The Photography of h.butz

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2018 6:59 pm 
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I read the most absurd forum post the other day. In response to Nikon dropping one of their two last remaining 35mm cameras, the FM10 from the product line, someone encouraged us to, "Read the tea leaves, folks." I don't remember where I read it - but it's a clear example of the mindset of a Nikon customer.

Aside from the legendary Leica cameras, one of the last remaining 35mm cameras still being sold is the Nikon F6. The price? $2,500 although I've seen it selling for just under $2k. How can you justify such a high price tag on such primitive technology as film? Because it's more of hybrid with a memory card to store the metadata information for each shot. (4) auto-focus modes, (4) modes for advancing the film, flash sync to 1/8000 sec, (7) different focusing screens, ISO to 6400... I'm getting all excited when I see they are selling used for half price! Then, the other shoe drops...

The battery is the EN-EL4 which sells for $175 dollars. Oh right. NOW I remember why I don't own any Nikon equipment. It's the only camera company that punishes you for buying their shit. They rigorously enforce their patents and trademarks which crush third-party accessories. They demand that resellers sell only at full retail price and never offer their cameras below MSRP. They frequently change all their accessories, sometimes their lens mounts, to force you to buy all your batteries and chargers over again. They recently began encrypting their "raw" format to force you buy more software (from them) to look at the photographs you just took with YOUR camera. and, if you DARE to buy your Nikon "grey market" they force you ship it all the way back to Japan for ANY servicing. Hope you can speak Japanese.

Some photographers tell me, "I only buy Nikon for the glass" meaning: the best lenses on the market are only made for Nikon cameras. News flash: No, they're not. most of Nikon's lenses are made in China.

but, I digress. Film. Who cares why Nikon is dropping the film cameras? It probably has to do with they're not making enough money on film cameras anymore. Why are you letting Nikon tell YOU what YOU should be shooting, film or digital? The camera companies work for YOU. YOU are the market and companies respond to market demands. If you want your camera company to make film cameras, make demands of them. We pay these companies thousands of dollars as individuals. That means they work for us.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/features/great-film-renaissance-2017

The experts at B&H Photo in Manhattan tell us we are in the Great Film Renaissance of 2017. They should know. If any single retailer would know it would be them. They speak face to face with consumers in NYC. They're not just a mail-order business. They "talk the talk" with the pro's who do the heavy lifting in New York - the advertising agencies, the sports photographers, the guys making billboards on the highway, and the grunts sweating it out in a dark lab somewhere paying their dues. So, what does B&H have to say?

Film is back. Actually it never really went away. Oh, there have been a few changes. Kodachrome is gone. So was Ektachrome, but Kodak brought it back from the dead January 5th of 2017. This is HUGE. I wish I was there when Kodak decided to bring back Ektachrome in the "digital age." wow - I haven't seen a power move like that since Steve gave us the iPhone. Fuji brought back Velvia 50 in 2007 after YOU demanded it. You can make a difference.

I find it hysterical that so many great 35mm films are making a come-back at a time when it's reeeealy difficult to purchase a 35mm camera! This is exciting. The film companies know something we don't. Where is the next great 35mm film camera coming from? Will Canon bring back the AE-1 / EOS? Damn I loved that old camera. I come from a day when Sears was selling their own brand of camera (with a Pentax lens mount).

I have been scouring Ebay and the used camera outlets for film cameras. Thankfully there's a glut of old vintage cameras out there. Pentax has been my favorite for lenses which fit both digital and film cameras with the fewest issues. Looking back on my old consumer grade Pentax plastic 35mm cameras which sold for under $200 bucks new - doesn't inspire me tho. I'm digging around for vintage classics, the old chrome and leather cameras which had just three modes: manual, automatic, and aperture priority. They had a mechanical shutter and ran on 3 watch batteries! Yes, 3 tiny watch batteries. Nikon - take your proprietary $175 rechargeable lithium battery and find a nice dark place for it.

As I begin to evaluate my next great vintage 35mm camera setup I grabbed two rolls of Velvia 50 and one roll of Kodak Ektachrome mail-order from B&H. But, I didn't want to waste these great films on snapshots of my parking lot as I test the old cameras. I needed some cheap, even expired film. But, I haven't bought film from a local business in years. I was shooting 100 foot rolls of Kodak T-Max. Good luck finding that at CVS! Where once "Kodak Gold" was at every supermarket checkout line, I couldn't find ANY film at all anywhere for 20 miles.

There was a lot of film on Walmart's website. I drove a bit out of my way to Walmart on the way home from work and ventured to the photo counter. ugg. I've dealt with them before when they overcharged me for some prints. I was there for so long at the customer service desk I found myself still wearing my prescription sunglasses after the sun had vanished from the sky. Good luck finding my car in the parking lot! I took a chance and went to see for myself.

The photography counter at Walmart was an apocalyptic landscape my friends. There were no cameras. There were no camera bags or accessories in sight. There was no film on the peg boards. There was only a few shelves of old picture frames collecting dust. The cash register was not powered on and there was nobody behind the counter. To the left of the cash register stood a big pile of assorted junk - cell phone cases, maybe some selfie sticks (I forget). I rummaged through the rubble of assorted camera sundry items to find a box with Fuji's name on it. There it was. The last box of 35mm consumer grade camera film for 20 miles, sitting at the pile of junk like a flower growing in the dessert. I blew the dust off it and located the expiration date. It was very fresh. I took the film to the cash register where several clerks had confused looks on their faces, asking me what I wanted to do with the film. I told all of them, "I want to buy it!"

More to follow.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2018 6:25 pm 
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opps. Did I say Ektachrome? I meant to say Ektar 100 which is a print film, not a slide film. Ektachrome is on order, however - due in later this month. In the mean time I've been shooting Portra 800, another amazing film from Kodak. I would have guessed this to be a film geared more towards flesh tones but it produces some of the finest green colors I've seen - so vivid, easy to hand hold under a thick leafy canopy. The Velvia 50 proved to be challenging to hand hold and had too much contrast for the forest. Here's a sample of my first really successful shoot with film in years.

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For more images from the John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden, please stop by http://www.hbutz.com/gallery/index.php?/category/14


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2018 10:52 pm 
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My quest for snatching up film cameras continues. I just purchased a Yashica 124 G in mint condition. The seller was quite excited about the condition, and justifiably so. It was so beautiful that I swore I traveled back in time to purchase it. This replaces the one I purchased off Ebay 13 years ago for $100 bucks which arrived dirty with fungus on the lens. I must have been out of my mind. The Yashica Mat is the Japanese version of the German Rolleiflex. The Rollei has the name but the Japanese make a fine camera. Photographs to follow.

I created a fine setup for the Pentax LX, a vintage all manual focus camera from the not too distant past. I snatched up a few mint condition manual focus lenses in the modern PK mount. The LX has a plethora of view finders and attachments for composing shots on a tripod. It also has an electronic shutter which can be set automatically based on the meter and lens aperture. I was happy.. for a while.

But, why are there so many photographers shooting Spotmatic's? They are the predecessors of the "Pentax K" - one of the most successful lens mounts in photography history. The Spotmatic used an ancient "Screw mount" M42. That mounts were very popular on many cameras and lenses throughout the world. But, the M42 was phased out for a bayonet style mount which brought "Automatic" lenses to the world. Up until this time, lenses contained only an aperture dial to control the light. It was a 2-step process to take a photograph, similar to large format cameras. First you opened the lens to its widest aperture to focus then you stopped down the lens for the proper brightness and matched it to the shutter speed.

With 1 exception, the Pentax K was the first mount to combine these two steps into 1. It was called the "Automatic" lens. The lens was always kept at its widest aperture until you pressed the shutter. Then the camera stopped down the lens for you, took the photograph, and returned the aperture back to maximum. The one exception was the Spotmatic "F" (Full Aperture) model which had a pin which accomplished this, partially. The lens still needed to be set manually. So, why not just use a Pentax K camera like the LX? It is similar in build style to the Spotmatic F.

It was then I realized why we shoot film - for the look. And, what makes the photograph is the lens, not the camera. I'm embarrassed to say that it has taken me this long to discover "Vintage lenses." I mean... I kind of known. I knew that some film makers tend to scrape off the anti-reflective coatings from their video lenses to introduce flare and reflections into their shots. This is what started me searching for photography lenses which do not have reflective coatings. It turns out that even 100+ years ago camera lenses were made with coatings - maybe a single coating rather than "multi-coated," but you need some coatings.

My search was not in vain. I discovered lens makers like Jupiter and Meyer who made some really fine optics, yet took a different approach to design. They concentrated on the focus, not what is beyond focus known as the "Bokeh." What is sharp and focused is obvious. These vintage lenses have wonderful sharpness and color rendition. Yet, their unique design gives the bokeh a unique look which has been lost in today's age of computer designed lenses. They can romanticize a photograph and give it warmth unlike the cold modern lenses and the cold digital cameras. Vintage lenses are the perfect match for film, the perfect medium to capture life.

I bought my first Spotmatic F from Ebay.

I opened the case and gasped. There was bits of powered foam lining everywhere. Everything was sticky and disgusting. It seems like it was tossed into the case and placed in a hot attic for decades. All the leather was also disintegrating and sticky. It just a ball of black goo with bits of equipment sticking up here and there. The camera was not immediately visible. I inserted my right into the goo and felt around for something solid. I closed my fingers carefully around something solid and pulled out another, smaller ball of black goo with some shiny chrome bits sticking out.

I peeled off the sticky case which grasped onto a brushed chrome and leather Pentax Spotmatic F; then, I used a heavy sheers to cut the sticky camera strap off the lugs, leaving just the metal bits. What I was left was was an astonishingly beautiful brushed chrome vintage mechanical camera with a pristine lens. I looked inside the front element and it was water white clear without a single mark on it. I advanced the film lever and pressed the shutter. It sounded perfect to my ears. I had pulled a sparkling diamond out of a literal pile of shit. I looked thru the viewfinder and everything was as it should be, except the leather was filthy - but, only superficially. The light meter was unresponsive and it picked up a bad odor from the goo ball. I thought - best just to wrap it up and send the diamond to Eric for a "CLA" - clean, lube, and adjust. Eric says on his website that he can tell exactly what needs to be done by advancing the lever and pressing the shutter. Cameras talk to him. This one was saying, "Thank-you for rescuing me from the goo ball!"

If you're into vintage Pentax cameras, you know of Eric. May my Spotmatic find you well.

Next week I return to the garden to capture the Fall foliage with the medium format TLR.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2018 1:30 pm 
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As my introspective for how film photography was apparently abandoned by society, I have come to realize this happens roughly once a century with a variety of technologies. We abandon old tech and embrace new tech in everyday life; but, that doesn't mean that there was anything wrong with it. I've come up with a few examples of how a technology was phased out to become enjoyable as a recreation while becoming less a part of everyday life.

When the motorboat was invented in the 18th century not everyone gave up sailboats. Sailboats are still sailboats and "motorboats" are not "better sailboats." Where once wind and sail played an important part of commerce, they now have been replaced by powerful motors and engines. Yet sailing has remains as sport and recreation.

When the first automobile was introduced in the 19th century not everyone gave up on horses. People still do ride horses and "automobiles" are not "better horses." In fact, horses and mules are unbeatable for some treacherous terrain with their keen eyesight and confident footing.

When the first email was sent in the 20th century not everyone give up on [snail] mail. People still send letters and postcards and "email" is not "better mail." Some people still use fountain pens, despite that "ball point" pens are more practical.

Sailing, horseback riding, and letter writing have become more recreational and less a part of modern life, just as film has become more recreational and less a part of commercial imaging. It doesn't make it better - just different.

Now that digital imaging has replaced film photography for a lot of commercial work, understand that not everyone is giving up on film. Just as we still have a market for sailing, horseback riding, and writing letters, film photography is becoming more recreational and less commercial. It's an ancient technology which is over 170 years old. That doesn't mean it's time to give up on it.

You know what old tech is over 3,900 years old and still in use today? Beer making. Just because it's old technology doesn't mean it's bad technology.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 25, 2019 3:05 pm 
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A photographer who shoots with film and vintage lenses may be called a "hipster" if they're 20yo, or a cranky old fart refusing to let go of the past if they're 50yo... or so I've read. My rediscovery of vintage lenses continues. I am not a hipster so draw your own conclusions LOL.

The old Farberware percolators made unbeatable coffee. They featured a brew selector lever to adjust the strength of the coffee. But, once production moved to China the coffee pots were made without this brew lever. Perhaps not many people used it or missed it. it illustrates the point that sometimes products do not get better; they're made more cheaply. Such are the way of camera lenses.

The old Russian lenses made nearly 100 years ago were made of heavy glass and metal. They didn't care so much about making them lightweight or cheap. They were designed to take great pictures. Their design was based on the Petzval lens from 1840, designed by a German-Hungarian mathematics professor Josef Maximilian Petzval. It was the first mathematically calculated precision lens in the history of photography.

Even the old Russian lenses had anti-reflective coatings - but, often on just one element. I'm not sure if was the attention to detail, lack of coatings, or lack of concern for weight and retail price which made these lenses so sharp and clear, while still being susceptible to flair and internal reflections. By today's standards, internal reflections are treated like an errant coffee grind in the brew - totally unacceptable and unsanitary. I call them "flavour crystals."

And, oh those swirly bokeh lenses. I throw up a little when I read Ebay descriptions of lenses which feature "swirly bokeh" - now, THAT is a hipster lens feature. I think it's a holdover from the Petzval design, the bokeh tends to get all swirly and twisty rather than diminishing in a soft circular blur like every modern lens on the planet sans mirror lenses which look just gawd awful. I'm guessing Josef Petzval didn't pay much attention to the bokeh. He was more concerned with what was in focus - to get those images sharp as a tack. That's what I like about the vintage lenses - the sharpness and color reproduction, not the "swirly bokeh." Hipsters can buy a modern Petzval lens if you want to pay $750 for a Lomography lens... but, I think that's about as moronic as putting a 100yo vintage Russian manual lens on a modern digital camera.

The bokeh should keep the background images out of attention, not draw attention to itself. If the effect is subtle enough the vintage lenses take amazing photographs which have the feel of timelessness - and should only be used with film cameras, again, else - what is the point? Using a vintage lens on a modern DSLR is like using a cell phone which has a rotary dial - moronic.

What of film cameras? I read a great quote on the debate which rages on about film vs. digital. The debate over which is better is wasted words. He added, "Film is like an acoustic guitar. Digital is like an electric guitar. It speaks mostly to kind of art you feel lead to make." Nice. Brevity is the soul of wit. Even the Beastie Boys knocked out some acoustic tunes once in a while - and they sound marvelous.

My rant continues, manufactures never quit making acoustic guitars once the electric guitar became popular. I have yet to meet a guitar player who owns only electric - they've always got that one acoustic-only guitar in their collection and if you've gotta own just one, it's going to be the traditional instrument. Imagine waking up one day and every manufacturer on the planet said they're going to quit making them?

It's a strange time for photographers. I believe that consumers were coerced into digital photography. Ironically, sales of digital cameras are dropping as the masses are just shooting with their cell phones. Sure, those tiny sensors are certainly taking great photographs these days... so, why lug around a massive DSLR? bitten by their own technology like a snake eating its tail, Canon is looking to move to mirrorless to grab some of the market back.

With film difficult to find and process, consumers are dumping their old film cameras - and I'm snatching up the mint condition cameras as fast as I can. Over the past five years there has been a steady decline from what used to be what appeared to be an endless supply of analog photography. but, those stockpiles are thinning out. NOW is the time to grab some older vintage models I never knew existed because 10 years from now I want to be shooting with a quality autofocus 35mm camera and NOT some crappy Holga or Lomography TOY.

Perhaps the manufactures will once again embrace analog to feed the hipsters' thirst for the less popular, yet superior technology. I'm reading about a swinging pendulum as the younger generation is looking at photography for the first time. They realize the quite unsatisfactory feeling they get when photographs are spit at them on memory cards. NOTHING will replace those days of anxiously waiting my results from the lab or even those anxious hours developing my own negs. Until I see those well-exposed frames appear nice and dark on the cellulose acetate strips I never really know how my efforts will be rewarded. It's that uncertainty, having only faith in film technology to capture my images which makes me think, double-think, compose carefully, and take better photographs because I have to. I don't have the luxury of burning thru thousands of frames at blazing speeds or to "chimp" the image on the back of my DSLR.

There's a satisfaction of getting it right and it is analog photography which makes me a better photographer than someone taking pictures with their iPhone.


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