Earlier this year, Kodak announced that they were bringing their iconic slide film Ektachrome back from the dead. I know, it seems this film thing isn’t going away anytime soon, and not only can you continue to sell films, but you can release new ones, or bring old ones back on the market!! Crazy….
We were hoping for a fall 2017 release, but according to this episode of the Kodakery, we should be expecting around a mid 2018 release, and to start we’ll only be getting 16mm movie film, and 35mm. Which hey, they have to test this thing out, they just can’t release all sizes and formats on us at once, so we shouldn’t be too critical (which for us photographers can be extremely tough…) of Big Yellow…
But what we can do is when this hits the streets, go out and buy some rolls…
I’m sure by now everyone in the film photography community has heard the great news coming out of Kodak Alaris! They have decided to re-release Ektachrome slide film. This shows all of us in film land an extremely important thing that Kodak is listening to us. All the articles about people returning to film, about younger photographers ditching their DSLRs and returning to film, fashion photographers using film, etc, etc, etc, they were listening. And I know every time one of these articles popped up on Facebook, or in a photo forum, there was the groans about how “Nobody cares about film” and “film is dead”, yada, yada, yada…. I think that Kodak would disagree with that “film is dead” business. This shows our collective power, Ektachrome has been discontinued for 5 years! Who knew that when it was discontinued back in 2012 that one day Kodak would look at how many people are buying film cameras and seriously looking to film for something different in their photography, and that would influence them to change their mind, and un-discontinue a film stock??? Is un-discontinue even a word???
We here at Return to Film are anxiously waiting until we can get our hands on some of this E-6 goodness! Marc and I are planning on shooting a roll (or maybe more) each, and then putting some thoughts and impressions out on the interwebs! 3rd quarter of the year cannot get here fast enough!!!
I have not shot slide film since around 2008-2009, back then I had a film crush on Provia (I still do, I just can’t in principal give money to Fuji for film when I know that deep in their hearts they really don’t care about film…), and even when I did (give Fuji money), I shot them pretty sparingly. Mostly because slide film has always been more expensive then negative film, so I’d only mix in a couple of rolls of Provia in with my pro-pack orders of 160s and 400h (I LOVED Fuji color negative film…), and it was always a special treat getting your film back, holding the slides up to the light and seeing those beautiful rich, deep colors and contrast. There’s nothing like it in the film world!
Kodak will be dipping their big toe in the pool right by just bringing back Ektachrome in 35mm (I’m already trying to think of a project I can shoot with it!) on the release date, and we can only hope (well not really hope, we can go out and buy, shoot, and process as much of this film as we possibly can) that Kodak will then give us Ektachrome 120 (maybe if we’re EXTRA nice 220, pretty please!!!), along with some 4×5 and 8×10!!
I need to experience shooting my Mamiya 7 with Ektachrome, Kodak, I need some of that in my life!
And I’m sure all of you out there have a camera / lens combo that you would love to shoot using this film (for some reason I’m picturing someone out there with a Speed Graphic / Aero-Ektar setup pumping out some big, beautiful 4×5 portraits….)
Is this the start of something more? Is Kodak using this as a test, maybe they could re-release other films? If so, as a personal fav to me, could we get Plus-X back?
(EDIT Jan 11th) I was listening to the Kodakery Podcast earlier today, where Kodak was discussing the New Super 8 motion picture camera they are releasing (and if I was into filmmaking, I would be all over this thing…), Ektachrome was discussed, as well as hints that they are looking into what it would take to bring back Kodachrome!!!
Fast forward to the last 3 minutes to hear Kodak’s response to one of the most frequently asked requests they receive from film makers and photographers…
The original idea I had for this article was to be about traveling / road tripping with non-photographers. Spouses, Partners, Family, Friends, basically anyone whose first thought when planning a trip isn’t “what gear do I bring??” But I decided to make it into an user review about the Minolta HiMatic AF2 as a perfect camera to bring when traveling with non photographer companions. Besides, not all of us are super neurotic about these things right?
These thoughts don’t sound familiar to anyone out there do they?
-I wonder if there’s space / and or time during the trip to bring the 8×10?
-Not enough room for the 8×10? Okay, okay, the 4×5 should be no problem right? It’s not a monorail, it folds up!
-What? We’re going on some guided tours when we get there? Well, alright, I guess one of my medium format kits should do the trick?
But maybe even the smallest, lightest medium format camera you own, is a no-go, and you start to look at your 35mm gear…
Not saying that I go through this checklist when I’m going on a non-photo trip (I don’t even own an 8×10….yet), but I did have some decisions to make this past August when a friend proposed a guys’ road trip to Birmingham, Alabama to attend an independent film festival. Being as I’ve never been to Birmingham, I wanted to have some gear that I would be comfortable with in any situation that I could possibly find myself in, and that I could work quickly with. I didn’t want to hold up everyone else doing photographer things, just want to be able to grab the shot and move on.
Looking over my stash of 35mm cameras, two jumped out as options:
-A Hexar AF
-And a recently purchased Minolta HiMatic AF2
Why? Well up to that point I had been using the Hexar to shoot a series of images loosely inspired by Lee Friedlander’s America by Car, just sort of my commute to and from work. I had been enjoying shooting with Hexar a lot up to that point, so I thought that I would have opportunities to use it on the road. The HiMatic AF2? Well, it was an impulse purchase from Hamish Gill of 35mmc.com, and I had only really shot one test roll with it. I really wasn’t all that comfortable with it yet. I’m not really sure what I was thinking, taking an untested camera on a road trip!
I grabbed a hand full of Tri-x and FP4 for the Hexar and about 8 rolls of Superia for the AF2 and packed for the trip.
While on the trip, something weird happened; the Hexar never left the hotel room. I never even took it out of my bag. Oh I meant to shoot some black and white, but I had been using both cameras without staps, and I wasn’t about to carry my backpack everywhere (I wanted to travel as light as possible), so I just carried the AF2 everywhere in my hand. After all it’s an extremely light camera (since it’s mostly plastic)
Background on the Minolta AF2, released back in 1982, it’s a camera that was caught in that in-between era of autofocus and pre-autofocus compacts. The era where it didn’t look weird to have a point and shoot consumer camera with relatively new tech like infrared autofocus with a manual film advance lever and rewind knob. It has (depending on how you look at it) a flexible 38mm 2.8 Minolta lens, that according to the manual has 4 elements in 3 groups (that is if you care about that sort of thing…). *PERSONAL NOTE** I actually love the focal lengths between 35mm and 40mm, those are walkin’ around lenses for me. Shutter speeds range from an 1/8 of a second to a respectable 1/430, and the lens goes from 2.8 to f17 (that’s an odd number, but that’s what the manual says!) The only disappointing thing in my opinion about the camera is that the min focusing distance is almost 3 and half feet. I like to get close with a moderately wide angle lens, it gives an interesting sense of space to a photo, and thankfully most lenses in this range can focus pretty close. So that this lens can’t is a slight negative in my mind, but that just means that you have to work around the limitations of the camera.
This camera is typical of the early 80’s era of compact cameras where it beeps at you if you try to photograph in certain situations; like if you’re too close (you’ll get a beep-beep-beep) or if you try to take a photograph without flash and the camera thinks you need flash, it will tell you (you’ll get a long beeeeeeeeep), and there’s a helpful sticker on the back just incase you forget what beep means what.
the camera has very few controls, you get a self timer lever in front, a switch that turns the flash on, and the film speed selector which is around the lens. The meter eye is right below the lens, so if you love to use filters, you don’t have to worry about exposure compensation since the meter will meter through the filter as well. I also almost forgot to mention that it takes two AA batteries. Common, found in pretty much any and every place on Earth AA batteries. No expensive lithium, or hard to find speciality batteries for this camera! Expect about 30-35 rolls before you need to replace them, although I’ve started doing it when the flash recycle times (around 7 sec) start to run a little longer.
Oh, if you do buy one of these, when you take a photo, the shutter lets out a wheeze, not a click, a wheeze. I’ve heard it referred to as a robot sneeze, that’s probably the best way to describe how it sounds. Weirdest sounding shutter I’ve ever heard.
The camera was a joy to shoot with during the trip:
A lawn elephant displaying Alabama pride:
I know that people talk about the lost art of reading maps and atlases, but the fact that we have interactive maps and GPS on our phones is nothing short of amazing, I could just imagine how turned around we could have gotten on this trip 15 years ago…
I didn’t know this before hand, but Birmingham has a strong mining and iron working industry. One of our stops was a closed iron factory, Sloss Factory:
I always like to keep my eyes open for little details like this that someone thought to write:
Birmingham also was ground zero during the Civil Rights era. I didn’t get a chance to visit the 16th Street Baptist Church, but I did run across this historical marker downtown:
Because of the photos from this trip, I now have made the HiMatic one of my daily diary cameras (the other being my Olympus Stylus Epic), these are cameras that I keep loaded with film, and I make it a point to photograph constantly around the house. My wife, my child, the visitors that we have, our dogs, whatever might seem to have a bigger meaning 5, 10, 15 years down the road, I’m making photographs of it. Sending the film off and getting 4×6 prints (and my negatives!) back. This is the perfect camera for this…
Oh, and the title of this post? While we were in Birmingham, one of my friends noticed the HiMatic, and he remarked that it looked ‘Analog as fuck’, to which I replied “Why yes, yes it is…”
PS – I’d like to give an extra shout out to Lance Camera Straps, I loved this strap so much, that I bought a second one, so I have one on the HiMatic and the other on my Leica M4P
These are my Holgas, there are many like them, but these two are mine…
You’re responsible for my first experience using film bigger than 35mm, you changed me forever, I want you to know that…
Before I met you, I was a different type of photographer:
I was uptight
I was dogmatic and rigid
I made my photographs a certain way, with a certain type of camera. It had worked for me for over ten years, and I hadn’t planned on changing anytime soon. Until I returned to college in 2004 to pursue a BFA in Photo, and you were a requirement for my intermediate photo class. You were boxy and plastic, you felt cheap, hell you looked cheap.
You were also uncompromising, you asked me to do a lot but you gave me so little to work with:
one shutter speed (1/100 of a second – which wasn’t always 100% accurate)
a wide angle plastic lens that I couldn’t change
and you weren’t light tight, all sort of weird leaks always made their way onto the film, so much that taping you up with black gaffer tape was just an excepted ritual to prepare a new out of the box Holga to shoot its first roll of film
You asked me to let go, let go of that sense of control, of those set in ways that I had. Besides, you didn’t have a range of 8 f-stops, you didn’t have a shutter speed of 1/2000, you didn’t need to make sure you were in perfect focus.
You weren’t about all that technical minutiae
You were about feeling the photo
The motto that was frequently associated to you and your similarly equipped brethren was “Don’t think just shoot”. I always hated that saying because it made everyone who chose you to make their work look as if they didn’t have a clue of what they were doing. And some didn’t, to them you were just an inexpensive toy to have fun with, and that’s okay. If there’s one thing missing in photography these days it’s fun.
But there were others, many others who saw the uniqueness of the photos you produced as the element they needed to create their statement to the world. Those hazily sharp / unsharp images could be interpreted as a dream, or a nightmare; there was always that additional layer of meaning that the viewer was confronted with. Maybe that’s why people either loved or hated the photos you made, you weren’t a tool that made literal photographs.
I bonded with you immediately, you were that fresh start that I didn’t know I needed. I was hooked from that first roll of Tri-x. Soon, you were all I wanted to shoot with. Maybe it was those larger negatives, maybe it was the freedom I felt when I was photographing with you.
Now the news is that more of you are going to be produced. The factory in China that manufactured you just up and destroyed and scrapped all their machinery. All retailers informed Holga fans that once their stock was gone, that was it. That’s a shame, you were the perfect teaching tool in today’s progressively digital world. Who knows how many more generations of artists you could have influenced… We had over 30 years with you, but that wasn’t long enough. Now, you’ve been relegated to a footnote in the history of film photography, a victim of the massive digital photo industry that won’t seem to stop until it’s consumed all that is analog, after all film is now a niche, and the Holga was the nichest of niches….
Me? I’ve neglected you over the past couple of years. When I load up to go shoot, I see you lying there, a thin layer of dust starting to settle over you. You’ve been waiting for me to load you with film. To continue working on that project we were so excited about years ago. And I pause for a moment, thinking about all the photos I’ve made over the last ten years with you.
I think that just two years ago, we were on our way to Chicago for me to attend my very first professional portfolio review, and the looks of some of the reviewers and fellow photographers when I opened my print box to reveal eighteen carefully selected 11×14 photos we had made together. We heard some positive feedback, and some negative. Of course that’s always to be expected, you’re an acquired taste and not everyone loves your flavor.
You taught me, to let go. Frame it loose. If I had second thoughts about the photo I was about to shoot, shoot it anyway. Film in the grand span of things, is cheap. I don’t often wonder about what kind of photographer I would be now if I never would have been forced to use you. Would I have eventually found my way to you?