It's interesting how when posting scans of film I am always writing about events that happened weeks in the past.
NOTE: I’ll begin this experience report with a brief disclaimer. It’s been less than three years since I returned to shooting 35mm film after switching to digital photography over 20 years ago. I’ve inundated myself with as much film education as possible between web articles and advice from experienced film shooters. But, since my prior experience with film is decades old, this review is from a rather novice point of view.
These images are from a 36-exposure 35mm roll of Kodak Professional Portra 160 Color Negative Film that I shot on a recent beach trip. The first roll captured on my Minolta X-700 and MD Rokkor-X 50mm f/1.7 was Kodak Professional Ektachrome E100 35mm Color Transparency Film. I prefer the look of the image shot on Kodak Portra 160.
While shooting this roll, one of my concerns was whether I had set the ISO correctly on the camera. The Minolta X-700 film-speed ring has marks between numbered ISO graduations, but no numbers are printed at the markings for ISO 125 and ISO 160. I didn't bring my reading glasses with me, and while Bhavna tried to help, her eyes were not much better. I hoped I set the ISO correctly. I was also very nervous about loading the film, which I kept in my bag and under my seat until needed, in the bright sun.
I might have used the programmed auto-exposure (AE) mode - the "P" setting - for a few shots. With the camera set at " P " and the MD Rokkor-X 50mm f/1.7 lens at its minimum aperture of f/16, the X-700's program selected the aperture and fastest practicable shutter speed giving audible beeps to warn against motion blur. If the lens is not set at the minimum aperture, the "P" will blink as a warning. This bit of information is essential. According to the manual, "although exposure will still be correct unless an over or under-range LED blinks, the program's range will be limited so that it cannot accommodate brighter subjects." I was at the beach on a bright sunny day. I didn't have room for error.
While the X-700's P mode is ideal for general picture-taking when all you want to do is compose, focus, and shoot, I felt comfortable using the aperture-priority auto-exposure (AE) mode. Many images were captured in aperture-priority AE mode with the lens set at f/8 most of the time. The Minolta X-700 automatically sets the step-less shutter speed.
Interestingly, when blogging about my film scans, I always write about events that happened weeks ago. The turnaround time for 35mm film developing and scanning from the Darkroom is about two weeks, which is considered quick. I know that the quality and ease of use of 35mm film1 can't match that of my Fuji X-T2. I admit to enjoying the overall process.
Kodak Portra 160 Color Film
For a film to match or exceed the quality of modern 35mm format digital cameras, you need to shoot medium to large format film. ↩
I enthusiastically enjoyed shooting Kodak Ektachrome 100 film in my Minolta X-700 and I am anxious for another opportunity to return to the beach and try again. But maybe with a cheaper roll of film.
NOTE: I'll begin this experience report with a brief disclaimer. It's been less than three years since I returned to shooting 35mm film after switching to digital photography over 20 years ago. I've inundated myself with as much film education as possible between web articles and advice from experienced film shooters. But, since my prior experience with film is decades old, this review is from a rather novice point of view.
UPDATE 25 January 2022: I bought an Epson Perfection V600 scanner, scanned the slides myself and compared my scans against the ones from The Darkroom. See below.
A few weeks ago, Bhavna and I took a day off from work in the middle of the week and spent a day down the shore at Avalon Beach. We had a wonderful time. I recently purchased a gently used Minolta camera kit from an elderly couple in Lambertville who downsized. The kit included Minolta X-700 35mm film camera, an MD Rokkor-X 50mm f/1.7 lens, and two speedlights. Along with my Fuji X-T2, I brought the XD-11 and a few rolls of colour film.
The Minolta X-700 is a 35mm film SLR camera introduced by Minolta in 1981. It is a high-end camera designed for serious photographers who want advanced features and excellent performance. The X-700 has a solid and well-built body that is durable and well-balanced. It features a bright viewfinder that shows the entire frame and provides a clear, accurate view of the scene. The viewfinder also displays the aperture, shutter speed settings, and a battery check indicator.
The camera has a wide range of exposure control modes, including manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, and program modes. It also features a unique "programmed auto" mode, which automatically selects the aperture and shutter speed for proper exposure based on the scene. The X-700 has a fast and accurate through-the-lens (TTL) metering system that uses a silicon photodiode sensor to measure light. The metering system provides accurate exposure readings even in difficult lighting conditions, and it also features a centre-weighted averaging mode for more precise metering.
Other features of the X-700 include a self-timer, multiple exposure capability, and a depth-of-field preview button. It also has a metal focal plane shutter that can operate at speeds up to 1/1000th of a second.
One of the unique features of the X-700 is its compatibility with the Minolta Program System (MPS), which allows the camera to communicate with Minolta flash units and optimise flash exposure based on the scene. This makes the X-700 an excellent choice for photographers needing off-camera flash.
The Minolta X-700's compact size and rugged construction made it a popular choice for photographers seeking a high-quality, easy-to-use and reliable SLR camera.
The Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm f/1.7 is a standard prime lens designed with Minolta manual focus SLR cameras, such as the XD-11 and X-700. It was produced in the 1970s and 1980s and is known for its excellent optical quality and durability. The lens has a maximum aperture of f/1.7, making it fast to capture sharp images even in low light conditions. The aperture range goes up to f/16, which provides a wide range of depth-of-field options. The lens has a 50mm focal length, considered a standard focal length.
The lens is compact and lightweight, making it easy to carry and use. The lens barrel is made of metal, which adds to its durability and longevity. The focusing ring is smooth and precise, making it easy to focus accurately, and the aperture ring clicks firmly into place at each f-stop. The lens's optical construction consists of six elements in five groups, which helps minimise distortion and produce sharp, contrasty images with good colour saturation. The lens also has multi-coated optics, which reduces lens flare and ghosting and improves overall image quality.
The Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm f/1.7 lens is versatile and suitable for various photography styles, including portrait, landscape, and street photography. It was a popular lens among photographers who valued its excellent optical quality, fast aperture, and compact size.
Bhavana wanted to walk along the beach, so I grabbed my Fuji X-T2 and captured a few shots using Ritchie Roesch's Kodak Portra 160 film simulation settings. I also had 35mm film rolls each of Kodak Professional Portra 160 Colour Negative Film and Kodak Professional Ektachrome E100 Colour Reversal Film in my camera bag. Exposing some 35mm film and comparing it to the digital might be fun. I grabbed the X-700 and loaded the Kodak Ektachrome 100.
After two weeks of waiting, the film was finally developed and scanned by The Darkroom for download.
I have no prior experience with Kodak Professional Ektachrome E100. If I remember correctly, I had my aperture at f/8 for most of the exposures, the same as on the Fuji X-T2, and shot in aperture-priority mode, letting the Minolta choose the shutter speed. I may have been so excited that I ignored my camera settings. Looking at the EXIF data from the Fuji X-T2 images, I see that I had set the X-T2 to f/8 at ISO 200, and most of the digital photos were captured at 1/1000 sec or faster. The Minolta X-700 has a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000 sec. I had exceeded the limits of the Minolta X-700, and the frames should be overexposed. However, they appear underexposed. I'm not sure why the structures appear this dark. I admit my ignorance in this regard. Exposing this roll of 35mm film was humbling. There is much to relearn.
I also didn't expect this much grain. I am not a fan of grain in colour photography. Grain can give a black and white film image an edgy "end of the world look" or add intensity to a photograph of a miserable wet wintry scene. But grain in colour images feels offensive. I'm not too fond of it.
I admit I am disappointed. The scenes looked sharp and vibrant in the viewfinder on the Minolta, but the scanned negatives appeared dull. I could blame my tool, but that's not how my mind works. This failure is all on me. But now I know I need to be aware of ISO and aperture limits and perhaps use the Sunny 16 rule to gut-check what the camera tells me.
I enthusiastically enjoyed shooting the Minolta X-700, and I am anxious for another opportunity to return to the beach and try again. But with a cheaper roll of film.
Anyway, here are the best of the images. Comparing film versus digital simulation, some subjects are nearly identical to the SOOC photographs from the Fuji X-T2. The only adjustment made to these scans is for horizontal correction. I have a tilt.
Kiran changed her mind about attending the first sophoremore semester on-campus, so we quickly made other plans for what was supposed to be the move-in day.
Despite months of planning by students and Oberlin College, at the last moment, our daughter Kiran decided not to attend on-campus classes for the fall semester. The last bit of paperwork with the college did it. She had to fill out a form with her plans in case she fell ill to "COVID-19". She realised that Oberlin, OH is an 8-hour car ride from home, and if she was infected and we had to bring her home, we could not quarantine her inside our car. She did not want to risk infecting us. The news reports about infections breaking out in colleges and universities were probably another push. After a last-minute scramble of phone calls and emails on Tuesday afternoon, since I already had the day off, Bhavna and I quickly made other plans for Wednesday, the day we were supposed to travel to Ohio.
Bhavna and I left home around 8 AM and drove down the shore to Seven Mile Island in Avalon, a borough in Cape May. We arrived at the Avalon Community Hall around 10:30 AM and bought two beach passes. We found a spot near the pier to set up our beach chairs, table and umbrellas and sat down to start our "doing nothing" day.
I brought my Fujifilm X-T2 and XF27mmF2.8 lens, and a vintage camera kit, my Minolta X-700 35mm film camera loaded with a roll of Kodak Gold 200. I captured a few test shots on the Fuji X-T2. I was not too fond of the results from the colour recipe I usually use. It just felt too warm and contrasty. The sky was mostly clear with a few clouds, and the scene was brightly lit.
Kodak Porta came to mind because I had a roll of Kodak Portra 160 in my bag. Fortunately, Ritchie Roesch has two film simulation recipes for Kodak Portra. Because of the abundant sunlight, I chose his Kodak Portra 160 Film Simulation recipe. It took seconds to look up his recipe and configure my Fuji X-T2.
Between long stretches of doing nothing, just sitting and staring at the sand, surf and passers-by, I captured beach scenes on my Fuji X-T2 and Minolta X-700. It was fun. I love the sound of the shutter of the Minolta X-700. I shot in aperture priority mode.
Around 1:30 PM, Bhavna and I packed our beach gear and ate lunch at Sandbar Village, an outdoor restaurant. Of course, I ordered a Maine lobster roll and a beer. We regretted not doing anything like this before and why we hadn't visited Avalon and Seven Mile Island.
After lunch, we returned to our previous location on the beach for more sitting around and doing nothing.
I quickly completed the 24-exposure roll of Kodak Gold 200 and then loaded a 36-exposure roll of Kodak Portra 160 colour film. Bhavna wanted to walk the beach. I quickly completed the roll of Kodak Portra 160. We returned to our seats and sat down for another stint of "doing nothing". I loaded a roll of Kodak Ektachrome 100 slide film.
Then Bhavna wanted to walk the beach in the other direction. Surprisingly, I finished that roll of Kodak Ektachrome 100 as well. Bhavna was bemused that I had so much fun taking photographs on an almost 40-year-old film camera. I was surprised as well. Of course, my excitement could turn to disappointment once the film is developed, and I download the scans from the Darkroom.
Around 5 PM, after we had our fill of "doing nothing," we packed up and went home. We enjoyed our day of "doing nothing".