More cameras in the to-shoot queue

I started the year with a handful of camera acquisitions that I planned to shoot in the next few months. Then a whole bunch more cameras found me.

You already know about my dad’s digital Canon PowerShot A495, which I reviewed yesterday. A longtime colleague gave me all of her father’s cameras after she wrapped up his estate. You’ve already seen a review of his Kodak Instamatic X-15 and his digital Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5. There’s also a cute little Kodak Brownie Starlet for 127 film. This is probably the simplest camera in the Brownie Star line from the late 1950s and early 1960s. I’ve already put a roll of expired Kodak Gold 200 through it and have just sent it out for processing.

Kodak Brownie Starlet

I just bought a roll of expired Kodak Gold 200 in 110 so I can shoot this Ansco Flash 600. This camera is probably from the 1980s, made in Hong Kong by Haking. I’m not a huge fan of 110, but this camera is in like-new condition so I decided to give it a tumble.

Ansco Flash 600

There was also a Nikon EM in the box, with a roll of film still in it. A Tokina 28mm lens is attached. I’ve owned and reviewed one of these before; the photo below is of that camera. It didn’t survive Operation Thin the Herd. But I’ll certainly finish the film in this one and see what turns out.

Nikon EM

My colleague’s dad owned a few other cameras, but they were all in some state of serious disrepair and I let them go. He also owned a very old View-Master with several slide discs, which I’ll figure out how to feature here at some point.

The people behind a used-camera shop in the UK called Film Camera Store contacted me to ask if I’d review a camera they sent me, gratis, if I’d mention them in the review. Sure, why not! Shortly this Olympus OM-10 arrived. I’ve put two rolls through it; a review will appear here soon.

A reader then contacted me to chat about a few things, and at the end he offered to sell me one of his spare Nikon FE bodies for a good price. I bit, and it arrived quickly. I’m very excited about this camera. I’ve been considering owning one of the FE/FM-series cameras for a little while now, and then this one fell into my lap. I already own a well-used Nikon FA, and it’s very good, but this minty FE might well replace it in the collection.

A whole bunch of cameras are piling up in my to-shoot queue.

Finally, another reader has loaned me his Pentax 645. I’ve been interested in shooting one for years, but haven’t been willing to lay out the $500 or more to own one. I’ve shot about 1½ rolls in it so far as I get to know it. So far, so good.

Pentax 645

All of this gear will keep me very busy in 2023!

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33 responses to “More cameras in the to-shoot queue”

  1. Peter Miller Avatar
    Peter Miller

    It is fun to get new cameras to try out! When I started back with film a few years ago, I got a Nikon FE and a Nikon FM, but after trying a Pentax ME Super, I sold them as the Pentax viewfinder was much better, to my eyes, than the Nikon ones. Now I’m on an early 2000s Nikon film SLR kick so I have AF-S lenses that work with a Nikon N65, N80, Z6 with FTZ adapter and a Nikon D750. The D750 is also my film scanner. It took 20 years to figure this all out and I hope I will stay happy with this setup for a while!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The Pentax ME/ME Super viewfinder is very nice indeed. But those cameras don’t feel as well built to me as the Nikon FE/FM line.

  2. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Pentax 645 was a big hit with the wedding crowd, but rarely covered otherwise. Shied away from by other commercial photographers because of no interchangeable backs. I’ll be interested in reading your review. Like the Pentax 6×7, that great Pentax lens “look” in a 120 format.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Loading the 645 is weird because you load the roll film side out. That takes a minute to get used to.

  3. brandib1977 Avatar

    My first camera was a little Kodak 110 when I was about 12. Terrible pictures – I didn’t know what I was doing at first but quickly learned it was hard to frame and the pictures were a little grainy. Still, I’m grateful for that starter camera.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Likewise for the lousy 126 camera I had in the 70s.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        At least we hung in there!

  4. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    I am really enjoying shooting my Nikon FE and Nikon FM cameras. These bodies really seem to check all the boxes for me in terms of size, weight and capability. I will be very interested to see what you think of yours.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I keep wanting to have it cut in line and be next in the queue!

  5. Theron Avatar

    I’d love to own an FM for the mechanical shutter, but for my style of shooting (aperture priority) the FE is a jewel. It’s my number one pick for a still somewhat affordable SLR, and I’ll never part with mine.

    The Pentax 645…….it’s like the 80’s all over again! The very definition of a contraption. So loud that I almost dropped it the first time I tripped the shutter.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m an aperture-priority guy too. It’s why my Pentax ME is so good for me — small, light, and aperture priority.

      I was blown away by the noise the first time I tripped the shutter on the 645! The sound of the film winding was something else.

  6. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Those on here talking about the FM, you know that was the camera that a lot of “35mm professionals” I knew (i.e. those shooting annual report, event, weddings), switched over to from the F2, because they didn’t want to change over to the battery operated shutter of the F3. They also found out that they could trade in an FM every year, for a new one, for less money lost than a CLA! There were a lot of FM’s on the used market with about 7000 rolls through it before it hit the used display case!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      All that angst over the F3’s electronic shutter! And then the F3 turned out to be super reliable.

  7. Jerome Avatar

    The Pentax 645 makes good images. The 75mm, 120mm macro and 150mm f3.5 lenses are very good. Unfortunately, life has prevented me from using the 645 setup as much as I would have liked. Overall, I like the system, but the manual is the worst I have come across, and changing camera settings can be confusing.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve figured out the settings all right. But this isn’t a camera that suits my walking-around style as it’s a beast! I’m trying to figure out the right situations to use it in.

      1. Jerome Avatar

        It is bulky, no doubt. I got mine for landscapes and studio still-life images. We have a lot of waterfalls, old mills, covered bridges, and such that I want to capture. I like the macro lens, but it plus the camera are unwieldy without a tripod. I’ve walked around with the 150mm, but can’t imagine doing that very often.

        1. Andy Umbo Avatar
          Andy Umbo

          BTW, I do remember some weirdness associated with the Pentax 645’s I’ve tried, seems to me it had a weird eyepiece that was hard to get used, your eye had to be very centered behind it. I remember it being difficult to use, not like using a prism on a Hasselblad or anything. Users please respond if you remember…

          I never took a photo for money I didn’t take on a tripod, and if you want decent film quality, it just starts with 120. I think, especially for landscapes, a tripod is a given. Most professional 120 is unlikely to be hand holdable, unless you’re using strobe. If you want to walk around, there’s always the Bronica 645 rangefinder!

  8. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    As a long time Zeiss fan, and a Hasselblad user for 50 years, if 645 is your bag, the bag you need to be in is the Contax 645. Never owned one, but my pro pals that did, the results were stunning! Autofocus as well, but not like using a modern autofocus camera, but not far behind!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m sure they’re great, but they’re a little too rich for my blood!

    2. Kodachromeguy Avatar

      Are those Contax 645s still viable? They contained a lot of sophisticated electronics, as did the lenses. I have not seen one in years.

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        Apparently, there are still people that swear by them, and I still know people using them! Overall tho, have no idea long term. I have heard they are unbuyable on eBay etc., because of the demand…

        1. Kodachromeguy Avatar

          Here is a gorgeous Contax 645 with four lenses, film inserts, and >200 rolls of film for $14,000. Wow.

          Oh oh, now I have GAS.

          1. Andy Umbo Avatar
            Andy Umbo

            Actually only two grand less than my brand new Kia Soul in 2020! That’s a lotta dough!

  9. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    I had the Pentax 645n and the Mamiya 645 Pro. Loved the images but too big and heavy for walk around photography, which is what I do.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I think that’s going to be my conclusion about the 645 as well. But I’m going to give it a serious workout anyway, before I return it to its owner!

  10. Christopher May Avatar
    Christopher May

    Congrats on the FE acquisition. I’ve liked the FA ever since you sent it to me. A Chicagoland friend picked up an FM3a and kind of got me hooked on it. So much so that one ended up headed my way from Japan and I’ve pretty much put down my Nikon mirrorless stuff and have been carrying the FM3a just about everywhere I go. The FE/FM series of bodies really hit a nice confluence point of size, ruggedness, reliability, enjoyability and performance in that series of cameras. The FM3a is the apotheosis of everything good about the line and has really rekindled my interest in 35mm film. Prior to its arrival, if I was shooting film, I wanted it to be medium or large format. These days, I reach for the FM3a if I’m looking for a casual camera to carry around. I predict the FE will find a place among your regular shooters.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh yeah, it was you who got the FA! I’m pleased you enjoy it. I came into another FA after I sent you that one, so I guess I was meant to own an FA.

      I expect I’m going to love the FE. It’s smaller than my F2 but looks every bit as rugged.

  11. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    My parents each had a Brownie Starflash which is basically the same as the Starlet, but with a built in flash on the top rather than the removable one on the side. I got to use one in the late ’70s after they went to a 126 camera. My recollection is that they take reasonably good pictures if you can manage to hold them still. That was probably more of an issue when I was in elementary school. :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My first camera was a Starmite II! These were great first cameras.

  12. gyegreene Avatar

    What’s your approach to shooting cameras that take 127 film? I know the hack for “modding” 120 rolls for 620 — but don’t know what to do for 127.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I buy expired 127, or I mail order custom cut and spooled 127 from B&H. (Or Central Camera in Chicago, when I’m in Chicago.)

      1. gyegreene Avatar

        Mm! Useful; thanks! :)

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          You’re welcome!

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