Its an iconic piece of graffiti on a bridge in Camden. Reviewing some old images from when I first started shooting film this one caught my eye. Its a pretty run of the mill snapshot but what I do like about it is the way the graffiti itself is more of a background with the eyes being drawn to the contrast on the patterns of the rivets themselves. Its also a reminder of my short use of a Nikon F65; an entry electronic level SLR from the early 2000s. It was a reasonably fun camera to use being very lightweight and also compatible with the 50mm AFS f1.4 lens I used quite a bit at the time on a DSLR. It was dirt cheap to buy at around £15 and could produce some decent exposures. The main issue I had with the camera was really that it felt a bit boring to use at the time. Film was fun then but I was more intrigued by older cameras and soon after I would decide to part ways with this camera for an F3 instead. Now I’ve got a new appreciation for electronic Nikon SLRs and I actually think this is probably the best camera for a Nikon DSLR user with some modern FX glass to try out film (due to its very low cost to relatively high feature set – see Thom Hogans review).
Category: 35mm (page 1 of 2)
The Nikon FM is a fully manual all mechanical SLR body released by Nikon in 1977 and was produced for 5 years until 1982. It takes pretty much all lenses Nikon has ever made (the AI tab has a switch so it can flip up to use non-Ai lenses) that feature an aperture ring, provides 60/40 centre weighted metering and comes with a standard K split prism focusing screen. As for other features, its pretty simple. The shutter goes upto 1/1000 and it also has a self timer.
I bought this camera around 2012 for around £50 and I still own it today 4 years later (checking eBay for recent sales I see them between £60-80 – another example of how analogue photography’s continuing popularity is keeping prices rising above inflation). At the time I was enjoying using an F3 as my main film body, but this was usually loaded with colour film and I wanted another film SLR to use for black and white. This fit the bill pretty well, especially because it was cheaper than an F2, weighted less and less bulky.
The ergonomics of the body are great in their simplicity. This is a body designed before the era of hand grips but still feels natural in the hand and despite the fact that its all made out of metal its not all that heavy at 590 grams. Thats 115 grams less than the F3 and over 200 grams less than an F2! Its easy to see why this camera was favoured by pros as their backup body. Compared to the higher spec’d Nikon F line the main drawback I find with the FM is the lack of 100% viewfinder coverage. Its actually 93% and whilst its still reasonably bright it is one of the big things I notice during use. I think once you get used to 100% finders its hard to go back.
The other thing I’m not such a big fan of is the meter and its LED displays with just – 0 + because I’d prefer to see how much I’m over or under on a continuous scale. Thats a minor gripe though and overall its been a very dependable camera on the trips to NYC, Nashville, Utah and Brazil. With modern cameras with so many different features and modes, its nice going back to the basics and having to manually focus and physically set the shutter and aperture slows you right down before pressing the shutter. The self timer is really the only other feature I need – its quite handy if I want to be in the shot. Generally when I give this camera to a friend to take my photo it comes out mis focussed so if I have a tripod with me its safer to set up the self timer.
Overall the camera comes highly recommended. Its probably the best choice if you want a full metal manual Nikon on a small budget.
Lens: Ricoh 40mm f2.8 Color Rikenon
Focus: 3 Zones with clicks, but does also have a distance scale in metres.
Shutter Speed: Auto only – not displayed in finder
Aperture: Auto only – displayed in finder via a needle
Meter: CDS sensor on the lens
ISO: 25 – 400
Price Paid: £2.50
I picked up this little compact camera, presumably from the 1970s, from a flea market in Christchurch NZ for the princely sum of $5NZ (~£2.50 at the time). It was completely covered in dust and the light seals were decrepit but it seemed the shutter fired. The needle didn’t move in the finder, but I thought I’d take the risk anyway. It looked pretty cool though and I was intrigued if the f2.8 lens would be a hidden gem. So on my return to the UK I bought some light seal material and had a go at fixing it up. I’d never done this before but its really easy (although more on this later). It took me the best part of a year to actually get through the expired roll of Ilford Delta 100 I put in there, mainly because I kept forgetting to take it with me. There wasn’t much excuse for this – its relatively compact (it’ll fit easily in a coat pocket) and not all that heavy, even though its construction is mainly metal.
So here came the moment of truth, I decided to start home developing B&W again recently and picked this test roll to be the first. Not great scientific method (testing my B&W developing skills and also a camera I didn’t know if was working in one shot). It became clear quite quickly after removing the film from the Patterson tank after development that something had gone wrong. After inspecting the negatives I deduced there must have been a light leak on one side of the camera. How could that be? Hadn’t I replaced the seals well enough? So I picked up the camera and realised that I’d missed adding a strip by the film door. I guess because all of this had pretty much perished, I’d not noticed that there should be foam here. Furthermore on inspecting the camera I also saw that there was a weird oily looking reflection from inside the lens. This certainly had appeared recently and after some quick searching online for the symtoms the results seemed to imply that the glue in the lens had come unstuck. So in summary, not a great test of this camera, but it does look like they have alot of potential (see a review below with some good image samples) and are going cheap on eBay so why not try one out?
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Whilst Canary Warf is a place I almost never go, its tube station is pretty impressive. It was designed by British Architect legend Norman Foster and was opened in 1999 and is worth a visit if you can think of any other reason to goto Canary Warf. The tones of TMax capture it well, however I can’t believe I scanned it with so much dust on the negative. Its certainly a candidate for a rescan when I get time. Also its one I developed myself, probably with Ilfotec HC, in the Imperial College darkroom. I’m about to start developing my own black and white film once more in my new flat. I don’t think I ever mastered the process before and got relatively inconsistent results but I’m going to focus this time on trying to get better. I think as well I’ll try to settle down on one B&W film to use as I’ve never really got into the habit of just using one for more than a few rolls. I haven’t fully decided which one yet but the tones from this TMax scan are making me lean this way.
It was a cold snowy start to 2013 in London. I’m a big fan of photographing in the snow – its effective at removing distractions and helping you to see scenes that you see every day with a new perspective. This scene I saw almost every day walking from my flat into work. The road is popular for graffiti artists, but this piece in particular was my favourite from during the time I lived in the area. Its a cartoon skull on its side, with a great mouth that wraps around a doorframe. I captured a few shots of this street art from different angles, but I quite like this one with the eye peeping over the snow capped hedge (although the chromatic aberration around the tree branches and the busyness of these branches does detract a little from the poignancy of eye looking over). I chose this image after stumbling across it on an old Facebook album, but upon searching my photo library in my library it appears that I had lost all of the scans from this roll of film. Luckily I had recently been sorting out my negative storage so I could quickly rescan. It just shows that multiple backups are so important in general and its pretty handy to have a physical one as well as digital!
Lightbox Monday is an idea I’ve, ahem, borrowed from another blog I enjoy reading each week. I’ve at least changed the date… Anyway after a crazy few years of moving about (and a brief spell of living in a van the other side of the world), its been nice to go back through my photo library and do a good bit of sorting out. Its cool to see some photos, underrated at the time, become much more interesting with the passing of time.
This is a shot from a roll of HP5 plus I took with me to Morocco. I’d managed to get a standby flight on Ryanair for £25 round trip for me and a mate and this felt like the most exotic place the budget airline could take me in January. We stayed in Marrakech but did an overnight excursion to the northern edge of the Sahara desert, where we did a couple of hours on a camel and camped in a traditional berber tent. I am quite fond of this picture, much more than any of digital shots I got of these camels. For another favourite from this trip check out this one.
I have seldom used telephoto lenses with my film cameras, usually really as a novelty, as the situations that require a telephoto tend to have me reaching my my digital. Whether its wildlife or sport generally the need for fast focusing and rapid fire generally mean I feel like its a waste of film. However the Whitchurch Young Farmer ploughing match provided a good opportunity to try out my reasonably new Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8 AF-D on film with some slow moving targets. One of the things that is great about the Nikon system is the great interchangeability of lenses and bodies, and this lens works great with the F3. It does however feel a little unbalanced due to the weight of the lens and the lack of full handgrip like on later SLRs. I particularly like the colour rendition of this lens with Kodak Ektar (especially the brown of the soil). As for the manual focus, 3/4 of the shots from here were keepers, which I didn’t think was too bad.
Its been a while since my last post due to moving flat and many other things. In that time I’ve made a few impulse purchases from eBay, one of which being the mighty Nikon F5. Its remarkable that today you can buy a camera that was the best in the world in 1996, today, for a little over a hundred quid.
I’ve run two rolls through it so far, using mainly the 50mm Series E Ai lens, which is of course manual focus. I’ve been pleasantly surprised using my Ai lenses with this camera. The 100% viewfinder is bright and easy to focus with. The metering with these is only spot and center weighted, which is OK, and I wonder if it was a technical or purely a product decision to remove the matrix metering the F4 had with these. As for the handling, its a relatively heavy camera, but coupled with small light lenses like the Series E 50mm f1.8, it honestly doesn’t feel too burdensome to carry round.
These photos are from a roll of TMax 100 I’ve had sitting in my freezer for years from a short trip up to the family farm. I had them processed by a lab and scanned them myself with an Epson v500. Whilst these shots were pedestrian for a camera of the F5’s spec, the main thing that I could appreciate is the ergonomics of this camera. It fits in the hand just right, is so well balanced, and has controls in what feels like the most intuitive place. They must have got it right, because over 20 years later every camera Nikon has made since then looks and feels pretty much the same as this.
In 2012 I took a vacation to Rio with my F3 loaded with Fuji Provia and a FM with Ektar. By this point I was fully enamored with shooting film, so much so that I decided to exclusively take film cameras on this trip (my first time doing so). I was also very much enjoying using these two manual focus Ai Nikon Bodies and took a lens selection of the 24mm f2.8 (non-ai version Ai’d), 35mm f2.8 Ai and a 50mm f1.8 Series E. I find this to be a decent travel set-up (so much so I took almost the same gear on my 2017 trip to Utah save for the 24mm which I decided to swap out for a 20mm), although the bodies are made out of metal, the lenses are so small and relatively light, that overall its less weight then I’d have normally taken with digital gear.
I must admit I felt a little uneasy about not taking my DSLR (which was a D90 at the time). What if the X-Rays fogged my film? What if I didn’t nail the shot and didn’t realise until later? These fears proved to be misguided (the film went through 6 X-Ray scanners to no visible detriment) and my decision was also helped by the fact that the year before when traveling with a friend in Belize we had a load of camera gear stolen. He had all of his digital gear taken, whereas I lucked out, in the sense that they only went in the top of my bag and stole my F100 and another 50mm Series E lens. If they’d have rummaged further they’d have found my D90 and lenses. I figured taking older film cameras would make them less desirable to steal and make me stand out a bit less.
One thing I completely misjudged was how much film I should take. I can’t remember exactly how many rolls I’d bought, but put it this way, now in 2017 I still have rolls left from this trip sitting in my freezer. This error I guess was all part of the transition to shooting film. The limitations of the number of shots per roll has made me have a higher value on each shutter press. So naturally I take less photos. But hopefully a better percentage of good ones. I estimated the quantity of film needed based on the digital shots I’d taken on a similar trip which proved a schoolboy error.
As for the photos, looking back on them I enjoy them greatly. The fantastic sunlight of Rio brought out the best of the Ektar, especially around sunset. I love the gradient of how the highlights are blown out as the sun is setting on the mountains of Rio in two of the pictures below. I find this behaviour much more pleasing than digital. As for the Provia – well I’ve had pretty inconsistent results with slide film in general, really down to me not exposing it well (see last picture in the below series). I took it on this trip as a bit of a trial, and to be honest my only regret is not choosing to take some black and white film instead.
I’d wanted to visit the national parks in Utah again ever since I’d been to Monument Valley in 2013; I’d initially set my sights on going to all of Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches and Canyonlands for this trip. However I soon realised the week I’d organised the trip was memorial day weekend (a bit of an error) – so there were tons of people in each of the parks and also lines to get in. This also made the logistics of the trip quite hard, as all of the campsites were fully booked. So this meant we ended up staying at near St George UT and driving to the parks each day.
In an effort to beat the crowds, the first afternoon we visited Bryce. They’ve got an convenient shuttle service so you can park easily outside the park and take the shuttle to all of the main sites. We got off at Bryce Point (the first bus stop after the visitor centre) and walked along the rim to sunset point. Then we took the hike down through the hoodoos which was pretty epic – the scale of these eroded monoliths is best appreciated hiking around them.
Then we drove to near Capital Reef national park and secured a campsite there to break up the drive to Arches. It was not really a fun drive, along winding roads in the pitch black, with deer jumping out in front of the car. The next day, with a significant drive to Arches still ahead of us, we powered on and didn’t stop in Capital Reef. The scenery from the car was still fantastic.
We arrived to Arches to a queue of cars waiting at the entrance. This was at maybe 10.30am on the Sunday of Memorial day and it took maybe 45 minutes to finally get through the date. Once inside we headed straight for the hike to delicate arch, as we figured this would be busy already and only more so as the day progressed. The road into the park is stunning, to be honest photos don’t do this place justice – the shapes and scale of these eroded rocks is phenomenal. I had to stop for a few snapshots along the way.
There is a short easy 3 mile hike from the bursting full car park to the arch itself It seems so improbable that rock would erode like this, so its easy to see why this is such an icon. An icon that everyone wants their picture taken under, perhaps unsurprisingly, and there was indeed a massive disneyland style line of people waiting to have theirs taken. Its great that the national parks are accessible for people to enjoy, however the next time I visit here I’ll definitely plan it for the off season. I managed to get a few snapshots of the arch (with the poor lighting) finally without anyone underneath. We stayed for a while longer in the park itself but finally the mid afternoon heat got the better of us and we decided to get on with the 5 or so hour drive back to Ivins, leaving Canyonlands next door for a future trip.
So Snow Canyon State Park seems to be an absolute undiscovered jewel of Utah. Its right by the town of Ivins and on the Monday of Memorial Day weekend there was barely anyone there. The scenery is sublime, with petrified sand dunes, lava flow rocks and lots of great trails. Its easy to see why they shot Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid here. Theres just one road through it so its easy to see in a day, but we spaced out a couple of visits to the middle and north side of the park over two mornings.
Finally, we visited Zion National Park on the Tuesday after memorial day, hoping the park would at least be a bit quieter than the weekend. Perhaps it was, but we arrived around 7am and already the visitor center car park was already pretty full and there was a big line for the shuttle busses. The Angel’s Landing hike was my most anticipated of the trip. It did not disappoint – its a pretty strenuous 5 mile round trip hike with a narrow trail with steep drop offs at times. There was already a good number of people who were coming down the mountain by the time we got near the top, and many sections are essentially one-way for any given time, so there was plenty of waiting for people to pass. The view from the top was spectacular. After descending we stopped at a few other spots in the park, and drove around the other side before heading back. I view this trip more as a photography scouting mission, as I aim to return again to get a few more shots. Things to work on next time is definitely metering – as you can see from below. I realised there was a fault with the meter on the FM quite late on into the trip, leading me to overexpose quite a few shots from where I’d wanted to be.
After getting back into film photography after a couple of years not really shooting any rolls, I did not hesitate to decide to exclusively take analog cameras. However deciding which gear to take was pretty tough. I was torn between taking two 35mm Nikon bodies or my 6×6 Bronica SQ. In the end I went for the former due to a lower cost per shot but as I do really enjoy shooting 6×6 I also decided to take my Zeiss Ikon 517 as well. This is such a great travel medium format camera as it is so light and compact. I’m also consistently impressed with the colour rendition and sharpness of the lens.
Its very easy to take kilograms and kilograms of photo gear on trips like this, but with Nikon Ai lens being so lightweight and compact this set up seemed a good option. I went for a 20mm Ai f4, 35mm Ai f2.8, 50mm Ai Series E f1.8 and a 200mm Ai f4. These all also have 52mm filter threads which is also a boon, as I mainly used a Nikon R62 filter for the black and white photography, so it could be used across all of the lenses. The only lens that I’d reconsider is the 200mm as it didn’t get much use really. I think a shorter telephoto like a 105mm would have been better for compressed landscape shots. The lens itself though is great and light, and if there had been more in the way of wildlife I suppose it could have come in handy. This was also the first time I’d used the 20mm Ai f4 which I was quite excited to see the results from. It was definitely a great focal length to have, but to be honest I was pretty disappointed with the corner sharpness of this lens. Most of the shots were taken at f8 or f11 and focussed to maximise DOF from the scale on the lens. Maybe this was the issue as I have since read that corner sharpness is better when focussed towards infinity, or maybe I have a poor copy of this lens.
I also took the opportunity to buy a lighter travel tripod. An aluminium Giottos tripod has served me well for the last 5 years, but its nearly 3kg with a ballhead attached. I’ve never hiked with it and its always felt like a pain to lug around. So after some research I decided to get a Manfrotto Be Free carbon fibre tripod which only weighs 1.1Kg. To be honest its not a cheap purchase but its built really well and comes with a 10 year warranty. It was no hassle to attach to my camera bag for hiking.
So this was a fantastic trip and I am happy with the photos that came back, but I see it more of a scouting mission as I hope to return at some point in the future. However next time I think I would choose different B&W film – one I was more familiar with like Delta 100 or TMax 100. I wasn’t blown away but what I got out of SFX. As for the colour film I was surprised how much I liked the muted colours of Portra, as this isn’t a film I’ve used much before. Normally I go straight for the Ektar so it was pretty cool to shoot both on similar landscapes. But the main thing I’d reconsider going back to these places is to camp nearby and visit less places in a similar time. It was hard to get to the parks when the morning light was good (sunrise was around 6:15), and due to the late sunsets (somewhere near 20:45) the same applied as we generally had long drives back to where we were staying. The heat in the midday was also very exhausting. I think September or October could be a good time of year for my next trip there.
This B&W film is a near infra-red (i.e. extended red sensitivity towards IR wavelengths) film made by Ilford. I’d wanted to try it out for a while and decided to take a chance on it by taking it on my trip round Utah’s National (Bryce, Arches and Zion) and State (Snow Canyon) parks. I’d been somewhat inspired by the completely black skies in this post and thought I’d be able to get some good detail in the foreground and some silhouetted rocks with a completely black sky when using my Nikon R60 red filter. Reading more after the fact a deeper filter such as an R72 may have been a better choice to achieve this effect.
Above was one of the first shots from the roll. As you can see the sky is nowhere near the black I’d hoped, but not too big of an issue on this shot as that wasn’t the focus. A few of the ones below are better. Overall the contrast turned out low which is disappointing, but to be fair logistical reasons in getting to the parks (as being memorial day weekend it was hard to camp near the parks) limited the availability of good light (i.e. early morning and evening before sunset). However I still, perhaps naively, hoped for the images to come out better. They seem grainier than I’d expected and the sky was not as dark (though this may be due to the filter and unremarkable-poor light). In addition this roll of film has made me stop and tell myself I should read up once more on the zone system for better B&W exposures.
Before my F100 was stolen in Belize, I managed to put a few rolls through it. The lens used for this photo is actually for DX digital, but works on film somewhere past the 20mm mark. This shot is the turbine hall of the Tate Modern, and the exhibition here was Ai Weiwei’s sunflower seeds.
Ah yes, the purple tones of underexposed velvia…
This was taken with my F3 hooked up with a waist level finder. I’d wanted to get one for a while because I really like the ergonomics of taking photos with one, and finally got one early this year. Even though the focussing screen is really small for 35mm cameras compared to a medium format SLR, I still find it a very engaging way to take photos. I’ve also not had too big of a problem focusing with it either. And as a final bonus it shaves a noticeable amount of weight from the camera, as opposed to using the normal finder!
A highlight of Coney island is riding this sweet coaster.
Door by the canal in Hackney. I bought an old slide projector on ebay to see what this roll of Provia looked like huge. There is nothing like it.
Whilst living in Walthamstow in North East London I walked past this garage every day. I found the colours very interesting in the bright spring morning sunlight.