February ‘21 Community Letter

New SLR, Lens, Meter, and Books on Kickstarter +Thoughts on Scanning Colour

6 min read by Dmitri and Lewis Williamson.

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What’s new?

Lots of action this month on Kickstarter with Lomography’s launch of Atoll Ultra-Wide lens, a new light meter from Reveni Labs, NONS SL42 instant film SLR, The Cyclopedia of Broken Cameras, and Moscow Daze photobook.

Also: my thoughts on scanning colour film in 2021 and a frame from a winter experiment with Kodak Aerochrome. ⬇️

Winter forest on Kodak Aerochrome infrared slide film.

Kodak Aerochrome is a colour infrared slide film developed for the US military during World War II. This film produces a final image straight out of the chemical bath — red trees and all. I plaid with Photoshop’s Levels Adjustments tool to correct for the slight orange filter mismatch, but the effect of the red glow is entirely the result of a chemical reaction on film.

Lomography Atoll Ultra-Wide lens.

This month, Lomography launched a new lens on Kickstarter, Atoll Ultra-Wide. Available for M-mount cameras (and a few digital mounts), this 𝒇2.8 17mm lens captures 103° of view on 35mm film, able to focus as close as .25m or .82’. Its creator promises an “enhanced rectilinear optic design for eye-popping colors and stunning saturation even in low-light situations.”

Photo by Lewis Williamson, taken with Atoll Ultra-Wide (Sony mount).

Indeed, the sample images show an impressive amount of contrast and detail, even when shot wide-open. Because this lens can focus rather closely with 𝒇2.8, it can still produce noticeable bokeh despite the 17mm focal length.

The lens comes with an external optical viewfinder to help compose the shots. Though I’ve never held one in hand, the fact that it’s made with sandblasted anodized aluminum encourages me to think that it should feel relatively sturdy.

This is Lomography’s 13th Kickstarter campaign which has been 300% funded at the time of this article being written. Here’s what the company says about the lens’ construction on their campaign page: “Assembled entirely by hand, with thirteen multicoated elements in ten groups, rectilinear optic design and lotus lens hood the Lomography Atoll Ultra-Wide Art Lens delivers excellent flare control imagery with reduced surface reflection… Ultra-Wide Art Lens corrects optical aberrations to minimize distortion and improve micro-contrast, giving your shots richer colors and smooth tone transitions.”

The lens is available for $450 until March 5th, expected to start shipping this August and retail for $550 after.

Reveni Labs Spot Meter.

Voigtländer Kontur viewfinder blocks all the incoming light and superimposes the frame lines over the black “curtain.” When looking through with both eyes, our brain is able to combine the images, making an appearance of the white lines being drawn over the scene.

Matt Bechberger of Reveni Labs is the author of another impressive Kickstarter campaign that raised over $200,000CAD (almost 10x their goal) as of this writing to create an “extremely small” spot meter. His product is a well-placed solution for the lack of accessible modern spot meters. His approach uses an old method notably pioneered by Voigtländer in the 1950s to employ human stereoscopic vision in order to simplify camera accessory design.

Voigtländer’s Kontur viewfinder used a method that forced our brain to combine images in our left and right eye to create an illusion of frame lines being drawn over the scene. Similarly, Matt’s spot meter uses an OLED screen to draw the information about exposure on top of a dark background with an expectation for your brain to interpret that data as if it was drawn on top of the scene.

You can learn more about Reveni Labs Spot Meter and snag your copy on Kickstarter until March 10th, 2020.

NONS SL42 instant SLR camera.

You’d think that a launch of a new film camera offering would get loads of attention. Strangely, nobody I follow said anything about this film camera project. 🤷‍♂️

Images from NONS press kit with my edits.

NONS SL42 is a follow-up to the Chinese (originally HK) camera company’s instant film SLR campaign last year. The updated design includes Format Extender, an optical tool meant to solve their camera’s innate flaw: extreme vignetting.

The EF mount camera — yes, you can use your entire EF lens collection on this body — shoots Instax Mini film and is available on Kickstarter for about $300 USD until March 21st. NONS is also selling its Format Extender adapter as a separate accessory for its SL42 cameras.

Film photography books on Kickstarter.

Last month I announced a personal book project, Moscow Dayze. Since then, the campaign got featured on Kosmo Foto, got a fancy “Project We Love” badge from the Kickstarter team, and reached its funding goal within two days of launch. The book is set to ship this summer and likely available at the shop by fall 2021.

I’ve also backed Nils Bergendal’s Cyclopedia of Broken Cameras . If you’re looking to do the same, you’ll need to pick the €43 option to get international shipping (the pricing is a little confusing on that page).

Film negative reversal process. Top: unedited image data from the scanner, middle: the colours are inverted, but a strong blue cast makes the image unusable, bottom: a colour correction process removes the blue cast, producing a usable photograph.

Thoughts on scanning film in 2021.

Having published my recent PrimeFilm XA 35mm film scanner review, I spent most of this February thinking about colour. While the above article focuses mainly on the experience and image resolution, the process of reversing a C-41 negative digitally remained uncertain.

So far, I figured that working with C-41 involves a) colour inversion, b) colour balance to counteract the orange mask, c) histogram stretching. Software like VueScan, SilverFast, and Negative Lab Pro perform all of these tasks in a systematic pre-programmed fashion. Unfortunately, I found no way to tell if the saturation, contrast, and colour balance of the software output has been altered internally during the steps ‘b’ and ‘c.’ In fact, it’s not clear at all what’s happening under the hood of those apps.

I tried creating a Photoshop workflow to keep tabs on the inversion steps, obfuscated by scanning software. However, this method is rather laborious, and these steps often require adjustments on a per-scan basis, defeating the consistency objective.

This lack of transparency and consistency makes identifying and qualifying C-41 film stock rather difficult. Who’s to say whether the contrast, saturation, and colour balance of the scan are attributable to the software or the film chemistry? And how can one trust film samples from a review whose author may have used a differing or inconsistent method for the inversion?

Looks like there is still plenty of unanswered questions.

Do you have any recommendations on books, courses, or articles on digital and analogue colour inversion? Please DM on Twitter or shoot me an email!