The nectar of Ektar

I cheated on my family vacation. Yes I confess I tried a different film other than my beloved Portra films. If that wasn’t bad enough I cheated within the same family, the Kodak family that is. The allure of the vibrant colors that one was supposed to get from Ektar made me stray from my more plain and quiet film Portra. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Portra and always will but it was time to try something new.

All kidding aside I do love the portra films. I almost always get the results I want shooting that film. In this digital world of over saturated color, I have found the Portra films to be more realistic in what I see color wise. If I want a bit more color out them I just bump the saturation a bit on the post processing side, but not by much. The exposure latitude of these films are amazing. I tend to over expose them a bit and usually meter for the shadow  or shaded areas. For Portra 160 I rate it at 120 and for Portra 400 I rate it at 320.  Some photographers take it farther than that but I am not looking for pastel colors I am just looking to open up the shadows a bit. Portra is known for just that, portrait photography, but I have been using it for landscapes as well and love the results. It makes my photos feel like the old Master’s paintings of the american landscape.

Enter Kodak Ektar 100. I only shot one roll on vacation and the rest of the time stayed with my tried and true Portra. I rated the 100 speed film at 80 and then metered the same way I meter for Portra.  Above you see some of the results. All and all I really like the film. It certainly does have a different feel to it. It reminds me more of slide film and has a bit less exposure latitude than the Portra films. With that said though, I metered incorrectly for the deep woods shots and over exposed them quite a bit. I was able to pull them back in with my post processing and still get a nice photo. Impressive. What I was most amazed with was the sharpness in detail. Wow! Big prints would not be a problem with this film at all. It gives digital a serious run for it’s money with the amount of detail recorded.

I’ve read people having trouble scanning the film and getting good colors from it. All of my film goes to Indie Film Lab and they did an outstanding job of the processing and scanning. One thing I did notice, which was no fault of the lab, was that the blues have a heavy cyan look to them. Your really see it in your skies. It looks a bit fake. More internet research revealed that a lot of photographers feel the film needs to be used with warming filters to help get the correct color. That information was too late for this roll so I added a 81a filter tone to them in photoshop. Sure enough it helped pull the cyan back into reality. My 81a filter is now packed with my other filters in my camera backpack.

So will I cheat on my Portra film again? Let’s just say the nectar of Ektar will become very attractive around the fall season.  Happy wanderings!

Oh my Mamiya!

“Say hello to my little friend!” My Mamiya m645 1000s. I’ve been shooting with a pair of these for about a year now. They are a wonderful little metal cube of a camera. No plastic here, that appears in the later/newer versions. Because of the lack of plastic they feel very substantial in your hands. They are rather handsome machines with the black leatherette and chrome trim, maybe not Hasselblad handsome but no troll either. Mamiya produced a wonderful line up of manual lenses for this camera that can really deliver beautiful images on modern films.

Why did I choose these particular cameras instead of say… a Hasselblad or Pentax or Bronica system? To be honest cost was a huge factor. These cameras can be found for cheap prices and yet they are professional equipment, all be it from the past. I would love to try a Hassie or a Pentax 67 but that is not in the realm of my budget. With that said I have never felt shortchanged with my Mamiya system.

This camera system suits how I work photographically. It’s portable and that is a big priority for me because I tend to hike with my system in a backpack. I can fit two bodies, my three lenses (55mm, 85mm and 150mm) into a small Lowepro pack along with filters and film and off I go.

Even more important than the portability is the quality of image that I can obtain from these machines. They are medium format film cameras that use the 645 image size. This is basically a cropped 6×6 format and allows for fifteen images on a roll of film. There is still plenty of resolution to be had in the images and in my opinion this is what 35mm should have been. In fact I shoot very little 35mm film because of these cameras. The transition in tones and the shallow depth of field that can be obtained is glorious.

Some people insist that the 6×7 format is the only medium format to go with. Well for me I can  get close enough with my Rolleicords if I feel a need for that size. Plus the cameras and lenses become a lot bigger and heavier once you make the move to 6×7 and as stated earlier, portability is important to me. No my cameras don’t have removable backs, they have film inserts, so no mid roll changes for me if I want to switch from color film to black and white film. My solution, two cameras. Like I said earlier, they are cheap. One of my cameras always has black and white film in it and one has color film in it. Problem solved.

Oh by the way, these are considered old cameras (from the seventies…ouch) and might need a CLA. That service might very well cost you more than the camera body did  but once done the camera should operate for a very long time. One more thing, for those of you who might get an odd shaped band of overexposure in some of your photos, this is not a light leak. It’s your shutter hanging up and it can be fixed. Ask me how I know! It will only occur at the higher shutter speeds. This is the only hiccup I have had with these machines. They do use a battery to operate the electronic shutter and my batteries seem to last a long time. The PDS viewfinder I have meters very accurately. I also have the waist level finder which of course requires a hand held meter for exposures.

With my Mamiyas I have been happily going from portraits to landscapes and anywhere in between and have been thrilled with the results. Oh did I mention I have a third one on the way and did I tell you they were cheap?

Happy wanderings!