We had gone to India for our summer vacation this year. While in Mumbai, we visited a school for relatively underprivileged kids, where one of our friends volunteered. It was a wonderful yet humbling experience. These kids have relatively little but they were so cheerful and the joy on their faces was just infectious!
I had not taken any digital camera on this vacation. These shots were all taken with the Contax G2, Fuji Superia 400 (first time I used this and I really liked it), the Carl Zeiss 28 f2.8 and 50 f2 lenses and the Contax TLA-200 flash.
We had organised some snacks for the kids and a drawing/ art competition with some small prizes thrown in. The kids were delighted and had so much fun. Our children had also come along and I hope they got something from the experience.
During our Easter trip to Phuket, I shot a lot of film. had taken one roll of Velvia 50 as well. While I really like Ektar and also Portra and Fuji Pro, there is something special about slide film as opposed to color negative film. True, there’s almost no exposure latitude. So if you’ve blown a highlight or your shadows are too dark, bye bye. But when you do get it right, it is just beautiful.
And there is simply no other film like Velvia. Yes, its not everyday stock. And just don’t try and capture people with it. For landscapes, it is like magic. Too saturated? Yes. A bit removed from reality? Yes. But nothing else can make something boring relatively interesting like Velvia can.
I woke up at 5am one morning when we were staying at Lorne along the Great Ocean Road. That was quite an effort for me in the middle of a family vacation with a lot of driving around. Grabbed the Sony A7R and the 16-35mm lens and walked down to the pier. I did not have a tripod but had a small Gorillapod. Woefully inadequate given the conditions – windy and not too many places where the pod could be positioned while giving an interesting viewpoint. Got this one semi-nice photo while the light was ok.
But then the light just got boring – no interesting colors, no interesting beams through the clouds. So, I just converted the photos to b&w and some abstract compositions. These photos are not much to talk about but I still keep them because I find the results kind of interesting and I remember the effort it took to wake up in the morning.
I love shooting with film! There is a certain charm to the photos that’s hard to describe but you know its just there. Add to that the fact that there’s no way of reviewing the photos and one can only see the photos a few days or sometimes even weeks later. The whole surprise factor adds that special something.
I bought the Zeiss Ikon some time back. The first roll was a disaster because I did not know how to load it properly. My only previous experience with film cameras was the Contax G2. And in the Contax you don’t need to slot the film into the spool, just around it. Did not realise that loading the Zeiss Ikon was like loading medium format cameras. This happened a couple of time and so I got kind of frustrated and put it away. Returned to it a few weeks back and loaded some inexpensive Kodak Gold 400 film in it.
Now, to my eyes, there is no such thing as poor film. Yet, I was not expecting this film to be all that nice. But I was really quite pleasantly surprised. The colors are quite vivid and contrast is pretty good. To get the best contrast I rated the film for 200 when I shot (much easier to to pull highlights from film in Lightroom) than push shadows.
I used the Zeiss Biogon 35mm f2 lens for Leica M mount cameras. It’s such a wonderful lens. While, I love my Leica 35 Summilux ASPH, I think the Zeiss does have slightly higher contrast and pop.
So, how did I find the Zeiss Ikon? In a nutshell, wonderful! I bought it because I really did not want to spend a lot more on a Leica M6 or M7 and a few reviews said that the Zeiss was just as good. I still have not used either the M6 or M7, so cannot comment on those but the Zeiss is very good. The rangefinder patch for focusing could perhaps be slightly better defined. In very bright light or in darker conditions with low contrast, I sometimes struggle nailing focus but in general it works out ok and its probably my own inexperience.
The shots above are really more like snapshots since I was just trying to make sure that the camera works! I am now looking forward to loading some more film in the camera and go out and try to make some better photos.
The Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZM Biogon T*. This is small but not insubstantial lens for Leica M mount. I use this on my Sony A7R as well as my Leica M-P. And I love it. There is a perennial debate about this lens vs the Leica 35mm summicron. I’m not going to go into a technical debate here. Ken Rockwell and Steve Huff have written about this. Personally, for my needs, the Zeiss is all I want. I also have the Leica 35 1.4 Summilux, which is just sensational but the Zeiss comes really close for a tiny fraction of the cost. Very often, when I just want to carry one lens, I find myself reaching for the Zeiss for its light weight and sensational 3D pop, color and contrast. The Leica summilux scores on build quality, 1 stop advantage and the smoothness of out of focus transitions.
I love how the focus transitions on this image. And who wouldn’t love an Alpaca!
The sharpness and contrast on this image are so beautiful.
And finally, here is the Zeiss color! This Peruvian girl is making natural dyes.