December 4, 2018
It’s over. It’s all over. The cameras have been tested. Almost all of them are 100% healthy. The others that aren’t healthy? Well, they’ll just have a nervous tick the rest of their lives.
The process was incredibly enjoyable. I am forever grateful that my professors chose me to tackle this project. I managed to make a solid handful of photographs that i am actually happy with, and could even begin a new project on the side.
I can’t thank my friend Izabela enough for helping me out with speeding things along. She shot three of the cameras, allowing this project to be completed before finals week. I don’t know if she will post her photographs, but if she does, check on my social media for when I share them.
Please follow my social media
Now that this project is done, that means this blog is done. That’s why I transferred it all here. I own this website now, so I don’t have a need for my Wordpress site.
You can view the gallery of my favorite photographs from this project here.
Thank you for reading. Here’s to the next blog.
Since the blog has migrated here, read the old posts pre-migration below
November 30, 2018
The project is nearing its end. With my friend Izabela assisting me by shooting a few cameras along side me, the process has sped up and will reach its deadline perfectly.
Izabela is shooting two of the last three cameras as of today. She mentioned to me how much she enjoyed playing around with a TLR again for the first time in two years (since she took Photography 2 at our university). It's true, this whole project has been a blast; TLRs are some of the most fun cameras to use. Maybe not as fun as using a Hasselblad, but those are their own category of enjoyment.
Last night, November 29, I shot two rolls. One on camera #14, and one on camera #113. Camera #14 was a breeze, and since getting my hands on a prism viewfinder, it made the image making process much more comfortable. This camera was probably the most pleasant to use so far, but my suspicion is that camera #111 will beat it out. Just look at the top image, it's beautiful.
Camera #113 was an oddball. It's an old Mamiya C33 - around a decade (or more, depending on manufacturing date) older than all of the other cameras I've been testing. I'm worried that the note that was with it (which stated "Skips exposures"), is true. The film advance crank didn't seem to work properly - It would advance the film, however, it would stop maybe an inch before it should have stopped. In turn, I needed to wind the crank backward to get it back to the correct position to swing the crank arm down to the locked position. It was a wild ride, so I didn't really make any "artful" images with camera #113, just in case the roll won't turn out.
As of now, I've been carrying my final camera around, camera #111. Most of the photographs I've been making for this test process have been at night, so I'm hoping to get some daylight, high-contrast images for this final run. In the meantime, Izabela is shooting away with the other two final cameras.
This weekend, the night of developing will come.
November 28, 2018
Camera 24 was an interesting ride, for sure. Things started off with an oddity of a problem on the lens: the shutter speed ring. When rotating the shutter speed ring, it did in fact click on each shutter speed, however, the whole ring would wiggle a significant amount. This worried me, so I attached the lens from Camera 15 to Camera 24.
The whole process of Camera 24 was strange and filled with user-errors. Even with constant warm-up loads and operation testing on it with dummy film, when I was making the images, I still made mistakes I normally wouldn't have.
The first problem I encountered was me mis-firing the lens, creating an unintentional double exposure (which, quite honestly, looks pretty cool). After that, I attempted to photograph a "cheesy" image of a frosted-over flower near one of the dormitories, but after developing the roll, it wasn't there. Just a fully transparent spot where the frame should have been. Could I have horribly over-exposed it so much that it was essentially blank? Or did something go wrong with the shutter when taking the image?
After that image would have been made, I continued to roll along in shooting the images that night. Capturing some interesting (to me) scenes of architecture and "in progress, but no one's there" kind of scenes. In fact, I may pursue this idea further.
After the (technically) ninth frame was shot, the crank to advance the film decided it was done and wound the rest of the roll up. I lost the remaining three frames on the roll, which was disappointing. However, there is a mystery to me that is why did the camera decide to advance the rest of the roll, instead of going to frame ten?
Camera 24 does work well, and in all of my pre-live film tests with dummy film, the camera worked flawlessly, advanced all twelve frames perfectly, everything went the way it should have. This all points to this being full of user-errors, and lack of attention on my part. If anything, It's learning for the rest of the tests.
Onward we journey into the next camera. My friend Izabela Batko will be assisting in speeding along the process by shooting one of the other TLRs along side me.
November 14, 2018
The film has been developed, and the roll has been scanned. I felt it unnecessary to worry about the images being "perfect," in the idea of cleaning off every little dust particle, every little dried water drop. So, here we are. A couple weeks later, and the test for Camera #15 was a success.
The camera performed exceptionally well, and the only problems that came up were user errors (the last image shows that).
I had never done a double exposure before, so this was new to me. I accidentally advanced the roll forward then realized I probably didn't need to do that. The consequence of that was the last frame being cut off slightly - which thankfully ended up being a near-perfect 4x5 cropped image.
There are actually a few images in this roll that I'm quite happy with artistically, though the intent wasn't to be artful with my approach to this.
Now that Camera #15 has passed its test, it's time to move on to the next camera: Camera #24.
I can already tell this camera has some issues. This is going to be interesting.
October 31, 2018
The first two images have been taken on Camera #15.
I mapped out the different tests I will be doing. They won't be in this order.
- One shot at f/2.8, testing the widest aperture
- One shot at f/32, testing the smallest aperture
Shutter Speed test:
- One shot at 1/500, testing the fastest shutter speed
- One shot at 1 second, testing the slowest shutter speed
- One shot on Bulb to test, well, bulb (can vary, there really isn't any specific time I'm planning on, but I will record whatever time I do for each bulb shot)
- One shot at minimum focus
- One shot at infinity, or near-infinity
- One shot kind-of in the middle (like a portrait, or something)
- A couple attempts because, believe it or not, I've never done an in-camera multiple-exposure image.
Technically, this only takes up nine images out of 12 if I did only one for each individual part of the tests. That means I have a little bit of wiggle room. I also already anticipate shooting a second roll with each camera, but doing some personal photos, while simultaneously testing the camera with each shot.
More to come in time.
October 29, 2018
Oh, hello, I didn't see you there. My name is Jeff Smudde. I'm a senior photography major and mass media minor at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. I've been a photographer since 2010, and photography has been my biggest passion in life since then. I specialize in landscape, music, and conceptual work.
I am currently enrolled in a narrative photography class. It's been a great time, to say the least. I've been putting together some (subjectively) incredibly strong photographs that will eventually be seen in some online and on-location galleries. I'm a bit of a gear-head when it comes to cameras, and I let that be known with my last project - being very animate about using strictly 35mm field-of-view for every image (I currently use a crop-sensor camera, so that would be about 22mm equivalent field-of-view). My instructor, Bill O'Donell, knows this. So well, in fact, that he assigned a new "project" for me. A project a gear-head like me could not turn down.
"We need a nerdy photo major who's willing to test out all of these cameras," Bill paused for about two seconds while talking to fellow ISU photo professor Jin Lee, "Jeff Smudde."
He brought me into the camera storage closet and explained my assignment. Test out every twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera, starting with the Mamiyas (in much better shape), and then later getting into the Yashicas. Bill asked me to check every little thing, documenting how everything works, the aperture, shutter speed, cable release, film spool, view lens, everything.
With coming changes to the art education program at ISU, there will likely be more people enrolled in the Photography 2 class, the class which uses the TLR cameras early on.
In the coming weeks, I will be documenting the process on each camera - luckily not too many cameras, about fifteen all together, if memory serves.
Every roll of film will be Kodak Tri-X 400 iso film. All of the Mamiyas have 80mm f/2.8 (or similar speed) lenses, which equates to a 44mm field-of-view (a 1.82x crop difference; dividing the medium format 6x6 focal length by 1.82 gives the 35mm equivalent field-of-view; a 50mm lens on a Mamiya C330 would be the same field-of-view as a 27.5 mm lens on a 35mm camera). I will be using C330s and C220s for the Mamiya cameras. I'm unsure what the Yashica specifications are at this time.
As of the moment writing this first post, I have only loaded the first camera of the batch, Camera #15, a Mamiya C330, pictured at the beginning of this post. It has been cleaned thoroughly, and I will have my first technical test session later this week.
I don't really know what the kind of images I'll be making will be like. Since I need to test essentially every aspect of the camera in 12 shots, it'll be an interesting collection of images. Hopefully, I could get a potential artistic project out of this. You never really know with us art-kind.
Tune in next time for the progress of Camera #15.