Entering the modern age

Or about as modern as I’m ever likely to get.  Behold, the Nikon F4:

Ain’t she purty?

Of course perhaps you prefer the F4S?

I don’t but I do have both setups and it’s good to have the option if I ever need it.  What I did want are the features on the spec sheet:
-full matrix metering with all AI/AI-s lenses (unlike newer professional bodies)
-easily-manipulable knobs and dials, no stupid menus to wheel through
possibly weather-sealed (at least according to this) though I have my doubts reading further into it
-1/8000 second top shutter speed
-motor drive
-easy-to-find AA batteries instead of something esoteric and expensive
-a reasonable price

So far I’ve put 5 rolls of Tri-X through this camera using primarily the aperture-priority function and so far I’ve fooled it maybe a couple times. It just works and I don’t have to worry about it or overthink it.  I picked up an AI-s Nikkor 35mm f/2 lens at the same time to make sure I had the most up-to-date manual focus lens I could use for the maximum feature set.  Here are the results below:


A friend of mine just got a Contax G2 system and I’m sure it cost quite a lot.  I spent much less but this is the G2 of the Nikon F manual focus world, and the F4 has one thing the G2 doesn’t have: a hefty weight.  Though if I had to make a guess on which will still be working in 10-20 years…I think it will be mine.  But back to that weight: everything is contained and compact so compared to an F2 or F3 with motordrive and batteries this is much smaller and lighter I’m sure.  For everything you’re getting I don’t see the point of even owning an F3.  Another thing that frustrates me with electronic cameras is the lag time when you turn it on, getting it to wake up, whatever.  I’ve found with the F4 that I can leave it on all day and it’s always ready to go whenever I press the shutter button.  For what it is and the purpose it serves I can’t think of anything being better.

What the new Leica M6 re-release means for film photography

I’m sure you’ve heard the news.  If not, here it is: Leica is making the M6 again.

Now I’ve never owned a Leica.  I’ve barely even held a Leica.  I don’t even necessarily want a Leica (I only dabbled a bit with rangefinders and Leitz glass).  Leica now makes three film cameras simultaneously, the M-A, the M-P, and the M6. I think it’s great, and of course I want one, but also I don’t, for all the reasons listed above.  Maybe I could get into shooting rangefinders and Leica in general but there are some German quirks that they never got over, which has always scared me away.  But at least Leica is still doing it, and they’re having a hard time meeting demand.  And for that Leica needs to be commended!  Compare to Nikon these days…

The problem of course being that I’m so invested in the Nikon F ecosystem now that it would be hard to abandon just to buy a new film camera.  It’s just a shame that Nikon wanted to keep going more and more high-tech when the prevailing winds are going toward less electronics and all-mechanical.  I’ve articulated all this before; I would love to buy a brand-new FM3a (or anniversary F2) from Nikon if they didn’t decide to stop all film camera production two years ago, sadly.  And maybe Nikon stopped making the F6 because no one bought it…but the fact is that we’ve had 40+ years of seeing how electronic battery-dependent cameras just stop working and become expensive paperweights, with no hope of repair.  I will probably never fully trust them for that reason, even my F4.

Less than 20 years ago Nikon was making cameras like the FM3a and the SP 2005, and sadly those cameras weren’t in demand as much at that time, but it seems times have changed.  I could really wish that Nikon would come around but with them offshoring all their production to Malaysia they’re unlikely to make an all-mechanical film camera again, and that really the only kind I’d be willing to buy.  How much would I spend on one?  For the right camera I’m sure I would save even if it was $3000 or more.  I just spent $900 on a fully-restored F2, so why not?  Sadly Nikon was hell-bent on making cameras no one wanted to buy like the F6 instead of bringing back mechanical masterpieces of their past like Leica has done.  People are willing to pay for a brand-new Leica mechanical film camera but they’re the last man standing, sadly, and unlikely to have competition again.

No need for the Nikon Shuffle

Not that it necessarily matters, but it occurred to me that I’d made a few posts about the other cameras I’ve been using (here, and here) and this camera had been pretty much the middle child so I thought I’d write a post about it, as my other Nikon F2.  It was in the background of this post and I’ve been shooting the camera for a lot of the 2021 season, from the time I completed the construction job and went back to Jeep tours all the way until the Fall when I sent off both my F2 cameras to be serviced by the great Sover Wong.

So here is the camera in the basic setup that I’ve been shooting it since August 2021.

I acquired a chrome DE-1 finder from a generous guy on a Facebook group and have to say that I like the look as well as the lighter weight that comes from using a non-metered finder (I already linked to the earlier post regarding the non-metered finder on my F Apollo above).  Going back to a photomic finder just seems a bit clunky by and bulky by comparison and checking the meter slows me down sometimes.

I’ve even considered buying a black DE-1 to go with my black F2 though I do like having at least one camera with which to test my guesswork on exposure for difficult lighting situations or film that I don’t use too often.

But the thing is, I’m learning my light pretty well and there aren’t too many times when I miss a shot due to under/over-exposure.  I’ve modified the old Sunny-16 rule and when shooting outdoors try to keep the lens at f/8 the entire time, switching from 1/1000sec in direct sunlight to 1/125 under clouds or in the shade.  Indoor lighting will be f/2.8-f/1.4 at 1/60sec.  I’ve been shooting this way since at least the beginning of 2019 on Tri-X (and later Ilford XP2) and it just works; anything I’ve shot since then that’s black & white is a testament to that.  And it makes me want to tell everyone…you don’t need to get some latch-on meter for your unmetered camera, just try it out a couple times!  Nor do you need to pull out a handheld meter every time you want to take a shot.  It doesn’t matter if the built-in meter dies, your camera isn’t ruined or useless!  I always used to think that someone using a Leica from the ’50s with no meter was unusually ballsy but the reality is that it’s not that hard.  Learning how to properly expose ASA400 film has given me one less thing I need to worry about and allows me to work quicker and just get the shot.

The endless accessorizing…

Man, do I love the look of the Nikon F with a prism finder, especially a black body with a lot of wear!  I’m now of the opinion that it’s the most beautiful camera in the world, or at least the most beautiful 35mm SLR.  And since my F Apollo’s Photomic finder was:
1) chrome, so not the original finder for a black body
2) far too early to be paired with a post-1972 Apollo body anyway
3) non-functional
4) ugly
I decided it was time to get something much sleeker, lighter, and better-looking, hence:

(I actually bought one in mint condition first but it just looked too new for the rest of the camera)

Now all the beautiful brassing can be appreciated more!  This camera as it looks above is what I’ve been shooting nearly all of 2020 for my photo project.  This thing has already taken a beating over the last half a century so I’m less careful about where I take it and how gently I treat it; every ding is a story and if this camera could talk I’d buy it drinks all night to hear its history.  I’ve never been one to buy camera equipment purely on aesthetics alone but I confess it’s happening more now that I’ve been delving into the Nikon system.  This finder came with the chrome-bodied F in the picture below:

(and the system has continued to grow with more lenses as well)

Not pictured: my original F2A which is taking the picture sporting the 55mm AI-s Micro-Nikkor. I suppose that using one camera means it can’t be in the picture so I’ve yet to get a complete family portrait but since I shot about 5 rolls of color film around September/October, I would keep Black&White in the F and color in the F2.

(I’m not going to add any more tags, but this one’s Fuji Superia 200, for completeness’ sake)

I was also generously given a chrome DE-1 prism finder recently, which has now gone on my chrome F2 (the DP-1 finder wasn’t working; it seems to be a common failing). The chrome F prism finder came off a parts body I bought cheap. I suppose Nikon should be commended for the foresight to have removable finders as it allowed for continuous upgrades of the F from 1959 to 1968.  And of course over the course of the last 50+ years the electronics on those old finders have a pretty high failure rate, so the people who bought the prism finder now appear far-sighted as well as more ballsy.  Now that people are catching on though, their prices keep going up.  But besides the lens, the right finder is an accessory that I’ll go out of my way to find.  I’ve also acquired film doors, soft-shutter releases, focusing screens, finder eyepieces, finder covers, filters, a speedlight setup, the possibilities and combinations seem endless for creating just what I need to shoot on any given day.  For the photographer with a bad case of GAS, a job, and money to “invest” in new equipment, Nikon’s F system always had something else he didn’t have yet.

In fact from talking to people online it would appear that the common definition of a “professional camera” is one with removable/interchangeable finders.  I’m definitely a fan of the non-metered prism finders, as they’re lighter and just look better.  I shoot primarily Tri-X and know it well enough that Sunny-16 doesn’t bother me, though I should probably get a good handheld meter at some point.  Hmmmm, something else to buy…

Workflow adjustments and Fall colors

It’s a time of change for me: I’m examining workflow which has been stilted since COVID started; I haven’t even edited any photos in almost a year now but there’s been such a backlog it hasn’t been a problem.  My old way was to scan everything on the Pakon, export to TIFF and stick it on a flash drive, then take it down to school the next time I was there and use their computers and copy of Adobe Photoshop CS6 to adjust contrast/exposure until I got what I wanted.  Now with color negative there wasn’t a whole lot to do, the Pakon’s color profiles are fantastic, so I’d generally accept the JPG output, resize it, watermark it, and call it a day.

With the lockdown and finishing up of all photo classes I haven’t been down there, and the only option I had was to use Photoshop 7 that was installed on my WinXP machine I use hooked up to the Pakon.  I have a Win7 laptop but its display is a bit off as is the monitor on the WinXP machine; I have a few rolls of black & white that I’ve had developed and didn’t want to do anything with them until I had a chance to really set everything correctly, but I finally scanned 3 rolls of color negative and would have just posted them straight from the Pakon.  It would have been fine and they would have looked like this:

(that’s the old original watermark which is the only one I happened to have on my WinXP machine at the time)

However, thanks to being blessed with a new (to me) laptop, I feel comfortable with editing photos at home; this is a big change for me! It’s more powerful and seems to be pretty well calibrated in the screen department so I’m planning to dedicate this machine primarily to photo editing purposes.  I’m not about to pay money on a monthly basis to Adobe for a program that I can’t own so I’ve been exploring Photoshop alternatives.  Currently I’m using a free trial version of Affinity Photo which seems to be not too dissimilar.  It’s allowed me to tweak the levels, etc, while still keeping a very similar workflow.  Here are the results so far:

So a bit more contrast, somewhat darker, and I’m playing around with a few different watermarks: I think this is the new look of The Resurrected Camera.

This is Kodak Gold 200 exposed at ASA100 in 3 different Nikon bodies I picked up last year, I wanted to check out the 1/1000 shutter speeds to make sure that the shutter curtains were in sync.  I used an expired roll of film I bought years ago and color negative is the cheapest to develop; around $4.00 at my local camera store.  This also happened to coincide with the leaves changing in Fall so I ended up shooting several rolls of color around the end of September/beginning of October.  I generally don’t do much on the post-side of things, just adjust the curves to get proper contrast and light levels; I gave a general idea of this here.

Is the F6 the last film Nikon?

Since 2014 I’ve seen a few unique film emulsions be discontinued, but I’m sad to see news that this time a film camera has been discontinued.  I remember seeing that news back in October, but reading Johnny Martyr’s thoughts has made me want to comment on this myself.

First of all I agree with a lot of what Martyr says; if we can’t be bothered to buy new and support the companies still making cameras, etc. new, then we can’t expect those said companies to still make them after a while.  I’ve had plenty of arguments over the last few months with people who would never consider buying a new camera (and these are wannabe pros), whether for still photography or motion and honestly these people are thinking poor, and not thinking professionally.  If I were making a living from all that then I wouldn’t be trying to get all my equipment dirt-cheap and using it until it breaks, I’d want something reliable and if that costs more, then I’d consider it a work investment.  That would make having the F6 worth having, I think, because it would last a long time, would come with a warranty, and would still be serviced by Nikon for years to come.

Even more than the F6, the new camera I really wanted was the Kodak Super 8 camera probably made by Logmar, that has still not gotten past the prototype stage.  I’ve heard a few references to it this year, evidently Spike Lee’s COVID music video was shot with it, but Kodak lent him a few prototypes for that.  Of course talking online to people about that camera is an exercise in futility, because how dare I suggest they invest $2000 in a brand-new camera instead of spending $50 on the ‘bay for an untested pile of junk.  I suppose that the last time I talked about the camera I wasn’t too thrilled with the price either but the more I think about it the more it doesn’t seem like too much if it’s well-designed, reliable, and will last a good long time.

But while I mourn for the passing of the last film SLR, I can’t bring myself to mourn for the Nikon F6, mainly because I never really wanted one.  Evidently Canon was making the EOS-1v until just a few years ago, and no one really noted that being discontinued, but then knowing that the two last SLRs date to the turn of the millennium and were the kind of fully-automated high-tech gizmos that I’ve been avoiding most of the last decade has a lot to do with my ambivalence.  Leica’s high-tech pinnacle, the M7, was introduced and discontinued about the same time.

It should also be noted however that Leica introduced something of a throwback around the same time, the M-A which is totally free of all electronics (and also still makes the M-P which has an integrated light meter).  Personally, I see this as Leica listening to what consumers actually want, and that is a solid, reliable mechanical camera (and evidently demand for film bodies is exceeding supply).  While I agree with a lot of Johnny Martyr’s sentiments, I think that if Nikon went the route of reintroducing a non-battery-dependent mechanical camera, there would probably be a lot of people interested in buying one brand new!  I know I would be one of them.  I’ve tried researching just what the Nikon FM3a cost when it was sold new, evidently in 2001 when it was first released around $800 ($1200 in 2020 dollars), but possibly it was only going for $600 by 2006 ($800 in 2020 dollars).  To buy a NOS FM3a today would cost $1200-1500 but there are people doing it.  So if there are people willing to pay that much for a camera that hasn’t been made in 15 years, are there enough people that would be willing to buy one brand new from Nikon if they brought it back?  For $1500-1800 (maybe a little bit more)?

Because that’s what I want to see happen: I want Nikon to replace the $2600 F6 with a reintroduction of the FM3a (at $1800) and I think they could find a customer base willing to buy them.  Heck I think that even if the camera cost as much as the F6 did there would still be lots of people interested, that is half the price of a Leica body.  And also I mentioned it before but considering the 50th anniversary of the F2 is next year, what a brilliant time to think about bringing that camera back!  Nikon did after all make limited edition reproductions of the S3 in 2000 and the SP in 2005; they could do it again.  (Also Nikon, if you’re reading this, make film scanners again too!)

But if the F6 is all there is and now Nikon will be all-digital going forward, there are still lots of things we can buy brand new, from minor accessories to manual focus lenses.  I bought a few accessories myself nearly a year ago.  And I think my New Year’s Resolution will be to buy at least one brand new AI-s Nikkor lens.  Because this very well might be a case of “Use it or lose it.”  Of course the other possibility is that Nikon had a stock of brand new accessories, lenses, bodies, etc, and really stopped making all that stuff many years ago, and we’re just now getting down to the last of the stock.  In that case Martyr’s original article might have helped the F6 end just that much sooner by increasing interest and demand…

Independence Day with the Nikon N60 and Fujipet EE

In the small town of Woodland Park, there are few times that are better to go out shooting than Friday mornings at the Farmers’ Market, but the 4th of July is one that definitely surpasses that: more booths, more people, more space, more going on.  I thought I’d do something different this summer, I’d dig into my backlog of cameras and pick out two that I hadn’t used yet, and give them a go.

As this was the 4th of July, I thought I could at least be a bit more patriotic and use Kodak film this time.  Go America.  I had 5-6 rolls of Kodak Max and Gold 400 film that my aunt had given me when I was in Louisiana for a wedding (thanks, Judy), so I pulled out one of those.  Unfortunately, even being freezer-stored for the past 10 years wasn’t enough by itself to yield good results in the N60.  This camera has no way to override the DX encoding, and one can tell from the pictures that they are underexposed for the most part (the camera store’s scanner had problems with several of the negatives too, there are occasional streaks).  The guy with the guitar is the only shot in which the colors look right.  I think I have 4 or 5 rolls of this film left, I’ll make sure to shoot this film at 100, just to be safe.  I’ve already complained about the autofocus, so no need to do so again. One happy thing about the camera though, is that there was a big chunk taken out of the front element of the lens, big enough that I could see it in the finder, but thankfully this didn’t show up on the film at all, as either a flare or light streak.  I’d read that one can fill in dings with black nail polish or the like, but it really wasn’t necessary.  This N60 was given to me by a family at church who no longer uses it.  If what you want to do is take pictures, it’ll do it, but I’m not a huge fan of these modern-style cameras that make you go through hoops to make the camera useful.  Having to hold a button and spin the one wheel to switch aperture or shutter speed is too much hassle, and then there’s the autofocus.

The Fujipet EE was actually much more fun to use.  I picked this camera up at the city-wide garage sale in the fall of last year, for a whole $2.50.  Not bad.  The guy selling it said that it was the camera he had had growing up in the ’60s.  Just a guess, but I’m betting his dad was a GI stationed in Japan or Okinawa after the war (like my grandpa was).

When I got the Fujipet, I bought one roll of Tri-X 120 film that was put away in the freezer, and I pulled it out for that day.  I took the film to the same place that did my slides, and they did kind of a botched job.  The pictures are the wrong way around, and though they don’t look particularly bad (though not the way I’d want them to look), I wonder if they had the negative flipped toward the film base side instead of the emulsion, so I had to flip those around.  They actually forgot to scan my negatives, and it had to be sent back a second time.  I dropped them off the same day I dropped my 35mm color negative at the other camera store, but turnaround for this medium format black & white negative was about 2 1/2 weeks (and the 35mm was of course done the next day).  They had a special deal they call “Holga processing,” which is processing (color negative, positive, or black and white, you can cross-process, and push/pull is no extra charge), plus a scan for $15, which isn’t too bad.  Still, there’s another option available to me, as yet another camera store in Colorado Springs does regular business with Dwayne’s Photo in Kansas (of Kodachrome fame), and their prices seem to be a bit better.  I’ve loaded a roll of Ektar into the Fujipet, and I’m going to try sending this roll to Dwayne’s, and maybe I’ll be happier with them, but we’ll see.

Speaking of Ektar, which is an ASA100 film: according to this wonderful site (which admittedly is dedicated mostly to the original Fujipet, so I don’t know just how different the technical info would be), I’m guessing that this little camera is set up for 100 speed film, what with an aperture of f/8-16 and a single shutter speed between 1/50-1/60 second.  There is a sticker on the inside of the camera that recommends Fuji Neopan SS (which is ASA100), and the last user of the camera had the box top from a roll of Kodak Verichrome Pan (ASA125), so I bought this roll of Ektar, plus a 5-pack of Fuji Across 100.  Looking at the roll of Tri-X though, it doesn’t look particularly dense (certainly not like it was overexposed by 2 whole stops), so I wonder if I’m wrong about the film speed.  I guess it’s possible that the camera store knew enough with the Holga processing to know that the film needed to be pulled, and admittedly I don’t know enough to tell just by looking if that’s the case.  In fact, I haven’t looked closely at a negative since fall semester, so maybe this roll of Tri-X is overexposed.  I guess time will tell.

The Fujipet EE is extremely easy to use, but there are some quirks.  There’s no way to tell how far to wind the film (and no rewind), so the image spacing is interesting, to say the least.  I started off with a half-turn, then started a whole turn, then went to more (I read about it somewhere, but couldn’t find it again).  I think one complete turn of the winder is correct, though I’ll find out after my next roll I guess.  The lens is I think around a 70mm length, and combined with a speed of 1/50 can produce blur if not held steady, that’s something else to keep in mind.  Honestly, I was surprised at how good the images are considering it’s a super-basic plastic lens.

One last thing with the Fujipet: there’s an actual class on Lomography given at UCCS, called “The Plastic Camera,” and it’s the class that I’ll be taking this fall, in all likelihood.  I really wish I could have taken landscape photography instead, but it doesn’t work out for my schedule.  In any event, the Plastic Camera class is the only one (past Intro) that is completely film-based.  As I type this, I’m also busy trying to figure out the school’s standard scanner, an Epson V600 flatbed device.  So far, the results are promising, but the process is a major pain in the ass.  If all goes well, this could be what I end up using for my medium format work for next semester’s class, which means lots of black and white 6×6 images, and perhaps not much else…

Curse you, autofocus!

Still, I suppose it's not completely without merit...

Still, I suppose it’s not completely without merit…

Technology’s getting me down today.  Here I am trying to upload pictures and it’s just not working.  I’ll have to go back and edit later (edit: I did).  How wonderful technology is when it actually works.  Which right now, it isn’t, for me.  And neither did the Nikon N60’s autofocus, at least not 100% of the time.  And of course, the time it didn’t work it kind of ruined one of the shots that I thought could have been one of my best on the roll.  There were times that I turned off the AF because it wasn’t focusing properly, but that forced me to miss shots as well.  Then I thought, oh, well I’m shooting at f/11 so it probably is getting close enough anyway (I was shooting on aperture priority), I’m just not used to the particular way it handles focusing zones, so I didn’t worry about it.  And then I got my pictures back.

I know the N60 is an old, obsolete design and newer ones would be better, but this has still put me off autofocus pretty much completely.  I don’t need machines doing my thinking for me.