A Roll of Mistakes


The story of this roll of film is a litany of mistakes. I thought I should try some black and white in the EOS3 only having shot colour with it. I had an unexpired roll of Ilford Delta 400 in the fridge so that was my choice (everything else is expired which introduces an additional variable). Given the winter conditions, frequent lack of light and Delta 400’s reputation for being a flexible film, I decided to meter it for EI800. The film canister even has a handy system for marking 400, 800 and 1600, which I did. And I set the camera metering appropriately. Then I forgot about it, and neglected to tell the lab to develop accordingly. So, these shots were underexposed by 1 stop from what the camera metered (and the notes in the gallery should really have -1 EV added to each one). That was my first mistake.

Another mistake I made was my lens choice. After loading the film, I put on an old M42 Takumar 55/1.8 which I have adapted for use on my Canon DSLR. Once I got into town, I tried to take a shot and got a lot of complaining noises from the camera (as if there was a partial shutter fire) and the dreaded “bc” message in the display. This message can equal “bricked”,  which wasn’t very encouraging. But, sitting in my freezing car searching the internet on my phone revealed mentions of lenses being one source of the “bc” error message. I took the lens off and fired a shot, with no error message and all the right noises, so at least the camera body was still alive, even if I could not take pictures. The adapter on the lens was one of the $2 cheapos off the internet with no chip or contacts and which works fine on other EOS mount cameras I have used it on (5Dii, T3i, T4i, Elan 7n, Elan II). On an earlier roll I had used the pinhole attachment which is essentially a modified lens cap, without any contacts of any sort in it either. Eventually I have discovered that other legacy lenses I have used, with more expensive adapters that include a chip for focus confirm, do work on this camera, including the focus confirm feature.

Here I am left scratching my head about the exact cause of “bc” message, other than it was a mistake to not test the lens at home before leaving the house. And, there I was left downtown, with a lunch meeting and then a plan to shoot some film, and no lens. Perforce I changed my plans and decided to check out a thrift store that always has lots of point and shoot cameras, and very occasionally has a good one worth spending 5 or 10 bucks on. I looked for a keeper with no luck, and wandered around the rest of the store for a bit.


I noticed they were very busy stocking shelves, so before I left, I swung by the camera shelf for one last look. And wouldn’t you know it they had just put out a Canon EF zoom lens, with no caps, but looking clean, marked $5. And, it was seniors discount day (they have a low threshold for defining “senior”, so don’t go assuming too much – they don’t check ID!). Thus, I paid about $4, a risk I was happy to run if it gave me a lens for the afternoon. When I got back to the car and put it on the camera, it worked! I wiped the finger grunge off the glass and it cleaned up nicely. It occasionally makes a bit of a screeching complaint while focusing, but does settle on focus, and does so at quite a bit more than a stately pace. My original plan was restored, and I used that lens for the rest of the roll. It’s a Canon EF 28-80/3.5-5.6 kit lens which gets some pretty unfriendly reviews when shot wide open, but I figured it was way better than nothing, and worth testing as the 28-80 range is a very useful one.



I think the lens is generally OK, but there were a few times when it did not settle into focus on the same spot I thought it was focusing on. This could be a lens fault, or an eyesight fault as my glasses have progressive lenses with 3 prescriptions in them, making focusing through eyepieces a routine challenge. I will need to test this out a bit to see whether there is a lens fault. In any case, I did get some pictures, and some of them are as sharp as can be expected from a lens of this type and provenience.


Later in the week seeing Barnaby Nutt’s Week 49 results with an EOS5 (link) I was inspired to try some multiple exposures on the remaining frames on the roll. I first saw the post on Barnaby’s blog and commented there about how the multiple exposure feature works in the different late-model EOS film cameras that I have. I’ve copied those comments with light editing below; the original source is here (link)

I have been doing some manual diving – a time-consuming exercise at the best of times, let alone with side by side manuals. Earlier this year I was left with the impression that the Elan 7N works with automatic exposure compensation that depends on the number of exposures chosen. But when I looked at the manual again, it seems that exposure compensation must be set manually. This is also the case for Elan II, IIe and the EOS3 all of which I shoot with.

I have just been experimenting with multiple exposures on the EOS3. The EOS3 has an exposure compensation range of -3 to +3 EV, so is more easily used for many multiple exposures than the Elan series cameras with a -2 to +2 EV range. Of course with any of these cameras the exposure can be set manually, or you can reset the ISO to the same effect.

In the Elan 7N manual (but not the others) is an interesting note which may apply to other cameras (depending on film transport arrangements?): “If you shoot multiple exposures on the first few or last few frames of a roll, the multiple exposures might not be precisely aligned due to the film curling.”


On the EOS3 you can set the number of exposures on a single frame from 1 to 9. Actually, you can trick the camera into more exposures than that. If, for instance, you set the number to 9 exposures and take 8 or fewer exposures, then you can reset the number of exposures back to 9, or other number. I only tried doing this once, but I see no reason that you could not go on resetting for dozens of exposures if you wanted. This method also works with the Elan 7N and Elan II series cameras.


I kept on doing something a bit wrong with the button press and dial rotate necessary to set the number of exposures, and a couple of times I failed to notice and shot a sequences of shots, all single exposures. Thereby wasting a lot of film – another mistake! I am not sure what I was doing – I assume the setting times out after a while, but I just tested that and it went on for 3 or 4 minutes all the while remaining on multiple exposures. Anyway, what I did learn is that in the view finder displays a count-down of the number of exposures remaining when in multiple exposure mode, and I should pay attention to that! It is not mentioned in the manual, at least not in the multiple exposures section.

This roll is the product of many mistakes on my part, but in the end it produced some decent shots so was not a complete waste. I must have got lucky.


Click on any image below to launch larger versions in the gallery view, navigate with the arrows once in the gallery.


2016-51: Canon EOS3, Canon EF 28-80/3.5-5.6, Ilford Delta 400 (metered at 800, processed normally and scanned commercially).




10 thoughts on “A Roll of Mistakes

  1. These are good images. I make so many mistakes. I get so frantic wanting to make images that I don’t think. The Canon and electronics, it is why I love purely mechanical cameras. From what I have read expired film needs more rather than less exposure, I could be wrong I have only shot a few rolls of it. The mantra according to google is a stop for every decade, and even that depends on how the film was treated over the years, kept cold, kept in a hot car, etc. Even at this push they are good and it shows the resilience of black and white film and your great enthusiasm. Happy Holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Lou! Mistakes are a common thing with me too, though often I learn something useful from them, sometimes only on the third or fourth repeat of the same mistake.

      I think it is one of the reasons I like the point and shoot cameras – it removes the worry of mistakes and the distractions of dials and buttons and settings so I can see more clearly what I am shooting.

      I find with expired film that exposure compensation is pretty much on a roll by roll basis, which isn’t very useful because you don’t know what you should do/have done till you see the results. I do sometimes follow the stop per decade “rule”, but I often shoot film that I don’t know what its expiry date is, nor how it was stored during its lifetime. So, it is a guessing game.

      For instance, I have a bag of manually wound expired film in the fridge some of it labelled by hand, some of it with more than one label, some of it in recycled commercial canisters with no label. I haven’t any confidence that I know what is in any one roll, if it is black and white even, nor how old it is. I am guessing a lot of tri-x and plus-x, probably from the 70s or perhaps even the 60s.

      To use it I really need to finish setting up my own processing and then do some testing of the ends of the rolls to see what they most likely are, though that will still only provide a foundation for guessing exposure and compensation. Whatever types of film, and however much compensation they need, I am guaranteed of some heavy duty grainy funk – low fi all the way.


  2. Pingback: Foliage and Ice | burnt embers

  3. Reblogged this on burnt embers and commented:

    My penultimate roll of film from my 2016 52 Rolls project. This roll is on black and white film with a rescued cheap but functional lens that saved the day and includes some experimenting with multiple exposures.

    There are twenty something photos in the gallery, only two of which have been seen on these pages before, so you might want to head over to 52 Rolls to see the rest at this link: http://wp.me/p2ZmXf-fVq


  4. I am so envious. I know that if I went into a thrift shop I would have to be very lucky indeed to find an M-Mount lens for $5 :-). Lovely winter light. Is that Chinatown in Victoria I see in some of the images? I remember vaguely buying household items in the thrift store down there when I lived in Oak Bay 92-94. I wonder if it is the one in your photograph. So long ago now…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have seen other EF mount lenses in thrift stores, but never for $5. So I felt pretty luck indeed, especially with the timing. An M-mount lens at $5 (heck, at $10) would be a real treat.

      Indeed, it is Chinatown. The thrift store is a Value Village in a very large open space with skylights – would make a good space for an enormous studio, or other purposes. I live in Oak Bay, barely, on the very SW part a block from the ocean. Nice part of the world. Much better than London, when I lived there (87-90) it was expensive and dirty and grey in the winters and often the summers too.

      Were you doing astronomy in those days? Working on Saanich Mountain by any chance?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s