Camera: Canon/Bell & Howell 7
Lens: Canon 35mm f/2.8 (34mm filter version)
Film: Ilford PanF+ 50
Mini-review of the setup:
Camera: I've had a Canon 7 for a couple of years now, so operation is pretty much second nature at this point. It's a simple camera to learn though, nothing too far from the oridinary. The meter is one that I have largely ignored as it is a selenium cell and I never know exactly what the coverage is. So, I use Sunny 16 or I have an app on my iPhone to meter with.
The viewfinder is lower magnification than the earlier Canon rangefinder I reviewed, the P. That means focusing accuracy is slightly down on this model, but I can see a wider view and actually use a 35mm lens. The 7 has projected frame lines so they are pretty bright and easy to see. With my glasses, I can just barely see the 35mm lines. I chose the 7 and a 3-lens kit to go with me to Spain in 2015 with no accessory viewfinders and never felt limited.
The build quality on the 7 is a bit *lighter* feeling than any of the earlier Canons. It's still solid but not as dense, not as likely to be used as a hammer and come out fully working. The earlier ones are decidedly closer to the feeling of the early Leica M cameras.
If any of you readers play guitar and have experience with vintage amplifiers, the 7 is a late silverface Fender Bassman 100 whereas the earlier Canons are an early blackface Bassman head. Neither is a Line 6 solid state modern amp (Voightlander Bessa, I'm looking at you!) with many more features and versatility.
Overall verdict: Good enough feeling, very usable (back door loading, YES!!!) and versatile. And cheap enough that actually using it doesn't become an anxiety attack.
Lens: The 34mm filter thread version of this lens is TINY. It's got a focusing tab/infinity lock, thank Dog so there is something to grab onto to focus. If you had to try to focus with just the lens itself, I think I'd throw this into the river and let some fish deal with it.
Internet lore says that this early wide angle is nice and sharp in the middle of the frame, with terrible corners and overall low contrast. I would agree with this assessment. Right at the very corners of the frame, you can see the contrast drop off and everything just blurs into mush. I rather like the effect but if you're trying to get every last bit of image quality out of a 35mm film setup, this isn't your lens.
When I got this lens, it had a bit of wobble so I pulled it apart, cleaned up the optics and tightened a few screws. Now it's back in fighting form and will be tough to beat for moderate wide angle usage. The original hood with 34mm screw-in adapter is as big as the lens itself, but seems to be quite effective.
Overall verdict: Very good lens, definitely not 'modern' in it's rendering but I like that. I like the flaws it has.
Film: You saw an earlier example of Ilford's PanF+ in this series, but this time, I developed it properly instead of letting it stand by itself for too long. This shows in better sharpness, lower grain levels and more even development (no banding in skies or weird halos).
Overall verdict: I like this film more and more as I use it. The low speed helps get wider apertures if you are shooting in bright light, and it's got character. A good contender for the low speed, sharp, low grain black and white film race. I'll have to try more fresh Ilford Delta 100 to compare.
After seeing scans: I'm quite pleased with this result, a low contrast lens paired with a high contrast film and given a more moderate development. It could be punchy and it could be a bit dreamy, depending on camera settings (wider apertures = lower contrast and less punch) and what kind of light you photograph in. I also tried wet mounting for these negatives, which helps keep the film flat on the glass of the scanner. Image quality is significantly improved and you can actually see a bit of the character of the film rather than just mush as in earlier scans in this 30-30-30 series.
This above image shows the artifact created when there is a bubble when wet-mount scanning. I've removed these artifacts where they occurred in the rest of the images from this set. This is a wider aperture example, and it shows in the reduced contrast. This could get punched up in post production but is another look all its own.
This is at minimum focus distance and I believe f/4. Most of the rest of the images are f/5.6 or f/8.
Clearly shows the artifact from wet scanning bubble right in the building. The quality increase on my Canon Canoscan 9000F is definitely worth the mess and extra time, I will be trying some different techniques to reduce the bubbles.