Tuesday 30 March 2021

Nikon Bodies I Haven't Owned


Nikon FE, Ilford HP5+, lens unrecorded but probably 55/3.5 Micro

The last post was about the Nikon bodies I've owned. Now I'm going to address the ones I haven't owned. I am restricting this post to manual focus bodies for the simple reason that I have no interest in AF bodies that I've not owned with the sole exception of the F6. 

Nikon F - The ur-Nikon. The original and still the most iconic Nikon SLR ever made. I'd love to shoot one, but given that plain prism F's are absolutely insane money and the Photomic heads are both huge and largely inoperative today this would be a large investment for not much beyond an interesting experience. If I get one, this would be a bonus body, ie I'd buy one with a work bonus as a reward.

Nikkormat FS - No meter, otherwise basically the same as the FTn that I've already owned. Kind of unique as it's the only Nikon body out there with no TTL metering capability (vs the F and F2 which can be configured either way).

Nikkormat FT - Averaging metering. Otherwise the same as the FTn which I've already owned.

Nikkormat FT2 - It's an FTn with a hotshoe and I rarely use flash.

Nikkormat FT3 - FT2 with AI coupling, would not mind owning this one at all as it's really a mix of old and new.

Nikkormat EL - Aperture priority AE and battery dependency on what's otherwise an FT2. Not really interesting.

Nikkormat ELW - EL with winder support, don't see myself ever buying one of these either.

Nikkormat EL2 - ELW with AI coupling and a better metering cell. Could be interesting. 

Nikon FG20 - Nikon's lightest 35mm SLR. Somewhere between a FG with no P mode and an EM with manual exposure. Could be fun and I'd totally pick it up if I found the right price or packaged with a lens I wanted.

Nikon F301/N2000 - First Nikon body with a built-in winder, first with AA/AAA batteries, first with DX coding, a lot of firsts for Nikon on this one. Essentially an F501/N2020 without AF, or more correctly the F501 is a F301 with AF stuffed in. I'd grab one if I ever tripped over one cheap or packaged with a lens I wanted.

Nikon FE10 - It's to the FM10 as the FE is to the FM or the FE2 is to the FM2(n). Wee cheap AE body with a UI I like better than the FG/FG20 UI. Not a body I'd hunt down, but would be interesting if I found it for the right price or with a lens I wanted. 

Nikon FM3a - I've written before about this model and how it's the single most predictable failure of Nikon's product team of the last 30 years. It's a very good camera, but there's a good reason the FE2 was produced for 6 years while the FM2/FM2n lasted 21+ years in production, and Nikon's FM2n successor model was nothing more than an improved FE2 with a battery-free mode and that meant that the FM3a was guaranteed to fail. Nobody was going to buy a new FE3m when you couldn't give away FE2's (which you couldn't at the time of release, they were selling for <$150CDN or so when FM2n's were twice that despite being far more common). Nikon missed a chance to improve upon a legend to instead squander the FM name. It's quite sad that the FM10 had more FM DNA in it than the FM3a. The FM3a is 100% FE2 UI aside from the relocated AE lock, and there was no appetite for a new FE. Nikon should have taken the FM2n, added selectable spot metering and maybe TTL flash support and left it at that. Pretty sure Nikon still doesn't understand why this camera failed in the market and that's left them struggling elsewhere (the Df failure is a direct relation to the FM3a failure, same mistakes plus a couple bonus errors). I'd still buy one if I got the right price, especially since FE2's got pricey and the FM3a is a better FE2 than the FE2 is. 

Overall, the FE10 and FM3a are the most interesting to me today as the only FE/FM/FA series bodies I've never owned. I've little interest in Nikkormats, but an original F would be a neat body to own.

Sunday 28 March 2021

Nikon Film Camera Quick Takes

Nikon FE, HP5+, lens unknown but probably 55/3.5 

Here's a series of quick opinions on the various Nikon film bodies I've owned.

Nikkormat FTn - This camera could be used as a hammer and my copy clearly had been at some point based on the condition of the bottom plate. Mediocre viewfinder, solid build, shows clearly where Olympus ripped off the OM series UI from. Kinda fun to use though and unstoppable. The person I sold mine to travelled the world with it for several years with good luck.

Nikon F2a - Probably my favourite Nikon for user experience. Bit of a brick, VERY well built, so smooth. I loved this camera and was an idiot to sell it. Thankfully I have another F2 now and it will be an F2a once I acquire another DP-11 finder for it.

Nikon F3 - A very good camera compromised by a lousy metering display. I really like the original F3 finder, but the HP one is not as nice for non-glasses wearers and I've had both. I've had at least 2 F3's over the years (may have been 3). Needs batteries unlike the two above. Very good camera and probably the best option for somebody wanting a solid and very capable AE body.

Nikon EM - My favourite toy Nikon. I've owned at least 5 over the years and will no doubt buy another one if I start shooting film at all seriously again. Just a fun little bag camera that's cheap & cheerful, especially if paired with a Series E 35/2.5 or 50/1.8. Requires batteries, no Non-AI compatibility

Nikon FM - I quite enjoy these but seem to be cursed. I've owned two and tossed both due to shutter/advance jams. It's a really solid and basic manual mechanical camera. The right size, the right ergonomics and no battery requirements. 

Nikon FM2(n) - I've owned an FM2 (with 1/200 sync) and a couple FM2n's (with 1/250 sync). In my opinion this is the penultimate manual mechanical SLR. It has everything I want in a manual mechanical SLR except spot metering and aside from that, is missing nothing. Solid, reliable, not too large or heavy. Very high on my to-buy list, but everybody else agrees so they're not cheap. Doesn't do non-AI lenses unlike the FM.

Nikon FA - The first 'serious' SLR I ever bought and I've had two over the years. Basically an FE2 on steroids. All the usual benefits of the FE/FM platform, plus a neat little griplet. First Nikon with PASM modes and Matrix metering but also shares the F3's utterly terrible metering display. Requires batteries and no non-AI support.

Nikon FE - The Aperture Priority AE version of the FM. I've only had one of these, which was given to me by my Aunt and it's my primary film body for now. Enjoyable to shoot, but not the standout that the FM's are for me. Just a really solid little body. Batteries required.

Nikon FE2 - To the FM2n what the FE is to the FM. I've had a couple and they didn't last all that long as they're solid but unexceptional. Wouldn't say no to one though as they are quite good cameras, I've just always had 1-2 options I liked better at the time. Batteries required and no non-AI compatibility

Nikon FM10 - The Cosina SLR in Nikon FM form. My other favourite toy Nikon. I've had 2-3 and keep selling them and regretting it afterwards (plus all the other-mount versions I've owned). Like all the Cosina SLR's, it's cheap, plasticky and a great shooting camera. Very high on my re-buy list, probably higher than the FM2n just for price reasons. No non-AI compatibility.

Nikon FG - Given its close relationship to both the EM and the FM10, I expected to like this camera more than I did. It is a solid camera but I never really gelled with it. Recommended for those who want both P mode and a decent meter readout in a traditional SLR format, but I probably won't rebuy unless I find a deal on it. Batteries required and no non-AI compatibility

Nikon F601m (N6000) - I've owned at least 3 of these over the years. A manual focus SLR built on the frame of an AF SLR (the F601/N6006) but actually getting better lens compatibility (it supports G lenses in P &S modes, which the AF version doesn't). These are pretty solid but there's no reason to get one over an F801(s)/N8008(s) today, which is a much more capable camera for similar used pricing. Batteries required (lithium) and no non-AI compatibility.

Nikon F801(s)/N8008 - I've owned many of these over the years. Nikon's first enthusiast AF SLR and also a very competent manual focus SLR. Runs on AA batteries, cheap on the used market and the 's' version gets a spot meter. Also noted for the 1/8000 shutter. Probably will end up with more of these if I dive into film, I have a harder time resisting these than EM's. Batteries required and no non-AI compatibility.

Nikon F90x - The bigger, faster F801s. Everything I said there applies here except it's bigger, supports AF-I/AF-S and G lenses and has an optional grip. Good camera in its day, but you're better off with the smaller F801s or the more capable F100. Batteries required and no non-AI compatibility.

Nikon F100 - The D700 of film cameras. It's almost an F5 and that's both its selling point and its weakness. Very good camera, I've owned two. Lousy plastic vertical grip though, plastic door release, big & heavy. Supports basically every AF lens before the 'E' types, including VR. If you shoot F mount Digital and don't have E lenses, this is one of the two film cameras to look at (the F6 being the other). Batteries required and no non-AI compatibility.

Nikon F80 - The D70 of film cameras. It looks more like an F100 than it actually delivers. Small & light, crap viewfinder, no non-CPU lens compatibility. Runs on Lithium cells although there was a battery grip that took AA's (but had no vertical controls). Can be fun if paired with an f1.8G prime or two. Dirt cheap on the used market. Batteries required and no non-CPU compatibility.

Nikon F70 - F80's predecessor and a complete UI experiment. Really weird UI. Kinda F90-ish ergonomics, very limited lens compatibility although it does have an AI tab unlike its successor. Lithium cells. Avoid unless a collector or it's the only thing you can find. Batteries required and no non-AI compatibility.

Nikon F65 - Basically a decontented F80. Single wheel, no support for non-DX coded film, really the EM of the late film line. Skip for either the slightly nicer and smaller F75 or the F80, either of which aren't more expensive. Batteries required and no non-CPU compatibility.


Saturday 27 March 2021

Some Film Fun

Voigtlander Bessa R, Nikkor-S.C 5cm f1.4 LTM, Tri-X

I've been starting to get the bug again to shoot some film. I quite enjoyed my brief interlude of film shooting last fall and have increasingly got the itch to get back to it. Two days this week have had my daily walk include the FE, and I've shot a roll on each walk. Ektar got shot on Wednesday and today was HP5+. Looking forward to seeing what I've got from them. 

Today I also broke out the chemistry and did some development work, souping 3 rolls of HP5+ in Rodinal 1:50 this morning and I have 3 more prepped to go in as soon as the dishes are dry as I do my development in the kitchen. I'm currently scanning the second of those 3 rolls from this morning's development. That gets me a lot closer to being caught up on development, I have 2 remaining rolls of 35mm and 1 of 120 in terms of B&W backlog. I do also have to get the remainder of my colour & slide backlog out to the lab. I'll be doing that 2 rolls at a time over the next few months. 

With the current situation limiting me to shooting primarily in the city, I do see myself shooting more film and less digital over the coming months. Ontario is seeing another wave of COVID and as my landscape and nature work is focused on the Canadian Shield and Ontario Highlands while I'm based in the GTA, heading out to shoot landscape is really out until things settle down. B&W in the city is a different story though, and I think a lot of my dissatisfaction with shooting in the city is simply that my cityscape & street work has been so tied to B&W film for so long that I'm just not comfortable working any other way. As I continue to shoot through my remaining stocks of HP5+ from a set of bulk 100' rolls I bought a decade ago, I'll see what happens. 

 That does have some implications for gear, mostly that I really need to finally order a DP-11 for my F2 so I can start using it seriously, but also that I should prioritize classic F mount primes over native Z manual focus stuff or other mounts (M, M42 and C/Y). In terms of F mount lenses there's really 3 I'm wanting short term, namely a 20/3.5 AI-S, an 85/1.8 K and a 200/4 Micro. I'd also like to get another 135/2.8 AI-S and a 35/2.8.

Monday 22 March 2021

What About Fuji?

Fuji X-T1, 7Artisans 18mm f6.3 UFO

That's some really funky flare shooting into the sun with this surprising little lens. It works for this image, which would otherwise need a sunstar to be at all interesting.

Now that I've got the Z5 and really settled what will be my primary landscape kit for the foreseeable future, as well as a platform for adapting my old film lenses, what does that mean for my Fuji kit?

Well, I considered 3 options.

1. Sell the X-T2 and XC35, buy a Z50. 
2. Keep shooting the Fuji stuff on the side, but don't buy any more X mount glass
3. Keep shooting the Fuji stuff, continue to invest in primes for X mount and leave the zooms to Z mount.

The first option would have got em settled on a single mount. I'd have kept the X-T1 simply because there's so little value in selling an X-T1 with bad control wheels, and same goes for my 3 manual focus X mount lenses, only the 12/2.8 has any sale value and that's fairly minimal. The downside is the EVF on the Z50 isn't as good as either Fuji, most of the neat manual lenses aren't in Z mount and the Z50 doesn't share batteries with the Z5, leaving me to buy more batteries in yet another form factor. Only the manual lens availability could really be mitigated, as I could buy E mount versions and use my Haoge E to Z adapter. 

The second option really was never happening, regardless of what I planned. No way I'm not going to buy some neat lens for the Fuji's if I had them.

The third is basically going back to where I was last July/August before I sold the D750, except with a body that's neither timed out (the D750 I had was beyond its rated shutter life) nor a large DSLR. I'd continue to shoot with both Fuji's, especially for cityscape & street work as well as some nature work and I'd continue to acquire neat APS-C lenses for them, be it AF lenses like the XF line, or manual focus lenses. 

I've been trying to make a decision on this, and my head prefers options 1 or 2. I took the X-T1 out on a walk today, shooting primarily with the utterly tiny 7Artisans 18mm f6.3 UFO lens, and was reminded about what I could do with that kit that I can't with the Z5, which is wander around with a camera in my hand shooting without any cares, as the X-T1+UFO combo is so ridiculously light while still offering full controls and a pretty darn good EVF.

Needless to say, I'm going with option 3. I won't go whole-hog on expanding my Fuji setup, but the reality is I only ever sold off two zooms and I'd only got them for landscape/nature shooting in the first place. The Z5 will do that better (and I won't have to struggle to get the blues I want). I'll just continue to shoot my Fuji stuff with neat primes, and the Z5 with classic lenses and zooms.


Sunday 21 March 2021

5 Things About the Z5

Nikon Z5, Z 24-50mm f4-6.3, 9 stop ND

Did a nice little hike with the Z5 yesterday at the north end of Rouge River National Urban Park, I shot with 3 lenses, the Laowa 15mm Macro, the Z 24-50 kit lens and a 105/2.5 AI-S. That combo worked out pretty well although I'd rather have had a 70-300 than the 105, there's a couple shots I could have gotten with the zoom that I just couldn't with the 105, particularly a skittish juvenile Chipmunk.

At just over 3 weeks of ownership and just under 1000 shots (there was no photo walking last week due to weather and work), the Z5 continues to do well. But it's not perfect.

So, here's 5 things I dislike about the Z5

1. It's porky. The Z5 is definitely the largest & heaviest mirrorless camera I've owned, and that is noticeable, it's just enough that it bugs me if I walk around with it in my hand with one of my heavier lenses and the FTZ (the 105/2.5 AI-S most notably, as it is compact but heavy)

2. Pointless UI crippling. There's a few areas this annoys me, particularly with regards to things the F mount bodies can do and the Z's cannot. These are: No lens data to EXIF for non-CPU lenses unless using an FTZ. Annoying especially since Auto-ISO behaviour clearly shows the camera is respecting the Non-CPU lens setting. Second is no 2-button format shortcut. That was a great feature on all the higher-end DX and FX DSLR's and I miss it a lot. My X-T2 has a similar feature. The third is no ability to override DX crop with a DX lens mounted. This makes one of my favourite cheap FX combos impossible, namely using the 35DX with FX crop (where it vignettes slightly). All of these are fairly clearly deliberate decisions by Nikon to dictate how users use their cameras, and Nikon really should fix all of these via firmware updates. Note all of these are common across the Z bodies, not Z5 unique items.

3. Limited Control customization. There's really 3 fully-assignable buttons (Fn1, Fn2, Record) and three with limited assignability (AF-On, Joystick press, OK), and in some cases moving a default function only moves its activation, not the control (AF Subject tracking is the big one here, you can move activation off OK, but control is always OK+ Zoom -). Plus the zoom buttons shouldn't even exist (this function should be on a control dial) and the drive mode button, ISO button and exposure comp button should all be Fn's as these are all functions that are duplicates of the i menu options. 

4. Touch oddities. Why is there a touch i button? Why is it right next to the physical one? Why can we change some settings directly via touch, but have to menu-dive for others that are displayed on the screen already. Touch really isn't fully thought out, although it is light-years better than Sony's implementation.

5. The i menu. Great idea, nice UX. Why so limited? It's 2 rows of 6 settings each. Why not have a near-fullscreen selection like Olympus's Super Control Panel?

And now, to balance that, here's 5 things I like about the Z5

1. It's porky. The ergonomics benefit greatly from the size & solid build. It is the nicest mirrorless body to hold & shoot with of all the ones I've owned (just slightly edging out the E-M1.2)

2. Very well sorted UI. The button assignment options are excellent, the controls are all well placed and the menu system is very well laid out and also well translated (no 1 fish/3 fish or invalid operation buttons)

3. The touch implementation is excellent. By far the easiest to interact with of all the ones I've used. Better than Olympus's already good implementation thanks to very straightforward menu interactions.

4. The i menu. This makes accessing second-level settings quite easy even at eye level thanks to the combination of good graphic design and a well located and easy to discern by feel physical button.

5. That EVF. I know it's not the best on the market, but it's by far the best at its price point and Nikon's implementation bats above the specs in terms of experience. It's much more transparent and less obviously an EVF than the same panel in the X-T3/4 or G9.


Sunday 14 March 2021

Two Weeks with the Z5

Nikon Z5, Laowa 15mm f4 Macro

The image above is some fun with the macro capability of the Laowa 15mm f4 Macro. This is a unique lens in terms of close focus capability and I do enjoy abusing that capability at times, like these tiny flowers left over from the fall.

There hasn't been a lot of photography in the last week, but I'm over 800 frames on the Z5. That's less than the E-M1.2 at the same point, but without vacation time and with only one serious photowalk in the period it's pretty good overall.

I'm quite content with the Z5, and now that things have warmed up I'm starting to warm to the Z 24-50 kit lens. It really is quite good optically and my focus jam issue I had initially turned out to be cold-related. Once it gets over 2-3C the lens has no issues. The 0.35m close focus is pretty decent, not up to the m.Zuiko 12-40 Pro for sure, but acceptable for a cheaper kit lens. Focus is quite speedy and very accurate. Handling is more than a little wonky, with a tendency for the zoom to overshoot 24mm and start collapsing because the zoom stop detent is too soft. The main body of the lens is short enough that you can't really use the lens as a handgrip. Oh, and the focus ring/control ring is well located for a control ring, but in a poor location for focus control, especially if you use an L bracket on your body as I do. 

Overall, I'm not going to rave about the 24-50, but there's nothing truly wrong with it considering the requirement to be short. Both issues I have with the lens are around constraints brought by its collapsible nature. 

I got out for a long walk on Friday, using the 24-50 and my old 50-135/3.5 AI-S. Still don't like that AI-S zoom, but the 24-50 did alright and didn't freeze up once in the warmer temperatures. I would like to see Nikon do a compact telephoto zoom to match up with the 24-50 though, maybe a revisit of the classic 75-150? Doesn't need to be fast, just small and reasonably priced. I'd also love to see something like an 18-30 ultra-compact UWA zoom. The 14-30's great, but it costs almost as much as the Z5 and that's a showstopper for many potential Z5 buyers. The 18-35G is much more reasonable in price and an excellent performer, but it's a little big on the FTZ when pairing with small native lenses, so it needs a compact Z mount equivalent.


Friday 5 March 2021

Today is Cleanup Day

Sony A7II, FE 28-70 f3.5-5.6 OSS

I've spent some time over the past couple days doing a major cleanup of my Flickr stream. I was up around 2800 images and trimmed down to 1940 or so images.

Mostly I cleaned out a mix of old 'found item' shots, mediocre street photography and uninteresting cityscape work. I was largely focused on preserving images that had some significant engagement, as well as some of the stronger images that may not have gotten as much notice. 

I think the end result is a much stronger Flickr stream, and one that focuses more on what I shoot today, rather than being 50% 'guy with a camera wandering around finding random crap' and 50% 'photographer shooting interesting subjects'

The one thing I do need to decide is how to approach some of the stronger or more popular images that really don't match up well with my overall body of work. I'm primarily a landscape and nature photographer. I dabble in cityscape. I'm not a street photographer, a portrait photographer or an aviation or automotive photographer and I'm not sure if I want to just cut some of the strong or popular images of those types out of my stream, especially since those genres dominate my earlier posted work. I'd like to have a solid body of work that dates back to 2005 when I joined Flickr, but a lot of that work just doesn't match what I do today. 


Thursday 4 March 2021

One Week with the Z5

Nikon Z 5, Z 24-50mm f4-6.3

One week in with the Z5 and I've taken about 450 frames with it. In context, that's a little less than half what I did with the E-M1.2 in the same period, but without any serious excursions while I had two excursions with the E-M1.2. The weather also hasn't been as conducive to shooting, with several chilly or grey days.

Overall, it's definitely still in new toy mode, or at least feels like it. 

I've sorted out the issue with the Z 24-50, turns out it simply doesn't like the cold and works fine inside or outside as long as it's above zero. That means it will work for me for the summer, but I will need a different walk around zoom for next winter. Maybe just a cheap 24-85VR or the Z 24-70/4.

I'm really digging the handling of the Z5, it's a little on the heavy side compared to the other mirrorless bodies I've owned, but lighter than most of the DSLR's (the D3200's and D40 were still lighter).The viewfinder is great and the functionality matches my needs very well except for the one weirdness about writing Non-CPU Lens data to EXIF only when the FTZ is mounted (hmm, maybe somebody could work up a chip mod that emulates an FTZ when stuck on a mechanical M or other adapter).

Image quality is absolutely top notch. Nikon files have generally been my favourites, with excellent colour  like the Olympus's combined with easy to work with files. The Z5 is no exception here.

The IBIS seems to work very well, almost as effective as the E-M1.2, although I've not tested too much at really low shutter speeds.

I don't miss the top display, I've had so few bodies with that feature over the last 10 years that I just tend to ignore it. I'd much rather use the settings display on the LCD which is easier to read and can display more data. 

Overall, it just makes me want to go out and shoot it, even more so than the E-M1.2 did, and that camera already was a motivator.