KW Praktina FX 35mm SLR Review

KW Praktina FX with waist level finder & Carl Zeiss Jena 58mm f/2 Biotar.

KW Praktina FX fitted with waist level finder & Carl Zeiss Jena 58mm Biotar f/2 lens.

Last year I was fortunate to acquire a pair of KW Praktina FX 35mm SLRs at a bargain price via a local eBay listing. These relatively rare East German-made SLRs, (not to be confused with the similarly named Praktica brand) were made in Dresden in the former DDR by Kamera Werkestätten. They were conceived from the outset as a part of a camera system for professional use, one that was quite impressive for its time (well documented at Albert Taccheo’s excellent site dedicated to the Praktina). Some accessories available for it included: interchangeable waist level or pentaprism viewfinders, and focus screens; bulk exposure magazine backs for up to 450 exposures, and; what was said to be the world’s first motor drive unit for a single lens reflex (spring-powered, originally, later, an electric version).

Although certain products from the former DDR could, at times, have variable quality control or reliability (some, but not all, Prakticas of certain vintages are a case in point) it’s still unfair to tag the entire output of what was once a global powerhouse of photographic equipment with this trait. Some of history’s finest cameras and lenses were manufactured in or around Dresden and Jena, before or after World War II—Exakta SLRs and the great Zeiss Contax rangefinders being just two examples. The Praktina may have been an Eastern Bloc product, but it’s a solidly built one with heft to match the best competitors from Nikon or Canon. It’s also a beautifully finished one, whose weight denotes the use of some high-grade metals in its interior. That it also possesses the tactile qualities one comes to associate with high-end German cameras, will be therefore be no surprise to those who have experienced them. But let’s look at a few aspects of this apparent quality, beginning with its unique lens mount.

The Praktinas rivals from its own homeland, the Ihagee-made Exakta and the Zeiss Ikon Contax S/D SLRs, both worthy, ground-breaking designs themselves, employed bayonet and screw thread lens mounts, respectively. Each of these cameras definitely have their good points, but from personal experience I can confirm that, like others of its type, the Exakta bayonet mount can certainly wear after extended use. This will adversely affect accurate lens register and hence, focus accuracy. The so-called “Praktica”, or “Pentax” M42 screw mount—in reality, first used in the afore-mentioned Contax S—is self adjusting to some extent, but fell out of favour with professional photographers, being neither as convenient nor as rapid as a bayonet type when changing lenses. But there is yet another way of securing a lens to camera. Siegfried Böhm, designer of the Praktina, chose the “breech” system of mounting its lenses. This uses a rotating collar to lock the rear of the lens to the camera body flange just as rapidly as a bayonet, but unlike those, it’s a design that neatly sidesteps any chance of wear by eliminating any sliding motion between the mating surfaces. It’s what causes play to develop in a bayonet system.

Praktina FX with waist level finder & Carl Zeiss Jena 80mm f/2.8 Biometar.

Praktina FX with waist level finder & Carl Zeiss Jena 80mm Biometar f/2.8 lens.

A breech mount was subsequently used by Canon in their FD-FL manual focus SLRs, and it might possibly have been inspired by the Praktina SLR that preceded it. That it is also a feature of Praktisix/Pentacon Six medium format SLRs should not be surprising, as they were designed by Siegfried Böhm also. Clearly, Böhm was motivated to improve on what he saw as certain deficiencies in contemporary camera design, but his drive to make a superb professional SLR went much deeper than its external features.

Though firmly wedded to the use of a focal plane shutter—as was fitted to most types of camera originating from Dresden—unlike most period focal plane shutter designs, the various speeds of the all-new mechanism were set with only one dial. Most other makes needed two controls—a main dial for faster speeds, and a separate one for the delay speeds, (which normally would be used only after setting certain times on the main control). Shutter speeds could also be selected before or after cocking the Praktina shutter, without risk of damage to its internals—something which often wasn’t the case with other period makes of camera. And unlike many cameras of the time with focal plane shutters, the Praktina speed control ring didn’t rotate when the shutter actuated, avoiding the risk of an exposure being ruined by an unwary photographer’s fingers fouling the spinning dial and retarding the second curtain. Design features that are all taken for granted today, but they were cutting edge at the time.

Praktina FX with waist level finder & Carl Zeiss Jena 80mm f/2.8 Biometar.

Praktina FX with waist level finder & Carl Zeiss Jena 80mm Biometar f/2.8 lens.

One of my Praktinas came fitted with the optional waist level finder, an attractively styled item that does its job of excluding light from the focus screen efficiently, and which has a good magnifying lens, but it’s not until you’ve finished using your Praktina that you realise just how clumsy the viewfinders of most other period cameras are in comparison. For instance, an Exakta waist level requires the magnifier, sides, and back each to be folded, individually, before closing the front, otherwise the finder will not collapse correctly. If you force an earlier Praktica FX or FX2/3 viewfinder closed without stowing the magnifier first, you’ll deform parts of it and it will then not work correctly or look right. Gently fold the front of the Praktina finder rearwards, and it just neatly tucks away the magnifier and closes—that’s it. Hasselblad for one could have learned from this. Attention to detail is apparent in the design of the Praktina everywhere you look.

The self timer gives a standard delay of around ten seconds, but has no release switch. If you arm the lever, the timer begins to run as soon you let it go, but still boasts a neat feature. Soon after you set it off the mirror will retract, but, there’s a short interval before the shutter fires. In the interim, the usual SLR mirror-induced vibrations can subside. And if you prefer to employ a cable release, moderate initial pressure on it will also fire just the mirror, enabling shutter alone to be actuated at your discretion. Such features may never be used by some photographers or only rarely by others. But if you’re seeking maximum possible sharpness in your images, they definitely will help. It reveals just how well thought out Böhm’s new camera was.

Viewfinders can be interchanged in seconds. By sliding a lever underneath the lens (which, to the uninitiated, seems to be the lens lock), hooks on the lugs at the front of the various Praktina viewfinders are engaged or released. Finders are secured when the letter “Z” is visible next to the lever (as seen in the image below). With the lever set to “A” (see the image after it) they remove towards the rear. It’s probably the strangest location for a viewfinder release that I’ve ever seen but it’s secure and is easy to use (once you’ve worked out what it is!). Once you have removed the finder, changing the focus screen is also easy. Sliding two small metal clips away from the sides of the screen and inverting the body drops it out for cleaning or replacement (which is just as quick and simple). For an SLR conceived in the early 1950s, it’s impressive stuff.

Praktina FX & Carl Zeiss Jena 58mm f/2 Biotar bottom plate & motor drive coupling.

Praktina FX & Carl Zeiss Jena 58mm f/2 Biotar. Coupling for motor drive or rapid winder is visible near the wind lock release button.

My Praktinas
I was fortunate to acquire a pair of these beautifully made German cameras a couple of years ago for around AUD 65.00 (about USD 50.00 at the time). They are both the FX version (there is also a later “IIA” version of the Praktina, which offers automatic aperture stop down with certain lenses). One was fitted with a Carl Zeiss Jena 58mm f/2 Biotar lens and waist level viewfinder. The other, with a CZJ 80mm f/2.8 Biometar and an interesting, but entirely non-standard, pentaprism that seems to have been fabricated from the top cover and prism of a Praktica Nova (but which still works well). Each body was also fitted with a genuine Praktina rapid winder attached to the motor drive socket in the bottom cover, and these accessories are said to be reasonably uncommon. I felt it all represented exceptional value for the money. Perhaps you’d agree.

Praktina FX & Carl Zeiss Jena 58mm f/2 Biotar with accessory rapid winder fitted.

Praktina FX & Carl Zeiss Jena 58mm f/2 Biotar lens with two accessory rapid winders, one fitted to the body.

Neither body was fully functional as acquired, but they did not need much work to run well. The shutter spindle springs had lost a little tension as the speeds were somewhat slow, but happily they required a minimum of adjustment to the spring tensioners. I say “happily” because making substantial changes to curtain spring tension is likely to result from overlooking mechanical issues elsewhere which really should be sorted, in the interests of long-term reliability. Prior to this the mechanism also benefited from some general cleaning and lubrication, not at all unreasonable, given the intervening six or so decades since these one owner cameras had been manufactured.

Praktina FX with home-made (?) pentaprism grafted from Praktica Nova components, & Carl Zeiss Jena 80mm Biometar f/2.8 lens.

Working on them was not especially onerous. Like certain 1950s Prakticas that followed them (and which were possibly inspired by some of their design cues?) Praktinas have a detachable film rail plate. Removing this provides much improved access to shutter spindles without the full disassembly needed to attend to, for instance, most Japanese 35mm SLRs. Access to other parts of the mechanism such as the mirror actuating system—which features a fascinating cylindrical part that looks like a cross between a sleeve valve and a camshaft—is then also possible, though cramped. In conjunction with the removal of their lower covers, I was able to make each example run nicely at their various speeds with little difficulty as films subsequently run though them attest.

The Praktina FX In Use
Having explored some of the more interesting design features of this German SLR you’ll probably want to know what it is like to actually use. Below are some observations, however you should know that I prefer using fully manual mechanical cameras without any electronic automation or autofocus for general imaging. If you’re accustomed to newer film cameras with more automation, you may take a little while to adapt to one, but it’s definitely worth perservering, because overall I have found the Praktina way to be a very enjoyable imaging experience.

On loading a film, you’ll find that the camera back is a fully removable type with no “hinge” on its wind side. Instead, the body and its cover are shaped to securely retain the cover without one (in this regard, the Praktina and Praktica FX models have something in common, if little else). As with many of the best German classic cameras, the back excludes light without any of those pesky foam seals often used by Japanese manufacturers, which are generally a gooey, crumbly mess nowadays. The back is latched into place on the rewind side via a metal locking plate that isn’t sprung, but, when it’s set, it snaps into position with a firm click that assures you it’s secured.

Winding on the film leader you might notice an odd trait. Unlike nearly every other 35mm SLR mechanism, (which will normally actuate the film advance and cock the shutter before lowering the reflex mirror), the Praktina actually reverses this. At first, the knob glides easily for a fraction of a turn to lower the mirror, then, the loadings from the shutter springs and film advance kick in and the wind action firms up. It’s a slightly unusual variation to the norm, but an inconsequential one—as long as you ensure the knob is fully wound to complete the cycle, of course.

DSCF0620

Praktina FX; waist level finder; Carl Zeiss Jena 80mm Biometar f/2.8.

A Praktina feels good to hold. The aperture and shutter controls are easy to use and precise in touch. Personally, I find the angled release button falls to hand very easily, but where a shutter release ought to live can sometimes be a polarising subject—you may feel differently about that. The shutter speed control deserves special mention, as it would seem possible to vary shutter speeds between the marked full stops—at least in the escapement range, I detected changes in the times between the marks. The dial can also be turned “around the clock” from B to 1⁄1000 or vice-versa and, as previously noted, you don’t have to worry about remembering to set the shutter speed (or not) prior to winding on—something you can’t always say about other 1950s cameras. It all makes the imaging process a fuss free one, and you get a sense that the Praktina is on your side and working with you, not against you.

Focusing is trouble free by the standards of the day. That’s not a euphemism for a dim, squinty viewfinder either. At the time, Germany led the world in honing the single lens reflex configuration to—if not perfection—at least a pretty respectable standard of imaging prowess. I’ve had no problems focusing either of my Praktinas in a range of light levels including moderate indoor lighting but I also like ground glass focus screens. These are as good as any others I’ve looked through and they also have a decent split rangefinder, so in summary a Praktina viewfinder is unlikely to give you too many difficulties, and by way of comparison it is streets ahead of a lot of period Exaktas I have used.

Praktina FX & Carl Zeiss Jena 80mm f/2.8 Biometar with viewfinder removed.

Praktina FX & Carl Zeiss Jena 80mm f/2.8 Biometar with finder off. Clips for focus screen are visible at top & bottom of screen.

Perhaps the above should say “a Praktina reflex viewfinder is unlikely to give you too many difficulties” because—most unusually—a Praktina has two viewfinders: a conventional reflex viewfinder, and also; a fixed focus optical finder. The latter is designed to cover the same field of view as a 50mm lens such as the Zeiss Tessar. But by framing moderately tightly it’s close enough to sub for my 58mm Biotar reasonably well, so I use the optical finders of my examples from time to time, mostly when I also have the waist level finder fitted to whichever Praktina I’m shooting with. Naturally, it comes into its own when making a portrait orientated image with the waist level mounted. By pre-focusing on your subject with the waist level magnifier before rotating the Praktina 90 degrees and framing though the optical finder, images can be framed without the challenge of trying to align an upside down, reversed image through the reflex finder (and, having actually done this with various waist level finder-equipped 35mm SLRs, given the choice, it’s a no-brainer). On those occasions one needs to observe the image as it is being recorded the optical finder is also a boon. It’s a quirky feature, but also a useful one, and offhand, the only other SLRs I can recall having it are the rare, highly collectible and expensive Alpas formerly made by Pignons of Switzerland. Some of those even had fully coupled rangefinders as well as reflex focusing and unsurprisingly, I’d love an Alpa, one day. The Praktina optical finders eyepiece is visible in the picture below, just to the right of the rewind knob.

Praktina FX with pentaprism & Carl Zeiss Jena 80mm f/2.8 Biometar.

Praktina FX with pentaprism & Carl Zeiss Jena 80mm f/2.8 Biometar.

To date, the only aspect of imaging with a Praktina that has given me any grief has been the gear ratio of its film advance. I’m used to winding on all manner of manual film cameras and in the course of shooting hundreds of films, I’ve only ever ripped the end of a film off its spool a couple of times, until I got my Praktinas. But I’ve pulled three films out of their canisters with only moderate force on their wind knobs. On at least one occasion, I was winding on quite gingerly near the end of a roll, and still managed to rip it off the spool. I have to assume the gear ratio to the wind sprocket is especially low. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s more important than usual to: (A) remember to reset the Praktina film counter during re-loading; (B) keep a very close eye on it, when the end of a roll is approaching; and (C) wind those last couple of frames on very gently! The last roll I exposed in one was rewound without incident.

Those who have not experienced a pre-1960s 35mm single lens reflex before might be perturbed, on taking their first image with a Praktina, to find that the reflex mirror doesn’t return automatically after exposure. Instant return mirrors were still in the future at the beginning of the 1950s. In this respect the Praktina is on par with Exakta, Contax, Contaflex and even 1950s Hasselblad SLRs (the latter would not get an instant return mirror until the release of the 500EL some years later). The Praktina fares better than most SLRs of the time, because at least the optical viewfinder enables you to “see through” your shot if you need to, but it’s still as well to wind on promptly after each exposure in sunny conditions. With the reflex mirror retracted, its fabric second curtain is as vulnerable as that of a 35mm rangefinders. Except for a Contax rangefinder, of course. 😉

Conclusion
My Praktinas were won on eBay after they were listed by a local seller and I placed a few snipes. I knew a little about them but had never seen one in the flesh. Prices vary all over the place, (as do opinions about their reliability which has been faultless, in my experience). As a rare camera—certainly, they’re rare in Australia—and one with shiny Carl Zeiss Jena aluminium bodied lenses, at that, they’ve got a certain appeal that I, personally, find very hard to resist. But I had no pre-conceived ideas about what they’d be like to photograph with and frankly, I bought them more out of curiosity than anything else. So I’m delighted to say I’ve found them to be examples of that rare thing: a camera that exceeds your expectations. My pair have become two of my favourite SLRs, because they’re so rewarding to actually use. It’s hard to put a finger on a particular reason why. Perhaps it’s the feeling of solidity and sensation of innate quality imparted by them? Certainly, their tactile appeal is substantial, but this alone is not enough to justify regular use (well, not to me). Any camera can never be better than the lenses for it. As well crafted and tactile as a Praktina undoubtedly is—a quality camera is made for only one purpose—recording images of excellent technical quality. Here, the true appeal of a Praktina becomes apparent, because a range of lenses in its breech mount were produced by Carl Zeiss in Jena, and at the time their lenses were probably as good or better than anyone’s regardless of country of origin. On that note, here are a few photographs made with my Praktinas and their Zeiss 58mm f/2 Biotar and 80mm f/2.8 Biometar lenses.

Hops Fields Bushy Park

Hops Fields, Bushy Park, Tasmania. KW Praktina FX. Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm f/2. Fuji Acros 100 35mm black & white negative in ILFORD ID-11 1 + 3 @ 20C/16 minutes.

Bushy Park Oast House

Oast House, Bushy Park, Tasmania. KW Praktina FX. Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm f/2.8. Film & processing details as above.

Oast House Bushy Park

Oast House Bushy Park KW Praktina FX. Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm f/2.8. Film & processing as above.

Pond and Oast House Derwent Valley

Oast House & Pond, Bushy Park, Tasmania. KW Praktina FX. Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm f/2. Film & processing as above.

Honda Super Sports

Super Sport. KW Praktina FX. Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm f/2. ILFORD Pan F Plus black & white negative in ILFORD ID-11 1 + 3 dilution @ 20C/15 minutes.

Victoria Dock Hobart

Victoria Dock, Hobart, Tasmania. Praktina FX. Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm f/2.8. Film & processing details as above.

Mt Wellington From West Hobart

Mount Wellington, Tasmania. Praktina FX. Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm f/2.8. 35mm film frame cropped to 6×12 panoramic ratio. Film & processing details as above.

All Text & Images Copyright 2016 Brett Rogers—All Rights Reserved.

You can see more of my photography in my portfolio at Redbubble, and I have a Facebook Page which you are welcome to Like.

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Camera Repair Articles

I’m a member of the Film Shooters Collective, an international group of photographers who image with film. At the behest of its founder and guiding force, Cameron Kline, I recently penned a series of articles about getting started in camera repair. The series is in four parts: you will find them via the following links.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

I hope you find them interesting and informative, and perhaps, if you have an interest in older film equipment like myself, they might just encourage you to take on a few basic repair jobs for yourself. 🙂
Cheers,
Brett

Inside Government House Tasmania

On Thursday 18th February 2016 I was privileged to return to Government House Tasmania at Queens Domain, Hobart—this time, as a member of a small tour group. I’d been previously advised that on the day, photography was not only permitted, it was encouraged. I thought this was a splendid prospect.

Whether Government House staff anticipated the likes of myself would arriving armed with 2 x Minolta SRT101 35mm SLRs, a Hasselblad 500C/M medium format SLR, and a 2.8 Rolleiflex TLR, might be “dubious”. 😉 But as there were no stipulations as to precisely how much photography could be undertaken I decided to come (over?) prepared, with the hope of doing a reasonable enough job of making some decent images to do a photo essay of the experience. Readers will have to judge the success of this for themselves, of course—but here are the results as the majority of images below, were, indeed, made on that day. I have also included a few made by me during previous visits to Government House.

Governor of Tasmania vice regal residence

Government House Tasmania, Queens Domain, Hobart. Image Details: Circa 1955 Rolleiflex 2.8C twin lens reflex (Schneider 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar taking lens); Fujifilm Neopan Acros 100 black & white negative film (developed in ILFORD ID-11 1 + 3 dilution @ 20C/16 minutes).

 

As a frequent visitor to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens adjoining Government House,  Tasmania’s Vice-Regal residence had long interested me from afar, both as a photographer and as someone who has an active interest in local history. But it remained tantalizingly out of reach until I eventually visited it for the first time about six years ago, during one of the Governor’s public open days.  It exceeded my expectations in every way, and ever since I’ve taken advantage of any opportunity I can get to return. Externally, the House is a fine example of 19th Century stone masonry on a commanding scale. Its setting adjacent the River Derwent around ¾ mile from Hobart’s centre is spectacular, as is its extensive garden.

Government House Hobart Quarry Pond

Pond, Government House Tasmania. Image Details: 1971 Zeiss Ikon Contaflex S 35mm SLR (Carl Zeiss 85mm f/4 Pro Tessar lens); Kodak Tri-X ISO 400 35mm black & white negative film (developed in ILFORD ID-11 @ 1 + 3 dilution @ 20C/20 minutes).

 

Subjects for photography are positively abundant. The garden pond by the main drive (seen in the above image) was formed from the quarrying of stone used in the construction of Government House. The pictured dinghy was hand crafted out of Celery Top, a native species of Tasmanian timber.

But today, the House is still the principal residence of Tasmania’s serving Governor and his or her family, and most parts of it remain strictly off-limits to the general public, even on public open days which take place once a year or so. I therefore determined to make the most I could of this rare opportunity to discover the secrets of those parts of the House hitherto out-of-bounds to most of us.

In the first image, you will see an archway beneath the clock tower. This forms the main entrance portico off the turning circle, in the centre of which is an ornamental fountain. As you enter the turning circle, you pass a beautiful trio of native birds set in bronze to your left. I always assumed the sculptures were of Tasmania’s unique, (and, most regrettably, extinct), species of emu, but I’ve since been advised by the Head Gardener, Mr Steve Percival, that they are actually brolgas, not a species endemic to Tasmania—which makes them a curious choice of ornament—but no less photogenic for all that, to my thoughts.

Brolgas, Government House Tasmania

Brolgas, Government House Tasmania forecourt. Image Details: Zeiss Ikon Contaflex S (Carl Zeiss 50mm f/2.8 Tessar lens); Kodak Tri-X ISO 400 (details as above).

 

Moving through the portico and up the steps through the main door one sees a foyer with stair case and classic furniture. On my first visit to Government House in 2010, a beautiful Steinway piano was on display in the foyer. It belonged to Mrs Frances Underwood, spouse of His Excellency the Honourable Peter Underwood AC, Governor of Tasmania 2008–2014. My camera that day was a Rolleicord Va TLR loaded with Ilford Pan F Plus ISO 50 black and white negative film. I was permitted to use a small tripod and cable release, without which the following image could not have been recorded, due to the metered exposure time of 30 seconds.

Steinway Government House Tasmania

Steinway Piano, foyer, Government House, Tasmania. Image Details: Rolleicord Va twin lens reflex (Schneider Xenar 75mm f/3.5 lens); ILFORD Pan F Plus black & white negative; (developed in ILFORD ID-11 1 + 3 dilution @ 20C/15 minutes).

 

Our tour guide on 18th February this year was Tasmania Police Inspector Glen Woolley (retired). He was ideally suited to show us through due to his extensive knowledge of the House and its history. Under his supervision, we were able to take a look through many parts of the house off-limits to most visitors. After a walk around the outside of the House we re-entered via the flower room to inspect the kitchen.

As might be expected, Government House has a modern kitchen equipped to cater for various functions such as formal dinners for dozens of guests. I’d brought with me a couple of rolls of Kodak’s classic Tri-X black and white film, in 35mm—along with a pair of equally classic 35mm Minolta manual focus SLRs (their ground breaking SRT101 model) specifically for some indoor images, but I still had a few frames of ILFORD Delta 100 black and white left on one roll. With no tripod to hand, the following two images were still able to be recorded hand-held, at ISO 100, thanks to the fast 58mm f/1.4 Rokkor lenses worn by the Minoltas—although, owing to the need to set them wide open, at some expense to depth of field.

Government House Kitchen, Hobart, Tasmania.

Kitchen, Government House Tasmania. Image Details: 1966 Minolta SRT-101 35mm SLR (Minolta Rokkor 58mm f/1.4 lens); ILFORD Delta 100 black & white negative (developed in ILFORD ID-11 1 + 3 dilution @ 20C/20 minutes). Hand held, available light only.

 

Despite the presence of modern appliances, there were still a few signs of fittings originally installed for earlier Governors’ convenience. One feature I spotted was this gear drive for what may have been a 19th Century rotisserie. According to the details engraved in its face, it was supplied by: W. Jeakes, 51 Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London.

Detail, Rotisserie, Kitchen, Government House, Hobart.

Detail of 19th Century rotisserie in kitchen of Government House, Tasmania. Image Details: Minolta SRT101 35mm SLR (Rokkor 58mm f/1.4 lens); ILFORD Delta 100 (details as above).

 

From the kitchen we were able to traverse the main corridor at basement level. This was also the location of a set of remotely actuated bells connected to various rooms above, from whence the Governor and other members of the Vice-Regal household might summon the staff.

Servants Bells, Government House

Page bells, Government House Tasmania. Image Details: 1966 Minolta SRT101 35mm SLR (Rokkor MC 58mm f/1.4 lens); ILFORD Delta 100 (details as above).

 

A small vault in the basement serves as a repository for the Vice-Regal silverware.

Silver Room, Government House Hobart

Silver vault, Government House Tasmania. Image Details: 1966 Minolta SRT-101 35mm SLR (Rokkor 58mm f/1.4 lens); Kodak Tri-X ISO 400 black & white negative (exposed at EI 1600, developed in Ilford ID-11 @ 20C).

 

Silver Room Government House Hobart

Silver vault, Government House Tasmania. Image Details: 1966 Minolta SRT-101 (Rokkor 58mm f/1.4 lens); Kodak Tri-X ISO 400 at EI 1600 (details as above).

 

Government House Roof,  Hobart, Tasmania.

Rooftops, Government House Tasmania. Image Details: 1966 Minolta SRT101 35mm SLR (Rokkor MC 58mm f/1.4 lens); Kodak Tri-X ISO 400 at EI 1600 details as above).

 

Chimney Pots, Government House, Hobart.

Chimney pots, Government House Tasmania. Image Details: 1966 Minolta SRT101 35mm SLR (Rokkor 58mm f/1.4 lens); Kodak Tri-X 400 at EI 1600 (details as above).

 

After viewing the silver vault we ascended stairs through several levels. Along the way a few windows provided glimpses of acres of the beautiful slate roof and the many chimney pots, individually carved in different styles, that we’d be able to admire from atop the clock tower. To reach the top, first we had to go through the clock room containing the clock mechanism.

Mechanism, Clock Room, Government House, Hobart, Tasmania.

Mechanism, clock room, Government House Tasmania. Image Details: 1966 Minolta SRT101 35mm SLR (Minolta Rokkor MC 28mm f/3.5 lens); Kodak Tri-X ISO 400 exposed at EI 1600 (details as above); Camera supported on railing, fired with self timer for long exposure of approx one second.

 

Towers provide a convenient frame for those portions of the city of Hobart not hidden beyond the trees. Even further afield you can just see Australia’s first legal casino, Wrest Point, rising from the west bank of the River Derwent at Sandy Bay.

 

View To Hobart From Government House Clock Tower, Hobart, Tasman

View to Hobart from clock tower, Government House Tasmania. Image Details: 1966 Minolta SRT101 35mm SLR (Rokkor MC 28mm f/3.5 lens); Kodak Tri-X ISO 400 exposed at EI 1600 (details as above).

 

To the west the lower slopes of Mount Wellington may be seen beneath the cloud cover beyond the main driveway to the House. An unobscured view of the mountain would have been the icing on the cake so I may have to contrive another visit at some stage.

Flag Tower & View To Mt Wellington, Government House, Hobart, Ta

View of flag tower and Mt Wellington from clock tower, Government House Tasmania. Image Details: 1966 Minolta SRT101 35mm SLR (Rokkor MC 28mm f/3.5 lens); Kodak Tri-X ISO 400 exposed at EI 1600 (details as above).

 

To the south the River Derwent lies beyond even more chimney pots and spires. I had high hopes of the Government House rooftop being ideally suited to black and white film photography, but it exceeded all my expectations and then some.

View of River Derwent From Government House Clock Tower, Hobart,

View of River Derwent from clock tower, Government House Tasmania. Image Details: 1966 Minolta SRT101 35mm SLR (Rokkor MC 28mm f/3.5 lens); Kodak Tri-X ISO 400 exposed at EI 1600 (details as above).

 

Here’s another view of the fountain in the main entrance forecourt from an altogether different vantage point.

Turning Circle & Fountain, Government House, Hobart, Tasmania.

Forecourt fountain, Government House Tasmania. Image Details: 1966 Minolta SRT101 35mm SLR (Rokkor MC 28mm f/3.5 lens); Kodak Tri-X 400 exposed at EI 1600 (details as above). Kodak Tri-X 400 @ EI 1600 @ 20C.

 

The following image may be my favourite from the day. Tri-X can be a little “flat” in D-76/ID-11 at its “box speed” of ISO 400—but I love the tonality it can give when pushed a stop or two, and Government House has some of the finest views of the River Derwent in Hobart.

Government House Roof & View to River Derwent, Tasman Bridge, &

Government House Roof & View to River Derwent, Tasman Bridge, & Eastern Shore, Hobart, Tasmania. Minolta SRT101 35mm SLR. Minolta Rokkor MC 28mm f/3.5 lens. Kodak Tri-X 400 @ EI 1600 @ 20C processed in ILFORD ID-11 developer. Cropped to 6 x 12 panoramic ratio from 35mm negative frame.

 

All too soon it was time to descend the many stairs to ground level and take a look inside some of the stables. These 19th Century stone structures look to be in excellent original condition with their period slate roofs complementing those of the House.

Government House Stables, Hobart, Tasmania.

Stables, Government House Tasmania. Image Details: 1966 Minolta SRT101 35mm SLR (Rokkor MC 58mm f/1.4 lens); Kodak Tri-X 400 exposed at EI 1600 (details as above).

 

Government House, Hobart_Stable Stall,  Hobart, Tasmania.

Stables, Government House Tasmania. Image Details: 1966 Minolta SRT101 35mm SLR (Rokkor MC 58mm f/1.4 lens); Kodak Tri-X 400 exposed at EI 1600 (details as above).

 

After seeing the stables our visit concluded with a stroll though the hedge towards the House before we departed via the main gates. It seems fitting to end this article with a view back to the clock tower from which some of my favourite photographs from the day were taken.

Garden Arch & Clock Tower Government House Tasmania

Clock tower, Government House Tasmania. Image Details: 1971 Zeiss Ikon Contaflex S 35mm SLR (Carl Zeiss Tessar 50mm f/2.8 lens); Kodak Tri-X ISO 400 film exposed at EI 400 (developed in ILFORD ID-11 at 1 + 3 dilution @ 20C/20 minutes).

 

My thanks to Her Excellency, Professor the Honourable Kate Warner, Governor of Tasmania, her Official Secretary, Mr David Owen and the Government House staff, for their kind permission to tour the House. My thanks also to retired Tasmania Police Inspector Glen Woolley for showing me through the House and gardens.

 

All Images and Text Copyright Brett Rogers 2010–2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

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Nant Distillery Tour

On Saturday 5th March 2016 I made my first trip to Bothwell in some years in order to visit Nant Distillery, makers of fine Tasmanian single malt whisky.

Nant is located just a few minutes drive from the centre of Bothwell. On arrival the first thing I spotted was a classic MG TC, arguably, the definitive British sports car.

MG TC

MG TC. Camera: Zeiss Ikon Icarex 35CS 35mm SLR. Lens: Asahi Pentax Super Takumar 35mm f/3.5. Film: Fuji Acros 100 silver halide black & white negative in ILFORD ID-11 @ 20C/16 minutes.

 

Luckily for me the current owner of the MG returned to the car as I was taking some shots of it. During our conversation he informed me that this particular TC was once owned by Australian artist Clifton Pugh. It’s in original, unrestored condition.

MG TC

MG TC. Camera: Zeiss Ikon Icarex 35CS. Lens: Helios 44 58mm f/2. Film: Fuji Acros 100 (details as above).

 

Nant is situated in what was originally a mill complex constructed from the early 19th Century. The mill building today remains in good condition and retains an original water wheel that, according to the name on its side, came from R Kennedy & Sons, Hobart. With its adjacent millpond sourcing its water from the Clyde River, idyllic is perhaps the first word that comes to mind to describe the setting in which Nant makes its whisky today.

Acros 100 009

Camera: Zeiss Ikon Icarex 35CS. Lens: Helios 44 58mm f/2. Film: Fuji Acros 100 (details as above).

Mill Pond

Mill Pond, Nant Distillery. Camera: Zeiss Ikon Icarex 35CS. Lens: Helios 44 58mm f/2. Film: Fuji Acros 100 (details as above).

Water Wheel, Nant Distillery

Water wheel, Nant Distillery. Camera: Zeiss Ikon Icarex 35CS. Lens: Helios 44 58mm f/2. Film: Fuji Acros 100 (details as above).

 

By the pond I found a vintage Churchill pram parked on the lawns unattended (it was unoccupied). I’m not sure why it was there, but it’s not something one sees every day in 2016, and seemed a good subject for black and white—so I did the obvious thing any black and white photographer would do.

Churchill Pram

Churchill Pram, Nant Distillery. Camera: Zeiss Ikon Icarex 35CS . Lens: Helios 44 58mm f/2. Film: Fuji Acros 100 (details as above).

 

Tours of the distillery and mill building are available on a daily basis. For $25.00, with tastings of several of Nant’s single malts included at the end, doing one sounded like pretty good value, as well as an opportunity to do some imaging of the mill interior.

I’d planned for such a possibility on the day and had some faster black and white film than I typically use on hand—Ilford’s Delta 3200 in 120 (medium format). After taking a few meter readings inside the mill with my Minolta Auto Meter, I calculated that I’d have enough light get away with rating the Delta at Exposure Index (EI) 3200, and loaded it into my Hasselblad 500C/M medium format SLR. Our guide on the day was Grace, one of Nant’s team of friendly, helpful staff.

Nant Distillery Tour Guide (Grace)

Grace, of Nant Distillery in Bothwell, Tasmania. Camera: Hasselblad 500C/M SLR. Lens: Carl Zeiss 80mm Planar f/2.8 Film: ILFORD Delta 3200 silver halide black & white negative exposed at EI 3200, developed in Kodak HC-110 developer @ 20C.

 

As I’d hoped, the interior of the mill, repurposed as a repository for oak barrels of single malt proved to be ideally suited to a few frames of black and white. By selecting a shutter speed of 1/60 or 1/30, I was (just) able to ensure images made with the Hasselblad hand-held were acceptably sharp. As is usually the case shooting hand-held in lower light conditions I made the most of whatever depth of field was available with the lens open, or nearly so.

Nant Distillery

The Mill, Nant Distillery. Camera: Hasselblad 500C/M. Lens: Carl Zeiss 80mm Planar f/2.8. Film: ILFORD Delta 3200 (details as above).

 

Nant mature their whisky in a range of barrels previously used for maturing red wines such as pinot noir, or those for fortified wines like port or sherry, and also bourbon casks. These all impart their own characteristics into the whisky, and during the after-tour tasting it was interesting to compare the effect that the choice of barrel had on its contents. My own favourite was the Port Cask.

Nant Distillery

Single Malt Casks. Camera: Hasselblad 500C/M. Lens: Carl Zeiss 80mm Planar f/2.8. Film: ILFORD Delta 3200 (details as above).

 

Near the end of the tour I was able, with the aid of a convenient dividing wall, to stabilise my Icarex 35mm SLR sufficiently to use its self timer for a vibration free half second exposure on the roll of slower Fuji Acros 100 black and white loaded in it. Acros is a non-starter for hand-held indoor imaging, however its superb reciprocity characteristics make it an ideal choice for longer exposures, indoors or outdoors—providing a tripod is able to be employed. In front of the window in the far wall, the gear shaft driven by the water wheel has been recorded in action.

Acros 100 013

Mill Interior & Gear Shaft. Camera: Zeiss Ikon Icarex 35CS. Lens: Helios 44 58mm f/2. Film: Fuji Acros 100 (details as above).

 

You’ll find Nant Distillery at 254 Nant Lane, Bothwell, Tasmania, and can contact them on 1800 746 453 or visit their website at: www.nant.com.au

Text and Images Copyright Brett Rogers 2016. All Rights Reserved.

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