Thursday, May 28, 2015

Recoding the DX Barcode for Automatic Film Cameras

The Nikon D80 is my primary digital camera, but I carry a Panasonic LX-5 when I need a more compact option. For example, when trail running, the little LX-5 is an awesome solution, one that enables me to document the scenes and experiences on my runs. I've carried a DSLR in a fanny pack before, but it's a bit cumbersome on longer runs.

My “go-to” film camera is a Nikon FM2 SLR. This has been my primary camera for the last few years, as I've been shooting film almost exclusively. I yearned for a "film LX-5" option -- for times when I wanted to shoot film, but didn't want to carry the FM2. I used to carry an Olympus Stylus point and shoot on backpacking trips back in the 1990's, but I hadn't shot it much since then. I dug through my boxes and brought the old Olympus out of retirement.

The Olympus Stylus is a fully automated point and shoot (i.e., an idiot camera), which doesn't allow the photographer any control over the settings. In addition to automatically setting the aperture and shutter speed, it reads the DX barcode from film canisters and automatically sets the film speed. This last feature caused me some heart-ache because I like to shoot Ilford XP2 Super 400 B&W film – and the film likes to be over-exposed by a stop. Shooting at box speed (ASA 400) usually yields muddy shadows.

Google to the rescue!

I searched the Internet and found a solution. Basically, I could modify the DX barcode on the film canister, so the camera thinks it's loaded with ASA 200 film instead of ASA 400 film – and it'll then over-expose the film by one stop. To do this, I followed the procedure at this website. Using a pocket knife, I scraped away the “black” areas in the barcode that needed to be removed and used black electrical tape where it needed to be added.

Here are a few photos from the Olympus Stylus, shooting Ilford XP2 Super 400 at ASA 200. Recoding the DX barcode seemed to work well. This would also be a great option when pushing film. I typically shoot Kodak BW400CN with the camera set to ASA 1600 and have the photo lab push process the film by two stops. If I ever wanted to shoot BW400CN in the Olympus Stylus, I would need to modify the DX barcode, so the camera thinks it's ASA 1600 film.

Trail near Maguire Peak in the Sunol Regional Wilderness

Trail sign near Maguire Peak in the Sunol Regional Wilderness

Future PGSL softball star

1 comment:

  1. Love how you fooled the camera, u r such a smartypants!!! Photos came out great!!!