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Saturday, January 24, 2015


Nobody would argue that Leica equipment is very expensive.  It always has been.  Subsequently, many look at the used market to find a Leica, a Leica lens or Leica accessories at an affordable.price. 

EBay logo.svg

One excellent source for used Leica equipment is eBay.  I have purchased many items from eBay over the years and I recall only one instance where I had to return an item because it was not anywhere near in as good a condition as it was advertised to be.  A little bit of research, and eBay is a good source for that too, can quickly reveal an average price range for whatever item one might be looking for.  Most people describe their items accurately and often even underrate them.  National Camera Exchange in Minneapolis and KEH Camera in Atlanta are two such companies.  It is not my intention to publish a complete list here, but these are two companies, besides numerous individuals, that I have dealt with on many occasions in the past.

Since some Leica equipment has brought rather astonishing prices on auctions recently, it is unfortunately a fact that some individuals and companies try to take advantage of this.  I have seen some rather outlandish asking prices for Leica equipment, so, beware.

Just recently I came across the most absurd price I think I have ever seen being asked for used Leica equipment.  It is a package consisting of a Leica IIIg, 50mm f/2 Summicron, and 90mm f/4 Elmar.  In addition there is a metal neck chain, a Leitz CEYOO flash with nonstandard flash bracket, and a sunshade.  In good condition, the package price for this equipment would be no more than $2,000, maybe 500 dollars more if it were all in near mint condition.  This equipment was originally listed for $7,000 and has been reduced to $6,000 since then.  The camera has all of its Vulcanite covering missing.  The two lenses are listed as “excellent” and the rest of the equipment is not rated in any manner.

Leica IIIg
For demonstration only.  This is not the camera listed on eBay

This is an absurd price to ask.  The individual listing it, is obviously is trying to take advantage of Leica’s reputation of being worth a lot of money for used equipment.  This package has been listed on eBay for almost three months.  Obviously, people interested in used Leicas are not as ignorant as the owner assumes.

But there are also bargains to be had.  Currently, a Leica M (Type 240) is listed for $4,900 in mint condition.  That is definitely substantially less than the usual $5,500 to 6,000+ for this camera in similar condition.

Leica M (Type 240)
For demonstration only.  This is not the camera listed

With a bit of caution, eBay and the used camera market in general can be an excellent source to save often considerable amounts of money.  A fair purchase price, combined with a reasonable return policy or warrantee will be a good protection against any hidden faults.  This has served me well.


For high quality camera bags and accessories worthy of Leica equipment, go to

Friday, January 23, 2015


In general it is advisable to have any service work that needs to be done to leica equipment done by Leica.  That way we have the assurance that the work is done in accordance to Leica standards.  However, that does not mean at all that other, independent service companies cannot do equally good work.  In many cases these individuals received their initial training at Leica.  For instance, Don Goldberg of  DAG in Wisconsin worked for several years at Leica in Wetzlar.  After that he worked for several years at the Leica service department in Rockleigh, New Jersey before opening his own business.  I have used him for my own Leica service work for years and I can certainly attest to his competency and quality of work.

For a complete list of worldwide Leica Service facilities, please go to:

Below are some select service facilities, including reputable non-Leica camera repair service companies.


Leica Camera AG
Customer Service
Gewerbepark 8
D-35606 Solms
Tel. +49(0)6442-208-0

Wetzlarer Feine Mechanik
Ottmar Michaely
Niedergasse 41
D-35630 Ehringhausen
+49 (0)6443/833880

Fotomechanik Reinhardt
Katzenwinkel 72
D-30966 Hemmingen
+49 (0)5101-585278

Gerard Wiener
Landwehrstr. 12
D-80336 München
+49 (0)89-595072

Inh. Dieter Paepke
Rather Broich 57
D-40472 Düsseldorf
+49-(0)211 – 98 68 88 0

United Kingdom

Luton UK

Malcolm Taylor
Herefordshire, UK
Phone No 01568 770542

Protech Camera Repairs, Unit 1
Vulcan House Farm
Coopers Green
East Sussex, UK TN22 4AT

Optical Instruments (Balham) Ltd
39 Neville Road
Croydon, Surrey
Tel: +44 (0)20 8664 9799


16151 Genova
Tel.(PH): 39 010 412237


Will van Manen Kamera-Service
Dorpsstraat 81
Tel. +31 79 316 33 39


Leica Camera Inc.
1 Pearl Ct, Unit A
Allendale, New Jersey 07401
Phone: 800-222-0118
Fax: 201-995-1686

Don Goldberg (DAG) in Wisconsin

Sherry Krauter in New York

John Van Steltin
Focal Point Inc
300 Center Drive
Suite G177
Superior, CO 80027

Steve’s Camera Service Center
4355 So. Sepulveda Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90230
(310) 397-0072


Kindermann Canada Inc.
Attn: Service Department c/o Gerry Smith
3-361 Steelcase Road West
Markham, ON L3R 3V8
Tel:(905) 940-9262


Shutter Box
1163 Toorak Rd
Camberwell, Victoria 3124
Tel. 61 3 9809 4711


Victor E. Nasello
Hipòlito Yrigoyen 615, PB “A”
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Phone (5411) 4343-4076


Latif Precision Works
Phone: 91 033 2249-2265


For high quality camera bags and accessories worthy of Leica equipment, go to

Thursday, January 22, 2015


By Henry Kartarik

Please Note:  This article was originally published in the Barnack and Berek Newsletter in November of 1980, but we think it is of as much interest today as it was then.  The publication was a forerunner of this blog.  It was published in black and white only, which explains that all photographs in the article are in black and white only.

It has been several years since I have retired my shotguns and rifles and replaced them with cameras and lenses.  Hunting with a camera is more difficult, more challenging, and more diversified, and more rewarding; there are more open seasons, far more open areas, and more opportunities for shooting, no license fees, no bag limit.

Photographing nature and wildlife in particular, has become an increasingly popular endeavor for novice, amateur, and professional alike; especially since the advent of the SLR with through the lens metering and more recently and specifically the Leica R3 Mot.

The true sportsman spends a great deal of time becoming thoroughly proficient in the handling of his equipment, and finds enjoyment in becoming better skilled in its use, and takes great pride in possessing the finest equipment that he can possibly afford…  So it is with the true nature photographer.

In the following paragraphs I would like to share with you some of the experiences, the successes and the frustrations experienced encountered in the pursuit of my hobby:  nature photography with long lenses.

Let us take a day-long photographic excursion to one of our favorite hunting locations, with headquarters at our farm near Grantsburg, Wisconsin.  It is early morning on November 8, a partially overcast and unusually warm day.  We are about to pack our gear in the car.

Each excursion is a unique adventure; there is no way to anticipate the specific equipment which might be required.  As you might assume from the title of this article, I prefer above all to use long lenses in my pursuit of nature photography: the 400mm f/6.8 Telyt  and my “one and only” 560mm f/5.6 Telyt with Televit pistol grip.

Fritillary (Silver Spotted Flambeau)
Kodachrome 25, Leitz Telyt 400mm f/6.8

Along with these lenses I need a set of extension tubes, a Leica R3 Mot, a bean bag, a tripod and film. 

For this type of photography it is very important to use camera equipment that is very quiet in order not to frighten your subjects off with the cranking motion of the human hand.  I have found that the soft whirr of the self-winder does not frighten the subjects, but often elicits more interesting, alert poses, indicating curiosity or inquisitiveness on their part.

Continuing our tour we see a rough-legged hawk swaying in a treetop and eying us apprehensively as we approach.  Here I wish I had the 1.4x extender, so we go on…

The Eastern Hognose Snake, the only natural enemy of the American Toad
Kodachrome 25, Leitz 400mm f/6.8 Telyt

Farther on we see an animal in the midst of an open field.  As we come nearer we recognize a coyote sitting on his haunches, probably hunting meadow mice.  The fact that he is out in the open indicates that he is a very hungry coyote.  Here again I wish I had the 1.4x extender, but I can’t resist one parting shot as we go by.  I know that if I were to stop, he would run for the brush cover.

As we are slowly driving along this trail road, I notice a sudden commotion in the tall grass along the roadside ditch.  We come to a stop approximately twenty feet from the action.  It appears to be a bird wounded by a gunshot or automobile, attempting to escape our view.

Suddenly the bird turns and I recognize a great-horned owl, who fixes us with his intense golden stare.  He does not appear to be injured, but something is thrashing in the grass below him.  It is gray.  Is it a rabbit, a favorite prey of the owl?  The crows and blue-jays who were harassing him depart.  The owl tries to lift off dragging his prey along the ditch, but he is unable to do so.  It becomes clear that the prey is a large bird, most likely a sharp-tailed grouse.

Kodachrome 25, Leitz 400mm f/6.8 Telyt

Of course we are busy photographing the sequence of events.  A large van of hunters passing by is too much for him; he reluctantly releases his hard-earned meal, and flies to a nearby tree, keeping his prey in sight.  The blue-jays return, irritating him; he flies deeper into the woods.

Now we have an opportunity to identify the bird in the ditch.  It is a beautiful male marsh hawk, still limp and warm with closed eyelids.  Himself in search of prey, he became the victim of the eight deadly talons of the owl.  His momentary struggle only ensured a quicker death as the talons locked into his body.  We now place the elegant bird on a nearby low tree stump, hoping the owl will find it and not need to make another kill.

Resuming our journey we come to the south end of the refuge, where we watch watch hundreds and hundreds of Canada geese returning to the march from their feeding areas.  We cannot resist a few shots of the tremendous gathering of these stately birds.

The 560 enables me to reach out over the cold waters of the march and select and photograph some scenic hammocks and grass formations.

It has been an unusually exciting and rewarding day.  At this writing moment  we are anxiously awaiting the results of this photographic foray.  What a great 560mm day!


Another day, another season, another lens.

It is spring in our back yard at Whiter Bear Lake, Minnesota.  The tulips are blooming, the plum and cherry shrubs are in full bloom, the apple trees are just coming into bloom; it is early may, a beautiful calm, cool, sunny day.  The yard is filled with dozens of migrating warblers and a variety of other songbirds.

I select a secluded spot from which I have an excellent view of a particularly busy area.  I wear a camouflaged-printed windbreaker; take a heavy tripod on which I have mounted a bellows-R with my 400mm f/5.6 Telyt attached to my Leica R3 MOT with the remote release.  I will also take along the air release to finish the last on or two frames.  I find cable releases unsatisfactory in they cannot be conveniently located for being held for extended periods of time.

The Eastern Bluebird
Kodachrome 64, Leitz Telyt 250mm f/5.6 with extension tubes

I check out my minimum and maximum field by extending and retracting both the bellows and the lens.  I now prefocus the lens, and for fine focusing rely on the bellows.

Although my concern is mostly with small and close-up subjects, there are occasions when the ability to infinity focus would be highly desirable; for instance, in a flowering apple tree, just out of range, is a flock of cedar waxwings gorging themselves on apple blossom petals while basking in the sun.

We have a variety of apple trees in out yard; after watching the cedar waxwings for several years it is my observation that they eat only the petals of the Fireside apple blossoms.  It is either that they prefer the location of the tree or the flower of that particular blossom.

Now back to the small migrants.  These little birds are most difficult targets because they are constantly in motion searching for insects.  They take no note of my presence as long as I remain quiet and move slowly, if at all; in fact, they have on occasion tried to perch on the lens.

A rock with a dish-shaped surface filled with water provides a magnetic attraction to the little travelers for a drink or a bath; this is an appreciated convenience for which they show their gratitude by momentarily posing in my prearranged location.

Canada Geese, with mother and father at front and rear.  Brood size is normally 4 or 5, so it seems
likely the other youngsters were pirated away from others.
Kodachrome 64, Leitz 560mm f/5.6 Telyt

A tree hole provides a similar opportunity for drinking and bathing and may also be a picturesque setting for bird portraits.

Almost without exception, it is essential that the eye of the subject be in sharp focus, glinting.  The serious photographer will wait for the moment when the  highlights of the eye are picked up.  This cannot be overstressed.


Should the sun be unaccommodating, we have an alternative:  the electronic flash, which must be used with certain conditions in mind.  These conditions are:

1  Maximum shutter speed of 1/100 sec (for the Leica R3 MOT).
2  The flash should be used as a highlight source, or for light painting.

The use of full flash as a main source of light will result in a harsh and/or artificial picture.  Flash is, of course, required in photographing any nocturnal wildlife.

The American Toad is found in all states of the Union
Kodachrome 25, Leitz 400mm f/6.8 Telyt with Leica Bellows-R

The 400mm and Bellows-R combination is also ideal for photographing reptiles and amphibian in their environment without disturbing them.  An excellent time to photograph these creatures is in the early spring, on a sunny morning when they are warming themselves on the rocks, sand banks, or pond edges.  At this time they are extremely lethargic and most cooperative.

 The capture on film any of the lovely butterflies, dragonflies, or other skittish insects, I frequently use the same equipment.  These insects are approachable on chilly autumn mornings, and I may then prefer to use macro lenses for extreme closeups. 


The possibilities for nature photography in suburban areas are excellent.  The observing nature photographer will see birds, animals, and scenic views on his way to and from work that an untrained eye would not notice.  Some of my best shore bird pictures have been taken in a location adjacent to a busy four-lane highway that runs between White Bear Lake and ST. Paul.  Abandoned railroad right-of-way, drainage diches, city and county parks, roadside ponds, and game management areas provide excellent places to observe and photograph nature and wildlife.

Birds and animals who have adapted to suburbia are less wary and more easily photographed than their rural cousins.  But it is important to avoid with debris and other distracting backgrounds.

Having pointed out several of the basic rules essential to successful nature photography, I must emphasize that rules and equipment alone do not produce outstanding photographs.  We must remember that pictures are judged by individuals whose backgrounds and tastes vary widely.  Let us be creative, let us violate some of the basic concepts; shoot:

1  Against the sun for silhouettes 
2  In the fog for “mystical” effects 
 Using slow shutter speeds to record motion 
4  Early morning, late evening, or even moonlit night shots without flash

Try photographing waterfowl in the rain, animals in snowstorms.  Don’t be put off by adverse weather conditions.  It is just such difficult environments which may help to produce the unusual, dramatic, or impressionistic photograph.

Successful hunts can be relived on the screen and enjoyed by many others.  Dinner guests make no comments about my stuffed ducks or old elk antlers, they are simply disinterested, bored or possibly envious.

Not so with nature slides or prints.  Viewers are highly interested in the subject matter, eager and curious to learn how one is able to get such pictures, and personally interested in how they themselves might become involved in such a hobby.


Henry Kartarik is a retired army officer who served during WWII in the Pacific campaign, at Aberdeen Proving Ground, and at the Pentagon. 

A mechanical engineer, he ran his own machine and tool business, enjoyed flying his own land and sea planes, and held a commercial pilot’s license until his retirement because of a physical disability.

He has had an intense interest in nature from early childhood, and in photography since adolescence.  He is fortunate now to have time to devote to both interests.  One of his color portfolios was in an issue of “Minnesota Volunteer”, a publication of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.


Obviously, photographic equipment has substantially changed since the Leica R3.  The development of the SLR Leica line finished with the Leica R9 and owners of Leica R cameras and lenses for a long time looked for a digital alternative.  The Leica S line is not an option for wildlife photography because there are no long lenses available.  Even though Leica does not offer a DSLR, it is not necessary to look to other camera manufacturers.  The Leica M (type 240) takes that place.  Especially when equipped with the electronic Visoflex, the camera can be used in place of a DSLR.  As a matter of fact, it has the advantage of being substantially smaller.  While Leica is not making any lenses longer than 135mm at the moment, the Leica R adapter, or similar units from other manufacturers, allows the use of virtually any of the Leica R lenses and accessories that utilize the Leica R lens mount, like tele extenders, bellows and extension tubes.


For high quality camera bags and accessories worthy of Leica equipment, go to

Tuesday, January 20, 2015



by Dan K

First published by


Film photography is similar in many ways to digital photography and most of your standard digital photography techniques apply to film too. You just have to understand the peculiarities of film and its limitations and you’re good to go. That will be explained in detail in this article, which presumes readers are already reasonably proficient at digital photography and are embarking upon film photography for the first time.
I have already covered the different kinds of film available and the look that they produce in an earlier article. The main difference between actually using film versus digital cameras is a matter of getting the exposure right and this will be the primary focus of this article. I will also briefly talk about developing, printing and scanning.

Film Speed

The sensitivity of a film is referred to as film speed. A slow film is one that’s less sensitive and a fast film is one that’s more sensitive.
Film speed is measured in ASA. Functionally, it’s the same as ISO on a digital camera. You won’t often be faced with any other measurement of film speed, but the most common alternative is DIN standard 4512. This is an old system and the only time you’ll have to use it is if you’re using a very old camera. Often the film box will state the DIN number alongside the ASA rating. Just in case, here is a handy table:

Essentially, all you need to remember is 100 ASA (ISO) is 21 DIN and each additional 1° of DIN represents a third of a stop of exposure sensitivity.

Shooting in Low Light

I will be pilloried for saying so, but I just don’t recommend shooting in low light with film. There is film that can be shot at up to 6400 ASA, but I find the grain, contrast and lack of shadow detail not worth the exercise. The main reason fast lenses were so popular before digital was due to the relatively slow films available at the time. As films got faster, wide aperture lenses became less common.
One further complexity is that at long exposures, film suffers what is called reciprocity failure. That’s when the film performs at below its rated ASA during long exposures. How much exposure you’d need to add depends on each film. If you are determined to do bulb exposures, look up how to calculate it in the film manufacturer’s specifications.
I don’t enjoy doing long exposures on film. It’s eminently possible, but it’s much easier to get it right by trial-and-error using a digital camera. As a general rule, if the light level, film speed and maximum practical aperture demands a shutter speed that would result in camera shake or subject motion blur, then I just put the film camera away and go to digital, or find a way to better light my subject.
The filp-side to film being slower than digital is you can get really slow film. This makes it possible to take wide aperture photographs in broad daylight with a hint of motion blur. By over-exposing, you can get far more than a hint of motion blur. Do this with a digital camera with a base ISO of 100 to 400 at midday and even shooting in RAW won’t save you. In fact try it; take a narrow depth of field shot on medium format with midday shadows and motion blur. That would say ‘film’ in a way that would be extremely difficult to reproduce with digital.


The traditional solution to photography in light too low to shoot with a wide aperture alone is to use flash. Done with skill, this can work out very well. To my eye, on-camera flash it comes out better than with digital flash photography. I do like the look of on camera flash and black and white film. Certainly, it comes out better than an underexposed image.

Artificial Lighting

Film has a fixed white balance. Most colour film is daylight balanced. Shooting under tungsten or fluorescent light adds further complexity. Whereas electronic flash has a colour temperature close enough to daylight, tungsten and fluorescent light are of a different colour temperature and nature. In the old days, you’d buy tungsten film, but today the vast majority of film is daylight balanced.
Colour temperature is traditionally corrected with optical filters. For example an 80A filter will cool Tungsten light to approximate daylight. This comes at the penalty of two stops of light cut by the filter. Another more modern approach is to fix it in digital post processing and you may lose only a little bit depth.
If you are using flash or strobes with tungsten balanced film, you should employ a CTO (orange) gel over the light source to bring the colour temperature back to the equivalent of tungsten, just as you would with a digital camera. In a situation of changing or tricky cross-lit white balance, I will usually choose monochrome film instead of colour. It’s a lazy cop-out, but remains sensible advice.
Fluorescent tubes and LEDs not only have a strange colour temperature, but flicker too. The solution is to make an exposure of 1/60s or longer to avoid uneven lighting. This fix applies to digital photography as well. As for the colour temperature, I would simply guess whether it is closer to daylight or tungsten and use the appropriate film. If in doubt choose daylight film, because a little amber colour in the light gives the scene a little warmth and atmosphere.

Setting Film Sensitivity

Older film cameras that have a meter required you to set the film speed manually through a dial, whereas most modern film cameras can take care of setting the film speed for you. Not to be confused with Nikon’s designation for crop-frame sensors, DX is a system by which electrical contacts in the camera body pick up a reading from the film canister. The film has a DX pattern on it (not all do) set the camera film speed to DX. If not, set the film speed manually.
Note that if the canister does not have DX contacts, most DX cameras default to 100ASA. If your film is other than 100ASA and lacks a correct DX code, for example, it’s some funky small production film, or bulk-loaded from a 100 foot roll, first consider whether this will be a problem with your camera. There are some interesting work-arounds available for this situation. When I bulk-load film, I often recycle used 135 film cans with a correct DX code for the film that I intend to load.
Also, some modern consumer-grade cameras don’t have the facility to override DX. If so, you might be able to get round this with exposure compensation, if available. Sometimes, I want to use film rated at 1600 ASA, but the camera’s meter only goes up to a lower setting.
If all else fails, just shoot away and treat the film as if it were rated at whatever the camera thinks it is rated at. This will under- or over-expose the film and tell the lab that you shot it at 100ASA. I’ll tell you about re-rating film next.

Pushing and Pulling Film

Many people don’t know that you can adjust the film speed in development. What you do is shoot the film at up to three stops over (two is better) and clearly label the can. It’s not common in high-street stores, so it helps to make good eye contact with the lab-technician and say clearly “Please push two stops” and wait for him to mumble an acknowledgement and write the instruction on the order slip. Otherwise he might well forget and then you’ll have to rely on latitude and that’s usually only good for one stop of under-exposure. BTW, I wouldn’t bother pushing one stop; it’s usually not necessary.
Pushing is relatively easy; they just stop the machine and let it develop longer. Pulling is hard to do in a commercial processing machine, but straightforward to do by hand. Note that many labs hand-process black and white film, so you may have more luck asking them to pull it, especially if you go to a good artisan lab. I don’t normally pull film as print film has great over-exposure latitude.
Note that pushing increases grain and contrast and loses some shadow detail. Pulling reduces grain and loses some highlight detail. If I want more grain, I’ll push it. I find it more effective and reliable than altering the developer chemistry. Cropping also enlarges grain, but you lose some sharpness and contrast and shadow detail are not affected.


Print film has tremendous latitude compared to digital sensors. Films vary, but you can shoot most print films at between +3 and -1 stops of exposure. The precise latitude can be found on a technical data sheet, or if you know how to do it, you can read it by looking at the DX code on the can. I will teach you how to do this, because unlike film speed, latitude is very rarely written on the can. This is a bit silly, as I can’t recall seeing a camera that could read the second row of contacts, not even Fujifilm Natura cameras that rely heavily on latitude in their exposure programs. It’s especially silly, because it is humans metering by eye that would benefit more from using latitude than automatic cameras would anyway.

In the picture above, the two red highlighted contacts reads +1/-1 stops of latitude. The blue highlighted contacts read +half/-half and the green contacts read +3/-1. You can confirm this from the table below.

In practice, having lots of exposure latitude means you don’t need to be spot on with your exposure. As you over-expose, you will lose highlight detail. Conversely, as you under-expose, you may start to lose shadow detail. It’s best to get it right, but when I am working with high-latitude print film in a meterless camera, I tend to err on the side of over-exposure and give an extra stop of exposure for good measure. This is Old timers would say “Expose for the shadows”.
In fact, you are supposed to be using something called “The Zone System” to balance shadows and highlights. Read up on it if you want to learn more. As a general rule of thumb, if the scene has a high dynamic range and your key subject is not the brightest part of the image, then expose to keep shadow detail. Let the emulsion’s greater over-exposure latitude handle the tricky highlights. This is the opposite of the way you’d do it with a digital camera, where you might try to avoid blowing out the highlights. Try it and once you have the hang of it, it will make a lot of sense.
Latitude relates to the flexibility of setting the film’s mid-tone exposure. As a side note, dynamic range describes how many stops of variance the scene can encompass. In this scene below, I exposed for the shadows and relied on film’s wide dynamic range to carry the highlight detail. You can still see details on white shirts in the midday sun.

In the second example below, I had no time to plan my exposure as I was busy dodging a bicycle messenger cycling across the road. As a result, I exposed sloppily without adjusting the centre-weighted meter. The image on the left is as scanned. The one on the right has been adjusted in Photoshop to bring up the shadows. It kind of works, but it’s not as natural looking as a proper exposure would have been.

Slide film, on the other hand, has great dynamic range, but narrow latitude. It has to be shot at precisely the correct exposure, to within less than a stop off. I can’t guesstimate it by eye to my own satisfaction. Most metered cameras can handle it, but the best are the Nikon matrix-metered SLRs. Where it will bite you in the behind is when you’re using a camera with a dodgy meter or shutter, or a camera designed for mercury batteries but used with alkaline batteries of a different voltage. Unless you can be sure to meter correctly, don’t shoot slide film. Whenever I see the lomography website, I am astounded at the skill or good fortune of the photographers that post good images shot with slide film and cameras with no exposure control at all. It’s not as easy as Lomography would have you believe.

Using Expired Film

Film is a chemical process. Chemicals degrade with time. Colours can shift, but the biggest effect with expired or poorly stored film is it gets slower. Therefore, I sometimes deliberately over-expose old, expired film. Slide film is very temperamental and should be stored as cold as possible, slowly brought to ambient temperature, shot before it expires and developed immediately. Print film is much more tolerant and 25 ASA to 400 ASA black and white print film is all but bullet-proof.

Processing film

Most film emulsions with unusual processing requirements are no more. Kodachrome, for example required a special process that can no longer be found. Today, most labs offer only three processes:

C-41 is the colour negative process

E-6 is the colour slide process

B/W chemicals process monochrome print film

I prefer to develop colour film in a lab. It can be done at home but it’s cheaper, easier and required less kit to get it done commercially, even when pushing. Bear in mind that slide film and black and white film can cost triple to be done in a lab. Black and white print film can be developed by anyone that can follow a cookbook and is cheap to do at home, so I do all mine that way. The other reason to do your own black and white film is control. Most labs don’t specify which of several available developers and protocols will be used, or how old the chemicals are. This can have a significant effect on the grain, tone curve and quality of the image.
If you’re bored with your photography, colour negative film can be developed in slide chemicals (E-6) and colour slide film can be developed in negative chemicals (C-41). The latter is more common. This messes with the colours to creative effect. You end up with a colour negative with strong hues. I love it, but it’s not for every roll. Make sure your lab knows you want to do this not all labs will cross process. Whatever you do, don’t get a lab to cross process movie stock in a conventional C-41 or E-6 machine. It will leave a nasty gunk all over the inside of the machine, on the rollers and on other people’s film.
You can even cross process colour film in black and white chemicals. You get a thin but contrasty black and white image with strong grain. This needs to be over-exposed and pushed a stop or two or you will have no mid tone detail and no shadow detail at all.
Black and white film can’t be cross processed in C-41. It just comes out blank, and the lab-tech will laugh at your naivety. Some specialist labs can even reversal process certain black and white negative films with clear film bases, but if you want black and white slides, you’re better off with a film designed for it like Scala or Fomapan R. You can process these as negatives too.


Many digital photographers like to scan, being accustomed to editing and storing images on a computer and sharing the results on-line. Whole books can be written on this topic and I will go into greater detail in subsequent article, but for now I will provide a simple summary.

Some labs will scan on a drum scanner, especially large format film. I scan mine at home on a flatbed scanner that is designed for film. Other people I know prefer to photograph back-lit negatives with a DSLR and a macro lens. There are pros and cons to each process, but they all get the job done. Just don’t buy one of those little dedicated film scanners with a camera inside. I have tried several and they all gave horrible scans and scratched my film.

Enlarging and Printing

The best way to enjoy your slides is as slides and best way to enjoy your negatives is as prints. When I print, I like to print big. 35mm film can easily be printed to 12″x18″, but finer-grained films are best for this unless you want grain to be a big feature. Note that I said “feature”; it’s not like ugly chroma and luminance noise. It is a feature; it contributes to the look and feel. It is worth finding a good lab that does optical enlargement. Digital labs are more common, but they will just scan at 1200 to 2400 dpi, then re-sample and print on a digital printer at 300dpi. Optical enlargements get the most out of your film and look much better. Most digital labs don’t print larger than 12R except by special order, as this is the biggest they can make from a 3:2 format image on a standard roll of printer paper. A good print is a sight to behold.


The use of film has pros and cons over digital. If you understand the differences, you can use it to best advantage. The important thing is to get out and start shooting. You’ll learn from your mistakes and take pride in your triumphs.

Further Information

This is the latest instalment of Dan K’s series of articles on the theme of Film for the Digital Photographer. If you have not already read his previous articles, I would encourage you to read them. They cover combining film and digital photography, film cameras and the various films that are currently available.

I hope you have found these articles interesting and enlightening. Regardless, please share your questions and observations. JCH’s readers include some of the most experienced photographers and we can all learn from each other.
You can follow Dan on his social networks. He always has something interesting to say about photography and cameras.


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