Since 1998 I have been a Minolta guy. But for me that was one and the same thing as being an X-700 guy, as it was the only film SLR I owned or had ever used. In 2020, with everything else in the world changing on account of the accursed pandemic, I added my first new-to-me film SLR in 22 years – a Minolta XD-11. And boy has it been a joy to get to know!
a unique lens – with a circular image
For this series I paired my XD11 with a lens that is also new to me, in addition to its being rare and very unique – the Minolta MC Fish-Eye Rokkor-X 7.5mm f/4. The lens provides a 180˚ field of view, forming a complete circle in the film frame. It’s a lens I had read about ages ago on Rokkor Files, never thinking for an instant it’d be a lens I would own. Indeed, up until the moment I came into possession of my copy, I had never even beheld this lens first-hand. And, from built quality to optical performance, it is one impressive piece of glass!
The depth of field on this 7.5mm is so vast that the lens is fixed focus. What looks like it ought to be the focus ring is actually used to engage a set of five built-in filters. The minimum focusing distance can be reduced by stopping down; and for these images, I was between f/11 and f/16 the whole time. Even so, the flowers in the below image – which were no more than three inches away from the front element of the lens – are slightly soft.
About the front element, I’ve never seen one like it. Minolta’s 16mm f/2.8 fisheye is close, but this one boldly protrudes. So much so, it will not accept a filter on the front of it. The lens cap itself is shaped like a cylindrical ziggurat and screws into cleverly-recessed threading. The entire circumference of the all-metal cap is edged with a tiny ribbon of rubber so as to protect the front element from scratches.
are those my feet?
The most unique aspect about shooting with such an all-encompassing angle of view is that you must conscientiously try to keep your own body parts out of frame! And while I was attuned to this fact – having done two separate tests with it prior to this 5 Frames shoot – I still managed to slip an elbow into the below image!
the second time around
I had photographed the Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena with this camera/lens/film combo once before when I set out to capture something epic for the last sunset of 2020. And sure enough, that series of photos came out unlike any others I’ve taken, in part because I engaged the internal red filter on the lens.
The added contrast did in fact create a moodiness that I am not accustomed to seeing from my go-to ILFORD FP4 PLUS, but it also caused me to massively underexpose almost the entire set. Here is one of the keepers from that first set for comparison.
This second time around – also taken at sunset – I let the FP4 do the talking, and I greatly prefer the added detail that the unfiltered emulsion bestows upon this truly beautiful bridge.
The film was developed at home in Kodak HC-110, scanned with an Epson Perfection V500, and digitized using Negative Lab Pro.
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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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