Presenting - NOPO135

The Camera

NOPO is a company that produces handcrafted wooden pinhole cameras. The NOPO135 is their 35mm film offering. I got mine as a birthday gift a couple of years ago, and after I went through the first roll of Fomapan 100, I tossed it into the closet and it sat there for a long time (with a second roll of Fomapan 100 loaded and a few frames in). The reason for that is its operation: While it is a basic pinhole camera that is simple to operate, there is one painful step.


The NOPO135 is divided into two segments that are held together by a magnet. The top has the holder for the 35mm film cartridge mounted, and loading the film amounts to “stick cartridge into one side and pull film out of cartridge until it can be slotted into to winding wheel”. Then put both pieces back together. Done.

Taking a picture is similarly simple: Wind the film on a couple of “clicks” (you start with 15 and reduce by one every 4-5 frames to use the film as efficiently as possible), rotate the shutter until it “clicks” open, wait until the exposure is done and rotate the shutter back until it “clicks” shut again. 

Exposure time is usually calculated by measuring for f/22 with a light meter and multiplying by 40. Easy. If only the winding knob would not be so stiff. Oh well… this is not much of a problem winding forward. But when you are done with the roll, you have to wind it back. This entails turning both knobs in the backwards direction. A lot. When you are done, you might notice that your fingers hurt. Those knobs aren’t very comfortable.


When you leave your house with the NOPO135, you will inevitably want to take a tripod, too: Exposure times, even in daylight, are around 4 seconds with an ISO 100 film. I went to the Schliersee and decided it is time to take my little pinhole camera out into the wild again. So out I went with a tripod and the tiny wooden camera loaded with Fomapan 100 mounted to it. I walked around the lake, and some passersby sure gave me some amused looks.

Taking pictures is a slow, deliberate process. And guesswork. Markings on top of the camera indicate the view angle, but that’s it. You have no idea what exactly is in the frame until you get a look at the developed negatives. You can’t be sure about the exposure times, either. But that is not that much of a problem: For the duration, you just count to the calculated exposure time and hope the latitude of the film does the rest. Turns out that works just fine.


As you can see from the images in this post, this pinhole camera for 35mm film is anything but sharp. Given that it is technology from the beginning of photography, this is to be expected. If a pinhole would result in a tack sharp image, nobody would pay thousands of dollars for lenses, would they? Well… then why buy this camera?

I wanted it because I love the design and the idea behind it. I like the craftsmanship and the wood. And I like the idea of having a working piece of the history of my hobby.

First Roll - CineStill B&W XX Through A Leica CL

My first “first roll” post on this blog. This is a “not a review” type post, where I ramble on about a specific piece of gear (or a collection thereof) and a first roll that was shot using said equipment.

The Gear

The Leica CL came to me as one of my many purchases on the bay. It looked great on the seller’s page and it looked decent when it arrived. It is a small and heavy camera. The smallest camera that I own. Together with the haptics, it gives me a feeling that it is indeed solidly built. Despite the size, I can get a good grip on it, which allows me to carry the camera with ease and at the same time I can reach all necessary functions without adjusting the position of my hand. The shutter speed dial at the front of the camera takes some getting used to, but the positioning does work quite well. The viewfinder and the rangefinder patch are bright, but small. The rangefinder patch shares the available space in the viewfinder with a readout of the selected shutter speed, the light meter reading and two labelled frame lines (no guessing, sweet!). The frame lines depend on the mounted lens. In my case, it shows the 40mm and 50mm lines.

Out of the box, the rangefinder needed adjusting: At infinity, it was impossible to align the edges in the double image. As I did not want to send the camera out for adjustment right after I got it, I went to work on it myself. There is a small plastic cap near the accessory shoe that hides a double screw which allows for horizontal and vertical correction of the secondary image of the finder. That plastic cap is easily destroyed, and of course, I did not manage to get it off without mangling it in the process. Instead of going through the cap, it is possible to disassemble the top of the camera with ease (just a few screws, the film advance lever and the shutter button need to be removed). I should have done that instead, as the film advance lever was sticky and needed some lubrication, too.

Operation of the light meter is annoying: You need to advance the film and cock the shutter. Only then, you can activate the light meter by pulling the film advance lever out until you feel the first bit of resistance. The light meter does work, but the readings are completely off. The reason for this is, that the mercury battery that is expected to be used is 1.35 volt. The replacement batteries provide 1.5 volts. There is a small modification that fixes the problem with the help of a diode that brings the voltage down to appropriate levels, but I did not yet get around to doing this.

The lens that I got with the camera is the Leica C Summicron 40mm f/2. It is said to be the smallest M-mount lens that Leica has ever built, and it certainly is a very compact one that complements the Leica CL perfectly. The screw-on rubber lens hood with the stick-on cap isn’t to my fancy, though. I managed to screw it on too tight, and in an attempt to get rid of it, I disassembled the lens: The focusing ring became one part, the optics with the aperture another. I ended up replacing the screw-on hood and stick-on cap with a cheap regular snap-on cap. Another weirdness is that the labels and markings are dissolving partially from a bit of sweat and water. It looks like the previous owner tried to fix the faded paint themselves, but chose water-soluble paint. For now, I will have to guess which aperture I have selected.


I was looking for a small camera that I can chuck into my bag or maybe even carry around in my jacket pocket. The Leica CL fits the bill: For me, it is a nice always-with-me camera. When I am on my way to work or back home, or when I am travelling somewhere, it is always with me. A quick grab and I am ready to shoot. And as already mentioned, I can get a solid grip on it. I have read reviews that say that focusing is a bit harder compared to other “full size” Leica rangefinders. The reason is the short effective range finder base length, but at least for the 40mm focal length, it works well. It should be mentioned, that I mostly used an aperture at f/8 and did not try any portrait photography with the lens wide open. Somehow nobody wants to play “willing subject”, and the unwilling ones run away faster than I can frame and shoot them. The light meter is useless to me as long as I have not done the diode mod to make the camera compatible with the battery voltage. That is not a big problem with my lazy shooting style thanks to the latitude of the film stock in use. I just go with an approximate ”sunny 16” rule. The shutter speed dial is sometimes hard to turn with one finger. Sometimes it is smooth. A bit hit and miss. The shutter speed reading in the viewfinder is nice and allows to fiddle with the dial while the camera is directly in front of my face. One more thing worth mentioning handling-wise, is the left-sided camera strap mountings: They are a bit problematic when you want to use a wrist strap on your right hand, as I usually do.


My first roll that went through the Leica CL was CineStill B&W XX. As I already mentioned in ”5 Frames - Alpsee On CineStill B&W XX”, the pronounced fine grain of this film stock makes judging the sharpness of the image harder than necessary. From what I can see, the 40mm f/2 is sharp at the apertures that I used. I have not done any exhaustive image analysis, and I have no idea which shot was taken at what aperture, anyways. This is just my overall impression. As is the observation, that contrast is better in moderate lighting. When the scene was brightly lit by the sun, the negatives came out of the scanner a bit flat. That might have been caused by my lax approach to exposure, though, with the sunny frames being overexposed. I often just run around with 1/250 as shutter speed.


I like the Leica CL a lot. It has its problems, and my copy is a mixture of “really nice” and “noticeable wear and tear”. The size does make it a good everyday camera that suits my needs. I am happy with the purchase.

5 Frames - Almdorf Seinerzeit On Rollei RPX 25

This is part 2 of ”Austria With The Nikon F5 And 50mm f1.2”, where I shared five frames taken on Kodak ProImage 100 with you. For this set of five frames, I gave a roll of Rollei RPX 25 a try at the same location and with the same camera.

It is the slowest film stock that I have used, so far, and it came out with strong contrast right out of the box. For all the images in this post, I did only minor corrections.

I like a bit of extra contrast in black and white images, but a flatter film stock would give me more headroom. It has been written (I forgot where), that it is easier to add contrast than to take it out.

A reason for me to use this film more, despite the strong contrast, is the very fine and subtle grain. My recent experience with CineStill B&W XX is the direct opposite grain-wise. It has fine, but very “in your face” grain. I prefer the understated variation of the Rollei RPX 25. It provides a better sense of resolution and makes it easier to judge the “sharpness” of the image.

I have tried out a couple of black and white film stocks over my short time as an analogue photographer, but as of now have failed to find a favourite. Rollei RPX 25 is a strong contender for that position, but I am not sure yet. There are more products out there to try. And try, I will.

5 Frames - Alpsee On CineStill B&W XX

The Alpsee is right next to the valley between castle Hohenschwangau and castle Neuschwanstein. Coming from Schwangau, if you drive through the touristy bits, avoid running over all the tourists, and reach the parking lot at the end of the street, you are right at the lake.

Most tourists are interested in visiting castle Neuschwanstein, which according to legend inspired the castle depicted on the company logo with the mouse head. Or the other castle. Hohenschwangau. I had a Sunday that I wanted to dedicate to running around with a camera hanging from the strap around my neck. It wasn’t my first time in the area, so I decided to start walking towards the lake.

I went further and further, catching the beautiful light on film, enjoying the gentle weather. From time to time there was a bit of rain. Nothing too serious at the beginning. At some point, I started wondering if there is a path around the Alpsee. I kept going, curious to see how far around I could go.

I went all the way and ended up at the parking lot where I started. For the last quarter, the rain had started to get heavier. I went from “slightly moist” to “wet” in about 15 minutes. When I reached the car, I had to dry myself with a towel. A bit of foresight goes a long way, but in hindsight I should have brought a raincoat.

I dragged my trusty Nikon F5 around, with a modern 50mm f/1.8 autofocus lens bolted to it. I had found a roll of CineStill B&W XX in the freezer at home. That was a roll of film that I had nearly forgotten. As far as I can tell, it is Kodak Eastman Double X that has been re-rolled into a 135 film cartridge by the folks at CineStill Film. I was curious to see how it fares, and I am not sure if I like or dislike the look of the results. The images show a distinct, fine grain, that I do not remember from other black and white film stock. Other products like those from Fomapan, Ilford and Rollei do show grain, too. But I do not recall any of them to have such noticeable grain.

It’s not bad. It’s not good. I am on the fence about it.

5 Frames - Nebelhorn Again

This is an indirect second part to the ”Ultra Large Nebelhorn” post. Just instead of showing you pictures made with the 8”x10” camera that I dragged up the mountain, I have five frames made with a Leica M6 and a Zeiss ZM Biogon 21mm f/2.8 lens prepared for inspection. Interestingly, the Wikipedia article that I found about the Zeiss Biogon mentions the Schneider-Kreuznach Super Angulon being based on the Biogon design. This makes the 121mm f/8 lens used on the 8”x10” (20x25cm) camera somewhat related to the Zeiss lens that I had mounted to the Leica. Two similar designs, two entirely different cameras and film format. Even the focal lengths, roughly adjusted for crop factor, are similar: The 121mm of the Schneider-Kreuznach lens on the 8”x10” camera equates to something like 16mm on a 35mm camera, compared to the 21mm of the Zeiss lens. 

In both the 8”x10” and the Leica M6, I used Fomapan 100 as film stock. With this, I can attempt to compare pictures from both cameras. The first thing that I noticed: The Zeiss lens does not flare like the Schneider-Kreuznach lens does. And it does cover the whole negative, unlike its large-format counterpart (which is visible in the darkened corners in the images in the other post).

The next thing that jumps at me: The scans that I get from the 35mm film show grain, while the 8”x10” negatives that I photographed with the DSLR are smooth. That tells me, that there is a lot of detail wasted by taking pictures instead of scanning. At least in the large-format case. I need to find a way to get the humungous negatives scanned. Curiosity is killing me…

The 35mm negatives exposed through the modern Zeiss lens are exhibiting a lot more contrast. All the images that I got from the DSLR (see other post) were mostly flat (which is why I played with the gamma slider and exposure correction in DxO PhotoLab to add contrast). This could be blamed on my choice of camera settings when taking pictures of the negatives, or it might be the way the Schneider-Kreuznach lens renders the image. To the naked eye, the large-format lens looks uncoated. Uncoated lenses are said to be less contrasty, as far as I have read. Which means lower contrast with the Schneider-Kreuznach sound reasonable.

All in all, I am happy with the results from both cameras and lenses. The Leica M6 is a joy to use, similar to the Leica M4-P, just with a built-in light meter (which works great, even though I am a bit lazy regarding the use of light meters in general). The 8”x10” camera is an event, and it slows you down enough to be considerate about scenery, framing and everything else. Unless of course you are like me: “I have 10 negatives to fill! Give me 10 views to frame and shoot! Quickly!”. And the lenses are worth their weight in… well… glass.

5 (+1) Frames - Ultra Large Nebelhorn

On a sunny day in the middle of September I decided to go on a trip up the Nebelhorn. I deliberately chose this destination, because I had planned for a long time to go up a mountain in the Alps to use my 8”x10” (20x25cm) camera up there. I made that fateful day the day it would finally happen. At home I packed my bags: The Intrepid 8x10 (first generation) went into a messenger bag, five film holders went into a backpack, together with the 121mm f/8 Schneider-Kreuznach Super Angulon lens. I managed to stuff the light meter somewhere in there, too.

After a 2-hour ride through the south of Germany, I reached the cable car station in the town of Oberstdorf. There I got to stand in the waiting line, armed to the teeth with camera equipment, sweating because of the heat and my choice of clothing. “At the top of the mountain it will be cold”, I thought. I guessed wrong. Three cable car rides later (there are two intermediate stations), I met with a friend at the restaurant on the peak of the Nebelhorn. It was warm and sunny.

A hearty lunch later, and it was already 1 pm. I went to work: My friend found a nice place for setting up and I got the camera and other stuff out of my bags. (See first image in this post to get an idea of what the set up looked like.) The weather and the view at the peak were ideal for what I wanted to capture. The first exposure was done, and I was ready to move to the next position. Wanderlust and a desire to get home on the same day grabbed my friends attention and he went on his way on the path down to town. A 3-hour hike (according to the internet) that turned out to be rougher and longer than anticipated.

I stayed at the peak, looking for different vantage points to expose some negatives to the vista of a busy mountain range. It seems like a weird guy with a large format camera is no daily sight for those who hike up an down the Nebelhorn. I got bemused looks and wherever I decided to set up, there was at least one curious hiker asking questions about the camera, what it is, how it works and why I decided to drag it up there, instead of going with an easy to carry digital camera. 

For me the answer was always: It’s fun! Curiosity and the joy of taking it slow and deliberate were ultimately the reasons why I bought the camera in the first place. And the large negatives. Oh those large negatives!

After exposing all 10 negatives, I took the cable car back to my parking space in Oberstdorf. Another 2-hour drive and I was back home, shuffling to get the negatives development in my little “bathroom lab”.

The Results

I developed two sheets of negatives (Fomapan 100) at a time in Adonal (Rodinal) 50+1 solution. Two sheets at a time isn’t the most efficient use of my time, as I have a larger drum for up to six sheets, but this was the safer path in cases I made an error during development. After development and drying, I put the sheets into protective covers. Turns out some of them were not completely dry and ended up with a sticky patch that is visible as a large blotch.

The next day I digitized the material with a Nikon D600 (with 24-70mm @ f/8) and a light table (usually used for tracing on paper). I do not have a scanner capable of scanning 8”x10”, which is why the “take picture with digital camera” approach has to suffice for now. The resulting RAW files went through DxO PhotoLab for inversion and some corrections.

It was the first time that I used the 128mm wide-angle lens, and as you can see in the corners it seems to vignette quite a bit even at f/32. Another problem with the wide-angle is the tendency to get more into the shot than was bargained for. I have a couple of pictures with some guard rail in the frame. And this, even though I was very close and sufficiently above that railing.


To me the effort was a success. It may have been a pain to get the camera and equipment up to the peak of the Nebelhorn, and the results may be sub-optimal, but it was a fun, social event. For next time, I would probably take another lens with me, though.

5 Frames - Austria With The Nikon F5 And 50mm f1.2

The images in this post are from a 3 day trip to Austria with a group of colleagues (similar to the trip to Ibiza). I took the Nikon F5 with the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 attached with me and took a couple of shots on site. The film that I tried out on these days is Kodak Pro Image 100 and Rollei RPX 25 (which I did not yet develop).

With the 50mm I either have a problem nailing focus at f/1.2, or it is not very sharp at that fast aperture. Stopped down, it looks plenty sharp to me, though.

The site in Austria was ”Almdorf Seinerzeit”, which is a set of two small “villages” on a hillside, consisting of guest housing, swimming pools, sauna and other amenities. Between those two “villages”, there is the main building with reception and restaurant.

Right around the “corner”, you can find the ”Biosphärenpark Nockberge”, which invites you to go a bit of a hike. After my experience with Ibiza, I decided to be lazy and stay near the “village”. Some quiet time (everyone else was on a hike or riding mountain bikes), fresh air and the landscape: Relaxing.

The only noise to disturb the silence was the click of the shutter.

5 Frames - Boulder With A Leica M4-P

As the avid reader might have guessed, I quite enjoy shooting with my Leica M4-P. It may not come as a surprise then, that on a trip during the early days of 2018, I took the camera and its mate (the Voigtländer Color Scopar 35mm) with me to the town of Boulder, Colorado.

Boulder is right at the feet of a mountain range, which makes the choice of name quite punny. January is a weird time to visit this area: Everything has a tint of red-ish brown, as the colours of dried vegetation, the brickwork of the buildings and the tone of the hills mix into a uniform mush. And the Christmas decoration is still sprinkled all over the place.

I was there, as so often when I travel, for business. My limited free time was spent with meandering through the streets around the Pearl Street Mall and with a short hike to the foot of the nearby hills.

There is not much else that I can tell about Boulder. The time of the year wasn’t ideal, I did not have a car to explore the east of the area and aside from a sight-seeing tour around the office, I did not get out much. At least as far as I remember.

Thus I am left with a friendly farewell and a hardy “Enjoy the pictures, mate!”.

5 Frames - New York With A Leica M4-P

Another week, another trip to New York. This time I spent my free time walking around in Manhattan south of Central Park. One day along the High Line, another day along Broadway up to Central Park, which had a lot of police presence because of the New York Marathon.

In the morning, just after arriving at the office, I had a rather unusual sight out of the window. Unusual at least for me, as I am only a visitor to the big apple. The clouds hung low over downtown Manhattan, with skyscrapers disappearing into fluffy white cotton candy. I had to take a picture of that.

I had the Leica M4-P with me, with the Voigtländer 35mm (the one with the ridiculously long name) bolted on. Another thing in my pocket was the ColorChecker Passport Photo from x-rite (first generation). My thought was: All my scanned negatives look off colourwise. If I have a reference for white balance at the beginning of each series of pictures, I may be able to colour correct properly. (Note: The images in this post have been re-scanned, based on my recent insight into ”scanning film the right way”.)

In the end, taking pictures of the ColorChecker did not improve the situation at all. I still ended up with a nasty colour cast in my scans. Not knowing about this outcome at the time of shooting, I now have a couple of frames with my little ColorChecker in various situations around New York.

Funnily enough: Even though I can’t state enough that I have barely an idea about what I am doing when I run around with a camera, I still was asked by strangers to help them take their picture because I looked like I know what I am doing. That is the “Leica effect” at work. If you want to become a good photographer, buy a Leica. At least in your mind, and apparently in other peoples minds, you will have your goal achieved automatically.

5 Frames - Ibiza With A Leica M4-P And Voigtländer Color Skopar 35mm f/2.5 VM II Pancake

Once upon a time, on an island far, far away. Well, not that far, but still far enough to warrant the use of a plane. It was the summer of 2017 and somehow I ended up at a large hotel complex on the island of Ibiza. Three days (including arrival and departure) with colleagues and an overly ambitious organizing team, far from civilisation as I know it (I grew up in a big city, but I love the outdoors). Various activities planned, among them a hike and a trip to the city.

I had my Leica M4-P with the Voigtländer Color Skopar 35mm f/2.5 VM II Pancake with me. That name is a mouthful, but the lens itself is nicely compact. Together with the little rangefinder, you get a handy travel companion that is comfortable to always have with you.

Walking around the island, especially near the hotel, is a chore of a hike. Just out the door, you start with a hill climb. Then it goes up and down, left and right, along roads and gravel paths. We even went cross country and through the woods where there was no indication of a path whatsoever.

Aside from that near-death experience (the hike), the weather was nice and the sights made up for at least a bit of the pain. And my little Leica was a joy to use: I set the aperture to f/8, the shutter speed to 1/250, and was set for the rest of the day. All I had to do was frame, focus and shoot. The aperture ring on the lens is a little too easy to knock around, so I had to check the f-stop from time to time. Thanks to the wonders of film (a Fuji Superia 200), it did not matter too much. All frames came out exposed ok.

The last day on Ibiza had the trip to the city on its schedule. Until then I had a bit of time to relax and recover from the pain of the hike on the first day. The first stop was down at the harbour. From there, we split up into smaller groups and some of us went up to Ibiza Castle. I got up to Baluard de Sant Jaume, before my body told me it got reminded too much of the exertions of the first day. My group turned around and we wandered through the streets of Dalt Vila. Those streets are photogenic, and around each corner is a potential subject to be framed and shot.

After the sightseeing tour in the city, we got back on the bus and drover to the airport to be stuffed back into the winged tin-can that flew us home.

Using Format