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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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

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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

The Konica Hexar AF

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The Konica Hexar AF is a 35mm point and shoot camera introduced by Konica in 1993. The camera has a fixed 35mm f/2 Hexar lens.

Just as I stated about the Ricoh GR1 in my review, the Konica Hexar also came from the same unique era in the 1990s when manufacturers such as Contax, Nikon, Leica, Ricoh, Minolta, and yes Konica put out high end “luxury” point and shoot cameras, forever changing the way the lowly point and shoot camera was perceived.

The Konica Hexar is one of the greatest “cult” cameras of all time.

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“Sunday Girls” 2015. Konica Hexar AF, Ilford Delta 400 developed in D76. Some Z sister love 🙂

AS A CAMERA

The Konica Hexar is an all electronic autofocus camera and relies on one 2CR5 battery for all its functions.

The camera features Aperture Priority, Program, and Manual modes. The shutter speed range is 30s to 1/250s plus T.

The 35mm f/2 Hexar lens is a fixed 35mm f/2 that closes down to f/22.

IS IT A RANGEFINDER OR A POINT AND SHOOT

Though the Hexar AF resembles a rangefinder camera, it is indeed a large point and shoot rather than a true rangefinder like a Leica M6 for example.

Don’t forget, back in the 1990s, point and shoot cameras were still considered “lowly” by elitist photographers. But even these folks knew what a great camera the Hexar was so they had to have it. So for those folks calling the Hexar AF a rangefinder probably made them feel better 😊

The Konica Hexar RF, a different camera, is an actual rangefinder. So remember…Hexar AF, point and shoot. Hexar RF, rangefinder.

IN THE HAND AND THE CONTROLS

While technically a point and shoot camera, the Konica Hexar AF is actually quite large in the hand. It’s roughly the same length as say a Leica M8 and almost as thick, but not as bulky as the M8.

The relatively large size of the camera may also be a contributing factor to it being perceived as a traditonal rangefinder.

Back in the mid to late 1990s when I used this camera most, I considered its large size an asset because I’m sure most people then saw it as a large, almost goofy point and shoot camera with the name “Konica” on it. This is mostly true for the black version. Surely it must be a cheap and “harmless” camera right? 🙂

That was back in the 1990s. Today, I believe people are even more camera savvy thanks in no small part to the internet and the resurrgence of interest in cameras and photography. In some ways it was better in the 90s wasn’t it guys? We had this thing all to ourselves 🙂

Ergonomically, I think the camera is excellent with a nice heft to the body. From the shooter’s perspective, the large dial on the top right hand side of the camera controls the aperture in half stops from f/2 to f/22.

Also on the top plate are from the Off/A/P/M mode dial, the up and down buttons, the self time button, the Select and MF buttons, and the tiny rewind button.

The body can be held in one hand if need be thanks to a nice right handed grip molded into the body. I’d take care that a strap is around your neck or hand if you do this because the camera can slip from your hand and drop, and you wouldn’t want that would you?

MY EXPERIENCES AND IMPRESSIONS OF THE HEXAR AF

I got my first Hexar AF in 1996 after reading an excellent and extensive review of the Hexar on a once great website called Photo.net but for some reason I can no longer find this review when doing a quick search for it.

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“Meditation” 1997. Konica Hexar AF, Fuji Reala. The Hexar AF is capable of brilliant color capture, especially with a film like Reala.

Photo.net was one of the first sites on the internet truly dedicated to photography. They had great articles and forums. I would contribute once in a while, but mainly decided to stay a lurker.

The reason I say Photo.net was “once great” is that sometime in the past few years, Photo.net has gone through a complete renovation and is almost unrecognizable.

To be fair, it may still be great, I don’t know, but I no longer visit. Just like being used to the low budget Craigslist layout, I was used to the old school Photo.net platform. I don’t know if they have new owners or not, but the new platform does not, to me, have that down home feeling of the old Photo.net and is harder to navigate.

I know there are “crazy passionate” (as I like to say) people out there to whom saying anything sounding remotely negative will set them off. One person got angry because I called a camera he apparently liked a “brute.” What I actually wrote was that it was “an awesome brute of a camera” 🙂

So to avoid that let me say, yes I understand if I took a little time Photo.net is probably as great as it always was. However, I haven’t had the time to expolore it.

Anyway, I’m drifting off topic here, so let’s get back to the Hexar AF. As I said, after reading that excellent review on Photo.net, I had to have it!

When I got it, I truly had the feeling that I had something special in my hands. Much like the way I suppose that someone in today’s world feels when they hold a Sony RX1 or a Leica Q, etc, etc. Twenty two years later, I still get a special feeling when I hold the Hexar and use it.

HOW I USE THE HEXAR

The Konica Hexar AF is a purely electronic camera that relies on a battery for all its functions and uses dials and lots of buttons for its controls. Generally a no-no for me, but the great thing is I use the Konica as it was intended, which is that I use it as a point and shoot.

So if you’ll forgive me, I will not delve much (if at all) into some of its more complex controls. For example, you can set up the Hexar for manual focus or hyperfocal focus or what have you, but for that you need to rely on pressing a bunch of buttons all of which you need a manual or look up online on how to do it.

It’s not that it’s so hard, but for me, I don’t or never needed to bother with that because I never intended to use the Hexar in any other way but point and shoot 🙂

I don’t mean that in a negative way. The fact that the Hexar is a point and shoot allows me the freedom to concentrate on the light, subject, composition, etc, etc.

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“Mr. Kodak” 2003. Konica Hexar AF, Kodak Ultra HD 400. The Ozarks, Arkansas. The Hexar AF’s autofocus worked well for this shot.

The great thing about the Hexar is that while it relies a lot on electronic buttons for a lot of its extraneous functions, it couldn’t be simpler to use, if you do as I do. Just turn it on, put it on A for aperture priority and control that nice large aperture dial, or (dare I say it) just leave it on P for Program mode, then it’s simple as pie. Just point and shoot folks, don’t overthink it!

AUTOFOCUS

The Hexar AF relies on active-infrared focus. In general, the AF is adequately fast and accurate. In low light situations, it may struggle if there’s no definable subject for the AF to latch on to.

Other times, it may seem like the AF is hesitating but this usually happens when the camera develops the dreaded “sticky shutter button” problem which we’ll discuss in “Issues” below. In general, the autofocus in the Hexar is very reliable even when the user themselves might be unsure it got the shot.

THAT LENS AND IMAGE QUALITY

It’s been widely said on the web for a very long time that the 35mm f/2 Hexar lens on the Hexar AF is a close copy of the pre Asph Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron.

In my limited time with the Summicron, I’d have to say I didn’t see it. Perhaps it was my copy of the Summicron but the Hexar lens appeared slightly sharper (probably more contrasty) than the Summicron, the bokeh less funky, which kind of makes sense since it is of a much newer vintage than the Leica. The Leica had more of a “look” to the images it produced though.

It’s also said that the Hexar lens may be closer to the 35mm f/1.8 Nikkor rangefinder lens. I don’t really see that either and I have the Nikkor. The Nikkor, like the Leica, has their own unique signature. And the Hexar does too.

For example, I would say the Hexar’s bokeh leans more towards neutral. Not bad, not great. Not unpleasant for most situations. The Nikkor has funkier bokeh that’s not exactly pretty, but adds to its “character.”

I’m totally convinced all these great old lenses earned their reputation as a result of the abberations and imperfections inherent in them, secondary to being a product of their time. In other words, a lens from the 50s or 60s as great as they were, will simply lack something an equivalent modern lens has, with all the advances made in coatings and computer design or corrections for optical errors.

But, and this is a big BUT friend…these abberations or “errors” are what make those old lenses produce such great images!! Whether it’s a look you love or a look you hate, these old lenses produces images that catches the eye. And again, I’m convinced it’s from their imperfections.

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“Snow Heart” 2015. Konica Hexar AF, Ilford Delta 400 developed in D76. The Hexar AF is capable of excellent sharpness and lovely tones in black and white.

That said, the Konica Hexar AF lens is truly great! It’s sharp from f/2 and very sharp stopped down slightly. There is some barrel distorion in the near focus range, but it’s generally not a problem for me.

The lens exhibited excellent tonality and reproduces colors superbly especially with a good color film like the old Reala or Velvia. I generally prefer b&w when using older cameras, but the Hexar is one camera I wouldn’t mind using with color film.

My subjective impression is that the 35mm f/2 Hexar lens has a much more modern signature than the lenses it’s usually compared to. And it kind of makes sense considering the Hexar AF is a child of the 90s.

The fixed 35mm f/2 Hexar lens has a nice nifty pull out metal hood built in. Nice touch!

THE FAMOUS SILENT MODE

The Konica Hexar AF had one other thing beside that fabulous lens that made it famous. It was the stealthy “Silent” mode. Though I told you I hated using those electronic buttons, this one is so easy I’ll tell you how to do it.

Keep you hand on the MF button, turn the camera on, you should see a letter on the top LCD. If you do see that “L” then that’s it! You’re in the silent mode.

In this mode, the camera is amazingly quiet when advancing film. In the 1990s used to take the camera with me to college downtown for night classes and sometimes I’d used it to take photos of friends making wacky faces in the classroom. I used to have to look twice at the film counter to make sure the camera actually took the shot. That’s how quiet it was.

You might say, why were you taking your camera to class anyway? Just to take photos of your friends making wacky faces? No friend, I actually took it with me because after class was over, I was free to walk around the streets of New York City. The wacky faces arose out of classroom boredom 🙂

Of course, in a truly quiet “you could hear a pin drop” room you may hear it, but for the majority of the shooting situations you may be in, the Hexar’s silent mode will impress.

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“Sunday Girls” closer crop. My eldest would usually mess up my attempts at taking a candid shot of her by making silly faces but here she had no clue that I took the photo 🙂

Again, I always like to put it in today’s perspective and in the age of high quality cell phones and point and shoot cameras, the Hexar’s silent mode is kind of a moot point. Yet, when compared to some of today’s cameras, especially the DSLR cameras with their mirror slap, the Hexar in silent mode may be more silent and that’s impressive, especially for a film camera.

THE COOL FILM REWIND CATCH

One really cool thing I like with the Hexar is that when the camera rewinds the film down to “1” it gives you quite a pause, not sure how long, maybe a second more or less, but just enough time that you can twist the back door key open and catch the film before it goes into the cannister.

This is an awesome feature for me as I love to shoot half a roll in one camera and one roll in another.

ISSUES

The Konica Hexar AF has a top shutter speed of 1/250 which some may find limiting. How would this be limiting for you? Well, let’s say you want to shoot a model outdoors in bright sunlight. Let’s say you want to shoot wide open to get some background blur. The top shutter speed of 1/250 severely limits your ability to do the above.

It also limits the use of faster film in bright daylight. It’s almost impossible to get bokeh in bright sunlight with this camera, even with slow film as the lens begs to be stopped down in bright light.

In bright light, many cameras will already be begging for more than 1/250th of a second so you really have to use slower film and find a way to work around it, maybe use some ND filters.

For me, it’s not a problem because I’m not shooting in those conditions. I’m usually doing the opposite which is shooting in low or subdued light so the camera will rarely ever need to go to 1/250 for me.

The main issue I have seen with the Konica Hexar AF is that they tend to develop what’s known as the “sticky shutter problem.”

Let’s say you press the shutter button. Nothing happens. You press it again. It may focus or not. Eventually it focuses. Maybe not. Either way, you’re not sure what happened.

You most likely have the sticky shutter problem if you experience this. I know I have. In fact, my Hexar does this now.

From what I can gather, it seems most people think it’s a matter of the parts being worn from time and use and apparently there is a simple fix for it which will require you to disassemble, clean and reassemble parts of the camera. It’s said to be easy but I haven’t tried it yet. The tutorial can be found easily on YouTube.

But…

Be forwarned. Some say it’s just a temporary fix and eventually the problem comes back and that you do eventually need to have it professionally repaired as some of the parts may need replacement. With Konica out of the camera business, I’m not really sure if there are many parts to be had.

Since mine is working intermittently, I’m living with it as is for now.

Some people have also complained of faulty electronics, ie camera dying for no reason but I’ve not heard much of this and have not experienced it myself. I’ve had two of these cameras. But that’s not to say it couldn’t happen. These cameras have been on the market for more than twenty years and if they’ve never been maintained, something is bound to happen sooner or later.

Other than that, and the odd off focus shots which happens with any camera, the Hexar is generally very reliable, but then again it IS an over twenty year old camera from a manufacturer who no longer makes cameras for general consumption so be forwarned.

BOTTOM LINE

The Konica Hexar AF is one of the greatest cult cameras of all time and justifiably so. It’s got a great lens and great ergonomics if used as a point and shoot.

The camera does rely on a lot of dials and tiny buttons if you want to delve into more of its feature set, but if you’re content to focus on getting the picture and letting the camera do the work, it’s the simplest electronic camera to use. And it delivers excellent, sharp images beautifully and easily.

The photos on this page do not illustrate all that the Hexar is capable of. I do have a ton of photos from this camera that sit in photo albums that I just haven’t had the time to scan, but I will continue to add photos to this review as time allows.

The Konica Hexar AF is a Camera Legend that is still very much in demand by photography enthusiasts and I wholeheartedly endorse it. It brings me back to a great time in life and won me over by delivering great photos time after time. Even today the Hexar continues to produce wonderful results and it’s a keeper in my book.

PRICE/AVAILABILITY/WHERE TO BUY

Though the Hexar AF has been long discontinued, it’s still relatively easy to find. Prices are trending from $450-800 US Dollars.

The Hexar was made in several different fits, Black, Silver, Classic, Rhodium. They’re all the same camera, just a different trim. The Black model appears to be the most common. The Classic and the Rhodium seem to fetch more on the used market.

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MODERN DIGITAL ALTERNATIVES

So you say you’d like a camera like the Konica Hexar but you prefer digital? Well, they never made an equivalent of the Hexar AF in digital form, so you’re out of luck there.

The closest modern equivalent I would say is the Sony RX1 series. Though I’m sort of bias towards my film cameras, I would say the RX1 and its reiterations are superb.

And since Sony bought out Konica/Minolta oh so many years ago in 2006, you could say the Sony carries that Hexar lineage, even though the lens on the RX1 is a Zeiss lens. But hey, that ain’t a bad thing is it? 🙂

The Sony RX1R II

Photo Of The Day: “Don’t Worry Be Happy”

NikonD1ZoeC

I said to Baby Girl here…Hey, could you at least TRY to look happy for the photo? 🙂

This photo was taken with the Nikon D1, 2.65mp DSLR from 1999. The lens was the even older 35-70mm f/2.8 AF-D Nikkor. I was out testing some new equipment, but the best shot I got that day was from this old school classic.

Looking on some of my own postings, I could see where some may think I lean more towards Canon, but in fact, I’ve always swayed equally between the two giants, Canon and Nikon.

I’ve loved the D1 since I first read about it in 1999. Since then, I must’ve had about five of these bodies! Nuts!

No, it’s not going to beat your 36mp or 42mp cameras, I’m not that crazy. All I’m saying is I have a soft spot for the D1. It is a true digital Camera Legend and I love it! Maybe one day I’ll do a write-up on it. Hope you enjoy the extra hour this weekend. Happy Sunday!