This page & camera section overview

Here you can read a fairly short story about my photographic journey and the film I use. If you rather want to read a fairly extensive review on the Nikon F5 you can do that here, or if you want to see some of the older pics taken with my former F-401, you can do that here. If you want to see some recent pictures shot with the Nikon F5 on Fujichrome Velvia, you can go to my Velvia page.

While you’re here – make sure your monitor is calibrated: You can view some test images and read more about monitor gamma here. Alternatively, you can go directly to the My Stuff Page, hosting some of my experiences with the F5 including product info and reviews on Nikon gear. There’s also a page with information regarding importing photo gear to Europe from the USA.

Some other pages which might be of interest are my people pictures or the leaves page. At the end of this page, you can find my personal goals – anyway as far as it comes to photography.

Spread throughout the text are links pertaining to the material and to the “shooting locations”. I have also (yes, very ingenious of me huh?) put up a page with some links to my favourite photography related sites – the power links.


The photographic journey

I don’t say I’m a good hobby photographer – I’m not. I love to take pictures and to me it’s a great way to relax and to combine my technical interest with exploring the nature. That is mainly what photography means to me; enjoying a good break in the nature.

I started taking photographs as a young boy, maybe I was 11 when I got my first Kodak Instamatic. Model 80 I think it was called. Today they are called throw-away cameras, coming with a built-in roll of film.

Later on I got a well used and elderly Agfa camera (fixed lens) from my grand mother. Maybe the lens was a 45 or 38mm – it was something “odd” anyway. I bought my first 35mm SLR when I was around 14, a Pentax ME Super with a prime 50mm lens. I have always been fascinated by the nature and for the little boy I was, it was a great thrill to run around shooting old trees and flowers.

As I moved from Sweden to Germany, I bought a Nikon F-401. This camera was my travel mate all over the place. I had it for nine years and sold it recently at the german online auction alando [e], together with a standard Nikkor AF 35-70 zoom lens. I’ve now bought a Nikon F5 at the US online auction ebay [e]. It’s a nice piece of technical equipment.

You can read some more about my first impressions and hands-on experiences with the F5 plus stuff about my gear here.

A road in the Black Forest, Germany, November 1999.
Nikon F5 and Nikkor AF 80-200/2.8D on Fujichrome Velvia (ISO 50 slide film) at some 80mm.

The film

When I was in my teens, I used my fathers darkroom a lot (read: a temporarily remodelled bathroom), mainly for Tri-X Pan. The last ten years have mainly been fixed on Agfa film, such as the APX (b/w) [e], CT [e] (slide) and later on the Optima [e], Portrait [e] and Ultra [e] color negative films.

The Ultra (ISO 50) was at the beginning a favourite of mine, mainly due to the extreme color saturation. Since the colors weren’t natural though, esp. not in the greens (allegedly meanwhile fixed by Agfa now using a new magenta dye), I switched to the Optima (available as ISO 125, 200 and 400). There are some great pictures on the net taken with the Ultra, especially fashion shots, such as Darryl Humphrey’s pictures [e].

The chromogenic trip

Now I’m into chromogenic film, i.e. b/w film processed as normal color film in C-41. The Ilford XP2 [e] is IMO quite nice, producing high resolution, close to grainless and still got the speed for low light situations (ISO 400). It has meanwhile been replaced by the XP2 Super, which should do better for the same price. I think pictures taken with the Super do look better, the tonal range seems improved.

The resulting negatives have a slight brown touch to them. Since the film material itself behaves like color negatives do, it can’t be stored as a silver film can (expected lifetime 10-15 years). One can use both b/w and color paper for this film. So far, I haven’t tried neither (darkroom is not ready yet), but I’m hot on trying out Ilford’s MultiGrade paper with this film.

I have had some 15 rolls of XP2 and some 6 rolls of XP2 Super done in all. All of the XP2’s have been done at the local store (who send them to a Kodak lab) – with unexpectedly good results I might add. There is another chromogenic film on the market, the Kodak CN (also at ISO 400). I haven’t tried it yet, mainly since I’m a strong believer in Ilford’s b/w technology, though I have seen great pictures taken with the CN. Btw, the XP2 can be pulled to ISO 100 and 200, resulting in finer grain. I will later on put up some images taken with the Agfa APX-25’s [e] (hard to find finer, or non-existing grain) and compare them with the XP2 Super at ISO 100 and the Ilford Delta ISO 100 [e].

Another film I bought a lot of recently, also with no experience of it, is the b/w Ilford Delta 100 [e] (naive as I am, I’m hoping for APX-25 resolution with a faster film… just kidding, it’s likely impossible to achieve the same, super fine APX-25 grain with an ISO 100 film).

The second try at high color saturation

I’ve just bought a batch of Fujichrome Velvia RVP (ISO 50) [e], which is one of the killer films I have heard – esp. for nature, product and landscape shots. Some photographers say that this is actually an ISO 40, rather than ISO 50 film and that one should use it at 40 to achieve more real colors (i.e. less color). Some say that this film shouldn’t be used for portraits, anyway if you see any skin, since it doesn’t produce natural skin tones. Fuji themselves says that it has a very good skin tone reproduction. I have only been shooting a few pictures having folks on them, some of these are on the Velvia page.

Velvia can be pushed one step to ISO 100 (with no loss of color balance according to Fuji). So far, I have only shot two rolls [November 1999 correction: +40 rolls], developed by a Kodak lab. Since the color saturation would be heavier at ISO 100, I don’t think that pushing it would be a smart move.

There are many nice images taken on Velvia by Philip Greenspun at [e].

One of the obstacles which may hinder me bathing in a pool of Velvia rolls is the price tag: in Germany you pay around DM 17,- (EUR 8,50) per roll (excluding development). Compared to “consumer” films as the Fuji Sensia II 100 or Kodak Elite II 100, Velvia is approx. 60-70% expensier.

A little hint on keeping Velvia in the fridge (or freezer). Fuji says that you should keep the film in room temperatur for at least three hours for refridgerator cooled, respectively for over six hours for freezer cooled film before you use it. You shall not remove the cap of the container when the film is still cold – if you do, this may cause condensation to occur inside the roll. I think this is a good advice for any film you care about, not only Velvia.

My personal preferences are Ilford for b/w and Fuji for color. I think one can see when one has used a Kodak – anyway the cheap ones: most of the time the colors are weaker – not coming with the same, great saturation as with Fuji (or maybe I just failed using the Kodak’s). Have to add here that there is a sea of good pictures shot on Kodak film, just that the Kodak consumer films never liked me – and vice versa.

My personal photography goals

Main goal

1. To try to ban sharp images on film by using the sharpest AF Nikkors. Hereby I know that I will miss out on some of the great manual lenses, but I don’t feel for going manual with the F5 – you can now call me a brat. Anyway. To achieve this, I got to have those d*rn expensive lenses, a steady hand (read: a good tripod) and film material being good enough to evaluate at 2700dpi. As long as I don’t go much over 200mm, my Bilora tripod will do I guess. Slow film, as the Fuji Velvia will likely help out.


2. To build a b/w darkroom in this old house.
3. To learn more about photography – and esp. the subtleties.
4. To teach myself to see the small things in life.
5. To never to forget that photography is supposed to be fun.
6. To remember that I am an engineer and not an artist.

A photograph, is the illusion of a literal description of how the camera saw a piece of time and space.
[the late, world renown street photographer Garry Winogrand at a two week workshop he held in NYC, August 1976]

All images on this page are (C) Copyright by Bo Stahlbrandt 1999, 2001. 

This page was written in 1999. It is severely outdated and kept for historical reasons. I c0-founded late 1999, which is now the place to discuss photography and gear.