Half-Frame Frenzy (Part 1)

I have previously commented on film costs and possible solutions involving smaller format cameras here. In that post, I mentioned my Chaika 2 half-frame camera. Since then, I have obtained two other half-frame cameras – an Olympus PEN-EE S and a Fujica Half. I decided that it would be good to explore the possibility of obtaining better quality images whilst trying to take advantage of modern film emulsions. However, I also wanted to test my new acquisition – a half-frame Fujica Half.

It Doesn’t Stop There!
Just to add further complications I wanted to experiment with shooting Ilford XP2 Super film which is normally developed using the C41 process but instead developing it in HC-110 black and white chemistry. I should explain that I normally test 35mm cameras using a short length of bulk-purchased Fomapan 100 film but on this occasion, I ‘pushed the boat out’ and used an entire cassette of XP2 Super.

I hadn’t gone completely mad! By way of an explanation, I must refer you to the work of Dr Chris Moss who has been experimenting with developing XP2 Super in black and white chemistry for some time. I highly recommend reading his article, How to develop XP2 in B&W chenistry (Yes! Chemistry is spelled incorrectly!) where he discusses his findings at length. To cut a long story short, he found that developing XP2 Super rated at ISO 100 as opposed to the box speed of ISO 400 in HC-110 at 20°C for 5 minutes produced results best suited to his taste. Well, if it was good enough for the fine doctor, it was good enough for me!

First Things First – The Fujica Half
As previously mentioned the Fujica Half is a half-frame camera that produces 72 images with a 36 exposure film. The images measure 24 x 18mm (Not 12X18mm as frequently suggested elsewhere!) and consequently quality is lower if one tries to enlarge them to the same size as a similar shot taken with a full frame 35mm camera. I actually got 76 images! The Fujica Half was first introduced in 1963 and I believe that it remained in production for around 10 years

It is an extremely well made camera and certainly not a lightweight weighing in at 514 grams ( a little over 1.1 lbs) Having said that, I found it very comfortable to use. My version is fitted with a Fujinon 28mm f/2.8, 5 element lens with a 49.5 mm filter thread. Aperture settings range from f2.8 – f22 with full click stops. The lens focuses from 0.7 metres to infinity and also provides zone focusing.

There was also a version produced with an f1.9 lens. This version is very difficult to find.- I have looked! I am impressed with the results from the f2.8 lens. The shutter is a Seikosha-L providing modest shutter speeds of 1/30-1/300 +B.

The camera is fully mechanical and has a selenium cell exposure meter. I have been fortunate in that the exposure meter on mine appears to work. I have shot both manually and using the automatic mode with reasonable success.

The film is wound on with a single stroke top mounted lever. Film speeds between 12 and 200 ASA are set by adjusting a lever on the back. The self timer is activated by first rotating a knob on the top of the camera and releasing it with a button on the back. The camera is fitted with a cold shoe and synchronisation for the flash is provided by a standard X plug on the front of the camera.

Essentially, the camera can be set to automatic aperture and the camera will arrive at the correct shutter speed automatically. As I have already pointed out, both aperture and shutter speed can be manually set should shooting conditions demand this.

Final Thoughts on the Fujica Half
More often as not, I shoot medium format cameras and occasionally 35mm, so I thought that half-frame photography might prove something of a challenge. Not at all! Once you get used to shooting with the camera held ‘vertically’ to produce landscape shots, it is easy.

Anyone, wishing to try half-frame photography could do far worse than to do so with this camera. I suspect that finding one with a working and accurate exposure meter may prove something of a challenge as time goes by. They are very reasonably priced at the moment IMHO.

Is everything perfect with this camera? Not entirely. I have seen comments elsewhere that users have found the shutter release ‘spongy’. I would agree with this observation and go further and say that I don’t like the length of travel of the shutter release. That could be down to my personal lack of dexterity. An external Soft Release Button may improve this.

A final thought which is not specifically relative to this camera but to all half-frame cameras. Unless the user processes their images themselves, there may be difficulties in getting their films commercially processed if hard copy prints are required. Of course were one to only rely upon a commercial processer to develop their films and scan the images themselves, this is not an issue. I must confess that I haven’t researched this and would be happy to be proved wrong.

Now to the Results
My aim was to produce acceptable image capable of being viewed at a reasonable size and without excessive grain. I have mentioned my dislike of excessive grain in the past as I see nothing ‘artistic’ in it. Put it down to an age thing as I started my journey into photography at a time when everyone was striving to produce images with the finest grain possible.

Chosen Film Stock – Ilford XP2 Super
Ilford XP2 Super 400 is a chromogenic black and white film that can be shot anywhere from ISO 50 to ISO 800 with no change to the development process at all. That is, if it is developed as intended using the C41 process. As Colour film is generally processed using this process, it also means that XP2 Super can easily be commercially processed where black and white film is not normally catered for. Anyway, you can forget all of that as it was my intention to process this film using Kodak HC-110 black and white chemistry!

Why, Oh Why Would You Want To Do That?
Well, the easy answer would be, “Because I can!” That may be true but there was more to it than that. Unlike Dr Moss who stumbled upon the fact that Chromogenic film could be processed in B&W chemistry when he inadvertently processed a roll of Ektar 100 film in TMax developer, my developing was done deliberately. His original ‘mistake’ resulted in a black and white image. This was the precursor to his experimentation with XP2 Super. His not inconsiderable findings are well documented in his article which I have previously referenced and I shall not reproduce them here.

It was, however, discovered that XP2 Super could still be pushed and pulled using black and white chemistry as if it were being developed in C41 chemicals. Although Dr Moss has experimented with a variety of B&W chemicals, it was apparent that some excellent results were produced using HC-110 with a dilution of 1:49 at 20°C having rated the film at ISO100. The results certainly looked good to me and as I happened to have HC-110 as well as a couple of cassettes of XP2 Super, this was the route that I chose to go down.

The Results
I was pleased with the results. Readers can make their own minds up. By way of comment about shooting half-frame for experimental purposes, it seemed to take an eternity to shoot 72 frames! (Actually, 76 in my case!)

Is There Anything Else Relating To Half-Frame Photography?
I have more on this subject in the pipeline, hence the ‘Part 1’ in the title. It may however take a while to get my thoughts together.

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