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.

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The Minolta AF-C

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The Minolta AF-C is a compact, autofocus point and shoot 35mm film camera introduced by Minolta in 1983.

The AF-C comes from the late 70s/early 80s era of small, boxy compact cameras such as the Nikon L35AF or Pentax PC35AF, and just like those cameras, it features a fixed 35mm f/2.8 lens.

The camera most closely resembles the Lomo LC-A or Cosina CX-2 and like those cameras, the camera is turned on when you open the sliding cover which protects the lens. Unlike the Lomo or Cosina which rely on scale focusing, the AF-C is an autofocus camera.

THE AF-C CAMERA

As a camera, the Minolta AF-C is completely automatic. It is a point and shoot camera where to take pictures you simply point and shoot 🙂

As I’ve said in previous articles, today’s advanced point and shoot digital cameras can do almost everything. From 4k video to in-camera editing to wifi sharing. Many of these cameras have astonishing lenses, such as the Leica Q, and price tags to match. However, it seems to me that they’ve lost the soul of what it means (or meant) to be a point and shoot camera.

And what is that you might ask? Well, for me, a point and shoot camera has to be simple. It has to be humble; all you need is a good, decently sharp lens, not a lab chart killer with an astronomical price tag. And lastly, it has to be cheap. By having a good/great little lens and not a lens with some “premier” name on it, they can do that.

And they did all this with the Minolta AF-C. It meets all the criteria I stated: Simple, humble, good/great lens, cheap. The lens on the AF-C is a 35mm f/2.8 Minolta lens and it is a very good, even excellent one. There is no “Rokkor” or “Rokkor G” designation on the lens, so it has no pretenses of being anything more than it is 🙂

The lens is a 6 elements/6 group design and has an aperture range of f/2.8 to f/17 and again, all automatically chosen by the camera.

Don’t let any “premium” designation fool you. It’s not that hard for any decent camera/lens manufacturer to make a great 35mm f/2.8 lens so it’s not necessary that it be expensive. I’ve used the Nikon 35ti and it’s a better looking camera, but I do not think the Minolta lens on the AF-C gives up anything to the 35ti.

The Minolta AF-C relies on active infrared autofocus. There is no way to manual focus this camera, so tinkerers and gadgeteers get that out of your mind.

If you want some control of the camera, it will let you wind/rewind it using a thumbwheel on the rear of the camera. The camera has no autowind/rewind function. Additionally, you can adjust the ISO in 1/3 values.

The Minolta AF-C runs on four SR44 or LR44 button batteries or two CR1/3N batteries. I used the cheaper 675 hearing aid batteries bought at CVS and they worked fine, no exposure problems.

PERFORMANCE

The Minolta AF-C is small and compact, perhaps not as small as many of today’s digital point and shoot cameras, but still pocketable as long as you don’t have the accessory flash attached.

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“Princess Of Messy” 2016. Minolta AF-C, Ilford Delta 400, D76 developer. This is a crop from a larger picture. The AF-C displays good sharpness despite the film grain.

The AF-C has two leds in the viewfinder. The green light, which indicates correct focus and the red light, which is a low light warning.

When shooting with the AF-C, the autofocus is so quiet, I wasn’t sure the camera was working properly, whether it was actually focusing at all. But knowledge is power and I have read before acquiring one that this is exactly how the camera focuses and you simply have to learn to trust it.

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“Redrum” 2016. Minolta AF-C, Ilford Delta 400, D76 developer. Check out the nice contrast and range of b&w tones. It seems no one is safe from harm in NYC! Ouch, love hurts! 🙂

When I developed my first roll, any fears I had were laid to rest. Indeed, the majority of the time, the camera achieved correct focus. The shots that had blurriness were due to movement and the camera correctly choosing slow shutter speeds in low light (something I have a habit of doing to challenge my cameras and myself).

Even better was that nearly every shot on the roll was correctly exposed. Not surprising for me as I’ve always known Minoltas to provide excellent metering.

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“That Funky Building” 2016. Minolta AF-C, Alford Delta 400, D76 developer. This is the IAC (InterActive Corp building) as seen from NYC’s West Side Highway. This has always been an intrigueing eye sore for me whenever I see it.

BOTTOM LINE

The Minolta AF-C is a brilliant example of beauty and simplicity that represents the best of the early 1980s era of compact autofocus cameras.

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“The Evil Camera Boy” 2016. Minolta AF-C, Ilford Delta 400, D76 developer. He’s evil and he loves cameras. The Evil Camera Boy is back! 🙂

It delivers excellent results most of the time under the right conditions. I guess you could see the slick caveat right there “under the right conditions.” What does that mean? That means if you use the camera as it was intended, the right amount of light, the right film, flash if necessary, then the camera will generally deliver excellent results. If you try to challenge it too much, i.e., low light, slow film, you might get less than excellent results 🙂

I read somewhere that it was thought of as the ultimate film street camera by some European magazine and I can’t disagree. While some will of course refer to the Ricoh GR-1 (which I love and have reviewed here) as the “Ultimate” I have to say the AF-C betters it in some ways. The AF is much quieter and the manual winding and rewind  makes it even quieter still, both of which are benefits for unobtrusive shooting.

The Minolta AF-C takes you back to a time when “point and shoot” cameras were point and shoot cameras. Give it a little love and faith and this little camera will produce. Today, the AF-C enjoys a cult following among camera lovers, but is largely forgotten by the masses as are many of its peers. But should you come across one, get it because you will have in your hands a point and shoot Camera Legend that will deliver the goods without a lot of fuss or headaches.

WHERE TO BUY?

If seeking one of these, prices are trending at $20 to $100, with $100 being a bit on the high end. The most abundant place for the Minolta AF-C is obviously eBay.

However, you may also find them in flea markets, garage sales, and Craigslist. If you’re lucky, you may even find one for $5 or maybe free 🙂

***NEW CAMERA ALERT***

The hot new 24mp APS-C AA-less Pentax K-70 is now available for pre-order.

Pentax appears to be really upping the ante with their hot pro K-1 and now the K-70. We will keep an eye on this new Pentax, but just from the specs it appears to be an awesome new camera!

 

Photo Of The Day: “Magic of Ramen Noodles”

 

“Magic Of Ramen Noodles” 2011. Minolta CLE with Canon 50mm f/1.5 Serenar ltm lens on Kodak Tri-X 400 developed in T-Max developer in 2011.

It might not be the best thing for you, but it sure feels good in the tummy 😀

Yes, it’s instant ramen, the ultimate poor man’s comfort food. Perfect for those times when you’re absolutely starving or when you have very little time to concoct a fine meal. Once the craving is satisfied, hunger is gone 🙂

Leica R Images

As a follow up to last night’s article on the Leica SL (Typ 601) mirrorless full frame system from Leica, tonight I am posting some Leica R images, both film and digital that I have taken over the years.

The Leica R system was Leica’s 35mm SLR system. Though it had its own large and cultish following, it never set the world on fire the way Leica’s M system did.

That said, Leica R lenses were every bit as good as their M system equivalents and at one time commanded much lower prices. But through online forums, the internet, and the popularity of alternative lens adapters, the prices for the R lenses have gone way up.

I had an almost complete collection of the “essential” R lenses, including the 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R, 50mm f/2 Summicron-R, the 80mm f/1.4 Summilux-R, the 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, the 90mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R and the hard to find 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-R.

While I had to sell most of them when I hit rock bottom, the one I regret selling the most was the 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-R. I had a persistent overseas buyer who offered me twice what I paid for it. I needed the money. That was five years ago. I have yet to find another one as their prices have skyrocketed to the point where I don’t even consider it.

Still, you may find bargains in the R lens lineup that you won’t with the M lenses. So for your Throwback Thursday, I present you a small set of Leica R images that I hope will show some of the characteristics of these fantastic lenses. Please click on the images for a better view. Thanks for lookin’

Best Regards,
Sam

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“Blue Bayou” 2008. Leicaflex SL, 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, Kodak Portra film.

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“Lots Of Love” 2008. Leica R8, 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, Ilford XP2.

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“Bonnie & Clyde” 2008. Leica R8, 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, Ilford XP2.

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“UFO” 2012. Leica R4, 80mm f/1.4 Summilux-R, Tri-X film.

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“Lonely Still” 2008. Leica R8, 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, Ilford XP2.

 

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“Those Eyes” 2008. Canon EOS 5D, 90mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R

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“The Entrance” 2008. Leicaflex SL, 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, Fuji Superia X-Tra 800.

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“Ordinary Day” 2013. Canon EOS 1Ds, Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R. The focus was off, but I kinda liked it.




Flashback Friday: The Nikon EM

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“The Nikon EM” 2015. Nikon’s smallest, lightest, and cheapest 35mm SLR from 1979 seen here with the 50mm f/1.8 Series E lens, which is a great match for the camera.

The Nikon EM is a 35mm SLR introduced by Nikon Corporation in 1979. It was at the time, considered the smallest SLR Nikon had ever produced, and also the cheapest.

The camera was supposedly meant to be marketed to beginners and women in particular, but it wasn’t a hit for either targets. Apparently, many women avoided it with the belief that Nikon’s position of selling them an “easy to use” camera was sexist and insulted their intelligence. You got to remember, this was the late 70’s early 80’s! 🙂

In addition, it alienated some hard core Nikon users who felt the lower quality build of the EM was a sign of bad things to come, especially for a company known for their tough and heavy duty professional cameras.

The Nikon EM is basically an entry-level camera. It relies on two S76/A76 or one 1/3N battery. The camera features aperture priority only camera with no full manual mode. However, it does have something lacking on many Pro cameras and that is an emergency 1/90 mechanical shutter which can be called upon in case of battery failure.

With the EM, Nikon also introduced a set of lenses that matches the EM’s position for price and lowered quality. These lenses were called the “E Series” lenses. While lower priced than Nikon’s AI or AIS equivalent lenses, these E series lenses have developed  cult following for their price to performance ratio.

I have used the Series E 50mm f/1.8 and the 75-150mm f/3.5 zoom and they are both excellent lenses, optically anyway.

While there is nothing particularly special about the EM, I believe that time has helped the EM to achieve a “cute” status when people think of it. I mean, even for me, when I thought of what to profile tonight, the Nikon EM came to mind and I said…oh yeah, that cute little Nikon from the 80s 🙂

IN THE HAND

Despite the negatives, when you actually use the EM, it feels nice in the hand. Small, light yet adequately solid. This is a Nikon that you wouldn’t mind carrying around all day.

And while Aperture Priority may seem limiting, it is in fact the mode that seems to be preferred by most photographers. The fact that it has no manual override, well that I don’t like.

If the camera is too small for you, you can “bulk it up” by using the MD-14 motor drive which not only makes the camera grippier, but also has the added benefit of being about to do about 3.2 frames per second.

MY CONNECTION WITH THE EM

Cameras, like music, are objects that have the very good ability to bring you back to another time in your life.

I remember in 1981, as a kid, my Mom’s brother came from overseas with a couple of friends. They went downtown and came back with a camera, the Nikon EM. I believe it was one of my first encounters with a Nikon camera. My very first Nikon experience actually was being in Rockefeller Center in NYC and seeing this huge Nikon telephoto/telescope which was a 2000mm f/11 Cassegrain telescope. Same as the one being sold in this eBay auction.

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BOTTOM LINE

The Nikon name evokes powerfully passionate emotions from photographers and even those who don’t know cameras, they know the Nikon name. It was, is, and probably will always be one of the greatest names in photography.

And while the Nikon EM is not the best representative of a classic manual Nikon SLR, it is a Nikon nonetheless, an interesting one, and perfectly usable in capable hands.

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“David & Goliath” 2015. The Nikon EM on the left shown for size with brute of the Nikon family, the F4s. Sorry for the poor quality photo. I didn’t feel like dragging out the studio lights tonight 🙂

Prices on the EM go anywhere from $10-40 and don’t pay any more than that.

The Nikon EM itself may never be a Camera Legend, but it is an interesting tidbit, and time capsule into Nikon’s direction going into the 1980’s.




Some Film Images Part II

I had so much fun going down memory lane last night, I decided to do it again, one more night. This time the focus is on people and portraits. Back to reviewing cameras soon, I promise 🙂

Again, captioned with these images are equipment that I have profiled or am planning to profile. Most of the gear I no longer have, except for the negatives and memories I have of them.

And again, while I love reviewing equipment, I love the equipment even more if it helps me take a decent pic!

Also as mentioned in the last article, a lot of these photos were posted for photo sharing sites long before I started blogging on WordPress. As such, some were resized much smaller than I’d like, but it would take me forever to locate the originals and work on them again. I thank you kindly for taking a look.

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“Separate Your Colors” 2011. Contax T3, Fuji Reala. Manila, Philippines.

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“The NWA” 1990. Minolta X-700, miscellaneous brand 80-200mm. No this is not Dr. Dre and the “West Coast” NWA. This is “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and the original NWA 🙂

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“The Young & The Restless” 1988. Minolta X-700, 50mm f/1.7 MD lens. Los Angeles, California. I was at the Farmer’s Market in L.A. and checking out magazines at a newsstand when I spotted two (then) very popular soap opera stars, Tracey E. Bregman and Doug Davidson, who were also checking out magazines. They must have been on a break from their show which was being filmed at CBS Studios nearby. I asked them for a photo and they graciously obliged. I was most impressed that they had no movie star “issues” and smiled for a geeky teenager with a camera 🙂

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“The Gentle Giant” 2011. Nikon F4s, 28mm f/2.8 AIS Nikkor, Kodak Portra 160. I ran into NYC icon Louis Mendes, a photographer well known for his old school Speed Graphic camera and sharp retro outfits. Lou takes unique Polaroid portraits and has made a living and a legend out of it. I’ve bumped into Mr. Mendes a few times over the years and he has always been a willing a gracious subject for my cameras. Thanks Lou!

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“Bangkok Bride II” 2005. Olympus Stylus Epic, 35mm f/2.8, Kodak High Definition 400 film. Bangkok, Thailand.

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“Native New Yorker” 2015. Leica M4P, 50mm f/2 Summicron-M, Kodak T-Max 400 developed in D76. NYC is a melting pot of cultures. No matter where you come from, you can quickly transform into a New Yorker!




The Canon AT-1: The Greatest Camera I Never Knew

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In a hazy cloud of memories, I still clearly remember the first SLR I ever touched, the Canon AT-1.

This is IT. This is the camera that sparked an obsession with cameras that continues to this day. But first, let me introduce you to the camera…

The Canon AT-1 is a 35mm SLR released by Canon in 1977. It is part of the long defunct, but still highly popular Canon FD system.

The AT-1 uses the Canon FD mount and is a no frills, manual exposure only camera. It does however need a 4LR44 battery to operate, which is probably one reason it seems unpopular or overlooked by the “all manual” club of camera lovers.

The AT-1 is probably at the very low end of the classic Canon FD camera lineup, if not the lowest.

However, I have noticed a slight increase in curiosity and desirability for this camera in recent years. It could be due to the low prices these cameras command or the fact that it’s a good learning tool for the novice photographer or any number of things, but this is what I see.

I do have to admit, I am not fond of manual cameras that need batteries and the AT-1 does not just need batteries for the meter. It needs a battery to work at all 🙂

All that said, I love this camera! This is the camera that changed my life, although not necessarily for the better.

This post is not strictly about the Canon AT-1. It is not an official review of a camera a lot of people don’t know, or don’t really want to know about. It’s the story of how this humble “Plain Jane” camera played a key role in sparking the gear obsession that you see today.

FIRST ENCOUNTER

My first encounter with the Canon AT-1 was in 1981. With the help of a family friend, my parents bought a Canon AT-1 so they could take nicer pictures than what they got with their Kodak 110 camera. The funny thing is, they really weren’t interested in photography, they just wanted nice photos.

The family friend had a nice Canon system built around the highly acclaimed and (at the time) hot Canon A-1. He was really a photo-bug and was always showing people his pictures and telling us of the competitions he entered, etc, etc. He was really a very good photographer.

But to this day, knowing what I’ve come to know about cameras, I still find it questionable why this man would select the AT-1 for his friends knowing full well these two people (my parents) could not figure out an aperture or shutter speed from a door knob. Anyway, there’s more to this, but that’s a story for another posting.

Back in 1981, if any of you remember, cameras before the digital age were considered luxury items. Not everybody had a camera, and certainly not everyone could afford them, especially the SLR’s which made you look “serious.”

Today, as you can see, everyone and their Mom has a camera. Everyone is a “pro” with their DSLRs and battery grips 🙂

But back in the early 80’s this was not the case.

If you look back to cameras from the 40’s up until the mid 90’s, before the dawn of digital, you can see that many people treated them like precious jewelry. That is why you find so many with engravings.

As a collector today, I personally hate engraved cameras. Unless it was from a famous person, the engravings devalue these cameras in my opinion and makes me feel like the ghost of the person who engraved it is there with me and that’s a spooky feeling 🙂

They may still be considered luxury items today, yes, but today’s digital cameras, from the lowest to the highest of the high end cameras are known to be “disposable” inherent to their digital DNA.

My parents apparently felt the camera was so precious, they had relatives look after it and it stayed in its case and in the closet most of the time.

When we took our summer vacation in 1981, I saw the camera and asked my Mom if I could play with it. She said to “be careful” but yes.

It was one of those feelings in life that you can’t describe, that money can’t buy. It was priceless. There I was turning the shutter speed ring, twisting the knob, focusing the lens and seeing things come in and out of focus in that beautiful and bright viewfinder. Wow.

FLASHBACK TO 1982

So on our return to New York in 1981, we were allowed to bring the camera back home with us and I was thrilled.

But once back home, still a young boy not a teenager, the camera stayed again in its case in a closet for almost another year.

Now, we’re in 1982 and I was more interested in the ColecoVision video game system we just bought in the summer of 1982.

It was a clear and sunny September day in 1982. My brother and I took a ride from our humble Bronx abode to our family friend’s house in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

We always looked forward to getting away from the inner city neighborhood in which we lived. Our friends had a nice house with a backyard, plenty of space to walk and run, and the complete feeling of safety, at least to us inner city kids.

Only folks who have lived in the inner city can relate to the feeling to “being trapped” in your apartment once the night arrives. No one dared to venture out. NYC had a reputation for being BAD in the late 70’s and into the 80’s and yes, New York earned it 🙂

Anyway, after a wonderful day in Jersey, we arrived at our apartment, I’m guessing around 9-10pm.

When my mom opened the door, she was surprised it wasn’t locked. She was sure she locked it, she always did. When she flipped on the light, (whoomp!) there it is…

The house looked empty. We looked on the coffee table, the ColecoVision, gone. We looked at the stand; the stereo tuner, turntable, cassette deck, all gone.

I looked in the closet for my precious AT-1…gone.

THE TRAUMA AND THE AFTERMATH

Yes, as you can tell, we were robbed. We all stood there in shock. The place felt empty, it felt “dirty.” We were violated. Our privacy had been broken, and our property, taken.

For my brother and I, it was a shocking arrival at the reality of the world which has an effect to this day.

We all know the effect that crime and vandalism can have on our feelings of security. And we all know how much more magnified this effect can have on children. This is what happened to me.

In some ways it made me better, wiser. I’m always looking over my shoulder. Even today.

THE LEGACY OF THE CANON AT-1

So how does that Canon AT-1 fit into this? Well, after the theft and for over thirty years now, I’ve been completely infatuated with cameras.

If I were to take a psycho-analytical look at this, I would say it’s like winning a million bucks, but never getting to use even one dollar. It’s like having a fabulous meal in front of you, but dropping the plate. It’s like tasting the fruit, but getting only one bite. You want more.

So as an adult, after I started working, I started picking up cameras here and there until it got entirely out of control. I tried to remedy this by selling a bunch of cameras on eBay, but then when got the itch, I’d start buying again.

In the recent years, I have tried to curb this “sickness” with modest success. I have pretty much cured myself of the “latest and greatest” syndrome, so I’m not spending a lot of money, but I still fall deeply for old, weird, and decrepit classic cameras 🙂

In all those years that I’ve been without the AT-1, I never had a desire to buy another one until recently. I got one in 2012 for $10 bucks. I have yet to use it.

Not because I don’t want to. It feels fantastic, solid, great viewfinder, etc, etc. But at any time, I find myself using much more interesting cameras, and the AT-1 gets put in the back burner.

The Canon AT-1 is a member of the legendary Canon FD line of cameras, but it may never be a true Camera Legend as its famous and much more popular sibling, the Canon AE-1 is. However, the AT-1 had a more profound effect on me than any camera, past or present. Even if you take away the trauma of the theft, the feeling of holding my first SLR and looking through its glorious viewfinder still resonates strongly in my head today.

Still, until I am able to put a roll of film in it, you can say, without a doubt, the Canon AT-1 is the greatest camera I never knew 🙂