Nikon F3 and TRI-X + Rodinal

Nikon F3 + 28mm f2.8, Kodak Colour Negative, Scanned on Minolta Scan Elite 5400

In the spirit of returning to my roots in photography, I have designed a small programme for myself. I’ll be shooting a Nikon F3, which I bought especially for this project and TRI-X developed in Rodinal.

First though, I would like to point out that I have never purchased used equipment in my long life, always believing that buying second hand was buying someone else’s problems. I’m not sure that’s applicable anymore due to the rapid changes in cameras over the last few years. Digital always gives you gas, buying the latest and greatest unlike when I started some 50 years ago. Cameras were updated at a much slower speed and the film always stayed the same or at least you could update your work by buying different film for the characteristics you now wanted.

My career with cameras and photography started with a new Canon FT. I must have bought it near the end of its life cycle as the FTb came out about 6 months later. This prompted me to buy the FTb in the hopes that Canon would have updated that infernal quick load mechanism! It always scratched my film and always only the images I wanted to print. The FTb didn’t change anything, the quick load mechanism was still there and scratching to its’ hearts content. In total frustration I ditched both and switched to Nikon. The Nikon I purchased new was a Nikormat (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikkormat) and it solved all the problems associated with the FT and FTb except one. The one problem that became immediately apparent was the incredibly load shutter. Still I resolved to stay with Nikon from that moment on as it was far better at handling the film.

After some years shooting B&W with the Nikormat I wanted to investigate medium format, then Large format. Guess what, I think I burned through more cameras and formats all the way up to 8×10” cameras. Wow, did I spend and loose a lot of money over the years. The large format in particular almost broke me, I went from 4×5 to 5×7 and ultimately landed on a Toyo Field 8×10. It of course had its own problems such as after shooting for a short while you couldn’t actually lock either the front or back standards so they always creeped out of alignment, so f…k… annoying. I think I must have spent at least 30 years shooting black and white in all formats and cameras only to loose it all in an unfortunate incident which took all my negatives within a few hours.

Back to the F3 at hand: it’s in good shape with only a small amount of brassing on one top corner and for sure it could use a good cleaning. It came with a fresnal screen and not the default screen, I found this very hard to critically focus with so I had to go on the hunt for the default split image screen, eyes not being what they used to be. Next I had to buy a lens for it so I found a Nikor 28mm F2.8 on ebay so my total outlay was £325.00 which I considered ok, not great but a definite alternative to buying and selling a digital camera every 5 minuets. It is quite the tank I have to say and I’m not as precious with it as I am with my digital cameras, which I find quite liberating to some extent.

First out of the F3 was a roll of Kodak colour negative film. I only shot about 12 frames and took it to a 1-hour photo lab. I did this to test the meter and general camera performance. Something I would recommend anyone do before they start to trust used gear. All worked very well and you can see an image from that test roll at the top of this article.

The main aim is to shoot TRI-X and develop it in Rodinal. Now that doesn’t seem to be that unusual except it is for me. I never could get Rodinal to do what I wanted and finally gave up on it 40 years ago, perhaps I was too impatient when I was young. So this is about examining the two together and really trying to make it work for me.

I took the F3 and TRI-X with me on our annual vacation to Spain. Although it wasn’t the only camera I took, that would be taking too much of a chance for me. I did fire off 4 rolls of film though and just finished developing them. I’m currently waiting for them to dry.

My next post should be an evaluation of this first pass and then modifying the development times.

Hope you stay tuned!

To be continued…

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