Not-so-shining armor
Yashica TL Electro X
50mm f/1.7 Auto Yashinon-DX
Foma Fomapan 200

This suit of armor stands watch over a shop in Zionsville that sells jewelry and watches purchased from estates. My wife knows the owners and they’re salt of the earth people.

Every time I look back at the photos I made with the Yashica TL Electro X and that 50/1.7 Yashinon, I’m impressed anew.

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Film Photography

single frame: Not-so-shining armor

A suit of armor, on Fomapan 200.


Who do you let influence you?

During the pandemic, rather than going to church my wife and I have been watching the online services of North Point Church in greater Atlanta. Preacher Andy Stanley is a remarkable teacher and we’ve enjoyed and learned from his sermons. This has hardly been as spiritually valuable as the full in-person church experience, but it’s been far better than nothing.

Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley preaches on topics that teach us how to “make better decisions and live with fewer regrets,” as he says. His sermons tend to be heavy on life application, supported by an occasional Bible verse.

Overall, Andy’s teachings pass my critical-thinking filter. Every now and again he teaches something that doesn’t add up for me, and so I discard it.

The more I’ve listened to Andy’s sermons, the more I understand his overall point of view, and the more it makes sense. The more it makes sense, the more it penetrates into my own thinking, and becomes part of my point of view.

This is true for all of us to some extent, even for the deepest critical thinkers among us. What we consume, we slowly become.

I think back on some of my influences as a young adult. I read all of the C. S. Lewis I could get my hands on. I read several books by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh to learn more about daily peace. I’m still glad for both of those good influences.

One influence that I fell into then that had lasting and unfortunate impact was the Church of Christ. In those days, most congregations in the Church of Christ were ultraconservative, legalistic, and deeply fundamentalist. I’m still cracking through some of the dreck that church implanted, and I’ve been gone from it since 2004.

I also used to let Rush Limbaugh influence me. I’ve always leaned conservative, and when his show was new it deeply appealed to young conservatives like me. But I couldn’t see yet that he was creating an us-them dynamic, making others out of “the Liberals,” effectively demonizing them. I may not agree with key Liberal positions, but that doesn’t make them demons. Rush influenced millions, leading the way toward the deep and destructive divisions our country faces today.

The point is, be careful what you let influence you. Guard your heart. Judge what is good and true and healthy, and leave behind anything that isn’t.

But the other side of this is, we have to let some things influence us. None of us is smart enough to figure everything out for ourselves, and no matter how much experience we have, the world keeps changing and our need to understand it does too. The things we let influence us can, if we choose them well, help us find our way.

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I’m boosted

I got my booster shot of the Moderna vaccine yesterday. There’s so little demand for the booster here that I was able to schedule it at will at the CVS Pharmacy within walking distance of my house. When I got the initial two doses, demand was so high that in order for me to wait only a couple weeks, rather than a couple months, I had to schedule them at a Walmart 15 miles away.

I feel pretty good today. The area around the vaccination site (my upper left arm) is sore, and I’m a little more fatigued than normal. I’m taking it easy today, but if I had to I could put in a full day and be fine.

As I’ve written before, I’ve returned to more or less a normal life, going to events and restaurants and such. I live in a red state with no government mask requirement. Among the places I’ve gone in Indianapolis and Zionsville, most stores strongly recommending masks and a small number require them. Some event venues require proof of vaccination and some don’t; some require masks and some merely recommend them. Bars and restaurants here neither require nor recommend masks.

I wavered briefly on masking, in large part because of poor mask compliance in the places I go. It felt pointless to mask up when hardly anybody else was doing it. But after rethinking it, I’m back to following recommendations and requirements in the places I go.

COVID-19 isn’t done with Indiana yet. Here’s the latest positive cases graph.

Source:, November 27, 2021

New vaccinations have stalled in Indiana. When I last wrote about it in early September, just over 3 million Hoosiers were fully vaccinated. Now it’s 3.4 million fully vaccinated against a state population of 6.7 million.

Source:, November 27, 2021

I’m still working from home most days. I average about one day a week in the office, usually Tuesday. I thought surely by now I would have added more in-office days to my schedule. But on a normal day in the office, I encounter five or six other people in a company of about 150 employees. As a result, I spend my whole day on Zoom no matter where I work from. Might as well skip the commute!


Recommended reading

💻 Doug from Gribblenation visits the end of the National Road in Vandalia, Illinois. Read The National Road – Illinois – Vandalia

Lincoln before the Vandalia Statehouse
Nikon F2AS, 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor, Fujicolor 200, 2014.

💻 We all know Subaru today for its all-wheel-drive cars like the Outback wagon. But the first Subarus were tiny, strange-looking little cars. Tatra87 tells the story and shares photos of a 1968 Subaru 360 he found parked. Read Curbside Classic: 1968 Subaru 360 — The Legend of the Ladybird

📷 You know I love reviews of offbeat cameras. Mark Faulkner looks at the Agat 18K, a stylish Soviet half-frame camera. Read MMZ (Belomo) Agat 18K

📷 I’m on a perpetual quest for the perfect 35mm point-and-shoot camera. Jerome has found his: the Minolta Freedom Zoom 160. Read VMLP 17: Minolta Freedom Zoom 160—A Tiny, Capable P&S

My photo essay book, Vinyl Village, is available!
Click here to learn more and get a copy!

Camera Reviews

Nikon N70

When you talk to other film-camera collectors about the Nikon N70, discussion quickly focuses on its infamous “fan” user interface. Most people don’t like it. But they miss its point. This advanced-amateur/semi-pro camera includes a pop-up flash that offers variable flash fill, flash bracketing, and red-eye reduction. Nikon called it a “built-in Speedlight,” referring to their family of versatile external flash units. Nikon designed the “fan” to ease access to all of the flash’s modes. Trouble is, then Nikon overloaded all of the camera’s functions onto it.

Nikon N70

More about the “fan” in a minute. First, let’s talk specs. The N70 offers the same autofocus and metering as in the more advanced (and contemporary) N90s: wide and spot crossfield autofocus; and matrix, center-weighted, and spot metering. Matrix metering is linked to focusing. Its electromagnetically controlled vertical focal-plane shutter operates from 1/4000 to 30 sec. It reads the DX code on the film canister to set ISO from 25 to 5000. You can also manually set ISO as low as 6 and as high as 6400. It features programmed, aperture-priority, and shutter-priority autoexposure. There’s even a camera shake warning in the viewfinder, and continuous film advance at either 2 or 3.7 fps.

Nikon N70

It also features eight exposure modes, which the literature called “Vari-Programs” — portrait, hyperfocal, landscape, close-up, sport, silhouette, night scene, and motion effect. These are all things a skilled photographer can achieve without special modes, but the N70 was marketed to the amateur.

Nikon N70

The N70 lets you set and save for later “quick recall” (or QR) three different combinations of film advance mode, focus area, focus mode, metering system, exposure mode, flash sync mode, and exposure compensation. To do this, select all of those settings as you want them, then press the IN button. Then rotate the dial on the back of the camera to select 1, 2, or 3 in the yellow QR window on “the fan.” To select a QR mode, press the OUT button and rotate the dial to select 1, 2, or 3 in the QR window.

Two CR123 batteries power everything. The camera won’t operate without them. List price was $842 in 1994 when the N70 was new.

The N70 was optimized for the then-new D-series AF Nikkor lenses. Earlier AF Nikkors and non-AF Nikkors generally work on the camera, but without some metering modes.

To load film, open the back, insert the cartridge, pull the film across until the leader is in the takeup area, close the door, turn the N70 on, and press the shutter button.

All right, let’s talk about that dreaded “fan” UI. It’s different for sure, but it’s not hard to use.

  • First, select the function to adjust. Press the Function button and rotate the dial on the back of the camera. When the arrow points to the function you want to adjust, release the Function button.
  • Then set the value for that function. Press the Set button and rotate the dial to cycle through that function’s options. When you find the option you want, release the Set button.

The challenge with “the fan” is that every function is at the same level, even ones you use all the time. For example, I like to switch between programmed and aperture-priority modes. A separate PASM dial would place this control out front where it’s easy to access. All of the options would be clear by inspection, too. On the N70, I have to do the Function/Set dance to switch modes. I also can’t see all of the modes unless I cycle through them while holding down Set.

But this doesn’t make the N70’s interface unusable. It’s just not optimal, and it takes a little getting used to. But it’s consistent and uncomplicated, and therefore learnable. People who hate it protest too much, I think.

By the way, if you like auto-everything SLRs, also check out my reviews of the Nikon N50 (here), N60 (here), N65 (here), and N90s (here). Also see my reviews of these Canons: the EOS 630 (here), the EOS 650 (here), and the EOS A2e (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

In Program mode, the N70 is a perfectly good point-and-shoot SLR. That’s almost exclusively how I used it. I mounted my 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6D AF Nikkor lens and loaded some Kodak Max 400. This is an old auto service station in Thorntown, Indiana.

Getting lubricated

I imagine most people who bought an N70 back in the day wound up using it at factory settings. I sure did. Here’s an alleyway in Lebanon, Indiana.

One Way Alley

The N70 handled well. It’s almost as large and as heavy as my Nikon N90s, however, and I like that camera a whole lot more.

Old house in Lebanon

I photograph the entrance to the former Boone County Jail a lot, but always in black and white. It might surprise you to find that the door is turquoise.

Boone Co. Jail

I kept going with a roll of Kodak T-Max 100 I found forgotten in the freezer. I spent a partly sunny Saturday afternoon in Bloomington after having lunch with my children, all of whom live in or near that college town. Ohio State’s football team was in town to play the Indiana University team, and Kirkwood Avenue was full of fans. Many young women were walking around in these red-and-white striped pants.

Striped pants on Kirkwood

The N70 is hardly an inconspicuous camera, but nobody seemed to care that this middle-aged man was out photographing people.

Cafe Pizzaria

It probably helped that I wasn’t the only middle-aged man, as the group at the table below shows.

Nick's English Hut

The N70 performed well on this mostly cloudy day. If some of my favorite functions weren’t buried in “the fan” I might have done more with the N70 than leave it in P.

The Von Lee

When people ask me how to break into film photography, I tell them to start with an auto-everything SLR from the 1990s or early 2000s. You can shoot in P mode just to get a feel for film, and when you’re comfortable, try more advanced settings. The trouble with the Nikon N70 is that it’s hard to discover those advanced settings, especially if you don’t know what you want to try.

Puzzles in the window

To see more photos from this camera, check out my Nikon N70 gallery.

If you’re interested in one of these late film-era SLRs, the Nikon N70 isn’t a bad choice. But you will probably be happier with one that has a proper PASM mode dial rather than this multi-step function selector interface.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Ivan's Marathon

Ivan’s Marathon
Nikon N70
28-80mm f/3.5-5.6D AF Nikkor
Kodak Max 400

Tomorrow I’ll share my review of the Nikon N70, a 1994 35mm SLR. It’s got a crazy user interface that most people hate.

I put two rolls of film through this camera to test it, and one of them was good old Kodak Max 400. I took it up to Thorntown with a few other cameras for an afternoon of photography. Ivan’s Marathon is a favorite subject that I’ve featured on this blog many times. I always shoot it pretty much straight on like this.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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Film Photography

single frame: Ivan’s Marathon

An old service station, on Kodak color film.