Tag Archives: Shop Talk

{Lomo Instant Wide} Introduction

Please allow me to introduce you to the Lomo’ Instant Wide. Hold onto your seats, because this will be a lengthy introduction!

It’s quite a camera and an unexpected addition to my collection.

When I first read about the upcoming release of the Instant Wide, I winced at the price, but I really got a bee in my bonnet about owning one! Lomography was selling it via pre-order, with shipment expected by Christmas. I kept going back and looking and thinking “Can I do this? I can’t do this! But can I?” I got an itchy trigger finger one October day because I just got a feeling in my bones that I was supposed to have this camera (hey! It happens!) I immediately got buyer’s remorse. It was a chunk of money! But here was my justification: I have been wanting a better Fuji Instax Wide camera for YEARS because I love the format but hate the available cameras for it. The hope was that Fuji would put out a better Instax Wide. Doesn’t look like we should hold our breath waiting for that to happen.

Before I can really get on with the Instant Wide review, I need to address what I mean by “better Instax Wide camera.” Basically, the readily available Fuji Instax Wide cameras left a lot to be desired. I have owned an Instax Wide 200 since about 2005, which had to come from England and film wasn’t available in the US for it at that time. Even once the film was easily found here, I just didn’t use the Wide 200 very often because it had so many limitations. It was auto exposure only. There was no ability to turn the flash off (though you could force the flash to fire.) There were only two focus settings which left a lot to be desired for versatility. The Wide 200 was an older model of the Instax Wide camera, but even the subsequent models weren’t really improvements over the 200.

Now, what features did the Lomo Instant Wide offer that piqued my interest? Here are the camera’s tech specs from the Lomography site, and I’ll bold the things that got their hooks in me:

  • Lens Focal Length: 90mm (35mm equivalent)
  • Auto exposure type: Programmed Automatic
  • Aperture: f/8, f/22
  • Shutter Speed range: Bulb (Bulb Mode), 8s-1/250 (Auto Shooting Mode), 1/30 (Fixed Shutter Speed Mode)
  • Exposure Compensation: +1/-1 Exposure Values (Ambient)
  • Ejection Mechanism: Motorized
  • Multiple Exposures: Yes
  • Built-in Flash Guide Number: 13 (m)
  • Built-in Flash: Automatic Electronic Flash & Flash Off Mode
  • Closest Focusing Distance: 0.6m (0.1m with the Close-Up Lens)
  • Zone Focusing Setting: 0.6m / 1-2m / infinite
  • Tripod Mount: Yes
  • Remote control transmission: Infrared
  • Battery Supply: 4 x AA batteries (4 x 1.5V)
  • Filter Thread: 49mm

Again, straight from the Lomgoraphy site, here’s what was in the box:

  • Lomo’Instant Wide Camera (Central Park edition, in my case)
  • Colored Gel Filters (four of them)
  • Lomo’Instant Wide Ultra Wide-Angle Lens Attachment and Viewfinder
  • Lomo’Instant Wide Close-Up Lens Attachment
  • Lomo’Instant Wide Splitzer
  • Remote Control Lens Cap
  • Shooting Technique Cards
  • Instruction Manual
  • Bonus accessory: Lomography Light Painter, a special gift for pre-order customers
  • Bonus accessory: An additional four colored gel filters for the flash, a special gift for pre-order customers
  • Bonus accessory: Camera strap, a special gift for pre-order customers

I received the Instant Wide in December, as promised. I knew the camera would be large, based on the size of my Fuji Instax Wide camera, but, WOWZA! It’s big!

What was in the box (minus the tip cards) with my Central Park Edition camera

Tip cards: example photos taken with the Instant Wide, with info about settings/accessories used on the back

Close-up accessory

Ultra wide-angle accessory

The best, most useful accessory for the Instant Wide: the lens cap that is actually a remote control. You use the instant side to snap a photo instantly (duh) and the time side to hold the shutter open for up to a minute in Bulb mode.

Controls: flash on/off button, multiple exposure button, exposure compensation button, on/off/auto/bulb/fixed shutter speed selector

Where the picture is ejected after you take a photo

You’re supposed to be able to use the shiny silver circle to help compose self-portraits (fine: selfies!)

All cameras that use Instax film (wide or mini) are easy to load because there’s a yellow mark on the camera that corresponds with a yellow mark on the film cartridge, so you’ll know which way to insert it.

The light painter tool in use

One of the colored flash gels inserted over the flash

The only reason you might feel like this camera is heavy is because it’s powered by four AA batteries. Otherwise, the camera’s pretty lightweight.

I don’t know if Lomography does their product releases in December because they want people to give their new releases as gifts or because the winter holiday season is rife with photographic opportunities. Okay, it’s probably the former but the latter turned out to be true for me. I really liked having the camera put in my hands during a time of year when I would have good reason to take a lot of photos.

First shot! I’m in love!

Close-up attachment focuses at 10cm (about 4 in.)

My mom’s flawless accessories (much better in person rather than in the digital photo of it)

Arm-length self portrait

Bulb mode + flash + moving the camera in circles during the exposure

Another close-up accessory success – my eyes turned to hearts when I saw this shot

It’s underexposed, but I like it (close-up accessory used, of course)

Tried the ultra wide-angle accessory. Focusing guidelines given in the camera’s manual didn’t steer me correctly here.

The only time using the ultra wide-angle accessory worked okay. I have more work to do to figure it out.

Quick grab-shot of my mother’s earring, with the close-up accessory <3

Close-up of fabric. Textural. 

Attempted double exposure. It looks…ethereal?

Never taking the close-up attachment off this thing

Street art in Oxford, Mississippi

The Lyric venue in Oxford

Breads on display at Bottletree Bakery in Oxford

Uncomfortably close-up shot of a pastry from Bottletree Bakery in Oxford

Patio table outside a business in Oxford

Shop window in Oxford

City Hall Christmas Tree in Oxford

I can never resist the red phone booth (from England) that’s in Oxford
(Weird lens flare in this photo has been experienced by other Lomo Instant Wide users)

Shop window in Oxford

Me, standing outside Square Books in Oxford

Dress outside a clothing shop in Oxford. Reminded me of something Lady Mary would have worn near the end of Downton Abbey 🙂 (the 1920s)

My Lomography La Sardina on a table outside a business in Oxford

Santas and angels under the Christmas tree at my brother and sister-in-law’s house

My nephew Braeden and the beard I crocheted him for Christmas 🙂

Christmas tree at my brother and sister-in-law’s house

My niece Anna Marie in the Dragonball Z shirt I got her for Christmas

Yours truly, in the crown from my Christmas cracker 

My swirly ring (close-up attachment used)

Listening to my original Stax record “King and Queen” by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas

Last shot in my four pack test run for the Lomo Instant Wide (when I did this for my 365 project)


Thoughts? Likes? Dislikes? Conclusions?

I think this is a really interesting camera. And it better be for the price tag it carries! I am not into the “Lomography” look of blurry, soft-focus, or wacky looking photos. For the first four packs of film in the Lomo Instant Wide, I didn’t really find it to have those qualities. I wish the ultra wide-angle accessory hadn’t turned out to be so difficult to use correctly. I plan on doing some focusing tests with that accessory attached, but I really shouldn’t have to. I have found that even setting the exposure compensation to -1 for both shots, I have gotten terrible results trying to do double exposures outdoors. The photos have turned out so overexposed that there was virtually nothing on the frame of film after it developed. I also find that the camera is leaning toward overexposure in general if it’s used outdoors and sometimes even indoors. It’s frustrating!

The most advanced Instax Wide camera that Fuji itself has produced, the Instax Wide 500AF, has no where near the features and controls of the Lomo, but I have seen comparison photos taken, and the Fuji definitely wins in the sharpness department. But I see a lot of potential for the Instant Wide. I hope I can make the most of it and create some worthwhile images with it. I’ll keep you guys in the loop though 😉

Long, Mirrorless Weekend

Here’s a phrase you don’t hear often on Shoot With Personality: I got a new digital camera!

I’m going to dive right into the back story/technobabble portion of this blog entry: I’ve been researching dSLRs, because the time has come for me to buy a new one. Through my research, I’ve become increasingly drawn to mirrorless cameras (mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras/MILC.) These cameras lack mirrors, as the name suggests. You compose your photograph by looking at a rear LCD display or, in some cases, electronic viewfinder.  Leaving the mirror out generally allows for a smaller, quieter camera. Though there are some MILCs being released that have the look and feel of a small dSLR.  Some MILCs,  such as the drool-worthy Fuji X-pro1,  rival their mirrored dSLR big brothers in terms of image quality.

Since what I’m looking for at the moment is something to fill the gap between a point-and-shoot digital and a dSLR, I actually happened across a MILC bundle that really piqued my interest. The bundle paired a Samsung NX1100 [plus 20-50mm lens] with a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 tablet. Lightroom 4 comes standard with any NX1100 kit, too.  A tablet was already on my wish list, and considering that this particular bundle cost less than the NX1100 kit normally runs on its own, I decided to take the plunge!

One of the things about the Samsung camera that’s REALLY cool is you can use the built-in Wi-fi to send pictures straight from the camera to the tablet. That makes it extremely easy to then post the photos in blogs, send them in emails,  and, yes, post them to Instagram. That’s one of the many things that I think would make this camera/tablet a wicked combo with which to travel. 

I procured my Samsung bundle last week. This meant that I had it for Labor Day weekend, which provided a nice testing ground for my NX1100. I had a wide variety of photographic opportunities over the long weekend. On to the test images!


Snaps from my quick visit to the always photogenic Otherlands coffee shop in Midtown 

One of the coolest things – a vintage memorial to MLK, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy

Perfect scooter parked out back at Otherlands

Worm that crawled out of the flower box on the patio

The flower box from which the worm crawled

 Susan and Scott’s wedding rehearsal at the beautiful Grace-St. Luke’s church 


Polaroid/Impossible Project shots from Susan and Scott’s wedding

 Sunday morning still-life

Just to show you that the Samsung takes selfies to the next level, so you can zap ’em over to the tablet and upload to Instagram with the greatest of ease

Showing off the corn muffins I make weekly for my family’s catering company


Labor Day snapshots

My niece finished her waffle and left it impaled with the fork this way

Labor day lunch: I made seitan cutlets, homemade BBQ sauce, and oven-friend green tomatoes

LOVELY vegan blackberry cobbler I made for dessert

Found this random cluster of red berries near the field behind our house
(I found out that it’s called “jack-in-the-pulpit)

My Bronica ETRSi, just hanging out on the barbed wire fence  

Walkin’ on broken glass

Of course only time will tell how well my new Samsung NX1100 fits into my normally analogue lifestyle, but I have to say that I’m likin’ the results so far! Now, if only I can get my hands on some of the super sweet prime lenses from the NX line…

P.S. I couldn’t find an awful lot of hands-on reviews of the NX1100 online, and most of what I found was written by bloggers who are compensated for their reviews. More power to them, but if you happen upon this blog entry whilst searching for information about this camera, know that I am not one of those paid bloggers! 

{6×4.5} Long-Term Relationship…An Epic Blog About Medium Format

(This is a long, verbose post about me and my medium format “backstory.”  Feel free to jump on down to the bottom for the camera/photos that are the main focus of this blog, if ya please. I won’t be mad atcha!)

Over the past handful of years, I’ve had my share of flings with medium format SLR cameras. First, there was my affair with the Hassy. It was a brief relationship , but it was a robust one. Our time together was beautiful.

Once I was ready to love again, someone set me up with a Contax 645. I thought this was “the one.” Turns out the Contax was too posh for me – I’m just a humble freelance photographer; I couldn’t afford to keep up with the Contax lifestyle. It was like luxury cars and champagne; I’m more like mini vans and Coke Zero. We did splendid work together though. There was no denying that.

Last year, another Hasselblad came into my life. I knew it wouldn’t be a forever relationship, but I also knew this Hassy and I would have more time together than I’d had with my previous Hasselblad fling. It accompanied me on a few photo shoots. It was even my date to a big wedding I shot! But our days were numbered. And I ended up coming out of my time with Hassy #2 feeling as if, for now at least, Hasselblads are not really my “type.”* It served its purpose in my life, so I felt at peace when we parted ways.

I can’t go long without feeling as if I need to be involved with a medium format SLR though. A few months ago, I decided I really needed such a camera in my life again. I wanted it to be the real deal this time though. I didn’t want it just to be one more short-term love affair.

Several things came into consideration when I was deciding which type of medium format camera I wanted to have in my life. Cost was a major factor. If I were a rich girl, I’d still be with that posh Contax I toyed with a couple of years back.  Another was which medium format format I’d mesh with. That’s because medium format film can be shot in any number of image dimensions:

  • 6x6cm (my most beloved of all shooting formats) – The Hasselblad is a 6×6 camera, as are TLRs, Holga, and Diana. Square format is my absolute fave!
  • 6×4.5cm –  The Contax 645 is one such camera. I love square so much that I had never given the possibility of a 645 camera a second thought. I but I kinda dug it once I tried the Contax. Plus, you get more photos from a roll of film shot in 6×4.5 than you do a 6×6!
  • 6×7, 6×8, 6x9cm – The thing with medium format SLRs is: the bigger the negative size, the more giant the camera (though some rangefinder and “folder cameras” aren’t quite so cumbersome.)  I mean, these SLRs are monstrous things to carry around. Probably best suited for work in the studio (aka – you can set it up on a tripod.) Also, as mentioned above, the larger the negative a camera produces, the fewer frames you get from a roll of medium format film.
  • 6x12cm – Whoa whoa whoa. This is pretty major. It takes medium format panoramics. So that’s darn awesome. HUGE negative. Thankfully, there are some toy-ish 6×12 cameras out there, so I might actually have the ability to afford to play with such a camera one day.

Now. I really REALLY wanted a 6×6 SLR. I started looking around at those, and  Hasselblad seemed to be financially out of the question. But there is a less “popular” (I think “less trendy” would be more accurate) brand called Bronica that seemed to be a little more reasonably priced. And I’m no camera snob: Sure, the Zeiss glass on Hasselblad…c’est magnifique! But if Bronica lenses and bodies are good but underrated (therefore cheap as chips) then I’ll laugh all the way to the bank. I found a Bronica 645 for an appallingly good deal. It’s obscene how cheap these cameras are now, if you ask me.

My Bronica ETRSi came with a non-metered eye-level prism finder, 75mm/2.8 lens, a 150mm/3.5 lens, a “speed grip,” two 120 film backs, and one 220 film back. The good thing about these “modular” camera systems is that you can change film types any time you please if you have more than one film back. So I really got to shoot more than one test roll simultaneously. I had one back loaded with Ilford XP-2 (C-41) black and white film and another loaded with Kodak Portra 160 color film. I swapped between the two film backs/film types at my own discretion. I love modular cameras!

Meet my Bronica – we’re in a committed relationship

I HIGHLY recommend getting a speed grip if you ever find yourself in possession of a Bronica MF SLR. It greatly improves the handling of the camera, gives you a second shutter release button that is better-placed than the one on the front of the camera body itself, makes film advance quicker (a two-stroke advance lever rather than the winding advance arm that comes standard with the camera,) and a hot shoe for your flash. I got especially ecstatic when I realized that the flash shoe on the grip is “hot,” since it means that I can use a flash with my ETRSi without needing a sync cord. I’m so pumped about that!

Speed grip!!!

My ETRSi came with an “all matte” focusing screen. I was worried about my ability to accurately focus, because I’m used to split-image focusing screens. However, all the photos below were taken with the standard, all matte screen, and basically all the photos from my three test rolls were focused beautifully. Before I got my film back from the lab, I was still worried about my ability to accurately focus my photos. So I picked up a split-image screen for a pittance from KEH. Just in case!

It took me several weeks to get my Bronica test rolls up to the photo lab for development. It was soooooo worth the wait though!

Bronica ETRSi • Zenzanon 75mm/2.8 EII • Ilford XP2/Kodak Portra 160/Ilford XP2 shot @ 1600 ASA

I hope to have a very fruitful relationship with my Bronica – it will be my steady date on both professional and personal occasions. Don’t be surprised if I ask my Bronica to run away to England me one of these days ♥♥♥

*I would not kick a Hasselblad out of bed though, if I’m honest.


{Ricoh FF-1} Camera Review

I admit it: I’m a sucker for pocketable 35mm cameras.Exhibit A – I’ve owned multiples of some of these cameras. And yes, my cameras formed a cheeleader-style pyramid for this photo session

A few weeks ago, I found myself browsing the camera section of an auction website – which is not the wisest thing to do when you’re trying to pare down your camera collection like I (supposedly) am! I spotted a little camera that I’d never encountered before: a Ricoh FF-1. Visually, I knew it was eerily similar in design to the Minox 35 line. One website I read said that this camera looks as if a Minox 35 and a Lomo LC-A had a baby together. I agree! I did a fair amount of research on the FF-1 during the days leading up to the end of the auction. I found relatively little info online about this camera. But I was intrigued! I had to make the Ricoh mine!

I probably squealed with delight when the postal carrier brought the parcel containing this camera. The FF-1 looked to be in good shape cosmetically (it looked purdy to me!) and it already had working batteries installed. That’s always a nice surprise! As you can see, the auction I won also included a little Rollei flash and a cute retro-style camera bag.

So. Here’s what I can tell you about the Ricoh FF-1: It’s a zone focus (or scale focus, if you prefer – same diff) camera. That means you estimate the focus distance and set it manually. On the Ricoh, you set the distance on a little focusing ring that is marked in meters. There is a folding, drawbridge-style lens cover that protects the lens and acts as an on-off switch, if you will. When the drawbridge is in its upright position, the camera cannot take a photo nor can the camera’s electronics be accidentally activated – meaning a photo can’t be inadvertently snapped nor your batteries drained if the shutter button were to somehow get pressed (in your camera bag, for instance.)

Drawbridge action

Film speed selector 

Metal lens barrel with distance scale ring (marked in meters) – and it is QUALITY! 

Handy dandy meter/feet conversion chart. Phew! 

The Ricoh actually arrived on a very good week: Kayla happened to be Stateside, visiting her family, and I’d been invited over for a bake date. What a good opportunity to bring along my latest photographic acquisition! I was right that our bake date would be a photo-rich environment- except my rusty scale focusing skills caused a few shots to not turn out the way I wanted. Boo! But we still got a few keepers that day!

Loved the soft light in Kayla’s mum’s kitchen – and her Cath Kidston tea towels

Mixing up the bourbon pecan pie she was making for her family reunion

Just Kayla is in focus, but I kinda like how it looks as if she’s dancing in her seat as she eats her Ajax Diner leftovers

Kayla prepping for the “food porn” shoot of her completed pecan pie – almost  in focus!

I had loads more success with Roll #2 in the FF-1!

Slight vignetting?? I sure hope so!


See – it’s quite sharp when you focus correctly

Hiya! I have to be able to take mirror self-portraits with the compact cameras in my life

Weird frame overlap thingy – this is the only time this happened and mos def due to what I like to call “operator error”

Bokeh, bo-kay?

 Ricoh FF-1 • Kodak Ultramax 400

Closing thoughts: The main question in my mind about this camera was (and remains): Does it work as an aperture priority camera? There is conflicting information about this online, and I still am not 100% convinced that you can’t use aperture priority. However, I view this camera as a replacement for my Olympus XA2 and my no longer working Lomo LC-A, and neither of those cameras offer anything other than auto exposure. So no biggie if the Ricoh doesn’t work that way either. In fact, any limitations in the Ricoh can also be found in one or both of the two cameras I just mentioned. So I can’t fault the FF-1 for any limitations it shares with the cameras it’s replacing, now can I??

What I like about this camera:

  • maximum aperture of f/2.8
  • “drawbridge” lens cover
  • quality metal lens barrel
  • film advance lever (♥ this a lot!)
  • hot shoe
  • threaded cable release plug

What I don’t so much like:

  • Maximum ISO setting of only 400
  • Minimum focusing distance of 3 feet
  • Setting the distance is a bit fiddly on the itty bitty lens barrel
  • The viewfinder on my particular FF-1 is a little foggy – could be cleared up probably, but I won’t take it apart myself to do it!

That’s about it on the “cons”!  As I said, apparently I’m a little rusty on zone focusing, but I have mastered it in the past and shall do again! I think the Rioch FF-1 has earned its spot on my “Going to England” camera list. And directly caused my XA2 to earn a spot in the “excess camera sell-off on eBay.”

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