natural light

Kodak Pro image 100 & Portra 160 review - Portrait shoot out

Now that I have FINALLY settled on some camera kit that I’ll be keeping around for the long term I can focus my energies on exploring different film stocks - not that I wasn’t doing that anyway but I was finding flitting from one camera to the next a bit of a distraction, for the record the cameras which have won my heart are the Nikon F2 and Pentax 67 - today’s blog features a portrait shoot on the F2 shooting with a shiny new portrait lens and using two different film stocks Kodak Pro Image 100 (a new film to me) and Kodak Portra 160 (a film I have used a few times before)

Whilst the main focus of the conversation will be on looking at the two film stocks first up I’ll take a moment to show you the kit I used on this shoot, I’ll then take you through the shoot itself.

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I have just bought the very wonderful Nikkor 105mm 2.5 a lens which has a HUGE reputation as an amazing portrait lens, when i bought it the focus ring was quite stiff so I sent it off for repair to a chap called Miles Whitehead who did a great job of fixing it and it now has silky smooth focus action - I would highly recomment Miles if you have some camera kit in need of some TLC check his site out HERE. In fact as I write this I am reminded that Miles also serviced my F2 when I bought it so double thanks!! :)

I was originally going to include a few thoughts on the 105mm lens in todays blog but I loved using it so much that I think I’ll reserve that for a dedicated blog all of it’s own - suffice it to say that it’s reputation is very well earned, an amazing piece of glass!

Ideal for portrait, weddings and social events dontcha know…..

Ideal for portrait, weddings and social events dontcha know…..

I think most people will be familiar with Kodak Portra 160 which is a mainstay of Kodak’s professional line up, but what’s this Pro Image 100 all about? I’ve been shooting a lot of Portra 400 and 160 recently and whilst I love both film stocks I am always interested in trying new things and the results I’d seen from Pro Image appealed to me - the other great thing about Pro Image is the price! I got this for £25.95 for 5 rolls!

This film stock has only recently come to the UK/European market - despite being around since the mid 90’s, the stock was only sold in warmer climates, big thanks to the good folks at Nik & Trick for being instrumental in making the case to Kodak for getting this film available in Europe :)

Ok so I have a lovely film camera - check, a great portrait lens - check, a shiny new colour film - check, a beautiful location to shoot in….check! What’s next? I need someone to photograph! Fortunately I’m part of a great facebook group for photographers and models to network and arrange shoots - Danni is someone I met through this group and we’ve shot together before when i was testing out my Pentax 645, you can see those images HERE.

Also worth mentioning at this point that i had my films processed and scanned by the good folks at Exposure Film Lab who I must thank again for their brilliant work, I use them for all my colour films these days because I just love the results I get from them - check them out HERE

The vibe for this shoot was a really natural summer look to make the most of the bright sunshine, we had a beautiful location filled with light, flowers, tall grass and trees - let’s GO!

First up i loaded Kodak Pro Image 100…

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Ok then at this stage in the proceedings the word at the forefront in my mind is wow! Danni is a very talented Model which makes my job much easier and the Pro Image film is just lovely :) Let’s move on to the Portra 160 which I loaded up next and we’ll do a bit of a comparsion at the end, here’s the Portra shots…

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The entire shoot lasted about an hour (if that) we went for a stroll through some lovely scenery and together we created some properly beautiful portraits full of light and life! Danni is a great model she did a brilliant job on this shoot, she puts lots of character into her work and is just a natural in front of camera, this really shines through the images - we’ve worked together before which I think always helps so we’re relaxed and comfortable working together and meant we were able to just get right into it and enjoy the shoot. I’m over the moon with the photos we created together - thank you Danni :) Check out her portfolio HERE.

In summary then both film stocks are clearly capable of wonderfully sharp, textured images with great skin tones, colour balance, contrast and detail - I therefore love them both! They each have their own look so whilst they’re comparable I think there are some differences to take into consideration. This was never intended as a ‘one film versus the other’ contest in which we have a winner and a loser but rather an opportunity to look at how these two film stocks worked under the same conditions - to that end I simply invite you to make your own mind up which you like best - or maybe like me, you like them both?!

Here’s a few of my thoughts on each stock:

Pro Image 100 - it has a wonderful grain structure, punchy contrast and I love how it handles the greens and yellows, shadows perhaps not holding as much detail as portra, it has a classic film ‘look’

Portra 160 - minimal grain as you’d expect from portra, slightly muted colour palette although in these images it produced stronger contrast than I’d expected, Portra definitely holds on to more shadow detail and also perhaps slightly sharper.

What does all this show us then? Well they’re very close actually, much closer than I’d have thought! One aspect which does create an opportunity for comparison is the price with a five pack of Portra 160 retailing at around £35.99 and a five pack of Pro Image around £25.95 then clearly if budget is the deal breaker then Pro Image is your winner, if you absolutely must squeeze every bit of detail out of the shot then perhaps Portra is the one to choose - ultimately we’re all winners here as we in the UK now have access to the lovely Pro Image and I’ve got 4 more rolls sat waiting to go! I can’t wait to shoot it again.

Postcard from Berlin Pt1 - Travel Photography on Rollei Retro 80S

Recently I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days in Berlin! I was there working for my other job (yes that’s right I have yet to find a way to make waffling on about film photography pay for my lifestyle - yet….) I made some extra time to visit my super cool cousin in law(is cousin in law a thing)?? anyway we’re family and I was really excited to explore Berlin, I’ll just get this out of the way right now… the place is amazing!! I was struck by how laid back and chilled it was especially for a big Capital City - I mean yeah the place was buzzing but just a proper friendly vibe about it, I really loved my time spent there.

Having finished my work I hit the street armed with my trusty NIkon FE2, Nikkor 50mm f2 (a new lens) and some Rollei Retro 80S film - one of my faves film stocks and fitting to shoot the German capital on some German film :)

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This isn’t really a camera review type blog but I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t spare a word or two about my kit for this expedition - so first up the camera body; the Nikon FE2. A wonderful camera, I wrote a blog about it’s older sibling the FE HERE a fine camera itself, but I have long since replaced it with the marvellous FE2. On the surface it looks like a fairly standard 1980’s era SLR but it has a trick up it’s sleeve which makes it a standout - a 1/4000 second top shutter speed :) it is very solidly built and although mine has a few scars gathered during the course of it’s life it works perfectly!

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Attached to the camera you can see the Nikkor 50mm f2 - as you’ll see in the images that follow this lens is very capable!! I picked it up on ebay attached to a Nikkormat FT2 which cost me £40 - I sold the FT2 for £30 so this lens basically cost me £10!! This makes it a perfect travel lens as I’m not carrying around some big expensive piece of kit - but the key here is that there is no compromise on image quality, this thing is amazing!

The 50mm f2 is also very solidly built, the focus ring is lovely and smooth and even though the lens looks like it’s been booted down the road (and probably has a few times during it’s life) it can create beautifully rendered images with great contrast. It is also an enjoyable challenge to just take a simple 50mm lens with you - no more fretting about which focal length to use, no lugging about loads of lenses which you probably wont use anyway. I enjoy the creative possibilities that working within limitations brings and choosing one lens does this effectively, anyway - enough gear talk!! (for now)

Two key things to note - Firstly you can see some Adox Silvermax and Agfa APX films pictured here that i purchased whilst in Berlin but the images that follow were shot on Rollei Retro 80S which was loaded in the camera at the time of the ‘look at me and my camera, film and booze’ lifestyle type tomfoolery and Secondly, yes the beer was a very good accompaniment to the proceedings.

So, without further ado - willkommen in Berlin!!

The images are presented in roughly chronological order of when I shot them, first up is this interesting monument in ‘Invaliden Park’ and was just round the corner from my Hotel - I’m a fan of brutalist architecture so obviously this really ticked that box for me!

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It was a bright, swelteringly hot day - cloudless blue sky, these sunny conditions worked well with the Rollei film which has a good deal of contrast and lovely tones.

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There is LOADS of graffiti in Berlin, I mean LOOOOAAADS! and stickers too! everything is either covered in graffiti or stickers - I love it!!

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Remember what I said about Graffiti? Well there’s loads of street art too! This piece really captured my attention - the building is an abandoned Art School which was either in the process of being knocked down or possibly renovated (or something in between) The building high mural makes the bold statement ‘How Long is Now’ (note no question mark) the blank face, the staring eyes - dark portals keeping watch over the machines at their work.

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The City is alive with the sound of construction work - cranes, diggers, the whole shebang - there was a palpable sense of ‘growth’ about the place

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The Berliner Dom sits right next to the River Spree, most of this side of the building was in shade but a patch of shimmering light reflected from the River illuminated the middle row of windows. And below the dome of the building - really love the contrast in these images, a combination of the light in the scene, the film and the lens all coming together!

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From the lofty heights of the splendid Cathedral to the minute details of human life - these are ‘love locks’ left by couples seeking to declare their undying love to the universe by placing the lock and casting the keys into the nearest water course, hence there are often to be found on or near bridges.

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Maybe it’s a natural impulse to give physical form to such an intangiable emotion, warding off future relationship woes by locking that loved up feeling in place, space and time… or maybe it’s just a daft tourist fad… whatever their intent, whoever and wherever they are now - I wish them well :)

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Neptune sits atop the fountain - again wonderful tones and dynamic range with this film, shot in mid afternoon bright sunshine but the camera meter, the film and developer all working to produce an image which captures the detail in these carved statues, the water stains rendered in white adding a layer of depth to the carved features.

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The Alexanderplatz TV tower dominates the skyline of the City - if someone asked me to design a TV tower, it would definitely look something like this! I have no idea what purpose the huge disco ball serves (in fact we have a huge TV tower near home which seems to function perfectly well without one) but if the choice is “do you want the huge massive disco ball or not” then the answer has to be yes! Good work people of Berlin!

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Overhead Tram lines make for some interesting compositions…

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Details at street level - Rollei Retor 80S is such a lovely film, it sings in bright sunlight and can also render wonderfully contrasty tones too, the front of the image was awash with light - it made the bicylce wheel really stand out from the background which has translated onto the film as a difference of tone and contrast, the lens is showing off it’s sharpness here too.

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I am a sucker for leading lines, come on - who isn’t? whether it’s a run down, poster covered side street or a neo classical collonade the effect is always the same; a visual invitation… step right this way!

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Neo classical architecture abounds…..

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….none more so than the Reichstag!! I wasn’t quite prepared for just how HUGE the building is! such a wonderful piece of architecture and rich in history.

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Just visible in the background is the huge glass dome which surmounts the building (it’s a shame i didn’t have more time to go and visit properly but it gets very busy and you have to book)

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The final stop on our mini tour of Berlin is the Brandenburg Gate - a beautiful neoclassical monument and famous landmark of the city, during my visit it was closed off in preparation for a concert so I couldn’t get a full length photo of the columns, but it prompted me to work the angles and I quite like how these compositions came out.

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The final shot from this roll of film is taken looking up as I walked alongside the Brandenburg gate; I love the gradation of light to shade on the right hand side and also the contrast of the neo classical and the clean, straight lined modern building next door.

It’s worth noting at this point that I developed the film in Kodak HC110 dilution H as per the Massive Development Chart for Rollei Retro 80S, this is one of my fave film and developer combinations especially for work in bright sunlight.

Berlin is a city with a rich history - one that it wears on it’s sleeve; it’s such an eclectic and vibrant mix which I hope I have conveyed in some small way here! This is Part 1 of my postcard from Berlin - next time I’ll share some images that I took with some film bought locally from the good people at Fotoimpex, in the meantime thanks for joining me on this trip!

Nikon F2 review

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Having owned the F2 for 6 months now I can confidently say it has become a firm favourite (yes I know i say that about all my cameras)! The F2 has a big reputation for being a seriously kick ass camera and I can heartily confirm that this reputation is well deserved! The Nikon F2 is an absolute joy to shoot with - I’ve used it on portrait shoots, taken it hiking and shot landscapes with it, used it for street photography and candid portraits of my little boy running about and playing at home - in every situation the F2 is the right tool for the job.

Often when we think of professional spec cameras we assume that these are complex esoteric beasts which require some form of initiation rite to operate and only the enlightened few can master it - and while that may ring true in some cases, not so for the F2! It is a VERY simple camera with an intuitive set of controls laid out in a such a way that it allows the F2 to do what all great cameras do - it gets out of your way and allows you to concentrate on your subject, lovely.

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I’ve already introduced you to the F2 on this blog HERE but it’s such a great camera that I feel it deserves it’s very own blog review! I’ll give a run through of the features and operations of the camera and then we’ll get down to the business of sharing photos taken with it on various shoots and thoughts on using the F2 in practice.

The F2 is a modular design and when it was originally released back in 1971 it was a major selling feature that you could choose from a range of different focussing screens, in later years different prism heads were released which were interchangeable with any F2 body made at any time during it’s production run - this allowed you to decide on which kind of metering system (or no meter at all) worked best for you/a particular situation - my F2 is an F2A which means that it has a metered prism head that uses a needle meter readout, I much prefer this form of read over LED’s but if you like an LED readout then you can check out the F2AS head, or if you don’t want a meter at all you can get a plain prism - lovely! These days the interchangeable nature of the F2 is probably less of a selling point although it will be nice to experiment with some alternative viewfinders at some point in the future.

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OK so we get it, its a nice camera - so what? how’s it different to all the other bloody cameras you have…. great question! I’m glad you asked! let me explain:

Form factor: it’s a big camera! bigger than your standard 35mm camera, I like this! fits in my hand comfortably, the F2 is perhaps the most ergonomic camera I have had the pleasure to shoot with so far!

100% viewfinder: What you see is what you get! the viewfinder shows the whole of the frame (not always a given on some cameras) it’s big, it’s bright, it’s beautiful!

Mechanical: The body requires no batteries to operate, it’s powered by springs and gears - I like this very much! (obviously the meter needs a battery)

Build quality: The F2 was hand built to a very high specification for professional shooters, in an age when things were built to last, its like a Swiss watch that you can also use as a hammer from to time (or just maybe, make photographs with it)!

Looks: yes I am shallow enough for this to be a ‘thing’ in my choice of camera, but flipping heck look at it! Industrial Design at it’s finest - an exercise in form following function if ever there was one.

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I enjoy shooting with the F2 so much and I am such a big fan of the amazing Nikkor lenses that I’ve decided to concentrate my 35mm kit around two Nikon F2’s (I just bought a second one) and an FE2 which I already own (and who knows what other Nikon F mount bodies I’ll take a shine to in future) in part because these are simply amazing pieces of equipment and also because running several different lines of camera (Olympus, Pentax, Canon and Nikon) at the same time gets a bit expensive!

I’d much rather own several bodies which can all utilise the same lenses - giving me more capacity to get some killer glass and shoot it across any camera body that takes my fance. Obviously for Medium Format shenanigans the indomnitable Pentax 67 will be a fixed feature and for just the sheer lunacy of it a Holga 120N is also firmly on my ‘keeper’ list of cameras!

I want to share some of the images I’ve taken with the F2, to date I’ve used it on several portrait shoots and also a few hikes into the wilderness to shoot landscapes, I’ll start with some of the portrait images which I took on a shoot with my friend Arya Ravenswood you can see the full shoot HERE these were all shot on Portra 400 on the F2 with the Nikkor 50mm 1.4 AI lens.

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And now a few images from out and about in the moors around my home, the following images were taken on the same day at two different locations - first three are from Dovestones Reservoir and the rest are from West Nab, all shot on Fomapan 200 on the F2 with the Nikkor 24mm 2.8 AI lens and an orange filter (the observant will notice this is also the same time that I took the header shots for this blog - planning ahead you see, I don’t just throw these things together you know)!

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So there we have it - another blog during which I heap praise upon a particular camera, stating something like ‘so this is the only camera I’ll ever need’ or whatever, clearly I’ve established that I am prone to bouts of enthusiasm when it comes to this kind of thing but this time it’s different… as a result of how much I enjoy working with the F2 I’ve sold off pretty much all my other cameras now, I‘m a photographer not a collector so my ultimate aim here is to shoot not to have loads of cameras just sitting on the shelf - the F2 is a shooters camera, a pro series camera from a time when being a pro photographer was a badge of honour. I make no claims to that badge myself and certainly just owning a decent camera will not make you a better photographer, but owning something as well made with such attention to detail and design is a joy in and of itself - to use it as intended to create work that you are proud of is a whole other level of joy. I can’t guarantee that I won’t buy some other random cameras in future but what i can say is that for me the F2 is the ultimate 35mm film camera.

Portrait shoot with Arya Ravenswood

I recently had the pleasure of working with my friend Arya Ravenswood who is a practicsing Occult Magician & Witch. Arya wanted to create a fresh set of images to use on her website and Social Media (the occult is a very 21st Century operation ya know) and I was thrilled to be asked to help Arya realise her creative vision!

A huge thank you to Arya for the opportunity to collaborate on these images, check out Arya’s website HERE and also a Periscope TV channel HERE Arya has a real gift - go visit her website and find out for yourselves!

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Since I am in the process of rebuilding my portfolio it was a great opportunity to put my new Pentax 67 through it’s paces on this shoot. To mix things up a bit I also used my Nikon F2 as a second shooter, filmwise on both 35mm and 120 formats this was an all Kodak Portra 400 affair mainly to give a consistent look and feel to the images so that they can hang together as a set and also because I bloody love the stuff!

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Working with Arya was amazing, she created two really strong (and of course very Witchy/Occult inspired) looks for us to shoot, we chose two locations (one for each look) and got to it - here’s the first look shot in a local graveyard.

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We didn’t scout the locations beforehand so it was very much a case of paying attention to our surroundings and allowing ourselves to be drawn towards particular details and working with them; having explored one graveyard we moved on to a second just across the valley. As i reflect on these images now I am reminded of the beautiful surroundings, the palpable stillness, the lush green of the grass and moss covered graves contrasting with Arya’s monochrome outfit, the Occult and Christian symbolism, life and death - as above so below….

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Our second look for the day was an opportunity tor Arya to channel her inner Stevie Nicks with a more bohemian, naturalistic look replete with lace, jewelry, bangles, occult symbols and also incorporating the tools of Arya’s trade - a bronze knife, a crystal ball, a chalice and cauldron. We chose some local woods for this look emphasising the natural elements and giving us a new setting to explore this side of Arya’s persona.

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This second set of images is certainly more expressive than the first and the wooded location was the perfect backdrop - walking through the trees we came upon a rocky outcrop which provided the setting for our shoot being set back from the main path and out of view of inquisitive dog walkers and their dogs! (I’ve never seen people skidaddle so quickly upon hearing that we’re doing a ‘Witchy’ shoot)! ;)

The combination of the Pentax 67 and Nikon F2 worked great for me - the Pentax is capable of some uniquely stunning images with a very distinctive, almost 3D look which I love, the F2 is no slouch either and some of my favourite images from the whole shoot came from the 35mm camera, I think this will be my default combination of cameras for the foreseeable future.

There were so many images to choose from on this shoot! It was great to work with Arya to create these images and full credit goes to her for styling the shoot, she did an amazing job on the day too and as a result we made some powerful images together, I think this is some of my best portrait work to date (if i do say so myself) I wish Arya every success in her Macgickal endeavours!

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Street Portraiture on 35mm film with the Nikon FE2 & F2

 
Partners in crime - my trusty FE2 (left) alongside it’s new bezzie mate the F2

Partners in crime - my trusty FE2 (left) alongside it’s new bezzie mate the F2

Lots and lots and lots to update you with since the last blog post which was all the way back in December!! I’ve been mega busy with lots of different projects and got loads to tell you all about, so since it’s almost a quarter of the way through already let’s finally get the 2019 blogging season off to a start shall we!

Remember last time I was saying things like “I’m going to focus more on creating photos” and “I won’t be doing as many gear reviews” and “gear just gets in the way” well I still think that’s true but owing to my contrary nature I’d like to introduce you to my latest gear acquistion… the Nikon F2!! Rather than just a boring old review thought this time I’ll be sharing some images i shot with this amazing camera on a recent portrait shoot as well, but first let me take you for a walk around the F2

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Ever since selling my Nikon F3 last year I have had a Nikon F Series shaped hole in my heart/camera collection (check out this link for the reason why I sold the F3) back in mid December I decided (after not very much deliberation) to buy myself an F2, cos ya know..I worked really hard last year and it’s nice to treat yourself every now and again and it was the run up to Christmas and… well, you get the idea…

I found this beauty on Evilbay for the ridiculous price of £70 and so a deal was done, the caveat being that the camera was from Japan so taking a bit of a punt on condition and shipping times, but as with my previous experience of international purchases the shipping is mega quick, it’s really only on arrival into the custody of Her Mahesty’s rip off merchants here in good old blighty that things slow down, after an almost literal ice age in UK customs my camera was finally released to me and there was much merry making and feasting by all….. sort of… two things became clear fairly quickly 1: it was in very good condition and functionally worked perfectly 2: there were traces of dreaded fungus in the viewfinder and in the mirrorbox which didn’t bode well and therefore i was going to have to shell out some more cash (and wait even longer) before getting to grips with the F2 - it’s all sorted now though, fresh from a good clean and service I even managed to negotiate a part refund from the ebay seller which paid towards the cleaning :)

There’s oodles of info out there on the interwebs about the F2 so there’s not much point in me re-hashing it all, suffice it to say that between 1971 and 1980 if you wanted a professional level Nikon SLR then this was it!! Instead of reeling off a list of it’s features and functions I’m going to share with you a series of images I shot with both the F2 and my trusty Nikon FE2 on a portrait shoot recently, I’ll share my experience of shooting with it too of course and no doubt indulge in some techno-babble along the way as is my want…

Oh yes and interesting/geeky factoid alert! The serial number on my F2 is 7865098 and thanks to the wonders of the internet and some Nikon nerds who collate all this info I was able to date manufature of my particular camera to between May & August 1977 - so this camera is only a few months older than me! :)

Ok so that’s enough camera geekery for one blog, what’s the damn thing like to shoot I hear you cry… well… it’s amazing! build quality is second to none, it just feels very well balanced despite being quite a large camera, the viewfinder is HUGE and bright and lovely which makes manual focussing a doddle, alongside the ever brilliant FE2 I now have my perfect 35mm dynamic duo!

Portra 160 with the FE2 and series e 100mm 2.8

Portra 160 with the FE2 and series e 100mm 2.8

These images were taken on a portrait shoot with Model Rebecca back in Feb when we had a mini heat wave - I was so glad we made the most of the sunshine! The FE2 was loaded with a roll of Portra 160 and with the F2 I shot a roll of Fuji Acros 100 and a roll of Portra 400 - I enjoyed using this combination of film and cameras so much and was very happy with the results that I decided right there and then that I’m going to shoot film from now on for portraiture.

Fuji Acros 100 on the F2 with Nikkor 50m 1.4

Fuji Acros 100 on the F2 with Nikkor 50m 1.4

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the film stocks used on this shoot - I’ve had a couple of rolls of Fuji Acros 100 on ice in the freezer for a few years now and since buying it Fuji have discontinued production :( having only shot one roll of it before I figured I’d give it a whirl and I love the results, developed in HC110 it has a clean and balanced finished with lovely contrast.

Colour film duties were fulfilled by Kodak Portra one roll each of 160 and 400 flavours - I think i overexposed the 400 speed a couple of stops to 200 and shot 160 at box speed - having developed these myself I had some issues getting the right colour balance when scanning at home and for some frames it took me a little while to get the colours to look and feel ‘right’

Portra 400 on the FE 2 with Nikkor 24mmm 2.8

Portra 400 on the FE 2 with Nikkor 24mmm 2.8

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So there we have it - I was so pleased with how both cameras performed and I continue to be impressed at the quality of the Nikon lenses, the images here were shot on the Nikkor 50mm 1.4, Nikkor 24mm 2.8 and the Series E 100mm 2.8 - super sharp shooters the lot of them! If you’ve not tried an old Nikon camera and lens I would urge you to do so - there’s a reason why these were the manufacturer of choice for professionals back in the day.

Portra 160 on the FE2 series e 100mm 2.8

Portra 160 on the FE2 series e 100mm 2.8

I developed the colour film at home too - the first time in a long time that I’ve done that, I was really pleased with how they came out and I’ve got a write up of the process and kit that I used on the way, I promise it won’t be another 3 months before I write another blog, in the meantime happy shooting!