Coming back to film

mrdarklight

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Something spurred me recently to get back into film photography, and I'm loving it so far.

There's just something fundamentally different about film. I've had two different digital cameras now (best one is a Canon S2-IS) and although they're fine cameras, I just don't feel like putting any effort into the pictures I take with them. There's just something underwhelming about digital photography, it's hard to put my finger on. Maybe it's that I take more time to consider each shot with film because it costs money to pull the trigger, or that film has such better detail. I'm not sure.

Anyway, I figured if I was going to get into film I'd do some MF, because now that I'm an adult I can afford the equipment (well, some of it). At the same time, film equipment prices have crashed and supply is way up, so it is a good time to get back in.

I bought two MF cameras on eBay: An Agfa Isolette 1 (About $30 shipped) and a Yashica-Mat (About $110 shipped). I ran a roll of Portra VC through the Agfa, but I'm pretty sure the lens is fogged. It looks hazy, and most of the prints were low in contrast.

I've also run a roll of Ilford HP5 through the Yashica-Mat. It's hard to tell if I have a very good lens in it from the 5x5 print proofs, but there's nothing obviously wrong with it. I'm growing to quite like it.

I'm also putting together a darkroom and got a Beseler 23c with a 75mm lens and 6x7 negative holder. I figure it will still work for the 6x6 negatives I have.

Yeah, I've fallen hard, apparently.

Anyway, I have a few questions, but I'll just start with this: Do I need a grain focuser? Can't I just use some kind of magnifying glass and check focus of prints with that? The extra $30 for the grain focuser isn't going to kill me, but I've already sunk a good deal of money into this.
 

ann

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They can be helpful, but they are not critical IMHO.

We have one at every workstation at school i will lay you odds very few people use one.

I have several types in my home darkroom and rarely use one, and i have old eyes (72)

I understand what you mean about the difference. For me, digital is very mechanical, film, organic. You can touch the negatives, etc. With digital , until one prints something it is just numbers on steroids. Those numbers can be fun , but they are just out there floating around.
 

compur

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Anyway, I have a few questions, but I'll just start with this: Do I need a grain focuser? Can't I just use some kind of magnifying glass and check focus of prints with that? The extra $30 for the grain focuser isn't going to kill me, but I've already sunk a good deal of money into this.

I see a number of basic grain focusers selling on eBay for around $10-$15
including shipping. Less than the cost of a pack of paper.

I find grain focusers to be a valuable tool -- even the inexpensive ones.
It's not easy to focus precisely without one. They're money well spent
in my book.

I doubt a magnifying glass would work satisfactorily.
 

Randall Ellis

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They can make a big difference in your results, but try it without and then decide what you think. If the prints look good to you without one then you can probably wait until they look like you need some help with critical focusing.

- Randy
 

dinodan

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If you can find a decent grain focuser for 30 bucks, my advice would be to buy it. A magnifying glass would be a poor substitute.
 

blash

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Get the grain focuser - pretty much mandatory for optical printing, especially when the grain gets so small that when it's hard to tell even with the grain focuser, it'll be impossible with any kind of substitute.

If you shoot with 800 speed film or higher you might be able to get away without one, I wouldn't know as I never shoot anything higher than ISO 160 or so.
 

christopher walrath

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Just starting out printing this last spring I got a good grain focuser. I have meesed around with it. I have practiced for an hour at a time. I try it out everytime I initiate a printing session. And after about five minutes of no focused reflection I surreptitiously dump it back into the bin and do it by eye. Maybe the mirror surface has come loose thus throwing off the focus. I dunno. But I'm printing 8x10's of 400 ISO negs and getting it pretty good thus far. Right now, I do not need a focuser. If you are happy with your prints without one, then forgo it for now and get one when you finally notice a need as mentioned above. At the beginning stages I, myself, have found it to be quite unecessary.
 

CSR Studio

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I can't imagine printing without a grain focuser. It is too easy to have a print that is a little soft and without a grain focuser you will never know.
 

Early

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I can't imagine printing without a grain focuser. It is too easy to have a print that is a little soft and without a grain focuser you will never know.

I'm the opposite. To me, they are just a waste of time and effort. I eyeball it with the lens wide open, and no filter pack. No softies, ever.
 

jbylake

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Welcome back to film..I just re-started after a long hiatus...However, I'm not going "true" film. No darkroom this time, just don't have the room.
I bought a quality scanner for neg's and slides. Convert them to digital.
And do PP that way.

I kind of wish I had the time and and place for good old film processing equipment. There was something always relaxing about it for me. I guess it was having total hands on controll of every step of the process.

But, I settled with what would work for me now. Don't know, but I'm looking for a new "ranch" style condo...mabey I'll get back to the processing, enlarging, etc...the old fashion way.

Funny thing is your explanation for wanting to go back to film. I've had a lot of friends and contacts who are doing just the same thing, after years of digital....go figure:confused:

J.:mrgreen:
 

CSR Studio

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I can't imagine printing without a grain focuser. It is too easy to have a print that is a little soft and without a grain focuser you will never know.

I'm the opposite. To me, they are just a waste of time and effort. I eyeball it with the lens wide open, and no filter pack. No softies, ever.

How do you know they are as sharp as they could be?
 

cooltouch

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I agree, get a grain focuser. It takes most of the guesswork and headache out of things.

By the way, the Yashica Mat is a great camera. You might not be able to tell much by the 5x5 prints. But you just wait until you've had a chance to scan one of those negatives, or made a decent sized enlargement. I would put the Mat's Yashinon lens up with the Zeiss Tessars and Schneider Xenars in terms of sharpness, color, and contrast. In fact, in my experience, the Mat I owned outperformed a Rolleiflex with Tessar I also owned in terms of color and contrast.

Michael
 

Early

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I can't imagine printing without a grain focuser. It is too easy to have a print that is a little soft and without a grain focuser you will never know.

I'm the opposite. To me, they are just a waste of time and effort. I eyeball it with the lens wide open, and no filter pack. No softies, ever.

How do you know they are as sharp as they could be?
I forgot to mention, I have tried grain focusers.
 

Randall Ellis

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I forgot to mention, I have tried grain focusers.

I've seen some of the students here at work that just don't like them. I use a Magna-sight myself, the mini-sight and other true 'grain' focusers (those that show, literally, the grain rather than the image) are difficult for me to use. The magna-sight shows a small part of the image magnified greatly, which is more than enough for me to get tack sharp prints from.

- Randy
 

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