Camera Reviews

I’m continuing to look through my most popular camera reviews of last year and refresh each one of them. Once again, I’ve updated a pair of cameras that couldn’t be more different — except they both take 35mm film.

The first is the Nikon 8008, an outstanding auto-everything SLR. It’s a solid performer. Read about it here.

Nikon N8008

The second is a junk-store camera, the Kodak VR35 K40. But don’t underestimate it. Its lens may be a little soft, but it is easy to use and a solid performer otherwise. See the updated review here.

Kodak VR35 K40

Updated reviews: Nikon N8008 and Kodak VR35 K40

Film Photography

Expired Kodak Max 400 in the Nikon F3

Iron fence

Checking for a suspected shutter fault in my Nikon F3 I put two rolls of film through it late last year: one Kodak High-Definition 400 (see some of those photos here) and the other Kodak Max 400, photos from which I’m sharing here. Both rolls expired in 2007. I’m not a fan of expired film’s unpredictable results. So to me, the stuff is best used for a job like this.

Old house

The F3 went along on our day-after-Christmas road trip up the Michigan Road. All of these photographs are from the road, in and near Rochester. As I shared in this post, Rochester has a long row of lovely old houses on the road as you approach downtown from the south.


Even though it was midafternoon, given the time of year the sun rode fairly low in the sky and delivered some delicious light. The film’s colors all shifted a little, which is a hazard of being expired. But the Auto Tone tool in Photoshop fixed that right up in a second.

Catholic Church in Rochester

At full scan size you’ll see considerable grain in all of these photos. But at blog size the grain is managed well enough. I’m pleased that I was able to get a little blurred background at EI 400 with the 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens I was shooting.


On Rochester’s square, apparently Santa comes to visit in this little house. On the day after Christmas it had not yet been removed.

Santa's house

I also aimed the F3 at the abandoned bridge abutment north of Rochester, which I wrote about more extensively here.

Old bridge abutment

This is the Tippecanoe River, placidly flowing past the bridge on which I stood.

Tippecanoe River

That bridge, a simple modern steel stringer, features this plaque commemorating its 1982 completion. I love the typeface they used for the plaque.

New bridge marker

Standing by that plaque I focused on the memorials on the old approach, enjoying the ever-fading afternoon light.

On the old bridge abutment

The F3 performed flawlessly, by the way. My worries about the shutter were unfounded.

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Road Trips

Lit neon at the South Bend Motel

South Bend Motel

On our recent Michigan Road trip, we whizzed right by the South Bend Motel. It was cold, we were tired, and some of the neon was out on this great old sign anyway. Not much new to photograph. So these photos are from earlier road trips. Above, 2009; below, 2007.

South Bend Motel

Fortunately, little has changed (except the non-functioning neon). This little motel has been plugging away here for as long as I can remember. I grew up less than a mile away.

This motel is on the Michigan Road (and Dixie Highway and Old US 31) on South Bend’s south side. It’s always stood alone in this heavily residential neighborhood. Here’s a daylight shot of its sign.

South Bend Motel sign

Online reviews of this place range from “cheap but decent” to “dirty rooms and rude staff.” So if you ever decide to stay, set your expectations accordingly.

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Collecting Cameras

What a study in contrasts these two 35mm cameras are: one a metal, mechanical SLR and the other a plastic, auto-everything compact.

First, the SLR, a Nikkormat EL. This was the end of Nikon’s Nikkormat line. It’s a fine camera and a pleasure to use. See my freshened review here.

Nikon Nikkormat EL

The Pentax IQZoom EZY is a chunky compact with a 38-70mm zoom lens. Cameras like these were all the rage in the 90s, and again today among film shooters. Read my updated review here.

Pentax IQZoom EZY

Updated reviews: Nikon Nikkormat EL and Pentax IQZoom EZY

Film Photography, Personal

From the archives: WMHD-FM Terre Haute, 1986-87

I was 20 and thrilled.

So many children dream of being a fireman or a policeman when they grew up. Not me. I wanted to be the voice on the radio. And look: here I am! Microphone before me, Sennheiser HD40s hanging around my neck, my finger on the turntable’s go button. Let’s do this!

Me on the air at WMHD, 1987

I’ve written many times about my time at WMHD (click here to read every story) but have shown few photographs. I dug through my archives to find some. While you’re looking at what I found, here’s 45 minutes of my show from Dec. 8, 1987, to provide the soundtrack!

WMHD was the student station at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a tough engineering school in Terre Haute, Indiana. Students built this station from the ground up, including its studios.

WMHD studio

Here are our station’s engineers, Steve and Tim, doing some late-night work to keep the equipment in fine tune. It was their custom to take over the station on Saturday nights, playing album sides into the wee hours as they worked.

WMHD engineers working

This was the lobby of our broadcast studio. If you know your rock album covers you’ll recognize our mural as being a reproduction of the 1981 Yes album, Classic Yes.

WMHD lobby

The station’s office was across the hall. I became station manager in 1987; this was my desk.

WMHD office

Here’s the rest of the office. That’s the Program Director’s desk, our cabinet full of public files behind it. I remember the discussion that led to the drawing on the chalkboard: this is the layout for the booth in the production studio we were building.

WMHD office

My buddies tolerated my random photography but I don’t think they understood it. I simply wanted a record of this place so I could remember it better. Mission accomplished; seeing these images puts me right back in that studio, keeping my good memories fully intact. I feel incredibly fortunate that I got to be a part of WMHD, and to fulfill my childhood dream of being on the air.

Times change. Radio started to lose its luster with the millennial generation, and Generation Z abandoned it in favor of streaming. Student interest in WMHD flagged; the station quit broadcasting over the air in 2013. Rose-Hulman sold the license to crosstown Indiana State University, which operates the station now as WZIS-FM from studios on their campus. The former WMHD studios don’t exist anymore.

The desire to broadcast hasn’t died entirely, however. A small group of Rose students operate an Internet music stream that they call WMHD. You can listen here if you’re curious.

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Recommended reading

Happy Saturday, Roadies!

💻 It masquerades as a photography post, but instead it’s deeply personal, and poignant. James Tocchio tells the agony of trying, and failing, to have a child and how he dealt with it. Read How I Improved My Photography in Five Simple Steps

💻 Carl at Milwaukee Notebook tells the story of the Milwaukee Clipper, a giant passenger ship that was built before the Titanic and sailed the Great Lakes for many decades. Especially fun: a story of illicit gambling and how the slot machines were almost successfully shuttled off the ship before anybody could be caught. Read The long season of the Milwaukee Clipper

Clip-on keyrings
Canon EOS Rebel S, 35-80mm f/4-5.6 Canon EF, Fujicolor 200, 2016.

💻 The evidence is clear, posits Scott Galloway: men who are engaged with other people — especially wives and children — live longer, happier lives. Despite our desperado natures, we’re better off involved with others. Read Engaged

📷 W. Eugene Smith’s most famous photo essay was of the human tragedy at Minamata, Japan, where illegal industrial waste dumping fouled the water and disfigured scores of people. A new film is being made with Johnny Depp as Smith. Josh Solomon has a preview. Read Johnny Depp to Play W. Eugene Smith

📷 Dan James loves a bargain. In this post, he lists some great cameras (film and digital) that he picked up for chicken feed. Read Chance Encounters In The Cheap Seats – My Favorite Photography Bargains

📰 My hometown of South Bend has its most visible and dynamic mayor of my lifetime, Pete Buttigieg. Maybe you’ve seen him on TV lately, as he is running for President. I’m hometown proud, but I agree with Aaron Renn, he ain’t got a chance. But he probably knows that and is using this run to be on the national stage. Read Let’s Hear It for South Bend