bookmark_borderA brief appearance of the Nikon FG-20

Previously I wrote that the Nikon FG-20 is not a suitable camera for practising photography. I argued that its flawed ergonomics did not make for a pleasant shooting experience and could even be the cause of exposure mistakes. And yet I found myself pulling it out of storage, fitting it with two fresh LR44 batteries, loading a roll of expired Ferrania Solaris 100 into its back, and taking it out to the garden for more pictures of flowers.

I have to say that using the camera was not as bad as expected, perhaps because with the camera fixed on a tripod, I did not have to fiddle its controls, thus avoiding spoilt exposures from accidental changes of settings. But the experience remained underwhelming, mainly due to the small viewfinder, which makes the exposure meter difficult to read.

In retrospect, I think that I needed to be convinced of the FG-20’s shortcomings one last time before putting it away for good, given my particular fondness for its looks and its size.

The pictures from the roll are not great. I was impatient and did not allow the temperature of the chemicals to stabilise before starting the development process. I am also conscious of over-agitating the film tank and potentially causing the negative to be overly developed by doing so. The final images are more grainy than they ought to be from ISO 100 film.

Some people say that the grain gives these photos the “film look”. But a well-exposed negative actually produces very clean images – such as the one below, shot on ISO 400 film.

Several factors must be considered in judging the quality of final pictures: age of the film, age of the development chemicals, accuracy of the exposure, development process, scanning process, and editing. Given my inconsistent results from consistent use of expired film, I think it is right to blame my amateurish development process for any quality shortfall.

bookmark_borderBack to BASIC

I fancied doing some BASIC programming yesterday and wrote a prime sieve in PC-BASIC. It can list primes up to about 10,000 at a decent speed but struggles with larger numbers because of memory and data type limitations in BASIC. Here is a screenshot showing the program and its output.

Besides BASIC, other old computer tech has occupied my time lately. I run a VM with Red Hat Linux 4.2, which I first used in 1997, and code in C and C++ inside the VM. I also switched from the feature-rich GNOME desktop environment to the rudimentary Fvwm window manager.

My explanation for this trend is that I am rediscovering computers as a hobby, now that my new job does not require me to learn about them as an occupational necessity. I can enjoy using old operating systems and programming languages that I could not explore to sufficient depth as I speed-learnt to my present level. Take programming for example— I barely spent time coding in BASIC once I was comfortable with it and instead quickly moved on to Pascal, Clipper[1], Visual Basic, Java, and so on.

I suppose I am in a similar situation with my photography. From lusting for the latest digital cameras, I now take more pleasure from the slow and intentional motions involved in operating old film cameras.

Either it is that, or it is simply nostalgia showing my age.

[1] Clipper is the first language that I used for serious programming. I did my project for GCE O-Level Computer Studies with Clipper.

bookmark_borderPlaying with expired Ferrania Solaris 100 film

This evening I developed a roll of expired Ferrania Solaris 100 film, which I bought on eBay. It was ideal for testing because it had only 12 frames, which I could expose within a single day. In contrast, it usually takes months for me to finish a roll of 36 frames. The flowers that my mother and I planted came in as handy photo subjects, as did the fruit bowl.

These results are decent for a film expired in 2008 and developed with one-year-old chemicals. Conventional wisdom says that I should err on the side of overexposure when shooting film, which I did when the light-meter gave me values that I could not set on the Minolta X300 camera — for example, choosing 1/8-second shutter speed on the camera when the meter gives a 1/10-second reading — but I find the photos are overexposed.

The same problem is present in some of the photos below, from another roll developed a couple of weeks ago. My Sekonic lightmeter is accurate, as tested with a Nikon DSLR, so I now worry that there might be a bit of shutter drag on this camera.