Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cameras are tools

Everyone has their favorites. Every samurai has his katana. This is mine: a Nikon F3.
Nikon F3, Nikkor 35mm/f2 AiS lens.
In front of HC110 concentrate and "odorless" fixer
Taken with a Kiev 88CM, Ziess 80mm/f2.8, on Fuji FP100C
The F3 was introduced in 1980, the last of the manual focus professional cameras Nikon made. It was so popular, that when the F4 was introduced in 1988 to replace the F3, there were so many complaints, they didn't stop production of the F3. In fact, it wasn't until 2001 that the F3 was phased out. It's a nice piece of machinery. The viewfinder is amazing. Most cameras let you see between 75 and 90 percent of what the picture actually is, but the F3 gives you 100 percent. The viewfinder also gives you your f stop and shutter speed. It's as reliable as a brick, and a joy to use. It's my kind of camera- it gets out of the way and lets me take the picture.

I used to have a nice professional digital body. But it had too many gadgets. The f stop was changed when you twiddled this dial, The shutter speed when you twiddled that one. You pretty much had to use autofocus because the viewfinder lacked a focusing grid. It was all kinds of whizz-bang and nice, but ultimately, I stopped using it.

It was too much work to use. I shot the shoot, came home and sat in front of a computer for hours fiddling with the digital file to make it look like a film shot, which was the look I wanted. I never used the LCD screen on the back of the camera. You either got the shot or you didn't. The moment you were looking for was gone if you didn't so it was pointless to check anyway. You have to have confidence in your ability.

I didn't like the DX sensors because it made it hard to shoot wide angles. So I was looking at an upgrade to a D3X. Ouch. That's a $8,000 body. By the time I factored in a new computer, new storage, new Photoshop, new plugins, new batteries, and memory cards, and all, it came out closer to $10,000. Which made me look at my old F3 again. I can shoot a lot of film for $10,000. And processing takes an hour. All I do is resize and upload. Not much work behind the computer at all.

I'm not taking a side in the old "digital v film" debate. You should always use what works best for you. But that's an explanation of what works best for me. Your milage may vary.

But if you're worried about your milage, get out of the car and on the bike.

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