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Monday, 22 July 2019

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As recently as 2010, I stumbled across the F100 selling new on B&H’s website for $750, and I just couldn’t resist. I don’t know whether it was nostalgia for the film era, the fact that I had Nikon lenses, or temporary insanity—probably some combination thereof—because I knew before I clicked on the order button that I wouldn’t get much use out of it. I’ve probably only shot ten rolls of film with it, but somehow it’s still reassuring to see it in the drawer.

That said, my Fuji X-T3 is smaller, lighter, just as simple to operate—and, needless to say, has vastly better image quality.

'It was 20 years ago today...'

Point of interest. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released (in the UK) on May 26, 1967 … 52 plus years ago today.

Mike, you must have been peeking into my Nikon drawer! I bought my F100 new when you sung its praises and posted a link on TOP to the camera at B&H some years back. (I think it was selling then at about $600. I already had the FM3a, which indeed is a lovely camera). I bought the 35mm f/2 AF-D at about the same time, and I would say that it's about as much bang for the dollar as you can get; an excellent lens in fact. The AI-S 28mm f/2.8 is in the cupboard somewhere as well. You didn't mention the 70-210 f/4-5.6 D. It's a very compact, light and truly excellent telephoto. I bought mine second hand for $200 on eBay after reading what Kirk Tuck had to say about it. If someone can't do good photography with the F100, 35 AF-D, and the 70-210 AF-D, then they should consider another hobby.

It was interesting to see that there are others like me who have gone back to shooting/developing film after being digital-only for years. Just adds to the fun! BTW, I was told by a used camera sales person, that the reason cameras like the F100, EOS 7n, etc are so cheap, compared to the FM3a, FM2n etc, is that the former look too much like modern DSLRs...

An alternative for those who want something smaller and lighter yet still built to last is the Nikon FM3A. The FM3A, introduced in 2001, was the last iteration of the FM-series. It has a TTL aperture-priority center-weighted metering system and an electronic shutter -- however, if the battery dies the shutter and aperture functions will still operate mechanically even if the meter won't. Try that with any of today's totally battery-dependent cameras; or better yet, don't. The main drawbacks are: 1) Because the body has no handgrip and is solid for its size, it's best used with small primes rather than large, heavy zooms, and 2) It can't be used with Nikon's G-series lenses, which have no aperture rings. Plenty of AI and AIS lenses are still available though.

Oops. I forgot that mention that the FM3A nowhere near the bargain the Nikon F100 is though. Used FM3A bodies average $500-600 in very good to excellent condition and as much as $1000 in mint condition. Guess that only hammers home your point about the F100 being such a bargain, doesn't it?

When I was working in photo retail around 1999-2000, we sold the F100 at (the equivalent of) 2.000 USD (we have a 25% sales tax in Denmark). Some 3-4 years back, I bought a nice copy at a dealer for the equivalent of 50 USD. Great camera, which I much preferred to the F5 due to the smaller size/weight and red AF points. I like using it with my 28/1.8 Sigma for a unique WA/shallow DOF look, although most of my film work these days is M3 and RTS. I’m one of those who do both film and digital.

If I were going to abandon digital, I still have my film equipment including a very nice Canon EOS 7. I kept that both because it is a great camera that I enjoyed using and because for a long time it was vastly undervalued on the used market. I see now it is close to the Nikon F100. I still think I'll keep it. The MF gear needs to be thinned through.

I owned an F100 very briefly 12 years ago while contemplating a switch (I never made it) to Nikon. It was the only camera ever I've held that instantly felt perfect in the hand -- at least, that is, until I got a Pentax K-5.

I would vote for the last great 20th Century Minolta, the Maxxum 7. Just sayin' ...

Bought mine in 2011, and won't part with it... despite it only working in B&W mode. :-)

Film was good enough for me for a couple of decades before taking up digital. It still is. After using it again for a while, it makes the convenience of the (beloved) D700 seem like absolute luxury, even with its mere 12MP.

I won't part with the AIS 105mm f/2.5 either.

An F100 (or F3), Tri-X, Plustek scanner (w/Vuescan), inkjet prints. Affordable, quality B&W hybrid heaven!

For a few years just before transitioning to digital in 2006, I shot pretty much exclusively using the F100, the 35/2 AF-D and the 85/1.8 AF-D. Once in a while I get a longing to use film, primarily because of how enjoyable it was to use that camera and those two lenses. Then I remember how much of my would-have-been future retirement I wasted on film and printing costs in my 20s and 30s!

Everything in its time. Film cameras were fun in their day, but I can now get better results with everything I photograph and shoot new subjects I couldn't dream of photographing in film days.

I found an F100 for $100 and ran with it, great camera. When I was shooting digital Nikons it was a great partner - I still feel that the F4 had a slightly better meter(i can still tell my F4 contact sheets at a glance), but it's still my go to AF film body. Sadly, my EOS A2 that saw me through so much doesn't hold up as well, the body flex and picky mode wheel are a lot harder to ignore now.

One clue to prove the possible new found popularity of film cameras is the pricing. A used F100 in ex+ condition could be had for $199-$249 a couple of years ago.

Check out Mamiya 7 prices. Some years ago a 7 and 80mm lens in good condition sold for $1200 or so. My local dealer has one for $2400 in bargain condition and said dealer has very decent used prices.

I have been shooting both digital along side B&W film for 16 years or so now. I have strong urges to dump digital, dust off the enlarger and just shoot B&W film. Far more fun for me.

Oh BTW with an F100 one can use a lens like the Tamron 35mm 1.8 VC. Yes vibration control shooting B&W film. Near cheating it is.

I'm over 55, jumped back into film full force about 7 years ago. I mean, all the way in. Jobo processor, drum scanner, Scitex flatbed, Large and medium format cameras, mat cutter, etc. Digital just didn't give me the satisfaction of creating a photograph as I get with film. Not sure I will ever go back.

FYI https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheFilmCameraShop. Derrick Story is restoring film cameras. He's a blogger I follow. I'm not pushing this, it's just to show that people are interested in film. I suspect that most his followers aren't young.

Get one fast, because now I expect the price to skyrocket! :)

Vis-a-vis the Nikor 55mm f/2.8 Micro lens, I would mention many of them suffered from oil on the aperture blades--this personally told to me by Marty Forscher's Professional Camera Repair.** (Remember them?)
_____
** My 55mm f/2.8 actually was/is fine--the repair was to my FM-2n. The FM-2/FM-2n are (very) much less expensive and likely the equal to the FM-3A except for the hybrid exposure control.

Mike, that is nice to read. I bought this Nikon F100 in 2005 because you wrote about this Camera in these days. I still use it from time to time together with a Kiron 28/2,0 mm and the 105/2,5mm. Nice to remember the time when everybody wanted digital cameras.

Christine

I have a lot of film cameras but my favorite is a Nikon N75 with an 18-55 DX lens. Great from 28 to 55, roundish images at 18. Fast auto focus and VR works. Feels much better in hand than a Leica or F3 and it even has a pop up flash for emergencies. The N75 is really light to carry and produces very well focused and properly exposed images with minimal effort. The F100 has more features but the N75 has all I need for my 4 or 5 rolls a year.

The Best Film Camera Bargain is a Canon EOS Elan7n (or en with eye control). This was the last Canon film camera (2004).
1. Diopter is user-adjustable from -2.5 to +0.5.
2. Metering range: EV 1-20 (ISO 100).
3. Flash metering: E-TTL II Program Flash. Can use the latest Canon Speedlites.
4. Built in flash: Guide No. 43 (ISO 100, ft.) Works great for fill-flash!
5. Multiple exposures: Up to nine exposures can be preset.
6. Focusing modes: (1) One-Shot AF; (2) Predictive AF with AI Servo AF; (3) AI Focus AF; (4) Manual.
7. Shutter speeds: 1/4000 to 30 sec. (in 1/2-stop increments), plus bulb.
8. Film Speed Setting: ISO 25-5000 automatically set in 1/3-stop increments according to DX code.
9. Battery: Two CR123A lithium batteries (6V) loaded through the camera grip bottom. Still easy to find, Duracell, Energizer, Panasonic.

They can us any Canon EF (not EF-S) lens. Flip the switch if you want to manually focus. Some EF lenses have built-in IS (image stabilization).

Best of all they can be purchased for less than $100.00 today.
https://global.canon/en/c-museum/product/film245.html

I purchased a low-milage Nikon F100 about ten years ago, for $250.00. Two years ago I had a hard time selling it. Some Nikon F100 body rubber becomes sticky over time. Be sure to ask! I sold the sticky F100, a 50mm f/1.8D lens and a SB-8E Speedlight for the princely sum of $125.00. Meh!

Close to my transition. Hopped on eBay and back into photography around the same time in the ‘90s. Got me a F5 and a F100 (without any real need for an F5 whatsoever, merely gear lust). Held onto the F100 while adding Contax and then started dropping it all after I bought a used Canon D30 (after seeing a photojournalist using two at an event I was writing about).

After many years, still missing Contax and actually selling my Canon gear and dipping into Nikon again, next to my Olympus kit.

While I loved the FM3a as a camera, the match needle and I didn't get along as well as the LEDs in the FM2n. The LEDs just made it so much easier to shoot in low light. But then again the FM3a had aperture priority so I loved it for a different reason. Ultimately my greed won out when I found I could sell the FM3a for thrice what I paid for it. At that point I was shooting a D700 for my work and film was only used for fun personal stuff anyway.

My feeling is that if you are going to use film you should least use 120 film.
The Mamiya C series of cameras are outstanding bang for the buck in my opinion.

Re: the sticky micro nikkor 55 2.8
I have three of them and when I get two that are stuck I overhaul them myself. After the second time it’s pretty easy.

Next time I’m just not going to lube them at all.

Film camera prices have been steadily dropping, except for the cult classics, for years. However, for whatever reasons, Leica M6, M7 and MP prices have shot up in the last 6 months or so.

I am heavily invested in scanning equipment, so in theory I can shoot film just about as easy as shooting with digital.

I’ve owned a DSLR since 2005 but continued messing with film cameras. Buying them, playing with them and selling them on over the years it’s definitely, noticeably, become ‘a thing’ since around 2014.

Many people I know are increasingly using film too. Film camera prices have risen fast, certain models shoot up fast and others catch up. If you want a cheap film camera now you either buy an AF model or one of the lower end brands like Ricoh or Chinon.

I believe you’ve recommended a body, in the F100 which is neither a bargain nor, in many ways, what defines a desirable film camera in 21st century terms.

Shooting film SLRs in the post digital era seems to be about the feeling of mechanical refinement and the process as much as the result. Real film shooters focus, expose and wind on manually*

Look around in any tourist destination or big city and the main (film) SLRs being toted will be the Canon A-1 and AE-1/AE-P which are faux mechanical cameras and now cost more than any sane person should pay when, for example, an original Olympus OM-4 (not the T/Ti version) is cheaper. There will also be some Canon F-1s, Pentaxes and Leicas.

The hottest Nikons are the FM/FE range but I’d rate the FA as Best Buy in Nikon bodies - like the Canon A-1 but much better - you get all the knobs, dials and manual wind yet it’s stuffed with even more electronics like Matrix metering and multiple programs. Easily better than a Canon A-1 for similar or only a little more money.

My bargain choice is the humble Pentax P30/N/T which does more than a Canon AE-1P for 1/3rd the price (sometimes it’s cheaper to buy a 50/1.7 on a P30 than Solo (this also applies to the Nikon 301 & 50/1.8 Nikkor).

FWIW I’m lucky enough to have dabbled with all of the stuff I’ve mentioned and settled on Contax kit including multiple 159MMs, Aria, G1, T & T3 but there are few bargains in Contax since Kylie Jenner’s T2...

*ignoring the dilettante P&S crowd who are clearly having too much fun ;-)

If you’re going to go analog I’d argue that the best model is the Graphite 2B or similar models in the range*.

I’d be wrong, but after a life of thinking being bad at something is a moral failing I’m enjoying myself, even if I can’t identify the objects in the pictures I took.

(*I’m partial to the Palomino Blackwing Volume 54 for when I want to emphasise creative freedom to myself, or a Rotring 800 for when I’m being a gear-head)

PS. Voigtlander R3A was my perfect film camera. That with a 40mm Summicron-C on the front.

I'll note that some of the more desirable film offerings actually seem to have well-passed the bottom of their depreciation curves. Prices on cameras like the FM2n and EOS-1N seem to be trending back upwards.

I was gifted an N80 by a friend, and enjoy it. It does leave me wanting an F100, though.

On the Canon end of things, Elan II's are still selling for giveaway prices right now. That's a lot of camera for thirty bucks.

I still have my F100 bought new back in its heyday. The rubber has become a bit sticky (apparently a common problem) but otherwise it works as it should. I rarely use it nowadays since it's rather large; I can use an Olympus OM that's much smaller instead. But there's nothing wrong with the camera: AF works, metering works and it's straightforward to use.

One interesting point is that while the F100 has a lot of electronics and many features for a film camera, it's pretty simple compared to modern digital. I recall that there are about 23 settings that can be changed, but all shooting controls are on the camera, so the "menu" is very rarely visited.

It does sound like quite the combination of features. The matrix metering was a big plus. Screw-drive Nikkor auto-focus lenses are common and affordable. Sounds like a real deal.

But I'd expect the F100 to be an exercise in frustration with manual focus lenses, except when using focus confirmation. Between a 0.76x magnification finder, and a "BriteView" focusing screen, I suspect manual focusing by eye is an exercise in frustration. That's certainly what I've found with all the autofocus Pentax cameras, both film and digital. The change in focusing screens to accommodate cheap kit zooms was the death of real manual focus. The metering systems are all calibrated for the bright screens, making focusing screen substitution a nasty tradeoff.

Bought the pristine chrome FM3A with silver pancake 45mm with silver clear filter for about $500 in 2003. Had the 105 f2.5 for many years, and the 20 mm. f2.8 also for a few years. I was in heaven for a few years and then in 2007 the D70 came along and I began to give up the film. Still have the FM3A, an FE, an FE2, and an N80 with about 25 rolls of Fuji Velvia in the freezer. My camera now is a Sony A6500 because its light and fabulous with my 12mm Zeiss, 19mm Sigma and 16-70mm Sony, but the Nikons still call my name. So after reading these posts, I will thaw out some film and see what develops!

Sounds good..... but I already have all the OM Zuikos I ever wanted ( yeah I know, mount discontinued). So, when I came upon a OM4Ti with a 50 f1.8 in a second hand store for $35 because it was “jammed”, well I what would you do? I bought it, took it home and popped in a couple of fresh SO batteries and, wait for it.... yeah, all functions I could check were nominal.
I don’t get many real bargains but that sure qualifies.

My latest film camera was a Minolta 600si which I bought exactly 20 years ago. Still have the body but no lenses (gave them to a friend with a Sony alpha several years ago). That Minolta feels so much bigger than my Fuji X-T3. But I still maintain my affinity to Minolta--got a few old rokkor lenses that I quite enjoy using on my Fuji once in a while, my favorite being a 55mm/1.7. A close second is a 35-70/3.5. I made some of my favorite photos of my kids with those two!

This post rings pretty true for me. I've wanted the F100 for years and a few months ago found a used body is very good shape for an even better price. I use it sparingly, but it is always a pleasure. I also agree with your thoughts on the 35 f2.0 D and 105; both are lenses I'll never unload and I'd add the 50 1.4 D to that list.

I shoot digital and film. I found that after returning to film after a four year absence, the experience and thought process of working with film is not the same as when I originally shot it. After the casualness of digital (which used to be how I shot film) film now demands more a more studied and contemplative approach. The nice thing about Nikon is that since the lens mount hasn't changed on the SLRs it's easy to carry both film and digital bodies. The F2 feels petite compared to a D850 and the FA feels almost buoyant.

Ironic. In late 1999, I was in a camera store in central London, wracked with indecision. On the counter in front of me were an F100 and a Coolpix 990.

Curiosity, and the fact that I had a serviceable Minolta Dynax 7000i at home, pushed me over the edge into digital. I traded the Dynax for peanuts to fund a Pentax *istD in 2004, and never looked back.

If I were a B&W photographer, I might think differently about using film again, but I would be looking at large format, not 35mm. There is still something uniquely special about large B&W prints from a big negative.

Hi Mike, quick query from a digital native looking to move into film, can the collective wisdom of TOP suggest how to approach film processing where one doesn’t want to delve into the darkroom? Just have the film processed and printed, or processed with contact sheets, or straight to digital with scanned files, or anything else? Do the pros/cons of each suit different approaches? I’m in Sydney, Australia in case that helps.

I’d love to know where Richard is finding ever-cheaper film cameras? I transitioned from digital to film about 7 or 8 years ago, and I’ve seen prices rise steadily the whole time. About 6 years ago I stupidly didn’t buy a bankrupt-stock brand new Hasselblad XPan with new 45mm all-boxed for $1500. Nowadays, beat-up XPans are easily twice that amount. Medium format cameras are generally spiraling in price.
I’ve been teaching a media course at one of Scandinavia’s trendiest colleges - the cameras the kids are using are just 2 types: phones and old film cameras. I think the fact that this is a surprise says more about the age of TOP readers, than of photographic trends.

I am sure you are correct that the F100 is very good technical choice for a film camera.

But I think you may be wrong about whether it's a good choice for many people who choose to use film, because I suspect you are wrong about why people use film. Well, I can't speak for why other people use film of course, but I can speak for why I use it.

And I don't use film because I want something which is as much like using a modern digital camera as it can be while being just inherently far less convenient. I use film because I want something which is as far from using a modern digital camera as it can be while still being practical enough to use. Indeed I simply can't see the purpose in using film if what you want is, well, digital but not so good: if you want something that just looks like film is it really the case that the various film-simulating packages are not good enough? Perhaps it's hard to do a good digital copy of Kodachrome still, but, well, it's hard to do that on film too.

I use film for the some of the same reasons my father drove a vintage sports car (that is, a car made between 1919 and 1930) in the 1950s and 1960s: he wanted something which was as far from a then-modern car as it could be, while actually still being practical (then) to drive. So, for instance, he drove a car with front-wheel brakes because cars without them are kind of dangerous. (And, of course, as with film cameras, it was cheap to buy if not always to own: he bought the car for £50 in the late 1950s, a little before I was born. I still own this car.)

So the F100 is a camera I would run screaming from, because for me it represents everything I am trying to not do by using film. I'd run even faster from an F5 or F6.

Instead I'm after cameras which are as far from a modern digital camera as they can be while still being practical to use. For me 'practical to use' means essentially 'has a really good viewfinder, has a meter, which is good enough for B/W' with an additional requirement that the camera should be light & small enough & obviously should have good lenses. And, of course, I kind of like the same things about cameras that I like about vintage cars: brass, nickel plate, pretty, simple, often dripping petrol and oil.

So, of 35mm SLRs, a Nikon F is a nice thing but without a meter it would be hard to use (and the metering prisms ... uck, even if they still work which they never do). And kind of too big & heavy for me. But a Pentax MX now, that, of course, is the perfect 35mm SLR.

Best 135 film camera, maybe (though my money is on Minolta 7). Best film camera, no way.

Anybody shooting B&W film should look into dr5.com / dr5.us for B&W slides.
This eliminates the achilles heel of film for scanning, grain.

The beauty of the F100 is that it can use most Nikon lenses (for me that is all my lenses minus one) so if you are a Nikon shooter and have some decent glass, it is very easy to shoot two bodies, one digital and one film. Or, this is what I told myself when I bought it several years ago. What I've done instead is shoot my Zeiss Ikon or Olympus OMn1 to scratch the film itch, mostly because I haven't used my digital Nikon that much. Also, shooting my X-T30 has made everything else feel REALLY heavy.

My dime goes to the Nikon F3HP. The pro workhorse that just keeps on working. Interchangeable finders and built for use.

@John Shriver

Perhaps F100 manual focusing is harder with some lenses (telephoto?), but I never found it particularly difficult with shorter lenses- and I never used its AF.

One of the many reasons I still shoot film is that it opens the door to pro and near-pro level gear at affordable prices. I got my F100 for $125 on craigslist a few years ago. I'm currently stalking a Hasselblad kit in the $500 price range. This kind of gear was far out of my reach before the digital age.

This looks like the ticket, if you want inexpensive Kodak Pro color neg. Kodak Pro Image 100 Color Negative Film 36 Exposures (5 roll Pack) $27.95 @ B&H. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1476367-REG/kodak_6034466_kodak_proimage_100_135_36.html

Much like Kodak Ektapress (late 1990s), this unique film is intended for storage at room temperature and also has excellent latent image-keeping characteristics, allowing for longer time periods between exposure and development while maintaining acceptable results.

I'm one of the Film-digital-back to film targets of your post. Since returning to film I've had a Nikon F80, which is most of an F100, but practically free today. The thing is, the later plastic motor-driven Nikon film cameras feel too much like DSLRs. I prefer the FE/FM/Nikkormat metal thumb-wound cameras. Another thing is that the focus screens of the earlier manual focus cameras are more optimized to snap into focus than the screens in the autofocus bodies, which are optimized for brightness.

I shoot film largely for the fun of the cameras, rather than image qualities. The sweet spot is medium format in terms of negatives large enough to easily scan with good quality and variety of camera types and ergonomics. I have at least one of each major type: 6x6 SLR, TLR, folding camera, and a giant Koni-Omega rangefinder, which I know you find ugly but which I think has a certain charm.

Still have my manual Minoltas (+1 on the quality of MD Rokkors) and a handful of Canon G3 and Yashica rangefinders. Also a mint Olympus Epic Stylus - what a lens on that little thing. But, if I was going to get back into film it would have to be with a Contax G2. Makes me smile just to hold one.

I came really close to buying one of these when they were new. And I have always been delighted that I didn't do it.

It's a great camera. A friend showed me his and said I needed one. I agreed. I found a buyer for my 8008 and was about to proceed, and then never followed through.

A very good thing. I never would have taken a single photograph with it. I wasn't doing a lot of 35mm at the time, large format was what I did. And anytime I did want 35mm I would have grabbed my M6 or M4 (yeah, I know you don't like them, but I do) [wait, what? I love both those cameras! --Mike] and for some very odd reason that I don't understand, anytime I needed a 35 SLR I grabbed my Nikon FE. Not sure why.

So I am really glad I never bought one, and never will.

But thanks for reminding me of the temptation. Nice camera, but I have too many cameras. And too many that I never used.

I was lucky to find a few cameras that actually allowed me to make a living. Pretty weird ones. The rest turned out to be a hobby (don't tell the IRS, please).

I think the Olympus OM4t and lens system is the better choice if you want manual focus.

Interesting, I had hoped for some discussion of interesting medium-format cameras, especially the older folders. In my head (and this is probably why I don't shoot film any more) the 35mm SLR as the best general-purpose camera has been completely replaced by digital (mirrorless or DSLR), and something with a whole different profile was the only way it made sense to shoot film.

Tim Bradshaw's comment resonated with me:

"And I don't use film because I want something which is as much like using a modern digital camera as it can be while being just inherently far less convenient. I use film because I want something which is as far from using a modern digital camera as it can be while still being practical enough to use."

When I first got back into film, I went on a trip and brought along an EOS 10S film camera on the theory that it could share lenses with my then-working-camera, an EOS 20D. I think I shot one roll of film the whole vacation, because what was the point?

I've gotten over my antipathy for late autofocus SLRs for the most part, but a big attraction of getting back into film was the actual act of operating the old cameras. Of putting the 105 f/2.5 on the FM2n, with its lack of automated anything, and seeing if I still remembered how to "drive stick shift", as it were.

In a recent discussion a friend pointed out that, while paddle-shifters and automated clutches have erased every possible practical performance reason to have a manual transmission in a car, the classic stick shift is the last physical connection to the machinery. When you put your hand on the shift knob, you're touching a lever that is bolted to the gearbox that is bolted right to the motor, and you can feel it running. It's the same with winding on the tension in the film advance lever of an old film camera and cocking the shutter; it's a physical connection to the process.

Or maybe this is all woo-woo and I should just go take pictures. :)

Many thanks, a very interesting read.

I completely agree with your thoughts on the F100. It's my main 35mm camera, coupled with the Nikkor 35mm F/2D, which IMO is the perfect all-round lens.

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