A roll of Velvia

I have and always had a love-hate relationship with Velvia. It is a fantastic film stock for sure. When used for fitting subjects, it delivers results like no other film. It packs an extra punch in terms of color saturation, contrast, and resolution. My only problem is that I mostly shoot portraits and if anything this is not the best use for this film. Also, I am more careful with positive films as they need to be exposed very precisely, they cost more to buy and to get developed. That is why I kept a roll of Velvia 50 in my fridge for more than 10 years. I was waiting for the right moment to load it into a camera that moment has failed to come.
I think I became overly circumstantial with my precious film stash. So I decided to use up this roll of Velvia this summer. We have planned a holiday to visit friends next to Hamburg with plenty of opportunities to take pictures. I was especially excited about the seashore. In the end, we brought home many photos most of which were digital. Around the same time, we have got a nice telephoto zoom lens for our digital camera. We were eager to test the new lens and the little roll of Velvia got pushed back on the priority list once more.
Eventually, I have finished shooting this roll even though it has taken me months biting into the autumn. Despite the traditional wisdom, I have shot a lot of portraits on it besides the well-expected landscapes. I have used it for everything and I am glad I did. Most of the photos turned out just right. To be said, I had to dial back the reds in post-processing on all portraits. In this post, I would like to share some of these randomly captured moments. If you have any thoughts about them or about using Velvia, please leave me a comment.

Irish Streets

I have been planning to write about my adventures in Dublin and Galway a long time ago. It was a short business trip in 2015 for only 2 weeks but I could fit in some time to explore and of course to take photographs. I wanted to write a bigger post initially because of the great experiences I had in Ireland.  Since I have not managed to put my thoughts together in the last two years, I have decided to take a more simplistic approach and let the photos talk instead of me.

I have used my beloved Leica M2 with my Sonnar 50mm ZM lens loaded with Fuji Superia Xtra 400. All the film was developed and scanned by the excellent John Gunn Camera Shop.

Music on the streets of Dublin was everywhere. I was quite impressed by the diversity and the quality of the music I heard there. It is a vivid city with many faces and to me, street musicians are definitely contributing to the charm and charter of the place.


But things were about to change in regards to the regulation of street music. Don’t know what was exactly on a stake or what the result turned to be. But at the time I was visiting Dublin, large groups were coming together, playing music and peacefully protesting against the planned changes.

I have also taken a couple of candid shots. Partly because I am really bad at this type of photography yet I needed to experiment with it. After all, I was caring a camera which was built for the task.

At the end of the day, I have returned my method of asking people if I could photograph them. I am much more comfortable with this approach. At least I have fewer issues with framing and composition when I can use the viewfinder.

People were generally very friendly and talkative with me. I was very much surprised about the number of positive reactions of people I asked to take a portrait of them. In addition to that, I myself received a lot of attention. Random people started to talk to me about equally random things ranging from the weather to the funny aerobic class across the street while we were waiting for the green light at a zebra.

I was also trying to capture little details of everyday life like this little dog who might be waiting for his owner at the entrance of a pub in Galway. All in all, I really had a great time even if it was very limited. I had a lot of good experiences, met many lovely people and I have taken an unusually high amount of photos on this trip which is a statement of itself. Someday I will go back with my family for some more exploration with properly dedicated time.

Autumn shoots with the Yashica (Part 1)

To follow up the previous post where the focus was on the retro stylish look of the Yashica TL Super, here are some of the shoots out the roll which was in the very same camera. All of these photos have been taken during our last visit to Hungary in the middle of October. The film is Fuji Superia 400, which is lately my choice of color negative film due to it’s versatility and because I had quite a few rolls of it left from my Irish trip from last year. This film works great for me in almost all circumstances from low light situations (when combined with fast glass) to sunny daylight. This time I had mostly enough though not plenty of light as the weather was generally overcast. But the colors of the autumn are well retained and the scattered light helped with the portraits.

Leafs

I used a single lens, my big favorite the Pancolar 80mm for the entire roll. I try to force myself to carry only one lens at the time. This helps me learn the quirks of the given setup by focusing on it for a longer period. Also if I have only one lens available I need to solve every situation with it which could help me leave my comfort zone and thus contribute to my creative development.

This lens has it’s caveats and sweet spots to learn as well. Others may observe these differently as many aspects of the character of a lens can be judged subjectively. I find myself shooting with the Pancolar most of the time wide open or close to it. This is where the character is mostly evident in the form of beautiful smooth bokeh when the background is right. The lens is plenty sharp in the center at least for my eyes and subjects. Stopping down to medium apertures where the depth of field is still small enough to have some background blur makes it evident that the iris is very far from circular. This case the background can be very busy which is not always desirable. In addition contrast can be too high to my taste especially for portraits.

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Of course the photos from this post were not the only ones from this roll. The Yashica was with me on a family hike in the south of Austria where both the light and my subjects were different. I will publish a selection from those shoots in the next post with the hope that I can show the versatility of this film and my single lens approach.

M9 + Sonnar vs M2 + Planar

Two friends with the same passion for photography, both using rangefinder cameras almost indistinguishable from the distance. The cameras are matched with fast 50mm lenses from the same brand and color.

Sounds like these photographers or at least their choice of gear is quite the same. While this statement is true to some degree, there are significant differences. In fact, there are more differences than the obvious technological dissimilarity between the capturing media used by the cameras (Ilford Delta 100 film in the Leica M2, Kodak CCD sensor in the M9).

Gábor, Leica M9 P, Carl Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 ZM
Gábor, Leica M9 P, Carl Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 ZM

Ramón uses a digital Leica M9 P which of course captures color information and renders in a very unique way. Many including himself claim that under ideal circumstances the CCD sensor in this camera creates much more pleasing results than other sensors used in other digital cameras with the same sensor size. This is a topic can be argued for a long time, but at the end of the day, it is his subjective view and his decision to use a rangefinder with this sensor.

Ramón, Leica M2 , Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/2 ZM, Ilford Delta 100, Rodinal 1+50, 20°C, 8 min
Ramón, Leica M2, Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/2 ZM, Ilford Delta 100, Rodinal 1+50, 20°C, 8 min

At the same time, I was using a classic Leica M2 with a black and white film. Even though the output of the digital camera is also appealing, the analog workflow is still favorable to me. It is partly because I enjoy the process of creating the image in this old-fashioned way, but also I can achieve the film look what I am looking for much more naturally.

My primary lens is a Zeiss Sonnar f/1.5 which I love for many reasons but mainly because of its bokeh. Ramón has a Planar f/2 from the same ZM series, although I believe this is not his standard lens. Both lenses are fast 50mm primes, yet they are quite different. The Planar is reliably excellent lens, which can be praised for its great sharpness and generally beautiful bokeh.

The Sonnar is a bit more hectic with the potential of surprises both in positive and negative ways. This lens can be bit soft wide open, but the bokeh is just phenomenal most of the time and from f/2 sharpness is already more than enough to me. The Sonnar has a bad reputation of focus shifting which is change of the focus plane when adjusting aperture. I personally don’t have any issues focusing with this lens. We switched lenses for the day, so we could experiment and see the differences. At the end of the day we enjoyed using these lenses, they both performed well on digital sensor and on film.

Also note that we use the cameras with different style. One of us covers only 1 eye with the viewfinder and keeps the other eye free open while the other covers his entire face with the camera and thus limited with single eye framing. Naturally this difference can be explained by the magnification used on the viewfinders, but it is also hugely a personal preference.

The great similarities and the differences between the cameras and lenses made me wonder can be photographers categorized at all by the type of gear they use? I guess the answer is controversially yes and no. Surely we use the same style of camera with the same focal length. This would put us into a technical category of normal lens rangefinder shooters. But even if we would use the exact same gear we would end up different results which we would have achieved in different ways. I think the most distinguishing feature in the photography of 2 individuals is not within their camera, but behind of it.

Eszter & Gábor, Leica M9 P, Carl Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 ZM
Eszter & Gábor, Leica M9 P, Carl Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 ZM

Eszter, Leica M2 , Carl Zeiss Plannar 50mm f/2 ZM, Ilford Delta 100, Rodinal 1+50, 20°C, 8 min

Eszter, Leica M2 , Carl Zeiss Plannar 50mm f/2 ZM, Ilford Delta 100, Rodinal 1+50, 20°C, 8 min

Paul, Dan and Miran

At the beginning of this year, I have given away a few lenses and cameras. Among others, Paul and Dan received a camera. Miran, on the other hand, got a 135mm lens and all three of them sent me a self-portrait taken with their “new” cameras/lens.

Paul
Paul

Paul is a UK based professional photographer who has a strong focus on family photography. Check out his site, it really is lovely. He has got a Fed 3 with a 50mm lens. The camera was not fully functional, still, he has got some nice results, so we can see his mighty beard.

Dan
Dan

Dan is a teacher from Canada who is now starting again with film photography using the Practika MTL-3 camera I sent him. His self-portrait is remarkable in my opinion because he managed to frame and focus so close perfectly. His Flickr profile can be found here.

Miran
Miran

Miran is a really nice guy from Slovenia who is also a long time follower of the blog and he received a 135mm f/2.8 Pentacon lens. He has chosen another approach of taking a self-portrait using a tripod and the self-timer and pre-focusing the lens.  To see Miran’s blog, follow this link.

Anyway, it was really nice to get in touch with them and actually with all of you who wrote to me. These portraits just made the whole thing a little bit more personal. It is also interesting to see that each of you used a different approach to make these photos and they are quite different in style and mood as well. But the most important for me is that it you gave a good use of the old gear.

Balcony door portraits

Light quality is extremely important to a photographer, just like snow for an Inuit. We have countless names for the different types of light while any average people would only call them “strong” or “weak”. The amount of light we get is very easy to measure and describe. But the quality is a far more subtle, much harder to formalize concept and therefore much more interesting to me. Modern cameras can handle low light extremely well thus photography is now possible under such difficult circumstances no one could be foreseen just until a few years before. But high sensitivity sensors with great quantum efficiency and extremely sophisticated noise reduction processing cannot create great photographs just by extending the lower bound of minimum illumination necessary to capture an image. Although these new tools certainly aid the photographing process, the quality of light (among other factors) is and always will be key to a good image.

I am currently experimenting with mainly available light, trying to find situations which work for me so I can get the results I like in a somewhat predictable manner. One of my favorite spots lately is the door of our balcony. In my opinion, this location has nearly ideal light conditions for portraits during most of the day. The balcony is relatively deep, and only the front is open (sides are solid walls), then comes the big door followed by a deep room with white walls and furniture.

This setup has a similar effect to a  soft-box. Light comes through in a beautiful evenly distributed, soft way, which then decays rapidly as it penetrates into the room. A subject placed close to the door can be lit very well with a strongly directional but soft light while the background is lost in darkness.

I have taken several portraits at this place using different formats (APS-C, 35mm, 6x6cm), films and digital sensors, and a small, but representative selection can be seen in this post. I think it is interesting to see next to each other similar shoots using similar focal length but with vastly different capturing technology.

The conclusion is that, no matter what your medium is, good light (and composition) could always give respectable results but technology does not save the day if the light quality is poor for the subject. But it is again another subjective property, what is poor light for a photographer for a given purpose, could be magnificent for another. Nevertheless, I think it is crucial to study light as a photographer, amateurs and professionals alike.

Many thanks for the proofreading to Ramon.

Kiev 4 + Ilford HP5

If you followed the Camerajunky Facebook page you may have already read about my planned reunion with my beloved Kiev 4 camera after a long period in which it was hidden in a box.  I really felt that I needed to use it again, and my recent discovery about the beauty of Ilford HP5 film gave me the final push to do so.

I don’t know why, but from time to time, I feel serious urge to go back to the basics and pick up a fully mechanical camera such as the Kiev and leave the sophisticated OM4 on the shelf. In addition, I really do like the character of the little Jupiter 8 lens. Especially the quality of the background blur it produces is really appealing to me. I know that many find it not so pleasing, but hey great things are usually dividing after all. It is not the sharpest nor the fastest lens I have ever touched, but an unmistakable character for sure.  I also learned that the grain structure and tonality of the Ilford HP5 ISO 400 film is also very unique and close to me, so I thought, I should combine the unique lens with the unique film.
I usually use lower sensitivity film so it could be that other medium speed films have similar characters as well. I guess I will need to try more. Until that, I leave you with some random but to me very catchy shots.

Eszti, (Gyöngyös, Hungary), Kiev 4, Jupiter 8, Ilford Hp5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F
Eszti, (Gyöngyös, Hungary), Kiev 4, Jupiter 8, Ilford Hp5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F
Trumpeter, (Graz, Austria 2013), Kiev 4, Jupiter 8, Ilford Hp5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Bring your giant medium format camera to work

A photographer is never really putting down his camera, no matter what crazy thing she or he is doing for a living or filling the days with. Since we are not living in an ideal world, most of us have to face the limitation of time and availability of light in our everyday life.

But limitations are not necessarily bad things! They teach us to utilize our possibilities more creatively by forcing us to see and think in ways we would normally not choose to. This, of course, influences our work as well as ourselves and vice-versa. Eventually this feedback loop can contribute our personal and photographic development similarly to the way the ever-changing environment influences life forms and pushing them towards evolution.

Currently, my job is to sit in an office and convince computers to obey to the needs of their human masters. Making their lives easier by sending them nice, well formed and most importantly correct invoices. As interesting as it sounds, but it is somewhat fulfilling to my geek side which likes to brain wrestler with abstract problems.

But it makes my photographer side starve because the current situation has a very little room for photography. Especially now when the winter is coming. Days are shorter and shorter, so more and more frequently I end up to spend most of the hours filled with natural light in between walls in my natural working environment.

To overcome this obvious contradiction, I decided to make occasionally a “bring your giant medium format camera to work day“.  I started to bug my colleges and taking portraits of them during lunch brakes or when I need to wait for my computer to finish a long-lasting blocking task.

The point is, you don’t need to stop being a photographer, just because the conditions are not ideal for the kind of photography you are normally up to. Try to get out the most of the situation and who knows this might drive you to completely unforeseen paths and discoveries.

Jogi, Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm, Fuji Across 100, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Jogi is a musician besides being a software engineer and in my opinion, they are making pretty cool music.  Their website http://www.theflamingdugongs.at/  is not complete yet, but worth to have a look at.

Barbara, Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm, Fuji Across 100, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F
Janez, Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 120mm, Fuji Across 100, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F
Kyrylo, Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 120mm, Fuji Across 100, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Kyrylo was so pleased with his portrait that he visited me at my desk (2 floors below his place) to shake my hands right after I sent it to him.

Hannes, Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm, Fuji Across 100, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F
Marco, Pentacon Six TL, Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80mm, Ilford HP5, Kodak D76, Canoscan 9900F

Naturally, it is not my top priority to photograph at work, and I always make sure that this does not have any effect on my everyday responsibilities. It took me quite a while (about 2 months) to get these images. Though they are not perfect, I enjoyed taking them they are part of my journey.

Nikon F3

Nikon F3 in leather half case with Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 and HP prism.

Nikon F3
Nikon F3

Introduction

This classic camera was undoubtedly one of the biggest and most dividing celebrity of the 80’s. At least among professional 35mm SLR cameras of course. It  created quite significant waves in the world of professional photography because with it Nikon finally put the vote on automation and electronics as the new lead design principles.

Nikon and me
I am not dedicated to any brands, so there is no particular reason why I haven’t wrote about any Nikons until now. In fact my very first camera was a digital Nikon Coolpix 3500. It was hideous to use and broke horribly, but still it was my very first camera.Not much later I owned for a short time a Nikon F75 which was the first and until now the only camera which I’ve ever sold. It was a great tool, but it had a monstrous hunger for not so cheap CR2 batteries and it was way too modern for me anyway. The little Coolpix is still lying around somewhere in a box with serious electronic injuries. Who knows just like any other (now classic) camera, maybe one day it will get repaired too.

By the time it was very hard to accept  these changes by the majority of professionals who simply did not trust anything which was depending on batteries more than a powering of a light-meter. It is a bit hard to imagine today but at that time it had a perfect sense. But the change was already on the doorstep and it was inevitable. The previous F models were already masterpieces mechanically anyway, there was very little room for possible improvements in the purely mechanical realm.

The F3 was their first electronically controlled single digits F camera and despite of the early resistance by the community, it found the way to tremendous success and changed the face of the camera market once and for all.

In fact what Nikon did with this camera was nothing really revolutionary or unexpected as all the technology was already existed and tested by lower-end models of theirs or by the competitors. They simply selected the best components available and remixed them in a very attractive package.

I could write a lot more about the exciting history of this camera, but there are other more competent people who just did it very well before of me.  So instead of a week attempt of a complete and deep introduction of this camera, I simply try to give an overview filtered through my own experience.

I can faithfully recommend this site for the historical overview and for all possible technical details.

Nikon F3 HP official structural illustration
Nikon F3 HP official structural illustration

How did I get this camera

Nowadays my collector nature is being held a back because of the lack of time and dozens of higher priority projects. This is not necessarily a bad thing, sooner or later I need to settle and start to master the gear I already have. The negative side-effect is that I am running out of (new) old cameras to review.  But fortunately it turned out that  I can try out and write about a camera without actually owning it. I have a good friend who has a grandfather with a really good taste and since he moved to digital he gave his old Nikon gear to his grandchild. At first I just spot a box of T-max on the shelf at the place of Andrea’s and I asked her in which camera she intend to use it. Eventually she showed me a really nice bag full with vintage gear including the F3 with motor drive, many great lenses, matching flash unit and many more gems. Few weeks later (when I have recovered the shock, found my jaw and gathered enough courage) I asked her if I could try out the gear. She said yes, so the post you are reading now couldn’t be written without her kindness.

Data sheet

  • Type TTL auto-exposure 35 mm. Single Lens Reflex Camera.
  • Produced 1980-2001
  • Film type 24mm x 36mm
  • Weight 780g (body without lens, but with HP prism, batteries and film loaded)
  • Dimensions (HP version) 148.5 x mm height, 101.5 mm width, 69 mm depth
  • Lens mount Nikon F-mount
  • Shutter electronically controlled, horizontal-travel titanium focal-plane shutter
  • Shutter speeds 8s-1/2000s, B, Aperture priority,  1/60s can be used mechanically without batteries
  • Sync speed 1/80s
  • Viewfinder various interchangeable finders
  • Exposure meter full-aperture TTL centre-weighted exposure measurement at (80/20)
  • Batteries   Two 1.5V silver-oxide batteries SR44 (Eveready EPX-76) or alkaline manganese batteries LR44
  • Self-timer 10s delay electronic self-timer
  • Hot shoe special accessory shoe on the rewind knob supporting TTL flash units; PC synchro socket.
  • Motor drive optional MD4 motor drive up to 5.5  frames per second with mirror lock-up
  • Mirror lock-up
  • Depth of field preview
  • AE-lock
  • Multiple exposure lever
  • Exposure compensation

First and second impressions

When I first had a closer look, I was not exactly impressed. The camera was bit dusty and showed marks of very extensive use. Nothing serious, but I really had the impression that the camera may had some mechanical issues. Nevertheless I took my time, and cleaned the dust and smudges carefully.  During the process I had to realize two very important things. First of all never give up on an F3, these cameras are very hard to kill, no matter how they look like there probably nothing wrong inside. Second of all it has many buttons and switches which I had no idea what are they good for. I have seen many unusual designs like left handed Exactas and other marvels, but the F3 control layout gave us some rounds with Google and the user manual.

Nikon F3 with MD-4 motor drive, Nikkor 28mm f/3,5 and HP prism.
Nikon F3 with MD-4 motor drive, Nikkor 28mm f/3,5 and HP prism.

I also cleaned the lenses belonging to the F3 and since they were protected with  filters all of them were in an excellent condition. They feel a bit dry to me in terms of lubrication, but otherwise focusing very smoothly and precisely. Maybe they act completely normally, only I am not so familiar with Nikon AIS lenses.

After I finished the cleaning of the gear and finally powered up the camera, the moments I spent with trying out every part of it lead me to the conclusion. You can trust this camera. The more I use it, the more I trust. The sound of the shutter, the feel of the advance lever, the snappiness of the motor drive all ensure this feeling. After all this image what a professional camera should show about itself.

Things I love about the F3

As I said the Internet is loaded with much more established articles about the Nikon F3, therefore the very best I can do is to share my personal opinion about it. Let’s start with the things I most appreciate in this camera.

Look and feel

Nikon F3 in leather half case with Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 and HP prism.
Nikon F3 in leather half case with Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 and HP prism.

The F3 is an important milestone in the history of Nikon, but not only because of the technological aspects. This was the first Nikon which appearance was designed by the Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro.  He introduced the red mark on the grip, which is an unmistakable characteristics of every Nikon SLRs since then. Indeed, this camera looks different from every previous models and can be distinguished with ease from the competitors as well.

Personally, I like the previous F shapes better, but I have to admit that the F3 looks all right and it also handles great at the same time. The small grip contributes to the secure holding, and I find it very clever how it fits together with the motor-drive.

Butter smooth operation (excellent mechanics)

Every part of the camera carries the marks of mechanical excellence.  Even the smallest moving piece is doing its job with minimal resistance and completely free from any inappropriate noise.

There is virtually no difference in the operation of the film advance lever with and without film loaded into the camera. It is really that smooth that you can have a hard time to say that the camera loaded.

The mirror flips up quietly and gently as well, it produces very little camera shake compare to my other SLR cameras.

Viewfinder experience

For me one of the most important aspect in a camera is the viewfinder experience, and this is where the Nikon F3 really shines.

First and foremost this camera features a modular design, which allows you to choose from a huge variety of focusing screens and finders. This particular kit came with a HP prism and with my all times favorite waist level finder.

Nikon F3 in leather half case with Nikkor 50mm f/1,4 and HP prism. Waist level finder next to it.
Nikon F3 in leather half case with Nikkor 50mm f/1,4 and HP prism. Waist level finder next to it.

The HP abbreviation stands for High eye Point which provides a proper picture in the finder from the viewing distance up to 2,5 cm. This is especially beneficial for those who wear glasses, having larger than average nose or don’t want to squeeze their eyeball into the finder window. Although I don’t wear glasses, I still find convenient to use this finder too. The downside is that the image is slightly smaller than the one found in the usual prism. The finder window is round shaped, which looks very nice and professional in my opinion . The prism also features a window-blind to prevent light entering and thus altering metering results when shooting on a tripod.

I mentioned that waist level finders are very close to me, I have got used to the work with them with my Pentacon Six. Due to the lack of any additional optical elements (prism, mirrors), this finder gives the brightest and crispest image possible which indeed looks marvelous when using the F3.

Viewfinder mock

But the best part of this camera is the way it indicates shooting parameters in within the finder.

A small LCD display shows the shutter speed settings, while the actual aperture marking (from the lens itself) is projected into the finder. In other words, you really see your lens marking in the viewfinder. I simply cannot imagine any cooler solution for this problem.

These information windows are built into the body, therefore all compatible finders benefit from them. The same information can be read in the HP prism and in the waist level finder.

Light metering

But how is the light metering done? Traditionally the metering cell/s are located in the prism.  Obviously it cannot be the case with the waist level finder, besides all readings are passed from the body to the finders.

In case of the  of the Nikon F3, the metering cell is located in the body to support the interchangeable viewfinder design. The cell is located at the bottom of the mirror box facing backwards to the direction of the film. There is a small secondary mirror underneath the main mirror in order to transfer the light for metering. The main mirror is semi transparent at the middle thus the secondary mirror can reflect part of the light to the metering cell. The secondary mirror moves synchronously with the main mirror.

This layout has another benefit of being capable to measure the light reflected back from the very surface of the film being exposed. This way real time exposure control is possible which is essential with TTL flash photography.

1/80s before the first frame

Have you ever tried to load a semi automatic camera with the lens cap on? I committed this mistake quite a few times with my Olymous OM 4. Normally, because the lens cap is on, the camera calculates a very long exposure time so you need to wait a lot before you could get to the next frame. This could be really annoying especially when you are in hurry. Of course, if you set your camera to manual mode during loading, this is not an issue at all, but somehow I walk into this trap quite often.

It seems that the engineers of Nikon knew my kind and built in a mechanism which sets the shutter speed to 1/80s until the frame counter reaches the 0 marking. This prevents me to fire a 30s exposure during film loading.

This can be a disadvantage to those who tries to get the maximum amount of frames out of every roll, but personally I think it is a really nice and clever feature.

Small touches everywhere

The Devil is in the details.  If you take a closer look on this camera, you can notice a numerous fine details which aren’t that necessary to operate the camera, but contribute to the overall feeling. They make you feel confident that the camera you are holding is a very special and fine tool.

Some of the little details are not unique to this particular model, but characteristics of the Nikons at this era.  For example I like the screw cap of the battery compartment. It has a small plastic holder, which positions the batteries and it has a clear graphical indication, how the batteries should be placed.

There is a lock on literally everything which can be accidentally moved such as shutter speed dial, film rewind, exposure compensation and mechanical shutter release. There is no way, you accidently change a setting or open the camera.

Ever-ready case is the best I have seen apart from 3rd party manufacturers.  It can be used as a half case, it lets you see the film notes at the back and it is very stylish.

The window blind on the prism, the mechanical shutter release, the way they implemented multiple exposure control are all very fine details.

Things I don’t like so much

Actually it is very hard to find anything  to not to like on this camera, but I have managed to put together a short list.

Weird switches

Nikon F3 weird switches (Can you spot the self-timer? it is actually around the shutter speed dial)

Probably because the F3 is a completely new breed of  industrial design among Nikon cameras, they had to make compromises here and there. Some switches such as self-timer and the on-off switch are a bit small and less intuitive to use. It took me some time to figure out what is the self-timer switch is doing. But the weirdest button of all is the little red rectangle just below the finder. This is used to illuminate the shutter speed information screen in the finder. It is hard to find and even harder to press during composing  a frame. You need to use one of your  fingernails to be able to push it.

Hot shoe

Because of the interchangeable viewfinder design, the hot-shoe could not be placed at the top of the prism, therefore and alternative solution was needed. The Nikon F3 has a very interesting non standard flash shoe combined with the film-rewind lever. This part of the camera gives home to the film speed settings and exposure compensation.  To use flash, you need a special flash or an adapter.

Test shoots and answer to the scanner crisis

I have asked specifically the guys at my favorite camera shop and photo lab to scan my negatives without over-compressing the resulting jpg files. But they managed to give me once again 50% compressed garbage, therefore I officially gave up on them and decided to give another shoot to my old scanner. This time however, I tried out SilverFast (again) instead of the factory software I used and finally I have found the common understanding with this software. It really gave a new life to the old scanner of mine. I love the possibility to reduce noise by multiple scanning. I still think that this is not the final solution for my scanning crisis, but for the time being it is an acceptable compromise.

Click on the photos for full resolution versions so you can really see the quality of the scans! If you feel like, I would be happy to read your opinion in the comments section about the quality of these shoots and of course about the photos themself. 

Barbara
Barbara (Graz, 2013) Nikon F3, Nikkor 50mm f/1,4, Kodal Portra 160 (Expired), Canoscan 9900F

Olympus OM 4 Ti vs Nikon F3

I know that this is not a fair comparison since the OM4 was released a few years later, yet both cameras represents the top of the manual focus models in their respective brands. Both of them shares the formula of manual focus, electronically controlled horizontally travelling shutter with mechanical back-up, aperture priority auto exposure, somewhat similar light metering system with TTL flash control and separate motor drive. It would be better to compare the titanium versions, but at the moment  I have my hands only on the normal F3.

Obviously the OM4 Ti feels more solid despite its lighter weight. It is smaller and you really can feel that this is a weather sealed titanium body. The F3 feels also solid in my hands, but  not the same. I prefer my OM 4 Ti when it comes to build quality. Again the F3 titanium would probably compare differently.

The multi-spot light metering system of the OM 4 is also superior to the F3, although I had no issues so far with the Nikon even when using flash. On paper though the Olympus offers more in this aspect. It has to be said that the OM 4 is a newer camera, therefore this comparison is not entirely fair neither.

Olympus OM 4 Ti vs Nikon F3

The viewfinder experience is better on the Nikon due to the fact that not only the shutter speed, but the aperture values are shown in the finder. However the OM4 warns you right in the in the viewfinder when exposure compensation is active while the Nikon shows nothing. Both cameras can benefit from a wide variety of focusing screens, but of course the Nikon has the possibility to change the whole finder.

In terms of electronics, I feel more confident with the Nikon, somehow it feels as a more bulletproof system to me. The clever solution of fix 1/80s for the first shoots before the 0 frame and the very long battery life all gives me a good feeling.  The Olympus has a very mature system, but I had some troubles with week batteries and the battery life is also less.

At the end both cameras are excellent choices and I think both can do the job equally well. The F3 offers more features such as mirror lock-up, multiple exposure, interchangeable finders,  high eye-point  prism, but the OM 4 is smaller, features a very unique and excellent light metering and flash system and has a rather classical look.

But no camera worth anything without compatible lenses. I think that the OM lineup is strong enough, but Nikon is definitely has a serious advantage here. So if you are about to choose between these 2 cameras or similar models, consider your lens needs first.

I own the OM4 and I will need to give back the F3 soon,  and while I really enjoyed the time with the Nikon, I still appreciate the Olympus look so my camera-bag remains intact.

Conclusion and recommendation

If you would like modern, but  manual focus camera which you can trust with no compromise in features and don’t mind the size, than this is the camera for you. I think the F3 is affordable today and you can use a really impressive set of affordable quality lenses as well. The motor drive is not my thing, but indeed it can make this camera a speed daemon (~5 fps) as long as you can handle the focus. TTL flash photography is also among the features, but keep in mind that you need a special adapter or a compatible unit.

I really like this camera, it is a pleasure to use, it does look stylish and it has the coolest aperture indication in viewfinder ever. So if you like it, grab one in good conditions and you will not need another camera for a long time because this oe will never let you down.

References

Fun

Nikon F3 in Area 88
Nikon F3 in Area 88