A few weeks ago for the price of a small round of drinks on FleaBay, I picked a late 1950s Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 from some chap reducing his collection of vintage cameras who lives on some remote island somewhere between Scotland and Iceland.
There were many variations of this camera over the years, on what is effectively a pre-war design. The one featured here has an f4.5 Nova Anastigmat 3 element design, of which the results definitely give a vintage vibe, especially to the out of focus areas away from the centre of the frame - the geeks call it ‘bokeh’, which I have to say is the most horrible term. I pronounce it ‘bokkeh’, but noticed that the posher YouTubers say ‘bouquet’ as in a bunch of flowers.
Back in the day I did all my own processing and printing, and in recent times have been going through my old negatives digitising them. I’m must admit that I’ve been getting rather hooked and amazed at the detail and tonal range captured on them. With often negatives that didn’t yield great results printed 40 years ago now positively shining when scanned and then edited in Photoshop. And of course any blemishes can be removed in seconds, unlike in the old days when I had to use diluted Indian ink and a tiny brush, or heaven forbid scraped with a scalpel to removed black dots due to dust in the camera.
With the success and enjoyment scanning old negatives, I’ve been keen to produce some new material, and after a little lab processing and scanning from new photos taken to exercise my old Nikons and Rolleicord have decided to develop my own negatives again. The pics here being my first results since the early 1990s.
It’s rather like riding a bicycle, and of course your never forget that smell of fixer under the fingernails. And it costs a fraction if you do it yourself, though winding that first roll of 120 film onto the processing spiral did fill me with fear - but there again it did all those years ago. But I never did lose a roll.
I won’t be printing again though, I have enough old prints stuffed into envelopes in boxes that will ultimately end up in landfill I’m sure, so I’m happy to embrace ‘hybrid’ analogue/digital photography - and of course I can always get the occasional digital print made, which to my eyes look every bit as good as traditional wet prints but without blacking out windows and making a mess.
Why do we walk when we could drive, why do we paint a picture when we can grab a photo and pop it through a ‘painting’ app, why go to the pub rather than sit at home? For me it's the process and the journey as much as the final result. Sure modern digital photography is wonderful - I embrace it fully, I have to for the day job. But it's a very sterile process, and for me increasingly dull and possibly a little too easy. I also hate the fact that modern cameras are ultimately disposable items, with a lifespan of only a few years. Whereas a film camera, if properly looked after will last a lifetime. If not longer.
Zeiss Nettar 75mm f4.5 Nova Anastigmat 120 folding bellows camera
Ilford HP5 plus 400, developed in D76 1+1 for 13mins.
Epson 4870, Photoshop CC 2023.
Location, Guildford UK.
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