Monday Mystery Camera: The Nicca 5L aka Nicca Type 5/ Tower 46

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The Nicca 5L/Tower 46 with the 5cm f/1.4 Nikkor in ltm mount. A rare combination!

The Nicca 5L is a rangefinder camera made by the Nicca Camera Company of Japan around circa 1957.

Nicca was one of several Japanese companies that brought Leica screwmount clones to the market. The most well known of these clone companies is Canon, but there were also many more companies from Japan and the USSR. Nicca is said to be the predecessor to the Canon company.

The camera pictured above is the Tower 46. It is the same camera as the Nicca 5L/Type 5, but was sold in the USA by Sears Roebuck under their “Tower” brand.

AS A CAMERA

The Nicca 5L like most Leica screwmount cameras has two separate windows, one for framing and one for the rangefinder. The shutter speed range is 1/25 to 1/1000, plus B.

The Nicca’s main claim to fame is the winding lever and the Leica M type back, easier film loading than Leica’s screwmount bodies.

Stephen Gandy has a much more extensive write-up on his Camera Quest website, the online authority on rangefinder cameras. In his article, he says it “outshines Leica’s own renouned IIIg.”

I don’t have any experience with the IIIg, but compared to the IIIf I have, it is indeed better. The film loading, the winding lever, the beautiful, large and clear rangefinder all add up to a more pleasant user camera.

PRICE AND COLLECTIBILITY

The Nicca 5L is rare, but not ultra rare. Well, the Nicca version itself is quite rare. As I read on Camera Quest it’s “never been seen.” The Tower 46 (the one seen here) is the one you will usually encounter. If you ever see the Nicca version, let me know!

The Nicca is one of those cameras I bought but sold before I could use it. As I already had the IIIf, I preferred to keep the Leica, despite the Nicca being a much better user camera, as I stated above. Sold it when I needed to pay the bills. Of course, I regret it! 🙂

I got the Nicca/Tower 46 for about $130 body only, which was a bargain. I don’t see them often, but when I do, I usually see this camera on auction sites, usually paired with the 5cm f/2 Nikkor sell for around $350-500. The 5cm f/1.4 Nikkor in ltm mount is more uncommon and sells for around $300-400 by itself.

Sometimes, people will try to pull for a lot more on that auction site, but as the Leica IIIg (the apex of screwmount rangefinders) go for around $400-700 at legitimate dealers like KEH, I can only say that the Nicca should not sell for more than that.

The Nicca 5L/Tower 46 is an awesome camera to add to your collection and I’m sure, to use. Someday, I will find another and this time, I’ll keep it!

Note: Sorry for the placement of the “cameralegend.com” logo. I now put it closer to the photos because I had found some of the content of my pages used without authorization. I usually hate copyright logos, but it only takes one bad apple to ruin it for everyone and it only takes seeing your work copied to make you think twice about it.

Flashback Friday Photos

Just a quick and random posting of photos that can now be filed under “Throwback” or “Flashback.”

The years roll by rapidly my friends! Let’s cherish every moment and photograph as many of these moments as we can. Before you know it, they’re all “throwback” or “flashback” photos! 🙂

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“The Beach” Part II, 2011. Bronica RF 645, 65mm f/4 Zenzanon lens, T-Max 400, Wildwoods, NJ. It’s been a mild winter so far, but with the cold weather forcasted to come soon, hmm, I think I’d rather be on the beach! Ah, I loved that RF 645, wish I could get another one.

 

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“White House” 2007. Sigma SD-14, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX. It’s hard to believe President Donald Trump has been in the White House for only a week! Ten years ago, I’d never imagine this man that I knew from “Lifestyles of The Rich and Famous” would be the President of the United States!

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“Bangkok Traffic” 1995. Canon EOS 10s, Sigma 28-70mm UC lens, Kodak Gold film. This is how Bangkok traffic was in the 1990s.

FUTURE FLASH

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“Holy Prominent!” 2017. This is NOT a Flashback Friday pic. This is a “Future Flash” of a camera we plan to review for you in the near future. What is it? Ho! Why it’s the legendary Voigtlander Prominent with the equally legendary original Nokton 50mm f/1.5 lens. This was a top system from the 1950s and 1960s and still highly desirable today for collectors as well as shooters.

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“Nik Cam” 2002. An old school type “selfie” with the Nikon N8008s 🙂

Recent Items: “Slow Jams”

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“Love RIP” 2016. Polaroid 180 Land Camera, 114mm f/4.5 Tominon with close up lens attachment.

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been reviewing a lot of cameras as of late. It’s not for a lack of cameras to review, believe me. Much respect to my fellow bloggers especially the ones who do it so regularly. There is no glory to this!

However, I do have a new hobby; camera repair. Or “attempted” camera repair anyway 🙂

Here’s my most recent repair attempt. Some of you may remember my review on the wonderful Polaroid 180 Land camera. If not, and if you’re interested in that camera, you can check out the review here.

THE SHUTTER JAM

The camera was great. However, it started not being so wonderful a few months ago. First it started with the shutter intermittently not firing. It would just jam up for no reason, but then with enough pressing of the shutter release it would fire. Then one day, it stopped firing altogether.

Bummer. I thought this might be it for the mighty 180, but somewhere in the back of my mind I suspected it was not the leaf shutter in the lens itself, but that it was the release mechanism.

I remember reading about loosening up the cable that fires the shutter. On the 180, as with most Land cameras, the shutter release is attached to the main head board which also houses the lens. That area is protected by a metal part that is attached by three very, very tiny screws (if this stuff is confusing you, just refer to the pictures, they tell a much better story than I can!)

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“Slow Jam” The shutter release started to jam intermittently, eventually refusing to fire at all which prompted the attempted repair.

When you press the shutter release button (the red one), it actually fires the shutter through a cable, much like a cable release that you attach to your old school SLRs.

Anyway, I did loosen up the cable, but it did not solve the problem. I then tried the opposite, pushing the cable higher thinking perhaps it needed to be closer to get enough tension to fire the shutter. It still didn’t work.

Finally had to loosen up those three very, very tiny screws to take off the part that hides the actual shutter release. This turned out to the the hardest part of the job. It wasn’t supposed to be hard, but I found those screws to be so tiny, even my smallest “eyeglass kit repair” screwdriver wasn’t getting them raggedy screws out.

The space between the front board and the camera means your screwdriver must also be very tiny. There’s not a lot of room to work on this. I don’t have the biggest hands and yet I was having trouble fitting my hand in there while trying to turn the screws loose.

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“Screwed” The actual shutter release is located behind this metal part (top) held together by three very tiny screws.

Eventually, I got them off and I’m able to fire the shutter with my finger. It still got jammed so I put in a dab of WD-40 and it’s better now, but not completely fixed. I tried putting the pieces back together, but I found the shutter would release only intermittently with the cable to I just left it off.

I can use it now as is, but since I have to push up the shutter release by hand, I fear it might induce camera shake. Fortunately, the 180 Land Camera has a self timer function and that is what I use if I’m taking shots lower than 1/60. This plus my limited supply of the soon to be extinct packfilm means this is not a camera I’d use any more for taking shots of the kids, especially since they’re always moving around 🙂

This is still an ongoing project and I figure it might be helpful for anyone having similar issues with their Land Camera.

Just like vintage cars, it’s an awesome thing  and a lot of fun to shoot with a Camera Legend like the Polaroid 180. However, just like vintage cars, these classic cameras require maintenance and are not so fun when they start getting funky on you.

Just for the record, I did seek out service from a repair place that services these cameras. Never heard back from them. And perhaps that’s a good thing since they saved me money 🙂

THE FILM JAM

While taking my test shots, the film jammed in the 180 as pack film has been known to do. The film is discontinued, pricy, and every picture counts so I did not want to waste anything.

In the past, I have ruined whole packs by trying to force it out. In my 180 review, I mentioned of opening the film back ever so slightly which usually eases tension and allows you to get the film out, but sometimes even that doesn’t work.

In that case, what you need to do is in total darkness, open the film back slowly, pull out the exposed film which should be the one on the very top (assuming you had already pulled the tab enough) and manually put it through the rollers. Again, this must be done in total darkness.

The very top photo of the the dead flowers was actually a saved print using this method.

THE BURNING QUESTION

With the shutter jam and the film jam, I had a whole bunch of “slow jams” to deal with while shooting that Polaroid.

The burning question is, with regards to Polaroids and film altogether: Why Bother?

My best answer for that is: You gotta love it man!! 🙂

I know there’s a lot of folks way more experienced at repairing Land Cameras than I am and I’d love to hear from you!

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December has traditionally been the month of rebates. If you really wanted that Nano coated Nikkor or that Canon L glass this is the time to do it!

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Monday Mystery Camera: The Minolta X-700 Chrome

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Chances are you’ve never seen this camera in person. Neither had I until recently. The Minolta X-700 in chrome finish.

THE MINOLTA X-700

Although this is not meant to be a formal review, I feel I should give you at least a little information on the Minolta X-700.

The X-700 is a manual focus SLR introduced by Minolta in 1981. In its time, it was praised for its AE modes, flash automation and ease of use. As a classic camera it is very basic by today’s standards.

The camera offers Aperture Priority and (a much praised at the time) Program mode. You can use it in manual mode as well. Shutter speeds from 4 secs to 1/1000. It runs on two S76 batteries and can accept a motor drive and other accessories.

I actually did a lengthy review on the X-700 many years back on another site and I’ll try to transfer that over here.

I have to admit I have a soft spot for the X-700 as it was my first “real” camera as a kid back in 1985.

THE X-700 CHROME

Cameras have traditionally come in either black, silver, chrome or all of the above. Of course, there are special editions like reptile, ostrich, etc, etc, but we’re not talking about those.

Some cameras were always seen in silver or chrome trim such as the Pentax K-1000. I’m not sure I ever saw a black one. Indeed, I don’t think there ever was a black one made by Pentax.

The X-700 on the other hand is almost always seen in black. I had never seen a silver or chrome (whichever you prefer to call it) version in the flesh. In fact, for many years I never even knew it existed because of the fact that I have only seen the black ones.

But here it is in the flesh! It is real and it is beautiful! Well, to me anyway.

COLLECTIBILITY

Now if you have one of these beauties, take pride that you have a pretty rare thing. However rare does not translate to valuable.

I got this one for $65 and again, I found it when I was not even looking for it. I see a couple now on eBay, and with prices around the $400 mark with lens and other items to entice you.

No disrespect intended, but I highly doubt anyone would pay that much for one unless they really, really, and I mean REALLY wanted a chrome X-700 🙂

When I got mine last year, I checked eBay auctions and found one that sold for $149 I think. That being the case, I would put the fair value on these cameras from $65-150 or $200 tops for the camera body alone.

Keep in mind that the “regular” black versions can be had anywhere from FREE to $100 and regularly averaging on eBay for around $30-60 body only and $60-90 with lens.

BOTTOM LINE

The Minolta X-700 was Minolta’s most advanced model in 1981. I would say that it could very well have been the most successful Minolta SLR ever, although SRT fans will disagree with me. It was the camera that put Minolta on the map for the 80s and within striking distance of taking the top spot from the likes of Canon and Nikon.

Of course we know that did not turn out to be the case. But man, they were close with this camera. The camera, coupled with the “Only From The Mind Of Minolta” campaign were an indelible part of 1980s camera lore for me. Never before or since have I seen a film SLR get that much press and television advertising. It was classic.

The Minolta X-700 may be a very basic camera by today’s standards, but there is no doubt the camera is a Minolta Camera Legend. And if you come across a chrome one, all the better! Take pride and keep it.

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Special sales, deals, and rebates from Olympus.

$350 off Canon EOS 5D MK III Bundle.

The Contax T2: The Greatest Point & Shoot Camera Of All Time?

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The Contax T2 is a high end autofocus point and shoot film camera released by Kyocera in 1990.

While many cameraphiles consider the T3 the “Ultimate” point and shoot film camera, the T2 has, over the years, developed such a cult following among camera fanatics that it might be considered THE greatest Contax camera of the Kyocera era. Is it really the greatest? 🙂

The T2 is one of the most popular point and shoot cameras of all time and there are many other reviews and testimonies better than mine. I’m just giving you my two cents on my experiences with this camera.

I have been a Contax lover since using the original Contax T back in the 1990s and have used all the cameras in the T series, including the T2, T3, TVS, TVSIII, and TiX APS film camera.

THE T2 CAMERA

As a camera the T2 features a Carl Zeiss 38mm f/2.8 T* lens, Program and aperture priority modes. Aperture range is f/2.8-f/16. Shutter speed range is 1 to 1/500th seconds in Program mode. ISO range is ISO 25 to 5000. The camera relies on one CR123A battery.

The camera is primarily an autofocus camera, but you can opt for manual focus if necessary.

One neat feature that I love on the T2 is the ability to change lens aperture via a ring around the lens mount.

The camera is rather large and long for a point and shoot, quite in line with its peers from the 1990s such as the Leica Minilux or Konica Hexar, which are all larger than most high end point and shoots of today, i.e., the Ricoh GR, Leica Q, or Sony RX100 series. The camera is not jeans pocketable, but perhaps coat pocketable depending on your coat 🙂

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The Contax T2 was one of my film companions overseas. While large, clunky and not small like today’s point and shoots, the T2 exudes that Contax charm and Zeiss power that still seduces camera lovers to this day. Please forgive this bad phone pic. It was late night and I was just giving the T2 some lovin’ 🙂

PERFORMANCE

As mentioned, the T2 is primarily an autofocus point and shoot. I have found its AF to be generally reliable in good light or when using flash, but less accurate in low or challenging light situations.

The center point AF seems to need something solid to lock on to and not just sharp edges, as many cameras do. Solid objects with good light helps.

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“Sister Samui” 2016. Contax T2, Tri-X 400. On Koh Samui island, Thailand, I met a wonderful lady whose grace and elegance made me think of her as a “Thai Lauren Bacall.” I’m getting used to going to these places now, but it’s the people I meet that keep it interesting for me.

I have mentioned many times that I do not like using manual focus on similar cameras because it’s really electronic vs real manual focus and clunky to use. It’s more like a “guesstimate” system using the distance indicators vs physically manually focusing the lens which you cannot do on the T2 and most comparable point and shoot cameras. However with the T2, using its electronic manual focus is sometimes necessary.

When the AF is in its zone however, the 38mm f/2.8 produces excellent, sharp images with lots of contrast. The high contrast is what you have come to expect and love from Contax Zeiss lenses and it accentuates the appearance of sharpness.

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“Pak Nam Klai” 2016. Contax T2, Tri-X 400 developed in D76. The Klai River in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand. Not as famous as the “River Kwai” but just as nice and it looks just the way it did when I visited as a child.

However, in very bright lighting situations, the high contrast can be problematic and it’s easy to get blown highlights with this camera. Thankfully, due to the high dynamic range of film, I can generally bring the levels down and recover detail with post processing.

The lens seems to be more in line with the original Contax T, which produced sharp images with a more classical look that I liked as opposed to the T3 which produced bitingly sharp pics with a more modern look. Many people prefer the T3 probably for that reason, but to me, the T and T2 produces images with more “character.” Hard to explain, but I suspect many of you will know what I mean.

Oddly enough, whenever I’ve used a 40mm f/2.8 lens on my film or full frame cameras, I’ve always found that focal length a little “boring” especially because it reminds me a lot of a 35mm f/2.8 lens which is a generic old school focal length that can be found very cheaply. Yet everyone including me has no complaints about this on the T2. Hmm, perhaps it’s the T2 “legend?” It’s like seeing five apples that look exactly the same, but you were told that one was special so you believe it and it tastes better than the rest 🙂

Keep in mind I’m not saying the T2 lens is just like any other 35-40mm lens. I’m just talking about the focal length and the f/2.8 aperture which I find boring. A 35mm f/2 or 40mm f/2 is preferable to me, even if it’s less than a stop faster. Your milage may vary. That said, I do think the lens on the T2 has that special something! I loved the original T which was my first T series camera and I suspect it’s the same lens.

The tiny original T was and is my favorite of all the T series due to the lens and the ability to achieve accurate focus using its true rangefinder system. It is manual focus only, but I found I had a higher rate of keepers with the T than with the T2 and its AF.

The bokeh on the 38mm f/2.8 Zeiss Sonnar can be a bit “nervous” or “busy” and in line with what I have seen and mentioned here about most Zeiss lenses that I have used. However, you can also get very nice bokeh out of it. To achieve this, you need to get in close on your subject and make sure the background is uncluttered.

The camera is not silent, but the AF and motor advance/rewind are quite quieter than, say a Ricoh GR1. In fact, if I weren’t spoiled by other cameras like the Konica Hexar, I would say the T2 is very quiet indeed.

BOTTOM LINE

The Contax T2 has achieved an enviable status among cameraphiles and camera collectors alike. Despite Kyocera/Contax being out of the camera business for quite a while already, these cameras are still actively being sought.

There’s a lot of love, respect, and perhaps even a bit of romanticism involved in the cult of Contax T2 lovers.

The T2 is not without its flaws however. It does not have the most accurate AF that I’ve ever used, but it is generally reliable in good light. The results can sometimes be inconsistent. When the camera (or the photographer!) does get it right, the results can be superb. The good will make up for the bad with this camera, and there IS a reason it has earned its reputation. The lens can be fantastic, but you got to earn your keeps with this camera.

The T2 is a camera that I have bought and sold, and then bought again. Usually I would say that means it’s a great camera, but one could argue that if you sold it in the first place then maybe there was something about it that was not so great? No, it could just be that I needed cash at the time 🙂

Anyway the T2 is a “Bad Ass” camera! I’m on my second one and I’m glad to have it, despite its AF issues. I’m holding on to this one as long as I can this time around. I still have a couple rolls of undeveloped T2 pics, but that will be for a later time. I just wanted to give something to you wonderful fellow camera addicts 🙂

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“Little Badass” 2016. Contax T2, Tri-X 400 developed in D76. I was just taking some test shots when this cute little “badass” stopped me in my tracks 🙂

It’s been said that the T2 was beloved by famous fashion photographers like Terry Richardson and Juergen Teller, but I haven’t seen any pictures of these guys holding one. I know Terry used a Yashica T4 and have seen pics of Juergen with a Contax G2.

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“Double Trouble” 2016. Contax T2, Tri-X 400 developed in D76. In Manila, Philippines, I met these two beauties who I called “Double Trouble” 🙂 This was shot with direct flash in dark conditions and I was surprised it came out! This is my salute to Terry Richardson and Juergen Teller who made the “point and shoot with flash” shots hip and fashionable in the 1990s.

However, I think the main point was that cameras such as the T2 (if not the T2 itself) were made famous by photographers like Terry and Juergen who took that once dreaded “point and shoot with flash” shot and turned it into something hip, cool, and fashionable. Of course, if they can turn a point and shoot photograph into art, it doesn’t mean I or just anyone can! However, with enough savings we mere mortals can all own (or someday own) the T2 🙂

The Contax T2 is one of the most beloved 35mm point and shoot cameras of all time and certainly a Camera Legend. Is it the greatest? Well, I wouldn’t call it that, based on its AF performance, but I will say it could certainly be considered one of the greatest, if not THE greatest. However, if you’re a camera fanatic, you probably need to have one in your collection 🙂

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“Number One” 2016. Contax T2, Tri-X 400 developed in D76. Not the greatest picture, perhaps one of my worse, but I decided to post it anyway to show that yes, you can use the T2 to take those lousy pictures point and shoot cameras used to be known for and besides that, Baby Zay thinks the T2 is “Numero Uno” 🙂

WHERE TO BUY?

If seeking one of these gems, I hate to tell you that prices seem to have gone up on these babies, even from just a couple of years ago. Prices are trending at $500 and up for the camera in EX and EX+ condition on eBay.

The silver T2 is the most common and therefore quite often the cheapest ones you’ll find. There’s also black, titanium gray, gold, black, and something called “platin” (most beautiful to me). All these are much more rare than the silver models.

Contax T2 For Sale

The good news is that the T2 is almost always available on eBay. While the T3 will probably always be thought of as the ultimate Contax point and shoot, it also cost more and is harder to find, which probably adds to its appeal and iconic status.

The great thing is that the T2 is cheaper and to me, no less iconic. However, if buying one proceed with caution as these cameras are aging and no one is repairing them as far as I know. That doesn’t mean a good repair shop wouldn’t attempt to fix it, but the parts are no longer available so most shops would probably not try to repair it.

On the other hand, while I’ve been critical on Contax electronics in the past, the T2 is probably one of their more reliable and durable models. Just be sure you buy from a place where you can return it if a problem arises. For a safe purchase try here Contax T2 Silver 35mm Camera.

Photo Of The Day: “The Wacky Bunch”

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“The Wacky Bunch” 2016. Lomo’Instant Wide, 90mm f/8 lens.

This is a recent photo from the Lomography ‘Instant Wide camera. I reached out to Lomography to see if I could get a sample camera for review, but I never heard back from them. I didn’t expect to, but it would’ve been nice. Fortunately, when you love cameras you usually have friends who do too 🙂

Just some brief general impressions: the camera looks great, but feels less great than it looks. I’ll reserve judgement on its build and durability until I can have more time with it.

The camera relies on zone focusing which isn’t really my thing, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the shots I got. The lens is slowish at f/8 and you will be using the built-in flash a lot, but these factors also help to keep the shots sharp.

The lens cap which doubles as a self-timer/remote control is a brilliant touch! That’s what I used to take the shot above after placing the camera on a tripod.

Lomography Instant Wide Camera

The main thing about the Lomo’Instant Wide that appeals to many people (and to me) is that it takes the widely available and larger sized Fuji Instax Wide film, plus it offers a bit more manual control over the picture taking process than any Fuji Instax camera to date.

I have read some reviews on this camera on the net and read many comments about its image quality. I think I have a good idea now of what the lens quality is and I have some thoughts about the Lomo’s  overall image quality, but to be fair I’ll save them until I can take further test shots.

It’s one of the more interesting instant film cameras to have come out in recent years and I hope to get one for a longer period of time. Heck, I might even get one of my own! 🙂

Photo of The Day: “The Lady Of The Harbor”

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So another 4th of July has come and gone and indeed the year is more than half done. Is there any way to slow down time short of getting on a spacecraft and cruising at the speed of light? 🙂

I still remember as a kid watching on television America’s “Bicentennial” in 1976. That was a big deal the Bicentennial. Anyone remember that? Gerald Ford was the President of the United States (thanks to reader Kevin Thomas for pointing this out!). You’re telling me that was forty years ago?! Hot damn man!

Anyway, here’s one in the spirit of the 4th of July. I shot this twenty years ago in 1996, the last time I actually visited the Lady. If anything, I hear she looks better than ever!

Any New Yorker knows that you visit the Lady once or twice and then you’re content to see her from afar, i.e., from a bridge, from a boat, etc. Only tourists actually want to go there and brave the long lines 🙂

The gear I was using at that time was the Canon EOS A2E which was a semi-pro/enthusiasts camera, much like the 7D is today. It had a unique feature called “eye control” focusing which is what the “E” in A2E stood for. The camera also had a twin without the eye control feature called the A2 and was also known internationally as the EOS-5.

The camera used technology that followed your eye movements to predict focus. It didn’t work really well for me, but I heard that it was fine for others. I did try it on the EOS-3 later on and it worked much better on that body. Overall though, being somewhat of a traditionalist, I just thought it was a fun gimmick and went back to focusing the “normal” way. Choose focus point, compose, shoot 🙂

The camera was actually quite great to use. Good build quality, speedy and accurate AF. It had one fatal flaw however. That flaw was that the mode dial was prone to breaking rendering it useless. The good news is that it did take a lot of usage for that to happen. Mine happened after about five years of ownership with moderate use.

Canon did repair them at one point, but the cameras are so cheap now it’s just better to grab another one if you really want to try it.

The lens used was an el cheapo EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 which was a decent, if not great lens. And the film I believe was Kodak Gold as it was my film of choice back in those days.

Ah those were the great days when I got by on one camera and two lenses, far from the gear lust monster I have become today. I always tell anyone starting out, if they have a decent setup like a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, to just stick to what they have and work with it. Of course, they don’t listen and I can’t blame them I guess 🙂