Rewind ’99: The Nikon F100 Review 1999-2019

Hello there you hardcore camera lovers! Now even though my postings all have a twinge of nostalgia in them, every now and then I like doing a post like this where I look back on the gear that I used at a specific point in time.

As 2019 is rapidly drawing to a close, I thought I’d go back in time and look at a some of cameras I used twenty years ago in 1999! There’s going to be about two or three of them and we’ll go through them one by one until the year is done.

PHOTOGRAPHY IN 1999

1999 can be seen as a pivotal year in photography. Film was holding strong, but digital was rising fast. As in really fast!

In 1999 the vast majority of the world were still shooting film. That’s right folks! Even though the digital photography market was making inroads in a big way, the cameras sold to the general public were 1 to 3 megapixel cameras and they were expensive so for most of the world, film was still ruler of the day. But its days were numbered.

Now it might be hard for you youngsters and hipsters who find shooting film cool and different to realize that at one time, not that long ago, film was a format that was used by their “unhip” fathers, mothers, uncles, aunties, grandparents, and heck everyone! If everyone were using it, how unhip is that? 😎👍🏻

Now if you were born in 1999, you may feel “old” but really you’re not! You’re still a baby in many ways, and I say that in the best of terms. Be happy about it! I wish I were twenty years younger! 🙂

That’s why I say 1999 was not that long ago even though sometimes it feels like it! And yet sometimes it doesn’t.

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YOUTUBE VIDEO

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MY GEAR BAG IN 1999

Not that anyone would or should care what I was using in 1999, but I use my gear only as a reference point. I’d love to know what YOU were using back then? 😎👍🏻

Now believe it or not, in 1999 I did not even get my first digital camera yet! That would happen a year later in 2000. That means all photography I did up to the year 2000 was only done on film. That’s even hard for me today imagine living in the digital world of 2019!

And while I’m sure I had other cameras, today I am talking about what I considered to be my main camera in 1999 and that camera is the Nikon F100. There will be more to come!

THE NIKON F100

The Nikon F100 is an autofocus 35mm film SLR that was introduced in 1999 by Nikon. It was born of the legendary Nikon F5 of 1996 and indeed has the same Multi-Cam 1300 AF system.

The Nikon F100 has a shutter speed range of 30 secs to 1/8000th of a second. It has the standard P/S/A/M modes. It relies on four AA batteries.

F100 vs F5

The F5 was introduced in 1996 and in 1999, it was still the top camera in the Nikon family. The F5 and F100 both share the Nikon Multi-Cam 1300 AF module and five AF points so their AF should be similar except that the F5 can track up to 8 frames per second while the F100 can go up to 4.5fps by itself or up to 5fps with battery pack MB-15.

What it does better than the F5 is the inclusion of the familiar red AF points that the F5 did not have. Correct me if I’m wrong but I remember reading back then that this was due to patent issues.

The F5, as the pro model, offers interchangeable viewfinder prisms, and can offer up to 100% viewfinder coverage depending on the prism. The F100 offers a 96 percent coverage and the prism is not removable.

The F5 has a mirror lock-up option, the F100 does not. In 1999, this mattered more to people than it might today. Check the video for a better explanation of this.

The F5 employs 1005 pixel RGB sensor for its 3D Color Matrix Metering. The F100 uses Nikon’s “exclusive” 10 segment 3D Matrix Metering.

Now I’ve never mentioned this, but (surprise!) yes I have used an F5 as well! And in all honesty, I never saw a difference. Both cameras produced near perfect exposures in all but the most extreme lighting situations. In fact the only Nikon that I felt I had exposure issues with was the N90s. But I used only one body so I feel that could’ve just been my copy of the camera.

The F100 came in at a much lower price ($1400) than the F5 ($3000 original price!) which made it an instant hit among the photography crowd. I remember reading forums like Photo.net where folks couldn’t wait to get their hands on the camera.

In some ways, it was like a pre Nikon D3 vs D700 magic! Two cameras. One pro model, one enthusiast model. Same AF system. One much more expensive, one much less.

Note: By the way, the Nikon F100 has 22 Custom Functions and if you’re interested in them, look it up! I only ever used one function which is to leave the film leader out 🙂

F100 vs F6

I can’t comment on this because (surprise!) I have NOT used an F6. I have no doubt the F6 is the more technically capable camera but as far as results, I’m going to take an educated guess and say that, with the same lenses, same film, results will look identical 🙂

F100 AS A MAIN SHOOTER IN 1999 VS 2019 PERSPECTIVE

In 1999, even though I had other cameras, the F100 was my main shooter. In a 2019 perspective, that’s the equivalent of someone using say a Nikon D750 or D850 for example. But unlike today where you’d use a D750 and maybe have an F100 as a secondary camera for film, the F100 was my main camera in 1999.

I’m not sure who this guy is, but he looks like a little bit of a nut 🙂

That means that I used it for almost everything! I go to a party, I bring my F100. I go to restaurant, I bring the F100. I go to the beach, I bring my F100. I go to church, I bring my F100. Ok, well sometimes I brought my Pentax IQ Zoom point and shoot but you get the idea. I used the F100 the same way I use my iPhone today. That means even my lamest pictures were taken with the F100 🙂

Any of you remember the cool and handy Magic Lantern guides? I didn’t buy too many of them but I did for the F100. I thought I might need it to learn all of the cameras advanced functions. As it turns out, I never really needed the book because for basic shooting the F100 is easy to figure out!

We are so spoiled for choices today and unless you lived in a pre digital world you might not fully understand the profound effect digital photography has made on our lives, for better or worse.

I had another film body as a backup but in 1999 there were no digital backups for me! Simply because there weren’t any real digital cameras at the time capable to even delivering close to what film cameras can and even the 1 to 3 megapixel digicams were expensive!

Today, I carry a digital camera and still carry a film camera no matter where I go. Old habits die hard. Living in a world where I carry digital cameras more than capable of replacing film, it’s an amazing thought that the roles are reversed and that I’m only carrying a film camera because I love film and because it’s going to give me results that are different, maybe more artistic, moody, etc but certainly not technically better than my best digital camera bodies.

PICS

I have a lot of personally memorable images with the Nikon F100 but the majority of them are in the old school photo albums that need to be scanned.

And unless I’m showing a photo that demonstrates its autofocus in action I really don’t think it matters much because, for the most part, for example, a Nikon F100 or N80 with the same lens, same film would take the same pictures. But here are a few pictures for the sake of this article and for nostalgia 😘

“Legends” Circa 1999. Nikon F100, 50mm f/1.8 AF-D Nikkor. In 1999, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were still standing.

“Ho Hum Day” 2011. Nikon F100, 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX lens, Kodak Tri-X in HC-110. The F100 is capable of working with a modern Nikon lens, even digital lenses such as the 35mm f/1.8G DX lens used for this shot!

Here’s a shot I’ve never posted anywhere. How much did I love the F100? So much that I used it at my Dad’s funeral in 2011. RIP Dad, God Bless.

HOW I CAME ACROSS THE F100

I’m not usually an early adopter but I was able to get one only because a photo forum member had bought one and sold it at a pretty steep discount. I had the money and I jumped on it. As I said in one of my videos, just like that Steve Winwood song says “While you see a chance, take it!”

Back in 1999 there weren’t as many photo forums so I’m thinking it was on photo.net but I could be wrong.

Anyway, I loved the camera  then and I still do today! The build was and is superb. It’s not as bulky as the F5 yet not small in any way, especially when compared to today’s mirrorless cameras.

F100 IMPRESSIONS

The camera feels perfect in the hands. The build quality is superb. The magnesium alloy body keeps it strong yet light. Even though it is second tier to the Nikon F5, the F100 is weather sealed like a pro oriented body should be.

All the controls are where you would expect them to be, but if there’s anything that confuses you, read the manual! It is an electronic camera after all with all the complications that might go with that.

The 5 point AF is speedy and accurate. It can run on 4 AA batteries that last a long time. The shutter speed range is 30 secs up to 1/8000th of a second which is always a sign of a top camera. Even though its position was secondary to the F5 which makes it the “prosumer” or “enthusiast” model, it was also marketed to and loved by professionals.

I remember the lenses I used most with the F100 were my ever trusty Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AF-D and the 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D Zoom. That’s a very good general purpose zoom for film and full frame cameras.

I sold the F100 maybe two years later because I either needed the money or wanted to upgrade. Can’t remember now, but that’s usually my reasons for selling!

I must’ve gone through about three of these and my current one was bought in 2011. I still hang on to it, despite not using it as much as I should.

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ISSUES

As much as I’ve been enthusiastic about the F100, it doesn’t mean the camera is flawless. No camera is. More attention should be paid to potential problems when the cameras are electronic in nature.

One area to keep an eye on is the rear Focus Area Selector. It’s that thing that looks like a pad from a video game controller. The controls may malfunction or not be as responsive over time. The possible culprit could be that the electrical contacts underneath may be effected by oxidation or wear out from use, just like a video game joystick. Some people try electrical spray or resetting the camera. Since I have not faced the problem, I do not have the solution. I’m just giving you leads to help you to find your own answers.

The rear focus area selector is a potential problem area.

Another thing to watch for is “ERR” or error messages from the camera. Many times it’s just the batteries or the electrical contacts may need cleaning but other times, you don’t know! Try changing the batteries first. Clean the electrical contacts on the lens mount. Try a reset. If nothing works, get a repair estimate. You might find it cheaper just picking up another F100!

The last thing I found on two of the three F100 cameras that I have used is that the rubber grip becomes sticky with time. This is due to the sweat, moisture, humidity, water, etc that wear it down over the years. This doesn’t happen with all cameras so that means whatever material Nikon used for the F100 (and F5) grips do not wear well over time. The digital Nikon D70 has become infamous for this problem!

Though she looks beautiful right here, keep an eye for sticky grip surfaces on the Nikon F100. Or “Surface Sticky” as a famous used camera dealer calls it!

If you ever looked at used camera dealer descriptions, this is what they call “Surface Sticky” as I often see at KEH Camera.

For usability, it’s a non issue, but you might want to keep an eye on it. Some possible remedies are to use an isopropyl alcohol rub, hand sanitizer, or even baby wipes! It’s really a process of experimentation and these remedies do not work for every camera.

I’ve never tried to fix the sticky surface on my F100 because it’s not that bad yet, but I have used a combination of 70 percent isopropyl alcohol and baby powder to cure the sticky surface of my other cameras.

Keep in mind you may end up doing more damage so if it’s not that bad leave it alone!

BOTTOM LINE

The Nikon F100 is a modern classic and a true Camera Legend. It took the legend of the Nikon F5 to the masses. It’s a perfect Nikon camera in my opinion!

Many people consider it Nikon’s second or third best AF film camera, behind the F5 and F6 respectively. Technically, I may agree with that but in the context of being the best choice for “the people” which is 95 percent of the world, I’d say the Nikon F100 is the BEST! And not just “for your money” but because it is a very capable camera!

CONCLUSION

I hope you enjoyed this ride back in time. What’s next? Find out in my YouTube video!

But more importantly, I’d love to know: What camera/lenses were YOU using in 1999? And if you weren’t around in 1999, then what gear has been most endearing to you on your photographic journey?

I’d love to know so leave a comment! Thank you 🙂

PRICE & AVAILIBILITY

The Nikon F100 is plentiful on the used market. Because it runs second to the F5 in the Nikon hierarchy, it’s prices have been stable over the years. And today, maybe more so because big SLR cameras in general are seen as almost passe, I hate to say it!

Prices for the F100 are trending at $150-300 USD which makes it a bargain. And indeed, when we talk about cameras like the Contax T2 (which I’ve talked about a lot) and the inflated prices for that camera, $150-300 to me is a STEAL for a camera like the F100!

If you have one or get one, I’d love to hear from you!

Get Your Nikom F100 Here!

Camera Collecting Part I: Two Super CHEAP Camera Legends

Here’s a topic thats very near and dear to my heart! But first, a fair warning: Collecting cameras can be ADDICTIVE and EXPENSIVE!

The former (addictive) is incurable, the latter (expensive), well it doesn’t have to be. And you couldn’t do better or cheaper than these two cameras I am profiling today.

I specifically chose these two specific cameras based on their prices, availability and their importance as Camera Legends. Especially for the beginning collector, these two are the easiest to find and buy.

The two cameras profiled today are the Minolta Maxxum 7000 and the Canon EOS 650.

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MINOLTA MAXXUM 7000

The Minolta Maxxum 7000 is the camera that launched the autofocus revolution back in 1985. And it was revolutionary!

Before it, “autofocus” cameras were clunky things such as the Nikon F3AF of 1983 which attempted to autofocus the “easy way” by using an AF motor in the special lenses designed for these cameras while retaining the classic Nikon F mount.

Though I say the “easy way” maybe I should have said the “logical way.” After all, if you consider the technology at that time and the boxy, mechanical nature of cameras, it just seemed easier to put the autofocus motor in the lenses right?

Well, as is often the case, the idea was better than the execution. I don’t want to go full length into this topic right now, though I would agree it would make for a fascinating discussion!

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MAXXUM 7000 CONTINUED

In many ways, they were on the right track because as you may or may not know, when the EOS system was released in 1987, one of the selling points was indeed lenses with AF motor in them! But Canon had to ditch their old FD mount and make a whole (then) new EOS mount to accommodate this.

Anyway, Minolta too had to create a new mount. A mount which we know today as the Alpha mount or more specifically in today’s world, the Sony Alpha mount. Not the Sony E mirrorless mount. Yes, folks your Sony Alpha cameras carry the rich legacy of the legendary Minolta Maxxum 7000! 😊

Anyway, today’s topic is camera collecting and the Minolta Maxxum 7000 is a true Camera Legend that can be had VERY cheaply these days.

As a camera the Maxxum 7000 has Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual mode. Basically all you need! AF is ok but first generation. It’s good enough to get the job done, if the subject/subjects are not moving much! The camera runs on four AAA batteries.

PRICES AND WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Although one of the most important cameras of the autofocus revolution of the 1980s, perhaps the most important, today the Maxxum 7000 is also one of the cheapest on the used market.

Prices are trending at $3.00 to $50 USD average seems to be around $25. I got mine for $3 bucks! It cost me a lot more than that in the 90s!

I believe the Maxxum 7000 prices are so low because they are plentiful and they do not age well.

The grips become white and sticky or powdery. The LCD goes bad or bleeds.

The good news is many are perfectly usable as it is. In my opinion, it is unrealistic to expect to find a Maxxum 7000 without any flaws today. If you do have one without flaws I’d love to hear from you!

THE CANON EOS 650

The Canon EOS 650 was released by Canon in 1987 and is the very first EOS camera.

Its claim to fame is the introduction of the EOS Mount. I believe the EOS 650 prices are so low simply because it’s just not the most exciting camera to look at or shoot 🙂

No offense, it’s a nice looking and shooting camera. Just not super exciting compared to anything else EOS you could shoot with. But it has one very important thing on its side…It’s the first. The first EOS camera! And that has to count for something right? 🙂

It has Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual mode just like the Maxxum 7000 so that means it has everything you need. It runs on one 2CR5 battery. AF is ok but first generation. Not good for running subjects but ok for static.

PRICES AND WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Just like the Maxxum 7000, the Canon EOS 650 is also dirt cheap on the used market.

Prices are trending from $10-50 with an average of $25 body only. I got my current copy for $10 bucks!

Generally these cameras have stood the test of time so your chances of a working model is pretty good.

Sometimes you’ll find one with no power, doesn’t turn on. Sometimes parts have come loose or the buttons and dials may be sticky.

Even at the highest average prices they’re cheap get the best one you can!

BOTTOM LINE

I hope with these two cameras I have shown you that collecting Camera Legends does not have to be expensive!

With these two, you have cameras with history and a story to tell about the evolution of autofocus.

And on the Used Market you can get them dirt cheap. And if that wasn’t enough, they’re actually pretty good shooters! Good luck on your journey to camera collecting nirvana!

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

If you are interested in these two Camera Legends, there are a ton of additional resources on the internet. To cut through the bunk and junk, I recommend these two reviews by my blogging buddy and a prolific blogger Mr. Jim Grey. I can’t speak for a lot of bloggers but I unquestionably trust Jim’s reviews and opinions.

His Maxxum 7000 review is HERE

And his Canon EOS 650 Review is HERE

Plus I also recommend you check out Mike Eckman’s blog…

This is the best new review I have seen on the Maxxum 7000 in years, written by Mike Eckman, a passionate photographer and camera reviewer whose passion for photography and film cameras is contagious and whose dedication I admire. I’ve enjoyed his work for years and his Maxxum 7000 review is much more thorough and much better than mine, I happily admit that! 🙂

Mike’s review is HERE and as I said, if you love film cameras his whole site is worth checking out. I guarantee it will keep your reading for hours!

Tell them Sam sent you! 🙂

***MODERN EQUIVALENTS***

It’s been said that the new Canon EOS-R Mirrorless is the incarnate of the EOS 650. In a way, many things from its looks to its use for the introduction of the EOS-R mount, I’d say they might be right! Anyway, the EOS-R can do things the 650 could’ve only dreamed of in 1987! If you decide to buy one, please do so from our trusted affiliates simply by clicking on the photos or links. You will pay nothing extra other than what you’re buying, and help support Camera Legend at the same time. Putting these articles, reviews, and videos take time and work. We do appreciate all you support, thank you very much!

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Photo Of The Day: “Opiods”

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I don’t mean to make light of the nation’s opioid epidemic which is very serious indeed. I just couldn’t think of a better title 😊

This image was shot with a vintage Agfa Ambiflex and the mythical 55mm f/2 Solagon. The film was Kentmere 400 and developed in T-Max RS.  I can’t say much about this outfit now, consider this what I call a “future flash” because I will have a write up on this camera and lens soon. It’s one of those outfits that has a cult following but it seems there’s not a heck of a lot out there about it. We’re going to change that for you! Have a nice day camera lovers 😊✌🏻

Photo Of The Day: “Evil Bugster” Film Version

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Hmm, does this look familiar? If it seems like something I posted before, well yes, yes it is! It’s THIS picture.

Same VG “Evil” Buggy. Different camera. The previous was shot with a Canon G1X, digital point and shoot. This one was taken with a Minolta TC-1 point and shoot film camera. The film was Fuji Superia 400 color print film.

Other than the slight graininess of the film version and the art filter I used on the digital version (which caused the color differences), do you see any differences? If anything, it’s very slight. Some might prefer the G1X version, some might prefer the TC-1 version but to my eyes they’re nearly identical. The fact that I shot them both within the same minute from my car might have something to do with that, but photographically, I don’t see a lot of differences.

I’m re-testing the TC-1 because while I have a short write up on this classic film camera from a couple years back, I didn’t have any photos in that article and as I always say…Pics or it didn’t happen!

Anyway, being that I tend to favor film cameras it might surprise you that I was this close to saying save your money and stick with your digital camera but I won’t say it right now until I evaluate my next roll of film from the TC-1.

All I can say right now is, the TC-1 is a beautiful little camera, a classic, a Camera Legend. However, today, your digital point and shoot is likely to give it a run for its money and probably cost less too.

Happy Sunday and hope you get some great shots!

Iconic American Cameras Part I: The Argus C3

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I was looking to do something in honor of the 4th of July Independence Day holiday on Tuesday. I think classic American cameras don’t get enough spotlight.

I thought to myself, what is the most iconic American camera? What camera would qualify as an American Camera Legend? There have been quite a few of them, but for some reason none came to my head right away. When you think of iconic German cameras, right away you probably think of Leica, Rollei, or the early Contax cameras. Japan, you easily think of Canon, Nikon, Pentax, etc, etc.

American? First thing that came to my mind was Kodak, but Kodak was iconic mostly as an American film manufacturer. Sure they had a bunch of cameras too, but a lot of them were rebranded imports or cameras that were part American, part foreign (usually the lenses). It was films like Kodak Kodachrome or Ektachrome that made Kodak an American icon.

I thought of Polaroid too and certainly some of their cameras such as the Land Cameras or the One Step series would qualify. But again, a lot of the best Land Cameras had Japanese lenses on them.

The only one I could clearly say is an American Camera Legend is the Argus C3. Well, let’s say it might be the most iconic American camera in my collection. So if you can think of a more iconic American camera, feel free to let me know. I’m just saying this is the most iconic made in the USA camera in my collection.

AS A CAMERA

The Argus C3 is a 35mm rangefinder camera made by Argus of Ann Arbor, Michigan from around 1939 to 1966.

The camera features a 50mm f/3.5 Cintar lens which was made by other companies among them the most well known was Bausch & Lomb, another famous American optical manufacturer.

The lens can be removed and there are a few other lenses which can be used on the C3, though in my personal experience, I’ve never seen a C3 in the flesh with any lens other than the 50mm Cintar. The Cintar is actually the fastest at f/3.5 while the other lenses (35mm/100mm/135mm respectively) have a very slow and boring f/4.5 as their fastest aperture.

The camera has a shutter speed range of 1/10 to 1/300 plus B and the lens as an aperture range from f/3.5 to f/16. The rangefinder focuses from around 3 feet to infinity and is coupled.

There were a few revisions to the C3, but I think they are all pretty much the same cameras or at least nothing really earth shattering in the revisions. The original “C” model has an uncoupled rangefinder.

IMPRESSIONS

The first thing that strikes you about the Argus C3 is the awesome retro look. But this isn’t a Fuji or Olympus digital camera dressed up as retro. This thing is from 1939 to 1966…it IS retro! 🙂

Its nickname is “The Brick” and it does look and feel like a funky, chunky brick! In pictures, it looks smaller to me than it actually is in real life. I remember being quite surprised by the size of this camera when I first got it.

I remember seeing the camera numerous times on television, as a prop in print ads, and in movies, most notably in one of the Harry Potter movies.

It makes a great prop I must say!

IMAGE QUALITY

I know without pictures “it didn’t happen” but I’m not going to lie, I don’t have any photos from this camera that I’d consider remarkable.

The lens, at least on my sample, was of average quality and many of my shots were in poor focus or blank. The ones that were sharp seemed decent but nothing I’d call spectacular. Don’t forget, this was a camera designed and priced to sell to the masses, it was not and is not a Leica. I can and do blame myself for not producing decent pictures with the camera, but I don’t think the Argus C3 would mind if I blamed it too 🙂

Sure, don’t get me wrong, you can get some nice pictures with it, but then again you can get nice pictures with almost any camera. If you want a camera to take those shaky, out of focus, softish hipster images, this might be the camera for you.

I’m not sure if the rangefinder was off or the shutter or something else I was doing wrong. It might just be my particular camera and lens. Nevertheless, it’s not a camera I’m really interested in putting another roll of film through as I have a lot of other film cameras to review!

PRICE & COLLECTIBILITY

The Argus C3 is a good example of “collectible” not translating to “expensive.” Argus made millions of these mass produced cameras and while beautiful (to me), it is not an out of this world picture taker. People know that and it shows in today’s used prices which can go as low as $10, though the average prices for these cameras seem to be trending at between $15 to $30.

The C3 is also a good example of a camera looking like it’s worth more than it is. I’ll bet on any given day, someone comes across one of these in their attics and knowing today’s appetite for anything retro, they probably think it’s worth a lot. Then they check prices on eBay only to be disappointed by the low prices these cameras command.

AS AN ICON

As I said at the start, the Argus C3 is an American Camera Legend. The camera sold in the millions and helped to popularize 35mm photography in America.

By doing so, they probably helped Kodak sell a boatload of film in the USA as well. So even though the C3 wasn’t and isn’t (in my opinion) a great shooters camera, it is indeed a legendary camera. A Camera Legend.

So if you’re a camera collector, and a patriotic American, you don’t just want one, you need to have one in your collection!

The looks alone will bring a smile to your face and amazement to your non camera knowlegeable but retro loving friends. Just think twice before you waste any film on it. My two cents! 🙂

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Recent Items: “Slow Jams”

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

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

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

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

THE SHUTTER JAM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE FILM JAM

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

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

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

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

THE BURNING QUESTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Of The Day: “The Beach”

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Oh yes my friends, Summer is now officially here! If it sound a little late, it’s because I actually started this draft on June 20th! Almost a week late and seven dollars short 🙂

Anyway, this is the time all kids look forward to. Do you remember your summers as a kid? Parents, while they may not happy having the rowdy kids home full time, they too will enjoy the summertime as an excuse to bring their kids somewhere that they too may have wanted to go to.

I used to love summers as a kid, but now as an adult I much prefer the spring time. I don’t really enjoy hot weather and from a photographic perspective, I also think the spring is prettier.

Anyway, this is a shot from 2010 taken with a Bronica RF645, 65mm f/4 Zenzanon lens on Kodak T-Max 400 film and developed in T-Max developer. The Bronica Rangefinder or RF (as most people call it) was one of those cameras that I did not expect to like, but ended up loving.

Why did I not expect to like it? As some of you may know, I love fast lenses. The fastest lenses for the RF start at f/4. Of course, you can still get shallow DOF and that medium format look, but f/4 is still f/4 as fas as light transmission goes and I’m always shooting in less than ideal light conditions.

On this shot however, it was in the late afternoon sun and it was good enough for the Zenzanon lens to do its thing.

Also there aren’t many lenses for this system. You’re limited to about three lenses, I think. Having used a Fuji GA645 before, I also was not fond of the default “portrait” orientation on these cameras even though I do a lot of portraits. I’ve gotten used to tilting the camera vertically when I want to do a portrait.

The Bronco RF645 was made during the period when Tamron owned the company so I’ve always wondered if Tamron made the lenses since they are also a well renowned lens manufacturer. Tamron has always made great lenses, most of which were sharp with a modern look. I was concerned that if Tamron made these lenses, they would be sharp but perhaps lack character.

The only reason I got this camera was because I got a very good deal as part of a trade with a photo forum member. I also remember being impressed with some portraits from this camera from some talented shooters on Flickr. I wouldn’t have bought this camera as an outright purchase, but buying and selling works if you want to try other stuff!

I ended up loving the camera and Zenzanon lens because they gave me that “look” that few cameras deliver consistently. The camera and lens, especially when shot on Kodak T-Max 400 always delivered for me.

To me, the shot above has a good balance of sharp focus and just the right amount of bokeh to show the environment. In this case, you can see the hotels on the left side of the picture, in the bokeh zone. If you look hard enough, you may also just barely make out the famous Wildwoods roller coaster in the far distance to the right of the baby. See how the  Zenzanon lens’ focus “melts” from the foreground to the background without getting too “nervous” like some lenses can get. This was shot on Wildwoods Beach on the Jersey Shore.

While I love super shallow bokeh, it is somewhat overplayed in my opinion. The Bronica RF645 and 65mm f/4 Zenzanon is great for environmental portraits which show your surroundings while still giving a very nice and smooth transition from sharp to soft.

This is one combo that I regret letting go! Well, there are quite a few I regret, but I will say again that this combo gave me very consistent results that I loved. Consistent is the key word here! I have a large print of this image on my wall an it looks just as it does here, maybe even better as details are more apparent.

If funds permit and I can find the right one, I may give it another go in the future. I also plan to do a more in depth review of this camera so keep an eye out if you’re interested in the Bronica RF645.

Thanks for looking and enjoy your Summer weekend everybody!

 

 

The Minolta AF-C

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

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

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

THE AF-C CAMERA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PERFORMANCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOTTOM LINE

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

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

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

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

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

WHERE TO BUY?

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

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

***NEW CAMERA ALERT***

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

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

 

Photo Of The Day: “The Sea”

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Baby Z playing in the water off the beach in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey. 2012. Contax 645, 80mm f/2 Zeiss Planar, Kodak Portra 400.

In my Contax 645 review I stated that I would be uploading pics from the camera if I found them, so here’s one from 2012 when I still had the camera.

As with most American families, we typically start our summers on Memorial Day Weekend, which is considered the unofficial start of the summer season here.

For a quick getaway, we travel a few hours to the Jersey Shore. The beaches are generally clean and the towns are usually family friendly.

While I wouldn’t consider it very exciting for singles looking for a hookup, the Jersey Shore makes a quiet and relaxing getaway. The kids enjoy the beach, the pool, and the boardwalk. I do too, if I were to be honest. I realize these will be my kids’ memory of summers past when they are grown, so I always bring some kind of camera with me, even if my iPhone will do most of the time.

I remember taking this shot. The Sun was shining down brightly and while I normally aim for a fast aperture for shallow depth of field in portraits, I think I stopped down the 80mm f/2 Planar to maybe f/2.8 or f/3.5 and still got the top shutter speed of 1/4000 on the Contax 645 in AV mode.

Still, the lens I think provided a distinctive look and good exposure. It was a great camera/lens combo and I do miss it!

This also marked the last time I took such a big bulky camera to the beach and the last time took such a camera so close to the water.

This year I took an Olympus OM-D EM5 with me. Did it give me technically better, sharper, less grainy pictures? Yes, yes indeed. Did it give me images with that 80mm f/2 Zeiss and Kodak film look? No, no it didn’t. But what’s “better” really comes down to personal preferences.

Have yourselves a great weekend good people, and if you’re going to the beach, be sure to bring that camera along, but take care because the sand and water are camera killers! Anyway, take your best shots because these are the memories your family will return to again and again.