Diafine in the Summertime

New York Diptych

I hadn’t intended on doing any developing this weekend, but as we started trying out some of the new cameras, it seemed like the thing to do. I decided to give Diafine another chance, primarily because it was hot and I was lazy. It was already mixed up, and since you use water in place of a stop bath, there was one less chemical I had to deal with. Also, Diafine works well at warmer temps than other black and white chems, which was nice since I was developing out in the garage this time.

I had plenty of issues with Diafine last time, but this time went a little better, I think mainly because it was at a warmer temp. I’m still not crazy about it for sheet film. I have no idea why, but I just seem to get weird little dots and marks on the sheet film that don’t seem to show up on roll film. It probably has something to do with agitation.

So, here’s what Diafine is good for:

1. Developing found film. It absolutely rocks for this. It eats 60 year old Verichrome Pan like it’s a tasty dooughnut.

Mmmm, doughnuts…

2. Cross processing color negative film into black and white. The picture above was shot with Fuji NPS160, a color negative film. Dropped it into the Diafine, and it came out perfectly processed without having to stress out over developing time.

3. Developing film when the ambient temp is too warm for other black and white chems.

4. Developing film when you just have one or two rolls of film to work with, instead of an epic amount (which is how I normally develop).

So, what was I developing (besides the above roll of film, which was shot with the Savoy and left over from the New York trip)? Well, we started to get out some of our auction cameras and experiment with them. Or, I should say, Travis fell in love with a few cameras, so we started using those.

One of the first lots we won at the auction was a box filled with a bunch of miscellaneous cameras, the Agfa Readyset being one of them.

Agfa Readyset

It was the only camera I wound up getting that was loaded with a roll of film. It also came with a box, carrying case, and exposure guide. It’s in perfect condition, and Travis immediately bonded with it, so I guess it’s his now. He finished off the roll that was in the camera, and then immediately picked out a roll of Gevaert 620 that expired in 1947 to load into the camera.

Travis hearts the Readyset

And then he shot that roll up in about 40 minutes. It’s camera love, I tell you! I don’t even think I’ve touched the Readyset yet! Granted, the decades old roll of film was barely able to capture an image, but no matter. It’s now loaded up with some respooled Ektachrome that’s less than 10 years old. Fresh!

So, that’s Travis’ new camera. Here’s the one I’ve bonded with so far:

Revueflex E

It’s the mighty Revueflex E! Yeah, I’ve never heard of it before either. Apparently, it’s a rebranded version of the Zenit E, another camera I’ve never heard of before. All I know is that it’s big and clunky, the aperture ring seems to be the opposite of reality, it’s enitrely non-intuitive to use, and the lens sometimes looks like it’s getting ready to just give up and fall off the front of the camera. I kind of love it. I threw a generic roll of color negative film into it and am halfway through shooting the roll.

So Travis has the Readyset, and I’m having fun with the Revueflex, but we both can agree when it comes to one thing – the awesomeness of the RB Graflex Tele.

RB Telescopic Graflex

There is so much weird about this camera, I don’t even know where to begin. When it’s all closed up, it looks like a simple box with some metal mechanisms on one side of it. There is no obvious way to open up the front of the camera. We finally figured out that if you turn the knob at the bottom, the little door on the front of the camera pops open and the lens and bellows begin to extend.

Okay. But then how do you focus?

Hello, Tank!

Oh! You pull up on the handle on top of the camera, and a viewing hood extends up! And that’s when it hit us – this was not like our other Graphics. This was a true Graflex, a single lens reflex. That means there’s a mirror inside of the camera that allows you to focus, but then also flips up and out of the way when the shutter is pushed.

Oh yes, the shutter. Now how do we fire that?

Curtain aperture

Um… what in the who now?

It turns out that the metal mechanisms on the side control two things – which aperture setting the curtain shutter is set to, and the amount of tension that is used to pull the curtain down. So, if I wanted a shutter speed of 1/100, I’d round up to 1/110, and then set the curtain aperture at 3/8 of an inch (that’s the actual size of the hole in the curtain) and set the tension to 1.

That may sound really confusing, but after the first few tries, it started to make sense.

There’s actually some really cool features that the RB (or ‘Tank,’ as Travis named it, since it’s army green and black) has that Zarl and Zarl Jr don’t have. The viewing hood is really nice. It’s easy to focus, you don’t have to worry about glare, and you don’t have to worry about composing a shot and then having the camera move when you shove the film pack in, since you can load your film holder into the camera first, and then focus. Also, the “RB” in the name stands for ‘rotating back.’ That means the back of the camera will actually turn, so if you want to shoot a vertical photo, you don’t have to turn the entire camera or the tripod.

The RB takes 3 1/4″ x 4 1/4″ and special Graflex sheet film holders – apparently the regular ones don’t work in this particular camera. All we got at the auction was this particular camera, no extras. So you’d think that since we would need such specialty items, it would be a little while before we could try out this camera.

Well, not so! Turns out last summer, I bought a big lot of 4×5 film holders on ebay that also wound up coming with 3 3×4 film holders… specifically, the kind that you need to use with this camera. I never really thought much about them before, or noticed that they looked slightly different than the other film holders, but serendipitously, they turned out to be just what we needed.

Also, I wound up buying a pack of film (also on ebay) a few months back – I assume with the thought of using it in a pinhole camera – of Kodak Orthographic film. I know I bought it because it was originally supposed to be used with an electron microscope, and, well, electron microscopes are cool. But when it came, it turned out to be a lot smaller than I had anticipated, so I never opened it.

So, score on both counts, because the film fit into the film holders, albeit a little loosely. And since it’s orthographic film, it’s a lot slower than normal film – its film speed is rated at 12 (as opposed to 100 or 200, etc). We had to use slower shutter speeds and wide open apertures.

But keeping in mind the slightly bewildering developing affects from the Diafine, the actual image quality is pretty damn good.

Agfa Readyset portrait

Here’s a detail from the above photo at 100%:

Detail of the Readyset

Neat, huh?

We went to the camera show on Saturday, and I got a bunch of film, a new lens and lensboard for Zarl (it was cheap-ish, and the $5 lens made me nervous enough on vacation to want a reliable back-up), and a few boxes of old photo paper and glass plates (I know, I know… one more thing for me to try out). Most of the stuff for sale there, though, was more geared toward “The Camera Collector” – people who spend thousands of dollars on gear and shoot with Leicas and stuff like that. Which is fine, but not really what I’m into. I mean, there was almost no film for sale here – I guess because everyone shoots with in-date stuff and doesn’t deal with the expired film? Heresy!

Even with the film I did wind up getting, and the $3 box of glass plates, I still think Travis managed to find the score of the weekend – a pair of Kodak rocks glasses, which we used to drink copious amounts of alcohol while performing the Great Memorial Day Weekend Film Inventory:

The film inventory is still ongoing...

2 thoughts on “Diafine in the Summertime

  1. You and your Travis are too much fun to watch while you share your love of all things photo. Loved Your divided shot of the buildings that’s a great effect. Received the slides today wow that was super fast shipping. Can’t wait to get scanning.


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