Yoo hoo! I upgraded today.

To this:

A Nikon FE SLR with a 50mm f/1.8 lens. Great condition, $150.

OK, so maybe a Nikon FE from, I am guessing, 1981 or 1982, is not an upgrade. But in some ways it is, and that is what I want to briefly talk about.

First, though, what is missing on a film camera like this Nikon:

  • “Each click costs $1”.
  • No instant feedback so I do not know if the picture worked.
  • After pictures, I need to wait a week to see my images.
  • A lack of virtually all technical functions.
  • No autofocus, no matrix metering.
  • No program mode, no shutter priority mode, no scene modes.
  • On-off switch is the wind lever, and for a left-eyed person like me, that is inconvenient
  • Just 36 clicks and you have to mess about changing films!

And some of those are huge drawbacks, the first two in particular; and that is why we shoot digital now.

But now we come to the benefits, and why in many ways this is an upgrade.

  • The camera is small and light. No ten pound brick, and yet it has full SLR functions and a full frame sensor… well, negative.
  • It is incredibly well made, Workmanship, engineering, materials: solid.
  • It has a “split screen” viewfinder with manual focus. That kind of manual focus is so accurate, and is such a pleasure to use, that I totally miss it today.
  • It has an analog meter, not a display consisting of little LEDs. That means fast response and great precision.
  • Its battery lasts for years. Not “a day”. Talk about retrograde steps in technology.
  • It is beautiful.
  • Above all: it is simple. It allows me to adjust ASA to match the film, and to set aperture and shutter speed in one stop increments. Shutter can also be automatic, so that is Aperture priority mode. (I.e. “M” and “A” are the only two modes). Those are the basic controls; that is exposure!
  • In addition, I can set exposure compensation; it has AE lock; a self timer; a mechanical backup of 1/90th second only, Bulb mode, a sliding battery check button, and an aperture preview. And that is it!

With a film camera, you have to get it right, So, just to show I can still do it, I bought a roll of Tri-X and I’ll take some photos in Toronto tomorrow. And then I’ll hunt down someone who can develop and “digitize or print”.

Fun fun fun~!


13 thoughts on “Upgrade

  1. In your first list, you forgot that you can’t change ISO settings between shots; nor can you easily change between shooting colour and B&W.
    But in your second column I’d add that there is minimal post-processing necessary

  2. I take all my film (120 & 35) for developing & scanning to Downtown Camera on Queen St. Toronto. Excellent service & super scans. I always ask that they do not correct anything on my shots – I want them exactly as I made them.

    • Mary, perfect.

      Funny thing. I wrote to downtown 15 minutes ago asking if they can scan, and if they can develop/print with no adjustments.

      I guess you just answered those!


      • Downtown Camera’s developing & scanning prices are excellent. I don’t know if you can mail your film to them. I live in Toronto so it is easy for me to take it in & pickup. Usually you can get c41 film dev. & scanned in 24 hours (and depending when you bring it in, the same day) but B & W is a week.
        I find since going back to film in the last year (hasselblad 501CM & 503CW & Mamiya 7II) I use my digital cameras less & less. There is just something so satisfying about film, the look & colours and the slower pace. I could go on & on. I won’t put you on the spot but if you have time you could see some of what I have done so far on my blog. No comment is necessary ’cause that would make it awkward for you. I took a few of your classes about 5 years ago at Henry’s camera and have followed your blog & work ever since. Obviously I am a big fan.

        • Perfect. Not awkward, I’ll take a look and comment, and thanks, I appreciate the love. And I too am hugely enjoying “back to film”. I fondly recall the days that those were the cameras, and that was that. If you can shoot a film camera properly, you are a photographer. 🙂

  3. I bought the hasselblads & mamiya (there’s a canon eos 1v too) from B & H and Keh Cameras. I buy a lot from them and I am sure you know of them as well. Both are a pleasure to deal with – equipment in better condition than rated on the site though I always stick with the used ratings of 8+,9,9+/excellent or excellent+. It really is too bad the market here is so thin. I prefer to hold the equipment first and unfortunately I had to buy all my film equipment blind.

    • Well, I may buy blind too.

      But now, the main issue is going to be developing. Downtown is, well, downtown… I wonder if there’s an easy way.

      I’ll be shooting some film today, btw. Just to prove I’m still good with film. 🙂

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