Thursday 7 August 2014

The Holy Grail

Nikon FM2, Nikkor-P.C 105/2.5, Ilford Delta 100

I've been shooting digital now for a little less than 9 years and film seriously for 23 years. I've also gone through an awful lot of kit since digital came on the scene. And there's a simple reason for that.

A long while ago I discovered that my tastes in film cameras was simple. I prefer a simple, well built manual SLR with a bright finder and a solid set of lenses. The Nikon FM2(n) is pretty much the penultimate example of what I want in a camera. Take an FM2n, add a couple wides (17-20mm + 28-35mm), a normal, a couple tele's (85-90mm, 135-150mm) and I'm set. In a pinch I can do much the same set with a Maxxum 7, but that's about the only AF SLR that really works for me (Maybe an Elan 7N if my poor luck with Canon was to change, the F100 is close but too large & heavy).

The problem then becomes how do I match my film kit with digital. Nobody makes a digital FM2n, although the X-T1 comes closest. Nobody makes a digital Maxxum 7, although the K-3 comes closest. Finally I'd really prefer to use the same set of lenses for film and digital, so I only need to stick the bodies I want in my bag.

Sony would be the easiest, pair a Maxxum 7 with an A99 or A-7. And I tried. But the A mount lenses I want aren't there. The problem is at the wide end and normal. The only good , 28, 35 & 50's are huge & expensive (Sigma 35/1.4, 50/1.4 Art, ZA 50/1.4) or rare as hens teeth (Minolta 28/2, 35/2). I don't do large lenses and don't have time or inclination to pay too much money for those rare Minolta gems.

With Nikon it would be easy in a sense. Pair the glass I want with a D600 or Df and an FM2n (or even the FM I currently shoot). The problem becomes the D600's poor viewfinder for manual focus, and the Df's is quite similar. Plus both options are bigger than they need to be, by a lot, and the Df is way too much money for what it is. I could see the Df as a maybe with a 3rd party focusing screen and a price drop (it's already started to come down to sanity but even today it's around $700 more than a D610).

Pentax offers the K-3, but then I'd have to deal with an APS-C/FF split in the system as well as the fact I just don't get along with any Pentax film body except the LX and even the LX isn't as much too my taste as an FM2n. Oh, and again finding interesting glass gets difficult, although much better than A mount. If Pentax chose to do an LX-D I'd have to strongly consider this option, but I consider a Pentax FF body to be unlikely, Pentax only makes a handful of FF or FF-capable lenses today.

Fuji offers the X-T1. This is the closest digital to a FM2n in terms of controls and handling. You have the APS-C/FF split but that can be mostly solved with a SpeedBooster, allowing my F mount lenses to work at their designed FoV's on X mount, even better, I can also use a regular adapter and net the reach advantages of APS-C if needed. This would of course allow my film camera to be an FM body. Main downside is the attraction of Fuji's lovely lens lineup, which is a pretty nice downside.

Micro-4/3rds is out if I'm going to be shooting film as well. I do like the system but it doesn't balance well with a film system.

Sony E mount on the other hand becomes a strong option. The A7 bodies can play well with F mount via adapters, just like the Fuji's and/or a Speedbooster could be used with the APS-C bodies. I don't like the handling or native lenses as much as the Fuji's, but that could be a net benefit, since it reduces the temptation to buy native glass I can't use on film. The main downside here is the body handling (not as nice as Fuji, although adequate). Main benefit is the high-resolution full frame A7r and A7 bodies.

This becomes an interesting question, I won't be keeping the X-E1 as a primary body long-term. I simply don't gel well enough with the body. On the other hand I do love the lenses. The kicker is that an X-T1+Speedbooster costs pretty much exactly the same as an A7, and either option works well enough for me. With the Fuji I'd be tempted by native glass as it's wonderful. With the Sony the temptation is adapting other mounts, starting with M mount as I have one LTM lens with an M adapter, my beloved Nikkor-S.C 5cm f1.4. Sure I could adapt other mounts with X mount as well, but unlike E mount for which I own a selection of adapters, I'd need to buy adapters for all X mount options and I only really see that happening for F and maybe M mounts.

So where will I be next year? Dunno, but it won't be here and it will involve a modicum of shooting.

No comments:

Post a Comment