Quick Shot: The Nothing Camera

Have you ever taken a picture with a camera that doesn't have a lens, shutter button, or any buttons? Have you ever taken a picture by sticking film in a wooden box and hoping to get lucky? 

I can now answer yes to those questions. I can now say I have made a photograph with a nothing camera.

The nothing camera is often called a 'pinhole camera' because that best describe the lens, or lack thereof. The nothing camera is so simple and basic that the operating instructions are summed up with 'pray'. The nothing camera has no ISO, zoom, focus, or megapixels. You don't know what the camera may or may not be seeing. You guess the exposure. And if you guess right, you'll be rewarded with one of the most unique looking images.

I encourage you to click this image and view it full screen. Marvel at how not sharp it is. Marvel at how imperfect it is. Marvel at that vignetting. Take it all in folks, because it came from a wooden box. For all the time I spend obsessing over sharpness and lens distortion with my expensive Leica lenses, it's refreshing to shoot with a wooden box - a camera that couldn't be further from the technical perfection of all my other photographic machines. 

I'll be talking more about the nothing camera and my experience using it in an upcoming post, but today I am starting by sharing an image from the nothing camera. This is a place called Durdle Door along England's Jurassic Coast - it's a popular photography spot. Of course, most photographers there are carrying a little bit more than a wooden box with a piece of film in it......

Which Software for Black and White Conversion?

There are a few questions you can ask on the internet that are bound to generate a heated debate. Like "Which is better, Coke or Pepsi?" or my personal favorite "Is Nikon or Canon better?" It is the source of so many wasted keystrokes because those issues aren't black and white.... unlike this debate.

The question today is all about the shades of grey, specifically, which software to use for Black and White conversions. Presumably if you have come to my blog, you have come for my opinion, and my opinion is what you're about to get.....

First, let's break for a quick history lesson, because my historical biases and experiences weigh heavily in my answer. I learned Photoshop before Lightroom was a 'thing' - at least before it was mainstream. Until earlier this year, I did all of my RAW edits in Adobe Camera Raw. So when I wanted to do a black and white conversion, I could either 1) desaturate the colors (boring....) or 2) use Photoshop's organic black and white presets (still kind of boring) or 3) use an outside program. Not impressed with desaturation or the built in presets, I purchased a copy of Nik Silver Efex and used it as a plugin for Photoshop.

Nik appealed to me because the presets were awesome, the adjustments were intuitive, and I have a big crush on the control points feature. 

Fast forward to today...... I have changed the way I edit the color images, but I haven't found something that I like better than Nik Silver Efex. And since the software is now FREE, I'm not exactly motivated to find something that costs money to replace the free thing I like.....

Ok, so back to which software to use - for me its 100.10% Nik Silver Efex. The adjustment are just too easy, and my romance with the control point feature is hotter than ever. It brings out the best in my color images and in my black and white photos from the Leica Monochrom (Leica used to include a license of the software with the Monochrom, before it was free for everyone).  And while I could maybe get similar results with enough button clicks in Lightroom, I can do it faster in Nik, so thats where I go. For me, better is defined as "result I want, fastest" - Nik does it, so Nik is better!

Normally when I write a post like this, I'm talking about something that costs (a considerable amount of) money. But today I'm telling you that my favorite software is free. So rather than babble any more about Nik Silver Efex, I'm going to give you a link and let you play yourself. The lady giving out free samples of meatballs at the discount shoppers club spends less time selling you on free than I've spent!

(To be clear, I'm in no way shape or form endorsed by Nik or Google or anyone who designs software.)

Download Nik's complete software suite here: https://www.google.com/nikcollection/

One of thousands of black and white conversions I have done using Nik's software

Black & White Shootout: Leica Q vs Leica Monochrom

Every so often I get questions in my inbox asking me a subjective question - a question like "how does the Monochrom compare to a black and white converted photograph from the Leica Q / Leica SL"?

I actually like these questions; they challenge me to trace back my thought process to when purchasing these cameras and re-validate the logic I used. I purchased the Leica Monochrom with the understanding that it was the best tool available for shooting black and white photographs. I bought the Leica Q to be a lightweight travel companion. One is not supposed to fill the niche of the other (at least for me). 

The contestants - the Leica Q with the 28mm lens vs the Leica Monochrom with a 50mm Summicron. I don't own a 28mm lens to put on the Monochrom, so I cropped the Q files to give the same field of view.

While that was the logic when I purchased the cameras, the reader's question prompted some interesting internal debate. Is the black and white image quality of the Monochrom really superior in a side-by-side shootout? I almost never carry two cameras like this at the same time, so I don't have much real world basis to judge, just my perceptions from using each. So challenged by the question, I decided to take the Leica Q and the Leica Monochrom for a quick shootout today.

A few notes: I've previously tested that the Leica SL and Leica Q deliver very similar image results, so I decided to only bring the Q out for this test. Theoretically there will be minor differences between the SL and Q and Monochrom, but I'm not doing a scientific review, and figured the Q could represent on behalf of Leica's best color sensors. On the topic of science - there is none to be found here folks. I don't shoot paper focusing targets for hours on end or setup precision tools to compare these things. I did this shootout hand held on the streets of Cambridge, England. The framing between the two cameras is not scientifically accurate. I am a real photographer that wants to do realistic comparisons, not science experiments. If you are too anal to accept these minor differences, please find another blogger.

With all that out of the way, let's briefly describe the shooting setup. Since the Leica Q has a fixed lens, there isn't much to discuss there..... but I did use the in-camera frame line selector to display a 50mm crop on the images so that I could match the lens I was using on the Monochrom. For the Leica Monochrom, I shot a 50mm f/2 Summicron lens. I shot both cameras on Auto ISO, Aperture Priority, and in RAW with -1/3 stop exposure compensation. The same aperture was used on both cameras.

When generating the black and white for the Q images, I just moved the desaturation slider in Lightroom to 0. I made no other edits (which is why you can see some dust spots.... ick). Also, be sure to click on any image for a full screen preview.

Example I: Window

This was my first comparison, because it was a scene with some nice detail and contrast. The brick have a lot of tonal variety due to their age, so that made it interesting for a comparison. First, lets look at the color image from the Q, then we'll look at the desaturated Q vs Monochrom.

Window - Leica Q @ f/4 (50mm crop)

Leica Q image (desaturated) 

Leica M Monochrom image

Ok, so the Monochrom is maybe darker and has less tonal variety in the brickwork than the Q desaturated image, but I'm sure if I edited it, I could get them to look the same..... With a boring subject like this, not sure I really have a preference for the "winner" because both are uninteresting! 

Example II: Bike

Not only do I look stupid photographing a brick wall, but it's also not interesting. So to spice things up for the second side-by-side I went wild and found a bike leaning up against a wall to photograph. I know, pretty wild.

Bike - Leica Q @ f/5.6 (50mm crop)

Leica Q image (desaturated)

Leica M Monochrom image

This wild and crazy example is actually more interesting. I certainly could not differentiate which camera produced which image. I would say there is maybe a touch more dynamic range (tonal difference) in the shadow detail in the Monochrom image?

Example III: Street

I love photographing this street, particularly the awesome line of chimneys, and frequent visitors to ScenicTraverse.com will recognize this street from a dozen or so street photographs I have previously shared. Anyway, today I decided to shoot up the street for the comparison (I definitely prefer the composition shooting the other direction, but live and learn)

Street - Leica Q @ f/5.6 (50mm crop)

Leica Q image (desaturated) 

Leica M Monochrom image

In this comparison we really start to see the differences between a desaturated color image and the Monochrom files. First, the highlights in the Monochrom are lost and blown out (a common problem), while there is still cloud detail in the Q image. The simple explanation for this is that the Q saves color in three channels, and detail in those channels is lost at different rates, so a blown highlight in a color image may not be totally lost - you may be able to recover some detail from one of the color channels. The Monochrom just captures luminance values, so lost is lost. If you want more information about how and why this happens, I suggest reading about the Bayer Color Filter and the Monochrom's lack of one.

Also interesting in this example is the shadow detail. The Q shadow is much harsher and more contrasty, while the Monochrom file is flatter and has more detail in the shadow. Personally, I would rather have the shadow detail and underexpose a little more to preserve the highlights - meaning I'd vote for the Monochrom file in this comparison. Could I get the same result with editing the Q file? Probably.

Example IV: To the Water

Lets get saucy.... In the above example I postulated that I could probably generate the same looking file from either camera, so this time I am going to challenge myself to create two photographs that are as similar as possible. IE: Can I create the same photograph in Lightroom from either camera?

A quick note: I did not science this. Obviously the photographs are not the same, but thats okay. I spent about 3 minutes trying to match them up in Lightroom, and got this result. 

Leica Q

Leica Monochrom

Like I said, not scientific, and it really would be hard to do so. They are completely different lenses with completely different contrast, bokeh, and sharpness. But I'd say the result is generally similar. With more tweaking I could probably get them even closer, but this is good enough for me to stamp it as complete. PS - I like the Monochrom file better, but that is probably because I like contrast, and the 50mm lens I'm using from 1983 has a knack for contrast ;-)

Example V: Chimney

For this last comparison, I did a similar test to the above, except that I processed the images in Nik Silver Efex instead of Lightroom. 

Leica Q

Leica Monochrom

I'll let you draw your own conclusions here, but look at the tonality of the white clouds, tonality of the sky, and detail in the shadows.... While the photos are similar at first glance, there are certainly differences.

Verdict

When photographing a subject that didn't have much dynamic range (example I - the wall), the results were pretty similar and boring. But as the images got more complex with highlights, shadows, white and blacks to contend with, differences certainly started to emerge in the final product. 

In Example V I used Nik Silver Efex to make the photographs similar, and although the tone on the brick is pretty similar, the Monchrom has better rendering of the white in the clouds and more detail in the shadow. 

Back to the reader question, the answer is that the files are similar, but certainly different. And this is where preference becomes so subjective. The Monochrom has interchangeable lenses, is a rangefinder, and lacks autofocus. The Q is a fixed 28mm lens, but has fast autofocus, and is deadly silent. Neither is better - its a matter of personal preference. The Q is a simple camera that can deliver tremendous results, while the Monochrom requires more work to use. At the end of the day, I choose the tool for the photographs I want to create on that day. 

If this post has interested you, be sure to read about my experience photographing the Tour de France using the Leica Monochrom

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

Five Thoughts: A Day with the Leica Monochrom

I remember when I was first researching Leica's camera and lens lineup - well before I even considered purchasing my first Leica. As a self-admitted gear-obsessed woman, I researched the cameras and lens based on price alone. And how can you avoid it? You see cameras and lenses that cost around $10,000 USD and you can't help but be intrigued by their offerings.

Two of the many Leica products I drooled over in that initial research stuck out in my memory. They were the Leica Noctilux f/0.95 lens and the Leica Monochrom. At that point the Monochrom was built off the M9 platform as the new M246 Monochrom was not yet announced.

These two products stuck out for several reasons beyond their pricing..... most significantly it was their uniqueness. A f/0.95 lens was (and still is) unlike anything else on the market, and the incredible bokeh and low-light it offered was remarkable. And the Monochrom - a camera that could only take black and white photographs! 

I have since secretly lusted for both. Earlier this year I had a chance to snag a Noctilux for a killer deal by monitoring the currency fluctuations (see my earlier post about the purchase of the Noctilux). And while the Monochrom still lived in my fantasies, it would take another killer deal before I could consider purchasing.

Low and behold, another killer deal came along.... this time a combination of the Leica rebate + trade in promotion + a weak British Pound / US Dollar exchange rate. Leica introduced a program where I could trade in another camera (I chose my lovely M7) and get a part exchange, plus $750 rebate. Alone this is a good deal, but the real killer is the exchange rate. After the June 23rd vote by the UK to exit from the European Union, the British Pound crashed to a 30 year low. I waited until the Pound traded at $1.29 on the dollar and jumped..... I purchased my Monochrom at Red Dot Camera in London.

I haven't owned my Leica Monochrom long enough to do a proper review, so I'll share my initial five thoughts on the camera and follow-up with another review when appropriate.

Three Leg Thing - Leica MM with Leica 35mm Summarit ASPH

Pokemon Go - Leica MM with Leica 50mm Noctilux f/0.95

I: Oh Panchromatic....

Obviously you don't need to take many photographs to figure out that the Monochrom only captures black and white, or more technically correct, panchromatic images. In fact, if you take one photograph without figuring that out, you're either asleep, lost, or both.

Still, even though I knew I was going to get a greyscale product back from the Monochrom, there is an element of excitement and anticipation in downloading those first images into Lightroom. I was blown away by the tonal depth of the photographs..... millions of shades of grey never looked so good!

I would say it is different from film - at least from my preferred film, Ilford Delta 100. Scans of my film (which I self-develop in HC-110B) tend to be more contrasty and have bolder blacks and harsher whites. The Monochrom RAW files are more flat out-of-camera, but really sparkle with a few seconds of editing in Lightroom. The detail and resolution of the Monochrom files is also very impressive - I was able to get very heavy handed with some crops but maintain acceptable file resolution and detail.

Absorbed - Leica MM with Leica 35mm Summarit ASPH

Road Markings - Leica MM with Leica 50mm Noctilux f/0.95

Two Phones? - Leica MM with Leica 35mm Summarit ASPH

II: Neutral Density Filter Required, ASAP

I LOVE shooting with the Leica f/0.95 Noctilux on my Leica SL - it's become one of my favorite lenses for the truly unique look and feel that it gives each image. But mounted with a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000th and a base ISO of 320, I will need to invest in a neutral density filter for the Noctilux before I can really get the most out of the lens in daylight. I took a few shots in London later in the evening when it was darker, but look forward to having a chance to play in more diverse light with a filter. I wasted no time ordering a 3 stop ND filter made by B&W!

Interrogation - Leica MM with Leica 35mm Summarit ASPH

Walking - Leica MM with Leica 35mm Summarit ASPH

Selfie - Leica MM with Leica 35mm Summarit ASPH

III: My Friend, EVF

Going back to the Noctilux - the reason it is such a great lens on the SL is because of the electronic viewfinder. In fact, I really struggled to decide between the older Monochrom (based on the M9 body) and the new Monochrom Type 246, but ultimately decided that the ability to use an electronic viewfinder (EVF) was worth the extra cost. 

The electronic viewfinder on the Monochrom is a nice addition - it helps you 'see' in black and white if you are trying to learn to see the world without color, and the focus peaking is a must-have to improve your focusing hit-rate with the Noctilux. Of course there is no comparison between the Leica EVF-2 and the viewfinders on the Leica SL and Leica Q.... it lags and is much lower resolution, but if you can accept those things and just want a tool to help you ensure critical focus, then it's a great buy.

Taxi Driver - Leica MM with Leica 50mm Noctilux f/0.95

Self Portrait - Leica MM with Leica 35mm Summarit ASPH

Wine Tasting - Leica MM with Leica 50mm Noctilux f/0.95

IV: Underexpose

Several reviewers have discussed the importance of underexposing photographs to ensure no blown highlights as highlight detail cannot be recovered in the Monochrom files, but I had to play with it to really see it for myself. I took a variety of test shots against a bright window with a backlit subject to see how much I could "sneak out" of the highlights. Sure enough, blown highlights are really blown. (Sidenote: this is like a child being told something is hot, but not believing it until they touch it themselves and get burned. I had to try it to know!) 

In some cases, I actually like the blown highlight for the contrast it can apply to an image. I wouldn't do this all the time, certainly, but for a few of the images, I think the blown highlight helps draw the eye back to my subject.

I intentionally underexposed this photograph of my husband by several stops to see how much I could recover before I introduced noise...... see below. Leica MM with Leica 35mm Summarit ASPH

The result. I would like to have pulled back a little more in the shirt, but noise started to be introduced at a level I was uncomfortable with. For me, this is as far as I'd push the image. All-in-all, a completely acceptable result! - Leica MM with Leica 35mm Summarit ASPH

V: See Differently

I convert 99% of my street photography, and probably 50% of my landscape photography to black and white, so the idea of pre-visualizing an image in black and white isn't new to me. However, there is still something to be said for knowing you can only capture an image in black and white vs capturing in color and knowing you have the option to convert. There were times in my walk through London that I saw some bright colors or shapes that made me reach for the camera, only to remember that the subject wouldn't translate into panchromatic. This isn't a bad thing..... I don't miss any of those 'missed' shots. Having a camera that only captures panchromatic images helps focus my attention. I studied the light and the way the light reflected off a subject. I experimented photographing shiny and reflective surfaces to see how those translated in the eyes of this sensor, and I found myself discovering contrast and intrigue in new scenes.

Moorgate Station - Leica MM with Leica 35mm Summarit ASPH

Examine - Leica MM with Leica 35mm Summarit ASPH

Shoryu Ramen (the best!) - Leica MM with Leica 50mm Noctilux f/0.95

There's a certain amount of learning required for any new camera, and the Monochrom and I are still in the flirting phase; still figuring out what the other likes while avoiding touchy dinner table conversations like religion and politics. We'll get there soon, but for now I need to continue to learn how the Monochrom responds to the world around it. I am incredibly excited by this camera - it begs to be picked up and to go shooting, so I'm sure it won't take long before Donald Trump's hair is broached at dinner......

Quick Shot: Locks of Love

I have been busy traveling and collecting frequent flyer miles, but that doesn't mean I have neglected my photography! Quite the contrary! I have been editing hundreds of images and developing almost ten rolls of film from recent jaunts through Denver, Atlanta, London and Paris. 

I have to give credit to my friend for this image - we were in Paris and he suggested a photograph of this couple I hadn't seen cuddling in the corner. I had just taken an image of the forever locks on the fence nearby, so decided to make it a double exposure before advancing the roll. Kudos to him for finding the couple, because I LOVE the resulting image.

Shot with Hasselblad 503CX on Ilford Delta 100 Pro film.

Quick Shot: Trees

Nothing too fancy, just a beautiful image of some pine trees lined up along the beach on Llanddwyn Island in Wales. I really liked the fence in the foreground and the fact that you could see parts of the beach through the trees. I actually took a few images with my digital Leica and my film camera before I settled on this being my favorite.

This is a film photograph taken with a Hasselblad 503CX on Ilford Delta 100 Pro film.

Quick Shot: Double Exposure

One of the fun things film can do that digital cameras cannot is the art of a double exposure. In film, a double exposure is achieved when the film is exposed twice - with two different images - creating a composite on the negative. 

As a photographer, this is rather fun, because you don't know what the outcome will be until you've gone home to develop the film. In this case, I had to wait almost two weeks after taking the images before I could leave Venice to return to my developing studio. The wait was worth it, and I was excited by the resulting images.

Here's a quick shot to introduce the concept - the first image was of the gondolas along the grand canal. The second image was with my Leica camera in the scene.

Shot with a Rolleiflex 2.8F on Ilford Delta 100 Pro film.

Quick Shot: Natural Illusion

Here's something you don't see everyday...... the Campanile di San Marco (aka the San Marco Square clocktower), twice.

Wait. What?

With the exception of a crop and conversion to black and white, this image is 100% authentic as it came from the camera. Any guesses what is going on here?

Shot with a Leica MP240 and Leica 24mm f/2.8 lens.

Quick Shot: Streets of Belgium

I just returned from a long weekend in Belgium and have been busy developing and scanning the whopping two rolls of film I used during this trip. I think its the fewest photos I've ever taken on a vacation, but that points to the patience and thought I put into each shutter click. As a result, the number of "website worthy" images is pretty high - so prepare to see some Belgium!

I'm starting with this one because it's so unexpected. It's a street corner in Bruges, Belgium, that was quiet on a Sunday morning. I liked the architecture and buildings - it was so clearly European - and I knew it'd translate well onto black and white film.

Taken with my Leica MP using Adox Silvermax 35mm film.

Quick Shot: Leeds Tower

I once purchased a book on abstract photography, and although I've never come close to creating anything like the book demonstrated, I do look for naturally occurring opportunities to create something more abstract.

Such was the case with this photograph, which was taken from inside a shopping mall in Leeds, England. The mall was semi-open air and had a very neat glass roof that created an interesting dome over the mall. I could have taken a hundred photographs with the interesting shape of the ceiling, but I focused on trying to make one great image. I couldn't tell you what stores are in the mall because I walked all three levels looking up the entire time trying to find the perfect shot. On one of the top floors, I found myself looking at this - a tower outside cutting vertically through the scene, while the natural curve of the roof made the windows and frame wrap horizontally. It was the sort of interesting geometric contrast I was looking to get!

To help balance the frame, I exposed for the clouds. This made them visible and "moody" while darkening the window frames and tower. The resulting image I think is very dramatic and geometrically intriguing. 

Shot on my Leica 35mm MP with a 75mm lens and Kodak Tri-X film.

Film Shootout: Ilford FP-4 Plus

Film Name: 

Ilford FP4 Plus

Type: 

Black and White

ISO: 

125

Grain: 

Fine

Sizes Available: 

35mm, 120, & sheet

Size Tested: 

35mm & 120mm

Development: 

Following MassiveDev chart, using Ilford Ilfosol 3 developer. Seven minutes development time, 1 minute stop bath (Ilford), 5 minutes of fixing (Ilford), 10 minute rinse and Kodak Photo-Flo. 

Developing a roll of 120mm and 35mm Ilford FP-4 Plus. I measure all of the chemistry first and use the MassiveDev app on my iPad as a timer. Film is loaded into a Paterson tank.

Developing a roll of 120mm and 35mm Ilford FP-4 Plus. I measure all of the chemistry first and use the MassiveDev app on my iPad as a timer. Film is loaded into a Paterson tank.

The chemistry used to develop these test rolls. From left to right: Developer (Ilfosol 3), Stop Bath (Ilfostop), Fixer (Rapid Fixer) and Kodak Photo Flo. Again, note the MassiveDev app for iPad.

The chemistry used to develop these test rolls. From left to right: Developer (Ilfosol 3), Stop Bath (Ilfostop), Fixer (Rapid Fixer) and Kodak Photo Flo. Again, note the MassiveDev app for iPad.

Developed film (120mm and 35mm) ready to be hung for drying. 

Developed film (120mm and 35mm) ready to be hung for drying. 

Film drying in the darkroom. My drying rig is expertly crafted from a metal clothes hangar, gaffers tape, film hanging clips and a over-the-door hook. 

Film drying in the darkroom. My drying rig is expertly crafted from a metal clothes hangar, gaffers tape, film hanging clips and a over-the-door hook. 

Fact Sheet (Provided by Manufacturer): 

ILFORD FP4 Plus is an exceptionally fine grain, medium speed, black and white film. It is ideal for high quality indoor and outdoor photography, particularly when giant enlargements are to be made. In addition to general photography, FP4 Plus is also suited to copying and internegative work, and has many applications in scientific, technical and industrial photography.

FP4 Plus is robust and will give usable results even if it is overexposed by as much as six stops, or underexposed by two stops. It is compatible with all major processing systems, including those which give the standard short fixing and washing times.

FP4 Plus 35mm film is coated on 0.125mm/5-mil acetate base and is available in 24 or 36 exposure cassettes, or in bulk lengths of 17 and 30.5 metres (56 and 100ft). FP4 Plus 35mm film is supplied in DX coded cassettes, suitable for all 35mm cameras.

FP4 Plus rollfilm is coated on 0.110mm/4-mil clear acetate base with an anti-halation backing which clears during development. It is available in 120 and 220 lengths and is edge numbered 1 to 19 (120) and 1 to 40 (220).

FP4 Plus sheet film is coated on 0.180mm/7-mil polyester base with an anti-halation backing which clears during development.

Packaging:

Packaging of a 120mm roll (35mm packaging is the same, just different shape). Box is white with black and blue logo lettering. Expiration date is printed on the bottom corner, along with a suggested storage temperature of less than 20*C / 68*F.

Packaging of a 120mm roll (35mm packaging is the same, just different shape). Box is white with black and blue logo lettering. Expiration date is printed on the bottom corner, along with a suggested storage temperature of less than 20*C / 68*F.

The exterior of a 35mm Ilford FP4 Plus canister

The exterior of a 35mm Ilford FP4 Plus canister

The exterior of a 120mm roll that has been exposed. Sticker is left at the end of the roll and can be affixed with a quick lick, like a postage stamp.

The exterior of a 120mm roll that has been exposed. Sticker is left at the end of the roll and can be affixed with a quick lick, like a postage stamp.

Leftover paper backing after the 120mm film has been removed (in a dark film changing bag) and transferred to the developing tank.

Leftover paper backing after the 120mm film has been removed (in a dark film changing bag) and transferred to the developing tank.

Remains of the 35mm canister once film was removed for developing. 

Remains of the 35mm canister once film was removed for developing. 

Scanning:

Both the 120mm and 35mm film was scanned on an Epson V700 scanner using the provided film trays and Silverfast 8 software. I scanned for internet and printing, so the files were not the absolute best the scanner can achieve, but I don't need a million DPI either. I set the scanner to 900dpi using a RGB color profile. In the crops seen below, the scan quality is a bigger limiter to the quality than the film itself.

User Review:

This was the first "high quality" (aka not sold at your local drug store) film that I ran through my 120mm and 35mm camera. As a company, Ilford has a fantastic reputation for making some of the best films on the market.... they also specialize in black and white film, so you sort of expect only the best.

I have found the FP4+ to be a very forgiving film that captures great dynamic range and can therefore make up for an imperfect metering and exposure settings. Negatives consistently have a nice balance between contrasty blacks and light tones. I find the grain to this film also very appealing - too much grain can distract from the image, but the FP4+ fine grain is enough to offer texture and depth to the film without being overpowering.

Development of this film is very easy. You can use any number of developers and get fantastic results.

The more I shoot this film, the more I find myself really liking it! There's not much to complain about, it's a very solid all-around film for a variety of shooting conditions. Portraits, architecture, landscapes, etc all look great; if you are setting out for a day of shooting with no expectations of what you might photograph, Ilford FP-4 plus is a great choice to load up. Where other films are particular good for portraiture, et, the FP-4 plus is a wonderful "do all" film and the 100 speed offers a very fine and pleasing grain. 

A super crop (200%) of a 900dpi scan on an Epson V700. This isn't even remotely close to the best scan quality possible, but the detail and sharpness is very apparent. The grain is very fine and not overbearing.

A super crop (200%) of a 900dpi scan on an Epson V700. This isn't even remotely close to the best scan quality possible, but the detail and sharpness is very apparent. The grain is very fine and not overbearing.

Another super crop, but this one is at 300%. Again, incredible sharpness and detail captured in this negative.

Another super crop, but this one is at 300%. Again, incredible sharpness and detail captured in this negative.

Quick Shot: Iconic London

It's one of the most iconic scenes in London - the photograph of Big Ben and Westminster..... so how do you make it different? I knew I wanted to photograph the famous landmarks, but needed my own twist. 

To create this image I decided to shoot first thing in the morning when there were long shadows creating harsh blacks and brilliant highlights on the buildings. The day for this was perfect - there was light cloud cover and the sun was just peaking above the horizon to cast a nice soft light across the front of the buildings. I knew it was going to be a photograph done in black and white to help capture the drama and I think the whole thing worked. 

Shot with the Nikon D800 + 24-70mm lens and black and white conversion done with Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.

Quick Shot: Antique Junkyard

Ever been to a place that is so full of trash and junk that you are confused and intrigued at the same time? Welcome to Old Car City, Georgia

This place is essentially a junk yard on steroids for old rusty, crusty, and nasty automobiles. You can probably find any commonly made car from the last 80 years decaying on this huge compound. It's a mess of twisted metal, history, and art that will have you wondering if your tetanus shot is up to date.

I spent 3 hours exploring and shooting almost 15 gigabytes of rusted cars - it was very weird but very satisfying to have so much of our history on display for me to photograph. I have a ton of future Quick Shots to come from Old Car City, but I'll start with one I really like.

This was one of the last cars I photographed and was also one of the few not obscured by tree cover, meaning there was a nice late afternoon light kissing the front of the chrome parts. It looked stellar in color, but this photograph really jumped out in black and white. There is so much texture and detail in this photograph from all the peeling paint and rusted metal - I am a little disappointed that a digital print really doesn't do the photograph justice. To fully appreciate this photo, you'd need it printed nice and large to get a sense for the intense detail and texture on this car. 

Can anyone ID what model of car this is? If so, leave me a comment!

Check out all the killer detail and texture on the peeling paint and rust on this car! I can't wait to print this image on some monster paper and see the detail come to life! Can you ID the car?

Quick Shot: WWI Memorial

Last weekend I had a chance to explore the World War I Memorial in Kansas City. The memorial was built in the 1920s to commemorate those Americans who served and features a large monument and a wonderful museum.  

The weather for this trip was perfect - although a little hot, there was a nice breeze and some light clouds in the sky. I knew the weather would be perfect for Black and White photography and used my polarizer filter to ensure I gave the sky as much contrast as possible.

I'll be posting a variety of Quick Shots from the World War I Memorial in the news few days. Today's shot is an overview of the memorial from the top (directly over the museum), but stay tuned to see a bunch of other cool shots soon! 

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