but what now? surely you need a load of kit and space to set this kind of thing up right? well - yes, but not as much as you'd think and fortunately I was very lucky to have been given a complete set of darkroom equipment a few years ago which has been patiently waiting in the loft for just this very occasion!!

So here it is! my very own darkroom enlarger which i got along with a box full of bits and bobs that actually make sense to me now I've been on the course - before which I was really not sure what I was looking at TBH!

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So there we have it - a thouroughly enjoyable experience! I am intrigued at how different our experience of photographic prints is to viewing images digitally on a screen - ever been round to someones house and they get the family photo album out? how does that compare to viewing some images on a screen? no value judgements here (ok well maybe some) but it's just different isn't it? our emotional response is different it's a tactile, tangible physical experience - we respond, relate and react differently to it as a medium - and this is fascinating to me, why haven't I been printing my photos more you ask, well that's about to change - big time!

Nikon FE Review

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I have been on the look out to join the Nikon film camera gang for ages - it's a proper gang with hats and handshakes and everything - and now I have! Welcome the Nikon FE!! Is this another case of Gear Acquistion Syndrome you ask? yes, probably! Does this camera do anything special that my other 35mm SLR's don't? no. not really? do I love it anyway? Damn straight I do!! here's why!

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So upon handling the camera the first thing you notice is the build quality it's really well put together, feels solid and the mechanical components feel smooth and sounds great (the all important shutter 'schtick' noise is present and correct) but obviously you'd expect that since back in the day Nikon were undisputed purveyors of quality cameras.

In fact (at least initially anyway) the only fly in the ointment is the lens - or should i say the action of the lens, coming from a line up of OM and Pentax cameras I have to say that at first glance the basic Nikkor 50mm 1.8 lens didn't pass muster with me in terms of the focus ring which manages to feel loose and notchy all at the same time and makes fine focussing a bit of a faff to be honest.... I've gotten more used to it having shot a few rolls of film with it now so perhaps it just takes a bit of getting used to, the flip side of this is that now all my OM and Pentax lenses feel a bit stiff! (will the madness never end)?!!! :P

I'll have to see how I go with this lens though it is more likley is that my copy has seen one too many turns and is literally a bit worse for wear - it's ok to use but it doesn't exactly scream 'quality' when you're using it, and achieving fine focus is a bit of a chore twisting the focus ring back and forth so I'm now actively on the look out for it's posher older brother the 50mm 1.4

A juicy red apple is nice, but not every apple is red..... super sharp shooter Nikkor 50mm 1.8

A juicy red apple is nice, but not every apple is red..... super sharp shooter Nikkor 50mm 1.8

You cannot argue with the quality of the optics on the 50mm 1.8 thought - seriously very good! The next couple of images were taken on a short walk around my village - the people's republic of Slawit, shot on Lomography 400 Colour film, unfortunately some of the frames have what appears to be a light leak across one side with a band of blue ish light affecting the image, bit of a pain really, or maybe that'sa special 'Lomo' feature for the film!! I'll change the light seals and see if there's an improvement - otherwise I like the Lomo 400 film it's a cheap alternative colour film, in fact I'm going to be shooting a LOT more colour film as I've been totally focussing on Black and White for ages and feel like a change. The weird thing is that I don't think it's the camera as the roll of HP5 i shot doesn't have any of these issues - ah the joys of shooting 40 year old cameras I guess, comes with the territory!

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Focus ring faffing aside shooting with the FE is otherwise great, the controls are well placed (although at the risk of offending my new Nikon gang mates) I still prefer the OM2n layout - being able to control aperture and shutter with one hand whilst not taking your eye away from the viewfinder is a dream! again - it's probably just my technique having grown accustomed to the Olympus 'way'

These next three images were shot on Kodak Portra 400 with my recently added Series E 100mm 2,8 lens and I have to say that I love this combination! the lens was very cheap for how well it performs and of course Portra 400 is a fantastic film to play with, I took it for a spin around Huddersfield town centre and also grabbed a portrait of my friend Marco too.

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My Nikon FE is in great condition - it's clearly been used over the years with a bit of brassing and the odd dent/scrape here and there but in my experience that's a good sign! Mechanically the FE is smooth as silk and runs really well, whenever I've bought cosmetically 'mint' cameras they can often have internal issues as the reason they are 'mint' is they've sat in uncle nobheads cupboard since 1972 and never had a roll of film put through them, it's usually much better to have a camera that has been used as intended although it may have picked up a bit of battle damage along the way.

I bought mine from West Yorkshire Cameras - a big thank you to Howard and Hattie for being super helpful and for running such an awesome shop, if you're ever in Leeds I highly recommend a visit!

The following black and white images were a good test of the Nikkor 50mm 1.8 focussing whilst trying to get my little boy to sit still for half a second (an impossible task)! I shot HP5 rated at 800 and developed semi stand in Rodinal and I'm really happy with how they came out, the 50mm 1.8 lens really is very sharp and contrasty so I can forgive it's wobbly focussing!

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So in short I flippin love this camera, it's very well put together, the lenses are sharp and contrasty just the way I like! I'm now on the look out for some more of the legendary Nikon glass to put in front of the FE so watch this space as the next few blogs are likley to be all about those!

In the meantime if you've enjoyed today's blog post why not subscribe to the blog and get updates on new posts - see you next time! :)