Category Archives: Equipment reviews

A lot of work to mimic crappy photos from the 70s

Holga-ized Nikon image of a random mountain in Arizona.  Click to enArizonisize

Holga-ized Nikon image of a random mountain in Arizona. Click to enArizonisize


A long time ago, in a land far away, there existed a type of photography that used chemicals. Gas was cheap, the US congress had an approval rating above 25% and we had to wait hours, if not days to see what we photographed. The “good old days”.

Lenses were (and still are) sharp as tacks and the cameras used film, and the final image depended a lot of what type of film you used. You had to work hard to get a really sharp image.  Film grain and film size also determined the final results.

Cameras ranged from high end to what was basically considered toys, with plastic lenses and light leaks.

Artists would often use these cheap toy cameras to create art from the crappy images. You were limited to 12 shots per 120 size roll (24-36 with 35mm). You were a lot more careful what you shot, composing the image with an eye sharpened from years of spending money processing film to find you screwed up somewhere and the results were – at best – shitty.

Then along came digital.  Even the cheap cameras had decent enough lenses to take sharp images with nice color. Yes, film isn’t dead yet.  It’s in a medically induced coma right now, and time is running out.

Many of the toy cameras, Holga, Lomo, and others are still found, but processing is hard to find in smaller towns and doing it yourself takes a big chunk of change to get the equipment and more money for chemicals.

So digital is where it’s at…  and now with Instagram and Facebook, people are using apps to create the look of folder film based images, and going to a lot of work to take a decently exposed digital image and turn it into the by-product of a 1960s 620 Brownie camera with Meniscus lens. Yes, you can still find these cameras, good luck finding the 620 film.  My granny had a Brownie Hawkeye camera with flash. Nice big negative and processing was to be had at any drugstore.

There’s an interesting app I’ve been playing with for the Android called XnRetro.  It’s doing a pretty nice job of mimicking older cameras, especially those like the Lomo with their unique light leaks and badly masked film planes.

I also discovered XnRetro makes a version of its program for Windows, OSx and Linux.  I came across this app while looking at HDR apps.

I downloaded the desktop version and it’s essentially the same as the Android App. No annoying ads, tho. I applied a few of the filters to some existing images shot with the trusty old Nikon and nice results! I have been using it for Instagram posts lately.

Here’s a small gallery of the rework of some Nikon shots from October…



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Product Review: SMDV MySlave-100

The SMDV MySlave-100 image © 2011 David Thompson

I ordered this through Amazon. The SMDV MySlave showed up as a small package. I opened it, and was impressed with it’s build quality and ease of handling.

I hate cords. I’m not in the mood to spend hundreds on a Pocket Wizard rig, and I wasn’t impressed with the junk sold on eBay (the RD604 types). I’ve gone through two sets of those and they all have the issue of not really working when you really need them to work.

The MySlave has a functional sync setting of 1/180th of a second, which I find to be very useful shooting outdoors when I need the ambient light dropped down a few stops. I tested the MySlave at 250 and found it still maintained sync. As you increase shutter speed, the overall exposure changes, but – unlike the RD604 – it still synced fine, there were no blank frames or flash failures.

The receiver is sensitive enough to trigger a monohead under a light table. I’ve had no issues with it in the few weeks I’ve owned it – and I plan on using it a lot. With the other units, I stopped using them after about 100 shots, not good at all!

To push it’s limits, I connected the receiver to a long sync cable and placed the receiver in another room. It still was able to function. So I moved the transmitter to another room, and it fired the strobes through several walls, so the transmitter is fairly powerful.

ONLY thing I think they need to change is they need to add a strap to the receiver, I don’t like thinking about the receiver dangling by the sync cord from the back of a monohead. I’ll probably rig some type of Velcro strap for this before I use it again.

I love the freedom of working minus sync-cords. I really like this radio slave. I just wish I’d have found it sooner. Don’t waste your money buying that junk on eBay. SMDV is found on

My faithful Kiev 88cm, shot using the MySlave-100. Vignetting is caused by the grid on the background light. Image © 2011 David Thompson

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A nice, inexpensive 6x6cm camera

Nope, not a Hasselblad

Back in 2000, I felt the need to get back into the darkroom. I was still shooting film – but I wanted something bigger than 35mm. I was introduced to the Kiev cameras.

Beth - Agfa-25 studio shoot

My first one was a basic model, the Kiev 88. No hand crank, basic Hasse-style A100 film backs. It had some issues, like a copper focal-plain shutter and reflective interior. Once I stopped all the light leaks and reworked the interior, the images were startling sharp and vivid. I mean, with Agfa-25 film in my studio, I got very good images.

I’ve had occasion to use a real Hassie, never owned one. This is very similar, except in one important way.

Where the Hasselblad has a shutter in the lens, the Kiev is a focal-plane shutter. The Hasselblad can sync with a strobe outside at any shutter speed (thus controlling ambiant light in the shot*) the Kiev 88 can only sync at 1/30th.

This beast is HEAVY. Be prepared to use a tripod while shooting. Especially compared to a DSLR.

Thing is – I haven’t really done a lot of photography with this Kiev for a while. That’s gotta change here real soon!

Also posted in Photo Lessons, photography Tagged , |
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