A Comedy of Errors

My misadventures with a roll of Shanghai GP3 and my Sawyer's Mark IV 127


sonny rosenberg

2/20/20233 min read

One of my very favorite cameras to shoot is my Sawyer's Mark IV (Topcon) twin lens reflex 127 camera. I love the way it slows me down and forces me to contemplate each shot. I'ts a beautiful little camera with a great lens, and an aperture that opens to f/2.8 so that I'm free to use as slow of film as suits me.

I'd never shot Shanghai GP3 100 before and because I was having a fairly difficult time sourcing 127 closer to home, I thought I'd give it a try. From first loading the camera, I knew that trouble was afoot. When first winding on it was very difficult to wind, so much so, that I thought my camera was broken or breaking. I was, after quite a bit of difficulty, able to get it to wind on fairly well, but by then I had already lost 4 frames. Hmmmm.

Upon taking the first shot something strange happened again, the film would't advance when I attempted to wind it on. So I fired the shutter again (resulting in the double exposure below). Hmmmm again.

The rest of the roll seemed to go as normal, except that I lost my now favorite light meter, the tiny Reveni Labs meter. Luckily I was able to retrace my steps and found it easily.

When I got home, I had great difficulty spooling the film onto the developing reel. In my previous experience pretty much any 127 film is much easier to spool on than any 120 film. This roll though proved the exception to that rule. I spooled it on several times, but each time it just didn't feel right. I think it was a combination of the extreme thinnes of this film and it's curliness. It's not extremely curly, but it does curl.

I decided to decided to develop this roll in Kompostinol as I've had consistently good results developing medium contrast 100 speed films with this developer. I also wanted to see how many rolls I can develop with this one batch of developer. I think I'm on roll 7 now. During washing, a ton of green dye came off the film, making me think of Fomapan. In appearance the finished shots are also reminiscent of Fomapan 100, at least to my eye.

When I pulled the roll from the tank, the film was very tightly wound around the center of the spool and there were whitish blotches on most frames. I'm guessing those frames didn't get enough fix because they were stuck together at that point?

I had another roll of GP3 in the fridge and decided to use it as test roll to test the mechanism of the Sawyer's. I figured out why it was so difficult to wind on. The film is wound so loosely that it expands a great deal when you start winding, thus offering way too much resistance to winding on. This probably wouldn't be a problem on many 127 cameras, but it's something to be aware of if you have a Sawyer's or a Topcon Primo.

The double exposure part, I haven't figured out. I think the film advance mechanism may be a bit broken in that regard. It may be that I always get double exposures on the first frame, I consider that a feature not a bug though. I'm really thrilled that my little Sawyer's doesn't seem to be completely broken! Last year it was CLA'd by Mark Hama, but I don't know if his sevices are still available? Maybe I need to look for a Baby Rolleiflex or a Yashica 44 as a backup? I think I'm fairly addicted to my 127 TLR at this point. The one thing that I don't love about the Sawyer's is that normally it doesn't do multiple exposures. I wonder if any 127 TLR does?

Oh, this roll was shot at box speed but with a 2 stop no name orange filter and developed for 7 minutes at 86° F in a now quite mature batch of Kompostinol.

Thanks for reading if you got through all this!