Ilford HP5 Plus 400 | Pentax Spotmatic II | SMC Takumar 55mm F:2

This roll of film is the second roll of Ilford HP5 Plus 400 that I developed with The Darkroom. This roll was shot on my Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II and Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 lens.

NOTE: I'll begin this experience report with a brief disclaimer. It's been less than two years since I've returned to shooting 35mm film after switching to digital photography over 20 years ago. I've inundated myself in as much film education as I could find between web articles and advice from experienced film shooters. But, with my former experience way in the past and limited recent experience, this review is coming from a relative novice point of view.

UPDATE 13 April 2020: Hamish Gill of 35mmc suggested that I may have a faulty shutter. In March I had the camera CLA'd (Clean, Lube and Adjust) by Eric Hendrickson. Soon, I'll shoot another roll of film to see the difference.

This roll of film is the second roll of Ilford HP5 Plus 400 that I developed with The Darkroom. This roll was shot on my Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II and Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 lens.

For me, using the Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II camera was more challenging than using the Pentax P3. The Pentax P3 has a shutter priority mode, and my unit has a working light meter. When I shot using the Pentax P3 camera, I set the shutter speed to 1/250s, and the camera adjusted the aperture as needed. However, while the Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II has a working light meter, the plastic to move the lever broke and the rest of the camera settings have to be set manually. I had to use the Sunny 16 technique to estimate the shutter speed and lens combinations to properly expose each shot. The Sunny 16 technique is something I only learned about quite recently. I practised a little at home.

I took the camera with me to the client office, at Old Slip about a block from Wall Street, in Manhattan and captured some images during my lunch hour. I walked around Front Street, Gouverneur Lane, and South Street. The rain was light which made for a challenging walk. I was concerned about the camera getting wet so I walked across South Street and under FDR Drive along the East River Esplanade. It's an area I have explored with my Fujifilm X-T2 last year and even then shooting mostly with an Ilford HP5 Plus 400 film recipe.

Photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organisation of forms which give that event its proper expression.Henri Cartier-Bresson

I expected all my images to be severely under or overexposed. The shutter speed of the Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II is limited to 1/1000s, but fortunately, it was a rainy overcast (and cold) day in Manhattan. The images are only slight over or underexposed, but I'm pleased with the results. Plus, I feel a sense of pride that I was able to use this old camera. I want to get a small, handheld light meter to make metering easier. Given the limitation of shutter speed, I have purchased a roll of ADOX Scala 100 for use in brighter conditions.

The images were developed and scanned by The Darkroom.

11 February, 2020 | Gouverneur Lane, Manhattan, New York City | Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 | Ilford HP5 Plus 400
11 February, 2020 | South Street, Manhattan, New York City | Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 | Ilford HP5 Plus 400
11 February, 2020 | East River Esplande, South Street, Manhattan, New York City | Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 | Ilford HP5 Plus 400
11 February, 2020 | East River Esplanade, South Street, Manhattan, New York City | Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 | Ilford HP5 Plus 400
11 February, 2020 | East River Esplanade, South Street, Manhattan, New York City | Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 | Ilford HP5 Plus 400
11 February, 2020 | Wall Street Ferry and Pier 11. South Street, Manhattan, New York City | Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 | Ilford HP5 Plus 400
11 February, 2020 | CitiBike and Slip B at Pier 11, South Street, Manhattan, New York City | Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 | Ilford HP5 Plus 400
11 February, 2020 | Bumper, East River Esplanade, South Street, Manhattan, New York City | Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 | Ilford HP5 Plus 400
11 February, 2020 | NY Waterway Ferry, East River, New York City | Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 | Ilford HP5 Plus 400
11 February, 2020 | East River Esplande, South Street, Manhattan, New York City | Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 | Ilford HP5 Plus 400
11 February, 2020 | Looking up at FDR Drive. East River Esplanade, South Street, Manhattan, New York City | Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 | Ilford HP5 Plus 400
11 February, 2020 | Have a wet seat. East River Esplanade, South Street, Manhattan, New York City | Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 | Ilford HP5 Plus 400
11 February, 2020 | Strutting pigeon. East River Esplanade, South Street, Manhattan, New York City | Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 | Ilford HP5 Plus 400
11 February, 2020 | Pigeon in flight. East River Esplanade, South Street, Manhattan, New York City | Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 | Ilford HP5 Plus 400
11 February, 2020 | East River Esplanade, South Street, Manhattan, New York City | Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 | Ilford HP5 Plus 400
11 February, 2020 | Seagulls but not the seashore. East River Esplanade, South Street, Manhattan, New York City | Asahi Optical Co. Pentax Spotmatic II | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 | Ilford HP5 Plus 400

Sony α7s + Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70 mm F4 ZA OSS

Over the last year, I’ve rented a few compact interchangeable lens camera systems. Some were µ 43 and some were APS-C. Some felt just right, and some felt too small. None were full-frame (35mm FF format).

I don't care much about the debate over full-frame versus APS-C sensor size etc. What I want to know is the ease of use and a range of quality lenses for the camera system. All my photos live in digital format and are viewed online on a computer screen. The last time I made prints was in 2006. I share my pictures on social networks like Facebook and Google+. Image quality is very important, but the ease of use is even more important. All the cameras I've tested to this point have performed well.

My professional photographer friends Gevon Servo and Scott Wyden seemed to love the Sony a7 cameras. Gevon especially loves using his Sony a7 with his Nikon lenses. So I took advantage of the long weekend to rent a Sony a7s and Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70 mm F4 ZA OSS. I think I'm in love.

The Sony a7s and Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70 mm F4 ZA OSS feel solid. Professional. This was the same feeling I had when I used the Fuji X-T1. This is a modern-looking camera with a vintage camera build feel. I've hardly put it down since I unpacked the box from Lensrentals.

Last night I spent a few minutes poking around the menus and setting up the camera. This was not as easy as I would have liked. Setting aside the fact that I am used to Nikon's camera menu, finding things in the camera menus was more challenging.

One of the reasons I love the Fuji X-T1 was the access to manual controls for aperture, ISO and shutter speed. I didn't have to mess around with hard to read menus. The Sony doesn't have as many manual controls but and the menu system was quick but not as easy to navigate.

Confirming the Sony a7s to transfer images to my iPhone was very easy. I'm very impressed given how flaky doing the same thing on the Panasonic GM1 was. The Olympus OM-D M-1 and M-5 were not as hard to set up as the Panasonic but not as easy as the Sony.

Sony α7s + Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70 mm F4 ZA OSS @ 70mm, ISO 50, 1125 at f/4.0

Once I had the camera set up the way I wanted, I took it out to the local farmers market. One of my very first photos was of some colourful tomatoes displayed in a basket of produce from Chickadee Creek Farm. I shot these over to my iPhone via the built-in wi-fi of the Sony. The image is straight out of the camera.

Transferring photos from the Sony to my iPhone and iPad was easy. I selected the Send to Smartphone option from the WiFi menu and selected one or more or all the photos I wanted to transfer. The camera told me to connect my iPad or iPhone to the indicated Wi-Fi access point name and provided the password to use. Once my iPad or iPhone was connected, I launched the free Sony app, and the images were transferred. I am very impressed with how quickly the files transferred. In comparison, this seemed to take transfer more slowly on the Olympus and the and Fujifilm X-T1.

Sony α7s + Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70 mm F4 ZA OSS @ 70mm, ISO 50, 1500 sec at f/4.0

I love shooting with this camera. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) doesn’t get in the way, and focusing is fast. I love how the Sony a7s automatically switches from live view via the back LCD to the EVF as soon as my eye is placed in the viewfinder cup. Though I didn’t do any test, it feels faster than the Fujifilm X-T1 system. This isn’t as important to me as it was in the past – I shoot mostly landscape, and my kids are done with Tae Kwon Do –, but I still have little nieces and nephews who seem to move faster than a locomotive.

Gevon uses his Nikon lenses with his Sony a7. He has an adapter that allows him to attach his Nikon lenses to the Sony. Unfortunately, the Nikon lens electronics aren’t compatible with the Sony. Focusing must be done manually. Gevon has suggested that auto-focus wasn’t that import because of the focus peaking feature of the Sony α7s. I tested this out myself. It was easy to find and enable and worked like a charm. The Sony a7s highlighted yellow on the outlines of the object when it was in focus. Together with the manual focus assist – the α7s filled the viewfinder with a super zoomed-in section of the subject – I had no challenges manually focusing on my subject.

Sony α7s + Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70 mm F4 ZA OSS @ 58mm, ISO 100, 1200 at f/4.0

Another feature I like that I wish I had in my Nikon is facial recognition. Although I prefer photographing landscapes and nature more than people, my wife and I attend a lot of family gatherings. I’m almost always the designated photographer. The Sony α7s and Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70 mm F4 ZA OSS produced some bokehlicious images. Bhavna and I had lunch at World of Beer in New Brunswick.

This place is incredible! Hundreds of beers are available in draught or bottle. Bhavna and I were overwhelmed with choice. I washed down an interest interpretation of the classic Margherita pizza1 with an ale from Scotland that has kelp as one of the ingredients. World of Beer even has cocktails made with beer. I finished up my European style lunch with a "DON’T BE A JACKASS" cocktail2 and Bhavana had a "HOTI MOJITO".

This will soon become my favourite restaurant!

Sony α7s + Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70 mm F4 ZA OSS @ 65mm, ISO 32, 180 at f/8.0

We spent part of the weekend car shopping. Bhavana's mini-van is acting up. It's almost 14 years old, so this is expected. We test drove a new Honda CR-V and a new Acura RDX. A new RDX is outside our budget, but Bhavana liked the luxurious feel of the car. We tried negotiating for a 2013 certified pre-owned RDX. Alas, the dealer and we could not agree on a price, so we walked away without a new car.

Sony α7s + Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70 mm F4 ZA OSS @ 70mm, ISO 100, 180 at f/4.0

Tomorrow I have to return the camera to lensrentals.com, and I wish I didn't have to. Although I only had the camera for a weekend, I fell in love with it. Beautiful images. This is the Sony α7s. It's on my Amazon.com wish list. I finished up the weekend with a delicious and refreshing ale from the Williams Brothers Brewery in Scotland.


  1. Freshly diced tomato & mozzarella over a basil & pine nut pesto, drizzled with a sweet balsamic glaze & topped with fresh arugula. ?
  2. Tito’s Handmade Vodka mixed with fresh-squeezed lime juice and simple syrup, topped with Ginger Beer and a splash of a Citrus-Flavored Wheat Beer. ?

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 + Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6

When I removed the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 rental from the camera bag and held it in my hands, I was disappointed. It's TOO tiny.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 was announced last October and touted as the smallest among interchangeable lens cameras (ILC). I had read good things about the Lumix DMC-GM1.

The Lumix DMC-GM1 features a 16 megapixel µ4/3 sensor, low-light sensitivity to ISO 25600, contrast-detection autofocus, a focus peaking mode, an electronic shutter with speeds ranging from 60 sec to 116,000 sec, and Wi-Fi connectivity. It also has full HD 1080i/p video recording at 60 or 24 fps in the high-quality AVCHD format. I do not care about the video features.

After renting the Olympus OM-D E-M5 with M.Zuiko ED 12-50mm F:3.5-6.3 EZ and Olympus OM-D E-M1 with Lumix G X Vario 12-35mmF2.8 II ASPH, I was looking forward to using this compact interchangeable lens camera (ILC). But when I removed it from the camera bag and held it in my hands, I was disappointed. Measuring just 99mm x 56mm x 30mm, The Lumix DMC-GM1 is definitely "pocketable". I think it's TOO tiny.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1
Friday 8 August, 2014 | Nikon D5100 | 1125 sec | ISO 250 | AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G | F4

The images above and below show the size of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 compared to my iPhone 5 and my Nikon D5100.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1
Friday 8 August, 2014 | Apple iPhone5 | 160 sec | ISO 50 | iPhone 5 back camera 4.12mm f/2.4 | F2.4

Using the little buttons and touchscreen controls while holding the camera is frustrating. I'm not a large man. I have small hands. Yet, I could barely use this camera. If it weren't for the $750 price tag, I might think that Panasonic designed this camera for children. Wealthy children.

The Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 is wonderfully compact and lightweight. However, it lacks a manual focus ring. I wanted to test the highly touted focus peaking feature, but without a focus ring, this is impossible. Lensrentals.com offers other µ4/3 lenses, for example, the Lumix G X Vario 12-35mmF2.8 II ASPH mentioned above, that do have a focus ring. I could have rented that instead bit it was more costly to rent. I suspect that using manual focus while holding this tiny camera would be frustrating. Did I already mention, I think the camera is too small?

The Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 is roughly a 24-64mm full-frame equivalent, a little short of the 24-70mm typical zoom range. I think this focal range works well for a compact travel camera. The 12mm end is wide enough to capture the requisite "on-holiday" scenery, and the 32mm end is just a hair shy of a 50mm portrait lens. The largest aperture is f/3.5 which for portraits may not provide enough separation between subject and background. Still, it's passable if your goal is a compact travel ILC. I think this is the ideal use case for this camera.

The Lumix DMC-GM1 has a wireless transfer feature, allowing the photographer to transfer a JPG image to a smartphone for editing or posting to social media. After about thirty minutes on the web reading about setting up the Wi-Fi, I was frustrated. Panasonic has three iOS apps in the iTunes store. At first, I couldn't figure out which one I needed. But after reading a few online forums, I had that sorted. Once I found the right app in the App Store, it took me a lot of attempts before my iPhone successfully connected to the camera. The software is slow. The performance was jerky. This wireless transfer feature is helpful, but it needs improvement.

I also tried to use the app to control the Lumix GM1 remotely. After an hour, I still didn't know how to remotely shoot an image and wirelessly transfer it to my iPhone or iMac. I had this figured out by the second day of the rental. Still, because of the frustration, over the weekend of the rental, I mostly used the Lumix DMC-GM1 and Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 as a compact interchangeable lens (ILC) point and shoot.

orange-yellow flowers with bee
Sunday 10 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 1/1250 sec | ISO 200 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F5.6
orange-yellow flowers with bee
Sunday 10 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 1/1600 sec | ISO 200 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F5.6
Sunday 10 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 1/1600 sec | ISO 200 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F5.6
Sunday 10 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 1320 sec | ISO 125 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F5.6
Sunday 10 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 1400 sec | ISO 125 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F5.6

On the upside, though, I was impressed with the quality of images captured on the Lumix DMC-GM1. Over the week weekend, we attended the Just Jersey Gourmet Food Truck Festival and a pre-wedding family gathering, a meet and greet, for an upcoming wedding. I grabbed some photos on Sunday while Shaan and I picked up produce from the Honey Brook Farm CSA in Pennington. There is some cropping and minor adjustments to exposure to the images.

I had the whole weekend with the GM1, but my first impressions never went away. This camera is TOO small. I'm not sure why Panasonic made this. This ILC feels too much like a point-n-shoot and not at all like a compact systems camera (CSC).

Saturday 9 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 1/1250 sec | ISO 200 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F5.6
Saturday 9 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 1200 sec | ISO 200 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F5.6
Kiran | Saturday 9 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 1/1250 sec | ISO 200 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F5.6
Shaan | Saturday 9 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 1/1000 sec | ISO 200 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F5.6
Saturday 9 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 1800 sec | ISO 200 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F5.6
Saturday 9 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 1500 sec | ISO 200 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F6.3
Saturday 9 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 1/1250 sec | ISO 200 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F6.3
Saturday 9 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 1800 sec | ISO 200 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F6.3
Saturday 9 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 1500 sec | ISO 200 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F6.3
Saturday 9 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 1200 sec | ISO 200 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F6.3
Sunday 10 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 180 sec | ISO 200 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F5.6
Sunday 10 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 1125 sec | ISO 800 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F5.6
Sunday 10 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 1125 sec | ISO 200 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F5.6
Sunday 10 August, 2014 | Lumix DMC-GM1 | 180 sec | ISO 400 | Lumix G Vario 12-32mmF3.5-5.6 | F5.6