Photo Of The Day: “Fourth of July 2020” Polaroid SX-70

Yesterday was the Fourth of July and America celebrated its 244th birthday. With the Coronavirus once again wreaking havoc in much of the USA and social unrest gripping the nation, America’s birthday this year is very different from any other year in recent memory. It may be a traumatic, tumultuous year but certainly not a boring year to say the least!

A precious memory from the Fourth of July, 2020, delivered by the Polaroid SX-70.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that every 4th of July, on a purely photo related level, I reflect on the cameras that I feel are true American Camera Legends.

Past contenders were the Argus C3 and the Kodak Medalist. This year, it’s the Polaroid SX-70. I have used the SX-70 for many years, but have never really reviewed it though perhaps I should, but today is not that today. I have always kind of viewed it as a “personal project” camera.

I love shooting the SX-70 and I’d love to shoot it more often but the price of the film has always meant that it would never be my main shooter. I mean, for $18.99 you get 8 shots. That means you got to make every shot count!

Now in the past, especially in the early days of the Impossible Project’s attempts at keeping Polaroid film alive, I didn’t think the film was ready for prime time. It was very inconsistent with bad color shifts, uneven spots, scratches, etc. Needless to say I had many wasted shots which kind of killed my enthusiasm.

I understood even back then that they were attempting to do something that really seemed “Impossible” so I did not expect perfection right away. I’ve always admired their efforts as a great and noble project to salvage one of photography’s great treasures. I just didn’t want to throw good money out but I supported the project whenever I could by buying stuff from them.

Flash forward to today, and I’m pleased to say the SX-70 film that Polaroid (formerly Polaroid Originals, formerly the Impossible Project) have been putting out for the past few years is much better! Rich, colorful and sharp, and everything is more consistent. I feel that the color is shifted more to the blue or “cool” spectrum but that’s just an observation not a complaint.

The SX-70 remains not only an iconic camera but still a very affordable Camera Legend in today’s world. If you like instant photography, get it!

Today, I just want to celebrate Dr. Edwin Land’s creation with a photo I took yesterday on the Fourth of July. The SX-70 was introduced in 1972 and to me it remains one of the greatest photographic machines ever made. The beauty of a sharply focused SX-70 print is something to behold.

Just one more shoutout to the makers of the current Polaroid film. Making quality instant film is a fine art and these folks have truly done the impossible in not only keeping SX-70 film (and consequently, the SX-70 itself) alive but also to continue to improve it to the point where I think it’s nearly as good as the original Polaroid formula. Well done guys!

Now I’m just hoping their pack film project goes just as well. It will take time, maybe even years, but I’m convinced they can do it!

Rewind โ€˜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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 โ€œdynamicโ€™ experience ๐Ÿ˜€

Contax T Video Review.

I don’t really enjoy making videos, but I do it for YOU! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

Covid-19 Update & The 1932 Contax I

Good Sunday morning you guys! As I revealed earlier I’m also a healthcare worker. In fact, it’s how I make my living.

So today, before I talk about our camera of the day, let me tell you a little about I got into healthcare.

In my twenties, back in the 1990s, I graduated from college with a Bachelor’s in Communication Arts, majoring in Advertising. I took advertising after much personal struggle. I’ve always had an artistic heart but I also wanted to please my parents who wanted their son to work in the business world.

And being a loyal son to my old school parents yet wanting to have some part in the decision I took advertising because I felt it was a good compromise between art and business.

Anyway, working in advertising provided me with an opportunity to use my homebrew photography skills and I worked in this field for several years until a couple of layoffs made me realize that I needed a backup field where I would always have work. I met a person who pointed me in the direction of healthcare and the rest is history. In fact, my “backup” field became my main field of work! I’ll tell you guys more about this in future postings!

THE CONTAX I

The Contax I is a 35mm rangefinder film camera introduced by Zeiss Ikon of Germany in 1932. It had a production run of four years until 1936.

As a true hardcore camera aficionado and Contax super-fan, the Contax I was always a camera on my wishlist. However, most of the cameras that I came across were either exorbitantly expensive or they were in unusable condition. Many times it was both.

In 2017, I negotiated a deal of $250 for the Contax I and Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/2 collapsible. My particular camera is not without its problems as I’ll describe below but for $250 for the body and lens, and with a working shutter, I thought it was a deal!

My Contax I has shutter speeds of 1/25 to 1/1000th of a second plus B. Apparently there are variations that had slower shutter speeds but that was added later so mine must be an earlier model.

The best information I have seen on the Contax I comes from Stephen Gandy’s fabulous Camera Quest website. It has all the information you need on the Contax I. Since Stephen said it best, I need to shut up! Here’s the link:

https://www.cameraquest.com/zconrf1.htm

YOUTUBE VIDEO

For those of you who prefer a more animated experience ๐Ÿ™‚

In this video I also talk about my experiences on the unemployment line. I understand and empathize with those of you going through hard times. Stay strong, you WILL make it!


WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN THE CONTAX I

If you are looking to add the Contax I to your collection, keep in mind that (in my opinion) the Contax I should be viewed as a collectible. In other words, don’t expect to find one to use as a regular shooting camera. It may or may not be in working condition but donโ€™t expect it to be perfect unless itโ€™s been restored.

View the Contax I as a collectible first and foremost. Why? Well, first of all the Contax I is really old at this point. Introduced in 1932, these cameras are close to 90 years old. Secondly, even in its day it didn’t have the best reputation for reliability. It was seen as a premium product that was rushed to market in order to compete with the Leica 1 or A as its known.

As a “premium” product, Zeiss tried to outdo Leica anyway they could. If the Leica had zone focus, the Contax would have a rangefinder. If Leica had a cloth shutter, the Contax would have a metal bladed shutter. If Leica topped out at 1/500, the Contax would top out at 1/1000.

Unfortunately, the Contax ultimately ended up as a well conceived product that didn’t quite deliver on the perception its specs conjured up. The shutter on the Contax I is said to be “fragile” or unreliable so that’s the first thing you should look for in these cameras. If the shutter blades are intact and working, that’s a big step in the right direction.

One funny side note…you guys might remember how I’ve often talked of Contax/Yashica and how I’ve always said they made great cameras that were not the most reliable? Well, it seemed Yashica was just following in the spirit of the Contax I! ๐Ÿ™‚

Despite all the bad things I’ve read about the “fragile” shutter on the Contax I, the vertically traveling metal blades are still working on mine. I know of at least two other people shooting with the Contax I as well.

But accurate, it is probably not. The speeds feel off to me, which is to be expected for a camera this old. The rangefinder patch on mine is pretty much gone. I can barely make it out. Keep in mind the rangefinder and many other things will probably have worn out on a camera this old.

I know of a great trick where one puts a tiny black dot on the rangefinder window and it worked in the past with other cameras I had with dim rangefinders. I give credit where credit is due. I learned this trick from the website of a man named Rick Oleson, one of the early pioneers of internet photography pages.

His page is on the “tripod” platform that’s how far back it goes! My very first website in 1999 was also on Tripod. I made one page and back then it wasn’t easy like what I’m doing on WordPress today so anyway I put up one page, saw it once and never saw it again! I don’t even remember the name of my page, sad ain’t it?

Anyway, I just want to say Rick thanks for the useful tips and great articles you put on your site over the years. I hope you’re still out there doing your thing!

Ok so back to the Contax I. My rangefinder patch is so dim that even the black dot trick did little to remedy it. And it is true that not many people will attempt a repair on this camera. I reached out to a couple of renowned camera repair people and they politely declined to even attempt it.

So I have to just accept it. I use zone focus and try to compensate for shutter speeds that appear to be slower than the values.

SAMPLES?

Do you guys remember this article I wrote in early 2019?

https://cameralegend.com/2019/01/21/monday-mystery-images-the-quality-of-walgreens-film-scans/

Well, the mystery is solved! All those images (above) were taken with the Contax I and 50mm f/2 Sonnar collapsible. The film was Kodak Gold 400. How do I know? Well, these photos were taken in 2017. I found a memo I kept for the cameras I was using that summer of 2017 and especially because I was taking a road trip to south Jersey. The only film camera on the memo for that time frame was the Contax I. In fact, in the article I stated that I suspected it might be the Contax!

None of these images are what I would consider “winners” but considering that I was zone focusing and dealing with a less than optimal shutter, I guess I didn’t do too badly. I’m just happy anything came out! Honestly, I thought the whole roll would be unusable.

I can see the lens is suffering from flare and/or haze, maybe. Still, I do like its rendering on some the images. It’s got an old school vibe to it.

Now I’m even more inclined to put another roll in the Contax I just to verify the results.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

As I mentioned, the Contax I should be seen as a collectible first and foremost. If you can actually use it for photography, all the better!

That said, prices are all over the place for this camera. As a collectible, there are many factors that will determine the final price. The factors include condition, mechanical and cosmetic, usable or non working, and whether it’s bundled with lenses, accessories, etc.

As a rough guide, I have seen the body alone go from $250-600, and even seen some unscrupulous overseas sellers charging up to $1000. Unless it’s really pristine, working, and has all original accessories I wouldn’t pay anywhere near $1000 for one…and I’m a hardcore Contax fan!

Again, I got mine, body and lens for $250 USD. For that price, it was not without its flaws as I said. Very dim (unusable) RF patch, shutter speeds off. But, it works! And that was the most important thing to me. The fact that I got it cheap was also a deciding factor ๐Ÿ™‚

BOTTOM LINE

The Contax I is without a doubt a true legitimate Camera Legend. It is with the Contax I that the legend of Contax was born.

It was an ambitious attempt by Zeiss Ikon, one of the premier names in photography, to compete with Leica for supremacy and control of the then new 35mm film camera market.

Perhaps due to over ambitious and rushed execution, the Contax I is seen today as a somewhat failed product with a reputation for reliability problems. The later Contax II and III/IIIa are much better user cameras but there can only be one number one and the Contax I was the first.

I’ve talked many times about “the real Contax” and the Contax I represents this better than any other Contax I own. It is the camera that put the Contax name into the world, a name that still imprints the thought “Camera Legend” onto the hearts of camera lovers worldwide.

While the Contax II and III/IIIa and the Zeiss lenses cemented Contax as one of the world’s finest camera brands, the flawed Contax I was the first and as such it will always be the camera that started the Contax legend.

Thanks for supporting Camera Legend! Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube channel to get the very latest!

Photo Of The Day: “Rambler” Leica M8 & 7Artisans 35mm f/2

I’m not a rambling man and I’m certainly don’t know what a “Rambler” is but I do know it’s cool old car!

This I believe is an AMC Rambler, and I know it’s a cool old car but other than that I don’t know much about it. If you do, please let me know!

I found this while walking to visit some friends in New York. You never know what you might find in NYC!

I used my trusty Leica M8 and the 7Artisans 35mm f/2 that I acquired only three months ago. The image was processed with NikEfex. More and more I’m lovin’ this lens! And you might have heard that the M8 is the next best digital camera to the Monochrom for b&w images? Well, I’ve never used the Monochrom but they call the M8 the “Poor Man’s Monochrom” and I’m inclined to believe it! Have a good, safe day folks!

Sunday Morning Reflections: Canon 1DX MK III, Nikon D780, Nikon D6 Plus New YouTube Video

Good morning everybody! Well there was a lot of big news last week. Canon announced their newest flagship, the EOS-1DX Mark III a 20.1mp professional DSLR offering the latest advancements Canon can muster up including a 191 point AF system, “Head Detection” (wtf?) technology, 4K video and 5.5K Raw video, just to name a few of the things available in this jam packed camera.

Nikon also announced the D780, a 24.5mp DSLR in the legendary D700 line and the successor to the very popular D750. Perhaps destined to be the greatest, and some say the last, in this line.

Nikon also showed, under protective glass, the Nikon D6 flagship DSLR. No specs were given however but we can guess it will have enough of the things it needs to make it competitive with the 1DX MKIII.

It seemed to be a big week in the camera world last week and Sunday morning is a great time to talk about it so let’s start!

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“Sunday Morning” 2017. Fuji X100 12.3mp. Anyone still using their original X100? ๐Ÿ™‚

LATEST YOUTUBE VIDEO

Here’s a video I made earlier in the week. I wasn’t sure I even wanted to post it, but I decided to do it just to get something out for you guys. The video starts out with a “new” old school singer you never knew existed! ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s really a bit silly, but that’s just me being me. Hey listen, I love cameras! I know there’s so much serious work that goes into the manufacture of these cameras. The serious electrical and optical engineering have already been done, I don’t need to add to that seriousness. The worst thing I could do is act like a pretentious dweeb who knows it all so I’ll just be the dweeb who don’t know nothing ๐Ÿ™‚

Also in this episode, I reflect on the “low budget” look of my videos. You guys know I tell it like it is and I know my early videos on YouTube had cringe worthy production, and hey I’ll admit they’re still cringe worthy but we’ll continue to improve. The majority of early YouTube efforts are cringe worthy anyway so learn from me and make better videos if you want to try YouTube!

When I was a kid my Dad always said “Don’t make fun of people” because as he noted, it always comes back to you. Well, of course I didn’t listen and I’m paying for it now!

When we were kids, we would stay up with Dad and watch the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, David Letterman, then Jay Leno, etc. But once in a while, we’d scan the channels (there weren’t that many in the 80s and early 90s) and we would see a man named Joe Franklin on WWOR, Channel 9 in NYC.

Joe Franklin was the king of vaudeville and nostalgia and pretty much started the late night, late show genre but never got his just desserts because he wasn’t national like Johnny Carson, he was local to the NYC area. Later on, he eventually got more of the recognition he deserved when Billy Crystal imitated him on Saturday Night Live.

Mr. Franklin had a really low budget look to his shows and if you weren’t paying attention you might have even thought his show was “boring” because of his low key speaking style but if you actually paid attention to his shows, they were actually quite entertaining.

Towards the end of his television run, they started using “Axel F” from Beverly Hills Cop as the theme song for his show and when they did that, I just about lost it! I thought it was the funniest thing ever!

Anyway, at the end of my YouTube video, I’ve included a clip that I posted only to social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook last year and it’s called “Joe Franklin’s Revenge” because when we were younger, my friends and I would record ourselves making fun of his shows and now he has come back to get the last laugh! ๐Ÿ™‚

I know this is not what you expect when you are watching a “camera review” site but as I mentioned in the last article, camera reviews are passe man! I want to do things differently. I will continue to keep you guys informed and share my experiences with you but I believe that whenever you put yourself out there in these videos is you got to remember the bottom line is that is stuff is strictly for your entertainment ๐Ÿ™‚

LONG LIVE THE DSLR!

So with all the talk of the imminent death of the DSLR why did Canon and Nikon come out with these cameras when it seemed like they finally embraced Mirrorless? As I mentioned in my DSLR VS Mirrorless YouTube video last year, the “Big Dawgs” Canon and Nikon are very comfortable making these “big ass” cameras ๐Ÿ™‚

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Today’s mirrorless cameras are just as capable as the huge DSLRs but you got to admit some of them sure look wimpy compared to these “big ass” cameras ๐Ÿ™‚

 No seriously, these two companies have been eternally embraced in a legendary rivalry. While both are on the cutting edge of camera technology and while both offer some of the best and most advanced cameras on the market, both camera companies are also philosophically old school to the bone.

The big DSLR flagship cameras represent their greatest. It represents strength, it represents power. The big bodies can be traced back to many models including the Nikon F and the Canon F1, the F5 vs EOS-1, the D1 vs the EOS-1D, and so on and so on.

And let’s face it, even though making cameras as big as these pro models are really unnecessary with today’s technology, they still represent an undeniably powerful and maybe even fearsome look. Just like the huge SUV’s that nobody needs, it tells people that the person driving it is the Big Daddy, the Bull of The Woods! And that’s what Canon and Nikon want with their HUGE DSLR cameras!

Now imagine if Canon came out with the big bad 1DX MKIII and Nikon’s F6 were to be a smallish mirrorless looking camera? Nikon would never live it down how “wimpy” their flagship might look if that were the case. It may sound silly, but I think this is real folks as you can see by this week’s introduction of these two new behemoths.

MY PERSONAL OPINION OF THE NEW DSLRs

While I can understand why Canon kept the 1DX at a relatively low 20.1 megapixels, I personally believe they had room for just a bit more megapixels. I understand that the camera is aimed for those people who really need to get the shot, ie, sports photographers, photo journalists, wedding, etc, and that 20 megapixels is plenty. Heck, I said myself most of us won’t need more than ten megapixels!

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The original EOS-1DX as seen at the PhotoPlus Expo 2011 in NYC.

I mean yes, in reality not many people will need more than 20 megapixels but still, in a world of 30-50mp and even 100mp in some medium format digital cameras, surely they could’ve squeezed in a few more quality pixels for us!

In 2020, 20mp is a bit too low for me. Not because I need more mps but because I would want more for my money if I had the money to buy one! Even their own mirrorless EOS R has 30.3 megapixels!

My old Sony A7R, released in 2013, has 36 megapixels and yes if I’m deliberately looking for it, I can see a difference in details between 36mps and the 16-24mp cameras. Not all the time mind you, but if I’m looking for it, I can see it.

The original 1DX was released in 2011 and had 18 megapixels, so come on Canon this is 2020, you should have made the 1DX MKIII at least 25-30 megapixels. Just my take on this! What do you think?

As for the Nikon D780? I think it’s going to be a great camera but I’m not really sure it’s going to be an image quality improvement over what they’ve already put out with the D600/D610, D750, D800, D810, D850, etc, etc. At this point, it seems like just a product refresh.

The D6 I’m curious about! As I said, no one yet knows the specs, but it’s not hard to guess a 20-25mp pro DSLR with all the amenities you’d expect like 4K video, etc.

Really, at this stage, we have such an abundance of great and capable cameras on the market and on the used market that these cameras are not really necessary as far as image quality is concerned but probably only being put out to keep the market alive.

It almost seems as if the Canon R and Nikon Z mirrorless, while successful, are still not at the heart of Canon and Nikon’s game. Like they just made them because that’s what the market and the masses are demanding they make. But it’s not their true love.

It may take them a little more time for Canon and Nikon to fully cross over into Mirrorless territory but at this point, the big bad assed DSLR still remain what these two Camera Legend companies love most.

What do you think of the 1DX Mark III? The D780? The D6? Feel free to drop a comment and happy Sunday good peeps!

 

Pre-Order The NEW Canon EOS-1DX MK III Now!!

The rest of us mere mortals could probably get by on the hot new and way more affordable Canon EOS 6D MKII!

January 2020 Camera Talk: The Number One Thing That Happened To The Camera Industry Since The Last Decade

Good January morn you happy war torn camera loving people and a belated Happy New Year! The New Year is always a good time for reflection but it’s also a time for moving forward.

Well, I was getting a little misty about the end of 2019 and the end of that decade but this year I resolve to be less nostalgic (if that’s possible!) so let’s dive right in…

THE NUMBER ONE MOST SIGNIFICANT THING TO HAPPEN TO THE CAMERA WORLD IN THE LAST DECADE

Perhaps the most significant thing I have seen in the photography world as we end the years from 2010-2019 and enter the new decade of the 2020’s is this:

Smartphone and the cameras in them have taken over as the most popular means of taking pictures. It seems that Steve Jobs vision of doing everything with our phones has more wide ranging implications than anyone ever thought possible! From shopping to dating to photography, we can do it all on our phones.

It’s something you probably already know but perhaps had not thought deeply about its implications and effects. Here’s the first effect:

“REAL CAMERAS” ARE BECOMING PASSE!

Now some might even say that “real cameras” are not just becoming butย areย passe! And what do I mean by “real cameras?”

I saw a report on a major NYC ย television station about this a few months ago. The reporter spoke of how “traditional cameras” as they called it, are disappearing in light of the capable smartphone cameras. First thing I thought of when I saw the report was, oh this must be a slow news day ๐Ÿ™‚

But secondly, I thought the reporter was just stating the obvious. Even when walking around a big city like New York, I see less and less of what I call “real cameras.”

Well, first off I’m not even talking about film cameras at this point. To the vast majority of the general public, film photography and film cameras truly are a thing of the past and so far out of their train of thought that it’s not even a consideration. It’s really only relevant to us hardcore camera geeks and their importance to us shows that we just live in our own little world.

Cameras like the Sony A7 series or Canon 5D series are awesome but to the general public, “real cameras” such as these are becoming passe as smartphone cameras get more capable.

When I speak of “real cameras” I mean anything that could be perceived as a real camera vs a cell phone camera. It could be a DSLR, a mirrorless, a digital point and shoot. Basically anything that can be viewed as a real camera is becoming passe.

“Snap Shooter” 2005. Canon EOS-20D, EF-S 18-55mm. In 2005 I posted this photo to one of the photo sharing sites and joked that one day the cell phone camera may take over the world of photography. Fifteen years later, it’s not a joke any more! ๐Ÿ™‚

This is not just my observation, I think anyone can see that the cell phone cameras have taken over the world. They are the reason for the decline in camera sales worldwide. They just keep getting better and better and to a large majority of the world the best cell phone cameras have gotten to the point where it’s “good enough.”

THE “GOOD ENOUGH” ERA

Friends we are living in the “Good Enough” era. Just like someone told me how much better the vinyl record is versus the compact disc and I told the next person how much better the cd is from their mp3 and it went in one ear and out the other, a large majority can get by on “good enough” because of one factor: Convenience.

Just like streaming music and movies have become so popular because of their convenience so too has mobile photography. And I’m not trying to sell the people short. People are smart. They still want quality but unlike true camera fanatics the general public can stop obsessing at a certain point. Camera fanatics cannot.

The fact is, just like streaming movies and music, the quality is “good enough” for most consumers. The convenience tradeoffs between having to physically put a vinyl record on the turntable and having to sit down and listen to it, versus just downloading it and listening to your music anywhere is too great for a large majority. However I firmly believe, if the quality of the downloads really sucked it wouldn’t be as popular. But to the contrary, the quality of the downloaded movies or music are extremely good. Certainly better than anything we had in the VHS days ๐Ÿ™‚

In 2005 or 2007 or even 2012, cell phone cameras were nowhere near good enough. That’s why cameras like the Canon EOS 7D or Nikon D7000 we’re so popular and seen often on the streets and everywhere in the real world. But today, for many people, they don’t feel the need for “big ass” (excuse my language!) cameras. The best of the cell phone cameras have gotten good enough.

***BREAKING NEWS***

January 7 2020: Oh you say you like “Big Ass” DSLR cameras? Well today Canon has announced the EOS-1DX Mark III, perhaps the greatest DSLR ever! Check out the specs and pre-order from our trusted affiliates below!

Pre-Order The NEW Canon EOS-1DX MK III Now!!

The rest of us mere mortals could probably get by on the hot new and way more affordable Canon EOS 6D MKII!

In 2016, I wrote an article on how good the cell phone cameras have become. I mentioned that I have already recommended to anyone who asked to just keep their point and shoot digital home because I felt the cell phone cameras even then could get the job done. I said it was “getting close.”

With last year’s release of phones such as the iPhone 11 and Google’s Pixel 4, it’s gotten even closer. You can now shoot low light with these phones the way a few years before people would be looking at an APS-C point and shoot like the Ricoh GR series. Plus you can now do even more with these phones, 4k video, slow motion, time lapse, etc, etc. Plus you can with some simple steps process the images or even make whole movies on the phone then upload them very quickly to your favorite social media platform. The “real cameras” are still quite clumsy in this way.

“Pine” 2020. Take a look at this night exposure from an “old” 2015 model iPhone 6s Plus. It used to be that you had to use big “serious” cameras to get this! Sure the faces are dark, but it was dark outside. I could have easily lifted it post process but that would take away from the night mood.

Now I’m not saying these phones will beat the best from Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc. Of course, if you blow up the photos, print them large or pixel peep you are going to see a difference. But a large majority of the world are not doing that.

They like what they see from their phones. They are not printing. Or if they do, it’s primarily 4×6 greeting cards. They don’t care if the bokeh is fake, they just like that they can now (in the latest phones) blur the background using some clever processing that the phones can do automatically. They like that they can use a myriad of filters on their phones to give the images are different look and feel. And they love that they can share this within minutes or seconds.

“Fire & Brimstone” 2019. Apple iPhone 6s Plus and some in camera processing made for an easy and dramatic photo.

I’m not just saying all this stuff from a generalized view of things. I see this in the real world with friends, family, coworkers etc. People I know who used to be big time DSLR shooters. You are probably seeing the same things.

And in all honesty, the phones have gotten good enough where in small prints you will not see a lot of differences. A good example, recently a friend showed me an 8×10 print from a Nikon D3300 with the 18-55mm Nikkor kit lens vs an 8×10 from an iPhone 11 of the same subject. It was really hard to spot the difference. Now if ย it was one of Nikon’s better lenses, maybe the differences would be more obvious but as it is I can see why to a lot of people out there, the phones have gotten “good enough.” The scary thing is that this is just beginning. The smartphone cameras will get even better!

Of course, the phone cameras still cannot compete for wildlife or sports but these are specialty segments. For a broad range of shooting, ie, street, portraits, parties, even product shots, a modern cell phone camera in the hands of a skilled photographer can get the job done.

So this explains why we see less and less people carrying around big camera gear or even little mirrorless camera gear. Especially with a big DSLR and big lens, you will look like a fossil from 2005! ๐Ÿ™‚

I admit that I myself am guilty of not bringing out my serious gear as often these days. I’m more selective on where and when to bring them. If I’m going to a wedding or important event, I’ll bring it. For a house party with friends, I keep it home.

And the second and sad byproduct of the rise of the cell phone camera is something most other bloggers won’t tell you.

Shhh…Can you keep a secret? If yes, ok then, come closer. Let me whisper in your ear:

CAMERA REVIEWING ISย PASSE!

Ok, I said it, now let’s keep it a secret ok?! Alright, in all seriousness, I’m being serious. I mean, it’s hard for me to say such a thing because this is a camera review site after all and yes from time to time I do review cameras and even more so, I’m just a camera and lens fanatic.

Even if I’m not posting as often, cameras and lenses are my passion, other than my family or music. And I’m an old school camera guy to boot.

That said, I’m realistic and I’m on with the times. I see what’s going on. The camera review thing is just getting outdated. It’s overdone, over saturated, and just too much these days.

Every day a new kid on the block is reviewing cameras and lenses. I’ve lost track and everyone begins to look and sound the same. Talking about the same cameras, same lenses. I should know. Five years ago I was the new kid on the block! A new old kid I should say ๐Ÿ™‚

When I first showed up on YouTube in 2018 I’m sure people felt the same way about me. Like, who is this guy? Who is this jerk? ๐Ÿ™‚

The “Night Stalker?” The “Midnight Rider?” Who is this jerk? ๐Ÿ™‚

Funny thing is this is actually not new to me. In the mid 90s I was leaving comments which were basically like “mini reviews” on sites like photo.net because in those early days of the internet, it was something new and I found it really engaging to interact with people who had the same interests.

Photo.net was one of the original “Granddaddy” photography sites and some great reviewers like Thom Hogan come out of that site. I remember when he was just posting his opinions there! I then started sharing pictures and reviewing cameras and lenses on sites like Pbase in the early 2000s where I remember guys like Steve Huff and Sylvain Halgand starting what would eventually lead them to their current blogs or websites right now, so I’ve been around. I just haven’t gotten as famous or successful as those guys ๐Ÿ™‚

But that’s ok. I’ve never been driven by the need to make money out of this. But in 2020, camera reviews to me seem passe. I’m not saying it’s over. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it. I’m just saying I don’t see it as something all that interesting any more in its current state. I mean, how many reviews of the Canon R or Nikon Z do we need? Similarly, how many times can we read or look at a review of the Canon AE-1? Leica M6? Contax T2? It’s all been done folks!

The truth of the matter is the majority of the world shoots with their phone cameras or mobile devices. And if I review a relatively uncommon camera, say a Polaroid 110B or Speed Graphic who is going to be reading or watching? Two, maybe three people max? Needless to say, it doesn’t give me a lot of motivation to put the work into it, especially when I have family and other businesses to tend to.

GOING FORWARD

So if camera reviews are passรฉ whatย will I do going forward. Well, for one I’m always going to try and give you guys a different perspective on things. I mean, it’s not going to be any better than any one else, but I want to use my experiences to give you a somewhat different take on things. For example, the one time I spoke of the Canon AE-1, I didn’t dwell on what a great camera it is. Everyoneย it’s a good (if not great) camera. Instead, I spoke of how the prices were going up because as I said…You guys are buying them up!ย ๐Ÿ™‚

Same for the Contax T2. I didn’t review it in the traditional sense. I spoke of five reasons why youย don’tย need it. And I’m going to keep on doing it like this whenever applicable! I don’t need to repeat what all the other great reviewers have already said.

In the same token, I’d love to learn from YOU. I read a lot of blogs but don’t necessarily comment on them. I should really comment more than I do but despite looking like a guy with the gift of gab, I’m painfully shy. The great Lou Mendes, the famous NYC street photographer with the trademark Speed Graphic, once gave me his phone number and said call him and we can go out shooting. I never called. Not because I didn’t want to, of course I do! But what would I do in the presence of a true Camera Legend? I still bump into Lou every now and then so we’re good ๐Ÿ™‚

This year I plan on going back to the roots of this blog, going back to the Camera Legends that this blog is built upon. More Contax, more Rolleis, more Leicas, more Olympus more Nikons, more Pentax, etc, etc. Plus more oddball cameras that you never knew!

Cameras and lenses like the Olympus Pen-F and the 42mm f/1.2 Zuiko are still high on my review list.

And more rare cameras. In the early days, this site was built upon cameras not many have reviewed such as the Contax N Digital and the Minolta XK Motor for example. There’s not many rarities left in my stash but there might be one or two ๐Ÿ˜Š

I also plan on reviewing or spotlighting more digital cameras too. I have been neglecting them as I concentrated on film cameras, but I’ve never been a digital hater. I grew up on film but was young enough to appreciate digital when it came around. I also plan to do more lens reviews.

And speaking of YouTube, I hope to continue growing the channel. Hopefully, better production, more content. But honestly, while I loveย watching YouTube, I don’t necessarily enjoy producing content for it.

And lastly, above anything else, I plan on doing more personal shooting. I enjoy photography, I love photography! But I have learned over the past few years that the thought of producing content for this blog and for YouTube gets in the way sometimes. If I’m out shooting, I’m now always thinking…maybe I should write an article about this. Or maybe I can turn this into a video. With that frame of mind, I find that some of the joy of photography gets lost and that is a sad thing.

My main goal for 2020 is back to roots shooting, and maybe get more sleep ๐Ÿ™‚

What do you think? What are your plans for 2020? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment if you wish. Many thanks for your support and I wish every one of you a Happy Healthy and Prosperous New Year!

Unboxing What I Got For Christmas: Leica Summicron Destroyer? ๐Ÿ˜€

Good day you guys! Well, they always say all your best laid plans can go awry. And yes, that is what happened to your buddy Sam here!

Just when I was on a roll cranking out three videos in a month (a lot for me!) and working on the next one, I came down with either a nasty cold or a mild flu. I don’t know because I didn’t go in to have it evaluated. All I know is it started up slow, and then all of a sudden BAM! Coughing, sneezing, fever, etc.

It’s funny because a couple of months ago, I got the flu shot, which I needed for work. Now in the years when I didn’t get a flu shot, I never got sick. So is it because of the flu shot? Or is it perhaps, as a friend said to me, perhaps I’d be sicker if I didn’t get the shot? Food for thought!

Today, I feel much better but still not quite 100 percent. This whole episode taught me the value of not taking your health for granted. I mean, I was always somewhat health conscious but one thing I took for granted was sleep. I always got by on very little sleep. Like less than four hours a night sometimes.

But I would see friends get sick, catch the cold or flu, etc, and I never did so I wondered if it was just genetics. Anyway, I found myself up late editing videos for YouTube. I mean my Contax T video is like 95 percent done yet I found myself continually editing and reediting parts. And it’s not like it’s going to be a masterpiece video or anything!! I’m kind of like Kanye when he dropped the last album, haha, just edit and reedit till the last minute. But the lack of sleep caught up to me and my immune was down I guess.

Anyway, needless to say, all the videos I was planning have been pushed back a bit. But to make it up to all who read the blog and subscribe to the channel on YouTube, here’s a video you didn’t see coming! Why do that? I don’t know, I like throwing things out of left field, keeps it interesting I think! ๐Ÿ™‚

YOUTUBE UNBOXING VIDEO

Here’s my Christmas gift unboxing video! In order to save time, and also to keep me from getting sick again, I’m going to keep this article short because everything is in the video already.

WHY AN UNBOXING VIDEO?

I have done a couple of unboxing videos but in general, I do not do a lot of them. That’s because I usually don’t buy my photo gear new, so I don’t usually have the box and its extra contents. But on the rare times I do buy new I figured someone might like to see it.

Now, I was never a big fan of unboxing videos. I don’t really get the appeal. Yet, there must be something to it because there’s a guy on YouTube with millions of subscribers who does nothing but unbox stuff! Granted, his videos are very nicely produced, but I guess he has the money now and the time to do that.

WHAT AM I UNBOXING?

The 7Artisans 35mm f/2 in Leica M mount has gotten a lot of press with some calling this $289 lens a real challenger to the legendary Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron. Is it a true Summicron killer? Stay tuned to find out!

Well, since you guys who follow the blog are the backbone of my world, I’ll let you know what it is. It’s the 7Artisans 35mm f/2 lens in Leica M mount. If you look online people have been comparing it to the Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH or IV versions! For a lens from China that cost $289 (I got it for $260) that is a mighty high complement!

Anyway, I’ve always been curious about the lens, but I needed another 35mm lens like I need another camera so I waited until the right moment. I sold my 35mm Summicron IV “King Of Bokeh” a long time ago and didn’t hold on to it too long because I already had the 40mm f/2 Summicron and the 50mm f/2 Summicron. And at that time in my life I was fascinated with bokeh lenses and a 35mm f/2 lens just doesn’t give you dreamy backgrounds like a 0.95 lens.

Anyway just like you guys I go through thick and thin times, financially, and this was a “thin” year. Money’s tight.

So I sold off a bunch of stuff just to make sure I had enough to buy gifts for my loved ones, and with the money left over (which wasn’t a lot) I got myself this lens. You know when Sam is happy about a $260 lens, it’s a “thin” year! ๐Ÿ™‚

In all seriousness, I do understand that $260 is a lot for many people, and in hard times, it’s a lot for me too.

But as photographers, camera lovers, etc, we ALL know that photography isย no doubt an expensive hobby but $260 for a lens that is supposed to rival the $2000 plus Leica Summicron is a steal. If it can even approach the Leica in any way, it has done its job and done it well!

I have already put the lens on my trusty Leica M8, a camera which I’ve had since 2010, and am comfortable with. It’s my only digital Leica in fact. Anyway, I am using it first on my M8 so I can get results to you guys sooner so stay tuned.

Can this lens compete with the Leica at a steal of a price? I know what other people have said, but as always, I’m curious to find out for myself. We’ll see. Thanks for reading and catch you in the new year camera lovers!

CURIOUS? GET YOUR OWN, IT’S CHEAP!

If you would like to try this lens for yourself, click on the link from our trusted affiliate below. You will find it for the usual price of $289. But if you browse around a little bit, you might still be able to find it for $260!

***USED CAMERA TRENDS***

I have noticed that the 50mp Hasselblad X1D-50C has gone down in price and you can now find them used for around $3000 USD! That is a heck of a deal for a camera with superlative image quality. If you ever wanted to get into high fidelity imagery and try your hands at Medium Format digital, this might be it!

Hasselblad X-Pan Video Review

Good day guys! Here’s our latest YouTube video review on the Hasselblad X-Pan and 45mm f/4 lens. I had an article almost finished but since I’m taking a little trip, I couldn’t put the finishing touches so that will have to wait a little. Of course, it will have a lot more information than the video but the video is probably more entertaining.

I wasn’t happy with all of the aspects of the video, despite trying new techniques but it’s a work in progress.

Anyway, the Hassleblad X-Pan is an amazing camera that will make you rethink the way you compose your pictures. See you guys on the road, and thanks for your support!

Camera Legend Camera Style :-)

On Instagram, “Camera Style” postings are seemingly very popular. In case you’re unfamiliar with what that is, it’s just shots of people with their cameras around town in cities and countries around the world. I’m not sure who started this trend, but I think it started with Tokyo Camera Style.

It’s a great idea actually, a win-win especially for views I guess. It’s basically “Camera Porn” and “Lens Porn” or  “Eye Candy” for a more softcore word! And what camera gear lover wouldn’t want to look at more cameras and lenses? ๐Ÿ™‚

So in the spirit of Tokyo Camera Style and all the other “Camera Style” accounts out there, here’s mine…

Above…

Today I spotted in the light NYC rain, a woman in Central Park, NYC, shooting with the original Canon EOS-1Ds, 11mp monster from 2001! A true digital Camera Legend. And on top of that, she had the delicious Super PHAT 85mm f/1.2L ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป

I said that’s awesome kid! Youโ€™re right down my alley with that gear! ๐Ÿ˜ I know a lot of you guys and gals shoot with the older stuff like I do, but Iโ€™ve not met too many in the real world whoโ€™s shooting with a digital camera this old. Everyone wants the latest and greatest. I said ROCK ON girl!

Above…

Hereโ€™s what I shot with yesterday. Film was Fuji C200 color print film. The camera is the Olympus OM-3 that you may have seen before but what you have NOT seen until now is my favorite manual focus zoom lens and itโ€™s the Zuiko 35-80mm f/2.8 ๐Ÿ˜

I got the lens like ten years ago. These lenses go for over $1000 but mine was under $300 ๐Ÿ˜Š

Why? It was the most optically โ€œuglyโ€ lens Iโ€™d ever seen! Inside looks like fungus, coatings deterioration, flakes inside the lens ๐Ÿ˜ข

I was so bummed out when I got it. But even with all those flaws, this is the sharpest manual focus zoom Iโ€™ve ever used!! Praise the Zuiko gods! ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป

Why did I shoot it this weekend? Hopefully to do a review for you guys! ๐Ÿ˜€

Hope you guys enjoyed this little bit of “Camera Style.” Maybe there will be more to come. Happy Tuesday folks! ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ“ท๐Ÿ˜˜โœŒ๐Ÿป

 

Mystery Camera: The Great Wall DF Chinese Medium Format Camera

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

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

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

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

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

INTRODUCTION

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

WHAT IS THE GREAT WALL DF?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUTUBE VIDEO

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

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

MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE GREAT WALL DF

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

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

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

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

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

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

IS IT A CULT CAMERA?ย 

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

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

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

PRELIMINARY SAMPLE IMAGES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MODEL DIFFERENCES

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

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

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

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

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

DF5: ???

DF6: ???

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

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

ISSUES

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOTTOM LINE

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

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

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

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

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