Monday, September 14, 2015

My Summer Project

Like many of my generation, we grew up using film for photography and more than likely one of the many simple "point and shoot" cameras of the day made by the Kodak company.  If one really developed an interest in photography back then, and had the resources you might be able shoot with a Nikon, Olympus or Pentax 35 mm film camera.  Digital photography has changed everything, allowing just about everyone with a phone to take high quality photographs which are instantly viewable and shared around the world.  Still there is a market for analog film photography and many photographers prefer film to digital.  I'm not going to argue the merits of either, or which is better.  They both are just ways to produce images and after all, it's the photograph that's important, not how it was captured.  Having learned a lot more about photography using my Nikon D90, I thought it was time to try my hand at some film photography.  I had an old Pentax ME Super sitting around for about 30 years in a case and thought I'd break it out again to see first of all if it would still work, and then try to take some images.   I bought a reconditioned 50 mm lens from Ebay, some Kodak Tmax 400 film from B&H, loaded the camera with fresh batteries and the film and off I went.

Surprisingly, with fresh batteries, the light meter appeared to work.  The Pentax ME Super allows for Automatic shooting or manual shooting.  One sets the aperture and then adjusts the shutter speed by pressing one of two buttons on top until the light meter in the view finder is green.  After I shot my first roll of film, I sent it off to be processed.  The negatives were scanned digitally and within I week I received the negatives, and a CD containing the scanned images.  The results of my first efforts were less than spectacular and to me, a little disappointing.  Below is perhaps the best shot from that first roll.

North Stonington, CT  2015

Without the aid of all the metadata that's stored in today's digital files, it was hard to determine what went wrong with a lot of the pictures on this roll.  I neglected to write down things like aperture, shutter speed, etc.  So after one roll of film I wasn't sure if the camera was working properly or not.  In addition, perhaps I was so used to looking at digital black and white photos, that I wasn't really sure what to expect.  Clearly some troubleshooting was in order.  I'll be posting some more examples this week of my film work.


  1. Ed, my trusty Pentax still sits on the shelf at home. It is a few years older than yours and simpler. It is a Honeywell Spotmatic, one of the first cameras with through-the-lens metering, but did it was not a spot meter as the name seemed to indicate. And it was not my first SLR... I had a Mamiya SLR camera before that for a year or so but got a real deal on the Pentax. I was working part time afterschool at a camera shop and Honeywell had a special deal for dealers... 15% off the wholesale cost and your initials engraved on the camera (presumably to make it harder to re-sell as new).

    I shot lot of photos with that camera for the High School Yearbook, then at college for my studies, and still more over the years. It was digital that got me back into everyday photography after tireing of darkrooms and slide projectors. Posting images to the web blog also helps to keep me going... much has it has done for you I imagine.

    Though I still have the Pentax and few screw mount lenses I have not used the kit in a long time. The meter battery was mercury and you cannot buy that type of battery anymore. But the ease and speed of digital shooting and processing makes it hard to imagine ever going back.

  2. Ed, snow is a notoriously difficult subject for any light meter. It tries to turn the snow mid-gray. To get it to look right you need to be one or two stops wider than the meter says. With 400 asa film you could try f8 at 125th of a second. Better yet, try the camera on a bright overcast or sunny fall day. The meter should read around f11 at 125th of a second. These are only starting points. With film it is always a good idea to bracket your pictures, but then since you have the scanned images you can always adjust them in Photoshop. My first real camera was a Canon FP single lens reflex with no light meter. Bought it in 1964 and still have it on the shelf.