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Sunday, 14 May 2023


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It would be great to hear your thoughts on which film cameras people should use now, however the only problem I can see with that will be that will then increase there price as people rush to take your advice.
I was recently at King Charles coronation and was surprised at how many people I saw with film cameras and all of them were 40 or under. Us older photographers have fully embraced digital, but for some reason younger photographers want to use film. I suspect it is something along the line of wanting to experience the analog aspect of live and there is something tangible in film that is lacking with digital and especially with the rise of images made with word prompts via MidJourney and Dalle computer programs,

Aaaah, thanks for the memories, Mike.... I worked at Ted's Camera Stores, Melbourne, Australia from 1973 till about 1984. Went through lust after most of those you mentioned, (except Contax.... we didn't have a good Contax presence here in Australia... they were here, but weren't main stream .) I knew about their superiority and advanced features, but only saw one relatively rarely. Bought an Olympus OM-1 in 1974 to replace my faithful Pentax SV and more -or-less stayed with Olympus till digital, graduating to repairing Olympus cameras after departing retail. Had a lot of WONDERFUL Zuiko lenses, and moved up to OM-2s, that's not OM-2S) but never OM-3 or 4s. During those halcyon days, each of our staff had favourites. I was the only OM boy. I sold more OM-1s than everyone else combined ( they also had the second best profit margin), by enthusing about their lightness and quiet operation; especially with the mirror lock up. It rivalled an M3 Leica in sound) I often pulled a rather sneaky trick when comparing any other 70s SLR in shutter sound.... I'd surreptitiously flick up the mirror up lever on the side of the lens mount and fire both shutters almost at the same time, and Olympus killed all opposition. Ooooooh, naughty, Bruce, but very rarely did we get anyone back to change the camera under our (revolutionary-at-the-time) 45 day bring it back for exchange policy. I knew they were getting a good camera. I now recognise that any of those fabulous MMM cameras of the day were wonderful. I had a soft spot for Minolta SRT 101s, and 303s... they were built like tanks, except for their complex TTL metering mechanism. The camera we all aspired to, but were put off by, was the Nikon F, then the F2 Photomic ... solid, heavy, reliable, photojournalist camera, but expensive, and lenses even more expensive. Then Canon burst on the scene with THE TANK. The Canon F1 was indestructible. But the lenses were also priced stratospherically. I remember being blown away by the release of their FD 24mm f 1.4... an unheard-of combination. And then came the 300mm f2.8. Wheeeooo. All manual focus, of course. I remember a conversation about future of cameras with a colleague. We all predicted exposure automation and motor drive, but no-one thought auto focus possible. Let alone digital. Aaah, the memories! ... the local rep gave us staff members a REALLY good deal on a Konica Autoreflex T , but I never warmed to it, possibly because the lenses were limited, complex, and expensive. Nowadays, I really do wonder where photography is going with AI, etc.

Re: iPhone on/off ... for dummies says the following ...

"You may not want your iPhone turned on all the time. You can certainly turn the phone off, but you can also put it to sleep and keep it locked or unlocked."

The four modes of on/offness and sleep/awakeness are: Sleep, Wake, Locked (or Lock screen) and Unlocked.


The only time I ever turn my phone off (really off) is before getting on an airplane.

Speaking of heavy cameras, let us not forget the Contarex Bullseye. In 1983 I bought one from my 80-year-old neighbor. He had bought it after discovering that all his slides from a Grand Canyon trip were blank due to his failure to remove the lens cap on his new Leica M4. I was smitten by the Zeiss propaganda. After several months of shouldering the Contarex weight I sold it, and bought a new Minolta CLE.

Y'all might like the "I Dream of Cameras" podcast. Hosted by writers and film camera collectors Jeff Greenstein and Gabe Sachs, from shows like Will and Grace and Freaks&Geeks and several others. Entertaining, GAS-creating episodes.

What they did to the iPhone was remove the "home button" at the bottom of the phone, that let you always get back to the home screen.

In the newer phones where you "unlock" the phone with your face you instead swipe up from the bottom of the phone to get this to happen.

But, holding down the home button also used to activate the "talk to the phone and ask it questions" function. So where to move that? The only choice was to put it on the side button ... so where you used to hold that side button down to get the "turn me off" UI, now you get the "talk to me" UI ...

So to shut the phone off using the buttons you have to hold the side button _and_ one of the volume buttons on the other side of the phone.

Which is annoying.

It is arguable that removing the home button was possibly the worst UI decision Apple ever made with the iOS devices. But people don't seem to care enough to make a stink about it.

As for cameras ... I have never been all that attached to the standard top deck camera controls from the 70s that everyone seems to have so much nostalgia for. Those dials are hard to use and hard to see when you are looking through the viewfinder. The anonymous front and back electronic dials in more modern computerized cameras work a lot better.

But you are right that the rest of the interface is a complex hodge podge of 58,000 menu settings that are not put together with any particular kind of care, because they are all implemented by different contract software firms. I just set up one set of settings that work OK for me and then shoot away on P or A after making sure the camera is doing mostly the right thing.

This has been a good read.
I found that after entering the digital domain, nostalgia was not what it used to be. My MMM cameras just didn't give me that warm fuzzy feeling anymore.
Now when shooting film, I am happily using cameras from the "APE" era (a term I coined, by the way, meaning "automatic, polycarbonate, electronic" in that order). Not a single roll of film has ever complained about being called to duty in a less than classic camera and no one has said that my pictures would look better if the film had been vacuum sucked into submission.
I only wish that the menus and the manuals could be as simple as the MMM era.

After I got my photographer's feet wet on an AE-1, I acquired an F3HP. The F3 showed my preference for aperture priority if I had a choice. Unsurprisingly, my Fuji APS-C cameras haptics are the closest I have found to shooting a digital F3. Thanks for stirring up memories of my younger, hungry-for-learning photography days.

I can’t believe you’re the guy who coined the term MMM. I always thought it was Joe DiMaggio.

Maybe some day we’ll have genius cameras that will know exactly what the photographer is looking for in a given image. The process of photography should be exclusively about the picture instead of fiddling with knobs and buttons.

...From a print ad in 1970: "The Minolta SRT-101 incorporates every single feature necessary to the success of the accomplished photographer", so something must have changed, perhaps the definition of "success" or "accomplished photographer" :-)

At this point in my life, black and white film with an MMM is all I need. For the small amount I shoot (12-18 rolls a year) and some good 4X6 memories, it is the simplest and least expensive way to enjoy photography. I never found digital satisfying (from cameras to computers and software processing) no matter how hard I have tried. It is not for me. While I started my interest very late, it is fun to read about the MMM cameras I would have thoroughly enjoyed playing with if I had an inclination in those years long past.

Let’s say I want my camera to provide me the same shooting experience as the simple classics.

So I set my mirrorless camera to M mode and the focus to MF and the meter to CW Averaging, and leave them there.

I adjust the ISO away from 100 only when the lighting requires it.

I leave everything that way forever. I have a completely commandable, controllable, simple camera.

Reading about people having a preference for shutter priority and getting the needle to match, or aperture priority and doing the same - I'm reminded of the revelation of my (then) new Pentax K10D having TAv mode.

Which few if any other makes of cameras seem to have.

TAv mode is one where you can choose the SS and your Aperture and the camera automatically controls the ISO for correct exposure of the scene based on the metering mode you have chosen and the EV compensation you have dialled. Which is what I personally prefer in every situation.

Unless I'm behind the times? And this is no longer a "Pentax only" feature?


Which is similar to going to Manual Mode and using Auto ISO on other makes of camera. But then you lose the ability to use exposure compensation.

I've gone from being quite opposed to auto-exposure back in the 60s and 70s, to running my camera in 'P' mode a lot today.

But the difference isn't mostly in me, I don't think.

Today's sensors have more brightness range they'll handle than film did (especially, than slide film did), so in some situations precise exposure isn't vital any more. But an even bigger factor is that I'm seeing the image from the sensor in my viewfinder or rear screen (in addition to a histogram), so I can notice without paying a lot of attention if Program mode is doing something wonky, and either compensate, or just switch to manual.

With film, I never knew until it got out of the chemicals whether I had pictures or not; makes you more conservative!

My view is that exposure automation is a complex solution to a non-problem; a problem that doesn't really exist. In turn, it de-skilled photographers into not knowing the basics of exposure.

Photographers became totally dependent on the through-lens meter, and, in particular, on the specific content of the viewfinder at that moment. Shift the camera slightly and the exposure given by the camera changes. How dumb is that?

Instead, pull out a tiny, lightweight incident meter (such as the Sekonic L-308S) and measure the incident light. From the spectrum of shutter speed and aperture alternatives it gives, select one that serves your intention and solves your 'situation problem' best, set it on the camera, and thereafter fire away on that single setting with abandon, knowing it's the best one, and without having to constantly monitor what the camera is doing lest the shutter speed drop below what you can hand-hold.

From the start, exposure automation was a way for camera manufacturers to claim some competitive advantage over other brands. I resent Nikon and Canon for convincing people that they needed the their latest camera, full of electronics, to take a decent photograph. Photographers became de-skilled and increasingly unfamiliar with the basics of exposure. Sunny 16, anyone? Photography became massively skewed around brands and novel features.

The results of exposure automation were often poorer than those you could get from an incident light meter.

How many times do we see photographs in which the faces of people are over-exposed? It's usually because they are wearing dark clothing and the in-built meter averaged the scene to mid-grey.

Or dark green forests turned into sickly olive-green?

Despite the claims from camera manufacturers, in-built camera meters are responsible for more poor exposures on film than you can poke a stick at.

The vast majority of photographers would be/have been better served by using a simple incident light meter, perhaps aided by a spotmeter for those times the light is out of reach. But the advertising from camera manufacturers assured everyone that their camera solved all the problems.

Re: Your three-part series about the Contax camera. Although I never used Contax cameras in my career I did have a colleague at the Kelowna Courier newspaper who had one and loved shooting with it, I don't recall the model but it looked similar to the RTS II that you posted pictures of. I always shot with Nikon from the very start of my career to the very end, even after going digital in 2002. I owned every top-of-the-line Nikon which include the F, F2, F3, F4, and finally the F5 and I owned some of the lesser ones, like the FM2 which was equally as good at getting the job done on assignment for this former photographer.

I started off at the weekly newspaper, The Goldstream Gazette in 1976 with a used Nikon F and two lenses, a 35mm and 105mm Nikkor, and a few months later with a 200mm Nikkor for shooting sports. By the time I left the paper after 2 1/2 years, I had two Nikon F2s (no motor drives) plus the same three lenses mentioned previously. You mentioned in one of your posts how few motor drives there were back in the day, and I never owned one until a few months after I arrived in Brampton, Ontario in the spring of 1979. I never even thought about a motor drive plus they were expensive. Also, I never owned anything wider than a 35mm lens, I added a 24mm Nikkor to my kit after arriving in Brampton. The only Nikon motor drive I could afford, a used one, was actually a motor winder with one or two frames per second, the real top-of-the-line Nikon motor drive (MD-1) could shoot up to 5 frames a second.

I used the Nikon F2s for a number of years and by the fall of 1983 I was working at Kelowna Courier. When the Nikon F3 came out I bought two of them, one with a motor drive. I actually preferred the F2 to the F3 as I liked the purely mechanical F2. The F3 on its own with no motor drive ran on a couple of button-cell batteries and they didn't last very long, otherwise with the motor drive attached the F3 camera used the batteries from the motor drive to power the camera. From there I used a succession of Nikon FM models including the FM2. I eventually went back to the Nikon F4 when that came out, I bought a used one, but it was heavy! way too heavy for my liking. Around 2001 I bought a Nikon F5, probably my favorite camera, I bought it brand new and it cost me over $3000 (CDN) It was a beautiful handling camera and a joy to use. Then in late 2002, the newspaper switched to digital and they bought the photo staff (all two of us) Nikon DH1 cameras with zoom lenses, the first time I used zoom lenses.

I did steer off track for a little bit with my devotion to Nikon cameras, while I was working in Brampton in the 1980s I used a Leica rangefinder system with two Leica M4p cameras, I had a 21mm, 35mm Summicron and a 90mm Summicron, It didn't work out that well as I still had to carry around one of my Nikon bodies for the telephoto lenses, a 200mm and 300mm for shooting sports so three camera bodies in total. After about six months I switched back to an all Nikon system, it worked far better and my work improved. One of the things back then was the rangefinder vs SLR system, but most photographers by the 1980s were using SLR-style cameras.

What was it, Mike, that special about the meter in the LX? I seem to remember it had a design that made it significantly more advanced than its contemporaries.

I was a Canon man for my whole film-shooting career. My father gave me an AE-1P when I was 12. My favorite to use was the New F-1 with plain, match-needle metering — that was a solid camera! And I still have an A-1 with 50mm f/1.2 L lens on my desk for nostalgic fondling.

There is a fascinating tension between metering (and thinking about the exposure) for every shot, and working fast enough to keep up with fast-moving events. (If you only photograph slow things, obviously you don't have much of this problem!)

If you're standing in a room with a hundred people, and have just finished taking 3 shots of a couple dancing interestingly, what do you see? You see whatever was behind you, which is a whole new set of photographic possibilities. Also the lighting is completely different. And you're behind the curve, since you were just concentrating on what was on the other side of you. Now you have to catch up with what was behind you, and getting that first shot as fast as possible can be critical. (Or not; often what was behind you isn't interesting. But every now and then it is. Heck, lots of times what was in front of you wasn't interesting either.)

Come to think of it, this exposure approach issue is centered in the transition from the "typical" photographer people admire being a photojournalist (ideally one working for LIFE of course) to paying more attention to art and commercial photographers. A studio photographer controls the light, and sometimes thinks in terms of tenths of f-stops while doing so. A landscape photographer probably doesn't control the light, and may have to wait hours for the light to come to him, but most of their subjects will sit still and wait for them to do so. A fashion photographer works with professional models who can "do it again" with great accuracy. The photojounalist, while of course they strive for technical excellence, must prioritize "getting the shot".

I'm finding these articles very interesting. These cameras are a wee bit before my time, but I find the history and your personal experiences fascinating.

The RTS II is the pick of the RTS series and also the most reliable in. my experience.

The first gen RTS lacked a proper metering preview switch - I've always preferred the Slightly stripped down Yashica version - the FR-I over the original RTS for that reason.

The RTS III is a very different, modern style camera, huge and with some odd omissions. Arguably the only reason to use one today is if you want to balance up something like the Zeiss 35-135 or a big telephoto like the 180/2.8 or above.

Personally I prefer using the smaller 159MM which has more functionality than an RTSII in a smaller package. Albeit no user interchangeable screens, something that I for one, have always found important. As an architect I often make use of a gridded screen to check horizontal and vertical alignment. There was an option to have a grid screen fitted to the 159 and I'm still looking for a used one that has this...

This story and the comments aren’t even marginally about AI advances, but they’re also completely about AI advances.

Instead of just fondling that RTS II why don't you actually put some film in it and take some pictures. You could write about the process, how it felt using the RTS to create images and then show us some images. Could be interesting.

I don't get it. You have the RTSII (and a bunch of other film cameras). You have the historical expertise. You often write about the history of photography. But then you say you'll never use film again. ???? I bet plenty of your readers would love to see the results of your using one of these high-end cameras from the 1980s and 1990s. And you might attract younger photographers.

[I meant I’ll never use it consistently again. As in, commit to it. I have no objection to shooting a little from time to time! —Mike]

A little late on the reply, but as I sit here, on the table next to me is my Nikon N90S with an older AI'd Nikkor SC Auto 50/1.4 mounted and a roll of Cinestill Double X loaded (a roll of Kodak Ektar and a roll of Ilford XP2 Super are in the loops of the hippy strap). I recently moved back to Eau Claire and found there was a reasonably priced lab here for processing/scanning both C-41 & conventional B&W film so I've begun shooing it again. It's a slower, more careful, process than digital these days rather akin to large format LOL!

I'm hardly going to give up my Nikon D7100 much less my Leica M 240 (may well add a D700 yet this summer ;) (my emoticon for this post)) but it's nice to have the tactile feel of the occasional roll of film. I think that we agree on that "from time to time" idea.

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