The Return Of Kodak Ektachrome

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“Sunrise” Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand, 1995. Canon EOS 10s, Sigma 28-70 f/3.5-4.5 UC, Kodak Ektachrome. The return of Ektachrome. Perhaps the dawn of a new day for film lovers?

I’m sure many of you hardcore film fanatics have heard by now of Kodak’s decision to bring their Ektachrome slide film back from the dead.

That is the best thing I have heard out of Kodak in the past ten years!! A snippet from Kodak’s press release: “Sales of professional photographic films have been steadily rising over the last few years, with professionals and enthusiasts rediscovering the artistic control offered by manual processes and the creative satisfaction of a physical end product…”

I used Ektachrome film mostly in the 1990s and early 2000s. It was a great slide film, but also considered a lower cost alternative to Kodachrome which was Kodak’s gold standard for slide film.

If memory serves me correctly, I remember Ektachrome to produce neutral colors with perhaps a shift towards cool, strong on the blue and greens.

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“The Sun Never Sets” Krabi, Thailand, 1995. Canon EOS 10s, Sigma 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5 UC, Kodak Ektachrome. Colors shifting a bit, but this photo is almost as vibrant as that day I took it twenty-two years ago. The two beloved family members, on the far left and far right are gone. And so too did we think Ektachrome was gone. But Kodak is bringing it back from the dead. Unbelievable news in many ways.

The reasons I didn’t use Ektachrome more was because I was and am a negative shooter rather than a slide shooter. And when I did shoot slides, I always went with either Fuji Velvia or Kodachrome. I tried Ektachrome just because. Not because I wanted to, or didn’t want to, just because I had to try it.

But with Kodak’s announcement of the return of Ektachrome, I’m itching to try it again. It was an iconic film in its own right.

Again, this is the best news I’ve heard out of Kodak in ten years and it is awesome news for film in general. With the demise of Fuji’s FP-100C packfilm, this was certainly unexpected.

People, including myself, have been quite hard on Kodak in recent years. This time, let me say that they are doing something amazing. Now if they would concentrate in this direction, they might have a chance of not only reclaiming their legendary name but maybe even be the king of the hill for film again. Kodak is doing what they do best…make film. Kudos Kodak, wishing you the best of luck on this!

 

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.

Tuesday Titans: The Contax AX Film Camera

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The Contax AX. A camera that could “autofocus” manual focus lenses. Totally unique, but it didn’t always work well. Note the tripod attachment on the very bottom is not an original part of the camera.

Today, I present to you good readers a double whammy:

“Tuesday Titans” and “The Best Camera I Never Knew” and the recipient of this honor is the legendary Contax AX 🙂

THE CONTAX AX

The Contax AX is a 35mm single lens reflex film camera introduced by Kyocera in 1996. At the time of its introduction, the AX made camera headlines due to its unique ability to autofocus manual focus lenses.

Although probably more technical than this, in a nutshell, AF was achieved by moving the film plane, the distance from lens to film. The official company description of this was “Automatic Back Focusing.” This was a remarkable achievement and still something unmatched in the camera world today.

THE CONTAX AX BODY

The Contax AX is a big, bulky, OX of a camera! The extra bulk was needed to accommodate the mechanism that would drive the film plane to focus.

The camera feels well built, sturdy, and again, bulky. Like most Kyocera made Contax SLR cameras, it gives the feel and impression of quality.

Ergonomically, the AX is pure Contax. That is, controls are well placed with knobs and dials, things I really like on a camera.

On the left top plate you have a mode shifter for AV/TV/P/M/X/B and the shutter speed dial which runs from 4s to 1/4000. Also on the left is where you can change ISO values as well as play around with the cameras Custom Functions. I can’t remember these off hand, but I think the only one I used was the function to leave the film leader out.

On the top right plate of the camera you have the on/off switch, the film counter lcd, the exposure compensation dial, the focus switch which includes macro, manual focus, continuous, single af. Also on the right is a dial for drive, i.e., single shot, continuous, even double exposure.

Again, all these are on switches, knobs and dials that are well labeled which I really love on a camera.

WHY IT DIDN’T JIVE WITH ME?

I tried two of these. The problem? Well, the first one I got couldn’t autofocus to save my life! It would just rack back and forth. Then it would get close, but seemingly give up. I sent that one back. I eventually got another one and it did autofocus…when it felt like it 🙂

Actually, I’m being unfair. Maybe not. Anyway, it did autofocus, and when it did, I got some nice shots. However, the AF was very fidgety. On certain targets, it would be great, but in general, the AF was inconsistent. It would rack back and forth, sometimes never getting the focus, even on easy targets. Sometimes it would be so out of focus and give up. Pre-focusing the lens seemed to help, but again, it wasn’t consistent.

The autofocus was also somewhat slow, but that’s to be expected and I’m not blaming the camera for that. You have to remember this was a camera that was attempting to autofocus manual focus lenses.

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“Olympians” 2011. Contax AX, 50mm f/1.4 Zeiss Planar lens, Kodak Tri-X 400 developed in HC-110. When the AX managed to focus, it focused well, but it was inconsistent. Shooting in daylight seemed to help.

And speaking of manual focus, you can do that with the AX and if you use the camera that way, it’s a pleasure to use, but maybe not to carry around due to its bulk.

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“Fix My Hair” 2012. Contax AX, 50mm f/1.4 Zeiss Planar, Kodak T-Max 400 in HC-110. Aside from trying to capture the moment, I was actually testing the autofocus system on the AX. The problem is that, with the AX, I always seemed to have to be “testing” it 🙂


BOTTOM LINE

So why does this “Titan” of a camera get a “Best Camera I Never Knew” badge? Because autofocus was its selling point. It was an admirable attempt by Kyocera, and like I said, if and when it worked, it’s great. But most of the time, for me, it didn’t hit its mark.

Ultimately though, I just could not rely on the AF to get the shots I wanted and decided that the AX was better as a manual focus camera. And if I wanted a manual focus Contax, I much prefer the (also big, but more portable) RX or the smaller ST (my favorite Contax body).

The Contax AX was a titanic attempt by Kyocera to bring autofocus to their fine line of manual focus Carl Zeiss lenses by doing something no one else had ever done before. It was made at a time when AF had already become the standard for 35mm SLR cameras.

However, company was not ready to join the AF race and wanted to keep their loyal customers happy. They eventually came out with a true autofocus SLR cameras, in 2001 with the introduction of the Contax N1 and the NX in 2002. Unfortunately, the company folded in 2005.

Kyocera and their Contax/Yashica line were something unique in the camera world. They were innovative and sought to bring the philosophy of high quality cameras and lenses to the masses and market themselves as an alternative to a “luxury” camera market that was ruled by the German giant Leica.

Kyocera and their Contax brand were the Lexus/Acura/Infiniti of the camera world. Unfortunately, many of their cameras, such as the AX, while beautiful, did not deliver the expected performance nor were they as reliable as a Lexus or Acura, or in this case, Leica.

They do, however, hold a special place in my heart and in the hearts of millions of camera fanatics around the world. The Contax brand still has a huge and loyal following. The AX may not have lived up to my expectations, but as I said it was an admirable attempt by a Camera Legend. In some ways, it was ahead of its time with technology that wasn’t quite ready for prime time. If only it worked better than it looks 🙂

WHERE TO BUY?

Due to its unique technology, the Contax AX is still quite popular among camera collectors.  I think most people will seek one out based on curiosity, as I did, only to find its headlining autofocus abilities clunky in real world use.

If seeking one of these, and I’m not sure that’s a good idea, prices have been trending steady at $200-300 dollars. Mid to low two hundreds are a good price on the AX. I got my first malfunctioning one about five or six years ago at around $300. As mentioned, I sent it back for a refund. I got my second one, which was sold as a parts camera because the battery chamber lock was broken, for $80. I replaced the battery chamber lock with a lock from a tripod and was more than happy with my $80 AX 🙂

If seeking one make sure your seller has a good return policy because I’ve said many times that the electronics in Contax cameras DO NOT age well. For a safe purchase try HERE and HERE.

It’s Fall Foliage Time!

It’s that time of the year again. Especially for those of us in the Northeastern part of the country, the autumn leaves are at or approaching their peak. In some parts, they may even be past their peak.

While I haven’t gotten my foliage pics yet this year, I hope to soon. Maybe this weekend or next.

Anyway, I thought this would be a good time to post some fall foliage from years past. Many with gear I no longer have, but how I miss them!

This is a great time to photograph and use some of those Camera Legends in your closet. Don’t miss it!

Update 10/17/15: I did get some shots today, but only have one to post so far. It is the top photo using the EOS-M I reviewed HERE.

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“AutM Leaves” 2015. Canon EOS-M, 22mm f/2 STM.

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“Change” 2007. Canon EOS 5D, 70-200mm f/2.8L IS.

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“Fall Fashion” 2014. Nokia Lumia 1020.




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“Red, Green, and Gold” 2008. Nikon D700, Hasselblad 110mm f/2 Planar via adapter.

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“Fall Back” 2007. Rolleiflex 2.8F, 80mm f/2.8 Planar, Kodak Portra 400 UC.

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“Crown Of Thorns” 2012. Sony NEX-C3, 25mm f/1.4 CCTV lens.

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“It’s Raining Leaves” 2008. Contax 645, 80mm f/2.8 Planar, Kodak Portra 400 film.

Some Film Images Part II

I had so much fun going down memory lane last night, I decided to do it again, one more night. This time the focus is on people and portraits. Back to reviewing cameras soon, I promise 🙂

Again, captioned with these images are equipment that I have profiled or am planning to profile. Most of the gear I no longer have, except for the negatives and memories I have of them.

And again, while I love reviewing equipment, I love the equipment even more if it helps me take a decent pic!

Also as mentioned in the last article, a lot of these photos were posted for photo sharing sites long before I started blogging on WordPress. As such, some were resized much smaller than I’d like, but it would take me forever to locate the originals and work on them again. I thank you kindly for taking a look.

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“Separate Your Colors” 2011. Contax T3, Fuji Reala. Manila, Philippines.

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“The NWA” 1990. Minolta X-700, miscellaneous brand 80-200mm. No this is not Dr. Dre and the “West Coast” NWA. This is “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and the original NWA 🙂

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“The Young & The Restless” 1988. Minolta X-700, 50mm f/1.7 MD lens. Los Angeles, California. I was at the Farmer’s Market in L.A. and checking out magazines at a newsstand when I spotted two (then) very popular soap opera stars, Tracey E. Bregman and Doug Davidson, who were also checking out magazines. They must have been on a break from their show which was being filmed at CBS Studios nearby. I asked them for a photo and they graciously obliged. I was most impressed that they had no movie star “issues” and smiled for a geeky teenager with a camera 🙂

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“The Gentle Giant” 2011. Nikon F4s, 28mm f/2.8 AIS Nikkor, Kodak Portra 160. I ran into NYC icon Louis Mendes, a photographer well known for his old school Speed Graphic camera and sharp retro outfits. Lou takes unique Polaroid portraits and has made a living and a legend out of it. I’ve bumped into Mr. Mendes a few times over the years and he has always been a willing a gracious subject for my cameras. Thanks Lou!

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“Bangkok Bride II” 2005. Olympus Stylus Epic, 35mm f/2.8, Kodak High Definition 400 film. Bangkok, Thailand.

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“Native New Yorker” 2015. Leica M4P, 50mm f/2 Summicron-M, Kodak T-Max 400 developed in D76. NYC is a melting pot of cultures. No matter where you come from, you can quickly transform into a New Yorker!




Some Film Images Part I

No dear friends and readers, I have not run out of Camera Legends to profile for you. However, from time to time, I’d like to put up some images I’ve taken over the years, if only to remind myself that I still love photography and also so that readers of this site can see that I actually DO use the gear profiled 🙂

Like many of you out there, I really love cameras and lenses. But just as importantly, I love the equipment more if it helps me take a decent picture.

The photos below are a random sampling of the gear and the photos I’ve taken with them. Some of the cameras used to take these shots have been profiled. Some are previews of possible future postings.

They are not masterworks or anything. Many are from my attempts to learn or test equipment. Most were taken for just the pure joy of photography.

I thank you for taking a look. And not to worry, I have more great gear to profile and review for you coming soon 🙂

Note: Most of these images were posted elsewhere on the web years ago, long before I knew anything about WordPress. As such, some were resized to dimensions much smaller than I’d like to show you, but as I cannot find the originals at this time, this is what I can post. Sorry about that.

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“Mom in DC” 1984. Kodak Disc Camera. This image represents one of my earliest attempts at photography, at least the ones I could find. Shot with the long defunct and defiled Kodak Disc Camera, a camera that was bashed by critics and consumers alike. However, I have to say, I really loved that camera and this image brings back a lot of memories.

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“Ghetto Blaster” 1985. Minolta X-700, 50mm f/1.7 MD lens. My brother and father with our Cutlass Supreme which we called the “Ghetto-Blaster” with its missing hubcap 🙂 Thirty one years in time, but I’ll be darned if that golden light on the print doesn’t still look as golden as the day I took this shot.




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“Bangkok Bride” 2005. Olympus Stylus Epic, 35mm f/2.8, Kodak High Definition 400 film. Shot in Bangkok, Thailand.

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“Holy Petal” 1995. Contax G1, 28mm f/2.8 Zeiss Biogon, Fujichrome Velvia. Taken at a temple in Bangkok, Thailand.

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“Portrait Of An Addict” 1997. Olympus OM-1, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8, Kodak Tri-X. An attempt to self document one man’s horrible addiction to cigarettes. This photo was accepted to Flickr’s “Film Is Not Dead It Just Smells Funny” group, which is quite a selective bunch so I was honored by their acceptance of this pic.

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“Mannequin Fantasy” 2006. Ricoh GR1, Fujicolor Press 800.

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“Lots Of Love” 2008. Leica R8, 90mm f/2 Summicron-R, Ilford XP2. I was honored that this image was profiled on Leica’s LFI “Analogue Masters” Gallery a few years ago.

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“Rainy Day Blues” 2009. Leica CL, Canon 50mm f/1.2 LTM, Kodak Tri-X 400 developed in HC-110. I was sloppy and something went wrong with the development and I got the blues after seeing the ‘damaged’ roll . But since photography is such a subjective, sometimes emotional thing, I developed a liking for the look of some of the ‘ruined’ images.

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“Masked Shooter” 2008. Contax RX, Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 lens. The man with the clandestine figure, the Masked Shooter, has probably shot nearly a thousand cameras 🙂




Canon T90: “The Tank”

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“The Tank” 2013. My war-torn Canon T90 and 55mm f/1.2 Aspherical. They may be in “ugly” condition, but damn I love this combo!

The Canon T90 is a 35mm SLR introduced by Canon in 1986. It was their most advanced model in the classic Canon FD mount.

One look at the T90 and you can see that it was THE bridge camera to the Canon EOS line of cameras, which was introduced only a year later in 1987 with the Canon 650.

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“All In The Family.” The Canon T90 from 1986, side by side with the EOS-1D Mark II digital from 2004. Note the family resemblances, despite the incompatible lens mounts.

THE FD MOUNT OUTRAGE

Although Canon introduced a Cosina made T60 model in 1990, the FD line was effectively over with the introduction of the EOS mount in 1987.

At the time, there was a bit of outrage from loyal Canon FD owners who now had their lenses rendered useless on the new incompatible EOS mount. They felt betrayed, and many even switched to “the enemy” Nikon, pledging they’d never use Canon gear again. Even today, I still hear of people who never forgave Canon for abandoning the FD line. Talk about crazy passionate! 🙂

Anyway, as great as the FD mount was, I believe that time has proven Canon right in their decision to change to the all electric EOS mount. With this mount came super-fast and near silent “Ultrasonic” motor autofocus lenses, super telephoto lenses, and some very unique “L” lenses such as the 85mm f/1.2L, the 135mm f/2L, and the 200mm f/1.8L, which are among some of the finest lenses ever made by anyone.

The larger EOS lens mount also made it possible to mount “alternative” lenses such as Olympus OM, Nikkors, Leica R, and Contax/Yashica mount lenses to name a few, which was not possible with the FD mount.

BUILD AND HANDLING

If you ever used an EOS camera, and most of you probably have, then you’d be pleasantly surprised to see and feel how much the T90 handles like an EOS camera with its buttons and front right hand dial.

The camera is built well, although it feels a little plasticky with its polycarbonate body. It is however solid and rather heavy, especially with the required four AA batteries and a lens attached.

The body is molded as if there was an accessory battery grip built on to the camera, so if you’re one who likes those bulky add on grips, you’ve got one built-in with the T90. It’s a beast! They didn’t call it “The Tank” for nothing 🙂

PERFORMANCE

I’ve used a couple of these cameras over the years and they have always provided near perfect exposure in aperture priority or program modes.

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“Village Of Love” 2013. Canon T90, 55mm f/1.2 Aspherical on expired Kodak Ektar 100. A little bit of love going on in NYC’s Greenwich Village! This image I think has a bit of that 80s look to it. My method of creating “vintage” modern photos is to use “old” equipment vs apps or filters.

The T90 has a brilliant metering system, which included center-weighted, average, partial, and spot metering, highlighted by its famous “multi-spot” metering which will allow you to spot meter several readings in a scene and have the camera average them out for an accurate reading. You also have TTL flash with compatible Canon flashes.

There are only a handful of film cameras with multi-spot capabilities, the other two that I can think of offhand would be the Olympus OM-4/4Ti and Canon’s own EOS-3.

This is also useful if you’re one of those Ansel Adams acolytes who embrace the Zone system.

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“I, Asleep” 2003. Canon T90, 50mm f/1.4 FD lens, film unrecorded. NYC is known for being a dynamic city, but with a gig this boring…hey! 🙂

I think the reason multi-spot is less of a selling feature these days is simply because with digital, you can just retake the photo if it didn’t come out the way you wanted. Progress has made life for us photo bugs easier, if not necessarily better photographers, technically anyway.

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“The Mac Is Back” 2013. Canon T90, 55mm f/1.2 Aspherical on expired Kodak Ektar 100. Legendary NYC photographer Louis Mendes. Lou is a well known figure on the streets of New York. Even if you don’t know him, you probably have seen him if you walk around the streets of Manhattan enough. With his throwback “Shaft” look and his iconic Speed Graphic, Lou takes one of a kind instant portraits and has made a living and a legend out of it. When I saw Lou again about a year later, he actually remembered that I shot him with a T90. Sharp man!

BOTTOM LINE

The Canon T90 and the vast line of FD and older breech mount lenses are among the best value in film photography today.

If you’re a student, new to film, or an old pro looking to rekindle your photographic passion, and you love electronic cameras, the T90 and a couple of lenses would be a good place to start.

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“That Aha Moment” 2013. Canon T90, 55mm f/1.2 Aspherical on expired Kodak Ektar 100. Colors fading and shifting…a “natural” Instagram! 🙂

If shopping for a T90, prices are dirt cheap these days and trending at $20 to $100 depending on condition. Anything more is a ripoff, unless a really good lens is included.

One problem well known with the T90 is the famous “EEE” error message which usually indicates a sticking shutter. Be forewarned that many T90’s develop this problem as they age. How do you get around this if your T90 develops this problem? Well, first I’d try putting in a fresh batch of batteries. If that does not work, the best solution is to pick up another one, preferably cheap. You’d probably pay more trying to repair it, and that is if anyone would even be able to repair the T90 these days. As I said, just pick up another one 🙂

You should also fire the shutter from time to time if the camera is not in use for long periods, as with all film cameras. This can, but is not guaranteed to help avoid the EEE error.

Despite this one potentially serious flaw, there can be no denying one thing that is true…

The Canon T90 is a Camera Legend and considered by many to be the best camera Canon ever made. At the prices they’re going for today, you could have one of the greatest, most technically advanced film cameras in your hands for the price of dinner. Not a bad deal in my book!

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PROS: Well built and sturdy; Takes cheap and awesome FD glass; Excellent metering; Multi-spot metering capabilities; Plentiful on the used market; dirt cheap 🙂

CONS: Prone to the infamous EEE error, mostly due to a sticking shutter problem; Electronics that do not age well; A bit confusing to use without user’s manual; Bulky and heavy with lens attached and batteries installed.