Posts Tagged ‘film’

The Perfect Camera

Monday, November 16th, 2020

I recently came across a post on Petapixel, My 10 Year Search for the Perfect Camera Brought Me Back to APS-C written by international photographer and filmmaker based in San Francisco Kien Lam. Although I try to avoid thinking too much about gear, like most photographers I suffer from a considerable amount of insecurity and the feeling that somehow a better camera or lens would improve my work.

It’s a feeling that over the years has led me to buy numerous cameras and lenses, most of which now lie unused in cupboards either because I can’t be bothered to sell them, or because of a feeling that one day I might just take them out and use them again.

Things were rather easier in the days of film, and there were usually what seemed to be very good reasons to change to a new camera. I got fed up with the Zenith B because it was a clunky beast that required so much force to wind on film that it was easy to rip a film in two. Its one camera I didn’t hang on to when I moved to the Olympus OM1, which compared to it seemed an almost perfect camera – and one I used until various bits fell off and I replaced it with an OM4. I still have two of these, to my mind still the most perfect cameras of their type.

But I still bought other cameras. For some types of photography I preferred a rangefinder Leica. Starting with a battered secondhand Leica M2, I later bought a nearly new Minolta CLE, another great camera with decent exposure metering well before Leica’s own. Leica’s shutter was noisy and intrusive compared to the Hexar F, another camera I loved, though its fixed 35mm lens wasn’t quite wide enough. The main problem I had with its silent mode was that I was often not sure if I’d actually taken a picture or not.

Then there were cameras of a more specialist nature, each with their uses. Several swing lens panoramic models, medium format and even 4×5″ cameras, and another favourite, the Hassleblad X-Pan.

The came digital. After some compact cameras I started seriously with the Nikon D100. The pictures were fine but the viewfinder was abysmal, reason enough to upgrade to D70, then the D200 when that came out. Then the D300… Cameras were beginning to seem disposable, each new model offering more pixels. Then came full-frame, and really I should have resisted, but I didn’t. I didn’t really need the extra pixels, but again the viewfinder was better, though I ended up taking a lot of images in DX mode and enjoying being able to view outside the frame lines.

Most of those digital cameras I’ve actually passed on to friends or swapped including the disastrous Leica M8 with its colour problems. It was that swap that really got me into Fuji, with the X Pro1. A nice optical viewfinder but rather poor with lenses outside its range which needed th electronic version.

I’ve still got my Nikon kit, two working bodies, though a couple went beyond economic repair, and various lenses. The D810 is now mainly used to ‘scan’ negatives, though occasionally taken out until the virus lockdown for its low light capability. But I find the kit too heavy for me now, and looked around for a lighter system.

For a while I used an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II which seemed in some ways very similar to my old and well-loved OM film cameras. Some fine lenses – both Olympus and Panasonic Leica – but just occasionally I felt there was something lacking in the images from the smaller sensor.

Eventually I went back to APS-C, and like Kien Lam to Fuji, though to the less expensive options of a Fuji XT-1 and an XT-30. It was the latter than decided it for me, roughly as small and as light as the Olympus, and I bought it rather than commit to Olympus by buying a second Olympus body. Unlike Kien Lam I’m not searching for a perfect camera, and I certainly spend a lot of time swearing at the Fuji cameras with their complicated buttons and menus. But the lenses are excellent (though some are rather expensive) and I’ve yet to find myself thinking that any particular image would have been better on full-frame.

Notting Hill Carnival 2000

Sunday, September 13th, 2020
Notting Hill Carnival, 2000. Peter Marshall 00-814-55_2400

Some might think that pictures from 2000 have no place in an album called ‘Notting Hill Carnival – the 1990s‘, but the decade really starts with 1991 as when we move to labelling years as ‘anno Domini’ or AD the first year was 1 and not 0. It was only around 1200 that the idea of zero and ‘0’ as a number really came into European thought, though it had existed much earlier in other civilisations in Asia, the Middle East and South America. So while some celebrated the Millenium at the start of 2000, the more educated knew it really had another year to go.

Notting Hill Carnival, 2000. Peter Marshall 00-817-45_2400

But its actually just a matter of convenience and the result of a small mistake I made when I was putting together an exhibition of my first ten years at Carnival. For some reason I thought I had first taken pictures there in 1991, so this was to cover the years 1991-2000, but as I worked on the show I found I had also been there in 1990.

Notting Hill Carnival, 2000. Peter Marshall 00-819-34_2400

For the moment I’ll end this album at 2000, though probably I’ll come back later and change its name to include all those years I covered the carnival on film rather than digital, though I’m not quite sure when that was.

Notting Hill Carnival, 2000. Peter Marshall 00-805-32_2400

I’d also intended the album simply to be black and white pictures, but then I found a couple of years where I had taken few or no black and white pictures. So I’m now busily scanning colour negatives from the other years and adding them. Except for one year where I seem to have mislaid the file containing the negatives – which I’ve spend hours searching for, so far without success.

Notting Hill Carnival, 2000. Peter Marshall 00-805-66_2400
Notting Hill Carnival, 2000. Peter Marshall 00-808-52_2400
Notting Hill Carnival, 2000. Peter Marshall  Notting Hill Carnival, 2000. Peter Marshall 00-809-36_2400

See more pictures from 2000 on Page 3 of ‘Notting Hill Carnival – the 1990s‘.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr


Notting Hill Carnival 1999

Friday, September 11th, 2020

I’ve so far digitised only a small proportion of images that I took of Carnival in 1999, though I think that those I’ve put into the Flickr album Notting Hill Carnival in the 1990s are probably the best of those I took. But I’m sure there are some other pictures worth adding later from the 600 or so black and white pictures I took over the two days – and I also made around 250 in colour.

Notting Hill Carnival, 1999. Peter Marshall 99-807-15_2400
Notting Hill Carnival, 1999. Peter Marshall 99-808-34_2400
Notting Hill Carnival, 1999. Peter Marshall 99-808-56_2400
Notting Hill Carnival, 1999. Peter Marshall 99-810-31_2400
Notting Hill Carnival, 1999. Peter Marshall 99-817-35_2400
Notting Hill Carnival, 1999. Peter Marshall 99-817-61_2400
Notting Hill Carnival, 1999. Peter Marshall 99-821-63_2400

As usual, the pictures display rather small on this site, but clicking on them will take you to a larger version on Flickr. You can see all the pictures from 1999 in the album by clicking on this link to go to the first and then clicking to go to next picture to go through the other 18.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Sitting on a goldmine?

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

Though film is now long dead for serious photography, the past few years have seen an upsurge in film sales, driven by young people who want to have fun taking pictures. And although I don’t see much point if any if you are going to have your films trade processed and then scanned, I can see how people can get a great deal of satisfaction about developing film and darkroom printing, which still has its particular magic that enthralled me around 50 years ago.

Like the youth of today, back in the 1980s and 90s, I became interested in archaic photographic processes, going heavily into what then became known as ‘alternative processes’. Partly my interest was in learning more about the historic processes used by some of the early photographers whose work I admired, but it was also in the aesthetic possibilites offered by cyanotype, kallitype, platinum and palladium, gum bichromate et al.

My interest was shared by a number of friends, one of whom became a well-known figure in the world of alternative photography, organising international conferences and making soemthing of a living running workshops and selling prints. But eventually I realised that my interests were more in the making of images to say something about the world and that the conventional processes, which were just beginning to embrace digital photography and printing. And I found that I could make prints which seemed to me just as expressive using an inkjet printer (and Piezography inks) as I had acheived with salt printing or platinum and with much more control.

When digital first began to dominate photography around ten years ago, film cameras were redundant and secondhand prices slumped. But apparently with a new young generation wanting to shoot film they are now in great demand. The video¬†by NBC Left Field, ‘Why We Still Love Film: Analog Photography in the Digital Age‘ includes¬† some footage of a secondhand camera shop with cameras now being sold for silly prices. The man at K&M Camera in New York in the film says demand now exceeds supply and offers smiling customers cameras at prices that seem to have an extra zero on them. Those like me, who couldn’t bear to sell their old film cameras at knock down prices, may now find they are sitting on a goldmine.

Unfortunately for me, a quick check online of the UK secondhand camera market tells me that UK prices as yet don’t reflect those in New York, so we can either sit tight and hope they will catch up in time, or take a heavy suitcase full to the States. Though looking at those UK listings of cameras which all seem to be in at least ‘good’ if not ‘excellent++’ condition I do wonder how ‘knackered–‘ might affect the price.

It’s certainly a good thing that using film forces people to think about taking photographs rather than just keep pushing the button. Most of us who grew up on film probably still do that anyway with digital, though it has made some differences.

Long ago I remember looking at the contact sheets made by a Magnum photographer, working with 35mm film. Most of his sheets of 36 exposures only really contained perhaps two pictures, working around the subject until he was satisfied that he had probably done the best he could. Where possible (sometimes there is only a fleeting chance and it is gone) I work the same way with digital, but can now take more frames and take them in a considerably shorter time and have a higher chance of getting the scene exactly as I want it.

But it’s perhaps a good time to sort out all those old cameras and put them up for sale. And perhaps we shouldn’t leave it too long. As one of the photographers on the film in what was perhaps its most interesting contribution points out that the film renaissance is likely to be of relatively short duration because of its environmental impacts.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

Danny Lyon on Frank the man

Sunday, September 29th, 2019

” For all artists, there is a difference between the person and their work. “

Thus states Danny Lyon in the article ‘When Fathers Die: Remembering Robert Frank‘ on The New York Review of Books site. His piece is a very personal story of the man he lived with and worked with and who he says “brought integrity to an art riddled with compromise.”

I don’t think it makes me see any more – or less – in Frank’s pictures but I found it a fascinating read, a reminder of the very different times and lifestyle in which that work was produced.