Dad’s Last Roll Of Film

Happy Father’s Day to all you awesome dads out there!

What is this camera being profiled today? Well it’s the Pentax IQ Zoom 735 and it was my go to point and shoot camera in the mid 1990s. Nothing special about it. I just used it when the situation didn’t warrant a Konica Hexar or Contax T. I did remember though doing some cool double and maybe even multiple exposures with it, something a lot of my big automatic SLRs couldn’t do!

Anyway my Dad wasn’t a photography guy but I gave this to him and encouraged him to use it since he was always walking around NYC in his retirement.

He died in 2011 and there’s still a roll of film in the camera. Being the sentimental fool that I am I haven’t had the heart to take the film out for development so it’s sat in the camera for ten years!

Recently I’ve been thinking it’s time but just like a lot of people who were close to a loved one who passed away I’m reluctant to touch their stuff.

What would you do if this was your dad’s last roll of film? Would you develop it?

Anyway Dad taught me so much by his example how to be a loving parent. Happy Father’s Day to my dad and to all of you great dads out there! Keep doing your thing! 😎😍😎🙏🏻👍🏻

I Did It!! 😍

“What day is it? And in what month?” 😍

Happy June folks! Sorry this is not camera related but it’s much more important in the overall scheme of things!

Why haven’t you seen this before? Because I haven’t gotten my first COVID-19 vaccine till recently! 🥰

Not because I’m anti-vaccine, think covid is fake or believe in moon beams causing forest fires or anything like that. It’s because I went so long working in dirty nursing homes, seeing patients, co-workers knocked out by covid and yet I never got it! Believe me I’m not trying to brag. I’ve been very lucky, blessed or both but I never caught it. Never tested positive. Never had the antibodies. All this despite going to work with 3-4 hours of sleep. Not always the best diet, drinking soda, etc, etc. I do wear my ppes and wash my hands but I was not super anal about it either. Sometimes I forgot 😀

I figured hey I came this far and never caught the damned bug so maybe I shouldn’t take the vaccine and try to get the record for never catching COVID-19!

But recently my dear Mom said “What are you trying to do? Kick the bucket?” 😀 It’s something similar to what the doctor said to my late great Dad when he tried to avoid the doctor during a critical time when he was on oxygen for copd.

Anyway I realized I was playing Russian roulette with this so I decided to get it for my loved ones ❤️

I had my first dose three weeks ago and am scheduled for my second dose this week. So I won’t try to tell you what to do but if I could I’d say folks, whether you’re for the vaccine or not do it for “you and me and all of the people with nothing to do and nothing to prove” 🥰 That’s from a song for a friend!


Do it for the world, do it for the ones you love! And if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with!😍❤️😍

Have you gotten vaccinated? Will you or won’t you? What are your feelings on vaccinations in general? Are you afraid of the unknowns like becoming sterile or having mutant babies? Are vaccinations yet another way for the government to control you? Whatever your stance, I’d love to hear your opinions on this!


PS: I won’t be surprised if I catch COVID shortly after this. That’s the irony of life! Not that I’m wishing for it, believe me I’m not but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens! 😎🙏🏻🙏🏻👍🏻

A Look Back At The Original Ricoh GR Digital In 2021

Good day you war torn hardcore camera geeks! My apologies for the long transit time between reviews. As I’ve mentioned many times before, I am concentrating on building up our YouTube channel. I think if and when I hit 1000 subscribers I will return to posting articles here full time 🙂

Hopefully, the length of this article will make it up to you somewhat. Hopefully, it’s all the information you will need on this classic digital camera.

If I may, I’d like to ask you a few questions before I begin. Do you still listen to CDs in your CD player? Is John Paul II still the Pope? Is George W. Bush still President of the United States? Do you still use your original Ricoh GR Digital? Yes, I’m asking you about the GRD 8.1 megapixels!

This reminds me of those comments people leave for old music videos which might go something like this: “Anyone still paying attention in 2021?”

Is it just me or does time seem to be flying by at a breakneck pace? Man, in my mind 2005 wasn’t all that long ago and yet here we are 16 years later in 2021!

Where is this all leading to? Let’s get to it!

THE RICOH GR DIGITAL

The Ricoh GR Digital is an 8.1 megapixel compact digital camera introduced by Ricoh Corporation of Japan in 2005. It sports a 5.9mm (28mm in 35mm equivalent) f/2.4 GR lens with a 1/1.8″ CCD sensor. It is the first direct digital descendant of the Ricoh GR1 film camera.

In subsequent years, Ricoh introduced the GR Digital II 10mp, GR Digital III 10mp, and GR Digital IV 10mp. All had incremental advances.

In 2013 Ricoh released the Ricoh GR, dropping the “Digital” from the name. This camera offered significant advances, most notably the inclusion of a new 16 megapixel APS-C sized sensor. The latest of which is the GR III introduced in 2019. This model sports a 24mp APS-C sensor.

While I will make some references to newer models, please note that this review’s primary focus will be on the original 8.1mp Ricoh GR Digital model.

IN RETROSPECT

Hindsight is an invaluable thing. So in hindsight, when I wrote my first review on the GR Digital I called it a point and shoot camera, and even though one can use it as such, it may be more accurate to call it an advanced compact camera because you can do more with the camera than just point and shoot. You have control over the aperture and shutter speed and various other settings. And even though the lens is fixed, you can increase its versatility through the addition of add on lenses.

I also implied that its color images were just ok. In reality, the camera takes very good color images particularly at low ISO values. But the reason I said that was because it was and still is my opinion that the black and white files from this camera overshadows its color output.

The GR Digital was and still is very popular with its cult of fanatics, but it’s not all that popular or well known to the masses so when I wrote my article in 2014 I sought to take a fresh look at this digital classic. Prior to this, the only real review on this camera was the DPReview article way back in 2006.

I like to proudly and humbly say that in 2014 we brought this camera and its filmic b&w back into the spotlight. Continue reading, I have some facts to back this up!

YOUTUBE VIDEO

It took me many years to write this review update as well as put up a video on this camera, despite the fact that it remains one of the most consistently popular articles on Camera Legend and a camera people have asked me to do a video on. Why did it take so long?

Here’s the GR Digital 8.1mp Video :

In this video, not only do we look back on the GR Digital 8.1mp in hindsight, we also look at a compressed view of fifteen years of the original GRD, and I give you my settings to help you get the best black and white images out of this digital camera classic!

WHY IT TOOK ME SO LONG TO MAKE THE VIDEO

Well, I apologize for the delay but here’s why I took my sweet time with this! Ok, so in 2014 when I wrote my original article I had no idea that the camera was still as popular as it was. I mean, this is a cult camera in that it has a loyal following among its fans but the vast majority of the general public probably has no clue about it.

So I wrote my article and thought nothing more of it. The problem came when I was looking around to buy another one. Keep in mind I already had three, yes three, because I liked them so much! The first one I got back in 2006 in which I paid several hundred dollars, but the other two were bought at really low prices like $30-50! At that time I think the prices were trending at $50-80 USD.

Ok so a few weeks after I wrote my article, I looked for another one and I was dismayed to see the prices of the camera going for around $150-200. I said, hey what’s going on?!

So I took to Google to do a search and see if there was anything causing this spike. To my surprise, MY review showed up in the top spot of the Google search! At the same time, I noticed through the stats that WordPress provides me, that the GR Digital article was my most viewed article. I started putting two and two together…

Ok ok, before I get ahead of myself I just want to say I take no credit for the price increases on the original GRD! I’ve read criticisms of other reviewers from geeks on places like the DPReview forums with people saying stuff like: “Oh this guy must think he’s hot shit if he thinks that he can raise the prices based on his reviews” or “This guy must be an arrogant son of a bitch!” Those were actually comments on other camera reviewers about other cameras but I don’t want that kind of ire.

I personally think it was just coincidence, but…what a coincidence! 🙂

Anyway, I stopped doing articles on this camera because, and I’m making a confession here: I was HOARDING them! Yes that’s right. By 2017, I had about five of them! All of them were the same 8.1mp model. I love the camera that much!

I figure, if I helped raise the prices in any way through my article then I don’t want to do it again. Not just for me but for my fellow GRD 8.1mp lovers!

Today, I’m down to three. I have one for color, one for black and white with the wide angle attachment making it a poor man’s GR21 in digital form. And I keep one in the drawer in case one or both of the other two break.

As I recall, my original GR Digital article was in the Google top spot for a couple of years then fell down the list as others started to review this camera. However, as of tonight the Camera Legend article appears to be back in the top spot. It sounds great but it doesn’t really matter much. Remember, this is a cult camera. It’s not like a Sony A7III or Nikon Z7 or EOS R where the whole world is looking for reviews.

SAMPLE PICS

Below are selected photos from fifteen years of GR Digital images, all from the Original 8.1mp model.

TIMELESS BUT DATED

Personally, for me the original Ricoh GR Digital’s b&w implementation is timeless. It looked great in 2005 and it looks great today. It has been said by me and many others that the b&w files from this camera have a look that resembles Tri-X film. But one of the reasons I am doing this article now is because I believe that finally, its time has come and gone for most except for its hardest of hardcore fanatics like me.

Why? Because in 2005 and indeed even in 2014 when I wrote my first article, its digital b&w files were uncommon and hard to emulate in-camera by any other camera save for the Leica Monochrom. Today, in 2021, many more cameras are able to produce similar film-like digital b&w files.

Another factor for the decreased interest in this camera is that today we live in a 20-50mp world. Eight megapixels just seem way too low for the modern crowd, let alone an eight megapixel camera with a tiny sensor. But that’s fine, let them think that way!

To me, one of the ingredients in the original GRD’s secret sauce is its “low” 8.1mp count! Yes, just as I mentioned in my Contax N Digital 6mp review, I find that cameras with lower not higher megapixels produces files more reminiscent of scanned 35mm film.

While its siblings like the 16 or 24mp GR cameras produce sharper, more noise free images, those qualities also make the files from those cameras more digital in appearance, in my opinion. I have the 16mp GR and I still to this day prefer the b&w files from the 8.1mp original because its files are noisier, grittier, grainier. That’s what gives it that “film-like” look.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

If you’re seeking the original 8.1mp GR Digital, the good news is that the camera is still easily found but mostly on eBay and usually from dealers in Japan. The prices are trending at $100-150 which to any point and shoot from the 2005 era would seem really high but for the GRD I think it’s a fair price for an amazing camera for black and white photography.

BOTTOM LINE

The original Ricoh GR Digital 8.1mp has remained one of my favorite cameras since I got my first copy in 2006. And it also remains one of my most frequently used. Coming from a dedicated gear head who has gone through countless cameras I think that says a lot about how much I love this camera!

However, I concede that it’s not for everyone. If you’re not a fan of black and white photography, this camera is not for you. If you are anti digital and will accept only black and white images from film then this camera is not for you.

But for anyone who loves black and white photography, especially black and white street photography the original GRD remains a compelling and low cost choice for b&w work.

Today in 2021, the original GR Digital may seem very basic in comparison to its 16 and 24 megapixel GR siblings but in my opinion its black and white files will still give the newer cameras a run for their money while putting more money in your pocket!

The original Ricoh GR Digital 8.1mp has been a constant companion during the last 16 years and it is one of my most loved Camera Legend cameras of all time. If you love black and white photography, get it!

ALTERNATIVES Ricoh GR III Leica M10 Monochrom Fuji X-T4 Olympus Pen F

Mystery Camera: The Yashica EZ-F521

Good morning you beautiful awesome hardcore, war-torn camera geeks! We haven’t had one of these “mystery cameras” in a while so today I present you with another Mystery Camera for your Flashback Friday and the camera we have today is the Yashica EZ-F521. Now what is a Yashica EZ-F521?! 😎😍😎📸👍🏻

INTRODUCTION

The Yashica EZ-F521 is a five megapixel point and shoot digital camera introduced in 2009. While it bears the “Yashica” brand name, this is NOT the Yashica of yore. This camera was manufactured in China apparently by a company in Hong Kong that had bought the rights to use the Yashica name after Kyocera closed out the Contax/Yashica brand in 2005.

SPECS

The Yashica EZ-F521 was sold as a 5mp digital camera although some I’ve read people saying the camera is closer to 3 or 4 megapixels. There is a 12mp interpolated resolution mode within its menu. The sensor is said to be a 1/2.5 inch sensor.

The lens is a 42.5mm fixed plastic lens. The aperture appears to be either f/2.8 or f/3.2 and nothing else. There is no way to focus the camera other than the infinity/macro setting which is done by twisting the lens to either one of those positions. Shutter speed range is unknown. I found something on the web that says 1/2 sec to 1/2000th but I’ve read others saying they never hit 1/1000th on this camera.

In any event you really don’t have much control over this as the camera chooses the shutter speed as well as the aperture. The ISO appears to be fixed at ISO 100. There is a low resolution 640/480 VGA video mode which can be shot at 30/15fps.

There is also a hidden RAW mode which can be accessed through a sequence of buttons and dials. I forgot what it is now, but I will update this article later to include it. But don’t get too excited though. RAW on a camera like this is overkill. Just sayin’! 🙂

YOUTUBE VIDEO

For those of you who prefer a more “dynamic” experience, here it is! 🙂

PERSONAL IMPRESSIONS AND THOUGHTS ON THE YASHICA EZ F521

This camera caused a bit of a buzz on internet photo forums back in 2009 and as a former lurker in those forums, I caught the bug too!

Now despite the horribly limiting specs, with this camera I must admit I was very shallow lol and I was probably most attracted by that eye-catching orange/reddish coating on the fixed lens which in hindsight looks like something from a security camera. I admit, I’m a sucker for a pretty face. Well, in this case, maybe not a pretty face but a strange and interesting face!

I bought the camera back in 2009 or 2010 from a cool guy named Dirk at a site called JapanExposures and yes it came all the way from Japan. I think I paid less than $100 for it.

In hindsight, I really wonder what attracted so many people to this camera back in 2009. I mean, the specs are really uninspiring, the camera body and lens are plastic and there’s not much in the way of control (at least outwardly).

It was probably, in addition to that luscious orange tinted lens, it was probably due to the fact that someone dubbed it the “Digital Holga” that gave the camera its appeal. I’ve seen some great work by Holga film camera users though I myself had never really been a huge Holga/Lomography fan. I mean, soft fuzzy images, vignetting, blurry images can be “artistic” but it’s generally not my thing.

That said, I get it. I know what the appeal of Holga is to people. It offers an alternate reality for people who tire of perfectly sharp, perfectly exposed images. It is a different kind of photographic art. Now even if you’re not a Holga/Lomography fan but you shoot film then you have more in common with the Holga crowd than you might think.

Why do you continue to shoot film with all its inherent grain, its limiting ISO range, its susceptibility to dust, scratches when you have digital cameras today that can blow up sharp images to the size of the side of a large building? It’s because you want something different from the razor sharp images you get from these digital cameras. You want film grain, grit, and imperfections to give your images some personality, etc, etc. Get it now?

When I first got the camera, I thought it was the coolest thing! It was light, plasticky, but at the same time small and pretty cute! No I wasn’t disappointed because I already knew what it was supposed to be. I did not have any expectations of it being a high quality camera and true to form, it was/is not.

This camera is considered to be a toy camera. What is a toy camera? According to Wikipedia: “Within the field of photography, a toy camera is a simple, inexpensive film camera. Despite the name, they are in fact always fully functional and capable of taking photographs, though with optical abberations due to the limitations of the simple lenses.”

This can apply to the Yashica EZ F521 with the exception of “film camera” as it is not a film camera but a digital camera, and even that might be too high a description especially if you’re thinking of today’s digital cameras. It’s almost reminiscent of the early 2mp digicams or early cell phone cameras.

IMAGE QUALITY

The Yashica EZ F521 takes interesting images! “Interesting” is subjective and for me, what I liked about it is an interesting color palette, fun filters, and surprisingly sharp images. Take a look at my YouTube video to see sample images of some of the in camera effects.

Some people have complained that the plastic lens produced images “too sharp” to be Holga-esque but I say you can always take a sharp image and soften it, but you can’t really sharpen up an inherently soft image so I’m ok with its “sharp” images. Keep in mind that “sharp” for this camera is not Canon L lens sharp. It’s more like “I didn’t expect it to be sharp” sharp 🙂

I will say that in general images appear sharper than what you would normally get from a plastic lens Holga or Lomography camera. I guess that’s what they mean by “too sharp” but again, the sharpness is fine for my purposes.

SAMPLE PICS

Here are a few sample pics from this camera over the years. I probably have a ton more but they’re pretty much gone as the one card I used on this camera became corrupted. I probably could invest in some software that might help me recover them but why bother? I’ll make new memories! Anyway, take a look:

ISSUES

My first and main issue with this camera is that it seems to eat up the three AAA batteries pretty fast. Make sure you have extras laying around.

Secondly, I’ve had two copies of this camera. One I bought brand new, and the other a couple of years ago, around 2017 or 2018. My first one bought around 2009-2010 lasted many years of sporadic usage. Towards the end, it developed a couple of problems. First, the locking mechanism for the battery compartment broke. And then, the SD card slot suddenly refused to hold the card in place. The battery compartment was remedied with tape but the SD card issue could not be remedied. I used the camera’s internal memory which gave me, I think, about ten shots. Though incredibly inconvenient, I used the camera like a film camera for a while until I found my other copy a couple years ago.

The one I am currently using is not without flaws. It seems to eat through batteries faster than my first copy. Every now and then, the LCD monitor shows lines like it’s going to conk out.

I’ve seen some of this before with the Contax N Digital so I’m not expecting this one to last much longer. To be fair though, the Contax N Digital costs a lot more than the Yashica EZ-F521 but reliability wise they seem on par with each other.

In the end, the Yashica EZ F521 should be seen in the same light as the Nishika N8000 and Nimslo 3D cameras in that it is a CRAP CAMERA, as I said about the 3D cameras 🙂

Now don’t be offended if you love these cameras, I do too! I’m just making that statement based on their flimsy build quality. plastic lenses, and their low reliability rates. All these cameras have a high FUN factor which makes up for their negatives but it comes with the caveat of HANDLE WITH CARE.

PRICE & AVAILABILTY

This is a hard one simply because, as of this writing, there’s no copies of the Yashica EZ-F521 to be found. I checked eBay, I checked all over the web. None. And perhaps, there are really not many people looking for this camera but I could be wrong.

I can only base my price estimates based on the average of the two copies I bought. One was brand new in 2009-2010 for $89 USD and one for $40 used. So I’d say if you could find one, a fair price would probably be $40-50 tops.

To aid in your search for this camera, it was also sold and rebranded as the Takashi FX 521 and perhaps rebranded as something else too, but I’m not sure about that last part. I have seen pics of the Takashi so I’m sure about that one.

BOTTOM LINE

The Yashica EZ F521 is NOT a Camera Legend and probably never will be. Nevertheless, it was probably the last digital “toy camera” that had such a buzz around it and for the most part, it delivers on its “Digital Holga” images and fun factor.

It was/is a fun camera to use, not for serious work, but if you consider it an extra “artistic brush” in your camera arsenal you certainly can get interesting results out of it.

Above all, see this camera as a testament to the fact that you will never know what you see on Camera Legend because I love ALL cameras but…I only write about the ones I found interesting!

Wow, I didn’t expect this article to be this long! If you’re reading this till the end, I say THANK YOU! 🙂

Photo Of The Day: Snow!

Good morning you awesome war-torn camera geeks! Well what a monster storm we had up here in the northeast and elsewhere right?

I think it was the best snow in years as far as snow goes. It’s the kind of snow that one can easily make snowmen with. Haven’t had that in a few years!

The photo was taken with an iPhone X and processed in camera.

I wouldn’t say it is a “high quality” picture or anything but I wanted to ask: Has the phone quality gotten good enough where you choose it over your better gear?

In my case, it is simply because I didn’t want to risk damaging my “real” cameras since I knew I was going to be outside for a while but I do admit I shoot my phone quite often these days because of the simplicity and ease of sharing the pics.

Sure I can see the blown out whites in the snow but I’m sure 90 percent of the general public out there would not notice or even care about that. It’s only us camera geeks that care! 😀

Someone asked me what the lens was on my old Sony A7r original. It’s the Contax 50mm f/1.4 N lens. The lens lives on!

This is the same lens I used on my now sold Contax N Digital, yes the one with the dead sensor. Someone actually wanted it!

This is a Kipon adapter that’s supposed to control the aperture of the lens electronically through communication with the camera. It is not an autofocus adapter.

The problem with it is that it doesn’t work! I’m forced to always use the lens wide open which is disappointing but ok because I almost always use the lens wide open indoors but outdoors this will be problematic because the lens can flare or cause over exposure in bright light.

It cost me $40 from a respected dealer and there was no mention that it wasn’t working. I suspect they didn’t have an N lens to test.

Anyway as these adapters cost $260 brand new I’ll keep it. I just can’t and won’t dish out $500 for an AF adapter as nice as the N lenses are.

That’s it for today, have a great one good peeps! 😎😍😎👍🏻

Sunday Stories: The “Stolen” OM-D and Three Flashback Sunday Pictures

Good morning you war torn camera geeks! Today I present to you a series I call “Sunday Stories.” It is exclusively a YouTube series on the Camera Legend channel. Today’s story is about the “stolen” Olympus OM-D E-M1 at the 2013 PhotoPlus show in NYC. It was a story that could have turned out pretty bad but…well, if you’re interested, please check it out here:

Flashback Sunday Pics

(Above) Someone had recently asked me for a straight out of camera jpeg from the Leica M8 and here’s one from 2015. Shot with the M8 and 35mm f/1.2 Voigtlander Nokton. Hope this helps!

(Above) A photo taken by real world Camera Legend and friend Frank B. aka “Boscodamus” at the PhotoPlus Expo show in 2010. He took the photo using my M8 and his 50mm f/1.0 Leica Noctilux. I’m amazed that he nailed the shot! I mean, he’s an experienced Leica M film camera user but the fact that the shot is so sharp at f/1.0, man, Frank I’m impressed! And the happy expressions? Wow! Then again, I’ve always been impressed with Frank’s work, he’s a master!

Frank says his website is offline right now but he’s free to leave a link here should it open up again. Thanks Frank and my regards to Mrs. B! 🙂

(Above) Has the Covid restrictions worn you out? Hopefully not much longer! 🙂

The last Sunday Leica M8 flashback was shot in 2017 with the M8 and 50mm f/1.5 Nokton (Voigtlander Prominent) lens via adapter. Note the funky bokeh in the background. This is also a straight out of camera jpeg and the colors look better than the first image I think.

That’s it for January folks, see you next month!

Book & Site Recommendations

Good morning war-torn geeks and camera freaks! Just like you, there are many great photography sites I visit though admittedly not as much these days due to just being busy with life. However, when there is free time I enjoy these sites and I’d like to recommend them to you guys in case you didn’t know.

Mike Eckman Dot Com: Mike Eckman’s site is a treasure trove for classic film camera lovers. His reviews are detailed, concise, and includes wonderful samples taken with various cameras. I review Camera Legends but Mike has me beat with ALL cameras! Check out his wonderful reviews:

Victor Bezrukov: Victor is a brilliant photographer based in Israel. When I first visited his site, I saw a description on “the light and shadow warrior.” When you see something like that, the photographer usually doesn’t live up to the description but this man does! His images, especially his b&w images are compelling and Victor really has an eye for composition. I really enjoy his photography and I bet you will too! Check him out:

https://www.victorbezrukov.com

Jim Grey: Jim Grey’s “Down The Road” has been a favorite for many years. In addition to his many great camera reviews, Jim has a wonderful way of blending photos and words into stories and experiences that anyone can understand and relate to. Being close in age as well as being a fellow camera nut, I can relate to his work on many levels. Jim has also been very kind and supportive of the Camera Legend website and I am very thankful for that! Check out Jim’s wonderful blog here:

https://blog.jimgrey.net

And speaking of Jim Grey, I got his book recently and I would like to give it my highest recommendation! Without giving it all away, if you’re familiar with Jim’s work, this book is all you love and more! Well written with wonderful photos, plus some very deeply personal life experiences that you might relate to and might leave you appreciating your own circumstances. You may get the book here or through Jim’s pages:

By the way, I’m old school, I got the paperback copy! I’m about half way through the book and I can say it’s classic Jim Grey!Wonderful photography and deeply personal stories.

If you’re a modern day reader you may also get it in eBook form. I might do that for all future books as I’ve become more environmentally aware over the past few years 🙂

Fuji Sale On Amazon

I haven’t done a book recommendation in years simply because I haven’t bought a book in years but this one is well worth it. As I said about many a good camera, I will say about this book: Get it!

This is just the first of many. There are many other photographers and sites I’d love to recommend and I will so keep looking out for it!

Have a great day camera geeks!

Pandemic Shooting 2020

Good morning war torn Camera Geeks! A late start for the blog this year as I have been continuing to put my efforts into our YouTube channel but the blog is never forgotten! So this week I will spend more time here.

In our first post of 2021, I’d like to take a look at some photos taken last year during the 2020 Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic. Some people might also call this “quarantine” or “lockdown” shooting but I think “pandemic” shooting is more accurate in my case, as quarantine shooting would mean I had to be in quarantine for the virus which I fortunately was not. And a lockdown would mean I never left the house which I did many times.

Looking back on 2020, I have to say it was perhaps my least productive year photographically. Because of the restrictions in NYC due to the pandemic and because of a new work schedule, I was rarely ever in Manhattan in 2020. And it was perhaps for the better, not only because of the virus, but because of the empty streets.

New York City is known for its vibrant and bustling streets full of life and flavor, but last year, especially during the first lockdown in March and April, the streets were eerily empty. It was surreal to see places like Times Square empty.

Take heart however that I have been downtown recently and life appears to be coming back to the Big Apple. Even though we are now on the second and perhaps even more deadly wave of the virus, there were a lot of people in various areas of the city during the 2020 Holiday season.

“Calm Before The Storm” with the Funky Bunch in New York City in late December 2019.

Perhaps it’s virus fatigue or just crazy tourists or a combination of both, people appear more willing to venture out.

Say what you will about New Yorkers but one thing I can say is, based on my observations, New Yorkers take Covid-19 very seriously. They, for the most part, adhere to social distancing guidelines and wearing masks.

This is perhaps due to New York being hit very hard by the virus at the beginning of the pandemic in the USA. New York was at one time the epicenter of coronavirus in the U.S., a sad and scary place that California is unfortunately in right now.

I spent a lot of my free time in 2020 going up to the woods in upstate New York.

CAMERA GEAR 2020

While 2020 might have been a bust for me photographically, it was actually a boon for me camera wise! Working long hours during the coronavirus pandemic as a healthcare worker gave me sufficient funds to pick up some stuff that I had been waiting a long time to get.

Now I want to make it clear that a pandemic was not an excuse for me to buy new gear. In fact, in the beginning, it had the opposite effect. Thinking about life and death made me not want to waste money on material things.

However, as time went on, working closely with coronavirus patients and surprisingly (and luckily) not catching the bug gave me the confidence to put in even more time at work. To be fair, let’s say it was not just luck because I did pay attention to all of my coronavirus precautions.

Eventually, it got to a point where I said, you know what you only live once! I was bored at home because of the lockdowns and store closures so without breaking the bank, I picked up some new used gear. Boredom can be a dangerous thing!

So here are my two most used cameras in 2020…

MAMIYA 7 & 80mm f/4 LENS

I’ve had the Mamiya 7 since 2014. I have never given it a proper review. Why? I’m not the guy who rushes out with a review of every camera I have although if there was ever a camera to review it would be the Mamiya 7! At the same time, the Mamiya 7 is almost universally known as a great camera system. What am I going to add to that?

I’ve been using the Mamiya 7 with the 50mm f/4.5 during most of my time with it. The 50mm is not the lens most people start with in this system and that wasn’t my plan either, but as usual I only got it first because I got it very cheap, like $250 in 2014! It should be stated that even then, that was quite a bit under its worth.

A view of the George Washington Bridge from the New Jersey side with my Mamiya 7 and 80mm f/4 in hand.

Fast forward to 2020 and I finally got the lens I wanted for it, which is the 80mm f/4 which is considered the standard lens for the Mamiya 7. I waited so long because I was quite happy with the 50mm and because the 80mm was always more expensive than I wanted to spend on it.

Not that I wouldn’t have bought one if I had the money, but being busy with other camera systems kept it in the back of my mind. In 2020, I was able to get one for around $400. Not exactly cheap for a standard lens, but it is a cheap price for the Mamiya 7 system!

I’ve been impressed with its performance so far. It is sharp and contrasty, just as I expected. I don’t anticipate getting another lens for the Mamiya 7 for a long time unless I find the 150mm or the 43mm at a very good price.

“Snow 2020” Mamiya 7, 80mm f/4 L lens, Ilford HP5 Plus developed in Ilfosol 3. The first and last snowstorm of 2020 in December. This was basically a quick snapshot but check the crop below to see the amazing quality of the Mamiya 7 80mm f/4 lens. This image was shot wide open.
It’s not often that I get this kind of clarity when blowing up 35mm negatives so the 6×7 negative of the Mamiya 7 really offers enlargement potential. In fact, I believe it is only limited by the film itself.

Olympus Pen F Digital

The Olympus Pen F Digital was the last camera I saw myself getting in 2020. While I’ve always liked its looks and while I’ve read positive comments about the camera, I myself have always seen it as somewhat of a glorified Pen Digital camera.

Having used the digital Pen cameras since 2009 with the original E-P1, I worked my way to other models like the E-M5 and E-M1. One great thing about the Pen series is the “art” filters Olympus provides. Their “grainy film” filter has been highly praised and I was quite happy with it.

Yet, I kept reading over and over again about the “Mono 2” setting on the Pen F. To make a long story short, I will say that my observation is…yes, it is an amazing Monochrome simulation! It definitely is more “film-like” than what I have seen from my E-M5 or E-M1 and it is not easy to emulate the same thing in-camera with other cameras. I’ve even tried the b&w simulation in Fuji cameras and in my opinion, the Pen F beats the Fuji hands down, at least when it comes to in-camera processing.

“Social Distancing” 2020. Olympus Pen-F Digital, LUMIX 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical G lens.

To my eyes, the Pen F provides a really nice mix of sharpness, grain, grit, and softness (yes, softness!) that makes the images in Mono 2 mode more film-like to my eyes. This is apparent even with a very sharp lens like my Lumix 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical lens.

“Animal Barn” 2020. Olympus Pen-F, Mono 2 mode, 20mm f/1.7 LUMIX G lens. Note the wonderful range of tones.
“Summer Of 2020” Olympus Pen-F Digital, Mono 2 mode, 20mm f/1.7 LUMIX lens. The year 2020 will be remembered as the year the world stood still.

Back in 2006 I either used film or a camera like the original Ricoh GR Digital to get black and white files like this. Today, we are lucky to have cameras like the Pen-F Digital that can emulate monochrome images the way I like them!

LATEST YOUTUBE VIDEO

In case you’re interested here’s my latest YouTube video. The topic is why I believe you need to buy the Leica M4-P right NOW if you’re looking for one. As I said in the video, if you’ve ever wondered how I got the Contax T2 for $300 or another camera for $200 when it’s worth $1000 now, it’s all about timing and the time is now to buy the M4-P! This is not the time to be cheap! Have a great day camera geeks! 😎😍📸👍🏻

Leica M4-P Sale At Amazon!<!–>>

The Leica M8 Review: Is The M8 Worth It In 2020/2021?

Good day you war torn camera geeks! There have been few digital cameras that I return to again and again. The Leica M8 is one of the few that I still enjoy using. Today I would like to give you the pros and cons of this camera.

INTRODUCTION

The Leica M8 was introduced in 2006 by Leica Camera AG of Germany. It is their first digital rangefinder model but not the world’s first digital rangefinder. The world’s first digital rangefinder is the Epson R-D1 introduced in 2004.

The M8 features a 10.3 megapixel sensor made by Kodak. The sensor is the model KAF-10500. The sensor is an APS-H sensor with a crop factor of 1.3x.

The M8 has a shutter speed of 1/8 to 1/8000 and has aperture priority and manual mode. The M8 was updated in 2008 with a newer model called the M8.2 which apparently has an improved and quieter shutter as well as more accurate frame lines and a sapphire lcd cover which is reportedly more scratch resistant. The M8.2 has a reduced top shutter of 1/4000.

YOUTUBE VIDEO

For those of you who enjoy a more “dynamic” experience, here’s our accompanying YouTube video on the M8:

HOW I CAME ACROSS AN M8

As I’ve mentioned many times here, I was and to some degree still am a frequent reader of photography form threads (though not as much these days) but I’m more of a lurker than a contributor. I’ve learned a lot on these forums over the years going all the way back to the mid 1990s!

Part of the reason I don’t get involved in the threads is that there are so many knowledgeable posters there, what I am going to say to them? 🙂

I read, I digest, I research for myself if I’m especially interested in something and I find out for myself what the truth is.

And so ten years ago in 2010 my interest in the M8 was very high. The digital cameras from the year 2007 and up were really taking things up several notches. My main digital SLR at the time was the Nikon D3 which I loved but I kept reading all these great things about the M8.

Now the M9 had been introduced in the fall of 2009 but as is usually the case I almost never buy anything new and especially that pricey, so the M8 was really my only option for a digital Leica M. Never mind that I already had the Epson R-D1 since 2006! It was G.A.S. creeping in again 🙂

“Dream Time” February 2010. Leica M8, 50mm f/2 Summicron-M. My first picture with the Leica M8! It was certainly “Dream Time” for me in 2010 when the Leica M8 arrived in the house! 🙂

So I found what was a good deal at the time, a near new M8 for $2000 USD. I found it in an ad in one of the forums. I happened to have the money but as always I had to bite hard when anything is over $500! But I did bite and soon I was in possession of a beautiful silver/chrome M8.

Now it wasn’t really that I wanted the M8 in silver, though it looks very beautiful in this finish. I’d probably have done better with a black model which would be more stealthy for street photography. The choice of color didn’t have anything to do with my purchase. The lowest price did! Though I must say the M8 does look beautiful in silver/chrome but I don’t really want my camera to look like jewelry, especially if I’m going to use it.

HANDLING & IMPRESSIONS

My first impressions of the M8 back in 2010 was that it handled like an M camera. I had my M3 film camera for comparison and the M8, while definitely way more modern, did feel like a Leica M. The one big difference I felt right away was that the M8 felt quite a bit bulkier. The only film Leica M that feels this bulky is the M5.

The viewfinder is bright and easy to see. The frame lines for the lenses appear in pairs and are as follows: 24/35, 50/75, 28/90. This can be a bit confusing especially due to the 1.3x crop of the M8’s sensor so I’ll keep it short except to touch on a couple of things. A common question I hear is if you put a 50mm lens on the M8 does the 50mm frame line show up? Yes, the 50/75 frame line shows up and apparently they have been adjusted for the crop factor. The 50mm frame line would be the wider of the two (50/75) when looking through the viewfinder. And don’t forget that due to the 1.33x crop factor, a 50mm lens translate to a 66.5mm lens on the M8.

The M8 has a distinctive “clunk” to the shutter. And then you get a “whirr” from the shutter re-cocking. It is not silent but not disturbing to my ears. It is definitely not the soft shutter sound you hear on an M3, M6, or other film Leica M cameras.

To offset this, the M8 has a “discreet” mode that you can activate via menu. What happens in discreet mode is that the camera will not re-cock the shutter until your finger has lifted off the shutter release. This does help in quiet situations.

SAMPLES

Here’s just a fraction of my favorite photos from the Leica M8 over the past ten years. Some photos have been lost but I had resized copies that were used on photo sharing sites such as Flickr so the quality on some may not be optimal and not truly indicative of the M8’s potential image quality.

LEICA M8 PROS & CONS

In my video, I gave viewers “3 For 3” which is 3 Pros offset by 3 Cons. Here on the blog I am listing a few more since I’m not restricted by time constraints as I am on the videos. So here, in no particular order, are my list of pros and cons for the Leica M8:

PROS:

  1. In 2020/2021, the Leica M8 is the cheapest digital Leica M you can buy. Only on the used market of course! But the prices are trending at $1000-1600 USD.
  2. CCD Sensor. There has been a lot of debate over the years over the merits of the CCD vs CMOS sensor and I’m not the one to end that argument. What I will say is that the M8, with the right lenses, will produce images with “presence.” Images have a clarity and acuity that I have not seen in many digital cameras. Color images can have a “chrome” look of slide film and images can “pop” with the right lenses.
  3. The “Poor Man’s Monochrom:” Perhaps because of the CCD sensor and its lack of an AA filter, the M8 produces superb b&w images and has been labeled by its fans as the “Poor Man’s Monochrom.” The Leica Monochrom of course is Leica’s B&W only digital rangefinder. The original Monochrom was the 18mp version based off the M9 but there are newer models today.
  4. The M8 opens the door to the fascinating world of Leica M mount lenses. Not just from Leica, but you also get access to wonderful glass from Zeiss, Voigtlander, Canon LTM, and the wonderful low cost Russian lenses and there’s even more options if you look around.
  5. The 1.33X APS-H sensor is a good compromise between APS-C and Full Frame sensors. For street and portrait work, I actually find the 1.33x crop factor to be beneficial.

Here are the cons that are counterpoint to the pros above…

CONS:

  1. In 2020/2021, the Leica M8 would be the oldest digital Leica M body. As anyone knows, even a few years is ancient for a digital camera, so that would make the M8 beyond ancient! However, it retains its value due to several factors which I’ll discuss later on. But buying a digital camera this old is risky, make no mistake about that. However, it’s a Leica and everyone that goes up for sale eventually sells. We’ll talk more about that later!
  2. CCD Sensor Limitations. The CCD sensor on the M8, while producing lovely images, has limitations inherent to CCD sensors in general. The M8 does not do well at higher ISO values. I generally keep the M8 at low ISO’s and ISO 640 is usually my “high iso” on this camera, although I have many images at ISO 800-1600 that I like. At ISO values higher than 400 on the M8, you risk more noise and sometimes banding in the images.
  3. Color Cast Issues. While the CCD sensor and the lack of AA filter make the M8 a terrific b&w camera, the con is that this sensor is near infrared and as such it does not produce completely accurate colors. There is potential for false color especially on dark cloth where for example a black dress would turn brown or purple on the M8. Indeed early on Leica recognized this and once offered IR cut filters for free (not anymore though!). That said, in most situations, the M8 can produce punchy colors that I find very appealing.
  4. As stated in the #4 “pro” the M8 opens the door to the wonderful world of Leica M lenses. However the “con” is that in 2020, the point is moot because these lenses can be adapted to almost any system, especially mirrorless systems.
  5. The 1.33X APS-H can be a negative for wide angle lovers and anyone who is bothered by the crop factor conversion. As I said I have no problems with it, but I totally understand why people would be bothered by that.

M8 VS M8.2

If you’re looking for an M8, the M8.2 is a newer variant of the same camera and was introduced in 2008. Main differences are an updated and supposedly quieter shutter on the M8.2, sapphire glass on the lcd for better scratch resistance on the M8.2, flash synch 1/250 (M8) vs 1/180 (M8.2) and a top shutter speed of 1/8000 for the M8 and 1/4000 for the M8.2.

Out of all those things the main thing that mattered to me was the top 1/8000th shutter speed on the original M8. I like using fast glass on the M8 and fast glass means bokeh so I wouldn’t want to lose the extra shutter speeds for those rare sunny day bokeh portraits. That said if I had the M8.2 I’m sure I’d be fine with it!

ISSUES

As with any digital camera nearly fifteen years old you should be concerned with the camera developing issues.

That said, I’ve never had any real issues with my M8. I’ve shot thousands of frames on it, used it for paid weddings and engagements. But keep in mind I was never a run and gun professional. If I were using the M8 during a paid shoot, it was always with another camera or two for those kind of shoots. I would never put thousands of photos a day on my M8 like I could with say a pro EOS 1 digital body even though the M8 is supposedly rated for 150K shots.

The main issue I saw in my ten years of using the M8 was that the battery could go flat fast in cold temperatures and that’s only happened within the past couple of years. I’m still on the original battery so take that into consideration!

Anything else like noise and/or banding is not a fault of the camera but inherent to its image quality. It IS after all a camera released in 2006 and probably designed way before that. Speaking of noise/banding, that is usually seen at the higher ISO settings and personally I’ve encountered noise but no so much banding.

The other issue I hear often in the M8 is a “coffee stain” effect that occurs randomly on the back LCD. The LCD develops a flaw and it looks something like a coffee stain on the LCD. In most cases it’s just an annoyance but nothing that gets in the way of you seeing the data or affects the picture taking abilities of the camera. Leica apparently does not fix it.

Lastly and best of all, the Leica M8 does not suffer from the infamous “Sensor Corrosion” issues that plagued the M9, the original Monochrom, nor the ME, all of which are based on the original M9 sensor.

That was a very serious issue that affected thousands of cameras and in my opinion put a stain on the M9 which was perhaps the most popular and iconic Leica Digital M up until that point. Leica originally replaced the sensors for free, and sometimes the replaced sensors ended up with the corrosion. It was a mess for Leica! Today, Leica claims to have ended the M9 sensor replacement program stating that there are no more M9 sensors to be had.

Be grateful the M8 did not suffer this issue!

IS THE M8 WORTH IT FOR 2020/2021?!

So here’s the question of the day! Is the Leica M8 still worth it in 2020 going into 2021? My personal opinion is an enthusiastic YES!! Yes, for me anyway! That is my catch 🙂

For you, if you really think you want to dip into a digital rangefinder, it is a great first step and it won’t kill your bank account like the $5000 digital Leica’s will!

Just keep in mind a few things; the M8 is nearly fifteen years on the market and things can go wrong with old digital cameras. The M8 offers no modern amenities such as focus peaking, 4k video, not even HD video. But you don’t need that! That’s why you got your Fuji, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Nikon Z, EOS R right? 🙂

The M8 offers a pure, no-frills shooting experience closer to film but with the conveniences of digital. That’s what you’d want it for!

The main thing you want to do when considering an M8 is to buy it from a trusted dealer. I’ll list some affiliates below but if you buy it from places like KEH, Adorama, B&H, Amazon, UsedPhotoPro, etc, anywhere that offers a lengthy warranty I think you’d be ok. But don’t blame me if something goes wrong 🙂

A camera like the M8 is not one I’d buy off some random guy on eBay. Too risky unless the price was beyond good, which would probably mean that something was wrong with it.

And in case you don’t like it, you can always sell it. I bought mine in 2010 for $2000 and they’re still selling used for $1000-1600. In fact, nearly every M8 that goes on sale from a legitimate dealer eventually sells!

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BOTTOM LINE

The Leica M8 is one of my all time favorite cameras, film or digital! In the ten years that I have owned the camera, it remains one of the few digital cameras from that era that I still use regularly, a camera I return to time and time again.

When the M8 was first released it seemed very much like an unfinished product. The color cast issues and the need for IR Cut filters to correct them, the noise at higher ISO settings, the 1.33x crop factor could have easily doomed a lesser camera. Yet in spite of all its shortcomings, the Leica M8 is still very much revered by a large cult of camera fanatics (myself included). And it all comes down to all that the Leica M8 does right; sharp files straight out of the camera, punchy vibrant colors reminiscent of chrome film, superb b&w possibilities and a pure rangefinder experience, as pure as you can get from a digital camera.

The Leica M8 is a digital Camera Legend. The fact that we are here nearly fifteen years later still talking about it, the fact that nearly every M8 that comes to market still sells says a lot about the camera and how highly regarded it is by its devoted group of enthusiastic users. If you have one, I’d love to hear about it! 😎📸👍🏻

WHERE TO BUY?

The Leica M8 is plentiful on the used market and as mentioned before prices are trending at $1000-1600 USD. The prices also apply to the M8.2.

My best advice is to buy it from a trusted dealer. Make sure they have at the very least a 30 day return policy/warranty although ideally a 90 or 180 day warranty will give you much more peace of mind.

Leica M Cameras

Flashback Friday: Kodacolor VR 1000 Pics

Good morning awesome war-torn camera geeks! Last night I was going through a bunch of photos I haven’t seen in a long long time. They were all stored in boxes I haven’t opened in years.

Today I want to share some of them with you. These pictures are basically just snaps from a New Year’s Eve party all the way back in 1986!

Our parents had a rich doctor friend who often threw New Year parties in his New Jersey mansion. He had an elevator in his house! He had a Mercedes, a Range Rover and even a DeLorean.

We were poor kids who lived in NYC and we always appreciated a chance to get out of the apartment. No jealousy, we loved the doctor and loved seeing all his toys 😀😎

If this was in today’s world I probably wouldn’t share these photos especially if shot on a phone camera but due to the passage of time and the technical information on the photos, I thought some of you may find it of interest.

Minolta X-700, 50mm f/1.7 MD lens, Kodacolor VR 1000 film. No flash. Shot on December 31, 1986. Here’s Dad in the corner of the basement at a New Year’s Eve party taking a smoke break. Note the grain structure and soft colors.

So to set up the story for you, I was a geeky teenager in 1986 and looking back now I was lucky to be shooting a Minolta X-700 that Mom got for me & my brother. The X-700 has become one of the most desirable Minolta cameras on the used camera circuit.

The Minolta X-700 was my main camera from 1985-1994.
“Party Animals” 1986. A flash was used for this shot.

The lens I used in these pictures was the 50mm f/1.7 Minolta MD lens which was a lens I would use for the next ten years. Simply because Mom didn’t want to waste money on more camera gear because cash was tight. But it’s ok. I learned a lot using one lens 99 percent of the time. And it’s probably why even to this day I still prefer using prime lenses.

Anyway the film is the star of the show here. It’s a Kodak film and it’s ISO 1000! Now back in those days “High ISO” was nothing like we know it today and high iso film were few and far in between. Surprisingly or not high iso film is few and far even today!

The film used in these pics was Kodacolor VR 1000 color film. Based on my research it was the only Kodak ISO 1000 color film that would have been available in 1986.

“New Year’s Day” 1986. Shot on January 1, 1987. The morning after the party. “Nothing changes on New Year’s Day” as the U2 song says. I love the grainy look of this shot!

The general consensus back then was that these high iso films would be grainy, not very sharp, and intended to be used for low light or dimly lit shots. Back then the compromises were not objectionable to me because the high iso film gave me the chance to take photos without the Minolta flash I used for all my indoor party photos.

Kodacolor VR 1000 apparently used the same T-Grain technology used in some of Kodak’s Disc Camera films. No wonder the big grain looked familiar to me!

If some of you may remember I reviewed the Kodak Disc Camera here. You may find it by using the search bar.

So what do you think? I personally love the grain and grit! I wish I had more photos to show you. I might but I have to look around. Seeing these photos actually made me wish a similar film was around today but alas there isn’t.

In today’s world you could take pictures way better than these with your cell phone but then again what fun is that?! 😀

As I always tell people, try not to throw away or delete your photos, no matter how trivial. You may look back on them one day and find memories that are priceless.

SEASONS GREETINGS

The “Wacky Bunch” wishes you the best for a safe and Happy Holiday season! Stay in touch with us on social media:

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