TK Roll 2015–2: A Minolta Autocord, Fuji Superia 400, and the River Rhine

Roll 2 found me once again using a Minolta (I seem to specialize in picking these up). This one, however, required a completely different way of thinking and seeing and photographing.

The late 1950s Minolta Autocord, which I fed with (sadly no longer produced) Fuji Superia 400 film in 120 for its maiden run, is by no means a slow camera. In fact, I found myself going through the roll pretty quickly. Then again, 12 square images on 120 medium format film aren’t altogether that many. The fact that it has no lightmeter was a non-issue since the day was drab and thus had relatively unchanging light. I set out on my Saturday photowalk by the river Rhine, checked exposure on my iPhone app, and guesstimated from then on. The pictures all came out fine, except a few where I hadn’t quite managed to hold the camera steady enough. Not bad for my first outing with a TLR.

I had never quite understood why people kept saying and writing that medium format “slows you down” and that you take fewer pictures but “get more keepers” that way. My first experiments with a thrift-store bought Balda Baldi 29 folding camera had not given me that impression. Then again, a small folding camera that fits in your pocket is the closest you can come to a point and shoot in 120 film. The pictures had been ok, fun, and I loved the square format – both as a format in its own right, and as one that allowed cropping to 4×5 – but something wasn’t quite convincing me.

That changed when I got back the pictures from the Autocord. I had bought the camera off eBay, advertised as working but with issues in the long shutter speeds. As it turned out, there is one of the increasingly rare old school camera repair shops in spitting distance from my current workplace, so after a bit of a wait and a bit more money, the old Minolta was ready for me early this year. I was convinced the minute I looked at the the cheap 9ct prints that the drugstore forces you to get with negative development. Usually, I just leaf through, shudder at how bad they are, and put them away in a box. But this time, I could see sharpness, and color, and overall, one pleasant picture after another. The Autocord had taken pictures too good to be ruined even by industrial processing.

My scanning workflow, using an Epson V600, bought off Amazon Warehouse Deals after recommendations by fellow 52rollers, shows promise, but could use some improvement. I hadn’t quite figured out when to click what in order to turn on dust and scratch correction for this round, and on some of these pictures it shows. Other than that, I’m okay with the quality it produces for what I do at the moment.

I applied a bit of healing brush in some especially annoying spots using Aperture, and engaged in some virtual dodging and burning and contrast/color correction to liven up the drab blueish-gray sky. Two pictures seemed to work better as slightly cropped landscape-orientation shots. But apart from that, there’s not too much post-processing. I was impressed by what the Autocord let me do, so I recruited it for roll 3 as well.

But that is another post, and will be shared another time.

5 thoughts on “TK Roll 2015–2: A Minolta Autocord, Fuji Superia 400, and the River Rhine

  1. I really the three dimensional aspect of this presentation – the way the buildings show up in different pictures from different angles – it makes it possible to piece together a walk along that stretch of river.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Honestly, I’m not sure. I believe the Fuji colors just lend themselves well to certain kinds of light, and the light was really interesting that day. That said, I’ve also never had quite the success with 35mm (scanned mostly with Silverfast 8 on an OpticFilm 8200i) that I’ve had just putting the 120 in my new Epson V600.

      (Some people also rave about the “Minolta colors” which the old Rokkor lenses supposedly have. Who knows, could be a factor).

      As for the specifics of post processing on these, I scanned them at 3200 dpi on the V600 using Epson Scan. Then set black, white and neutral gray after importing into Aperture and increased contrast and saturation a bit. Darkening of skies on some of them, but nothing too fancy. I’d be interested in your workflow and examples as well, to compare.


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