Mystery Camera: The Yashica EZ-F521

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

INTRODUCTION

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

SPECS

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

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

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

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

YOUTUBE VIDEO

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

PERSONAL IMPRESSIONS AND THOUGHTS ON THE YASHICA EZ F521

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMAGE QUALITY

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

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

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

SAMPLE PICS

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

ISSUES

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRICE & AVAILABILTY

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

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

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

BOTTOM LINE

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

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

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

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

Pandemic Shooting 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAMERA GEAR 2020

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

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

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

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

So here are my two most used cameras in 2020…

MAMIYA 7 & 80mm f/4 LENS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olympus Pen F Digital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LATEST YOUTUBE VIDEO

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

Leica M4-P Sale At Amazon!<!–>>

Flashback Friday: Kodacolor VR 1000 Pics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEASONS GREETINGS

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

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Appreciate your support, many thanks!

The Contax N Digital Revisited 2020

In 2014 I posted probably one of the last “real” reviews of the elusive Contax N Digital, the world’s first full frame digital SLR with a true 35mm sized sensor. By “real” I mean it’s a review by someone who had actually used the camera and not just repeating information off the internet. The original review can be found here.

Flash forward to 2020 and today I have a new review on the Contax N Digital only for you the readers of Camera Legend!

INTRODUCTION

I won’t repeat everything that I’ve already mentioned in 2014 but I think a little bit of the specs and history of the camera are important and worth repeating.

The Contax N Digital headlining claim to fame is that it is the world’s first digital slr with a 35mm sized full frame sensor. It was introduced by Kyocera in the year 2000 and brought to market in 2002.

At the heart of the camera was a 6 megapixel full frame sensor made by Philips of the Netherlands.

The Contax N Digital is based on the Contax N1 film camera and it takes the newer N Mount lenses. The N Digital, N1 and NX are not compatible with the older Contax/Yashica (aka C/Y) lenses.

YOUTUBE VIDEO

For those of you who prefer a video review, here it is:

In this video, I discuss a few things not mentioned in detail here including image quality, and a lively “film vs digital” discussion including my early (Circa 2005) experimentations of scanned 35mm film vs digital.

At that time I had a Microtek Artixscan 120f which was a high resolution 35mm & medium format optical film scanner. In 2005, I compared scanned 35mm images to my 12mp Canon EOS 5D Classic and was surprised by what I saw. I speak about these results in my video.

REVISITING HISTORY

To fully appreciate how big this was in the camera world back then one must remember that the top cameras of the digital world from 2000-2002 were cameras with APS-C sensors like the 2.7mp Nikon D1, the 3mp EOS D30, and the 3mp Fuji S1 Pro plus a plethora of 1-3mp small sensor digital point and shoots.

As I said in 2014, the Contax N Digital was full frame before any of us knew what “full frame” was! Of course, I was talking tongue in cheek but you know what I mean. If you don’t, I was basically saying that in those days every megapixel seemed to mean something. Every increase in megapixel was exciting and expensive. And digital cameras, low end and especially high end models were also expensive.

We were getting used to APS-C sensors and hoping for increased megapixels so a “full frame” sensor was not on most people’s radar. But the thought of a “full frame” digital camera was out there no doubt. However the prevailing thought was that a full frame sensor back then was either not yet technically doable or it would be incredibly expensive.

And when the N Digital came out to market, it was indeed expensive at over $7000 for the body alone. The competition, primarily Canon, followed up in that same year with their own full frame body, the original 1Ds which came to market at $7999.

Nikon did not come out with a full frame DSLR until 2007 when it released the pro D3 model.

THE 2014 REVIEW

In my 2014 review I stated that I was lucky to have a friend who allowed me to use his camera for a short time for a review. I returned the camera to my friend shortly and a few months later the camera had a dead sensor.

Thankfully my friend did not blame me for it because it was working fine for months after I returned it. However, this is one of the reasons I no longer accept from or loan cameras and lenses to other people.

Not because I’m being greedy, but I have lent cameras and lenses to friends in the past and some of the equipment would come back with scratches or dents that weren’t there before. Sometimes, the equipment would be gone for months, and I’d have to kindly ask for the equipment back. Sometimes repeatedly!

I’m not extremely picky but as a collector if something is in pristine condition I’d like to keep it that way. The thing I hate more is the feeling when someone borrows cash and they promised to give it back to you, but then you have to chase them down to get your money back. You know the feeling! 😀

At the same time, I hate borrowing equipment from my friends for the same reasons. But since the Contax N Digital is so rare, I just had to ask! And my friend was kind enough to let me use it for a couple of weeks in 2013. I’ve always felt a little guilty for my friend’s dead sensor even though I know in my heart that I treated that camera with kid gloves and it was working when I gave it back to him.

(Above) An image from my 2014 review showing a little of that “Zeiss Pop” otherwise known as the Zeiss 3D effect. Contax N Digital, 50mm f/1.4 N Zeiss Planar.

Anyway, if you’ll remember from my 2014 review, I helped arrange and send the camera out to Kyocera for a repair and it came back a couple months later as “Unrepairable.”

FLASH FORWARD TO 2020

I was browsing photo gear ads without any real intent to buy anything when I saw a listing for a Contax N Digital for $477 USD. It was in “Bargain” condition (you know the dealer!) and no notes about a bad sensor.

Remembering what happened to my friend’s camera, but still so curious, I was hesitant but I bit hard and bought the camera!

The model I bought looked exactly like my friend’s (why wouldn’t it?) and worked well except it would only AF using the back AF-ON button.

If you’ll remember what I mentioned in 2014, I kept the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Contax N lens to use with my N1 and NX film cameras so I used this same lens on my new to me N Digital.

The images were just as beautiful as I remembered in 2013, color and everything looked the same. I was happy!

SAMPLE IMAGES

Here are some of the better images I got from my short five months with the N Digital in 2020. Images were shot using mostly ISO 200-400. I have always loved the Contax 50mm f/1.4 N Zeiss Planar and in combination with the sensor on the N Digital, I feel they are a perfect portrait combo, which is why you see a lot of pictures of the kids 🙂

Most images have been processed but most remain very close to the original files. Any of the images with trees have not been processed if you need to know for camera geek reasons 😀👍🏻

THE SURPRISE

About a week in to using the camera, a couple of photos started showing purple lines and blacked out images. I said uh oh! I remember seeing this on my friend’s camera back in 2014. I knew what was happening. The sensor was going to give out! 😦

This is how a failing sensor looks. Images begin to have lines, streaks, and discoloration.

In all honesty, it wasn’t a surprise to me. I was expecting the camera not to even work and when I saw the sensor failing, it didn’t surprise me at all.

I was all ready to pack up the camera for a refund when I took a few more shots and the photos came out fine. What? Yep that’s what I said!

I figure ok, no doubt the sensor is going to fail but if it works for a year I’ll keep it and take the loss so long as I get some nice pics out of it.

So over the next few months, I used it sparingly. As I’ve mentioned many times, much to the chagrin of Contax fanboys, Kyocera/Contax electronics are very delicate, fragile even.

I basically used the camera only on weekends, maybe 5-10 shots at a time. I always made sure it had fully charged AA batteries in it.

About five months into my ownership of the camera, the Contax N Digital gave up the ghost. After one last good picture, it started shooting only blanks. Black screen. It was game over.

This is how images look when the sensor finally dies. The camera starts shooting blanks. Nothing but black screen images.

I did everything I could think of to see if I could get it to start taking pictures again. I cleaned the contacts, tried different settings, tried RAW, Tiff, what have you. No dice. The sensor was dead.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

If you’re seeking the Contax N Digital, and I’m not sure that’s a good idea, I have revised my trending prices to around $500-2000 USD for the N Digital body only. That is, if you can find one, and in working condition!

I would not recommend it unless it had a working sensor and at a very low price. Anything in the $2000 range would have to be old new stock, brand new in box, which I think is almost impossible to find.

As in the two copies I have tried, when the sensor dies, the rest of the camera may still work which is a shame because without a sensor, it becomes something like a chicken without a head or a man without a heart. A digital camera without a sensor becomes a paperweight. In the case of the N Digital, it’s an expensive paperweight.

As I mentioned in my video, I even reached out by email to Roger Cicala of LensRentals.com, a man known for tearing down cameras and lenses to see their innards and how they worked. I asked Roger if he or his team would like to open up my Contax N Digital and see if they could fix it. He politely declined to do it 🙂

BOTTOM LINE

I said this in my 2014 review and I’ll say it again…As the world’s first 35mm full frame digital SLR, the Contax N Digital is no doubt a Camera Legend.

However, it’s hard to find them, and almost impossible to find one in working condition. The main issue appears to be dead sensors in these cameras which are in Kyocera’s own words “Unrepairable.”

The camera was pulled from the market very early in its production run so it’s apparent now that Kyocera either may have known something we didn’t know or perhaps it cost them too much to produce versus how many sold. We’ll never know.

Take it from me and avoid the urge to buy one. I was your guinea pig. I did it for you guys! I can almost guarantee that if you can find a rare working model with a working sensor, that sensor will fail if you use the camera enough.

All that said, I will say something that might surprise you…when it was working, the Contax N Digital might have been my favorite DSLR ever!! I love the way it renders. There’s something to the images. A lot has to do with the Zeiss lenses but I also give credit to the flawed Philips 6mp CCD sensor. In my opinion, images can have that rare 35mm “film-like” quality and it has a lot to do with the low resolution sensor. I speak more about this in my video so check it out if you’re interested.

The N Digital also has some very digital qualities such as banding and not so pretty noise at higher iso ranges or underexposed images. But overall its images can be impressive especially when you remember it’s a camera introduced in the year 2000!

(Above) The Contax N Digital is among my favorite cameras of all time. Unfortunately, they never last and almost always end up with dead sensors

Looking back today, it’s clear that in 2002 Canon was on the verge of releasing the 1Ds, the world’s second 35mm full frame digital slr. Contax just beat them to it, but by beating them to it, they have that distinction of being the first and anything “first” will always be remembered.

So despite the Contax/Yashica brand being gone for years now, I do miss them. They thought differently and brought something different to the camera world and the Contax N Digital is a prime example of this. Despite the sad fact that in my opinion and experience, the sensor will inevitably fail and is unrepairable, the Contax N Digital will always be a Camera Legend as the world’s first 35mm full frame digital slr. It will always have a place in my heart as a camera I have experienced and loved, as well as a camera that will always have me thinking what could have been.

YouTube Video Part III…Results, Poor Man’s Rollei Wide, and What YOU Need To Start Developing Film

Good morning you war torn hardcore camera geeks! Just posted last night the latest (I don’t want to say last) installment of the “The Lonely Art Of Film Developing.”

As stated in the video, when I first thought of doing this, I just wanted to take you guys through the process, give people an idea of what a film developing session is like, for me at least.

The focus was not really to show you pretty results or anything, although the results are just a by product of this.

As you’ll see in the video, before I even thought of making the video, I was testing a Rolleiflex 3.5F with a 0.7x Mutar which is an add on lens that turns the 75mm lens of the 3.5F into a 55mm, or around 28 or 30mm in 35mm equivalent.

The goal was to see if this would work for me as a poor man’s Rollei Wide. The Rollei Wide is the Rolleiflex with the 55mm f/4 lens. The prices for these cameras are insane, like $3000-4000 insane! Like Crazy Eddie’s “Insane!!” 😀👍🏻

They have pretty much become collector’s items. In comparison my poor man’s version cost me $400 total.

I’ve read in many forums and discussions that the Mutar is junk, that it doesn’t get sharp until you stop it down to f/11 or f/16 even. But there were a few who said it was very good, fine even. Since opinions differ greatly, I wanted to find out for myself.

The above photo is a good example. I shot this probably at f/4 or 5.6. I definitely did not stop the lens down to f/11 or f/16.

Maybe I’m not as demanding as the $4000 Rollei collector but the sharpness is perfectly acceptable to me. Center sharpness is best but even corner sharpness is not bad. Sure it may not be a match for a $4000 Rollei Wide but the point here is that this is good enough for me! If you want to see the photo larger, just pinch the photo to enlarge it if you have a phone, tablet or smart computer.

The film was Ilford HP5 Plus developed in ID-11. This is one of the frames I developed in Part II of my video.

I still have some more testing to do with the 3.5F and Mutar but needless to say, it works for me! I’m happy with my poor man’s Rollei wide and as most of you know, you can’t get much better in photography than getting something good for cheap! 🙂

Also in this video I discuss a little bit of the basics you would need to get started in the fascinating world of black and white film developing.

To make it easier, here’s a list of the items you would need. Please understand, these are affiliate links. You pay nothing extra and I may get a few cents, maybe not even enough to buy a cup of coffee but every little bit helps the site to grow.

As always, thanks for reading and I truly appreciate your support!

LIST OF THINGS YOU NEED TO GET STARTED:

1) Patterson Tank https://amzn.to/3kstlBr

2) Kodak D76 Developer https://amzn.to/3kfJmue

3) HC-110 (Great Developer!) https://amzn.to/2T6PZTP

4) Kodak Rapid Fixer https://amzn.to/3m3Byw1

5) Kodak Photo Flo https://amzn.to/31qabEG

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Photo Of The Day: “Sisters” Rolleiflex 3.5F

Good September morning camera lovin’ geeks! Here’s a photo recently developed using the methods shown in my previous two YouTube videos.

The camera used was a Rolleiflex 3.5F 75mm f/3.5 Planar lens, film was Ilford HP5 Plus, developer was Ilford ID-11.

I’m pulling together the rest of the roll as well as some from a roll I developed tonight for the next video.

As seen in the YouTube videos, I’m not always textbook when I comes to developing. Perhaps I’ve gotten sloppy and I’m certainly not advocating you get sloppy.

Many years ago when I started developing film again, I was always by the book. The exact amount of developer, fixer, the exact number of minutes.

But over the years, and not on purpose either, I began to get off the books. I would sometime miss a minute of agitation here and there. Sometimes I would forget and leave the stop bath for an extra two minutes. Sometimes I had little fixer left but used it anyway with an extra dilution of water and extra minutes.

To my surprise, my results were almost always the same as when I did it by the book.

So when I say black and white film development is not an exact science it’s from my experiences. It’s not an excuse to be sloppy and for the absolute beginner I do advise going by the book. That said, black and white film developing at home is very forgiving of variations in time and temperature.

Of course if you do more esoteric b&w developing like stand development or cafeinol you might want to follow the recipe more closely.

Now C41 color film development I do find to be much more of an exact science when it comes to time and temperature. This is what I want to explore in the coming months.

As for the above photo, I do love any chance to have the girls stand still for a photograph and while I’m happy to have this portrait I was testing for something very specific with regard to the Rolleiflex 3.5F. I will share this with you in upcoming posts. Why not today? It’s not because I’m trying to build anticipation lol but simply because this would take up a whole article in itself! 😀

Thanks for your time and happy Tuesday good peeps!

YouTube Video: The Lonely Art Of Film Developing Part II: “Fixer…It Just Smells Funny!”

Good September morn you war-torn, hardcore camera geeks! Continuing on from our last article, here is Part Two of my YouTube series on “The Lonely Art” of film developing.

This video focuses on the “fixing” part of bw film development. It is a very important process that makes your images permanent and protects the film from going bad, ie, fogging up, etc.

Incidentally, the fixer is also the part of bw film developing that “smells” the most! All the fixers I have used have had this really pungent, sour smell to them.

Some of you may remember the Flickr group with the brilliant name of “Film Is Not Dead It Just Smells Funny.” Personally, I believe the fixer is what they’re talking about. If I am wrong, let me know!

Anyway, this video is a little more technical than the last but my main point is still NOT about teaching bw film developing. Many people already have videos up that show you how to do it way better than I can.

What I have learned over the years is that, even though there are guidelines as to what to do for whatever film or developer you’re using, there can be variations and people sometimes do things a little differently but as long as you don’t stray too far from the formula, your results should be ok.

The point of this video is to show how tedious the process can be. There’s a lot of downtime involved, a lot of counting minutes. It reminds me a lot of when I worked overnight security for a big tech company. I did in the 1990s so I could go to school during the day.

There was a lot of downtime, free time with that job. Often I would read books, eat, call friends, exercise or get lost in thought. Anything to past the time. And the same goes for developing film.

When I started relearning the process over a decade ago, it was fun, fascinating and I did a lot of it. Today, I still find the results fascinating but I don’t quite enjoy the process as much. My mind wanders.

And even though it doesn’t take all that long to do one roll of film, it feels like forever sometimes but no it’s not. Actually yes, when you factor the scanning and processing thereafter, it does feel like forever!

In the video, I exaggerate some of the things I might do while waiting but there’s a lot of truth to those exaggerations. It is a deeply personal process. Some people put music on, some might do their bills, meditate, etc. It takes a patient person to want to develop film but the results, especially when good, are most worthwhile.

Also to keep it fun, I reveal in this video a camera I’ve been shooting with a lot the past couple of months. Can you guess what it is? 🙂

Thanks for watching and feel free to leave a comment about your experiences, I love to hear from you!

Rewind ‘99 Part II: The Contax T Review

Quick Covid-19 Update: I’m sorry I continue to be away for lengthy periods. This is my new norm friends. I’m still working with Covid-19 patients although the list of infected patients today is much lower, thank goodness. I’m happy to report that, knock on wood, I’ve tested NEGATIVE for the virus and for the antibodies, multiple times.

But this is not the time to become too lax about this. Just take a look at what’s happening in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California. Be safe, be vigilant, wear a mask!

And now…

Today on part two of our Rewind ’99 series we take a look back at the camera that arguably started the luxury compact camera revolution, the venerable Contax T.

Again, this series is about cameras that I was using in 1999 and in 1999 the Contax T was in regular rotation for me. Indeed, one of my most used cameras ever!

Apologies for the delay on this article. It should’ve been finished a long time ago around Christmas of last year but it was then that I came down with a bad case of the cold. And at the same time, I got a new job!

How can I afford to review these cameras for you guys? As I said in one of my videos…You gotta work son! 🙂

INTRODUCTION

The Contax T was introduced by Kyocera in 1984. It is a manual focus, compact 35mm rangefinder camera.

It was one of the first luxury point and shoot cameras to be marketed. What is meant by “luxury?” Basically it means that it was marketed as a premium camera with hight build quality and high optical quality. And of course, high price too! 🙂

AS A CAMERA

The Contax T as mentioned above is a manual focus, rangefinder camera that uses 35mm film. The camera features a 38mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss T* lens. It has a shutter speed range of to 1/500 and an aperture range of f/2.8 to f/16. Minimum focus distance is 1 meter.

The jewel of the Contax T is the sharp 38mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss T* Sonnar lens.

The camera is manual wind and manual rewind. It comes in either black or silver trim. The camera relies on two MS76 batteries to function.

YOUTUBE VIDEO

For those of you who prefer a more “dynamic’ experience 😀

Contax T Video Review.

I don’t really enjoy making videos, but I do it for YOU! 🙂

HOW I CAME ACROSS THE CONTAX T

I bought the Contax T around 1996 or 1997. I can’t remember what got me interested in the camera but in those days it was most likely from either reading an article about it in a magazine or perhaps someone told me about it. During my free time, I hung out at camera stores quite often back then so that’s a very real possibility.

I do remember very clearly where I got it from. I got it from camera dealer Tamarkin. Now a lot of the general public may not know the store but I’m sure you old school hardcore camera lovers have heard of them.

It was Stan Tamarkin’s old store in Woodbridge, Connecticut. Today I believe they are out in Chicago. I believe they are now better known for holding auctions on rare, classic cameras. They are a good dealer, albeit on the pricey side a lot of times.

Anyway, I saw the Contax T listed in an ad in Shutterbug magazine, back when they had that cool oversized format.

In the mid 1990s the internet was still in primitive stages and most camera dealers did not yet have an online presence.

What the dealers did was to put their ads with listings of their inventory in the major photography magazines.

Whether or not the item was still in stock you could not really tell until you call them! It’s hard to imagine this today in a world where we can see right away whether an item is in stock or out of stock!

Some say “the good old days weren’t always good” and even though I’m a nostalgic fool, this time I agree with them! The online system of buying and selling is much better, but there is a charm to the old school way, almost like waiting for your film to come back and not knowing if you have any keepers 🙂

CONTAX T IMPRESSIONS

My first impression of the Contax T was one of awe at the feel and beauty of this compact gem.

There was indeed a feeling of “luxury” and that this camera was different from any other I had used previously. The metal was cool to the touch and it weighed more than it looked. Seeing “Carl Zeiss” on the lens thrilled me!

That first impression was in 1995 or 1996. And in 1999, I was still feeling the love for the Contax T. It was like my pride and joy in many ways 🙂

I suspect this is the way many people new to the brand feel upon holding their first Contax. It did give the impression that it was different from the typical Canon or Nikon camera. And in reality, it was and is different from many cameras, even today!

THE CLAMSHELL

When in the closed position, the camera is small, neat, and compact. To turn it “on” you need to pull the clamshell down. Once you do, the 38mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Sonnar lens comes out, and the camera powers on. And you can tell by the lights in the viewfinder and on the film counter which is the small top lcd.

There are people who love the clamshell design, and people who hate it. I would have preferred if it did not have this design. I feel it just makes it look less, how would I say this, neat maybe?

Nonetheless once you use the Contax T for a while you eventually get used to it. Once you realize that the clamshell protects the lens and turns on the camera when it’s in the down position, you realize it’s actually an integral part of the camera so you learn to live with it.

HANDLING AND IN USE

The Contax T without the flash attachment is small and compact. In fact, it may be small and compact to a fault meaning that it’s very easy for this camera to slip out of your hand so a case or handstrap should be considered essential. It’s not unlike a Minox or Rollei 35 in this respect.

Since the camera is primarily Aperture Priority there is not much in the way of controls, other than changing the aperture values on the lens. Even for my relatively small hands, it feels a little fidgety but not bad. I imagine larger hands may be more uncomfortable with it.

The viewfinder is small but usable to me. Inside the viewfinder, you will see three shutter speed indications, 30-125-500, basically 1/30, 1/125, and 1/500 but the camera will choose the values from its full range (8 secs to 1/500) automatically, depending on the exposure needed for the shot.

IMAGE QUALITY

The Contax T is capable of excellent, even superb results. The 38mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Sonnar lens is the same, or similar, to the lens on the T2. Some people might say they are different lenses because the T2 can focus closer at 0.7 meters vs the 1 meter MFD on the T but I think they just tweaked the lens on the T2 to focus closer. If there are any differences between the lenses, I’ve never seen it in the pictures.

Below are some samples from the Contax T over the years. It is probably best viewed on a computer and not on a phone. The images are not optimal as my scanner has broken and I’m using an iPhone to scan most of them. I’m not making excuses, it is what it is!

ISSUES

I give credit where credit is due and as I said before the Contax T has been my most reliable T series Contax. I bought it used in 1996 or 1997 and it still works! But it hasn’t been exactly flawless and there are a few issues to look out for.

First let me address the common issues which are just cosmetics, superficial, Watch for the rubber front grip to come loose and eventually fall off. That’s what happened to mine after prolonged use. It happened years ago, maybe more than ten years ago. I lost the part but it doesn’t really bother me so I never tried to replace it. But with the T being so diminutive and slippery, make sure you have a hand strap or case. It’s very easy to slip out of your hands!

The body scratches with use, especially if you carry it around in your pocket like I did or don’t keep it in a case. Again, it’s just cosmetics but if you like your cameras pristine, take some precautions.

The rangefinder spot on mine is now so dim, it’s getting harder and harder to focus with it. A trick you can do is to put a tiny dot of ink or a tiny black dot on the rangefinder window, superimposed over the place where the rangefinder patch would be. This helps increase contrast making it easier to focus the rangefinder.

I don’t know who came up with this, but I remember reading about it from a Tripod page from one of the early internet camera site pioneers, the great Rick Oleson. I give credit where credit is due! I hope you’re still out there and doing your thing Rick, I really enjoy your writings!

The more serious issues, like most Contax/Yashica cameras has to do with aging electronics. From my own experiences, these camera acts more unpredictably if the batteries are not fresh or have been sitting in the camera for a while. I’ve seen this in two T cameras.

The most serious issue is a shutter that begins to sound “weak” like its dying and changing batteries don’t really help. This is happening on my first T. Check my video for an account of what happened to my camera.

It doesn’t mean the camera will die soon but it might. If buying one make sure you buy from a place with a good warranty or return policy. Check our trusted affiliates.

PRICES AND AVAILABILITY

The Contax T is not a common camera but still easily found. If seeking one of these, prices are trending between $400-600. Compared to its sibling the T2, it’s a bargain that will offer you very similar pictures in a more compact (without the detachable flash) but manual focus package.

BOTTOM LINE

The Contax T was the first in a dynasty of T series cameras that has fascinated photographers and camera collectors for over thirty years.

Yashica, the manufacturer of the Contax T, were an amazingly innovative company that pushed boundaries and thought outside the box to give camera lovers very different, unique and high quality cameras with their Contax brand.

While the Zeiss Ikon Contax brand may have been the original Contax Camera Legend, they were unsuccessful at topping Leica for the camera king crown and one could argue that when Yashica took over the Contax name, they had a much more successful run.

When people think of Contax today, the Zeiss Ikon Contax is usually not the first thing they think of. Most people will think of Contax/Yashica and the Contax T with its diminutive size and super sharp optics led the way.

It could be argued that if the Contax T was not successful, there would not have been a T2, T3, TVS, etc, etc.

For many people the Contax T is the Camera Legend that introduced the high end, premium compact 35mm camera to the world. It made people marvel at what could be accomplished with a small, high quality camera design. It was equipped with a superb Carl Zeiss 38mm f/2.8 Sonnar lens that takes wonderful photos and does so in a small and pocketable form. After the Contax T, small compact cameras would never again be restricted to being “just a point and shoot.”

And yes this author can testify that the Contax T is the first camera he truly fell in love with!

***BREAKING NEWS***

“Dark OM Days” 2009. Olympus 35RC.

I posted this photo to places like Pbase and Flickr in 2009 in tribute to Yohihasa Maitani, the brilliant Olympus camera designer and a true Camera Legend who passed away in that same year. Today, I post it for the “death” of Olympus cameras as we know it.

I’m sure by now that most of you have heard the news reported on June 24, 2020, that Olympus will sell off their camera division to a group called Japan Industrial Partners. The deal is expected to be finalized in September of this year.

Now it seems the common sense thought would be that Japan Industrial Partners will continue to make and sell cameras to continue the Olympus name. However, I’m not so hopeful about that.

Why? Because this is the same group that bought the rights to Sony VAIO. Now I don’t know where you live, but here in the States I haven’t seen a Sony VAIO computer in ages!

Olympus was one of my favorite brands in the early days and indeed to this day. They made great cameras and they knew how to make top notch optics. Thus this is very sad news for me! I will have more on Olympus in future postings. But for today, let’s have a moment of silence for the passing of a true Camera Legend, Olympus, indeed a giant in the world of cameras.

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New YouTube Project

Sorry for my inactivity friends, I have been working on a new pet project which is the Camera Legend YouTube channel. Between that, the blog, and family, I’m burnt out!

It seems the next logical step to bringing a more dynamic experience to our readers.

I initially hesitated doing it…for a couple of years in fact! Afraid to take the plunge, but now we have already posted a couple of videos.

People wish me good luck and I thank them. I’m well aware that most YouTube channels don’t succeed. I’m going in expecting to fail! Starting from zero, got nothing to lose 😀

I view this blog as my model for the YouTube channel. I never expected it to go anywhere but it’s gone beyond my expectations!

It’s not the number of followers as much as people telling me they found the blog while Googling or researching certain cameras. The fact that we have become a tiny fabric of that internet search for the cameras we have profiled is a humbling experience. Very thankful to the viewers and readers.

The YouTube channel is just in experimental stage. I’m not sure if I should be reserved or show some personality so I’m trying different things. I personally think people don’t want to see a robot speaking! Anyway I’m open to your thoughts and suggestions.

I also have to admit, I’m a little shy for putting myself out there in front of the camera. There’s always the thought…”Oh, am I not who you thought I’d be?”

The production is decidedly low budget. As I’ve mentioned here many times, I’m not a video person, though I might have to start learning.

I’m a photographer who loves natural and available light. I don’t like setting up studio lights, though again, I might just have to learn.

I really wanted this to be more like you going into a camera store and chit chatting with one of the employees in there. I used to do that; go in and chat with the sales people and always had a good time talking cameras!

Anyway, please have a look, if you have the time. Honestly, the “meat” of the video, which is the camera talk, I think only true camera nerds could sit through! Thank you in advance and thanks for being part of this new venture!

Best, Sam

 

Three Years Of Zay

“The Wild Child” 2015. Olympus OM-D EM-5, 45mm f/1.8 Zuiko lens. This photo was shot when the baby was around six months of age. Zay was blessed with a head full of hair as an infant! 🙂

Howdy folks, how have you been? Hope everyone is doing great!

I’ve always felt that as fast as life moves, it moves even faster when you have children. As they get older, you get older and all of a sudden you begin to feel your age creeping in more and more! Is it just me? 😊

Well, my baby daughter Zayda just turned three this week and even though I try not to make family specific postings, please allow me to indulge for today 😊

Now, in looking over Zay’s pics over the past three years, I noticed most of the photos of her are overwhelmingly digital using either digital cameras or cell phone cameras.

Ten years ago when my first daughter Zoe was born there was a more ecclectic mix of 35mm, medium format, and digital images.

“As In A Dream” 2015. Kodak Retina IIIC with 50mm f/2 Schneider Xenon lens, T-Max 400 developed in D76. Zayda was around two or three months in this photo. Due to the camera having issues with overlapping frames, you can see a framed photo of big sister Zoe on Zoe’s right shoulder. I actually loved the effect here, hence the title 🙂

Why such a big difference? No I don’t love one daughter more than the other! I don’t favor one more than the other, at least I try not to.

Upon self reflection I would say I’m getting older and now I’m just a product of the times we live in.

“Love Is In The Air” 2015. Canon EOS-1D 4.1mp, 50mm f/1.8 Yongnuo lens. Zayda was around five months of age in this photo. I was testing a Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 lens, which is a clone of the cheap but capable Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens. The Yongnuo is even cheaper but quite a capable lens as well!

What I mean is that ten years ago, the birth of my first child was something I’ve never experienced before and I was eager to take as many shots of her early years as I could.

I was also ten years younger and had the patience to keep up with a baby and wait for the right moment to capture the images. I was also very eager to perfect my craft on film.

“Cheeri-O” 2016. Fuji Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic.

Flash forward to today. I don’t quite have the same endurance, mentally or physically, to wait for that right moment to capture that pose or expression. As most of you may know, photographing children requires a lot of patience. It will test your patience for sure!

“Smile For Me” 2018. Nikon D1 2.7mp, 50mm f/1.8 AF-D Nikkor.

One must also take into account that the cell phone cameras are much better today and their convenience has made me a lazier person. I’m openly admitting this!

“Bright Eyes” 2015. Canon EOS-1Ds 11.1mp DSLR, 50mm f/1.4 Contax Zeiss Planar MM.

But I’ve made a pledge to myself that in the next few months I will strive to capture the baby more often with my film cameras now that she is at an age where she’s more cooperative with posing or standing still for pictures.

If you’ll note the equipment used in these images, they are all made from cameras I’ve reviewed or spoken about.

“Softees” 2015. Ricoh GR1, Ilford Delta 400 in D76.

As for Baby Zayda herself, she doesn’t care if I photograph her with a film camera or digital camera or phone camera 😀

“The Baby” 2015. Nikon V1, 18.5mm f/1.8 Nikkor 1 lens.

In closing I just want to say Zayda, I love you very much! Perhaps one day you’ll read this and have a smile from it 😘

“Chicka-Dee” 2015. Nokia Lumia 1020.

“Eye Spy” 2016. iPhone 6s Plus.

The Incredible New Fuji X-H1