Sunday, February 3, 2013

Finding That Dream SLR

[Spoiler: The camera I got is a Nikon F3HP with Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S lens]

Just around 3 months ago I was itching for a film camera system with several requirements. First requirement was the components of the system such as camera bodies, lenses, eye cups, batteries, and other common accessories had to be fairly easy to find. By that time I had already learned the consequences of having a system such as a Minolta (MD mount) system that was valued by few (compared to others), which resulted in fewer sellers with great or better condition components as well as lack of variety of components. Accessibility definitely had more value to me this time around especially because what I was after was a film camera that's been axed from production for 20+ years.

Second requirement was the camera had to have a viewfinder that is large and bright. This was a definite must. In fact, this second requirement was what started the itch for a new camera and this second requirement was the biggest factor out of all of them. It sounds silly I know-heck, to some, it probably sounds out right stupid, but photography is a visual art: we see and observe our subjects and keep our eyes on them down to the very last second before pressing the shutter. Of course there are many other aspects of photography, but seeing is undeniably a good chunk of it. To me, that has value in experiencing photography. Viewfinder of a camera is one of the critical tools that can help you get that shot you need or not, as well as shooting with a camera enjoyable or ruin it altogether. I know, I'm a little crazy for viewfinders.

Third and the last requirement was it had to meet a certain level of build quality and toughness. cameras only degrade as time goes on like most things. Since it was a film camera I was after, it needed to be tough enough to survive a few hits (not drops) and being treated like a camera that's used outdoors. Film cameras don't really age like wine, but they sure can age like milk if they aren't properly taken care of. I knew I needed to find one that wouldn't go sour on me so soon. But keeping in mind, it didn't need to be the toughest out there, it just needed to be tough enough.

Nikon F3HP with Nikon 50mm f1.2 AI-S
So after some thought, I purchased a Nikon F3HP. To start with, Nikon F3HP is compatible with not just lenses from the film era, it also works with Nikon lenses for DSLR's. To top it off, Nikon film (AI, AI-S) lenses and their digital (AF-D) lenses are simply too easy to find. You can easily find them in camera shows and even several camera shops- not to mention they're plastered all over the internet for sale.
Nikon F3HP next to a manual
What makes F3HP truly shine is the "HP" part: the viewfinder. And a magnificent viewfinder at that. Standing for High (Eye)Point the F3HP is equipped with DE-3 viewfinder. This bright viewfinder was exactly what I was after, partially because I had already tried out a friend's F3HP a while back. The finder of the F3HP is also generous enough to let me know not just the shutter speed, but also what f-stop I'm using. A tiny red switch can be found on the side of the finder and once pressed, it will brighten the LED in order to help me see which shutter speed is being used in low-light situations. Although, I've hardly needed to use this feature as LED still very visible even in low-light.
Viewfinder Shutter Lever
The viewfinder is also equipped with a shutter lever. When pressed, a curtain blocks any light from entering the finder, which is very useful for long exposures. Did I mention the curtain is also red and that just happens to be my favorite colour? Awesome! Focusing is also made easy due to the large finder. Last thing worth noting is that the F3 can use different viewfinders. Arranging from a waist-level finder to right-angle finder, it is nice to know there are other options. I'm pretty sure my DE-3 finder will be the one I'll use 99% of the time, however.
Nikon DE-3 High-Eyepoint Finder
Underneath the black paint of Nikon F3HP, there lies brass. The camera is built tough. Not exactly a tank, but this has got to be one of the toughest SLR's I've handled. Downside of this is it makes the camera a bit heavy. Seriously, even using it for an hour will tire you out. Granted, most of the weight comes from the 50mm 1.2 AI-S lens, but F3HP is nowhere near light. Despite that, the weight of this camera is easily overlooked considering everything this camera has to offer.
Technically, F3HP can be used like a TLR
So far, the F3HP has impressed me quite well. Everything I've shot with it, it has been a real joy. Quality and features this camera offers has me convinced that this is the best SLR I've used and the closest SLR to being perfect. I mean, it even has a switch for multiple exposures! Nothing ground breaking, but it is a nice bonus. Then again, one should expect this much from a camera considering F3HP was just before Nikon introduced their auto-focus film SLR's. So Nikon by this point had already made many manual focus SLR cameras and refined it every time. That may very well have resulted in F3HP. Nikon F3HP does have some history to itself. It was designed by the legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro, which is responsible for the red line on the grip of the F3HP. A modified version of the F3HP was even used on the second Indiana Jones movie.
Multiple Exposure - Film + Yashica Electro
Again, shooting with the Nikon F3HP is a real joy. It got me on the first wind, focus, and shutter press. Funny enough, and perhaps silly enough, Nikon F3HP (with 50mm f1.2 AI-S) gave me final little push I needed to make the jump from Canon to Nikon (digital system) as I was on the fence about switching for about a year now.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Been a while since I had something to post. I recently moved to the East end of Toronto and am now fully settled in. A good 30 minute walk from my area will get me to the lake side and since I bought a set of Cokin filters earlier this Summer, I thought I should actually get around to use them.

I arrived about an hour before the sunrise, which gave me more than plenty of time to set up. It was mostly just experiments this time around. Surprisingly, I only ended up taking fewer photos than I thought I would. In the end, I was happy with the shots I got and left it at that.

I had a lot of fun doing this. Taking these shots, I relaxed and unwind. A something that is in much need after dealing with the move. The best part about this morning was having Joyce by my side, taking photos of me taking photos. 

She also took a video of me taking photos this time as well. It was shot on a Panasonic TS3. A small point-and-shoot so please forgive the not-super-cool-sharp quality.

And last but not least, Dutch angle. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Weekend WIth Canon EF 40mm f2.8 STM Pancake Lens

Instead of taking photos of fireworks like I do on every Canada Day weekend, this time I took out my friend's new stubular pancake lens for a spin. Although mounting it on a full frame would have been ideal, I had to slap it on my 1D MK.III.

Before we go on, I should warn you that I will not be talking about how sharp this lens is. In fact, let's get that out of the way first. The 40mm pancake is more than plenty sharp for $200 price range. whether it is sharper than EF 35mm f2, EF 50 f1.# non-L, and sigma 30mm f1.4, is not my priority. There are other lens tests out there for that. I have a certain sharpness tolerance that may differ from others, but this lens gets a passing mark on sharpness.

Alright, now let's go on with other things that matter for a $200 lens.

The 40mm pancake lens comes with a STM (not to be confused with Sexually Transmitted Motor): STepper Motor technology. This makes quiet and fast to focus while retaining it's stubluar size. It is roughly half the size of the Canon 50mm f1.4, but what's more important here is the minimum focusing distance. The pancake lens has the minimum focusing distance of 30cm as opposed to the 50mm's 45cm. This mere 15cm difference lets the 40mm focus at whoever is sitting across from you at an average size dinner table. With the focusing speed and noise level, this little lens is a ninja-class, no doubt. Canon just doesn't have the right sized body for it. Yet.

The new 40mm already has several competition, notably both of the non-L 50mm prime lens as well as others. It is even questionable if Nikon making their somewhat-recent AF-S 40mm f2.8 Micro was a better move than making a pancake lens as well. Nikon has been making updated versions of their "affordable" primes for their non-motored bodies, which I thought was an awesome move. Canon has been updating their L lenses or revamping their existing cheap primes into $900 lenses. The price point of roughly $200 for the new 40mm pancake is certainly something the beginner, intermediate, and weekend photographers alike were searching for within the Canon-mount.

On a APS-C type sensor, this 40mm is just shy of being a 65mm (52mm on APS-H type). Still a better focal length than 50mm becoming an 80mm for the most part. If you're planning to have a 40mm as a standard lens or a dedicated street photography lens, you'll be more than happy with the 40mm. It even has a metal mount as opposed to the plastic everything, which the 50mm f1.8 offers. The extra $90 or so you'll be paying over the 50mm 1.8 is certainly a worth it investment.

The aperture of 2.8 is something that will turn off some users. Sometimes, we just need that extra push in the depth-of-field. Thankfully, i shoot most of my stuff in f2.8-5.6 outside so it didn't affect me as much. If you're spoiled by using f1.2 glass, this just might take getting some used to. And let's face it, with ISO performance sky rocketing per generation, low light situation with f2.8 can't be all that much of a challenge these days.

Now here's the question most people will ask: How is this lens with "bokeh"?

The bokeh looks just fine (for $200).

If I were to have any complaints with this lens is the STM or the focusing motor to be exact. To even manually focus, the lens needs to be powered, meaning the camera needs to be on. The 40mm tends to stick out when it is focused at minimum focusing range, so in order to "retract" lens, you first have to focus at infinity, or do it so manually before turning the camera off. I know its a short lens, but I still wouldn't want a chance to hit anything while the lens is stuck at the minimum focusing. If this 40mm were to be a USM lens, it would've been a full manual lens like most USM lenses are.

Playing around with this 40mm pancake has already won my heart over. My next spare $200 could potentially be spent on a 40mm of my own. And I was ready to bash this thing prior to the weekend test (Seriously, I was going to write "Canon's new 40mm f2.8 STM pancake lens makes a great body cap. The End") The pancake lens isn't perfect. Heck, it doesn't even need to be pancake. I bet most users are willing to have a 40mm f2 instead of 40mm f2.8 pancake. But at a $200 (how many times have I mentioned the price now?) price range, this lens doesn't need to be perfect. With Canon's standards, I'm surprised this lens is as this good for the price.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Film Roll Sticky Notes By Kikkerland

This is a roll of sticky note I just had to get. Sticky note, but like film. One of heck of a novelty item for anyone who still enjoys shooting film. Funny thing is you can use the box as a dispenser for the notes. Each "frame" is 3" by 3.25" leaving a lot of space to write on them.
Thankfully, 80 "frames" are included instead of 36. It may not exactly be a high number of "frames", but it is a fair trade for the novelty. I bought mine at the Midoco Art & Supplies store near Bloor and Bathurst, but I'm sure they exist elsewhere for a better price than Midoco's as many items they carry already are.
And yes, with the price of film forever rising, my shopping for film takes priority over milk.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

First Glance: Canon PowerShot G1 X

I had an opportunity to play around a little with the new Canon PowerShot G1 X earlier this week. Getting quite a bit of hype since its announcement due to increase in popularity of semi-pro compacts and mirrorless alike, I decided to take a quick glance at it.

The camera is noticeably bigger than the (now) old G12, although, when put side to side, it isn't that much bigger, making the G1 X still a fairly portable camera. Even being a bigger camera than the Fuji X10 is easily forgivable due to the huge increase in the sensor size of the G1 X (just 20% smaller than the APS-C type sensor). Being a bigger camera, it allows G1 X to have a 3" Screen (as opposed to the 2.8" of the G12), but what's more important was the quality of the screen has also been improved, providing a more detailed and fine visuals.

The G1 X definitely has a few good points. What really shines with this camera has to be the surprisingly good ISO performance. The following are the ISO-labeled photos for comparison purposes. Please forgive the lack of composition, among many things.

It is also worth noting the G1 X comes with a lens cap. Millions are affected each year with lens cap loss, so this might be an issue to some, however, the lens cap for the G1 X looks reliable and even comes with a lens-keeper-string. With proper installation, one should not have to fear losing this lens cap. Lens cap designs and quality may seem insignificant at first, and it doesn't affect the image quality of the camera in anyway, but sometimes it's the little things that matter more. Canon definitely deserves some points for this one.

Having said that, Not all is perfect with the all-in-one-semi-professional-G1-X. To start the bashing, the rugged (and somewhat matte) finish the G12 had is no more. The G1 X has a cheap exterior finish, which one would expect on a Canon ELPH compact series. It's disappointing to see Canon has continued on their path of reducing the build quality of their Canon PowerShot G## by the generation. An asking price of $800.00 with this hideous level of finish, which also forces it to be a smudge+finger print magnet, just might be too steep for some, but this being a new camera, it just might drop to a more affordable price as time goes on.

An annoying thing one might come across while using the G1 X when one challenges the odd minimum focusing distance. The shortest being 20cm with "macro" mode, and 40cm on normal, this might remind any ex-rangefinder users of this nostalgic feeling, but it sure wont be an welcoming one. Rangefinders typically have 70cm as their minimum focusing distance, so it could be worse, but even the Canon S100 and pretty much all Canon PowerShot cameras at this generation have better minimum focusing distance than this. Of course, a FA-DC58C macro filter adapter can be purchased, but it'll also come with a bad taste in your mouth if you ever need to purchase one. And for some reason, many features including Colour Accent, Colour Swap, (Digital) Fish-eye, Miniature, and other "fun mode" features are nowhere to be found on the G1 X. It's pretty clear Canon intended G1 X users to be "serious" with their photography. I am not going to lose sleep over those features, but I just don't understand why it's not there. Every other Canon PowerShots have them.

It's supposed to read, "Minimum Focusing Distance Sucks".

Moving on to the optical viewfinder I can say not much has changed, or more accurately, nothing's changed. Viewfinder zooms in or out like the lens does but, it is still mediocre quality like the previous G12. I can see myself using the viewfinder most of the time since I am somewhat patriotic in regards to viewfinders, but for some reason, I can't bring myself to ask for a better one. Not sure why, maybe I just accepted this is as good as it's going to be for a while. Besides, even the famous Fuji X10 doesn't exactly offer a better viewfinder.

Canon had all the tools and experience to make G1 X a one ground-breaking-possibly-mirrorless-killing-monster-camera. While it excels in what it is good at, it makes it hard to truly appreciate G1 X's good points over the many drawbacks that it might annoy you with.

Friday, January 20, 2012

X in Product Names

Warning: This was posted simply out of boredom.

After a whole sack of new cameras that were announced through out CES that just passed, I had realized something. X is everywhere. Here is a small list of X's we'll be seeing for while. X lenses by Panasonic, Canon EOS 1DX, Canon Powershot G1 X, Fujifilm FinepiX X PRO-1, Fujifilm FinepiX XS-1

I don't particularly like the idea, or dislike it. I'm just shocked and maybe ashamed that I haven't realized over the years because X has been around for an eXtremely long time. Not just Fujifilm FinepiX X100 and X10 or Nikon's FX and DX lenses or their CoolpiX, even films and film cameras had X's in them. Ilford XP2 and Kodak Tri-X film and both of my Minolta cameras have X's in their names. And that's just a tiny part of the list. There's plenty more out there.

If you're still reading this, I really have no point to make here in this post, though I should never say it, but its true! I'm simply a little freaked out because now whenever I see an X in a product's name, I automatically consider buying it, partially due to the name. It sounds stupid, but it really seems to be marketing at it's best. Even this whole X-shinanigan got me thinking about how PentaX would have done a better job selling their dinky little PentaX Q's, if they had simply named it PentaX X. I'll stop the silly rant here.

But the point is: X sells.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year's Eve Dinner

Just a glimpse of the dinner my girlfriend made on new year's eve.