Old School Film Hack


Leica M3, Leica M-A, & Leica IIIf (left to right)

Leica M3, Leica M-A, & Leica IIIf
(left to right)

Every Day Carry (EDC):

  • Zeiss Biogon 21/4.5 ZM
  • Zeiss Sonnar 50/1.5 ZM

Secondary cameras and lenses:

  • Sony E 10-18/4.0 ASPH
  • Voigtländer Heliar 15/4.5 ASPH III
  • Voigtländer Ultron 35/1.7 ASPH II
  • Leica Summicron 50/2.0 LTM
  • Sony E 55-210/4.5-6.3 ASPH
  • Zeiss Sonnar 85/2.0 LTM
  • Leica Elmar 135/4.0
  • Leica Telyt-R 560/5.6

35mm black and white negative film:

  • Ilford Pan F Plus @ ISO 32
  • Kodak T-Max 100 @ ISO 80
  • Eastman Double-X (5222) @ ISO 250
  • Kodak Tri-X 400 @ ISO 200
  • Various expired films

35mm color C-41 film:

  • Kodak Ektar 100 @ ISO 80
  • Kodak Portra 160 @ ISO 100
  • Kodak Portra 400 @ ISO 200
  • Various expired films

Black and white developers:

  • Kodak T-Max RS
  • Diafine
  • Caffenol
  • Metol


  • RRS Pocket ‘Pod
  • MeFOTO SideKick360
  • MeFOTO travel tripod


Digital dark room:

47 thoughts on “Gear

    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Sorry for not responding sooner, but somehow I missed your comment.

      Yes, the Leica has a story. It was purchased by my one of my father-in-law’s brothers while he was in the US Army and stationed in Germany after World War II, along with a Leica M3 body and several lenses. I still have the sales receipts for all of the gear.

      I didn’t know anything about the Leica cameras until back around Christmas of 1997, when my father-in-law went up into his attic and came down with a big paper bag that he handed to me. I was floored by what I found inside the bag, and even more so when he told me that he never used them anymore and they were mine for the taking — as a token of appreciation for all the assistance I’d given him over the years.

      However, the gear was as useful as a paperweight. Every bit of it had been stored up in the attic for the better part of a decade or more by that time — exposed to high temperature extremes and humidity — and it was completely corroded and unusable. Or so I initially thought.

      I did some online sleuthing and eventually discovered a factory-trained Leica technician up in New York state that said she could fix everything to be as good or better than when it came from the factory. I was dubious, but the cameras were worthless otherwise, so I sent everything to her for repairs.

      Almost a year later — and more than a $1,000 poorer — the gear all came back… just as she said. In perfect condition.

      Liked by 6 people

    2. 'CC' Richards, Daytripper Sippers

      Such a wonderful thing that you valued the Leica to have it restored. A precious gift and great memory.
      I’ve recently been organising my Dad’s things and would you believe it I found an old Leica, and other cameras I haven’t identified yet. One very old, with leather concertina pullout lense, one that flips out of its own case and a wooden stereoscope (for viewing stereo printed cards!!) A treasure trove.


  1. Pingback: Photo Gear | Exploratorius | Photo Hack & Curious Wanderer

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    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Thank you very much. I appreciate your effort in mentioning my site within your post, and also appreciate your acknowledgement that time is precious.

      I participated in one once, but decided I would not after that because it was so time intensive.

      Thank you again.


  3. Manal

    I’ve only found your blog a short while ago and I am sorely disappointed that I didn’t find it sooner. Absolutely love all the photographs you’ve taken. And thank you for sharing tips, I am definitely learning a lot from both them and your photography!


  4. suchled

    Mitch, I have a friend in Brunei who wants me to answer the following. I cannot but I thought you might. has anyone compared result comparing photos taken from good quality digital vs film cameras? Obviously digital easily wins on the convenience & cost efficiency scale, but end results? I am wondering what serious photographers think, whether we have a parallel situation to CDs vs vinyl
    It would be much appreciated if you could offer a considered opinion.


    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Oh, boy. You really know how to stir up a hornet’s nest, don’t you? 🙂

      Executive summary: Yes; many, many people — pros and amateurs alike — have done exhaustive tests and comparisons of film versus digital. The consensus? The best of today’s 35mm digital cameras have readily surpassed the resolution of the best of the 35mm film cameras, as well as the cost per image — but that’s about it. If you start throwing medium and large format film versus digital into the mix, digital doesn’t fare so well.

      However, to get that 35mm digital high-resolution gear, one must be prepared to lay down a lot of coin. Film gear, by comparison, can be had for a fraction of the cost of digital, especially via eBay. The real difference between the two is cost of consumables — film and processing versus using an SD card.

      Your comparison of CDs versus vinyl is apt. Old timers (film) and newbies (digital) duke it out all the time on photography forums. Me? I just take photos — using both film and digital — and let the results speak for themselves.

      Digital has convenience and image cost on its side, but it’s still maturing. On the other hand, film is very mature and has both the process and technology down cold. Digital is particularly appealing in the smaller image chip-sizes, the sizes where film doesn’t do so well (anything smaller than 35mm full frame and film can get very grainy and drops significantly in resolution).

      Digital also has speed on its side; during the last Olympics, full color stills were captured, edited, post-processed, and blasted out to all of the news media in under three minutes — faster than many people could see it on television or hear about the event on radio. Film simply cannot compete with that.

      However, film has an analog look that digital cannot replicate — and it’s one that a lot of people are beginning to rediscover (albeit sadly, as many film emulsions have been dropped and their producers have gone out of business). Film also has 35mm full frame as a standard, while digital has 10+ smaller image sensor formats and 35mm full frame in digital remains very costly. Full frame digital in medium format currently ranges from $12K to $50K for just the image sensor back, and full frame digital in large format (4×6 and 8×10) is way above that.

      Knowing what I know now, and having been a photographer since I was very young, I would offer up the following for someone who has not yet made a significant investment in photo gear:

      • Buy one good quality smart phone (the new iPhone 6 Plus has the top-rated camera at present) and use that as your first digital camera. I know it’s not sexy like the big cameras are, but the image quality they are capable of producing is nothing short of astounding, especially if care is taken with both taking the photos and the post-processing of them.
      • Buy one good quality point-n-shoot off of eBay and use that as your first 35mm film-based camera. Good quality point-n-shoot cameras include the Olympus Stylus Epic, Contax T2/T3/TVS, Ricoh GR1/GR1s/GR1v/GR21, and Nikon 35Ti. If you want more manual control over what the camera does, good quality and tiny film cameras include the Olympus XA rangefinder, Contax T rangefinder, Rollei 35 S/SE/T/TE. If you simply must have an interchangeable lens film camera, a Pentax K1000 is very hard to beat.

      Why do I recommend these simple, fixed focal-length cameras instead of a fancy-dancy auto-everything gee-whiz super-zoom camera? Because learning what the camera really does is part of the mastering process. Additionally, a tiny camera is more likely to stay in your pocket with you at all times, while the bigger, heavier cameras tend to be left behind once the initial enthusiasm dies off in about 6 months or so.

      Hope that helps your friend.


  5. JoHanna Massey

    Located your website through the WordPress Photo101 class. So glad I did. I am new to this and knowing what kind of cameras and computer darkroom programs you use is so valuable. Plus I really like the way you have your site is so easy to navigate. You have a new follower!


    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Thanks, Scott.

      I try to do the very best I can with the least amount of gear possible. Almost all of it was purchased used and for much less than market value (like 50 percent or less).

      If you keep a sharp eye out on eBay, forums, and other photo gear sources for deals/opportunities/horse trades, you can really score some good equipment these days.


  6. SilverFox

    I was interested in what gear you shoot with after you visited my sblog and realized that i only had to look rather than ask 🙂 Very nice. Your take on things is quite interesting so started following you.
    As you see I have a number of film cameras myself and have been taking photos most of my life. I did do B&W developing back in the day (never professionally) after being seduced by the digital world I am coming back to using my film cameras again but haven’t stepped into doing my own development yet. I have the gear to develop the negs (black bag etc) but haven’t made the time. I’m going to have to soon if I want to play with my old gear though; developing services are getting expensive.
    I don’t have a scanner however and I’ve read a lot of articles about using an SLR for the job which I am also getting around to trying. Not that I can afford $500 but I’m interested in that OpticFilm 8200i Ai scanner you are using, how are you finding it to use? The results look good enough on the screen.


    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Hi! Thank you very much for your kind comments!

      You have a lot more cameras than I do at present, though I don’t expect my collection to increase anymore as I’m trying to winnow everything down to just those pieces that I actually use. Heh… 😀

      YES — getting monochrome developed by a commercial lab is quite costly! Developing B&W yourself has never been easier than it is now, what with all the info so readily available via all the film forums the Internet. My go-to sites for B&W supplies are Freestyle (http://www.freestylephoto.biz/), B&H Photo, Photographers’ Formulary (http://stores.photoformulary.com/), and Film Photography Project (http://filmphotographyproject.com/).

      I shoot both fresh and expired film, and have taken to using Eastman Double-X (5222) because I can drive the cost down for premium film stock by purchasing it in a 1,000 foot roll. You can see all my Double-X shots here: https://exploratorius.us/tag/eastman-double-x-5222/

      The OpticFilm 8200i Ai scanner is pretty good for being a product in the “affordable” range. Here is an example; just be sure to click on the image to see it at full resolution: https://exploratorius.us/2013/08/15/spring-in-the-san-juans/ I do all of my own scanning as a way to save money.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. SilverFox

      The double-X shots all look excellent as does the panorama scan, thanks for sharing those. Rolling your own reels is a step beyond my expectation though I can see why you would do that; not sure I’m ready for that myself 😉 I can understand you downsizing to what you just use; I just love the look of some of these and the others aren’t really worth anything to make me want to sell them. I’m also interested that you don’t use an SLR at all. Not that I think you should (you do have a couple of Leicas after all) its just that recently I’ve been questioning mine as it is quite heavy to carry around and has caused tennis elbow so sometimes I wonder about ditching it and going lightweight with a couple of rangefinders – I think I would miss my 24-70mm lens though.


    3. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      No problem!

      If you want to try the Double-X for yourself, Film Photography Project (FFP) has it in fresh 24-exp rolls here: http://filmphotographyproject.com/store/35mm-bw-eastman-double-x-5222-1-roll

      And they have it in fresh 100-foot rolls here: http://filmphotographyproject.com/store/fpp-eastman-double-x-5222-35mm-x-305m-100-ft

      The 100-foot roll of Double-X from them is what I started with; I finished that and am just starting a “short” (about 250-feet of unused stock from a motion picture film shoot) of Double-X dating from 1997 that I picked up from eBay last year (refrigerated the entire time), but have yet to break open the 1,000-foot roll until I finish using the expired stock. If you want, I can trade you some of the expired stock; I traded some rolls of it earlier this year with another WordPress photographer. Just let me know.

      I shot with SLRs as a pro for a decade, and only for a brief time much later after that. SLR gear is way too heavy for my tender back these days; I just got finished with physical therapy for it again (chronic back problems for the past 20+ years) and I only shoot with minimal rangefinder gear now. When my back is really acting up, I switch over to the 35mm point-and-shoot cameras. I missed zooms initially, but got over it pretty quickly when I saw the stunning images I could get with top-shelf primes.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. SilverFox

      Top shelf primes is right, very envious of your Voigtlander Ultron; I’ve been a Voigtlander fan since my Dad gave me my little Vito B 30 or so years ago. I would really like to get a Voigtlander Prominant with the Ultron or even the Nokton – For now my new Fed and the Vitomatic will do. Thank you for the offer on the film; I need to get out with the stock I’ve got in the fridge before I think about getting any more.


    5. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Here’s another rabbit hole — Voigtländer — for you to tumble down: https://www.cameraquest.com/

      These are all lenses made by Cosina in Japan, but their quality is now rivaling the very best from Leica and Zeiss (they actually produce most of the lenses for Zeiss today). The Ultron that I have is from CameraQuest and they can be had for even less on eBay.

      Liked by 1 person

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