Camera Porn

Almost invariably, once it is revealed in conversation that I am, among many other things, a film photographer, the first question is almost always: What camera do you use? For me, that’s a question with no simple answer. At the moment I may use any of 10 or so film cameras for shooting still images. These are the staples in my rotation.

The first row is (D)SLRs. They all use a mirror to allow you to look through the lens to compose your image.  

The first one is the only digital camera in my collection. It’s a Nikon D5600. It’s a great, reasonably priced, camera that’s very easy to use.  It’s an aps-c CMOS sensor so, not full frame but still 24+ super sharp mega pixels. When paired with the 40mm AF-S DX Micro lens, there’s not much this little camera can’t do. It’s great for everything from portraits to landscapes to astrophotography!

Number two is a beast of a camera. It’s a Nikon F2. Here it’s paired with a super crisp 50mm f1.4 prime lens and a red filter. It is entirely made of metal and it is heavy.  It’s a very old joke that if someone were to try and steal it, it would make an excellent weapon to fend them off. If you say a picture in a newspaper or a magazine between the late 60’s and the early 80’s, there is a very good chance it was taken with a camera just like this one. Its a fun to use, no frills SLR that just works. Every time.  It’s only acquiescence to modern convenience is an inbuilt light meter which means it does take a battery a less than common 3 volt 2L76 but, fortunately, a pair of very common LR44 1.5 volt batteries will work just fine. Even without a battery, the camera works just fine, the only thing that would be affected is the light meter.

The third camera on the top is a Soviet camera made in the mid 60’s. It’s a Zenit EM and it even features a working selenium light meter so no batteries are required. Different versions of this camera were made for decades in the USSR from the mid 60’s to the mid 80’s and both the camera’s and the lenses varied widely in quality.  In this case, the camera seems an excellent specimen. The lens however, a lovely old Helios 44mm f2, may not be perfect and I think that is what gives the images I take with this camera a dreamy retro quality.

Row number two is rangefinders and the first is one of my all time favorite cameras. It’s the Canon P, a simple, beautifully designed rangefinder. Its pretty much a copy of the Leica M3 but with a simpler method for loading the film. It is pictured here with it’s Serenar 35mm f2.8 lens (I also have the Serenar 50mm f1.8) and its matching viewfinder mounted in the cold shoe. One of the things that makes this camera a great buy is that it uses an M39 screw mount lens system so it’s compatible with all that beautiful old Leica glass. It has a huge bright viewfinder and rangefinder patch that makes framing and focusing a joy. It is a very well made, entirely mechanical (no batteries!) camera and it’s operation is butter smooth. So it is very satisfying to use.  One thing to keep in mind if you want one of these for yourself is that they employ a stainless steel shutter curtain. These, almost without exception, wrinkle a little over time. Most often it has no impact and the camera works fine or, as was the case with mine, a tiny pinhole repair and it’s good as new.  If a completely manual rangefinder is what your after, it’s hard to get more bang for your buck than with this beautiful Japanese camera made in the late 1950’s.

The second camera in row number 2 was a spectacular flea market find. It’s a Zeiss Ikon Contessa made in the 1950’s. This example is in excellent condition and came with it’s original leather case. It of course features super sharp Zeiss glass in the form of a 45mm Zeiss Tessar f2.8 work of art. The lens on this camera folds in and out and when folded away, it’s compact enough for me to carry in my back pocket. It also features a selenium light meter with a cover to help preserve its usefulness. Its view finder and accompanying rangefinder patch are a bit small but still useable and its a bit quirky in that you load the film upside down and backwards but it is a beautifully designed entirely mechanical camera.

The last in the middle row is a bit of a departure in that it is not entirely mechanical, in fact, it’s almost completely automatic.  It is a gorgeous Japanese range finder from the mid to late 1960’s. A Yashica Electro 35 GSN. Once you set the ASA (iso) and load the film, it will select a shutter speed appropriate to the light it is reading for the scene and it works spectacularly well. If there is too much light for the selected aperture, it will warn you with a red light that the picture will be over exposed and if conditions are dim enough that the exposure will be too long to hand hold it warns you with a yellow light and you an either open the aperture some more or mount it on a tripod.  It features a fast bright Color Yashinon DX f1.7 45mm lens. The “Color” part of the name was to indicate that it was a coated color corrected lens intended for use with color film. It can be a difficult camera to get into good working order. It definitely will not work without a battery and the proper 5.6 volt battery is a hard to find and using more accessible batteries requires an adapter to make them fit. My example also suffered from the pad of death issue which I was able to repair. Once you clear all the hurdles however it is so worth it. I love the results I get from this camera, especially with Portra 400. Also, it’s the camera that  Andrew Garfield used as Peter Parker in the Amazing Spiderman (2012) so there’s that.

The bottom row is medium and large format camera’s. These are some of my favorites to use (In case you haven’t figured it out yet, they are all my favorites, well almost) when I have the ability to bring something a bit bulkier along. The first in this list is a Koni-Omega Rapid M. It uses swappable 120 or 220 film backs and has interchangeable lenses and shoots 6cmx7cm images. I’ve made some spectacular images with this camera on 120 medium format film but it is awkward to use and to hold and the pull push giant film advance lever is very unwieldy to use, for me at least.  This one I think is going to go up for sale soon to be replaced with maybe a Mamiya RB67.  I very much enjoy the 6×7 format but I think I’d prefer something else.  Since they are lesser known cameras they do have the distinct advantage of being a lot less expensive than other 6×7 camera’s so if you are in search of an entry point into that format that won’t cost an arm an a leg, this may be a good choice for you.

The middle slot int the bottom row brings us to a camera that I bought for my birthday a year and a half ago. Using a TLR camera takes some getting used to and this is one of the larger types but my Mamiya C3 is a joy to use! It shoots 6cm square images on 120 medium format film.  There are a few things to think about when using it, like parallax correction if your trying to focus close and getting used to everything being backwards on the very bright focusing screen. But it is so much fun to use that these fade into the background. One of the features I love about this particular camera is the it has swappable lenses! Mine is currently equipped with a Mamiya Sekor f3.5 105mm lens pair which has been fabulous but I would like to add both a tele (200mm?) and a wider lens to my arsenal.  If you are going to use a camera like this, it’s a bit on the heavy side so I definitely recommend a somewhat wide and very sturdy neck strap. It’s a difficult camera to operate if one of your hands is busy holding it up. This one is staying with me for sure.

Last but certainly not least, this is by far my favorite camera to use when that is practical My Graflex Speed Graphic Pacemaker a large format camera. Yes its a beast to lug around, yes the tripod alone probably weighs more that your car does but holy hell the images are worth it. It yields giant 4″ by 5″ negatives (or positives if your using slide film) and I even have a 23 graphic 120 film back that lets me load 120 film to take 6cm by 9cm images. This is a very inconvenient camera to use, no question, but it is so much fun to use and I love developing the huge sheet film it uses. I can take quite a while to set up a shot with a camera like this so I enjoy making sure I’ve executed all the steps needed and getting a good result. These huge negatives have the additional benefit of huge resolution. If I choose to, I can do a much higher resolution scan of these negatives and get something like a 500 megapixel image so very useful for large prints or fairly extreme cropping.

That’s it, that’s my most often used equipment. I’m sure it will have been altered at least a little by the time I publish this since it’s most always a work in progress. If you are also a photographer, let me know what your favorite camera’s are to use in the comments below and also, let me know what else you’d like to know.  I can talk about my process for developing Black and white, color, large format or other types of film or about compatibility between old Nikon cameras an lenses and modern even digital Nikon cameras and lenses. Maybe you’d like to know about astrophotography or a specific method or image or maybe you just want to say hi.  You can leave me a comment here or of course you can find me on the usual socials, I am @makebrooklyn on all of them though I am more and more finding that for photography, Twitter is the best platform so feel free to connect with me there or on Instagram or Facebook.

 Cheers!

JIm

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