A few weeks ago, early April 2022, I grabbed dear daughter and headed to the Dixon Gardens to get some photos of the seasonal tulips. If you haven’t been, you absolutely have to go. I’ve been attending the annual tulip bloom at the Dixon for several years, and it’s always an exciting time. It means the end of winter is near and spring is in full swing. This year I decided to take a different camera than my Hola, so I took a really neat Fujifilm GA645W. I also deviated from the normal Lomography 400 and Ektar 100 I usually take, and opted for Kodak Gold 200 and Kodak Ektachrome 100. I was totally at the mercy of the camera and the films, and in the case of the latter, the lab and their scanner!

Let’s start with the camera. It was released by Fujifilm in 1995. It uses 120 or 220 roll film, and is a fully-automatic, auto-loading, auto-advance, auto-focus rangefinder. It has a manual mode, but outside a couple of shots to test with, I shot in P mode the whole time. It’s extremely quiet due to the leaf-shutter in the lens. It is practically silent; even quieter than my Leica. The 45mm lens is basically like shooting a 25mm wide-angle lens on any regular full-frame, so it takes some really wide shots.

While the shutter is quiet, its electronic advance is typical of the 1990s, but not enough to scare anyone. The focus is pretty sharp when you can nail focus. This is a bit typical of nineties auto-focus, and a few shots where I tried to catch my subject I found I was more often getting the background or foreground. However, with a bit of practice this camera can be a killer everyday medium format companion. I can imagine myself spending hundreds of dollars on film and development if I took something like this on vacation. As of the time of this writing they retail anywhere from $700 – $1500 depending on what country you source. They might be found cheaper in photography circles or on FB Marketplace.

The film was something new, too. Kodak recently released Gold 200 in 120 format, so I snagged a couple rolls from the Film Photography Project’s store. I’ve been a Fujifilm guy for a good long time and hadn’t really had much good luck with Kodak Gold, but recently others have been having some really great results with it so I decided to give it a shot. I was not disappointed. It’s colors are warm but not too far from the natural, and it maintains vibrant reds and greens.

The other film I took was a roll of Kodak Ektachrome 100 slide film. I decided beforehand that I was going to send this roll off to The Darkroom for processing, and I was not disappointed. This film renders colors much closer to their actual colors than the Kodak Gold (at least in the shots I took). In the comparison below, the Ektachrome is on the left and the Gold is on the right. Also to note is the quality of the scan. The photo on the left was scanned at The Darkroom’s lab and the one on the right in my Epson V550 Perfection scanner. The quality is night and day to me. The lab-scanned negatives are much sharper and higher quality, and how they manage to eliminate dust is awe-inspiring.

Left: Kodak Ektachrome 100 – scanned at The Darkroom. Right: Kodak Gold 200 – scanned on my Epson V550 Perfection.

Notice the oranges in the tulips around the status are much more natural on the left, while a tad saturated on the right. The same with the greens. Granted, color correction in my Epson could likely account for some of that and this comparison might not be completely scientific, but I see this in other Kodak Gold photos, too. The colors are warmer and a tad more saturated. I actually like both. I do, however, really enjoy the scan quality from a professional lab. Below are some other photos from both rolls. I’ll let you decide which you prefer, but I’m smitten by both.

Ugh… crisp stems, blurry flowers. Stupid auto-focus!

I think had I used manual mode for this shot I could have nailed the focus.

In closing, I really enjoyed shooting the camera and trying new film. I am way out of practice, though, and haven’t been shooting much. I think I might have done some stuff in March but didn’t write about it or even share any of it. I also have this nagging desire to sell a lot of my film cameras and get back to just shooting one or two cameras – the Bronica and the Leica – although even the Leica could be on the auction block soon. This is normal when one spends the prior evening trying to figure out which of the hundred cameras he’s going to take to the outing the next day. As I just got back from Discovery Park of America, l did manage to choose just one camera and just one film brand, so look forward to that coming here in the next few days!