Collecting Cameras, Film Photography

What’s the best film camera to start with?

Every time I see a post about the best first film camera, the comments pile on. So many different, strong opinions. So many of them recommend a mechanical, manual SLR like the Pentax K1000 or the Minolta SR-T 101.

I think that’s a terrible place for a newbie to start. There’s so much to learn about exposure to use a camera like that. It’s a barrier that could turn a budding film photographer away.

Instead, buy an auto-everything 35mm SLR from late in the film era, around the turn of the century. My favorites are the Nikon N-series cameras, like the N55, N60, and N65. Get one with a lens already attached, preferably a Nikon Nikkor. A 28-80mm zoom lens is common and still useful. You can buy kits like these for $30 on eBay every day. (Read my post here about how to buy film gear on eBay.)

Nikon N65

There are some risks. Any used camera could have issues. But I choose these N-series cameras because, in my experience, unless one has been abused it is likely to work reliably.

The other reason I recommend these cameras is that when you twist the big dial atop the camera to Auto, you have a giant point-and-shoot camera. You’ll easily get great first results.

Nikon N65

If you try one only to realize that film photography isn’t for you, you’re out very little money. You can probably sell the kit to someone else for what you paid for it!

If you find you like shooting film, keep going with this auto-everything SLR until you feel like you’ve mastered it. Then try a mechanical, manual camera like that K1000 (more info here) or SR-T 101 (more info here).

Here are some photos I made with my Nikon N60 and N65 with my 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6-G AF Nikkor lens, a common one to find with these cameras. I used everyday color films: Fujicolor 200 and Kodak Gold 200, which you can still buy at the drug store. I walked up, twisted the lens barrel to zoom in on the scene, and pressed the button. (My wife shot the last one.) That’s all there is to it.

Red house
Goals
Story Inn
A portrait of the photographer

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Camera Reviews

Here it is, Canon’s EOS 650, the first EOS camera from 1987. They made a whole new lens mount and range of lenses to move their 35mm SLR line into the modern era. Read my updated review here.

Canon EOS 650

Updated review: Canon EOS 650

Aside
Film Photography

Same scene, different cameras and films

Sometimes I shoot the same things more than once with different cameras and films because I know the composition works. Recently I shot a scene with my Argus Argoflex Forty on Kodak Ektar 100, a few days after I shot it with my Olympus OM-1 and 50mm f/1.8 F.Zuiko lens on Kodak ColorPlus. Here are the two photos.

On the Circle
Copper roof redux

It’s remarkable to me how different these two photographs look even though they’re of the same thing.

First I see how the Argoflex Forty’s 75mm lens (for 620 film) is longer than the 50mm lens (for 35mm film) on the OM-1, which creates the effect of the copper-roofed Columbia Club building appearing to be different distances away.

The 1×1 and 3×2 aspect ratios also give different impressions of the scene.

The day I went out with the Argoflex Forty the sun was fully out, while the sun was behind a cloud at the moment I made the photo with the OM-1. This certainly influenced the way these lenses and films rendered the scene’s colors.

But those lenses and films have their own characteristics regardless of the light. I find ColorPlus to yield far warmer earth tones than Ektar under any circumstances.

I have no conclusions to draw. I just find this interesting.

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Blogosphere

Pasting Flickr embed codes into WordPress blocks no longer works

Software engineers all over the world continuously deliver new and changed functionality to WordPress.com. This is great when you like the changes, and not so great when you don’t. Especially when you have to learn all new steps to do something you’d already learned to do and were happy with.

One major change was the new block editor. It was a whole new way of approaching creating content. I found it to be easy to learn and I like it a great deal better than any other editor WordPress has ever offered.

One thing I especially liked about it was how easily I could embed images from Flickr, which is where I host most of my images. In the old editors, embedding a Flickr image was a multi-step process. One of those steps was manually stripping out of the embed code a <script> tag that WordPress tripped up on.

WordPress actually doesn’t allow <script> tags in posts. This is wise, because those tags execute in your browser code that’s stored elsewhere. That code could be malicious. The code Flickr wants to run in your browser is harmless, but there’s no way for WordPress to know that.

In the block editor, simply pasting the Flickr embed code into an empty block stripped the <script> tag and made the image appear. Yay!

But this functionality was recently removed with neither warning nor explanation. Pasting a Flickr embed code into a block now results in a blank block.

But not an empty block. When you switch the block to HTML view, some HTML code appears. WordPress converted the Flickr embed code to the image’s simple URL wrapped in a hyperlink tag, wrapped in a paragraph tag, like this:

<p><a href="URL_of_Flickr_image"></a></p>

This is a malformed hyperlink, in that it specifies the link target (the page to go to, here the URL of the Flickr image) but no text or image to which to attach the hyperlink. The browser correctly renders this as blank.

Thinking I’d found a bug, I opened a case with WordPress.com support. They told me that simply pasting the Flickr embed code should never have worked because of the <script> tag. They didn’t explain why.

I pointed out to them that before this change, blocks flawlessly stripped out <script> tags. I asked if they would restore the old functionality. They said with no explanation that they would not.

They gave me two alternatives. The first is to paste the Flickr image’s URL into an empty block. This does work, but the image is of a fixed size, which is narrower than the block on some screens. I did it below, so you can see. There doesn’t appear to be any way to increase the image size. I almost always want the image to scale to full width, so this alternative won’t work for me.

Pay parking

The other alternative they offered is to paste the Flickr embed code into a block of type Custom HTML. This adds three extra steps I didn’t have to do before:

  1. Convert the automatically created default block to a Custom HTML block.
  2. After pasting the Flickr embed code, manually delete the <script> tags.
  3. Open the block menu and choose Convert to Blocks to show the embedded image rather than its underlying HTML code.

This is not onerous, but it is disappointing because several days ago I did not have to do these steps. A real benefit I gained with the block editor is now lost. These steps give me the same end result I had before, at least.

Pay parking

In my work as a software engineering manager in a company that delivers a software product over the Internet, I’ve personally led engineers to deliver changes that have caused users frustration. There are a lot of valid reasons to do it. But users hate to be surprised by changes that alter their workflows, especially when they don’t know why it had to change.

I’d love it if WordPress.com would revert to the old functionality so I can just copy and paste those Flickr embed codes and move on. But I’d have an easier time accepting this loss of functionality if someone had given me even a flimsy explanation of why.

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Blogosphere

Recommended reading

On Saturday I share links to all the blog posts I liked best since last Saturday.

💻 Photos from photo booth tended to be throwaway items. Katherine Griffiths collects the ones that managed to survive. This week she shared a photo booth photo that perfectly captured the simple friendship of two girls. Read Pals

Birdie
Pentax ME, 80-200mm f/4.5 SMC Pentax-M, Kodak Portra 400, 2019.

💻 “The more we fear, the more vulnerability we feel. The more vulnerable we feel, the more fear we feel. It’s a vicious feedback loop,” says Johanna Rothman. Courage, she says, is taking a step that breaks that loop. Read How Can You Use Your Fear Or Vulnerability To Create Courage

💻 The lead guitarist of the band Queen, Brian May, is an avid stereo photographer. This is a method of creating 3-D imagery using two photos of a subject from slightly different angles. Stephen Dowling got to interview him about it and even made a stereo image of May using May’s stereo gear on Dowling’s own film camera. Read Single Frame: Brian May, in stereo

📷 Tom Sebastiano reviews the Contax S2, a classic metal, mechanical SLR that was built well after the metal, mechanical era had ended: 1992. Read Camera review: The Contax S2, “Simple is Best”

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Film Photography

Kodak Portra 400 at the zoo

Where I work now, I have budget to take my team somewhere fun every few months. This isn’t uncommon in the software industry. It’s supposed to be a time for team bonding. After 30 years I could live without any more outings. But the young people who report to me are still enthusiastic about it. Fortunately, I have a delightful team and we know how to have fun together.

The weather was good, so we went to the zoo. I brought my Pentax ME with my big 80-200mm f/4.5 SMC Pentax-M zoom lens attached. Kodak Portra 400 was inside. This lens was made for trips to the zoo.

The ME isn’t enough body for this long, heavy lens. My fingers had to grip it hard. My larger Pentax KM would have been a better choice from a handling perspective. But it can’t do aperture priority, as my ME can, which would have slowed me down and perhaps made me miss some photos. But also, I still haven’t had the KM repaired after I dropped it on its Operation Thin the Herd outing. The ME is my only working K-mount body right now.

This is only my second experience with Kodak Portra 400 (first here). I like it a lot better this time than last. These colors are terrific. I’m leading with some birds because they’re so colorful, but the Portra beautifully handled the muted, neutral colors that are so prevalent there, too.

Birdie
Budgies
Budgie
Tortoise
Rhino
Bear
Giraffe
Giraffe
Primate
Flamingo(es)
Flamingo(es)

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