Metering without a light meter

Blog, Pocket Full Of Fatcaps

In old film cameras sometimes happens that the exposure meter batteries runs out, or that the selenium cells pass to a better life just at the wrong time or simply that the camera does not have a light meter!

How to solve this problem? With an old “rule” that our grandparents had discovered to “guess” the exposure. In reality behind it there are calculations, experiments and a fine knowledge of the medium ūüėČ

The so-called Sunny 16 rule says that on a sunny cloudless day to achieve the perfect exposure you need to set the aperture to f/16 and the shutter as close as possible to the ISO of the film you are using.

So if I am using a 400 ISO film I have to set the aperture to f/16 with a speed of 1/500, for 100 ISO I will use 1/125 and so on.
After having applied this rule we can change aperture and shutter speed depending on our needs! For example if I’m using a 200 ISO film I should use f/16 and 1/250, but if my need is to photograph a fast moving cyclist, I can push the shutter speed to 1/1000 (2 stops) and compensate increasing the aperture of 2 stops up to f/8.

This is fine for optimal lighting conditions, with a strong sun that casts sharp shadows, but the same rule can also be applied to other lighting circumstances and the only change will be in the aperture settings. Thus, in a not so sunny day, in which the sun creates soft shadows, we will use f/11 instead of f/16, while for a cloudy day with barely visible shadows we will use f / 8 and, for a cloudy weather without visible shadows (or for shooting in full shade), we will set the aperture to f/5.6.

Sunny 16 rule computed for the most common times and ISO settings – Click to enlarge

In “special” conditions, for example shooting in highly reflective environments (snow or white sand), you can use f/22 while for a sunrise or sunset the aperture can be set to f/4 reaching up to f/2.8 for the minutes before of the sunrise.

In case of backlight as a general rule, whatever may be the “power” of the light source, to have the subject properly exposed is necessary to apply the rule and then increase the aperture by two stops.

The Sunny 16 does not stop there, but also helps us in more specific and extreme conditions: for example we go down to f/2 if we want to photograph neon signs or earliest sunrise and sunset glow, f1.4 to expose the fire, shop windows after sunset or night outdoor events and f/1 to shoot indoors (with bright light) or indoor events.

It should be remembered that then in the darkroom, when you go to print the image, or when we scan the negative, we have a margin of at least one recovery stop, so it’s pretty hard to fail completely the exposure

Ferrania Eura: the two apertures available / I due diaframmi disponibili
Ferrania Eura: the two apertures available / I due diaframmi disponibili

I would like to add that this rule is the basis of the construction and utilization of some old cameras, back in fashion a few years ago with the Lomographic wave, such as the Kodak Brownie.
The Brownie has no controls: fixed focus to infinity, fixed aperture (f/15) and fixed shutter speed (approx 1/30) that allow it, with a roll of 100 ISO film, to make well exposed photos.
Or the Ferrania Eura wich has a fixed shutter speed of about 1/50 and the possibility to choose only two aperture: f/12 for sunny days and f/8 for the cloudy ones!

These cameras should only be used under certain conditions, but mastering the Sunny 16 rule, we can calculate the correct film speed to take advantage of the native settings for our needs: for example, mounting a 400 ISO film on a Ferrania Eura, make it possible to use it in conditions of full shade so with 2 stops of difference.

Voigtländer Vitomatic IIa

Blog, Built To Last

Brand: Voigtländer
Model: Vitomatic IIa
Produced: 1960
Type: Rangefinder
Format: 35mm
Lens: fixed, Voigtländer Color-Skopar 50mm f / 2.8
Exposure: Manual, built in light meter
Focus: Manual rangefinder
ISO: 12-800 manual setting
Flash: PC Socket

Ah, so the needle should go inside the circle!


The light meter window near the shutter release button

No, it’s not porn, i’m talking about a light meter, and it is the way in which, as a child, I learned how to do properly exposed images.

The lens of the Vitomatic¬†IIa is excellent in sharpness and in color rendering, it is a Voigtl√§nder and therefore is a guarantee. The lightmeter is pretty accurate, and you can see it inside the viewfinder and on a little window located at the top of the camera (so you can make adjustments without taking the camera to¬†your eye). The meter indicator is composed by a needle, activated by the amount of light present in the scene, and by a circle that moves along with the aperture dial. To obtain the correct exposure the circle should overlap to the needle. Simple as eating candies, for a beginner ūüėČ

Voightlander_Vitomatic_IIa_09All adjustments are made through the rings on the lens: time, aperture, focus, iso and flash, for which there is a plug for the PC cord, in fact the machine only has an accessory shoe.


The focusing “automation” simbols

The focus is achieved through the rangefinder, ie in the center of the viewfinder there is a circular area where we see what we are framing doubled: turn the focus ring until the two images match up (for the subject you’d like to have in focus).

Continuing the discussion about the focus this camera has some sort of “automation”: on the lens there are two red symbols, a triangle and a circle, which indicates two focus distances which guarantee a large depth of field.
This can be really useful when shooting moving subjects or when you need to shoot rapidly such in street and candid photography.
Here below the diagram indicating the adjustments for this “zone focusing system”


I have a love-hate relationship with this camera. I love it because it is my father’s camera and the one that I used to learn how to shoot. I also love the opportunity to recalibrate the exposure without having to put the eye on the viewfinder. The lens gives beautiful and sharp images.
But it has a few things that I consider to be flaws and which are quite annoying for me: first of all it is very heavy, about 800g, it is really uncomfortable to carry around! Then, in situations where there’s strong lights and in backlight, the rangefinder becomes almost unusable, is really hard to see the second¬†image superimposed.
The last thing, and this is something related to my personal tastes, is that I prefer more wide lenses, 50mm are just too much!

Brooklyn: film backstage for the Pois Gras’s shooting

Blog, Built To Last

While I was working as a lighting technician for Pois Gras, for a shooting inspired by the film Brooklyn, I took the opportunity to make a quick test with my Fuji DL-200 II and an Agfa Vista 400 film.

I just wanted to evaluate how this film reacts to the warm light of sunset.

The photos become more vivid and saturated and the colors richer as the sun was declining and the warmth of the sunlight increase.

You can read the Pois Gras post¬†with the beautiful photos by¬†Paola Saia here: Un look new vintage ispirato al film ‚ÄúBrooklyn‚Ä̬†(sorry only in italian)

Thanks to Isabella Novati who posed, to Sara Pamio who took care of clothes and accessories and to Paola from Pois Gras who personally made makeup and wigs.

Yashica ML 50mm f1.9 + Agfa Vista + Bad Frog

Blog, Built To Last

I was at a free live show in Piacenza and in my bag i was carrying one of my “Photo Shove”¬†film cameras and my Yashica FX3 super 2000.

On stage, in the town square, the Bad Frog was entertaining the audience with their italo-punkrock but unfortunately, in a location like that, it was virtually impossible to hope that there was some pogo or crowd surfing.

Thanks to the headliners rigs, the light set was more “professional” so¬†I decided to take some pics with my SLR:¬†I was testing a¬†roll of¬†AGFA Vista 400 pushed to 1600 and a¬†50mm f1.9 ML Yashica lens!

We must consider that I was shooting at F1.9 and F2.8, so my DoF were approximately between 1 to 2 meters and that the manual focusing in this low light conditions is really hard to do.

However¬†I’m surprised about¬†the results! Both the lens and the film have returned god colors and sharpness!!

Next time I’ll have to take more shots and try to push the AGFA to 3200! (HERE you can read about the first failed attempt)

Oh and I’m on the hunt for¬†another ML Lens (maybe a 24mm)!

DIY lens cap for the Ferrania Eura


Unfortunately when you buy old photographic equipment in the store, flea markets or on the Internet, it’s hard to find the lens caps included.

But sometimes you just need a bit of DIY mentality to “solve” the problem. Here’s how I did it for my Ferrania Eura¬†ūüėČ