Olli Thomson

Category: Film Photography

Sofia on Ektar

Here are a few shots from my second roll of 2019 shot in January on my Minolta XD with the Rokkor 24/2.8 MD and the Rokkor 50/1.4 MD lenses on Kodak Ektar 100.

The first shot is of the minaret of the Banya Bashi mosque, the only functioning mosque in Sofia which dates from the 16th century during the time of the Ottomans. It was reputedly designed by Mimar Sinan who was responsible for some of the most outstanding Ottoman mosques including the famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The second picture shows the excavated ruins of the ancient city of Serdika which lies beneath modern Sofia with the Orthodox church of Saint Nedelya in the background.

Single Shot – Mind Your Language

On Tsar Ivan Asen II Street in Sofia demonstrating once again that English is the international language of graffiti. Taken with a Minolta XD and Rokkor MD 24/2.8 on Kodak Ektar and fine tuned in Lightroom.

This picture also illustrates the XD’s hair trigger shutter release. I was waiting for the older gentleman to move into the scene from the left but intended for him to be a little further into the frame. What I thought was my gentle pressure on the release button was enough to fire the shutter a fraction too soon. I was relieved when I got the developed film back and saw that I had at least got some of him in the frame.

Undoubtedly if I used the XD more I would adjust to this but alternating it with my FM2n which has greater resistance and travel in the shutter release (not to mention a couple of digital cameras) means that I always get caught out once or twice on each roll.

The First Roll of 2019

Winter was something of a disappointment. I had been expecting heavy snowfall, with days or weeks of snow lying thick on the ground. Instead there were occasional days of snow which clung on for a little while before melting to slush. I did get out with a camera on one snowy day in January and took some winter pictures pictures around the city. Despite having a new Nikkor lens to experiment with I used my Minolta for these shots since some of them they will be used for a forthcoming post on another website requiring the XD. I believe all of these were shot with the Rokkor MD 24/2.8, though since I’ve stopped taking detailed notes I’m not completely sure. I used Ilford Delta 400.

The Last Roll of 2018

I shot my way through eleven rolls of film in 2018, around one a month. I would like to try to at least double that this year. I’m on course for January with two rolls shot, developed and scanned so far in January. These shots are from my final film of 2018 taken around Sofia on a very chilly mid December day. These were shot on Ilford HP5 with my FM2n, the first six with the 24/2.8 AI-S Nikkor and the rest with the 35/2 AI-S Nikkor. 

Sofia on Film

Finally. I’ve had a few rolls of film sitting in a drawer waiting to be developed for a while now and I finally got round to dropping them off at one of the local photography stores for developing and scanning. While I have my own scanner it’s so cheap to get scans done here that it makes sense to get them and then re-scan any particular images that stand out.

The shots below were taken with the Minolta XD and the MD 35/2.8 lens. I used Ilford Delta 100, the second time I’ve used one of the Delta films and it is superb. Tone, contrast, grain – everything about these film is wonderful. It’s just a shame it happens to be one of the more expensive films – $7.49 or £7 compared to $5.69 or £5 for HP5 Plus. Still, I may have to invest in a lot more Delta.

Fixed It

My Konica Auto S3 had a little problem. The frame counter which should reset to ‘S’ when the back is opened would instead reset to ’18’. I say a little problem because the frame counter worked normally apart from this one issue. When it reached frame ’36’ I was still able to wind on and shoot to the end of the film even though the counter no longer counted. The one problem was that when I got into the second half of a loaded film I had no idea how many frames were left.

I couldn’t justify sending the camera away for such a minor problem since repairs on these old (around 1973) rangefinders are expensive. So I decided to try to do it myself. With some advice and guidance from a couple of classic camera repair groups and a few other sources I found online I took the top off the camera, worked out what the problem was and managed to fix it.

New Year’s Resolutions

The plan was to get out on the snowy streets of Sofia and take some pictures. Sadly the snow did not survive for long and the streets were reduced to slush and ice. The cold weather has brought some more unpleasant changes. A combination of low lying fog, exhaust emissions and the burning of coal and wood resulted in a dramatic decline in the air quality – which is not that great to start with. It’s sufficiently bad that the city has authorised reduced fares on all public transport to try to get people out of their cars, and advised schools to reduce outdoor activities. We are promised a brief respite on Wednesday when rain and wind should clear the air somewhat but the outlook for the rest of the week suggests the relief will only be temporary. Obviously given this significant disincentive to getting out and about with my camera I spent today looking at cameras on Ebay, Used Photo Pro and a few other sites, deciding what to buy next.

On the one hand I decided that I quite like the idea of getting a Nikon F, the first of Nikon’s famous series of professional grade SLR cameras, which appeared in 1959 and continued in production until 1972. While the Nikon F was not the first SLR it combined existing elements of SLR design into a single high quality professional grade camera. Some F’s incorporated Nikon’s  ‘photomic’ viewfinder with a built in light meter but the original F with the standard eye level viewfinder had no meter and was entirely mechanical.

Minolta 35-70 Zoom

Many years ago in the early 90s when I was photographing with a Canon EOS film camera I  bought myself a Tamron 70-200 (or possibly 70-210) zoom. This was one of the cheap f4 – f5.6 models rather than the high end f2.8 version. It was rubbish. Even to my untrained eye I could see that the images were soft, the colours were washed out and contrast was almost non-existent. I concluded that cheap zooms were junk and never bought another one until many years later in the digital era when it seemed lens designers finally worked out how to make decent affordable zooms.

As a result of this experience I assumed that zooms of that era and certainly any that were even older were not worth having. Hence all of the manual focus Nikkors and Rokkors I have bought for my Nikon and Minolta SLRs, lenses which date from the 70s and 80s, have been primes. However, having read up as much as I could find on Minolta MD lenses online it seemed clear that there were a few exceptions and the 35-70 f3.5 was one of those. So when a decent copy turned up on Used Photo Pro for $75 it was too good to pass up.

Film Friendly Sofia

Prior to my arrival I had assumed that resources for film photography would be available in Sofia and this was confirmed by a number of Sofia residents on an expat forum. Soon after my arrival I took a day and walked around the city tracking down the photography retailers that had been recommended and looking for others.

So far I have found four stores that provide extensive services for film photographers. They all sell film, chemicals and paper. They all develop and scan both colour and black and white film – positive and negative – in multiple formats.

Roll 9

Roll eight was affected by my scanner problems so I’m holding off on posting images from that roll until I have my scanner back and can re-do the negatives (which are travelling to Bulgaria by ship so it might be a while.)

In the meantime here are a few shots from roll nine. These were taken with my Konica Auto S3 and this was the first time I had taken it out since I had it serviced. This was also my first time using Kodak Ektar. It’s a nice film and compared to the Lomo Colour 100 I used a while ago it’s a lot smoother and less grainy. The downside is that it does tend to leave people with very orange skin and in many of these shots I had to desaturate the orange and reds.

I’m also in the process of writing a review for the Konica which should appear on another website in due course.

First, a few shots, as always, from the Lincoln Memorial.


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