Tuesday Trends: DSLR vs Mirrorless…Is The DSLR About To Go Extinct?

The “trend” we will be looking at today is the topic of the Digital SLR (DSLR) versus Mirrorless cameras and the prevailing thought that the DSLR may be going into extinction soon.

I read the same articles and watch the same videos as you guys do and I saw that this topic was trending on YouTube for a couple of weeks.

Funny thing, I had thought of doing an article about this some time back as part of my “Tuesday Trends” series but I hesitated to post the video because I thought people might not find it relevant. It’s actually a topic of debate that’s been going back for several years!

I’m guessing what might have reignited this debate was this article on Petapixel in which Ricoh marketing general manager Hikorki Sugahara decided to buck the trend and stated that “mirrorless is a newcomer” and seems to imply that because of this people are flocking to these new systems but he predicts that the same people will return to the Digital SLR in 1-2 years. It’s an interesting article of which you can read in full here:

Ricoh Thinks Mirrorless Shooters Will Switch Back to DSLRs in 1-2 Years

I have my own views on this which I will share with you here, but first let’s look at what each system is.

WHAT IS A DSLR?

As mentioned above, a DSLR is a “Digital Single Lens Reflex” camera. The word “reflex” basically means it has an optical system of mirror, ground glass, prism, and eyepiece to form an image.

WHAT IS A MIRRORLESS CAMERA?

A Mirrorless camera is just that. It does not make use of a mirror between the lens and sensor. There is no mirror to move up and down. Some models may use mirrors elsewhere such as for the viewfinder but the important thing for “mirrorless” cameras is that there is no mirror between the lens and sensor.

The image is transferred electronically to the rear LCD. Higher end mirrorless cameras sometimes also have an EVF or electronic viewfinder.

YOUTUBE VIDEO

Here’s the accompanying video I made for this article. While the written article you are reading contains more information, the video makes up for it with raw grit and candid humor ๐Ÿ™‚

I didn’t want it to go on so long, but I guess I yak too much! Anyway, in this video I introduce some new “videography techniques” if you can call it that lol ๐Ÿ™‚

I will attempt to refine these production techniques in future videos. Remember folks, this is all for your entertainment!

DSLR PROS & CONS

The DSLR has been taking a beating recently by the “experts” and mirrorless proponents but still has a lot of things that make it highly desirable.

First off, it is the last link to actual film SLR cameras. Despite the “film vs digital” thing, a Digital SLR is in many ways an extension of the film SLR in the digital realm,

The most obvious link is the optical viewfinder. While DSLR’s may have sensors and other electronic elements, the good old optical viewfinder is built upon the same concept and engineering as your good old fashioned film cameras SLRS.

Before I start drifting off, let me just put the pros and cons into a more easy to follow numerical scheme:

DSLR PROS:

  1. Optical Viewfinder The view from a large, high quality optical viewfinder is still hard to beat, especially if focusing in daylight. “Ain’t nothing like the real thing baby!” as the song once said ๐Ÿ˜Š
  2. If the LCD ever fails, and sometimes it does, a DSLR with an optical viewfinder can still function for picture taking. A mirrorless camera with a broken EVF or LCD will be completely useless.
  3. Usually fast shot to shot times, less lag.
  4. Battery life is better on the newer DSLR cameras because it does not need to continually supply the LCD or EVF with power.
  5. Very fast AF possible.
  6. Focus Peaking may be available, depending on model, via Live View
  7. There are a ton of native lenses available for the DSLR and for potentially lower prices if buying used.
  8. A large DLSR balances better with long and/or heavy lenses
  9. This is subjective, but many people report that the DSLR feels more solid or better built than their mirrorless counterparts.
  10. Superb video options available on today’s DSLRs
  11. Choice of APS-C and Full-Frame options
  12. Superb image quality possible.

Nothing compares to using a true optical viewfinder especially outdoors!

DSLR CONS:

  1. DSLRs are often large, heavy, and bulky
  2. Lenses are often larger than the equivalent mirrorless lenses
  3. Many older DSLR lenses were optimized for film cameras, not digital sensors.
  4. The Optical Viewfinder cannot support focus peaking
  5. Contrary to what I’ve read, I find it harder to focus manual lenses at night or low light through the optical viewfinder.
  6. Focus confirmation chips not as accurate as focus peaking with fast lenses
  7. Limited ability to adapt lenses due to mirror being in the light path between lens and sensor
  8. Not inconspicuous or stealthy
  9. Potential shakiness at low shutter speeds due to mirror slap.
  10. You look old and unhip with a DSLR!

“Roar!” 2019. Canon EOS-1Ds, EF 85mm f/1.2L. DSLR’s can shoot fast and offers tons of options for native lenses at more affordable prices on the used market. For example, Canon’s new 85mm f/1.2 RF for their R Mirrorless cost $2699 new. The 85mm f/1.2L in EOS mount versions I & II can be found on the used market from $1000-1500 respectively.

Ok, next up is mirrorless…

MIRRORLESS CAMERAS PROS & CONS

Mirrorless cameras have a lot of virtues and benefits but they also have their shortcomings. Here are some pros and cons for mirrorless:

MIRRORLESS PROS:

  1. Smaller and lighter than their DSLR equivalent cameras.
  2. The easier it is to carry, the more likely you will take it with you and use it.
  3. Image Stabilization in body more common in mirrorless cameras than DSLRs.
  4. Lenses are also smaller and often lighter, but still of high quality.
  5. Very fast AF possible, but usually with higher end models.
  6. Focus peaking. Very useful with manual focus lenses
  7. Easier to focus at night or in low light due to LCD or EVF “gain” which makes for a brighter image in the viewfinder or on the LCD.
  8. The ability to use many more legacy lenses through the use of adapters. The absence of a reflex mirror in the light path makes this possible.
  9. Potentially less vibration at low shutter speeds due to no mirror slap.
  10. Superb video options available.
  11. Choice of APS-C or Full-Frame or even smaller 1″ sensors.
  12. Superb image quality possible.

Mirrorless cameras such as the Sony A7r above are incredibly popular for use with adapted legacy glass.

“Autumn Leaves” 2014. Sony A7r, Canon 50mm f/0.95 Rangefinder “Dream” lens. Focus peaking and the EVF on the mirrorless A7r made it much easier to achieve sharp focus with fast lenses. In fact, I find it invaluable for this purpose.

MIRRORLESS CONS:

  1. May feel too light and flimsy, depending on model.
  2. EVF may still feel like looking at a computer screen vs the DSLR optical viewfinder.
  3. Lag time. I find both my Olympus OM-D EM-5 and Sony A7r to have slow startup times and sometimes a lag after a shot is taken. This might be due to the “refresh” of the screens but it could make a difference between getting the shot and losing the shot.
  4. Potentially shorter battery life as battery is needed for everything.
  5. Native lenses, while growing, is still limited compared to DSLR lenses thus less native options, but plenty of alternative options if you’re willing to use adapters.
  6. Does not balance as well with larger lenses.
  7. Because of the small size, controls can feel cramped and ergonomics can suffer.
  8. You look like a modern day camera geek with a mirrorless camera! ๐Ÿ™‚

CONCLUSION

Wow, that was a mouthful! And more than I ever wanted to write! I even missed on one of the main points I wanted to make and that is…

If we do not see a Canon 1DX Mark III or Nikon D6 for the Olympics or even in a couple of years, then it is very possible that the big badass PRO DSLR bodies will go extinct. But I still think the DSLR will survive in the from of the “little” cameras such as the Canon Rebel series, Nikon D35xx series, and maybe even the mid-tier 7D or D7000 bodies.

Personally I say, have one of each! Now you might say something like “That’s too rich for my blood,” to which I would say come on now, you know photography is an expensive hobby but with the options you have these days, especially on the used market, you could easily have a good quality DSLRย andย mirrorless for under $500. It doesn’t need to be the latest and greatest folks.

DSLR or Mirrorless? Life is short, have both! ๐Ÿ™‚

I’d love to hear your opinion on this topic so if you have one, feel free to leave a comment! Happy shooting folks! ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป

***TOP SELLING DSLR & MIRRORLESS CAMERAS ON SALE!***

Canon T6i Kit

Nikon D850

Nikon D750

Sony A7III

Olympus OM-D EM-10 MKIII Kit

Olympus OM-D EM1X Ultimate Olympus!

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Flashback Friday: My Very First EOS Camera the EOS-10s 1995

Continuing on my “cheap cameras” theme for this week…

If some of your best photographic memories come from the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, then you’ve probably followed the same photographic path that I have.

This is the story of the days when your host and author here used nothing more than one camera and two lenses. I know it’s hard to believe after all the cameras profiled here, but yes there was a time when that was all I needed ๐Ÿ™‚

Perhaps you too have gone through that period. Do you ever wish you could go back to a simpler set of gear and just focus on photography?

THE CANON EOS-10s

My original Canon EOS-10s in black with my consumer grade Sigma 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 zoom lens. On the left is my most recent “60th Anniversary” EOS-10QD which I got for $17 dollars!

The camera for today’s subject is the Canon EOS-10s.

The EOS-10s is a 35mm autofocus SLR film camera introduced by Canon in 1990. It is also known as the EOS-10 or 10QD elsewhere around the world.

Quick specs include your standard P/S/A/M modes, flash synch at 1/125 and a shutter speed range from 1/30 to 1/4000 which puts it in the amateur/enthusiast category. It also had a unique and gimmicky bar code reader thing. Not worth mentioning, just Google it if you’re interested in that!

This story is NOT about the Canon 10D digital camera! If you came here by accident because of the 10D, I’m telling you now so you won’t waste your time. And yes, I’ve used the 10D too but it’s a topic for another day ๐Ÿ™‚

While a humble looking camera, the EOS-10s included a major innovation at that time which Canon called Multi-Basis AF which was a fancy way of saying that the camera had more than just one AF point ๐Ÿ˜Š

It had three in fact! Apparently the three AF points could “pass off” the subject it tracked from one AF point to another. This was major back in 1990! And just one of the many things that made Canon so respected as an innovator in the camera world.

CANON EOS-10s IMPRESSIONS

I got this camera in 1994. I was a poor student and while waiting for friends at a college library, I spent an afternoon reading almost all ย of the library’s Popular Photography magazine! Big mistake because that’s how the second wave of my camera obsession came about ๐Ÿ™‚

I had just about given up on my Minolta X-700 which I had used since 1985. It had developed a battery drain problem and even though I sent it in for Minolta to repair, the problem came back within a few months.

I was basically without a camera, except for my crappy Vivitar PS-20 point and shoot. I came across a review about the Canon EOS-10s and was fascinated by the (then) new Multi-Basis AF.

My friends showed up hours later, but I was quite content to read all that photography stuff! I was also several hundred dollars poorer because I knew I had to have that EOS-10s that I did not yet have the money for ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, a few months and several paychecks later, the EOS-10s arrived and I held in my hands my very first Canon EOS camera. What a feeling it was back then!

Obviously a camera is useless without a lens, so I went around to several local camera shops (and there were more local shops around back then) and I came back with what today may be seen as a very cheap lens: the Sigma 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 UC. I think I spent around $70 for it. I also eventually got a telephoto, and I settled for a cheap Canon 75-300mm f/4-5.6 USM first version.

As you can see folks, I started out with a humble two lens kit like everyone else! I cut my teeth learning the craft on cheap lenses. I should’ve just learned from my X-700 days and gotten a 50mm f/1.8 lens from the start but I wanted something different.

The EOS-10s felt good in my hands. I knew nothing of pro bodies at the time. I mean I read about them but didn’t think of getting one, nor could I afford one till much later.

While this is not a full out review, I can tell you that I never had a problem with the autofocus. It almost always delivered the goods. The fact that they AF points lit up in RED was a revelation at that time! Exposures were almost always spot on.

Below are some photos from circa 1995. Most of the photos are from a trip to Thailand in 1995. It is a beautiful and fascinating place to photograph! If you have the opportunity, do so. You will never run out of photo ops! I was quite content with my cheap camera and two lenses. All I wanted to do then was to take photos!

PHOTOS

Here are some photos from the Canon EOS-10s and my two “cheap” lenses. Where ever possible, I will state in the captions what I observed and what I may have done differently now that I can look back 24 years later.

“Working Monkeys” 1995. Canon EOS-10s, EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 lens, film unrecorded. I’m an advocate for developing your eye for interesting sites, but this one was easy! I caught these working moneys riding the back of a Toyota in Thailand. The monkeys are used to climb coconut trees and have been taught to get the best picks.

“Ten Buddhas” 1995. Canon EOS-10s, Sigma 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 UC lens, film unrecorded. Here’s an example of how I might have shot this different today. Looking back I probably should have used a large aperture lens, angle it differently and get one Buddha in focus while the rest are out of focus. Hmm, or is that perhaps too trite, to cliched a shot? ๐Ÿ™‚

“Sleeping Beauty” 1995. Canon EOS-10s, Sigma 28-70mm UC lens. Not sure who this “Pretty Boy” is but he sure loved a good nap ๐Ÿ™‚

“Float On” 1995. Canon EOS-10s, Sigma 28-70mm UC lens, Fujichrome Velvia. The joy of floral photography in upstate New York, and yes I do shoot flowers sometimes ๐Ÿ™‚

“Big Mouth” 1995. Canon EOS-10s, Sigma 28-70mm UC lens, Kodak Ektar 25. The hippo opens his big mouth at the Bangkok Zoo. At that time the now long discontinued Kodak Ektar 25 was touted as the “sharpest print film in the world” and my 13×19 prints confirmed this. What I learned is that even consumer grade lenses can be very sharp when stopped down, something we all know but kind of downplay today so we can keep buying expensive lenses right? ย ๐Ÿ™‚ Of course, the the Ektar 25 no doubt film helped the sharpness!

 

“Wat Phra Keo” 1995. Canon EOS-10s, Sigma 28-70mm UC lens, Kodak Ektachrome. One of the many magnificent structures at Wat Phra Keo in Bangkok, the most famous of Thailand’s many temples.

“Bangkok Traffic” 1995. Canon EOS-10s, Sigma 28-70mm UC lens, Kodak Ektar 25. The traffic in Bangkok was famous for being ridiculous and based on what I saw the last time I was there in 2016, it still is! But maybe not as bad as this:-)

“Koh Samui” 1995. Canon EOS-10s, EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6, film unrecorded. Just one of many beautiful views on the island of Koh Samui, Thailand. The trees and the hill may give a sense of scale. I used a telephoto because this was actually farther out than it looks.

It’s the 1990s again with my old Canon EOS-10s from 1994 and the “Fubu” shirt! ๐Ÿ™‚

BOTTOM LINE

The Canon EOS-10s doesn’t get a lot of love in today’s world. It seems to be viewed as an evolutionary camera, as far as Canon’s camera order goes, but it could and should also be considered revolutionary considering the advanced technology that was implemented into the camera.

The three MULTI-BASIS autofocus points that light up in red may seem like nothing today, but it was an amazing and useful feature that pushed forward the complexity and accuracy of autofocus cameras.

In today’s world of cameras with hundreds of tiny and precise AF points, using a camera like the EOS-10s with its three “large” AF points, right in the middle of the viewfinder , is a refreshing experience.

In fact, to this day, I’m so old school I still prefer using the center point AF in every autofocus camera I own!

The Canon EOS-10s may never be considered a true Camera Legend as it is overshadowed by so many other cameras, Canon and non Canon. However, when you consider how it helped push autofocus cameras forward, you can’t help but have a little respect for its place in camera history. That plus the fact that it was my first EOS camera! ๐Ÿ™‚

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

The Canon EOS-10s is dirt cheap and under-appreciated in today’s used camera market making it a great buy for the budding film photographer, or a seasoned pro wanting a cheap entry back into film.

Main problem or weak point might be the mode dial. They may wear out over time, but mine never did and I used it a lot back in the 1990s. The A2E that I also used later on has the same problem and I can attest that the dial on mine broke after a few years.

If seeking one of these, prices are trending at $10-40 USD. I wouldn’t pay more than $15-25 dollars. If it’s working you have a nice, if unassuming camera, that will deliver the goods!

The lenses, ah, probably not worth mentioning but you can find both of them anywhere from $5 to $35 or even better, FREE! Just keep looking! But any similar budget lenses will do, don’t knock yourself out over these lenses!

Happy shooting folks!

 

Film Beginner’s Guide To The Benefits Of A Cheap Camera Part I: Vivitar V3800N

Good morning you guys! A friend recently asked me to recommend him a good film camera but before I could give any recommendations, he asked me “Should I get a Leica? Contax? Nikon?”

That got me thinking. In all honestly, especially for the beginner in film photography, I really don’t think you need an expensive camera!

So that’s how today’s article came about! Keep in mind, this is a lighthearted article. Part humor and part reality ๐Ÿ˜Š

THE VIVITAR V3800N

The Vivitar V3800N is a 35mm single lens reflex (SLR) film camera. The lens mount is Pentax K. The actual year of its release is uncertain, but based on my research it appears to have been introduced and marketed by Vivitar in 2009.

The camera itself was apparently made by Cosina of Japan. To me, Cosina is the Yashica of today in that they can produce cameras and lenses of any type for any budget. From the very high end modern Zeiss Ikon (not to be confused with the original Zeiss Ikon of Germany) cameras to the Vivitar V3800N!

I am unsure however if Cosina made the 50mm f/1.7 Vivitar lens or if it was produced by a Chinese manufacturer. Cosina makes some very high quality Voigtlander branded lenses which are popular with the Leica community.

BUT…

While the Vivitar V3800N is the star of today’s article, it is really NOT about the Vivitar specifically. It could be about any cheap camera!

YOUTUBE VIDEO

For you folks who prefer videos, here’s my YouTube video on the subject. It’s about 6 minutes, much easier to view and much better for my sanity!

I’m doing it today on my new happy place, a place I call the “Lazy Couch” ๐Ÿ™‚

Got tired of that old backdrop, so while waiting for a new backdrop I’m on the Lazy Couch! Somewhere in this video I accidentally dropped the F… Bomb ๐Ÿ˜‚ Sorry about that!

OK, THE BENEFITS OF A CHEAP CAMERA!

  1. It’s Cheap! The Vivitar V3800N cost me $30 for both camera and lens! But again, it doesn’t have to be a Vivitar
  2. It’s a good conversation starter! Let’s say at a photo meetup your friends pull out their Leicas, Contaxes, Nikons, etc, etc, and you pull this out? Conversation starter!
  3. You can say you’re a student! The Vivitar V3800N is a camera that was used by many photography students in high schools and colleges.
  4. The V3800N doesn’t rely on batteries, except for the meter.
  5. If you use a 50mm lens, which I heartily recommend, and you stop the lens down a couple of stops, you may be quite surprised with your results. And your friends might be surprised too!
  6. And if you lose or damage the camera/lens or get it stolen, you will be out a bit of change but your Leica, Contax, or Hasselblad shooting friends will be out thousands!

PRICE, AVAILABILITY & OPTIONS

As I mentioned, I got the Vivitar V3800N plus 50mm f/1.7 lens for $30. You could find it for that price if you’re lucky or patient. More likely it will cost you $50-60 for both, still not bad.

The “ultimate” cheap camera to me, used to be the Pentax K1000. It was the original 35mm students camera but now prices have gone up quite a bit. Still, if you want higher quality than the Vivitar and all the benefits of the Pentax K mount, try to find one for under $100 with lens.ย Old Chinon cameras that use the Pentax K mount are also a good option.

As a fan of the Olympus OM series, the Olympus OM-1 can still sometimes be found for under $60. Get the 50mm f/1.8 Zuiko and you’ll get excellent results! That was one of my my favorite carry around combos when I shot OM exclusively for a while in the mid 90s.

A Nikon EM with old Nikon lenses are also a good bet! You know, the more I write this, the more I realize I could write a whole book with the options I could recommend so to cut this short I’ll say this…

It doesn’t matter what manufacturer you choose. Just try to choose these factors: 1) Purely manual camera, no need for batteries 2) Get a 50mm f/1.7 f/1.8 or f/2 lens 3) Make sure all this will not cost over $100 USD! Often, it should be far lower than that!

I hope this helps, especially for beginners or those wanting to try film. You DO NOT need to spend a lot of money to get started with film photography!

Feel free to leave a comment should you have an opinion on this! Thanks for reading and happy shooting folks!

CONTAX T2 FOR SALE IF YOU WANT IT!

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Photo Of The Day: “Seeds”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Seeds” 2014. Olympus E-10 Digital Camera.

Ah, there is no doubt spring is in the air! In the past few days I have seen these “things” everywhere! What are these “things” anyway? Well, it apparently starts out as yellow dandelions and they eventually turn into this white/grayish thing which are the seeds!

This was shot with an Olympus E-10 digital camera which was introduced in the year 2000. It was a bridge camera which looks like a large DSLR but is in reality a point and shoot with a fixed lens. In some ways Olympus was ahead of their time with cameras like this! In appearance, it looks very much like a digital equivalent of their IS-3 or other “IS” series of film bridge cameras.

One big difference though is the E-10 had a much smaller 2/3″ sensor versus 35mm film. This was well before the full frame era or even APS-C sensor point and shoots. That was the norm back in 2000. Actually, to have a camera that looked like the E-10 in 2000 is quite mind blogging when you think about it now!

How does it compare in today’s world? Well I haven’t done any scientific testing, but the images have that old school digital look which means colors are not always accurate. There is softness from the low 4mp resolution. When I say “soft” I don’t mean not sharp. In this case I mean lacking a lot of details that we’re used to seeing from higher resolution cameras.

But guess what? Taken on the whole, I like the images! Old digital cameras have a “vintage” look all their own. I won’t even call it “film like” though I know people like that term. It’s digital and it has got its own charm.

Perhaps it’s just a fondness for nostalgia but I find that things that weren’t so pretty back in the day, people tend to love today. Ok, maybe it’s just me ๐Ÿ™‚

Ah don’t lie, I know there are many of you out there who feel the same way! Anyway, the digital cameras from back in the early days of digital can be a lot of fun to play with. An Olympus E-10 today on the used market can set you back anywhere from $10-60 dollars. Many are either not working or the rubber surfaces become sticky. Find a working one for a low price and they can be a lot of fun! Happy shooting folks!

Flashback Friday: โ€œGrandmaโ€™s Rollersโ€ ๐Ÿ˜€

Good morning everyone! For your #flashbackfriday hereโ€™s a real flashback from almost 12 years in time! It’s 2007. Grandma sits with her granddaughter. She’s someone who has always kept up appearances, I was happy I finally caught Grandma with her rollers ๐Ÿ˜€

I donโ€™t think Grandma ever saw this photo, and if she did she probably wouldnโ€™t like it but I love the shot because itโ€™s a candid shot of a loving moment which Iโ€™m always trying to do with people portraits ๐Ÿ˜

For this shot I used a Minolta Maxxum 7D which used the amazing Sony 6.1mp sensor. As you may or may not know, this sensor or variations of it were used in other famous models most notably the Nikon D70 and the Epson R-D1. Perhaps even the Pentax 100D among others.

But just as amazing is the Minolta 85mm f/1.4 G lens which to me was as good or better than any 85mm out there! I’m not talking technical quality, but on an aesthetic level it was made for portraits!

To me, Minolta came closest of any of the Japanese companies to getting that third spot with Canon and Nikon. They fought hard and gave us some great cameras and lenses.

Unfortunately Minolta as we know it, folded camera production in 2006 with the camera division sold to Sony. But guess what? With Sony hugely popular in the camera game, and by some accounts number three behind Canon and Nikon, “Minolta” lives on after all as Sony! ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป

Get some shooting this weekend guys, time moves fast! ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ“ท๐Ÿ˜˜โœŒ๐Ÿป

Photo Of The Day: “Quiet Town” Contax T3

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“Quiet Town” 2018. Incheon, Seoul, South Korea. Contax T3, Kodak Gold 200

The businesses and buildings of Incheon are amazingly colorful. Yet, for some reason this part of town was very quiet even during midday. I believe this was a Saturday, though I’m not 100 percent on it. All I know is that most restaurants were closed and it was already past noon. Very few people were out. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone! ๐Ÿ™‚

If any of you guys out there know exactly where this area and why it was so quiet here, feel free to drop a comment. I’d love to hear about it!

This was shot last July as I wandered through this outskirt of Seoul, South Korea, on an unplanned layover due to airline delays. The camera in my hand was the Contax T3, loaded with Kodak Gold 200.

It’s funny, whenever I’m here in the States my preferred film stock is usually at ISO 400 or above but whenever I’m on an overseas trip, I prefer a film like Kodak Gold 200. The main reason is that I anticipate doing a lot of outdoor shooting in hot and sunny weather whenever I’m in Asia.ย In New York, I prefer shooting indoors or when the Sun goes down. It all makes sense!

I’d love to explore Seoul again, this time for an extended period. I want to try more of the food and photograph more of the sites, especially at night.

On the camera side of this article, which I know you guys have come to expect… ๐Ÿ™‚

You guys know how I feel about the Contax T2 especially in light of the dramatic price increases. I used to recommend the T2 over the T3 because only three years ago you could find the T2 for $300-500 but today, the prices for the T2 have gone so sky high that it is approaching T3 prices which is anywhere from $1500-1900.

At these prices I no longer recommend either. That’s mostly due to the potential electronic issues these cameras have demonstrated, both personally on my copies and from other accounts. The prices are too high now for such a risky buy!

But, if you have your heart set on a T2 or T3, today I will say that if you could find a T3 for not much more than a T2, get the T3! Why? Much sharper optics. Less finicky focusing.

Sure, I remember in my 2016 review, I stated that I liked the T2 better because even though the lens is softer than the T3, it was sharp enough and has “character.” Yes, I said that but it was more charming when the camera was like $300-500! ๐Ÿ™‚

At the prices the T2 commands these days, you might as well go for broke and get the T3 if youย mustย have one of these Contax cult cameras.

Happy shooting folks!

Mystery Camera: The Great Wall DF Chinese Medium Format Camera

Today for your Throwback Thursday we will take a ride on the Time Machine and go back to the 1970s & 1980s to retrieve a mysterious camera from the Forbidden Kingdom Of China ๐Ÿ˜Š

In a world where almost every other camera is “Made In China” it’s still relatively uncommon to find a camera from China here in the States, especially a film camera that was actually manufactured in China and made by a Chinese company, for the Chinese homeland market.

Behind the vast Chinese Empire and behind the Great Wall originated a camera they actually called the “Great Wall” or more officially the Great Wall DF camera! ๐Ÿ˜Š

Today, we will try to unlock the mystery of this intriguing Chinese Medium Format camera.

I feel like Leonard Nimoy on “In Search Of” haha! And even though I’m getting older, I’m not that old! So how come it seems like nobody else remembers “In Search Of?” Did the show even exist? ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป

INTRODUCTION

The Great Wall DF is a 6×6 medium format film camera produced by the Beijing Camera Factory. Although no information I could find list the exact years, they are stated to have been made during the 1970s and through the 1980s.ย It was marketed as a low budget camera for the masses.

WHAT IS THE GREAT WALL DF?

What is the Great Wall DF specifically? As mentioned it is a medium format camera that shoots 6x6cm images on 120 roll film. But it was also marketed as being able to shoot 6×4.5 via the insertion of a mask.

The camera is a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) in that it uses a reflex mirror for viewing. The difference between this and most SLR’s is that the mirror is part of the shutter mechanism and thus it uses what is called aย guillotine shutter.

This is a similar shutter mechanism to the one used in the German Pilot cameras of which the Great Wall DF is based.

The lens mount is also interesting in that it is said to be a Leica M39 screwmount. Now this sounds good on paper but apparently due to technical issues, you cannot use the lenses the way you might think you could.

First of all those lenses are made for 35mm and this is a 6×6 Medium Format camera. If you could use it as a medium format lens, there would probably be vignetting, an image circle, etc. Secondly you probably won’t get infinity focus.

I can tell you that the few Leica screwmount lenses I have do not actuallyย screwย into the threaded mount of the DF. In other words, to use these lenses you’d have to use a technique called “freelensing” in which you hold the lens to the mount and just take the shot while holding the lens.

I have done this, especially in the good old days when adapters were not readily available. But trying this with a pricey lens, I’m not inclined to do! Don’t want to drop the lens or the camera!

I can alsoย attest that with a lens such as the 28mm f/1.9 “freelensed” in front of the camera, it appears I could get some nice macro shots but it would have to be really close!

YOUTUBE VIDEO

As part of my attempt to integrate video into your experience, here’s my YouTube video for the Great Wall DF. It is close to 15 minutes which it really shouldn’t be! This is a cheap camera that not many know and my “Mystery Camera” segments are usually five minutes tops. But I’m trying to give you guys my all so this might be my new norm. Sorry I haven’t gotten back to some of you guys like I usually do but the edits and reedits kill me! I just want to make sure all my information is correct.

Besides, as a huge Bruce Lee and Martial Arts fan, I’ve always wanted to star in a “Chop Socky” Kung-Fu flick and the intro to this video shows my MMA skills or lack thereof haha ๐Ÿ™‚

MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE GREAT WALL DF

As someone who has stated over and over again that I loveย allย cameras, I’ve always been fascinated with the very few Chinese film cameras that pop up on the used market here in the USA.

My very first China based camera is the Seagull medium format TLR that is much more common on the used market.

It’s strange that even though Communist China has been trading goods with us for decades, especially since President Nixon opened China’s doors in 1972, we still have seen precious little of their photography gear market, or shall I say their film photography market.

The few companies that stand out in my head for film cameras are Seagull, Pearl River, Great Wall and perhaps a couple more that I can’t recall at this time.

Today, we may have a lot more Chinese companies like Yongnuo, 7Artisans, for example, selling digital gear (mostly lenses) but the film stuff from even decades ago, it is harder to come by.

Perhaps it’s because they were intended for the home market? Perhaps the Chinese knew that most of these cameras were not high quality items? Who knows. That’s why it’s a mystery!

IS IT A CULT CAMERA?ย 

It might possibly be, but if it is a cult camera, the “cult” must be very small because there is just so little on this camera. In fact, my YouTube video posted today seems to be the only video I can find on YouTube as of this writing.

There is actually another video of this camera that has been on the internet for a while. It’s a short clip showing how to work the camera, but it is very short and only hosted on the author’s webpage not on YouTube.

The very little that’s on this camera is scattered through blogs and forum postings. But I give credit where credit is due and those guys who have used this camera before me, their information is GREAT! I’ve tried to put all I’ve learned here and on my video.

PRELIMINARY SAMPLE IMAGES

Here are just a few quick and dirty samples from my first roll. They are not intended to be artistic masterpieces. I was just testing the camera and was actually just happy and relieved that the camera was working properly.

“Saturday Morning” 2019. Great Wall DF, 90mm f/3.5, Ilford FP4 in D76.

“Zen Camera” 2019. Great Wall DF, 90mm f/3.5, Ilford FP4 in D76.

“Sunday Star” 2019. Great Wall DF, 90mm f/3.5, Ilford FP4 in D76. This might have been my best shot in the roll had it not been soft and off focus! Note the tiny bit of overlap from the next frame.

Please do not judge the technical merits of this camera based on these photos. There are in fact much sharper samples from this camera on the internet to look at.

This was a test roll from a first time user of the camera. The photos were every day photos taken around the house just to see if the camera was working and I’m happy to report it works!

I made some mistakes and encountered some issues with this camera. First mistake was using Ilford FP4 which is rated at ISO 125. This was disadvantageous when using a camera with a slowish f/3.5 lens but the reason I used the FP4 was because I had a problem getting film into the film chamber of this camera! This is addressed below in the “Issues” section.

Overall, I’m encouraged enough to try another roll in this camera!

MODEL DIFFERENCES

From all accounts on the internet, there may be as many as five or six different versions. Here’s my observations, not just from the scattered information I’ve read but from observing photos of the camera and comparing them to my copy. Feel free to correct me if any of this is wrong:

DF: Earliest model. No self timer, flash shoe, or PC socket.

DF2: “DF-2” imprinted on front name plate. No self timer, flash shoe, or PC socket.

DF3: Has self-timer, cable release socket, but no flash shoe, no PC socket.

DF4: Has self timer, cable release socket, flash shoe and PC socket.

DF5: ???

DF6: ???

Based on what I can tell, my model might be the DF4! In fact, I took the plunge on it because it was advertised as a DF-2 “Parts” camera and upon looking at the photos and the low price I said why not?! ๐Ÿ™‚

Now if you can’t find a DF-3 or DF-4 don’t sweat it, they’re all basically the same cameras. Unless you really need to use a cable release or need a flash socket, I wouldn’t worry about it.

ISSUES

This camera has all the FUNK you’d want! It starts with getting a roll of film into the film chamber. The main reason I used the Ilford FP4 in it, despite it being a slower film for indoor use, is the fact that it was the only roll of film I could get to fit in it! Even then, I had to slightly bend the edges to get it in.

From what I’ve read, some films fit in there better, easier, like perhaps Fuji films vs Kodak. But the Fuji roll I tried was also stiff to get in.

Next issue is I could not see any of the frame numbers through the window for the “frame counter” so I had to guesstimate the spacing.

Next issue is sometimes when pressing the shutter release, the mirror flips up but I felt as if the shutter was not coming down. Since they are both a part of that guillotine shutter, I felt the shutter should’ve come down. Hard for me to explain but when you’re holding the camera and shooting it, you can tell when the shutter has come down by the feel and the “clunk” and when it is not coming down.

Next issue was frame overlaps. I had expected some of this based on the reviews I had read and to be honest, it was not too bad for most of the shots but on one shot it seemed like I had three exposures on one frame! Perhaps it was me, but I can’t imagine shooting and not advancing the film three times.

Part of the reason I did not take the camera outside for prolonged shooting was I got the impression that I might be wasting my time, fearing nothing was getting exposed but I’m glad I was wrong!

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

The Great Wall DF is somewhat rare on the used market but that doesn’t not mean it should be pricey.

First of all, not many people are looking for this camera. Only someone “special” or weirdos like me haha ๐Ÿ™‚

Secondly, the build quality is not high. It feels solid enough but does not feel like it would take a lot of abuse. The seller even stressed to me it was on the flimsy side.

That said, it feels better in my hands than you would think based on people’s descriptions. Plus it’s one of the smallest and lightest 6×6 SLR’s you could buy.

I got mine for $75 but if you’re seeking one of these, do so carefully. Prices are trending at $60-160 USD. They usually come with the 90mm f/3.5 Great Wall lens. I wouldn’t pay over $150 for one of these.

The shutters have been known to fail so useย gently.ย I’m not trying to scare you. It’s possibly that yours could last years, but it’s also possible it could fail tomorrow. That’s one great thing about cheap cameras. If they fail, you’re not out for much. But if this was a $1000 plus camera, I’d worry about it!

BOTTOM LINE

The Great Wall DF may never be a Camera Legend. Perhaps it is in China, I don’t know, but in the overall annals of history I don’t think it is or ever will be.

That said, it’s one of the more interesting cameras I have tried in a long time! There’s something addictive about “Cheap Plus Results” as I say. If it’s a cheap camera that gives me decent results, and it seems like it could do even better than the results I got? I’m in!

In closing, I know there’s just a small group of people fanatic enough about cameras to be interested in this camera but I hope that I have helped to demystify the Great Wall DF a bit for you if you are one of those uncommon people!

Thanks for reading and feel free to drop me a line if you have this camera!

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