Revisiting my 1977 Motorsport photography with m4/3


Mu-43 Veteran
Feb 2, 2019
Real Name
Since the start of this year I have updated my copy of Photoshop Elements, discovered RAW and purchased Topaz DeNoise to reduce the noise in RAW images!.

Whilst I am still hopeful about motorsports in 2021, and am looking forward to a limited use of some of my new tools and discoveries. In the meantime I’ve been processing my (several thousand ) 2020 motorsport images. For a change I thought I would dig out some of my old slides which were mainly from the 70s/80s. Whilst I couldn’t be bothered with getting the projector and screen from the loft I thought that digitising the slides using my m4/3 equipment and RAW would be interesting. I had previously had a scanner which could copy slides (in 2009) and when that broke (in 2014) I bought a cheap slide copier. This time I have used my GX80, Olympus 30mm Macro lens, an £8 EBay slide copier, an LED light source and new (to me) RAW and processing skills.

When I came across two slides of “identical” cars which had raced both at the 1977 British Grand Prix and then last year’s 2020 Donington Masters it was a good opportunity to reflect on photographing motorsports from an amateur perspective over the 40+ years and share my observations.

My motorsport photography in 1977 consisted of my brother’s Zenith E, a 300mm lens (either Panagor or Paragon), a Soligor 135mm 3.5 and either Ilford B&W film unless it was an “important” meeting in which case it would be Agfa CT18 colour slide film. With hindsight I think that the cost of the film must have been the main issue, as I only seem to have taken one to two 36 exposure films even for a Grand Prix. I’ve tried to put today’s prices on the equipment and the best I’ve come up with is £650 for camera, £400 for lenses and between £10/15 for a processed 36 exposure slide film.

The camera was manual exposure, manual focus, the lenses poor quality and the film had an ISO of 50. My hit rate wasn’t very high and with hindsight I’m surprised it was as high as it was!.

I now take significantly more images in a single meeting than I took in the twelve years from 1973 (my first real GP) to 1985 (my last with slides). I recollect that shutter speed must have been an issue for me, as I did occasionally use GAF slide film which had a higher ISO rating at the expense of IMO poorer colour and rendering, but it was a matter of using what was available to you.

Looking again at the original 1977 images, the exposure, colour, clarity, and noise were horrendous (in today’s terms) but have been polished a bit with 2021 editing using Elements and DeNoise. These are 2 images out of 59 slides I’ve found.

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I hadn’t photographed the entire field and only a couple from each of the support races. Access was better in those days as there was limited catch fencing, and an ability to go round the paddock on Friday practice.

If I compare my 2020 images of the same cars, I took over 8,000 photos and culled 7,400 to leave 600 of last year’s meeting. I have at least four images of each car from the main races at different parts of the circuit plus most entrants from the support races too. I had taken both my G90 with PL100-400 and G9 with Olympus 75-300ii and a couple of 32gb cards, with me. In total this equipment would have cost me about £2.3k at the prices I paid. If I use one 2020 camera outfit as a proxy, it would be a similar cost to the basic SLR outfit in the 70s.

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I had a full day’s enjoyment of photographing plus many weeks enjoyment of editing in the winter months with my 2020 efforts. The 1977 images bring back such a lot of memories but also highlight the constraints of photography in the 70’s. My 1977 experience would have consisted of cost constraints to the amount of film I took, high hopes after taking the pictures, anticipation whilst waiting for the processed slides to be delivered (a week later?), and finally setting up the projector and screen only to be disappointed with the actual results.

We are so lucky today to have access to such sophisticated equipment and technology for our hobby. Because of the ability of today’s equipment I can see that my skills have improved, and my expectations have increased at the same time as I'm relying too much on the equipment to do everything for me. Consequently, my enthusiasm has now been re-ignited to get back to trying the basics again!. I had already (re)discovered manual focus in 2020 but now want to try smaller burst rates (and even single frame), manual exposure (with RAW) plus seeing what I can do with post processing.

Now all I need is to survive long enough for vaccination and social distancing to allow restoration of something allowing us to approach “normality”. This is perhaps one area where 1977 did have an advantage!.
Last edited:


Mu-43 Regular
Apr 30, 2020
This is great, and an inspiration for us youngsters in quotes lol.. my kids say I'm old as a rotten tree, I must go out and shoot more

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