Thursday, January 27, 2011

Olympus OM2 and 35mm field test

I got to take my Olympus OM2 and the 35mm on a couple of family outings last weekend, to try out the combo and see how it felt.

First outing was to Wood's Creek, an old mining site with lots of tunnels, raceways and old diggings. I hadn't been there before, so it was fascinating walking around and seeing what mining was like 100 years ago.

Even carrying around the Olympus OM2 with three primes (the 50 and 135 as well as the 35) and trudging through the forest, the weight was never an issue. In fact the whole kit is probably lighter than carrying around just my D300 with standard kit lens. And set to auto aperture, it's just as easy to use.

There is still some open-cast mining being done near the Wood's Creel site, and while driving out I spied this rusty old piece of machinery standing against a blue sky, and had to stop for the shot. The Olympus meter in the OM2, together with the Fuji 400 colour film, has handled the bright scene very well - although I do remember giving it about +1 stop extra exposure because I thought the meter might be fooled by the very bright scene. Yes, I am learning with this film stuff (see my previous post of my disappointing Nikon F90x results with slide film).

The next day we went for a walk to Coal Creek Waterfall, a half-hour walk not far from our home. It's a beautiful walk, and a spectacular waterfall. Again, using the Olympus was a breeze, and I didn't take the 35mm off the body once. I would have liked to go to 28mm for a few shots - the above shot of the Falls doesn't quite fit everything in - but I'm still happy with the 25mm view for 90% of the images I took.

The Oly OM2 was lovely to use, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  A definite keeper, which I will add to  with a wide angle if/when I can find a cheap Zuiko on Trademe.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A feast of photographic goodies.

All my Christmases have come at once this week. Not only did my Minolta X300s kit arrive early in the week, but my 'new' Olympus OM2 arrived today - as well as a 135mm f3.5 for the Minolta, and some new editions of Black + White Photography magazine! The expression "Kid in a candy shop" springs to mind.  :-)

The Oly OM2 kit is amazing! And I got it for an incredible price. $150.00NZ for the body with 50mm f1.8, 35mm f2.8 and 135mm f3.5 - all in pristine condition, and all with original Olympus cases. It also came with Olympus lens cleaning tissues, the original OM2 Instruction Manual, and couple other filters, Sunpak flash, and camera case to keep it all in! Just incredible really.

The OM2 body is in beautiful condition... apart from the classic problem that eventually haunts all the OM series bodies from the 2 upwards - foam leaking onto the viewfinder prism. Mine is just starting to show, and I will definitely send it away and get it fixed/replaced so that no further damage can take place. It doesn't effect the images mind you - it just looks nasty through the viewfinder.

I checked a discussion on a forum and apparently this is a: common, b: easily fixed, and c: the prism from an OM10 can be used as a replacement if the one in the OM2 is too far gone. It might cost me as much again as I bought the whole kit for to get the body CLA'd by a camera repairer - but I think in the long run it will be well worth it. The Oly OM2 is a thing of beauty.

Having now handled one and looked through the enormous and bright viewfinder, it's not hard to tell which kit I'll be keeping and which I'll sell. The plastic fantastic Minolta X300s doesn't stand a chance! I almost feel bad for it. And while I'm not saying it's a bad camera, it just isn't in the same league at the Olympus OM2. Not even close!

The OM2 is so superbly crafted, so well thought out, so perfect in the hand, compared to the Minolta (and to be fair to most other camera's of the era as well). The lenses are small, but beautifully made - and inspire confidence. You just know it's going to be a superb image making machine.

I can't wait to use it... so I'm not going to!  :-)   I was going to use the X300s tomorrow on a walk out to Woods Creek, but I've decided to use the Olympus instead. I will use the Minolta - but not tomorrow. I just have to put a few rolls through the beautiful OM2. I have a feeling it's been too long between drinks for the old girl, so tomorrow she gets to spread her wings and fly once more. Oh, I'm getting all teary-eyed!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Minolta X300s

My 'new' Minolta X300s arrived today, complete with Power Winder, Minolta Auto 220x flash, and Minolta 28-70mm f3.5/4.8 lens. Unfortunately, the Power Winder doesn't work with the X300  :-(  And the lens has the faint beginnings of fungus spreading from the edges of the front element (inside)  :-(

Apart from that, the body itself appears to be in pretty good nick. The buyer had mentioned the Power Winder might not go, so no surprises there. And the lens isn't going to see much action, so the very small amount of fungus it has won't bother me either.

I'm very pleased that the flash is a genuine Minolta, although it's a very basic model. But that also means it's very simple to use. Just set the ISO on the back, and the flash gives you a mid and long range aperture, with appropriate distance scale. There is also a handy 'Flash Distance Check' button that will light if you are within range. To top it off, the head bounces at a 60 or 90 degree angle.  And even better, it works! Well, at least it flashes. I haven't actually taken any photos with it yet. I plan to rectify that this weekend.

The camera itself cleaned up nicely - just surface dirt and dust - and the foam seals around the camera door and film window are all still in-tact and light tight. The cloth shutter curtain looks good, shutter seems to function at all speeds, and the viewfinder is nice and clear. It even came with fresh batteries installed and a Fuji 400 film, which I'm very grateful for. That doesn't happen very often.

Initial impressions? It's a reasonably hefty camera, even though there's a lot of plastic covering the body that creaks and groans a little. I'm not sure if it's ergonomically well laid out - even after a very short time holding it my hand started to ache - the first time that's ever happened to me holding a camera!? Maybe I just wasn't holding it right? I'll be able to comment on this more after I've field-tested it this weekend.

It's a very simple, straightforward camera to use - press and turn a knob around the film rewind crank to set the ISO of the film, turn the switch next to this to the 'ON' position, and make sure 'Auto' is selected in the window next to the shutter button. Then turn your aperture dial on your lens to your desired aperture, and the camera choses an appropriate shutter speed in the viewfinder window. Easy peasy.

The X300s has a nice clear split-screen focusing system, and the supplied 28-70mm lens is a two touch design. You zoom with the smaller back ring, and focus with the larger front ring. Most modern zooms are one-touch - you zoom and focus with the one ring. But it doesn't take long to get used to the two touch design. At least it isn't the push-pull type!

The family are going on a walk this weekend to Woods Creek so I can scout it for a shoot I plan on doing there soon (a Trash the Dress shoot). It will be the perfect opportunity to blast a roll through the Minolta to see how it performs. With any luck my 135mm f3.5 will have arrived by then as well.

After all this buying, I'm finally going to do some shooting. Yeah!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Olympus OM2 Kit to end the crazyness?

Aaarrgghhh!!! I've got to stop doing this. I'm addicted to these old 35mm camera systems and now another is on the way! Although to be fair, this one looks a real beauty  :-)

I wrote a couple of posts ago about my unfortunate Pentax ME Super problems, that looked to be foiling my attempts at getting a manual focus 35mm kit together. I want to use a lightweight, manual system, with all primes, to take me back to my 'roots' in photography. The Pentax seemed an ideal solution, being small and relatively inexpensive (but of very high quality), although since I'm starting from scratch, I'm not tied into any system. I looked at the Olympus OM10, the Minolta X300s and Canon AE-1, before going for the Pentax.

Well, as I've already noted, the Pentax didn't work out and I've sent it back today. The lady I purchased it from was very apologetic, refunded straight away, and the return trade was hassle free - so no problems there. But it left me without a system. So, again, as previously posted, I opted for a Minolta X300s since I already had a 28mm Cosina lens for it - and have purchased a well used body, power winder (which I've found out subsequently might not work!), and 135mm lens to get me started.

But, at the time of going for the Pentax, my next favorite option was the Olympus OM system. I'm really loving the Olympus Trip and Pen cameras - they are beautifully made and a joy to use. I've also heard the same said of the OM series, and have been very keen to try them for myself. And what do you know, a complete Olympus OM2 package turned up on Trademe very recently, and I've been watching it closely ever since.

The set consists of Olympus OM2 body in excellent condition, together with a 35mm f2.8, 50mm f1.8 and 135mm f3.5 - all Olympus Zuiko lenses, and again all in excellent condition. Talk about karma! If you believe in that sort of thing :-)

Of course I had to bid - not expecting to get anywhere near it  - but in the end I won it! For an absolute song! Cheaper, in fact, than a single 135mm Zuiko lens is going for at the moment. Unbelievable!

I'm very excited - more excited than getting the Minolta X300s I must say - and I can see me flicking the Minolta kit off in favor of this Olympus package. I will, however, wait for both to arrive, then use and review both, before I make my decision.

Given how cheaply you can buy these kits nowadays, I probably could look at keeping both. But I also know that I won't need both, and don't really want one sitting around not being used. Besides, it could end up paying for another prime lens for whatever kit I end up keeping.

Oh happy days...

Fuji Velvia 50 and Nikon F90x

I put my first roll of film through my Nikon F90x last weekend in Westport - a roll of Fuji Velvia 50 slide film. Since the film has to be sent away to be processed, I didn't get it back until today.

And I have to say I'm disappointed. Not in the camera or film itself - but in me. Pretty much all of the images came back grossly under exposed, and I knew they would be.

I shot most of the film at the Westport A&P Show, at the wood chopping events. I love watching woodchopping anyway, and enjoy photographing it even more. As you can see from the image on the left, it was a very bright day (look at the blown-out whites on the chopper's trousers), so I should have compensated for this in the camera by adding at least one stop of exposure value. Especially when using slide film. But I was lazy - probably from shooting too much print film and digital, and didn't add any exposure, assuming the camera would take care of it (but knowing that it wouldn't)!

What you see here is the result of a lot of Photoshop work to get a barely passable image - and one that is always going to exhibit more 'noise' than should have been necessary with a properly exposed slide.

You can see that here with a 100% crop of the above image. There's far too much noise there in the shadows, but even in the sky, it's more pronounced than it should be. It's a real shame, because by simply adding 1 to 1.5 stops more exposure, the image above could have been my starting point, rather than my 'only just adequate' end result.

It does clean up a little more when put through a 'de-noise' filter like Noise Ninja, but I can't stress enough that this step could have been avoided with more careful exposure. Oh well, lesson learnt the hard way (again) I suppose.

And in a very real sense, that's what I still like about shooting film. You actually do learn from your mistakes, because you pay for them - in both monetary terms and in terms of it taking time to get your images back. You invest so much time and money into your images that you want (need) them to turn out well. And when you do make a mistake (and you will), it hurts much more than just reaching for the 'delete' button when shooting digital.

When you shoot with film (especially slide film) you need to think about exposure more. You can't just shoot and hope.

So while I am annoyed with myself for making the mistake in the first place, I'm also glad that it happened (kind of). It's stressed to me the importance of watching the light, thinking about my photography, and not becoming a lazy photographer. Walking around the A&P Show that day I knew the sun was very bright. I knew the meter in the camera would be under-exposing, and I knew I should be doing something about it. I was just plain lazy. And I paid the ultimate price with poorly exposed images.

I'm happy with the shot on the right - my favourite salvageable shot from the whole roll. But I'm not happy with how much time and Photoshop know-how it's taken for me to get it to this stage. Especially when I knew better.

Finishing on a slightly more positive note - here is a much better exposure on the same roll, from a few that I shot earlier. Of course the day was slightly overcast, so the meter has had no problem exposing properly -  but hey, I'll take it anyway. At least the whole roll wasn't a write-off.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Alas poor Pentax...

The Pentax ME Super arrived yesterday and I opened the package with great anticipation.

This anticipation soon turned to dismay though, when I removed the 50mm lens and looked inside the camera.  Because I could see right inside the camera! No mirror was hanging down where a mirror should be. Instead, it was stuck in the 'up' position - in mirror lock up, even though the Pentax ME Super doesn't have a mirror lock up! Oops. Not good.

I hoped that this would be rectified by placing new batteries in the camera and pushing the shutter button - but no, still locked in the 'up' position.

And this wasn't the first set-back I'd had in the building of a Pentax kit. Earlier in the week I had won a 28mm f2.8 Cosina lens that the auction listed as having a Pentax K mount. Alas, no. When it arrived, turned out it is for a Minolta MD mount instead! Cost me peanuts, and is in fantastic condition, so I'm not going to complain. But it was a little irritating, considering I had assumed I was well on my way to a nice 'prime' Pentax kit.

Instead, I have a Pentax body that doesn't work, a Cosina wide angle that doesn't fit, and a burning desire to shoot with a manual camera using all prime lenses. What to do?

Well, I think I've solved the problem. As I mentioned, the Cosina is in too great a condition to pass up, and it just so happens that there are a few other really nice bargain lenses in the Minolta Rokkor MD vein on Trademe at the moment.

Like this really nice Minolta Rokkor 135mm f3.5 I bought this morning on Trademe for $40.00NZ! Fungus free, with nice clear optics - at a truly amazing price. I stopped bidding on a Tamron 135mm lens for the Pentax just last night that went for twice the price of this genuine Minolta! So move over Pentax, Minolta's taking over!

With the Cosina 28mm and the Minolta 135mm, I'm almost all the way there with my prime lens trio (just need the 50mm f1.7 to be complete), oh yeah, and a body of course :-)

Something like... this! A Minolta X300s, with Minolta Power Winder and Flash (not shown). If I'm honest, I would have preferred a X700 (I used to own one once upon a time and they are a beautiful camera), but this X300s with Power Winder and 80-200mm lens was being offered for a real bargain with 'Buy Now' so I didn't want to take any chances. I snapped it up, and now only hope that it actually works (it says it does on the auction description, but so did the Pentax)!

The seller hasn't got back to me yet on the make of the lens, but it doesn't really matter to me since I don't plan on using it anyway - even if it's a Minolta. I'm sticking to my original plan with this manual focus kit - all primes. Which means I'll have to pick up the 50mm f1.7 at some stage, but that shouldn't be too hard.

Not too sure about the Power Winder either? Again, the whole idea of using primes was to keep it to a lightweight kit - something that the bulk and weight of the Power Winder (it uses 8 AA batteries) doesn't really help with. If I decide I really don't want/need it, I can always sell it - probably for about as much as the whole thing cost me in the first place.

So from being excited only a few days ago about building a Pentax kit, to now owning a (almost) full Minolta package, is something of a dramatic turn-around. Believe it or not, I'm starting to get 'camera'd out'. Maybe it's time to stop the buying, and start the using?

Yeah - that would be nice.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Pentax ME Super joins the collection!

The title says it all really.

I've been thinking about getting a manual 35mm camera system for a while now, and was looking very seriously at the Olympus OM series since I was enjoying their Pens so much.

But I thought I'd spread the 'love' around, and started looking at the Pentax cameras that came out about the same time. The K1000 is a legendary manual camera, while the Takumar lenses have a stellar reputation. Also in the 'K' mount line were the MX and ME range - with the ME Super adding an extra level of manual control over the standard ME. There were quite a few available on Trademe, so that's the one I went for.

I've decided to kit it out only with primes, since it comes with a 'standard' 50mm f1.7 Pentax lens. I've also purchased a Cosina 28mm f2.8 'K' mount lens, and have my eye on a Tamron 135mm f2.5 on Trademe at the moment. I've looked up both lenses on the internet, and both are given fairly good reviews on a Pentax forum I found. 

The Pentax Takumar equivalents go for considerably more, so I'll hold off and see what sort of results I get with the third party lenses before spending the money on the Pentax lenses (unless I stumble across them cheap somewhere). 

Also watching an auction for a couple of Pentax flashes, although the ME Super I've won also comes with a little Mecablitz speedlite, so that may do the job?

And if I really get keen, a camera store in Christchurch has some fairly cheap Power Winders for the ME Super as well.

Must... stop... buying... old... camera... gear...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

F90x - likes and gotcha's

My Nikon F90x arrived before the weekend and I was able to take it with me to Westport on a family trip to see the grandparents.

First things first - it is in very good condition, and the back rubber is largely in tact - but boy is it grubby! Why-oh-why did Nikon choose to coat the whole back with the stuff?! Dirt and fluff just sticks to it like glue. Maybe the quicker it rubs off the better...

That's a pretty minor gripe though really, with what is otherwise a beautifully laid out, well thought out, and nicely put together camera on Nikon's part. The camera manual came with it - but I didn't need to use it (although maybe a quick glance would have been good - more on that later). All the buttons are very clearly labelled, most fall to hand (although will require a two-handed operation) and it's a solid piece of kit.

After a very quick clean with a soft cotton cloth, I popped four AA batteries into the chamber and the F90x sprang to life. Setting up the camera for my shooting style was quick and easy. The F90x only has one focus point, but it's a good one that can handle both vertical and diagonal lines, and which can be set to either centre spot or wide. Set on wide, I tried to focus on a white tissue extending from a tissue box on a window ledge in my kitchen. A pretty tricky autofocus test, and not surprisingly, the F90x focusing system struggled. I then set the focusing area to spot, and bang... focus lock instantly! Cool. Spot focus it is then. Truth be told it's what I set my cameras on anyway.

All the other settings are fairly self-explanatory. I like to shoot in single-shot autofocus (although the F90x is capable of 4 frames per second set to 'continuous Hi'), with single servo autofocus - full matrix metering, and aperture priority. And that's really all the decisions you need to make to get going with creative control.  Oh, and BTW, the F90x has the best self-timer I've ever come across - you can set it from anywhere between 30 or 2 seconds just by spinning the control wheel and picking a number. It's electronically controlled anyway, so it makes sense that you can input any number you like. Why aren't all the Nikon's (or Canon's etc) set up this way?

Another feature that impresses is the exposure value compensation. The button itself is a little bit of a stretch from the shutter (for my small fingers) - although do-able, but the range is what impresses most! + or - 5 (yes 5) exposure values! Will I ever use a 10 stop range? Maybe not. But they are there should I want to. And for bracketing with slide film... who knows.

Although if you're going to bracket a lot with the F90x then you're on your own. There is no electronic bracketing feature controlled in-camera, unless you get the optional data back that came with the F90x. No big deal, I don't mind bracketing manually.

The F90x also doesn't have 'custom functions' (again, no big deal), or a mirror lock up (I know this omission is often bemoaned, but I have to say that in over 25 years of taking photos I have never used mirror lock up) - but it does have depth-of-field preview and an eye piece switch that covers the viewfinder if you are shooting long exposures with your face away from the camera. All-in-all it seems like a very well thought out camera - a photographers camera, with everything a working pro might need, and nothing added that would get in the way of taking great images.

I enjoyed spending the afternoon at the Westport A&P Show, using the F90x with a 28-80mm lens, snapping away in aperture priority. And here's the thing... I LOVE using the F90x in aperture priority mode! It may be a very technologically advanced camera (for its time at least), with lots of electronic bells and whistles, but using the camera in aperture priority is a very tactile, old-camera experience. The aperture isn't set by spinning a wheel on the camera body - you actually have to change it on the lens itself (so the modern 'G' type lenses can't be used in aperture priority with an F90x because they have electronic apertures). This, for me, is the best of both worlds. I'm shooting with an electronic, technically advanced camera system, but I'm actually having to physically work the aperture on the lens to get the shot. I fell in love with this way of working in aperture priority and the F90x has already become one of my favorite cameras to shoot with because of it. Aperture Priority Heaven...  :-)

Now finally, the 'gotcha'. It has to do with the film winder mechanism. It's odd. Downright odd. And stupid! And I've probably lost half a dozen shots on a 36 shot roll of slide film because of it!!!! First, when you load the film (a simple enough operation - just pop it in, pull the film tab to the red line and close the door), the camera doesn't actually wind the film on to the first frame until you push down the shutter button. On all other cameras with an 'automatic' film advance I've ever used the film has advanced to the first frame - ya know, like - automatically. But not the F90x. Push the shutter button first, and then it will advance to the first fame. Odd, but there you are. Not the end of the world.

BUT, the real killer has to do with the film rewind at the end of the roll. Again, with all other cameras I've used, when you get to the end of the roll the film automatically rewinds itself back into the camera. That's what 'automatic' film winders are supposed to do, isn't it!? Well, again, not the F90x (and this is where reading the manual and not assuming anything would have come in handy). You can probably see where I'm going with this, right?

I finished the roll of film, turned the camera off, and waited until I was home to put another film - in since I'd forgotten to bring another film with me! (Note to self: always take more film when using a film camera. Film actually runs out after 24 or 36 shots). At home I opened the camera to remove the film, and was horrified to find the film was actually still wound across the back of the camera - it hadn't automatically rewinded! And this isn't a fault with my particular camera. Nikon actually set the F90x up to work this way! A quick check of the manual (after I'd quickly slammed shut the camera back and calmed down) revealed that you need to push two buttons on the camera body and then (and only then) the F90x 'automatically' rewinds your film for you. Lesson learned the 'hard' way.

Yes, I had noticed the two red 'film rewind' buttons on the camera body, but had presumed they were to be used if you wanted to engage the film rewind half-way through a roll of film. I'd never considered you might have to start the process yourself at the end of a roll! Doesn't make sense to me, but I have learnt my lesson, and hopefully it won't happen again? And if that's my only gripe (and apart from the rubber backing it is), then I haven't really got much to worry about with the F90x.

All worries about film transportation go away when I use the camera in aperture priority mode though. It may seem a little thing, but to me it's huge! I got back into film photography because I love the tactile, mechanical nature of using film - although ironically I also love the electronic bells and whistles of the modern age. In the Nikon F90x, I've discovered the perfect fusion of the two.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Nikon F90X on its way!

Consider it a late Christmas present to myself - I've just pulled the trigger on a Nikon F90x body in mint condition.

The photo at left is of the actual camera as taken from the auction website. All the covers are surprisingly attached (they're normally the first things to go) and the previous owner assures me the back rubber is in tact (this also notoriously rubs off on F90's.)

I wanted a solid film camera that I could use all my Nikkor lenses with, and the F90x seemed to fit the bill. In many respects it's better spec'd than the 'professional' F4, and has a similar look and feel once the optional MB10 vertical grip is attached. My F90x doesn't come with the grip, but I know where I can get one second-hand at a camera store, so I can easily add one if I feel the need.

I'm hoping to use the F90x for a lot of Black and White shooting, if I can come up with an appropriate assignment to use it on. I've been inspired by reading Black + White Photography magazine (see last post) to actually get serious about following a theme or shooting a self-imposed assignment that I can create a body of work from.

I'm getting to the stage where I want my images to actually have 'meaning' beyond the mundane or simply aesthetically 'pretty'. I want something I can sink my creative teeth into - something that will challenge me as a photographer and artist, and something I can create a body of work from that I can look back on with pride - as a cohesive whole.

The Nikon F90x might just be the piece of kit to launch such an endeavor from. Now if only I could figure out what that endeavor might be...?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year: A podcast & a magazine

Happy New Year everybody - and welcome to 2011!

2010 was a strange year to be sure, a very emotional roller-coaster of a year, which ended on a rather low note. Of course there was the tragic loss of 29 lives at the Pike River Coal mine here on the Coast, which effected everyone in the community very deeply. We are a very small, close-knit town - so not surprisingly the death of 29 men was a tremendous shock that will be felt for years to come.

On a more personal note, 2010 also saw the untimely death of my friend and mentor, Dr. Denis Dutton. For 6 years during the mid to late 1990's I was fortunate enough to call Denis my friend - as well as my supervisor - at Canterbury University. He was an inspirational, funny, generous, humble, passionate man whose vast intellect surpassed any other's I've ever met.  Denis lost his battle with cancer just two days shy of 2011 and he will be greatly missed.

Denis taught me more about art and aesthetics than everyone else put together, and it's largely due to him that I am the person that I am today. I can truthfully say that my time spent with Denis changed my life - for the better - and his loss saddens me almost as much as the loss of my own father did when I was 16. Thank you Denis, I will never forget you.

But for all of the sadness associated with the end of 2010, I will also look back on the year with fondness. It was, after all, the year I re-discovered my passion for film photography (he says, getting back on track for the blog).

Two major factors contribute to this film renaissance - one I've already talked about at great length, and the other I'm about to mention here for the first time. First was my interest in the small Olympus Pen cameras - initially in their digital form, but then eventually as film cameras. I purchased a Pen EES-2, then an Olympus Trip 35, and the rest, as they say, is history. I had been dabbling in film prior to this - picking up old Canon film cameras here and there on Trademe (a NZ internet auction site), but my commitment to using film regularly really exploded with my discovery of the Olympus Pens.

The second was my discovery, around the same time, of a podcast that ignited my enthusiasm because of the enthusiasm showed by the hosts themselves. I found the 'Film Photography Podcast' by searching on iTunes and was instantly hooked.

The shows hosts: Mike Raso, Duane Polcou and John Fedele are passionate film photography users who discuss a huge range of film related topics. It's a fun, informative and entertaining podcast that educates its audience on film photography almost in spite of itself. You're learning along with the hosts (who by their own admission are also only learning themselves), as they re-discover old cameras, film formats and techniques through trial and error. Mike is a Polaroid junkie, Duane is a long time large format shooter and film developer, while John grounds the show by asking the questions we all want to ask and supplies the soundtrack to the podcast with his band, the Pink Delicates. It's a winning combination of culture, humour, education and inspiration - all wrapped up in film photography.

For someone who was experiencing the same journey, at almost exactly the same time, on the other side of the world, the podcast is a godsend and each new (fortnightly) episode can't come around quickly enough. You must check them out. Simply search 'Film Photography Podcast' on iTunes and download all the previous episodes for a real film feast!

Finally, I have also re-discovered a magazine must have for the film photographer; Black + White Photography magazine. It's a British magazine (not to be confused with the American B+W magazine) that is dedicated to the 'art' of monochrome photography, whether in digital or film, 35mm, medium or large format.

Not surprisingly great care is taken in the printing of the magazine, so the reproductions are of decent quality. It's a niche magazine - the kind that could easily be in jeopardy in the current e-zine, ipad culture, so I urge anyone with an interest in film photography to hunt this magazine down and subscribe! The bigger the subscription base, the more likely it is that the magazine will stick around. And heaven knows that with all the dross out there we need quality magazines like this to survive long-term. So what are you waiting for? Go find it and buy it - NOW!