It amazes me , from time to time I run across photographers that have never used film. I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised. It’s just that I have spent so long with film that It’s what I understand best. I have a digital Camera in fact,if I count my compact and my iPhone and iPad I have four. My new Nikon D800 has so many bells and whistles it’ll take me a long time to adjust. I’m still learning what all the menus do.
Having said that I have five film cameras which I use and it’s these that I have owned since new or dreamed at one time or other of owning . It’s my film cameras that mean the most to me. I now have at least 3 of the cameras I used to dream of owning back in the eighties. Fulfilling those dreams has been a lot of fun I just wish I could have done it back then.
With that I’d like to tell you what I own and, what were my dreams back then. It won’t be a technical tour with in-depth comparisons and charts as long as your arm. If you want that you can get that elsewhere I’ll provide the links.
So where should I begin?
Production September 1988 – 1997 approximately
This was one of the first cameras I dreamt of back in the eighties .I used to pass the camera shop window so many times a day and just stand and look. I got all the brochures and read them cover to cover. Sound familiar? I just didn’t have the cash to put together at the time. So why buy one now I hear you say. As I’ve said it was my dream camera. Secondly it’s still a fantastic piece of engineering. All Nikon F mount lenses fit and you even get focus confirmation in the viewfinder with manual focus lenses. It’s built like a tank (Lots of people say that about one camera or another but in the F4’s case it’s true). Try lifting one. No wonder it was a favorite of many professionals the world over. What’s more if you want to get into film again or are just starting out you can pick one up rather cheaply. Mine cost me £ 120 on ebay. On reflection I’d buy from a dealer though. But it’s your choice.
I have the extra battery grip (MB21)on mine which makes my F4 larger and heavier. You do however get an extra shutter button for all the weight If you don’t want that go for the standard model with the MB20 grip instead.
Nikon really found the sweet spot with this camera. It is still a great balance of form and function. I have to say that the F4 is all I dreamed it would be. To my shame I don’t use it enough. However when I do all those dreams come flooding back .I sure enjoy owning one .
Some links for further reading:
The Nikon FM2n
This wasn’t my first SLR that was an Canon EOS 600. Which I just pointed and shot and didn’t think much. The FM2 was a learning experience .All photographers should start with a camera such as this . All mechanical no auto functions no menus just you and your eyes. The Eos was my replacement F4 when I got tired of it which was quickly I took it back to the same shop and asked what would be a better choice for someone who wanted a bare bones camera and didn’t have a Leica pocket. I could have chosen a Pentax K1000 or an Olympus OM 1 it was just the Nikon was the first I tried it sat well in the hand and it was black.
So in the course of a few months I went from the all singing all dancing Eos to the DIY FM2. I have never regretted it. It taught me so much and provided me with some great shots and a better understanding of the photography basics which today in this instagram world many don’t take the time to learn.
The camera followed me everywhere and has been well treated. I’ve taken shots of both my son and daughter at their birth and used it on countless holidays and outings. It’s got a few dents and scrapes but I put them there. I’ll never sell it.
This is the one camera I use today that I didn’t dream of using .It was given to me as a decoration in the mid 80’s and the “You like old cameras David this will make a nice addition to your collection.” Speech
They were right of course and to be honest dear reader a decoration is what it became for many years. In fact when I got married in the early 90’s it was relegated to the loft space and stayed there for 8years un-touched in a box of old cameras.
So what made me go and dig it out? Well the story goes like this. I’d just started to develop black and white film again after many years. I wanted a Hasselblad,I had always wanted one. But with the high price and the total lack of handling skills for 120 roll film I thought the best way to practice was to try with a cheap camera first. I then thought of the Yashica I had in the loft. I dug around in the dust and boxes and emerged triumphant after only half-an-hour. I had no instruction leaflet . I found one on the Internet I didn’t have that in the 80’s. All the shutter speeds seemed to work so I ordered some roll film from a shop in Oslo.
The Kodak T-Max 100 asa arrived it was a film I was used to using in 35m. The first thing I did was get on Youtube and watch a video of how the film should be loaded into a Patterson tank for developing. I sacrificed one roll and just took it apart to see how it was put together. I then used the film to train loading my reels with eyes open first then with eyes shut. When I was confident with that I loaded my first film in the Yashica.
It was great fun to use my 1st TLR and my first roll film experience. I wasn’t expecting much. Boy! was I in for a surprise.
I’ll let you judge for yourselves. That Yashikor 80mm f3.5 really produces some wonderful swirly bokeh
Links to further reading
I love this little TLR and wouldn’t part with it for the world. It taught me so much in a short time. So if like me you have loads of old cameras lying around maybe some of them still work…Go and check :0)
Hasselblad 203 FE
In 1991 I hung a poster on the wall “The History Of A Camera Hasselblad 50 1941-1991”. A year later another one joined it “Hasselblad 30Years In Space 1962-1992.” I’ve always had a “thing” for Hasselblads, back in the late eighties and early 90’s I used to collect brochures and adverts for Hasselblads. It was rather like Ferrari fans most can’t afford the real thing so they settle for posters and books and pictures of their dream. I never thought I’d own one.
My interest in Hasselblad cameras stems from my love of all things to do with space flight. Why ? I grew up in the 60’s we followed the Apollo missions at school especially Apollo 8 and 11. I remember getting permission to stay up all night and watch the fuzzy black and white images of Neil and Buzz Kangaroo hop around on the Moon surface. Then when the astronauts returned to Earth those wonderful iconic shots of them on the Moon. Buzz with Neil’s reflection in his visor and the footprint shot spring to mind, all taken with a Hasselblad.
I finally got around to looking at used prices for Hasselblads a couple of years ago. I wanted my bit of the legend so to speak. As usual I brought out all my old brochures and read them cover to cover and did a lot of reading up on forums and blogs and watched hours of videos on YouTube. I even purchased a couple of books. In the end I decided to go for the 203FE. Let me explain. That poster I hung on the wall has a 205 TCC on it was the latest all singing, all dancing Hasselblad at the time. In 1994 the “Simpler” 203FE was released. This really is sweet spot in the range, and is where, in my opinion your money should go in the 200 series. When I also discovered the 203 was used on the space shuttle I was sold. I just had to have one.
I found one in a shop in Scotland in EXC+ condition. I also amassed a Prism finder PM-5 and a couple of backs a ECC-12 and an E-12. The Camera came with an Carl Zeiss 80mm 2,8FE I later added a Carl Zeiss 110mm F2.0.
When I received My camera I had only ever looked down the viewfinder of a Hasselblad once before. I took in other words a risk. Lets just say, it was a risk I wanted to take. Otherwise I’d only have sat and thought “What if?“ The first press of the shutter made such a noise I nearly jumped out of my skin having gotten used the soft “snik” of my Leica MP.
My homework paid off .All the reading I did really helped, after a few days I felt at home with this wonderful square monster.
One thing to think about is that with any used equipment it may breakdown. The light damping material in the camera housing on mine loosened after a year so I sent it for repair to Hasselblad HQ in Sweden. It cost a small fortune, however when it came back it looked brand new. They had replaced all the decoration on the camera which, was worn and the bumpers on the base, plus cleaned and checked the camera and repaired the loose material in the housing. My advice start saving for a service too:0)
One more thing. Moving up to medium format is a real game changer. Even down to the equipment you will need for the darkroom or in my case the scanner. This should factor into your budget when considering medium. Your style of shooting changes also. It’s a slower process but a lots of fun. You can still use the Hasselblad handheld (The top shutter speed of the 203FE really helps here)but a tripod is a good idea. One thing I did discover was that 120 roll film is a joy to work with and every self-respecting photog should try it.
Finally. I’ll never get into space, but I can own a piece of the legend which is Hasselblad and pretend I’m Buzz Aldrin.
A couple of favourite shots:
Karen Nakamura A Must Read.
Vermeer 6×17 Curved Plane Pinhole Camera
A couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon a beautiful handmade Vermeer wooden Pinhole camera, which, are handmade in Poland by Czarek Bartczak. I’d always wanted to try Pinhole photography so I ordered one. Nothing like going in at the deep end I thought. I ordered a Vermeer 6×17 curved plane camera, which, exposes 3 6×6 frames at the same time on 120 roll film making a panorama. The body is made from brown stained sycamore wood, acrylic varnish covered. Sliding shutter on the front and 52mm filter ring attached. Also the camera has 1/4 inch tripod socket
It has an aperture of F/300 and a focal length of 90mm which given the negative size equals around 21 mm in 35mm format.
The camera took about 3 weeks to deliver which was what I’d expect as it had to be made to order. No instructions came with the camera so a bit of reading about pinhole cameras beforehand is a good idea. However the camera explains itself . You have to supply your own take-up spool as the camera came without one so if you are thinking of buying one don’t throw out your old 120 spools keep at least one. I had plenty lying around so no problem. Loading is just a question of feeding the film from one spool to the next over the curved plane inside the camera. Remember that this camera exposes 3 frames at a time. So when winding on you‘ll need to look for numbers 2,5,8,and11 through frame count window at the back of the camera.
This shot shows how the film lays over the curved plane
For help with exposure I used an iPhone App Pinhole Assistant. I was able to measure the light and compensate for reciprocity failure* all in the app.
The shot here was a 10 sec exposure. To frame the shot I used a Leica 21 mm viewfinder but you can use your smart phone as a view finder or just guess,it’s part of the fun. It was shot on TMax 100 asa 120 film developed for 6 mins in Adox Adonal.
Click on the image to see it larger
I can really recommend Vermeer cameras Czarek was a pleasure to deal with. I’m saving for another already :0)
I purchased my Vermeer here