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Monday, 19 November 2018


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Wait, you were the artist behind "The Great Pigeon Safari"? I thought that was André Kertész!

Got it! You’re an anything-but fanman, in this case “anything-but-Canon” ;-) Given Canon’s position this’ll make you unpopular with the maximum possible number of people ;-) which is the opposite of what you intended :-(

It seems to be a standard (maybe THE standard) "debate" maneuver today that when you disagree with someone, you try to discredit them as a person rather than actually rebutting their argument in any meaningful manner (which takes effort and often requires intellectual skills that are no longer taught).

I could never be a blogger - my skin is way to thin. It reminds me of Gary Cooper in "Sargent York" - the minute you raise your head above the trenches you're going to get shot.

In this new world of instant no-consequence feedback I don't think it matters what you say or how well you say it, someone, somewhere is going to disagree (and go to the trouble of telling you).

I am curious though. How many individual cameras would you estimate that list of yours translates to?


"Agfa (a beautiful antique Super Isolette I bought from Jurgen at Certo6)"

I currently own a beautiful antique Super Isolette that I have had since about 2011, and that I also bought from Jurgen. If you sold yours back to the same place, I wonder, could it be the same camera?

I also have owned a lot of cameras in my sixty years of active shooting. My first 'serious' camera was a 6x6 folder of uncertain pedigree, but the most interesting was an AGI 35mm interchangeable lens compact, uncoupled rangefinder. It was entirely (including lenses, and shutter) made in the UK (London). Unfortunately, I only ever owned the 45mm lens. I had it for most of my teenage years and I have two regrets: I sold it when I was 21 to buy an entry level SLR, and while I did have it, I didn't take way, way, more pictures. (Girlfriends, family, and events perhaps best left in the past.)

A see you included a gratuitous ad copy for a Nikon S2 in the post. There is a Nikon S3 sitting near me just waiting for a film re-load. I get an illogical and irrational amount of pleasure from using my old vintage cameras! There must be a deep psychological reason, but I'm not convinced I want to investigate!

Ok, I'm game:

Best built / best quality: Old Zeiss Contax II RF. Beautiful steel and brass with insanely well made lenses. I miss my 50/3.5 uncoated pre-WWII collapsible Tessar.

Brand I've owned the most of: Canon FD, followed by Canon EF & Canon rangefinder.

Camera I was proudest to own: Leica IIIF

Camera I had the most fun with: Leica IIIF. Nothing like that utterly slow camera to make me slow down and make each shot count. Plus the looks on peoples faces! The only camera that got better stares was using a Speed Graphic in handheld rangefinder mode.

Weirdest: Kiev 5. Look that monster up...

Cameras that took the best pictures: Leica CL with a 50/2 Summitar. Wide open, beautiful weirdness, 'cron sharp when stopped down. The one lens I miss the most.

Curious fact: "I've done a lot of my best work with cameras that had no meters" Agreed.

Cameras I liked best: Either the Canon T90 or the Leica IIIF. Easily each was the best of their respective styles.

Camera I liked the least: Olympus OM1 - too small for me to comfortably use and I really disliked the controls on the lens mount.

Somehow, I still have a soft spot for Nikon. The Nikon F was my first really serious camera and the F2 is still on my list of favorite cameras I've ever owned. Nikon fell out of favor with me with the FM and F3 models and Nikon Professional Services really hacked me off when their solution to my F3 reliability problems was that I should buy a used F3P model at full retail price. I passed on that and bought a new Leica outfit instead.

Years later, and no longer a professional, I decided I wanted to buy an autofocus camera. My first choice was a Nikon but I couldn't decide if it would fit my old Nikkor lenses (it would, I found out later). My research indicated Canon had better AF anyway so I went over to their side. And I stayed on their side through my final film years and well into my use of digital equipment. During that time I also dabbled in other brands but stuck with Canon until Fuji enticed me away with their smaller size, superb prime lenses and Leica-like handling. Canon cameras never really ignited a lot of passion in my soul but they were dead-on reliable and every new model was an easy learning curve. Canons are comfortable cameras.

And yet I still have that soft spot for Nikon. When they have a new model, I look at the reviews and press releases. But I don't buy one. I'm not sure why other than I already have too many cameras and my Fujis still make me happy.

Nothing will, alas, ever revive the lost glory of Nikon. There was an aura that surrounded the brand that has dimmed with time and practically dissolved in the quagmire of Nikon's many digital age misadventures. It is painful to be witness to the passing of a legend.
Newer legends are being born, but who can ever forget the velvety smoothness of an F2's film rewind, as if the gears were coated with butter, or the precision of its shutter release.

Actually, there is a bias in your list, and it's one I run into often with my readers. Your list is highly retro. Thus, designs like the Nikon DSLRs, which changed quite a bit from the old dial-based cameras tend to put some people off. If Nikon hadn't messed up by using too much D600 DNA, the Nikon Df would be the Nikon you like. Almost sure of that from all your comments. Which also means you'd like the current Fujifilm X cameras.

As I've noted many times before, the camera companies got into a habit of fixing things that weren't broken. They're still doing it, too.

Since you're into automobiles, you can see the same thing there. Look no further than the controls for the radio and heater/AC. On a Tesla (modern) you get a tablet. On a few cars, you still get dials and buttons (retro). I'll bet you like dials and buttons on your car.

The question you have to constantly ask yourself as you age into the retirement population is this: am I missing something? Is my desire for older style controls really rooted in something functional, or am I just reacting to progress?

[Hi Thom, Not too sure of that judgment. That's 50 years worth of cameras, so of course some of them look retro NOW. The Instamatic was the latest thing for 9-year-olds when I got mine. The N8008 and F4 were the latest things when I bought them. So were the RZ67 and Mamiya 6. Contax was advanced for its day (the 167MT seemed almost futuristic) and the Rollei 6008AF was the European pro standard and technologically had it all over the relatively primitive Hasselblads that were commonplace among pros in N. America. Even the Diana was hot at the time!

Of course a few things were anachronistic, but that's mainly because I couldn't afford anything else. When I bought the Exakta 66 it was the cheapest medium-format camera you could buy new, I believe--and anyway I bought it for the lenses, which were better than some of the older Zeiss designs for Rollei and Hasselblad. I got my Konica-Minolta 7D used when it was a few years old, but I couldn't afford anything of similar quality new.

True, there are some deliberately antiquarian choices on the list, but most (like the Super-Isolette and the Chamonix) I never used much. And what's retro about my GX8's? Just because they came out halfway through 2015? --Mike

P.S. Touchscreen controls in cars is not PROGRESS! It's economizing. :-) ]

I currently own one each Bronica, SQ-B, SQ-A and SQ-Ai. Why three? It turns out that if you want a particular lens it is sometimes cheaper to buy it attached to a body than to buy just the lens.

I confess to the laziness that has kept me from putting two of them up on eBay.

I re-learned photography almost 20 years after high school on a pair of Nikon 8008s cameras.

Amazing viewfinders. Amazingly terrible autofocus. But who cares. A couple of dozen of my favorite photos taken by me were taken with those machines.

For someone in their late 70s I've owned very few cameras. I find it less expensive to barrow or rent.

• 1940's Bakelite Kodak Brownie I carried it in my US Army duffel-bag, 1960s.
• Argoflex Seventy-Five TLR box camera A high-school graduation present.
• Pentacon 6x6 Used for my college darkroom class, 1960s.
• Bell & Howell Eyemo Super35 motion picture camera.
• Canon Elan 7n
• Canon 20D
• Canon 40D
• Sony NEX 5n
• Nikon F100
• Leica IIIa

Cameras I've borrowed.
• Various S8 motion picture cameras
• Bell & Howell Filmo 16mm motion picture camera
• Arri 16S 16mm motion picture camera
• Nikon F
• Graflex 4x5
• Eclair ACL 16mm motion picture camera
• Canon film Rebel
• Toyo 4x5

Rental Cameras I've used.
• Mitchell S35R and BNCR Super35 motion picture cameras
• Eclair NPR 16mm motion picture camera
• Canon 1Ds, 1Ds2, 5D, 5D2, 5D3

OC/OL/Oy gevalt 8-)

Even if you marry the one you love, you may not always love the one you marry. Changing cameras is cheaper and easier than changing spouses.

Unless you have a bagful of lenses.

Regarding your Nikon article and the blowback response, two thoughts come to mind. First, "... doth protest too much, methinks," with apologies to WS. Second, and more importantly, I think your 20,000 -foot view of Nikon was excellent photography journalism, the kind I don't find elsewhere. Why? Because it takes a long view of a major player and documents an interesting pattern that tells me more about Nikon than any detailed camera review ever would. And you know what? I don't really care much about Nikon one way or another. I have used their cameras along with a long list of other brands that comes close to rivaling yours. I care about my experience with the machine and the results. But being pro or con the brand? Not interesting in the least to me. Yet understanding how major players do their best to exploit the consumer market is interesting and only this sort of long view gets at some larger truth. Thanks.

As you grow in your photography "career", be it amateur, pro, or in-between, cameras come along that catch your fancy and you latch on to them. Their "sticking" power would also vary, with some falling out of favor quite quickly and others warming more and more with you over time. This has been my history and I bet a lot of others have very similar stories.

I have owned a wide range of cameras and Nikon has probably dominated too, starting with the Nikon F. But the brand has also provided me the widest range of reactions - ranging from apathy to ecstatic. The high points were the D2X & D700 - I can return to the raw files produced by those cameras and readily produce printable pictures I enjoy looking at. Even though I have moved on, I think they were the "best" overall that I ever handled. They seemingly made it "easy" to take good photographs.

I now shoot with a Fuji, because I warmed to the "throwback" nature of all the dials and "real" aperture ring and was smaller. It so happens it also takes good pictures too. As I wind down my career, I think I want to finish the way I started, with a Nikon, but must admit I'm not sure why.

You have been accused on the interweb. No defense is possible.

More generally, the concepts of thinking out loud and exchanging ideas are history. It's now attack, attack, attack. We've gone mad.

I loved my F4s. The thing I loved most was its modular design. Need a different viewfinder? Press the release button and change it. Want a different film back? A different style of power winder? All easy to swap. And the thing was bombproof. Very heavy and durable. Until I mistakenly put in lithium batteries.

So you felt your only recourse was to double down hatin' on Leica- again...

I bought the Nikon S-2 pictured in the ad illustrating your post. I was in my early twenties, this was my first serious camera. The address for the importer is 251 Forth Avenue NY, seems like it might be close to the store where I bought the camera. This was the early 1950’s. I think it was 42nd Street Camera.
(Camera stores didn’t have great reputations in those days.)
I wonder what the S-2 went for then. Does anyone have an idea, what it might have cost then?

This is the only place on the internet were we can expect civilised comments about brand loyalty. Any Samsung haters out there ? ;)

I would be interested on any memories you have of the CLE, and specifically the Rokkor 40mm. I bought one fairly recently, and it's close to my ideal camera: I think I probably prefer it to the Pentax MX which is saying a lot (I have three MXs and I'm likely to inherit a fourth...). But it had no lens, and after realising I couldn't live with a 50mm for it I bought one of the CV 40mms, which is a nice lens I think. But perhaps the 40mm Rokkor is something I should seek out.

"Curious fact: I've done a lot of my best work with cameras that had no meters"

How interesting is this observation. We can assume that a meterless camera requires manual focusing and exposure, cocking the shutter and using film. Does it imply that the more you have to be involved in the picture, would translate in better results?

I would love a discussion between you and your readers on the matter because most the pictures I have framed and hanged on my wall have been taken with film cameras. I often wondered if I am a consenting victim of analog hype, or if indeed, there is some point to use old cameras. Just throwing this up in the air.

That Agfa Super Isolette sure is a handsome camera. If you think you got kickback from Nikon fans in the Fuji X-H1 post, just think what K. Rockwell received in his review of the Agfa Super Isolette (https://www.kenrockwell.com/agfa/super-isolette.htm) ! ("Much better than any LEICA, ...")
I'll bet the Leica fans were apoplectic!

Nice to see the Nikon 801 as it is labelled here in Europe. This was the workhorse camera that I used for my theatrical photography.

I put countless films through the two bodies I used in tandem, and they never let me down. I wore out a couple of FM2’s quite quickly, but the 801 was indestructible.

I still have these two cameras. They are so battered that they have zero resale value, and I cannot bear to chuck them out.

One has a “repaired” shutter. One day a film broke and finished up in the shutter. The repair guy flattened a shutter leaf out with a ball point pen. It worked perfectly afterwards.

Wow! With cameras, you are like me with cars...

Lots of bloggers talk about their favorite cameras, but I've never seen a post about their worst cameras. Mine is easy: a Zenit B that I bought because it used the same screw mount lenses as my Mamiya-Sekor 1000DTL. The Zenit was a Russian joke that had a latch that caught on everything and popped open the back (finally wound rubber bands around it) and a shutter speed knob that spun went the shutter actuated. The only good thing was that it cost very little.

As a former Nikon digital user (and current owner of several lenses), I don't see what the fuss was about: you didn't say Nikon makes bad products. The viewpoint that Nikon's product lineup is a mess is an interesting one and defensible. Sure one can argue that you picked some weaknesses for making your argument, but on the other hand you didn't mention the lens lineup either.

The only bias I see here is that Fuji is often mentioned and usually in positive light. I guess it's because you like Fuji cameras. I don't have a problem with it even though Fuji's cameras aren't really attractive to me from a usage perspective, but thus I also don't read those posts in detail.

You are writing about photography. It is good that you have experience from different kinds of equipment. Not only brands but really different kinds.
It looks like a bit more than I had, over 42 years now, but really not that much different. Some different brands, but just about the same kinds of equipment.

So what! Use what you like. You have the advantage of being in the public eye and can be regarded as a 'connoisseur' of cameras. The rest of us just guess at what might give us a superior image... and then take images. Stop messsing with the creative side in contrast with the tech side. I like my images, whether by nikon film, nikon digital, lumix digital, sony digital. It's the image, not the camera!

Interesting views. I would guess that not many people would rank Contax RTS as best built over Leica M.

I too, put quite a number of miles on my Nikon 8008 (not as many as you), and found it a very useful tool. It's build quality reminded me more of my Diana cameras than anything else, but it's viewing screen was really excellent. And it really worked well as long as I ignored the idea that it could choose exposures or focus. Mine was pretty poor at both, but I didn't have the "S", just the early 8008. But with manual exposure and focus it was a good camera. I did trust the metering as long as I used that as a starting point. I never felt I needed to carry a meter when I was using it.

I really liked the 8008, but found the images from Leica lenses on the M series were enough better that I stopped using the Nikon.

Not an important choice, I was making my living with large format. So for me the 35mm cameras were somewhere between a sideline and a hobby.

Similar path, over a similar timespan, but I was into larger formats and not into rangefinders very much.

-Yashica (Lynx 5000–miss it)
-Mamiya/Sekor (first SLR)
-Pentax (KX—2 of ‘em, Spotmatic, and much later 645, 67, and 645z)
-Canon (F1, TX, T90, Elan II, 10D, 5D, 5DII)
-Mamiya TLR (C3, C33, C330, the camera I made money with for 30 years, at least what little money I made with cameras)
-Linhof (Kardan Color, issued to me by my architecture school)
-Newton Nue-View (dreadful! Hated it, hated it, hated it.)
-Calumet 4x5
-Cambo SC
-Kiev (35mm, 88, 60)
-Pentacon Six
-Exakta 66
-Sinar (F, F2, P)

My wife has the Nikon stuff, which prevents squabbles over domestic borrowing, though it is expensive.

Mike, when you listed Contax among your cameras, which type? The pre- war rangefinder, the Bullseye, or the 1980s SLRs?


I'm game too:

Best built / best quality: Nikomat EL. Really tough brass body coupled with tight tolerance. Once I dropped it from a 10-ft tall wall and it survived with only minimal dent.

Brand I've owned the most of: Nikon, now followed by Panasonic.

Camera I was proudest to own: Nikomat EL, especially when I hear people describe their modern cameras "built like a tank".

Camera I had the most fun with: Olympus EE3. Before the advent of digital cameras this half-frame camera freed me (mostly) from changing film rolls and batteries (but it provided programmed AE).

Weirdest: Praktica MTL-3. From time to time B-shutter didn't work when the camera was hold in portrait position.

Cameras that took the best pictures: Nikon D200. Actually it's not about the camera, but the very good 18-200 I used almost exclusively with it.

Curious fact: My first medium format camera was a toy camera. It took quite a while for me to seal the light leakage.

Cameras I liked best: Panasonic GM5, a great walkaround system camera.

Camera I liked the least: Nikon D800e. The huge size and the weight (especially wthen coupled with Sigma's 24-105) were what made me move to the m43 camp.

"Weirdest: Kiev 5. Look that monster up..."

Sorry but you lost. I had a Kiev 6. That is a monster.

My first Nikon, the F, was a revelation for anyone coming from an Exakta Varex.

The F2 was more comfortable to use all day because of the slightly rounded edges.

The F4s was beautiful but had to be dumped because I could never coax the self-loading thing to work first try; often took three embarrassingly public attempts to load a film.

The F3 that I bought to replace it (I'd mistakenly imagined that the F3 was obsolete when I bought the F4s) is as useless as any digital when the batteries die. The single mechanical shutter speed left you is not generally useful unless you do a lot of studio flash; I think it's just a 60th sec, but as the camera lives in a safe, I'm not about to look to find out. Even I don't remember how to break and enter. Given the choice of a new F2 again, that's where I'd stay with 135 film.

Hasselblad 500C and also CM were my favourite 6x6 cameras but I could only use them hand-held wandering around connected to a studio flash or, if not, then on a tripod. (These larger cameras really are tripod machines, especially when you use longer lenses, but that's my feeling with all formats I've owned.)

I had a Mamiya TLR for the period when I needed a longer lens for headshots - I had the 180mm - and it accompanied my Rolleflex TLR for a short period. I hated the Mamiya camera and loved its lens.

My first 6x7 was a Bronica, and the Hassy/tripod issues continued with it. Sold it very rapidly.

My second 6x7 was a Pentax 6x7 Mk.11 which was beautifully made but gave so much bounce, both shutter and mirror, that I had to dump it very rapidly too. It was not used off the Gitzo even once.

Which is where the F3 I referred to earlier came into my life when I realised that, for my puposes, I should never have abandoned the 135 format in the first place. Rebuilding a Nikkor armoury one had already owned is a painful experience.

My first digital was a D200 and the second, a D700. I still have both and hope never to have to replace them with anything. If I do, then it would still be Nikon, probably the D850 or a new D810 if one were still in a shop somewhere. I would not buy a used camera. I have bought a couple of used manual Nikkors and they still function as required, but I generally distrust used stuff.

Best built / best quality: Solidest was probably the Zenit 3m – recycled from tank parts, I think. Best quality would be the Pentax MX.
Brand I've owned the most of: probably Pentax; Nikon comes second.
Camera I was proudest to own: The MX.
Camera I had the most fun with: Probably the one I carry all the time; currently a Lumix LF1.
Weirdest: Probably the Nikon 1 V2. Or the Olympus C1-Zoom I was given recently; half the settings are only available when the thing appears to be turned off!
Cameras that took the best pictures: Film would be the MX, again. Digital? Well, they are all capable of taking good, if not great, pictures - it’s the twit behind the viewfinder who ruins things!
Curious fact: I collect 10MP cameras. That curious enough for you?
Cameras I liked best: the one I use most at the moment is the V2, which probably means something...

Mike wrote, P.S. Touchscreen controls in cars is not PROGRESS! It's economizing. :-)

Like all such statements, it depends. Most automobile control functions are better controlled by buttons, switches and knobs. Maps are best controlled using the touchscreen. I have two cars with, one with and one without. Every time I try to navigate using the non-touch screen controls I say bad things and think worse.

You are right about the difference between progress and economy in control systems. Something interesting happened with musical instruments along these lines. In the 1980s (and in fact the very late 1970s) with the arrival of digital synthesis it became possible to have synths with almost no knobs but rather a menu-based interface. A lot of synths started becoming like this, because knobs, especially ones which are resistant to all the stuff that gets done to synths on the road, are expensive. And these things are often sufficiently hard to drive that people just use the presets.

Things got better with better screens as you could see what was happening more: programming a DX7 was a nightmare, programming a modern screeny synth is merely painful.

But it turns out that there's almost no substitute for synths with a lot of physical knobs, and where one knob does one thing. A couple of years ago I bought a synth, brand new, and its top surface is entirely covered in knobs: you can pretty much read its state by looking at the positions of the knobs. Really expensive synths have motorized knobs (or sometimes knobs surrouned by a ring of LEDs to show their logical position) so that when you select a preset, the knobs move to show what the setup of the thing is (this originated in mixing desks I think, which have had motorized faders for a long time).

(Similar reasons explain why I'm typing this on a laptop, not a tablet.)

Mike said: P.S. Touchscreen controls in cars is not PROGRESS! It's economizing. :-) ]

An interesting story I read in one of the car books. It sounds more like David E. Davis than John R. Bond, so it must have been C&D. The writer was sitting next to a USAF General during a flight. The car guy was expounding on analog instruments—when he was through he asked the fighter-pilot if he agreed. The General then schooled the car guy on the heads-up displays (HUD) used by the USAF.

At one time the instruments in race-cars were installed so that when the needle was straight up, the readings were correct. If something went wrong it was easy to see. Today's digital dashboards are vastly superior to the analog ones I raced behind in the 1950s/60s.

Form-follows-function. A good tool doesn't get in the users way. A Leica T's iPhone-like controls are the future. From my admittedly jaundiced point-of-view, retro is only the past.

Best built / best quality: Chamonix, Sinar Norma, Rollei SL-66 also a solid contender

Brand I've owned the most of: Nikon

Camera I was proudest to own: Kodak Brownie 127, my first camera

Camera I had the most fun with: Minolta CL with 40mm lens, Agfa Isolette

Weirdest: Nimslo 3D camera with frame partitions removed producing overlapping images

Cameras that took the best pictures: Burke & James 8x10 wooden view with a WOLLENSAK VELOSTIGMAT SERIES II 12'' f/4.5 Large Format Lens in Betax No 5

Curious fact: Bought the Sinar 8x10 Norma back that Eugene Smith used for photographing his Pittsburg article in LIFE magazine. Had to sell if for need of $$. Fortunately I still have the case it came in with "Eugene Smith" printed on the side.

Hmmm. Thought so. Not a single mention of Polaroid. I doubt that this is a mere oversight. For years I have read ToP and cannot recall a single article praising Polaroid cameras. Polaroid. The camera used by many a professional back in film days. But you have remained silent. Not even a critical article on them. It is like you are trying to kill them by neglect.

Why do you hate Polaroid?


I have a great many weird cameras, but the two weirdest are probably my 5x7 inch Stereo Graflex, a SLR with two lenses but a single mirror for both, and my Linex stereo camera that was the Lionel train company's try at the camera business with their own proprietary film format.

The 5x7 film holders and their case are marked as the property of the NY Daily News

Bought a gigantic instamatic camera in the shape of Mickey Mouse's head last weekend but that's just a funny looking normal camera.

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