Film Photography News — October 2019 Recap

Liquid Lenses, New Film, New Print Magazine, New Website

8 min read by Dmitri.
Published on . Updated on .

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This month’s Letter explores liquid lenses, an updated film formula, and a printed film photography magazine with a special price tag.

Down the page, you’ll also find gists on the new Ilford film products, the sad demise of Spectra film, the Free Film USA trip, Jeff Bridges with his WideLux, the technology behind CineStill, travel advisory, and the Analog.Cafe website update.

✹ Update: PhotoKlassik International has recently rebranded and is now called SilvergrainClassics.

Sutton’s Liquid-Filled Lens.

Lomography is launching a new lens design. Its origins are the “liquid-based Victorian invention that can be paired with the brew of your choice.”

The lens comes mounted on a laser-cut cardboard DIY camera kit. Sample pictures suggest soft focus and the ability to change the liquids on the go. Because of the way optics work, adding bubbles, impurities, or anything that may look cool in a globe will blur and blend the concoction over the exposure. If you’re planning to do a pub crawl and take photos with the beers you’ve had — make sure they’re flat for sharper images.

You can learn more about Lomography’s new lens and camera kit, dubbed “LomoMod No1” — here.

Museums Victoria / CC BY Unknown photographer.

The concept is more than just a relic of some Victorian-era experimentation. Thomas Sutton first patented the liquid-filled lens design in 1859. Thomas was a brilliant man who also created the first colour photograph and built the first SLR camera.

His water-filled spherical glass lens produced ultra-wide panoramas which, unfortunately, could not be enlarged: they were direct exposures on curved glass.

This globe design got later taken to the next level by Carl Paul Goerz, a German lens and camera designer. His creation made wide-angle shots with minimal optical artefacts possible due to the symmetrical design and an ingenious air-powered rotating star aperture.

In 2019, liquid lens design is still in use in giant telescopes and applications requiring near-instant focusing capabilities.

For telescopes, mercury is used to create enormous mirrors with a perfectly shaped surface via controlled centrifuge.

Optics that require extremely-fast focus speed in a compact package use liquids as well. Tiny transparent glass or plastic container is filled with water and has one of its sides covered with an anti-stick surface. This forces a small droplet of submerged oil to gravitate to the other side, creating a lens group. An electrical current is applied to the liquid, altering the way oil is responding to its water surroundings and thus its shape. This change can happen practically instantly, without having to involve any complex motorized parts.

All this research, sparked by Lomography’s announcement, got me excited about the possibilities of liquid optics for us, photographers. I reached out to the NYC rep, Birgit, to see whether they are considering taking their designs a step further with improved glass construction and a mountable lens casing. The reply:

We’re not working on another version of this lens at the moment, but we never say never and agree that there’s a lot of potential in this concept.

Lomography’s Berlin Kino 2019 formula update.

A new emulsion batch for Lomography’s well-received Berlin Kino black and white film is hitting the shelves.

This release is in-step with their upcoming distribution of the brand new colour negative, Lomochrome Metropolis.

From what I saw, the film features tightly-packed grain with a decent amount of sharpness and contrast. Not a “new” emulsion, but seems like a good one to try.

Photo by Marilena Vlachopoulou, taken on the new Berlin Kino film.

A “book-quality” print magazine on film photography.

SilvergrainClassics (formerly: PhotoKlassik International) is an English-language magazine based in Germany with a one-hundred-page-set of tips, stories, and inspiration specifically on the topic of film photography.

The new publication has roots in PhotoKlassik, a German print magazine which has been successfully running for over five years. It even licensed the name PhotoKlassik until ultimately rebranding into its own SilvergrainClassics. The first launch attempt, however, ended up with a setback. The 2017 campaign managed to collect just under 5% of the goal earnings. But that was just the beginning:

Some members of the German PK team decided to put the matter into their own hands, founded a new publishing company (Silvergrain Classics) and licensed the name and logo for the international publication.

After relaunching the campaign, SilvergrainClassics, formerly: PhotoKlassik International, reached north of 250% of their target goal.

Issue 3/2019 of PhotoKlassik magazine features a full back-page Kodak ad in its full retro-graphic glory.

The magazine made some waves in the photography community after publishing the first Kodak print ad “in many years.” Along with Kodak, brands like Adox and Leica chose to place their campaigns in the 10,000-copy runs. SilvergrainClassics describes their process of partner selection as deliberate and limited, intending to keep promotional material to a minimum.

The magazine packages start at just over 17€ (about $19US) per piece with delivery within Germany and 23€ (about $25US) for Asia and the Americas.

Ilford, Spectra, CineStill, Free Film USA, air travel with film.

Ilford has announced a new monochrome Ortho film, along with new printing paper, cameras, and development kits. Ortho does not react to red colour, translating all the crimson tones into pure blacks. Definitely excited about that. Check out Studio C-41 Podcast’s interview with the Ilford rep. for more info.

Polaroid Originals has been a champion of instant film photography since its almost-demise. They’ve enabled iconic cameras like Polaroid SX-70 to capture life yet again. Unfortunately, this month I’ve learned that they are discontinuing Spectra film — a wider version of the classic Polaroid square. Here’s the Retrospekt’s obituary on Instagram.

The story and the technology behind CineStill’s film told on Kodak’s The Kodakery podcast is a fascinating listen. Getting the rem-jet off celluloid is apparently a massive pain in the ass!

Jeff Bridges, the actor best known for his leading role in The Big Lebowski, shows off his WideLux and nerds out in front of Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Free Film USA is a travelling studio project by Neil Hamamoto, which is transiting across the continent. Neil and his team are giving away free rolls of Tri-X, asking the participants to shoot in monochrome on the theme of “red, white, and blue.” Bill Manning of C-41 Podcast recorded a lengthy chat with Neil about the event, which you can download here.

Travel advisory: New security scanners at LAX airport will destroy your film immediately. Freestyle Photo, as read from their Instagram post:

Watch out for these NEW machines at the airports. It’s a CAT Scan and will absolutely destroy any film in a second… Lead bags won't save you.

Indeed, having your film go through X-Ray is usually not a big deal. I’ve had mine scanned many times before I got to see the images. There were no problems characteristic of expected scanner damage. But this new thing is promised to blow all the chemical potential the fuck away.

I’ve travelled with film at least a dozen times and only had it go through X-Ray once by mistake. I’ve always asked. No agent ever denied me, and no agent was ever surprised. This is expected. I recommend a clear ziplock with your film in minimal or no packaging.

Analog.Cafe website update.

Analog.Cafe is not a WordPress or SquareSpace theme. The website is built entirely by hand. My justification for revising 26,934 lines of code for this update is your browsing experience and my creative journey as a web developer.

As someone who’s been intimate with technology from a very early age, I’ve enjoyed building things that look beautiful and are meaningful to people far beyond my physical space. Most of my work has failed to reach audiences other than my mom. Still, projects like Analog.Cafe, which shows monthly growth in readership of 30%, inspire me to do better.

What you see here is my vision for a website that’s meant to support the desire to create and share that experience with a community of like-minded, passionate people — a project rooted in technology, art, and creative thinking. Writing code makes me feel connected to the words, images, and the people who produce and consume them on a much deeper level than dragging boxes around in an interface built by someone else.

As of today, everyone who visits Analog.Cafe should have a little easier time reading and contributing content. The update is to modernize the infrastructure, design, and the browsing experience. It’s also meant to start exploring the possibilities of offsetting the costs of serving the growing readership.