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Thursday, 02 January 2014


Interesting thoughts and I can see the value of each of them. My own would be similar yet different, of course.

Zeiss Contax II with a 50/3.5 collapsible Tessar. I've had Leicas (a IIIf & a CL & used other people's M's. None comes close to Zeiss.)

Canon 7 rangefinder. Best LTM I ever had the pleasure of. Missed it so much I found another recently even though I can't afford decent LTM glass right now. But someday ...)

Crown Graphic hacked into a field camera.

Rolleicord III. Simple. Elegant. Glorious.

And, almost surprising me, once I got a prime lens for it (the 17/2.8) my Olympus E-PL1 for showing me that a digital could be a real camera that I wanted to have with me everywhere. It was the first one that felt at all like the rangefinders that dominate my list and with an EVF allows me to work the way I like to work.

Fun to consider these things. Thank you, Mike.

"but that's because I'm foolish, not because I'm ignorant"
Sums up pretty much the latter part of my life...we'll see how the remainder goes.
Bonded with my Pentax MX, but not much else since, including my current Fuji X-E1, though the D700 comes close.

How does one know that he loves a camera/lens/automobile/motorcycle/restaurant? He doesn’t forsake it for the next newest model and he overlooks its obvious faults. By that measure, I’ve not loved any of the above. Good friends maybe, but not love.

"Owned by my Dad, stolen from me." Canon AE-1, in black with a 50/1,4 Canon SSC lens. I used it for a bit every now and then when I was 9 years old or so and my dad loved it so much, he couldn't bear me using it, so bought me a compact 35mm camera. Later when I returned to the Canon when I yearned for an SLR, he didn't hesitate to buy me another camera (again!).

When I think back on it, he must have saved up plenty to buy it, because he was rather poor at the time. To let me use it when I was 9 or 10 would have been very brave. I still have very many lucid memories of my dad teaching me how to use that AE-1 and me peering through the viewfinder wondering how amazing it was to focus on the world at f1.4. And the sound! How I loved the sound of that shutter, the mirror blackout, and winding on the next frame. I would always sneak a couple of frames with no film in it, silent in complete rapture of the mechanics of it all.

How I miss that Canon and my dad! I'm seeing him in 2 weeks, so I'll need to dig out that Canon!


Since you agreed with MR about the camera of 2013, I thought this goes along with this post. Describing the Oly's customization (but that is irrlevant to this post):
"Sounds complicated? It is. But for someone who uses their camera all the time (me), and who takes the time to psych out all the possibilities, it turns the E-M1 into one of the most customizable cameras ever."

I include the Wista 4x5 and the Leica M6 among my favorite cameras. They are a joy to use, however I noticed that I had a larger number of keepers made with earlier and cheaper cameras - cameras that were meant to be stepping stones on the way up to the Wista and the M6.

I love my Wista and Leica M6 cameras to death, but my actual photographic "hits" favor their earlier predecessors. Each time I select a negative made from one of my trips to Italy, I find it ironic that it's likely to be from 1993 - the year I traveled with just a Leica CL and 40mm Summicron - and before I owned the coveted M6 with several lenses.

It shouldn't surprise me. I've had the same experience with women too.

Nikkromat FT-N. My first real SLR. I lugged that thing along with a 50mm and a 70-300 around in my backpack all through college in the 1990's. It was built like a tank. Sadly, it was stolen when my apartment got broken into.

Olympus OM-1n. It was like a beautiful jewel that I could only dream of owning when I was a kid. I would go to the local camera shop and take home the free brochures just so I could look at it and dream about owning it. I recently bought a used one and now it sits proudly in a display case. Brings back fond memories every time I look at it.

Konica-Minolta A2. From the same era as the Sony F707/808, Canon Pro1, Oly 8080. My first "real" foray into digital. An unheard of 8MP with built-in anti-shake technology, external controls for everything, manual zoom, articulating EVF, eye sensor, and so many other groundbreaking features. I'm still kicking myself for selling it. It would look great in my display case right now.

This column and Pak-Ming Wan's comment bring back memories I haven't thought of in a long time. My first camera was my father's Exakta V. It only had the waist level finder, no prism. I learned how to do photography with it and "turned pro" with it by selling photos taken through the microscope to my high school biology department for $0.50 a print. Finally my father got fed up with me having his camera, took it back and got me an Argus C3! Boy was I bummed out. No more thru the lens viewing. Lens quality not as good. But I have to admit I learned a lot from that camera. Eventually (~15 years) I used it to teach my to-be-wife how to take pictures when she went on a cruise to the Agean Sea. I also gave her the extinction exposure meter I had been using with Exakta and Argus. It continued to work, and she came back with some excellent pictures. I still have the Argus and meter. Haven't tried the camera in many years, but the meter is still very close to readings with current digital meters. Still I never loved the C3 as I did the Exakta, and had even bought a VXIIa when I could afford it, before I moved to Nikons.

My Dad's camera that I started with was a Ricoh Diacord L, a Japanese TLR. I lugged it all through a trip to Israel and England when I was 14. But what I wanted was a 35mm SLR, which I thought wS cool and better, so after I convinced my Dad to buy a Konica T3, I never shot a single roll with the Diacord again. Fast forward 35 years. Now I know how much better medium format image qualities can be. I love looking at a ground glass with two eyes. So last month I bought this old Diacord, a fixer upper for sure, but loads of fun. Every feel of every control feels familiar.

For me it was the Pentax LX ...I have never enjoyed making photographs more than when I owned and used that camera. Mind you, part of that enjoyment could well be because of the better physical capability I had back then. Today crawling around on my knees to photograph frost on a fallen leaf, or a Mountain Lady Slipper is a heck of a lot more difficult.

Cameras capture memories. And sometimes they are memories.

- Frank

My favourite camera would have to be a full manual Nikon F that I bought new in 1971 and used for some 30 years. There's a dent in the prism housing from where I dropped it once and the corners are a little brassed but it never failed me all that time. And I loved the 100% view from the finder, loved to print my negs right out to the edge and beyond, and just found it to be for me the archetypal camera. Enjoyed a couple of Hasselblads for a while too, and had a couple Leicas as well. But couldn't compose as intuitively in a rangefinder. Seeing my image surrounded by black was so much more straightforward for me. And unlike now, I never really longed for a newer model. Well I did once have an F2 with meter prism for a while, but I never bonded with it like I did with the F. I used the F mostly with a 35mm and a 100mm lens. Then later I had a 24 for a while too. What a contrast to the number of cameras I've gone through in the digital era since I bought my first Canon 60D in 2002.

Nikon 8008s, Konica Hexar, Mamiya 6, Nikon D700, Olympus E-M5, Panasonic LX-3, iPhone 5 (smirk).

Its specifications may seem far behind today's extraordinary digital cameras, but my little Ricoh GXR is such a pleasure to use that my Canon 6D and 5D get little exercise. The GXR isn't particularly handsome and it isn't speedy, but it is an honest image-maker and the image quality is indeed pleasing. Ricoh made a photographer's camera that exemplifies the maxim, "form follows function." I think that I'll be using it long after my other digital cameras have been sold or retired.

I've loved a lot of cameras, some more than others. It doesn't seem to have anything to do with the pictures I get from them. I've owned and loved a whole series of nice film cameras, but when I look back on any given year, my favorite photos are all from whichever humble digital camera with a consumer zoom I happened to own. First, a Canon Powershot, who's primary distinction was using (rechargeable) AA batteries, and a modest zoom that started at a remarkable (for the time) f/2.4. I even have a few 8x10 prints from that hanging in my house. Later it was supplanted by an Olympus E-520, which I resented for its size, weight, focus tolerance, appearance, poor ISO performance, and lack of affordable lenses. I learned to later resent paying full price instead of waiting for a sale. Despite my enmity, it served me well and produced many excellent photographs for my family and my art, even though most were through its supposedly unremarkable kit lens.
I now exclusively use an E-PL1, a camera considered to have an outmoded sensor, sluggish focusing, and poor controls. (Which it does.)
I like it. It's been two years now, and the plastic where my thumb rests has become smooth and shiny. Last year, I replaced the kit lens with the Panasonic 20mm, and with few exceptions, it hasn't been off. It holds well, it makes good pictures, and I can always put it in my coat pocket. There is no remembering to carry it, it just exists by my side. The battery is becoming a nuisance, often wanting to be charged now. The strap is a thin hand me down, as much as 25 years old, which wads up in my coat pocket nicely.

I often think about what I might replace it with, but I'm not excited to make any of the trade offs necessary. I can't see using something bigger, I can't see spending more on the next one than I did on this one - shopping just isn't appealing to me.

With all the digital gear I've tried and bought over the years, nothing worked for me like the 6mp Nikon D50. I truly love that camera and will probably return to using it this year, it still takes wonderful photos that just look better than any of the new cameras...sounds crazy but the images it makes look like photographs if that makes any sense. I've not found that look in any of the new cameras.

My Nikon FE with a humble 50mm 1.8 is the other camera that does it for me. I still use it regularly.

You wrote:

...the late, great Burt Keppler of Popular Photography and Modern Photography magazines—

Do you mean "Bert" as in Herbert? I'll always remember him for recommending the Promaster 4100 as a lightweight tripod. I still use it today!

Sony F-707 - The F-707 seemed "imported from the future" in a way that even current digital cameras don't—those were interesting times to live through for camera aficionados.

I came into digital with the F-717, which improved some of the shortcomings of the F-707. I loved its tilt back and became spoiled, and now my cameras *must* have a tilt screen!

I admired the Wista in the Zone VI catalog when it was the first of the ill-fated "Zone VI View Cameras."

Can you explain what you mean by "ill-fated?" I still have my Zone VI 4x5 -- I don't know if it is a Wista.

"Do you mean 'Bert' as in Herbert?"

I do mean Herbert Keppler--he went by "Burt," which he spelled with a "u."

"Can you explain what you mean by 'ill-fated'?"

The Zone VI camera had a very rocky history. Very briefly, after getting flak for merely relabeling a Wista (and I think earlier a Tachihara, but my memory isn't clear), Fred Picker commissioned Ron Wisner to build a camera to his (Fred's) specifications. When Ron wanted to sell the same camera under his own name, Fred balked, saying he had "designed" the camera. Ron said that was nonsense, that Fred had only specified what he wanted and he, Ron, had designed it. They ended up in a bitter and costly lawsuit that dragged on and on. Ron won the suit, but I don't think he or his business ever fully recovered. Later, Fred hired locals to build "his" camera in Vermont, copying aspects of Ron's design and risking further conflicts with Ron, and those cameras had a variety of quality control problems over the years that came and went. It even caused havoc on the secondhand market!

The whole thing was a mess that created an awful lot of "discussion" and bad feelings over many years.

(One funny spoof back then showed the then-new Nikon F4 with the "4" changed to a "P." The caption read something like "The All-New Zone VI 35mm Camera.")


Tools. Having spent most of my working life working with my hands, I can understand and appreciate an emotional attachment to certain tools. I've got a favorite hammer that's been with me for a long time. It's one of a dozen or so that I own, but it's the one that I reach for most often. That tool has been my partner at every house I built, repaired, or knocked down over more than three decades. I can tell lots of stories about the jobs we've been on together, but I can't bring myself to wax poetic about the hammer.

The same goes for my cameras. I've had my favorites - I still love my old F2: to my eyes, it's a thing of beauty, but my attachment to it has more to do with our shared experience than ergonomics, haptics, or aesthetics.

When I think about the tools, I think about the things they've helped me to make; the buildings and the pictures.

Whadd'ya say, Mike? The tools are part of the experience. How about a follow-up post on the other part; your all-time favorite pictures? I'd be very interested to see and read the comments.

The best camera I ever owned was the Nikon 801 with which I did theatrical photography ( http://nigelvoak.blogspot.it/2013/11/another-age.html )

I had two of these indestructible cameras that never failed me despite the pounding I gave them and I could use blind in a dark theatre to change film. They were a big step forward from the Nikon FM2’s that I used previously.

In the digital age my Olympus OMD EM5 has also gained my affection thanks to the image quality I can squeeze out of this little toy like camera.

I like hiking in the Italian Apennines and the fact I do not feel the weight of my M4/3 camera kit on my shoulders like I did with my Nikon DSLR with a couple of fast zooms has done much to gain my affection for the EM5

My favorite -- was it my first decent camera, a K1000, the thing that really hooked me? My first pro-ish camera, an F100, which felt so solid and efficient? No, it was the M8, in spite of not being 'full frame', in spite of those nuisance IR filters, in spite of... in spite of... it taught me to be better at taking pictures (better, not necessarily good). Wish I could afford the M.
But I echo Richard's comment-- why were the Zone VI's ill-fated? I lusted after them (and many other Zone VI products) in the catalogs even if I knew I'd never be up to the view camera commitment. So here's my reader request: Someday, please tell us the Zone VI story. Please.

Professionally? Hasselblad, Hasselblad, Hasselblad, and the Deardorff with Goerz Red Dot Artars in Compur shutters (I still have an 8.25, 10.75, and 12!)...

But, as you know, plus one on the Contax Yashica for me, especially the lenses, but my favorite body was the 167MT, to this day, the easiest auto bracket setting ever...with the lenses I loved, the 25mm, 35mm, 85mm, all f/2.8's.

Yes. There have been quite a number of cameras through my 'gadget bag' over the 'digital years'. Most now passed on to younger people of my aquaintance, who are enjoying using them.

The cameras with which I've really felt at-one: Olympus XA, Canon Ixus (the original with 2.1Mpx, and CMY sensor colours), Sony W1, and Pentax *istD. The first three are all eminently pocketable, while the relatively compact dimensions of the *istD with prime lens enables it to fit into my handbag. (And caused most of the other contents to be jettisoned.)

There have, of course, been other capable cameras, but it's those four that have stood the test of time.

I have an amazing Linhof 4x5 that my father yelled at a lot. I yell at it too, as I think I have 1 good shot on that beast. 1. After a decade + trying off and on. I also have a Linhof Tech 70 that I get great work from, and a 6x9 that makes great work. But 4x5 remains...elusive.
Hassys are the same - I had a 500 and 503 that I never could get good stuff with, but a Kiev 60 and now, a Pentax 67 that makes amazing images. And I get lucky often with a SWC, but the 500s? Nope.
Form factor counts. I still think that the M6 is the most perfectly distilled camera, and I have come to accept that the 'slow down and think' methodology of LF work just isn't the way my brain sees images, but auto-everything cameras shut my brain off in another way - so the simplicity of an M6, or the auto with choices of my Nikons or Fuji makes it possible for whatever weird little monkey in my head to see the picture i want to get.

But I still bought a new box of 4x5 film. I'm gonna kick that football, yessir. One day.

[A brief suggestion for that 4x5 ambition if I may...think "studio." --Mike]

I am very looking forward to your KM-7D portfolio!

My first (that actually worked) was a Kodak Instamatic 104. Awful camera (and film format), back in 1963. But it lead to others that actually worked, such as a late-50s Ciro that taught me film and print processing and even night time exposures at Joshua Tree.

Seneca 5x7 field view camera with an Ektar lens in a Wollensak shutter. Technically, Dad owned it, having put up the full $75 for the camera and lens, but he wasn't interested much in photography. Contact prints (never had access to a 5x7 enlarger). Stupidly sold it to fund some bit of optical glitz.

Leica IIIf. Loved everything about it, except I was moving to macro and closeup photography to the expense of almost everything else about the same time. Still should have kept it.

Mamiya Sekor 1000DTL, for a first SLR that lead to Canon F-1's (and F1n's that I used from 1971 through 2005 when I switched to digital in the form of an Olympus e-300). Canon FD macro lenses (50/100/200) for 30+ years. A Topcon Super Dm for a while in there.

Bronica SQ-A with an 80/2.8 Zenzanon, 'til money got really tight for a while. Mamiya RB-67 kit; love the lenses, haven't used it now for several years, between the weight in the field and no darkroom at home. Still...

Currently, an Olympus e-5 that I don't worry taking just about anywhere, in any weather conditions. Lovely glass, not enough time in the day.

If medium-format digital backs just weren't so expensive. That, and if my back were happier hauling loads.

This article has a familiar ring to it, Mike. Maybe I've just read your columns for so many years I'm remembering bits of them as a whole. In any event, I love reminiscing about memorable cameras.

The first non-box camera I ever owned was a Mamiya-Sekor 500DTL. It lacked a lot of features I later found indispensable but I developed a love of photography through it. From the Mamiya, I moved to Nikons--first a couple of used Nikon F models and then into various F2 models. I've not really liked any Nikon models since the F2 and I still have my first-purchased plain prism, black body with all the dents and scratches it accrued over the many years I used it almost daily. After a particularly nasty accident, my insurance company totaled out the camera but I bought it back and had Nikon Professional Services get it back to work again.

I've used a number of Pentax and Mamiya medium format cameras through the years but they never really gained "favorite" status. Along the way, I tried a Leica M4-P and metal Wista 45SP (actually two of them because some miserable SOB took my first one along with my TV and stereo one night). I wasn't a good candidate for rangefinders or view cameras at the time either. But several years later I found myself using a pair of Leica M6 cameras. This time I really got into the whole rangefinder experience. I loved those cameras and used them in preference to any other for several years. When I finally became comfortable shooting with a digital camera and finally accepted the fact that the future was going to be in digital photography, I reluctantly sold all my Leica gear. I still miss those Leicas although I believe selling them was the right thing to do at the time.

Among digital cameras, I really don't have a favorite. In fact, I have settled into using decidedly unexciting Canon and Olympus DSLRs for most everything. It's hard to form an emotional bond with a camera these days since it goes out of production within a couple of years. But that's okay. The cameras have become less important to me than the pictures I take.

Easy one for me. The Olympus OM-2S Program. It has only recently gone into semi-retirement because it is literally worn out and has been replaced by a couple of OM-4T and an OM-3Ti bodies. The film OM system is still my primary ax of choice and I only shoot digital when I have to. There is just something special about the Zuiko 35-80/2.8, 28/2 and 100/2.

The Olympus E-1 just got sold off last year, but I consider it a masterpiece of a camera design. Absolutely no DSLR felt as good to hold as the E-1.

Yes! I'm still measuring new cameras by how close they can get to the Sony F707! I bought mine on the basis of the lens reviews. I wanted the best lens on the market, and at the time the F707 was it. I initially thought the LCD and the articulating lens/body were hooey, having come from the film SLR world (Canon A-1 after Pentax Spotmatic). Then I started using it and fell in love especially with the articulation mechanism. Anybody who didn't own one should not be allowed to comment about this point: by moving the whole body, relative to the lens, your hands stay in good position to access all the buttons, especially the shutter release! The whole motion was so fluid, since you didn't have to move either hand: just twist the body up or down as you felt the need to change perspective. No other articulation mechanism can achieve this ergonomic masterpiece! My only complaint, really, was that the zoom rocker switch seemed backward from my first right up to my last photo with the camera (and fixed in the 717 update). Thanks for reminding us of this great early camera.

My first "real" camera was the excellent Yashica FX-2 (ca. 1976-1980), which I received as a gift in the 8th Grade. It was a chromed-brass-and-aluminum tank with match-needle metering along the lines of a Pentax K-1000. Although not as mechanically elegant as the Pentax, the slightly larger Yashica felt better in hand and offered access to a wide range of excellent Yashica and Zeiss optics. I still have one today, recently restored to like-new condition by the superb Mark Hama (www.markhama.com), a retired Yashica employee who built TLRs at the company's factory in Japan and later rose to become manager of repair operations in the United States. (If you're looking for Yashica or Contax service, Mark is the guy to ask; he has a large inventory of the defunct company's repair center parts and does excellent work).

One small correction: Yashica LTD was still an independent company when it launched the Contax line of cameras in the 1970s. It wasn't absorbed by Kyocera until 1983.



My first "real" camera was the excellent Yashica FX-2 (ca. 1976-1980), which I received as a gift in the 8th Grade. It was a chromed-brass-and-aluminum tank with match-needle metering along the lines of a Pentax K-1000. Although not as mechanically elegant as the Pentax, the slightly larger Yashica felt better in hand and offered access to a wide range of excellent Yashica and Zeiss optics. I still have one today, recently restored to like-new condition by the superb Mark Hama (www.markhama.com), a retired Yashica employee who built TLRs at the company's factory in Japan and later rose to become manager of repair operations in the United States. (If you're looking for Yashica or Contax service, Mark is the guy to ask; he has a large inventory of the defunct company's repair center parts and does excellent work).

One small correction: Yashica LTD was still an independent company when it launched the Contax line of cameras in the 1970s. It wasn't absorbed by Kyocera until 1983.



When I was about 11, my dad got a new camera to replace his old Pentax Spotmatic.
He gave it to me but said "first you have to learn what to do with it". So he taught me.
I still have and use that Spotmatic; that's my favorite camera of all times and, also, got it on the best time of mi life.

As a committed dabbler I am ashamed to list everything I have used. I most enjoyed the Leica CL for convenience and quality with the 40mm and 90mm lenses. I also owned an M6 and Haaselblad 500c for a long time , got some excellent photos but they did not make me a better photographer. A Contax 167 was excellent then a Canon EOS 5 provided the bulk of my negatives currently held in folders . Currently a Fuji x100 gives superb results but I most enjoy using my Widelux f8. This is the ultimate simple camera, 3 speeds, handholdable at 1/15 sec, fixed focus and very sharp. For the shy user it is a great icebreaker as using it almost guarantees friendly curiosity from interested bystanders.

My favorite cameras? In chronological order:
-The Honeywell branded Pentax Spotmatic my Dad bought in the mid-1960s and I used in highschool the following decade.
- The f/3.5 Rollei Twin Lens Reflex my dad had his brother buy for him at a PX in Frankfurt i nthe early '50s. It sits on my desk today.
- My first Nikon F. I bought this my junior year at UT from photojournalism student Harley Soltes. It had a sportsfinder on it. later it was stolen by the crackhead son of a fellow photographer in Houston.
- a 1972 Nikon F2 Photomic I bought from Houston photographer Fred Carr. It had heavy mileage on it. I put a lot more film through it. Still have it too and it still works relatively smoothly . As Marty Fisher once said, you can pound nails with that thing and you won't hurt it.
-Sinar C 4x5. I needed something with the precision of a Sinar P but was easier to travel with than the P. The C model had the rear standard bearer of a P and the front standard of a the light weight F camera. It took twelve years but I wore it out.
-Canham 4x5 DLC. An amazingly versatile, rugged and stable all metal 4x5 that traveled nicely, handled nicely and could use lenses from 58 to 720mm without needing to switch out bellows or use recessed or extended lens boards. I'm sorry I sold it.

for digital cameras
- Canon EOS 1D X, Nikon D4, and Nikon D800. The latter two I was loaned by Nikon when I reviewed them for a magazine I write for.

Mike, I'm late reading this post but since comments are still open, i feel compelled to tell you that story. Just after I signed for my first real job, the same day I went to buy a Contax Aria and 1.4/50 (I'd planned on the 1.7 but the vendor made me a deal on the 1.4). I think this camera was the spiritual heir to the 139Q in the Contax line-up. After I unfortunately dipped my Canon in the water, I used the Aria exclusively for 6 months. Not long after that, I ditched all the Canon equipment and added, guess it, the 35 and 85mm f/2.8s. Same size, same construction, same undefinable sex-appeal. Similarities end here though: at the time I'd reasoned I was buying me 2 more 50mm lenses, albeit a longer one and a shorter one. Only to discover later that I am blind to the 35mm angle of view, which got confirmed after using only this lens for a month. I fare better with 85mm, though I find it less useful than 50mm. To this day, the Aria+50 combo has been by far my favorite equipment and was it not for the digital revolution, I'd probably still use it. I have kept it although I'm not returning to film now.

Other noteworthy cameras... I searched for a long time for a digital match to the Aria, until I got the K5 and 35mm limited. At last I'd found a digital camera I really liked, and I loved the lens and the pictures it gave me, but the focus has always been hit or miss... So I'm transitioning to E-M5 and can't believe I put up with the K5's autofocus for so long. The OMD is a fantastic camera but it's utilitarian, it's never gonna be a "loved one". On the other hand, I need to check if there's a lens turbo somewhere that would allow me to mount the Contax 50mm on this camera. A 1,2/35 mm Zeiss lens for Olympus? Can't be bad!

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