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.
✪ Note: You can receive community letters (in full) via email. Make it happen.
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.
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.
A “book-quality” print magazine on film photography.
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.
PhotoKlassik in German has been successfully running for over five years. However, its first English-language launch began with a setback. The 2017 campaign managed to collect just under 5% of the goal earnings.
What happened next is particularly interesting and slightly confusing. The company was no longer interested in publishing English content, but a small team created a new entity, as explained by Ludwig, an editor at PKI:
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 as a new team, PhotoKlassik International reached north of 250% of their target goal.
In short, while related and on good terms, this English-language magazine is the one and only thing the team, Silvergrain Classics, is publishing today.
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. PhotoKlassik describes their process of partner selection as deliberate and limited, intending to keep promotional material to a minimum.
My involvement with the publication began after they approached me on Twitter about the new design element for Analog.Cafe. A few tweets, DMs, and emails later, I am now able to offer special pricing on this not-so-cheap German quality print.
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. You can check out all the options, including EU shipping here.
To be clear, clicking the links on Analog.Cafe to PhotoKlassik magazine website may lead to a small percentage of each sale being sent back to me, which I’ll put towards the increasing costs of running this website. Your support is appreciated.
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 interview with 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 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!
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.
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.