Celebrating The Olympus Pen

PenFC

The Olympus Pen FT and Zuiko 38mm f/2.8 pancake lens.

With the release of the new Olympus Pen-F digital, I thought this would be a good time to celebrate the old Olympus Pen film series and the original “Digital Pen” the Olympus E-P1 🙂

Before we do that, just a few notes on the new Pen-F digital. It is a 20mp mirrorless camera in the Micro 4/3’s format. It has a built-in 5-axis image stabilizer in the body, much like the OM-D (which I love) series or the EP-5. 1080P HD Video. Nice touches include the electronic viewfinder (EVF), the 80/50mp (raw/jpeg) high-res mode, and customizable modes. There’s a lot more to it of course.

The funny thing is that when Olympus released the E-P1 in 2009, they marketed it as the new “Digital Pen” yet with this new Pen F, we are being told (as seen on the Dpreview video) that this is a whole new class of Pen cameras, and priced accordingly at $1199. Yeah, ok 🙂

OlympusC

“Decade Of Digital” From left, my first digital camera bought in 1999, the Olympus C-3000 Zoom and the Olympus E-P1 from 2009.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge Olympus fan going way back. I’m sure the new Pen F digital will be awesome and just on the specs alone, it looks to be 1000 times better than the original E-P1, but I probably won’t be getting one any time soon. Not now anyway. Price is an issue, yes. Don’t have, and don’t want to shell out that much for a Micro 4/3’s camera.

And nothing against Olympus, but coming from the old film school, while I love the new Pen’s retro looks, I just see it as a digital camera dressed up in a film camera’s suit. Much like the Fuji X series, Nikon DF, or any number of cameras riding on the retro wave. This has been an enormously successful formula for many companies and more power to them. While I love the way they look, I’m just not as easily pulled in by it.

In addition, it’s really hard for me to get excited about the latest and greatest these days. The truth of the matter is that most of the cameras from the last five years (and going back even further actually) have been extremely capable.

I may sound a little less than enthusiastic, but I’m still young enough to realize that whether it looks like a film camera or not, whether I like the retro looks or not, learn to love it because (and my fellow film fanatics might not like this) let’s face it…This IS the “Digital Era.” Film may be around for a long time, who knows. But the “Film Era” has passed and it will never be the film era again.

But if you got the dough for the new Pen F, I’m sure it’s going to be an awesome new toy for you!

If you want to see all the new Olympus cameras, you can do so right HERE which is an easy link to everything. You can also pre-order there or here Olympus PEN-F if you want to be among the first to get one. My favorite might be that “Faux Leather” OM-D EM10 II!! 🙂

Below are some images from the Olympus Pen F and FT half-frame film cameras and the Olympus E-P1. I’ll dig up more if I can find them. I’ll keep shooting with these oldies until I can save enough for the new digital Pen F 🙂

12522944_10207474007440702_2584785228760462622_n

“Order & Chaos” 2009. Olympus Pen FT, Zuiko 38mm /2.8 pancake lens, Tri-X. These two sequential frames from the half-frame Pen FT shows how order can turn into chaos in a minute if Grandma is babysitting you 🙂

540628_3716236796857_375587103_n

“On Life & Love” 2010. Olympus Pen F, Zuiko 100mm f/3.5, Tri-X. As in life, love grows like the weeds, is full of hope and promise, but eventually grows old like last week’s bouquet of roses 🙂

531200_3410784400738_2009729031_n

“Beauty & The Beast” 2009. Olympus Pen FT, Zuiko 38mm f/1.8, Tri-X. Both a little scared, neither one prepared, beauty and the beast 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Aging In a Digital World” 2010. Olympus E-P1, Lumix 20mm f/1.7

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“RGB” 2010. Olympus E-P1, Lumix 20mm f/1.7, Brooklyn, NYC.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Sex & Religion” 2010. Olympus E-P1, Lumix 20mm f/1.7, Atlantic City, NJ. You might not be able to see it, but there’s a gentlemen’s club on the left and a church on the right. I’m still trying to figure out why WordPress is not letting me post larger pics.

120946458-1.c6ZnWIqs.EP1ZoeSamBuddies1.jpg

“Digital Buddies” 2009. Olympus E-P1, Lumix 20mm f/1.7 ASPH. Had a little fun with this one 🙂

Advertisements

What Cameras Were You Using Ten Years Ago?

NikJuli1

The Nikon FM3a with MD-12 Motor Drive and 50mm f/1.2 AIS Nikkor and a print from the combo. My dream kit in 2006 🙂

Hi good people. You might think with all these “extracurricular” postings that we have run out of cameras to review. Not by a long shot! But…

Just like we and Elvis “can’t go on together with suspicious minds,” I can’t go on with these long late night postings 🙂

As I’ve said before, it’s a labor of love, I get very little if anything financially from this site. Only the satisfaction that someone may have benefitted from the info posted here.

I’m not saying I’m stopping, just explaining why sometimes it takes a while before you see a new review.

But I’d like these pages to be seen as something more dynamic than your typical review site which is why I created series such as “The Best Camera I Never Knew” or the ever popular “Tuesday Titans” and now the random “Photo Of The Day” series.

With that said, today we take a look back at the cameras and lenses used back in 2006.


WHY 2006?

2006 was a very exciting year for me as far as cameras and lenses go. Digital cameras were really coming into their own. Cameras like the Nikon D1X, Canon EOS-1D Mark II, and Olympus E-1 ruled the day and indeed, the Nikon D1X and Olympus E-1 were my go-to cameras in 2006.

I got my first Canon L lens, the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS which I got off a poor college student on Craigslist. I sold this later to fund the purchase of an Epson R-D1, which was the world’s first digital rangefinder camera. While I don’t regret the R-D1, I did regret selling that Canon because subsequent copies I got were never as sharp as that first one!

I was also fascinated by the Sigma Foveon technology and had just acquired an SD-10, which was actually released in 2003.

10687217_10204361566591626_5138072091768597222_n

“Sinner” 2006. Sigma SD-10, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8. A man known as “Samir Abu Charupa” contemplates on why he cannot give up his bad habits. The reason? He is a mere mortal, a sinner 🙂

I loved the files, but I was not so thrilled that to get the best out of the camera you had to use the Sigma X3F (RAW) files and the slow Sigma Pro software. Surprisingly, even today ten years later, Sigma has the same paradigm: Superb files, slow processing. It’s amazing actually that they have not been able to improve this to a level competitive with today’s cameras and this is indeed the reason I gave up on Sigma.

SDPancake

Adapting lenses have taken off in recent years, in large part due to the popularity of mirrorless systems. I’ve been using adapted lenses for a long time. Here in 2006, was my Sigma SD-10 with an adapted Pentax 40mm f/2.8 Pentax-M manual focus pancake lens.

Ten years ago, I was (and still am) into film cameras. I was shooting a Bessa R3a, which I hated at first because I was getting soft focus until I fixed the rangefinder on it. I sold it off plus a few other items to buy a Nikon FM3a. I saw this camera as an investment too as it was Nikon’s last all manual classic camera. I also got a Nikon Fm2n with the 50mm f/1.2 AIS Nikkor for $90 total on Craigslist. Steal of a deal, deal of a lifetime! 🙂

For my point and shoot, I was shooting film with my trusty Konica Hexar AF which  I got in 1997. And in 2006, I got the Ricoh 8.1mp GRD which I have written a lot about. Both are my favorite point and shoots of all time.

CelesteCan

“Take My Picture” 2006. The joy of photography with the (then) new Ricoh GR Digital 8.1mp camera.

So, ten years ago, what did you shoot with and how did it affect your photography? Take a moment to think about that and if you’re not too shy, then feel free to post your results in the comments to share with others. Thanks and have a great week!

 

Photo Of The Day: “Strong Coffee”

MamZoeI

“Strong Coffee” 2015. Mamiya C330, Mamiya-Sekor 65mm f/3.5, Tri-X 400 developed in Caffenol straight scan, no enhancements. Messy, dusty, but it worked! 🙂

If you’re in the blizzard zone and stuck home this weekend, I hope this will give you extra reading material 🙂

I’ve been developing film for quite a few years and although I don’t consider myself an expert at all, I’m familiar with traditional developers such as Rodinal, D76, T-Max, HC-110, etc, etc.

One developer that I’ve heard about, but never tried till recently was a home brew called “Caffenol.”

This is a process where you use instant coffee, washing soda, and vitamin C powder to concoct a mix that actually develops film.

When I first heard about this years back, I laughed it off thinking it was a big joke. When I investigated further, I was totally shocked that you can develop film with instant coffee!

The photo above is a result of my first Caffenol experiment. Now I know it’s far from an award winning result, probably not the kind of result anyone wants, but to be honest with you, I’m just thrilled that it worked! 🙂

MamZoeII

A 100 percent crop of the above image. I am unsure why, but I am not getting the option to show the image full size as I used to have. I am trying to get to the bottom of this and will fix it, if possible. If you could see it, you would see the glitter around the glasses well resolved.

Above is a 100 percent crop of the original scan. I adjusted the contrast levels to better show the details. I was quite amazed that the result, while messy, actually holds a lot of details!

The image was shot in 2015 with a Mamiya C330 and a banged up Mamiya 65mm f/3.5 lens that I got for $23. The film was Kodak Tri-X 400 which is my go-to for an easy to develop, classic film.

If you search the web, you will find many fine examples from Caffenol connoisseurs who have posted results much better than this.

As I said, I’m no expert at this. The hardest part is finding “washing soda” so I made it myself by heating up baking soda, not certain whether I did everything right. Also in the darkroom, I made the mistake of turning on the lights when I didn’t have cover on the tank with film in it, allowing for possible light contamination. Something I’d never done in all the years that I’ve developed film. Because of these issues, I was even more amazed that it actually gave me something at all!

I am now eager to experiment more and to perfect this process. However, that would mean I would have to waste a lot of rolls of precious memories so I have to be sure that each roll I process with Caffenol is really “disposable” to me, so to speak.

If you haven’t tried this process, take a roll of film that you think you could part with and try it out. It’s a lot of fun and could potentially save you money from buying traditional developers. It’s quite a kick to take the instant coffee on your kitchen shelf and turn it into a film developer, it really is! 🙂

Have a blessed day and I hope you stay safe in you’re in the zone of this major blizzard.

Best, Sam

Note: I’m not sure if I’m doing something wrong or something changed with WordPress, but people used to be able to click on the photos to see a larger version, but now it doesn’t give me that option. If anyone can tell me why, I would appreciate it!

Tuesday Titans: The Pentax MZ-S

PMZSCPSII

The Pentax MZ-S of 2001. Perhaps the best 35mm SLR Pentax ever made.

The Pentax MZ-S was a high end 35mm autofocus SLR introduced in 2001 by Pentax Corporation.

The MZ-S was the last 35mm flagship film SLR from Pentax and was marketed as a professional camera.

THE MZ-S CAMERA 

The first thing about the MZ-S that you’ll notice right away is the somewhat odd and futuristic look to this camera. The MZ-S was apparently supposed to be the Pentax “MZ-D” which was to be the first Pentax full-frame digital SLR and at that time, it would’ve been the first Pentax DSLR full-frame or not. The prototype was shown in 2001, but never materialized in production.

In many ways, the MZ-S looks and feels like a modern digital SLR. Strong, sturdy, but feels somewhat lighter than a comparable film camera such as a Nikon F-100. If the MZ-S was indeed a digital camera, it’s my opinion that this would be the coolest looking Pentax DSLR ever!

With Ricoh/Pentax’s recent (actually a couple of years now) teasers on a full-frame 35mm digital and thinking back to the MZ-D, it does make you wonder nearly fifteen years later on now, will we ever see a full-frame Pentax DSLR?

Of course, we know they have the technology, but one has to wonder what’s taken them so long. Fifteen years and counting guys 🙂

Anyway, back to the MZ-S. The body is strong with a magnesium alloy chassis and to me it looks great, especially with the BG-10 battery grip attached. But I have heard differing opinions.

This is a story within itself, but aside from their classic M42 and K mount cameras, Pentax has not been known for making the prettiest looking cameras in the modern era. I’ve heard people say that Pentax AF cameras look “atrocious” and “horrific” to, on the other side of the coin, “fantastic” and “magnificent.”

There’s not much of a grey area when it comes to Pentax AF bodies. You either love them or you hate them.

The Pentax MZ-S with the BG-10 battery grip attached has a very aggressive look, not unlike the Canon EOS-1 I profiled earlier. In an odd way, it does look like a Pentax version of a Canon 1 Series camera.

Unlike the EOS-1, the MZ-S feels noticeably lighter. And with the grip off, it is a very nice and more portable body. While marketed as a pro body, the MZ-S actually feels closer to a semi-pro or advanced enthusiast class body such as the Nikon F-100 or Canon EOS-3, although I must say these two cameras do feel more rugged to me than the MZ-S. The MZ-S however looks more interesting than the other two 🙂

The MZ-S featured a 6 point AF system and has a shutter speed range of 30-1/6000s and a flash synch of 1/180s. The camera has mirror lock-up and can do auto-bracketing and multiple exposures.

The MZ-S without the battery grip runs on two lithium CR2 batteries. With the BG-10 attached, the camera will run on four AA batteries.

HANDLING AND OPERATIONS

The MZ-S feels excellent in the hand. Solid, tight, but not too heavy. Controls are well laid out for the most part, but it’s an odd mix of good and confusing.

There are dedicated buttons and switches for AF, Drive, Metering, etc, etc. There is also a dedicated MF/AF switch near the lens mount. When you have clearly marked dedicated dials and buttons, it’s always a good thing.

The cool circular LCD actually has a dial around it that serves as your controller for changing shutter speeds, modes, etc. The funky looking dial on top left of the camera is actually two dials, for ISO, exposure compensation, auto-bracketing, and multiple exposures. This left dial is probably the most confusing part of the camera, but it all makes sense once you get to know it. The camera also has 19 custom functions. This is truly a pro spec’d camera!

PMZSIII

The top deck of the MZ-S. A strange mix of good yet confusing controls, highlighted by that top LCD in a cool circular dial. That’s Pentax for you! Sorry for the dust. I could, if I tried, maybe take a nice studio type shot of this, but I live in the real world and in the real world, there’s dust 🙂

This camera offers quite a comprehensive feature set and I don’t feel like writing a manual on it. But if you want to figure out all the MZ-S can do, you will probably need a manual for this camera.

While you can figure out many things without an instruction manual, again I will say that I think you do need a manual to completely figure this camera out so it’s not the most intuitive camera I’ve ever used, but to be fair, most complex electronic cameras of the modern era fall in the came category.

PERFORMANCE

imgMZSZoeSmile1051 copy (1)

“Sunday” 2010. A smile to transform an ordinary Sunday into something extraordinary 🙂 Pentax MZ-S, Pentax FA 35mm f/2 AL lens, Arista Premium 400 film.

The Pentax MZ-S performed very well in the several rolls I’ve shot with it. The camera was quick to focus, albeit a little noisy when focusing. It will sometimes hunt in low light and the noise can be a little disturbing. AF was for the most part accurate.

MJ

“Joe Young” 2010. Pentax MZ-S, Pentax SMCP-FA 77mm f/1.8, Arista Premium 400.

I’ve only used two AF lenses with this camera. The SMC Pentax-FA 35mm f/2 AL, which is an excellent lens, and the SMCP-FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited, which is a superb performer by any standards.

The MZ-S offers six segment, multi-pattern, center-weighted, and spot metering. I usually leave it at the six segment setting where exposures are usually spot on.

MZSZC

“Barbizon” 2010. A star in the making? 🙂 Pentax MZ-S, Pentax SMCP-FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited, Arista Premium 400.

BOTTOM LINE

Pentax has always been a bit of an eccentric in camera world. They have always been the under-dog company that offered a much needed alternative to a world ruled by two or three big dogs.

They created a legacy that includes not only great 35mm cameras and lenses, but they have also been a force in the medium format world with iconic cameras such as the Pentax 6×7 and now in the digital era with the Pentax 645z, beloved by today’s pros. That’s something neither Canon nor Nikon has done. A true Camera Legend company, no doubt.

As far as camera collecting, the Pentax M42 mount cameras and lenses are hugely popular as well as K mount manual focus bodies and lenses. The Pentax AF 35mm film bodies, not so much.

But the MZ-S is different. It is a highly capable body and in my opinion, perhaps the only Pentax 35mm AF body worth collecting. I hope I’m not offending any Pentaxians out there, but cameras such as the ZX-5n and *ist film bodies, while very capable, are hardly what one would consider collectible.

In recent years, Pentax has had a resurgence of popularity, thanks in part to its merger with Ricoh and great cameras such as the Pentax K-5 of 2010.

The MZ-S may have been the most full-featured and capable film SLR that Pentax ever created. It is a well designed camera that can perform to a very high level and has almost everything you might need. And of course, it is capable of using the fantastic Pentax AF and manual focus lenses, one of the largest and most abundant collection of lenses available for any system.

The Pentax MZ-S may have started its life as the would-be Pentax full-frame digital that never materialized, but ended its life as the last great Pentax camera of the film era. It is without a doubt, a Camera Legend and one of the best cameras ever made by Pentax.

WHERE TO BUY?

If looking for the MZ-S, prices are trending at $150-350, with average prices of around $250 or less. There was a time when these cameras commanded close to $400, but it seems the prices have fallen on these babies in recent years.

You can find them quite easily on eBay, where most of them are being sold from Japan.

KEH Camera has them from time to time, prices are usually a bit higher there, but you would probably get the best one for your money, plus a great warranty and return policy.

I got my first one there, sold it and missed it. Found my second one at Adorama in their used section for around $200 in EX+ when they were going for over $300 at the time. And you can sometimes find a good deal from sellers on Amazon.

Note: Sorry a little late with this post, but I got it in before Tuesday was done 🙂

Doing this blog is a labor of love, but these late nights were killing me and I really needed to get myself together. Thanks for your continued support my friends, appreciate it!

 

 

Tuesday Titans: The Canon EOS-1 Pro Film Camera

 

CEOS1

The Canon EOS-1 professional 35mm SLR of 1989. The EOS-1 is a titan with a tank like body, super speedy AF, and a futuristic design.  A true Camera Legend among 20th century cameras.

The Canon EOS-1 is 35mm SLR introduced by Canon in 1989 as the flagship camera of their (then) two year old EOS system.

Canon is no doubt one of the legendary names in the camera world. Despite non Canon fans (usually Nikon fans!) attempting to take jabs at Canon by saying things such as “Canon’s main business are its copiers and not cameras” or “Canon’s bodies are made of plastic and feels cheap” everyone that I know equates Canon to cameras first and foremost.

And the camera division is apparently a source of pride for the company. Even though, yes, they make way more selling copiers and other stuff to corporations, they do put a lot of that money back into creating awesome cameras that are often on the cutting edge of technology.

One of the greatest things about loving all cameras is that I’ve never been accused of being a fanboy, not that I know of anyway 🙂

Anyway, I’m rambling a little bit here, but the main point is that since the 1930’s Canon has had its share of legendary cameras. The Kwanon of 1934, the Canon II of the late 40s and early 50s, the Canon 7 and 7s rangefinders of the 60s, the A-1 and F-1 of the 70s, the T90 of 1986 just to name a few.

Canon is no stranger to making all kinds of cameras. However in 1987 Canon set out to do what many of their loyal customers thought to be the unthinkable; create a whole new series of lenses and cameras and letting go of their FD system which enjoyed a tremendous following and passion from professionals and enthusiasts alike. And with the introduction of the EOS-1 in 1989, Canon set out to create a new legend. Would their plan work?

dscf0648canont90mkiic

The Canon T90 of 1984 and the EOS-1D Mark II of 2004. The predecessor and successor of the EOS-1 respectively.

This was a very risky move. To take (in 1987) the nearly twenty year old, proven FD system and not only replace it with a whole new system, but also to convince their huge and loyal customer base that they should buy into the new system.

And the new EOS lens mount was NOT compatible with the FD system and vice versa. So in essence, Canon had to say…’Guess what guys? You can’t use all those lenses and accessories you’ve acquired for your A-1, AE-1, F-1, etc, etc if you buy the new EOS system’

As to be expected, it was a hard sell at first. From all I have read on this, many loyal FD fan were totally bummed, even angry at this move. They felt betrayed that their gear would now be “obsolete” and unusable on the new EOS system.

And you have to remember back then was not like today where you could use your legacy lenses on many different cameras with the right adapters. Adapters that allowed the use of one mount to a different mount were precious and few back then. I know of people who switched to Nikon because they were so outraged!

WISDOM OF FORESIGHT AND THE POWER OF TIME

Despite the initial outlash, now nearly thirty years later, I believe that time has proven Canon right in their decision to change from the FD mount to the all electric EOS mount.

With the EOS mount came cameras with super speedy autofocus, and such innovations as quiet USM “ultrasonic” motor lenses, cameras with electronically controlled wheels and dials, offering sophisticated levels of control customization. Many of these features we see on almost all serious DSLRs today. The EOS lens mount was also large enough to make way for some very unique L lenses such as the EF 50mm f/1L, the 85mm f/1.2L, and 200mm f/1.8L.

I believe Canon, as well as Nikon and other manufacturers saw the promise of the future with the runaway success of 1985’s Minolta Maxxam 7000, the first truly successful autofocus 35mm SLR.

Looking back, you have to give Canon, its camera designers and engineers credit for having the courage and foresight to create a whole new system that not only embraced the technology that was available then and but would also be able to take advantage of technology yet unseen in 1987.

THE EOS-1 FILM CAMERA

Two years after the introduction of the EOS system and the enthusiasts’ friendly EOS 650 camera, Canon decided the new system was successful enough to introduce their new pro flagship, the EOS-1 professional system camera.

The EOS-1 is a big brute of a camera and was very much reminiscent of the T90 of 1986 in its design.

However, being designed with professional photographers in mind, the EOS-1 was built to a much higher standard with an extra tough aluminum frame wrapped inside a polycarbonate plastic shell, and weather proofed with o rings, seals, and gaskets.

I remember in the mid 1990s reading an article on the Canon EOS-1 vs the Nikon F4s. I can’t recall if it was Modern Photography or Popular Photography magazine, but it was a great article on the pros and cons of both cameras, and included opinions from two professional photographers who used these cameras for their livelihood.

I also remember at that time, opinions and doubts about Canon’s use of polycarbonate materials on their pro bodies, especially from “heavy metal” camera lovers and pros.

Today, with the power of time, polycarbonate and other hard plastics have been proven to be as durable, if not more so, than the all metal bodied cameras of yore.

The EOS-1 is an all electronic camera and it operates on one 2CR5 battery. It will not operate without a battery. The electronics in the EOS-1 series of cameras have stood the test to time. The shutter speeds range from 30 secs to 1/8000th of a second and the camera can do a maximum of 5.5 frames per second with the optional Power Booster E-1. The viewfinder has 100 percent coverage. The camera had only one autofocus point which was cross-type and in the center of the frame.

USER EXPERIENCE

I got my first EOS-1 in the mid 90s. I still remember vividly the first time I held the camera. It was one of those magic moments on my camera journey!

I remember the sense of pride and amazement that I had in my possession this huge and powerful pro Canon in my home. Holding my first pro grade body ever was a feeling that, many many cameras later, comes very rarely today. It would take a lot to excite me these days 🙂

After I got over the initial excitement, I was quickly disappointed to find that the EOS-1’s AF, which was very fast and speedy outdoors and in good light, struggled and hunted in low or even moderately bright indoor lighting.

On top of that, the single central point AF did not have the red light indicator. That feature came with the EOS-1’s 1994 successor, the EOS-1n.

After a few months of use, I quickly sold the camera and moved up to the EOS-1n which was a much better camera in all aspects.

imgCan1Zoe293

“The One” 2012. Canon EOS-1, EF 50mm f/1.8 lens.

THE LEGACY AND LEGEND OF THE EOS-1

Despite my disappointment with the EOS-1, I eventually got another one when the prices became real cheap.

As with many other cameras, I can now appreciate its strengths while avoiding or trying to avoid its weaknesses.

Armed with a very strong selection of Canon EF lenses, the EOS-1 helped Canon to finally take over their rival Nikon in the 1990s as the professionals choice. It would take Nikon many years later to catch up and regain equal footing.

With the EOS-1 came many innovations such as dual input dials, wheels, and the use of polycarbonate and hard plastics on a professional grade body. All these features have made its way to many mid and high end cameras that came after the EOS-1.

The Canon EOS-1 is a true Camera Legend of the modern camera world. The EOS-1 is not only legendary, but has historical significance as the first pro body of the EOS line.

All the pro film EOS bodies that came after the EOS-1, including the 1n/1V/3 are all much better performers having taken all the best features of the EOS-1 and refining it to much higher levels, but if you want to experience that early EOS experience, warts and all, and want to pay the lowest price you can for a pro EOS film body, then the EOS-1 is a great choice, even if only to appreciate its design and/or to appreciate the technology of its day.

Note: The Tuesday Titans series was created to profile the huge “Big Guns” or monster sized cameras.

WHERE TO BUY

If shopping for an original EOS-1 film camera, prices are trending from $50-150 with an average under $100.

For a safe purchase with a good return policy, both Adorama in their USED section or Amazon periodically have the camera in stock.

IF YOU’RE JUST READING THIS AND PREFER MODERN CANON CAMERAS

Our friends at Adorama have some great deals for you, just in time for the holidays! Please check the links below to see the savings.

Canon EOS Rebel T5i DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens – Special Promotional Bundle – $399 after IR/MIR

BUY HERE

Canon EOS Rebel T5i DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens – Special Printer Promotional Bundle – $499 after IR/MIR

BUY HERE

Canon EOS 70D Digital SLR Camera Body – Special Promotional Bundle – $679 after IR/MIR

BUY HERE.

Canon EOS 6D DSLR Camera Body with Special Promotional Bundle – $1449 after IR/MIR

BUY HERE

The Best Camera I Never Knew Part Four: The Exakta 66 Mod III Medium Format Camera

ModIICCC

The Exakta 66 Mod III. A dream camera of West German/Russian heritage and one of the best cameras I never knew 🙂

Sometimes your lust over-rides your head and clouds your better judgement. This was certainly the case with the next camera in “The Best Camera I Never Knew” series.

THE EXAKTA 66 MOD III

The Exakta 66 MOD III (model III) is a medium format camera introduced in 1997. Though the original Exakta 66 was produced by West German company Ihagee, the exact origins of the MOD II and MOD III are somewhat unclear.

The main thing you need to know is that all these Exakta models are a variation of the Pentacon Six, so they are all 6×6 mechanical SLR cameras that use 120 medium format film. They resemble, from afar, the Pentax 6×7 and look like a giant 35mm camera on steroids.

There is a great website http://www.pentaconsix.com that will tell you the differences between the models, and anything else you might want to know about them.

In the context of my story here, just know the MOD III was considered the “ultimate” as far as variations of the venerable Pentacon Six goes. It was the last model so it technically had all the upgrades and enhancements that was done to the basic Pentacon that it’s modeled after. One enhancement was the inclusion of a mirror lockup.

Another reason for its desirability is that the Exakta 66 Mod III is sometimes paired with the superb 80mm f/2.8 Schneider Xenotar lens, though the Exakta 80mm f/2.8 or 80mm Russian Volna or Biometar lenses are more commonly seen.

WHY IT DIDN’T JIVE WITH ME?

Ok, so in 2013 I came across the Exakta 66 Mod III body on KEH Camera’s website. A used body only for around $300.

I hesitated at first, knowing that it was basically a glorified Pentacon Six or Kiev 60, but the camera lust took over me and I thought I had to have it! That, despite the fact that I already had a Pentacon Six TL and a Kiev 60. Both bodies combined, cost me less than the Exakta alone!

I’m drawn to extremes…the best camera, the worst camera, the last model, the smallest model, the strangest one…you get the idea 🙂

Anyway, I said to myself…if I get the Mod III, I won’t need any other Exakta or Pentacon. And perhaps I could cut my losses by selling the Pentacon and Kiev once I got the Exakta.

Ok, this is getting too long, so to cut to the chase…

I got the MOD III. I press the shutter. The mirror goes up. Stays up. No big deal. If I recalled correctly, the Pentacon did that too. All that it requires is for you to wind the lever and the mirror comes back down. So I did that.

Surprise! The film advance lever won’t move so the mirror won’t come back down!!

So without damaging the camera, I was trying all the emergency remedies I knew. Tried to gently move the mirror down, it didn’t move. Tried to toggle the mirror lockup, no go. Tried to press the shutter release again, nothing.

I then took out my Pentacon Six and pressed the shutter release. Mirror goes up. Stays up. I wind the film advance, mirror came back down. Now I knew for sure something was wrong with the Exakta.

Knowing that I would probably have to return it to KEH, I stopped myself from messing with it further. I did some research online and found the email of a noted authority on repairing these cameras. For the sake of privacy, I will refrain from leaving a name, but if you need one of these cameras repaired drop me a line and I will give you his contact.

Anyway, his advice was to first try to gently bring the mirror down with my fingers which I had already done. I don’t remember everything else he told me, but he tried the best he could to help me through email and I appreciated that very much, but nothing worked.

Finally, he told me I should return the camera because they were well known to have “issues” and he had seen a fair share of them for repair. He said these cameras go bad quite easily and parts are no longer available and/or are hard to find.

I believe him, though I wished I had seen something online about that before I purchased it. I did not find much negative on this camera in my pre-purchase research. Indeed, I did not find much positive feedback either!

I recall finding only a few nice shots of the camera on Flickr from some proud owners, but other than that there wasn’t much as far as real world users. In fact, if you did a search now you will see a few of the pretty pictures I’m talking about 🙂

THE REVELATION

Ok, so I really wanted to keep this camera! Never mind that I didn’t have the elusive 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar. I could use the Biometar and other Pentacon Six lenses I already had first.

So before I wrapped it up to return to KEH, I decided to take one last shot at making this thing work. I played with the advance lever. I felt that this was the root of the problem. I had a thin nail file and I poked it in the thin sliver underneath the film advance lever. It hit something and wallah…

The film advance moved and the mirror came down! 🙂

But, this does not have a happy ending. When I pressed the shutter again, the mirror became stuck once again. The nail file worked once again,  but there was no way I was going to use the camera if I had to do this for every shot!

So back it went to KEH, and before I shipped her off, I took this shot. I should’ve taken more, but I took this at a Fedex Kinko and making a review of this camera two years later was the last thing on my mind.

To show you how much I wanted to keep this camera, I even told KEH if they could repair it, I would take that over a refund. They tried, but in the end they gave me a refund.

Just want to put in a good word about KEH Camera. They are the best used camera dealer out there, I even prefer them over eBay because of their great products, prices, and return policy.

Even though this Exakta 66 Mod III turned out to be a dud, I cannot blame them. Things happen and especially so when you’re dealing with the kind of photographic volume that they deal with on a daily basis. I’ve been buying from them for maybe twenty years or more and over 90% of my purchases have been satisfactory or better. They took this camera back with no hassles.

BOTTOM LINE

If looking for one of these, and I’m not sure that’s a good idea, prices are trending at over $1000 for the body and Exakta, Volna or Biometar 80mm lens and probably quite a bit more with the 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar lens.

I am certainly no camera repair expert and I am sure it’s a good possibility that I just got a bad sample and there’s a lot of good working models out there.

However, based on the information I got from the veteran Pentacon/Kiev/Exakta camera repair man, I would have to say Exakta 66 cameras are not a good buy in my opinion.

You are better off with a Pentacon Six or Kiev 60. They are not without issues either. Many have the same problems with film advance, film spacing, etc. However, they are much cheaper than the Exaktas and parts more readily available should you need a repair.

The Exakta Mod II and Mod III may be cooler, prettier than the brutes that the Pentacons or Kievs are, but they are in essence the same cameras.

I knew this before I made the purchase. However, I went ahead and bought it anyway. I should’ve listened to my head but as Emily Dickinson and Woody Allen said…”The heart wants what it wants” 🙂

If you’re looking at the Pentacon Six or Kiev cameras, then the Exakta 66 Mod III is the ultimate medium format camera from that West German/Russian/Eastern European heritage.

However, it gave me nothing but headaches and wasted time and became one of…the Best Cameras I Never Knew.


The Best Camera I Never Knew Part II: The Rollei A110

DSC01007A110CA

The Rollei A110. One of the Best Cameras I Never Knew 🙂

I will have more from this year’s PhotoPlus Expo I promise you, but today I’m going back to the core of this site, which is classic, collectible, and interesting cameras.

The first in this series was a camera from Rollei called the Rolleimatic. It was a camera designed by Rollei camera design legend, Heinz Waaske.

Today’s “best camera I never knew” is also…a Rollei! And also designed by Mr. Waaske and his design team 🙂

It is called the A110 and it is a super cool looking miniature, pocket camera that takes 110 film. I know a lot of people who think 110 film is extinct, but you can still readily get it through Lomography or Amazon.

Lomography will also do the developing if you send the film to them or drop it off in one of their stores.

THE CAMERA

The Rollei A110 was introduced by Rollei in 1975.

The camera is a funky little thing. The camera relies on scale focusing and has a focus range of about 3.2 ft to infinity. There is an orange focusing slide below the 23mm f/2.8 Tessar lens. In the viewfinder are symbols to give you an idea of what you should choose to focus on depending on how far away your subject is. The symbols include one person, a group of people, and a mountain (infinity).

Pulling the camera “apart” and closing it advances the film and cocks the shutter. This is definitely a Waaske design trademark!

The camera is auto exposure only and originally took a 5.6v PX27 battery. The modern day replacement for the battery is a S27PX silver battery that is 6 volts. This small difference could effect the exposure, but with the wide dynamic range of most films you should still, in theory, get a usable shot.

WHY IT DIDN’T JIVE WITH ME?

Why? Why you ask? I got two of them from eBay. Both didn’t work! 🙂

The sellers swear they were working, but I suspect both sellers did not know much about the camera. Many are probably found in their parents or grandparents camera collection and being auctioned off by people who have no idea what they are selling.

Fortunately, I got both of them cheap. First one for ten dollars, second one fifteen. If seeking an A110, they usually run from $10-50, with an average of around $30. They usually come with a presentation case and a cool chain. If you’re lucky, you can get the whole shebang with presentation case, leather case, chain, and flash.




WHY BOTHER?

With the exception of hardcore film lovers, and I do count myself as one, this camera doesn’t make a lot of sense.

It takes 110 film which is not widely available and of which development is only available in select speciality stores.

The image quality will not exceed what you can get with 35mm film or even today’s higher end cell phones.

So why did I want one? First, I am a camera hunter and I love old, classic cameras, and even more so if I can find them cheap. The A110 fits that bill. The very first camera I ever used was my Mom’s Kodak 110 camera from the 70s, so there’s a bit of nostalgia in it too.

Secondly, I’m a fan of Tessar lenses, so again, the A110 fits that bill. And lastly, even if the image quality would be less than 35mm, the A110 could possibly give me a unique film look, which is something I’m always after.

So guess what? I’m on my third A110, which I got for $30 and this one IS working! Got film in it now, but it is unfinished. Then when the film is done, I still have to send it out for developing and that might take a while.

So until that day when I can see the results from the quirky, eccentric, classic camera, the Rollei A110 will remain…The Best Camera I Never Knew 🙂

Note: If you want to see a great review of a WORKING sample of this camera, please check out this review at DOWN THE ROAD a great blog by Jim Grey who also reviews classic cameras with excellent photo samples, as well as elegantly and honestly sharing his personal life experiences. It’s a great blog worth checking out!