Comparisons

Posted 2011.07.15 20.47 in Photography by Stephanie

One subject, two films, three cameras, seven shots.

Last weekend I decided to go shoot some film at a local historical site – Bovaird House. Primarily, I wanted to test two cameras to see how they were working. I brought along a third that was almost out of film, figuring to finish that one off too.

When I got there, the thought occured that in addition to testing the cameras, I could also compare them. So for almost every shot, I shot twice, with two different cameras. This was not a scientific test or anything, it was mainly just done for curiosity – the pictures aren’t framed exactly alike, the cameras were very different in some respects, with different film and so on.

Still, the results are interesting, even if they aren’t exactly meaningful.

The first camera was the Olympus XA-3, which was loaded with ProMax 400, an inexpensive black and white film that I substitute for Ilford HP5. This was a new acquisition and was the first roll I’d put in the camera, and was primarily what I was testing. The XA-3 has fully-automatic exposure, and zone-focusing, with a 35mm focal-length lens.

The second camera was the Minox 35GT, which was loaded with a store-brand colour film, also ISO 400. I’ve run some rolls through the Minox before but had not used it in some time and wanted to have another go with it. The 35GT has aperture-priority automatic exposure, and distance-guess focusing with a 35mm focal-length lens. I tend to set the aperture for “sunny-16” and the focus either at the hyperfocal distance for wide shots, or for closer shots I try to ensure enough depth-of-field to compensate for my bad guessing at distances.

The final camera was a store-brand single-use / disposable, loaded with ISO 400 colour film. I’d recently re-discovered this camera as it had been forgotten in the glove-box of my car, and consequently spent 2 winters and 1 summer in there. There were a few shots left on it, so I figured I’d use it up and see if it was any good. The disposable has a single fixed aperture and speed – probably f/11 and 1/125 or thereabouts. It has a wider lens than the other two, roughly around a 28mm focal length.

When the shooting was over and I had the three rolls of film out and ready to be processed, I noticed that the DX barcodes on the two colour films were identical – they were both ‘store-brands’ but from two different stores, but it turns out they were made by the same manufacturer.

So, three cameras – XA-3, GT35, disposable. Two films – ProMax B&W ISO400, OEM Colour ISO400. One subject – historical Bovaird House.┬áHere are the results:

The results have some surprises, I think. The first thing that stands out to me is that there are a lot of similarities between the Minox results and those from the disposable camera. This is not a good thing.

The second is that all the Olympus XA-3 shots look much better to me than any of the other two. This means that either the XA-3 is better than the other two cameras, or that I like black & white pictures better. Or a combination of the two.

I suspect it is a combination of the two. The XA-3 seems to do a good job with exposure and its 3-zone focusing system seems to be fairly easy to operate. The results look good, which is partially thanks to the camera, and partially thanks to the film. ProMax is an inexpensive brand but it obviously gets the job done.

The two colour films were also ‘discount’ brands, one being a ‘store’ brand and the other from a ‘store brand’ disposable camera.┬áTo be fair, I did process the Minox and disposable rolls at the same time, so they both got the same chemistry, for the same duration, at the same temperature. So if I messed up the development, that would affect both films equally.

In fact I believe that this is what did occur – the two colour films should have had just a bit more time in the developer. Taking them out early has probably contributed to the added grain, and may be responsible for the strange colour shifts in 2a and 7a. Although the other 5 colour shots don’t seem to suffer colour shifts, all 7 have more graininess than I think they should.

All in all, it was an interesting experiment but there are too many variables to confirm anything. Not that I set out to prove something anyways — it was after all just an excuse to ram some film through a new camera, and finish off the rolls in two other cameras.

So from that point of view – mission accomplished!

2 Comments

  1. Lezley says:

    Why did I never visit Bovaird House? It’s suitably old to be interesting.

    And I was all in Brampton every day and everything for like 3 years.

    Rats.

    1. Stephanie says:

      Hehehe. It took me 20 years to go see it.

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