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35mm and 120 film reviews - Ikigai Camera Blog

Film, Life and Nature - An Interview with Jesse Pafundi

Peter Davison

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your style and what draws you to the type of work you shoot

I'm a nature nut. I could go for a hike and be inspired by tree after tree after tree. I see the natural world as the purest form of beauty and honestly never tire of it. This resonated with me recently when I was out shooting and had this inner dialogue with myself about why and what I'm photographing. I came to the conclusion that I love nothing more than making portraits of nature. This probably all sounds like some crazy hippy talk but capturing these kinds of scenes is what draws me in time after time.  

Why film? What do you prefer more, the process or the result?

This is a really interesting question because over the years, the answer has changed. When I first started to dabble in film, it was purely for the look. I began shooting some super cheap, lo-fi cameras just to get my feet wet and also knowing that the finished product would be as far from digital as possible. Over the past year or so, the process has completely taken over for me and is the main reason I shoot film. I'm a full-time wedding photographer and shoot digitally for that, so film has become my artistic outlet.

I absolutely love the limitations of a set number of frames per roll and how it really forces me to be even more intentional with what and how I shoot. Because of that, each frame is thought out and I become more emotionally invested in the process. The shooting experience has become an almost therapeutic thing for me, so the enjoyment of making the pictures themselves is quite important.

Each camera I own shoots and behaves differently as well, which is inspiring to me in itself. The last added benefit, at least for me, is with rolls being 12, 24 or 36 exposures, I sometimes find myself coming up with mini-series or projects on the fly when I'm out. I definitely never get that inspiration with digital and SD cards that hold thousands of images.

It’s interesting that you shoot a lot of your landscape work in square format. What do you like about this compared to the more “traditional” landscape photography formats. 

The simplicity of it. There is no question of portrait orientation versus landscape orientation. Shooting square minimises and simplifies my compositions and truly makes my entire process a straightforward one. There's no doubt in my mind that I see scenes and compositions I never would if I were shooting 3x2 or 4x5 orientation. If you're looking to shake up your vision and simplify things, I highly recommend trying out a square format camera.

Is there one image you’ve taken that really stands out to you as “the one”? 

Yes, Horses of Iceland. The funny thing about this image is that I was in my very early days of shooting medium format. I wasn't great at manually focusing and I didn't truly understand how to expose for film. I was still very much learning but accidentally underexposing a bit only added to the mood of the image. It was one of those moments where I pressed the shutter at the perfect time. The look on the one horses face and the wind-swept manes is perfection to me. I also vividly remember this moment so it's a meaningful image to me.

What are your favourite films to shoot with?

Easiest question ever. Portra 400. I shoot probably 90% of my work with this film. As much as I love black and white, colors in the world inspire me. It's just as much a part of the scene as the subject for me and Portra 400 delivers the tones I'm after. Also, shooting a lot of landscapes, the flexibility in this film allows me to capture high dynamic range scenes. I truly love it.

What are you most excited about shooting next?

The answer is not so much subject matter as it is experimentation. Back to why film is so inspiring to me, there are so many film stocks out there. Winter just hit here in the States, so I plan on shooting much more black and white films looking to hone in on that like I have with knowing P400 is my go-to for color. I'd like to shoot some super mimimal winter scenes and may make that my winter project.


 
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Thanks to Jesse Pafundi for participating in this interview

Jesse Pafundi is a wedding and travel photographer based in New York. 


You can check out his work at instagram.com/grainandgrit/ or on Instagram jessepafundi.com

T-Max or Tri-X? A look at T-Max 400

Peter Davison

Kodak’s T-Max isn’t one of those films that you see constantly thrust into the limelight. It’s elder cousin Tri-X 400 and Ilford’s HP5+ seem to dominate the 400-speed black and white space and rightly so. Tri-X rests on its ability to adapt to nearly any situation and both pushes and pulls, then you have HP5+ with its aesthetically pleasing grain structure and untouchable ability to push while keeping contrast under control. 

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A look at Polaroid Originals and the OneStep 2 - Review

Peter Davison

As a photographer who still uses film, 2017 feels like the industry is in a bit of a time warp.

Kodak is bringing back Ektachrome, Hollywood blockbusters are being shot on film, and apparently the part of Polaroid we care about exists again.

In recent years it hasn’t been an easy ride for the instant film market. It's a segment of the industry that feels like it has been booming in some regards, yet on the precipice of failure in others.

Whilst Instax has been wildly popular for Fujifilm, packfilm is well and truly dead and it would be difficult to say that the Impossible Project (IP) has had wide market traction and acceptance amongst photographers.

Having suffered multiple bankruptcies, Polaroid’s instant film business wouldn’t exist at all in 2017 if it weren’t for IP and their decision to purchase Polaroid’s production machinery before its planned destruction in 2008, and the difficult years that followed.

The task of making instant film again wasn’t as easy as simply switching the machines back on, and due to Polaroid’s decision in 2004 to stop producing the negatives needed to make instant film, IP had to source new raw material suppliers and rebuild their instant film from the ground up.

In spite of these obstacles, IP managed to produce a new black and white instant film from scratch only 18 months after they began and a color film followed soon thereafter; effectively saving Polaroid film from fading into extinction.

These films were improved throughout the following years, and in May 2017 the Polaroid brand and intellectual property was acquired by Impossible’s largest shareholder. With that also came an announcement of a new instant film formula, a price drop and a new camera.

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The Film

Whilst Polaroid’s black and white emulsion seems to have remained the same as IP 2.0, the colour formula has seen quite a considerable improvement.

After you hear that familiar clunk and whirr of the gears you’ll be able to see an image appear on the film within the first minute or two, with full development taking approximately 15 minutes.

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You have to be patient, but the images do look great and have nice colour and contrast.

Between the 15-20 minute mark, you will see only minor changes in saturation and contrast.

Overall, the consistency, colour and development speed of the film has improved. Some difficult lighting situations will still leave colour casts, but once you know your meter and how the film handles under and over exposure, you can minimise these and know what to expect.

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This film also doesn’t seem as susceptible to light shielding issues either, though Polaroid still recommend that you do shield the film for the first six minutes of development.

Black and white can still be a bit of a mixed bag, with some shots settling on a warmer tone than others seem to. Development is still quick though with the final image only taking about 5-7 minutes to fully develop.

In our tests, we didn’t use a frog-tongue and only occasionally faced the film down during development; but to be safe, facing your film down on a table while it develops is probably your best bet.

Overall we were impressed with the images, especially compared to Instax Square which; despite having more accurate color and a faster development time, we found to look a little lo-fi and digital by comparison.

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This new colour formulation may not be quite as good as the Polaroid film from yesteryear, but it’s definitely usable and it’s the first time we've been really impressed with Polaroid film since Impossible began.

If you take into consideration the history of Impossible, and the improvements made thus far, it’s quite an incredible feat.

The colours are more saturated, tonality is improved and development is quite quick; and although you do still occasionally get edge bleeding and slight imperfections in the film, this doesn’t really present itself as as often as it used to.

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The Camera

Inspired by the original OneStep from 1977, the OneStep 2 serves as a low cost, easy to use, modern camera for those wanting to shoot Polaroid; and it looks great, featuring a design aesthetic that’s a throwback to the original Onestep.

Despite the ABS and polycarbonate shell, the OneStep 2 doesn’t feel cheap or poorly made. It has some heft to it and feels quite good in the hand, if a little awkward at times due to the shape.

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Unfortunately the lens has a fixed focus, but that’s part of the OneStep design philosophy and we suspect we’ll see a camera aimed at the more savvy market in the future.

Like the original OneStep, it’s simple, and it just works. Load your pack in, frame up with the wonderfully large viewfinder and click the red button.

That's it

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The lens is made from optical grade acrylic and the images are sharp and maintain good colour and contrast. A glass lens would have been preferable, but hitting that $99 price point is a smart choice and may help in penetrating a market that Fujifilm are currently dominating.

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Although the price of the film is slightly cheaper than it used to be, it can still seem like a hard pill to swallow if you’re comparing the cost with Instax.

At current prices, i-Type film works out to be approximately $2 USD per shot, whereas Instax square is about $1.40 USD.

Comparing the price of film alone you might think it’s an easy decision, but if you are comparing the system price of an SQ10 and Instax square packs, Polaroid comes in with a relatively enticing offer.

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It’s clear that Polaroid is trying to tap into that casual market with this camera and that may be necessary for them to grow and reach a more mass market appeal.

This is a similar strategy Polaroid took in the 70s with the release of its predecessor. In today's money, the original OneStep only cost approximately $160 USD compared with the astronomically expensive SX70 which came in at about $1000 USD. 

It has been a long, 8 year road for Impossible and in some ways it feels like this may just be the start of a new one.

Whilst the new Polaroid Originals film isn’t technically perfect, I think that its imperfection is part of what makes Polaroid special.

There is something to be said about the romanticism of using film, that iconic, big square frame, and the surprise as your image appears before your eyes (albeit a bit slower than it used to)

The film is improving, and I expect we’ll continue to see improvements based on IP’s track record in this area and especially so if this product gains mass market appeal.

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As a system, it feels like Polaroid has finally established something impressive and it’s great to be able to just walk into a store, buy new film and a new camera and get consistent results.

The film is nostalgic, familiar, exciting to use and it just feels right


One Roll - Kodak ColorPlus 200 Review - Dean Engson

Peter Davison

Film photography can be costly for the casual photographer who only shoots every now and then, or the photographer who never leaves the house without a film camera in hand.

More fortunate photographers get to enjoy film stocks of higher quality, and the rest
have to make do with consumer-grade film stocks.

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One Roll - Kodak Tri-X 400 Review - Ben Whitmore

Peter Davison

At the beginning of this year, I set out my usual photography goals. Debrief the successes and failures of the previous year's projects and plan new ones. The biggest failure of 2016 for me was quitting a 365 project half way through, but the reason for that, without going into too much detail, was simply that the act of grabbing an image every day for a year wasn't making me a better photographer, it wasn't inspiring me to tell stories, it was merely a chore I needed to get done and the photos began to reflect that mindset.

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