Friday, 28 September 2012

Mamiya C3: Milan

I've spent the last couple of weeks on holiday in Italy, because it's nice; specifically the north, around Milan. I took along a Mamiya C3, a 65mm f/3.5, and a bag of film. And a lightmeter, because the camera doesn't have one built in.

The Mamiya twin lens reflex system had two wide lenses, a 65mm and a more modern 55mm. I can't speak for the 55mm, but the 65mm is mighty fine, sharp into the edges at f/8 and beyond. In 35mm film terms it's roughly 35mm-ish, with an equivalent depth of field of f/2-ish. The 55mm was closer to a 28mm. The 65mm tends to be shunned nowadays - it's not much wider than the standard 80mm f/2.8, and of course it's one stop slower - but I found one going cheap. It takes standard 49mm filters. Sadly there isn't room to have individual lens caps over both the taking and the composing lenses.

The image above is of a sculpture in Milan's financial district. The building on the right is Italy's main stock exchange. Make of it what you will; at least it's honest.

Does Milan make sense in black and white? It's not really a gritty city; I'm sure that horrible things go on there, just as horrible things go on everywhere, but it's not an especially horrible place. Colour suits it more. Black and white makes sense for the industrial landscape of 1950s Pittsburgh, or the nightmare hellscape of New York. Not Milan, with its clean boulevards and masses of tourists and shops that sell expensive nick-nacks and women who look like Victoria Beckham, e.g. no hips.

The images were all stand developed with rodinal for an hour and a half. Fuji Arcos 100, a good solid film with no quirks. Street photography with a completely manual TLR is an odd experience. On the one hand, it's bulky and heavy and awkward to carry around, because it's a rectangular box without any ergonomic handholds. The chest-level viewpoint makes it awkward to photograph things that are at eye level, or below you, and as you can see from the images in this article it's easy to end up with lots of photographs where the camera is looking up at things from below.

On the other hand, no-one notices you. You just hunch over and there's a snick noise. It's as if you're taking a swig from a cup of coffee, or munching on a croissant, or whatever it is the hell they have in Italy. If you were a really hardcore street journalist you could, in theory, put the camera in a paper bag, and pretend to be drinking bum wine. Determining the correct exposure is easier than it sounds, because there are really only two values you need to remember; full-on sunshine, and in the shade. If the sun goes behind a cloud, check again. But generally the sun is the sun, it doesn't change.