Camera Reviews

Pentax K10D

If the Pentax K10D isn’t a dinosaur among DSLRs yet, it will be soon: it was introduced in 2006. At 10.2 megapixels, its image resolution doesn’t compare to modern cameras, but was good for its day and is plenty even now. It’s a competent performer in all but low light. Critically, you can buy them used for as little as $100. I bought one because it promised to take all of the manual-focus K-mount lenses I already own — and because other owners report that its CCD sensor returns film-like color.

Pentax K10D

The K10D was aimed at the “serious amateur” market, offering features entry-level DSLRs didn’t. It is sealed against dust and weather. It automatically removes dust from the sensor on startup. It also includes a shake reduction system.

Pentax K10D

It offers the usual Program, Aperture Priority, and Shutter Priority modes. It also offers Sensitivity Priority (Sv), where you dial in the ISO and the camera chooses aperture and shutter speed; and Shutter/Aperture Priority (TAv), where you set aperture and shutter speed and the camera chooses the ISO. In these modes you adjust shutter speed with the dial on the camera front below the shutter button, and the aperture with the dial on the camera back below the LCD screen.

Pentax K10D

The K10D uses an 11-point autofocus system, with 9 points clustered around the center of the frame. It offers matrix, center-weighted, and spot metering. A menu setting lets you choose the ISO range the camera will use in auto ISO mode. I set mine to 100-400 ISO, because ISOs higher than that lead to progressively noisier images on the K10D. Its ISO range is 100 to 1600.

By the way, I’ve reviewed a handful of other digital cameras: the Kodak EasyShare Z730 (here), the Kodak EasyShare C613 (here), the Canon PowerShot S80 (here), the Canon PowerShot S95 (here), the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 (here), and the Sony FD Mavica MDC-FD87 (here). Have a look!

I bought the K10D to see how vintage Pentax glass performed against a digital sensor. I started with my 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M. Because the K10D’s APS-C sensor is smaller than a frame of 35mm film, a 50mm lens behaves more like an 85mm lens would on 35mm film. I liked doing close work with this lens.

Daisies

I also bought an adapter to let me mount my screw-mount Takumar lenses. It worked, and here’s one photo to prove it. I made this through my 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens.

Ford

I mounted my 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M lens for a trip to Chicago. This lens is a little too wide for me on my 35mm SLRs, but it was just right on the K10D.

Ross Trump Self-Park (with Man)

This photo from the 28/2.8 shows the brilliant color the K10D’s CCD sensor can deliver. It reminds me of shooting on color slide film.

Colorful tables and chairs

Shooting a manual lens on the K10D isn’t as simple as mount and go. You first have to go into the camera’s menus to enable the Using Aperture Ring setting, which lets the camera recognize the aperture you select on the lens. You also need to set the mode dial to M, for manual exposure. And then when you’ve framed and focused a scene, you have to press the green-dot button (next to the shutter button) to stop the lens down and meter.

It works very well. But on my trip to Chicago I soon wished for easier shooting. I started looking for a good autofocus lens for my K10D. I first found a 28-80mm f/3.5-4.7 SMC Pentax-FA lens for cheap.

Country Marathon

The lens was best with distant subjects. It struggled to find focus closer than about five feet. Also, when I shot subjects with a lot of depth in anything other than great light, things up close were out of focus.

Indiana State Road 45

The narrow end of this 28-80mm lens was mighty useful on road trips, however, where I sometimes want to zoom in on something distant. Thanks to the APS-C crop factor, 80mm is like 120mm on 35mm film.

Martinsville

Next I tried a 35mm f/2 SMC PENTAX-FA AL lens, thinking a prime would perform better. This lens cost way more than I’m used to paying for my gear. Unfortunately, with this lens mounted the K10D frequently couldn’t find enough light to fire the shutter, and the autofocus often struggled to guess what I meant the subject to be. Even when it got the subject right, it sure hunted a lot trying to focus on it. When it hit, it hit big, however, as this photo attests. Still, I sold this lens pretty quickly, for what I paid for it.

Jimmy

I feared that I would soon let the K10D find its next owner. Then I read somewhere that the lens that came with the K10D in its kit, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL, worked well with this body and performed beautifully. So I bought one. Verdict: oh heck yeah.

Cary Quad *EXPLORED*

How wonderfully this light, plastic-bodied kit lens performs. It focuses quickly and nearly silently. It’s super sharp. It has a tiny bit of barrel distortion at the wide end and a tiny bit of pincushion distortion at the narrow end, both easily corrected in Photoshop. Except for that slight flaw, this lens makes the K10D almost a pleasure to shoot.

Damion

Since getting the 18-55mm lens I’ve taken the K10D on more road trips. This is a fairly heavy camera — my wife’s Nikon D3100 feels feather light in comparison. By the end of a long day on the road I definitely feel the K10D slung over my shoulder. This is why the K10D is almost a pleasure to shoot.

Eastbound on IL 64

I’m not thrilled with the JPEGs the K10D generates — for a CCD sensor, colors are surprisingly muted. Fortunately, shooting in RAW and applying a couple quick tweaks in Photoshop’s RAW editor makes the colors pop.

Talk

Purple and yellow are, to me, the big tests for color fidelity on a digital sensor. Purples too often come out as blue and yellows too often wash out. The K10D handles both colors very well.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

Typical of DSLRs, the K10D’s extra long battery life far outclasses my point-and-shoot Canon S95. For a full-day road trip I must bring my two extra batteries for the S95, while a full charge on the K10D’s battery is more than enough.

The George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

Because of the K10D’s CCD sensor, you quickly reach the camera’s limits in low light. Better low-light performance was one factor that drove the industry to CMOS sensors. But so far, CMOS sensors can’t deliver the same bold color as CCD sensors.

Sunset off the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

I don’t often use the K10D to photograph family. My Canon S95 is so much lighter and easier to handle for that kind of work. But whenever I do use the K10D with family, the images I get back richly reward me.

Lain

To see more from this camera, check out my Pentax K10D gallery.

I’ve written mostly about the lenses I’ve tried and the images I’ve gotten. So let me wrap up by offering my take on the K10D under use. Its viewfinder is big and bright for a DSLR — you’ll find bigger and brighter viewfinders on plenty of 35mm SLRs but seldom on other DSLRs. All of the controls are just where you’d expect them to be, the body feels good in the hand, and the grip is perfect. It all adds up to easy, sure handling.

Despite its weight and the low-light limits of its sensor, the Pentax K10D is a winner.

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Camera Reviews

Olympus OM-4T

Early in my career I wrote instruction manuals for software. Users would frequently call tech support to ask questions that could answer for themselves would they only Read The F$#@ing Manual, or RTFM. Despite this, I almost always put film into a new-to-me old camera without RTFM. I get away with it most of the time. I did not when I shot this Olympus OM-4T.

Olympus OM-4T

The OM-4T, known as the OM-4Ti in some markets, was the last of the professional-grade cameras in Olympus’s wonderful OM series. Olympus introduced it in 1986 and manufactured it through 2002, making it among the last manual-focus 35mm SLRs produced. It’s a terrific camera — after you RTFM to learn how to use it.

Olympus OM-4T

It’s solidly made with titanium top and bottom plates, yet it manages to be light and easy to carry. Like all OM-series cameras, it’s small. It’s well featured, beginning with an electronically controlled cloth focal plane shutter with a top speed of 1/2000 sec. and a slowest speed of 1 sec. in manual mode and up to 2 minutes in aperture-priority mode. It meters through the lens in center-weighted average and three spot modes. The viewfinder includes dioptric correction for those of us with aging eyes. An innovative new electronic flash control system allowed flash sync from 1/60 to 1/2000 sec.

Olympus OM-4T

The OM-4T takes films of ISO 6 to 3200. Here’s where it’s important to RTFM. Like many SLRs, the ISO setting is around the rewind knob. It only looks like the ISO selector on so many other SLRs — it doesn’t work like them. You lift the collar on the outer knob and twist to select ISO, but unlike every other SLR I’ve ever used the exposure compensation setting moves too. After you select ISO — and this is the part where I wish I’d RTFM — you must then lower the collar and twist the exposure compensation setting to where you want it. So nonstandard. I didn’t notice that the exposure compensation was at -2 and proceeded to underexpose my film by two stops Then I loaded some ISO 200 color film and left the ISO set to 100 as I like to overexpose this film by a stop. But because the exposure compensation was still at -2, I underexposed it by one stop. I was ten frames into my third roll of film when I downloaded and read the manual and realized my error. Argh! Thank heavens for the good latitude of the films I shot.

To shoot, move the lever atop the camera to Auto for aperture-priority mode or Manual for manual exposure mode. An LCD display at the bottom of the viewfinder shows exposure information. In manual mode, you’ll see > | < and a row of dashes, along with your shutter speed. It works like a match-needle diaplay: for proper exposure, adjust shutter speed and aperture until the dashes line up with the |. In aperture-priority mode the LCD shows the range of shutter speeds and a row of dashes. Select aperture and press the shutter button down halfway to meter. The row of dashes moves to the shutter speed the OM-4T selects. If the shutter speed would need to be faster than 1/2000 sec, the display shows OVER and the camera beeps.

The star of the OM-4T show is its multi-spot exposure option. I’m not going to get into its full operation here, in no small part because this is a feature I’d hardly ever use. In short: You activate it with the SPOT button next to the shutter button. You can meter up to eight spots and the camera averages them. You can also spot meter for the highlights or for the shadows; the OM-4T then applies exposure compensation to bring out detail.

Two SR44/357 button cells power everything. Glory be, an old camera that takes batteries you can buy at any drug store! Without a battery, you can make a photo but only with a 1/60 sec. shutter.

If you like small 35mm SLRs, also check out my review of the original Olympus OM-1 here, of the OM-2n here, of the Nikon EM here, and of the Pentax ME here. If you’re an Olympus fan, see my reviews of the XA here, the XA2 here, the Stylus here, the Stylus Epic Zoom 80 here, and the mju Zoom 140 here. Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

The first roll I shot in the OM-4T was my last roll of original Agfa APX 100, expired since November of 1998 but stored frozen until my film freezer died last summer. Not only did I shoot this two stops under, but I may have underdeveloped the film. I used Rodinal 1+50, which the Massive Dev Chart said needed 13 minutes at 20° C. That’s what I did, but later I learned that Agfa recommended 17 minutes for this developer and temperature. Argh! But my scanner pulled good things out of a handful of frames.

Masked knight

I made these images as Indiana was reopening from shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working from home during these times has let me ride my bike more, and I made most of these photos from the bike with the OM-4T slung over my shoulder and across my torso. The body is so light and small it was an easy companion on the bike.

Coneflowers

The viewfinder is big and bright enough for me, even though some other reviewers compare it unfavorably to the OM-1 and OM-2 viewfinders. I found having to look down at the LCD panel to be less comfortable than the needle display on the left side of the OM-2n viewfinder. Also, the LCD was a little laggy. None of this is enough for me to pan the camera. I just liked the OM-2n’s needle better.

Octopi

The camera has no on-off switch, by the way. Pressing the shutter button halfway activates the camera; the LCD wakes up and gives a reading. The camera turns itself off after a while.

One Nine Five

My OM-4T came with a standard microprism/split-image focusing screen. As a system camera, you can swap in any number of other focusing screens if you have them. I prefer split image focusing so I was good go to.

Queen Anne's lace

I live in a suburban vinyl village, but within five minutes on my bike I can be among the farm fields. This old farmhouse probably dates to as early as 1840.

Old farmhouse

I next shot two rolls of Fujicolor 200. I intended to shoot them at EI 100 but because I’d buggered up the exposure compensation setting I actually shot the first roll and ten frames of the second roll at EI 400. It’s a testament to this consumer-grade film that these images all turned out fine. Fulltone Photo did the developing and scanning.

Holliday Road

I made most of these images on a beautiful morning I took off from work. I got on my bike and rode around on country roads four hours. I’ll write a separate post about the red bridge — it’s restored after being mangled by a too-large tractor.

Holliday Road Bridge

Even though I’m a city boy through and through, I deeply enjoy riding out in the country. It’s peaceful, there’s almost no traffic to contend with, and you get to see lots of great old farmhouses.

Farmhouse

I left the 40mm f/2 lens on for this ride. It focuses from 10 inches, making it almost a macro lens.

Chicory

After I RTFMed and set ISO properly on this OM-4T, I mounted a 50mm f/1.8 Zuiko Auto-S lens and shot the rest of the roll on various bike rides over the next week or so. I can’t imagine riding with many of my other 35mm SLRs as they are so much larger and heavier.

Lane to the old house

Except for that laggy viewfinder LCD, the OM-4T handled beautifully. The controls all felt well-made and smooth under use.

NO

Rewinding film on the OM-4T is a little different from on the OM-1 and OM-2. Press in the R button atop the camera next to the shutter button. Then pull up the rewind crank and rewind away.

Coneflowers

See more from this camera in my Olympus OM-4T gallery.

I had a fine time with the Olympus OM-4T. Because I never fully took to the LCD display, it never disappeared in my hands like the OM-2n did. But this camera passes my litmus test: if it were the only one I could own, I’d shrug and get on with making beautiful images with it for the rest of my life.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Camera Reviews

Pentax IQZoom 60

When I heard that the Pentax IQZoom 60 has both a macro mode and an LED display that shows the exact focal length to which you are zoomed, I bought one as soon as I could find one. Those features would be so useful on a point-and-shoot 35mm camera! But they turned out not to be on this camera, not really. Worse, this camera was no fun to use.

Pentax IQZoom 60

The IQZoom 60 has middling specs, starting with a 38-60mm f/4.5-6.7 zoom lens of six elements in five groups. It uses an active infrared autofocus system; its autoexposure system offers no manual override. Its electromagnetic shutter operates from 1/30 to 1/250 second. A zoom range that narrow and a shutter that slow are probably fine for family snapshots and vacation photos.

Pentax IQZoom 60

To load the camera, open the door by pulling down on the lever at left, and then insert the film cartridge on the right, upside down. Pull the film across the takeup spool to the red line and close the door. Turn on the camera by sliding the slider next to the LCD to the middle position. The film winds to the first frame. The IQZoom 60 reads the film canister’s DX code to set ISO from 50 to 1600. If the film has a DX code outside that range, or has no DX code, the camera operates at ISO 100.

Pentax IQZoom 60

The IQZoom 60 focuses from 3.3 feet to infinity. In macro mode, the camera focuses only from a not-that-macro 1.8 feet. To put the camera in macro mode, move the on-off slider to the green flower. The camera zooms to 60mm and a magnifier with a green border pops into the viewfinder. If you compose a subject where nothing is in the macro range, the camera pulls the magnifier out of the viewfinder and focuses from 3.3 feet as normal. That’s a nice touch.

I don’t like the viewfinder. It’s small, and peering into it feels like looking through a toilet-paper tube with a thick piece of glass taped to its end. Inside you’ll find frame lines for normal and parallax-corrected close focusing, but they were hard to see except in blazing, direct sunlight.

To focus, put the thing you want in focus in the center of the viewfinder and press the shutter button halfway. The green light next to the viewfinder glows steady when the camera locks focus; it blinks when the camera can’t lock focus. Once you’ve focused, you can recompose if you want (but keep holding the button halfway down) and then shoot.

As usual with point-and-shoot cameras, the flash is always on and the camera uses it whenever it thinks there’s not enough light. The red lamp next to the viewfinder glows when the flash is ready to fire. You can also press the button under the on/off/macro switch to activate fill flash.

A surprisingly expensive CR-P2 battery powers the IQZoom 60.

Pentax IQZoom 60

I find it exciting that the IQZoom 60 shows you the lens’s focal length as you zoom. I like to use typical prime focal lengths, like 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm, as much as I can. But given the camera’s short zoom range, the only typical prime focal length here is 50mm. I’ll throw in 38mm to be charitable as it’s close enough to 35mm. That’s it. But I’ll bet people in this camera’s target market used the zoom to replace moving closer to or farther away from the subject and didn’t care what the lens’s focal length was.

When Pentax released the IQZoom 60 in 1987, it sold for $324. That’s equivalent to north of $750 today, a lot of money for a middling point and shoot! Pentax stopped production in 1991. In some markets, the camera was called simply the Zoom 60.

If you like 35mm point-and-shoot cameras, check out my review of another in the IQZoom series, the 170SL here. It’s everything this IQZoom 60 wishes it were. Also see my reviews of the Pentax IQZoom EZY (here), the Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here), the Yashica T2 (here), the Olympus Stylus (here), the Olympus mju Zoom 140 (here), and the Kodak VR35 K40 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

Even though cameras like this were meant for color film, I loaded black-and-white T-Max 400 into it and took it on a walk around the Broad Ripple neighborhood in Indianapolis. I developed in LegacyPro L110 H (1+63) and scanned on my CanoScan 9000F Mark II with VueScan.

Kimmel's Shoe Repair

As you can see, the IQZoom 60 does good work. The lens is sharp and has no obvious distortion. But that doesn’t mean I liked using this camera.

Rainbow bridge in black and white

I have four complaints about the IQZoom 60. First, that viewfinder, as I described earlier. Second, it’s large for a point and shoot, about the same size as a typical 35mm SLR! Third, it felt clumsy and plasticky in my hand.

Spotted chair

Fourth, the combination shutter-zoom button was rubbery and blubbery. Sometimes I had to press the shutter button twice to get it to fire. That’s a real pet peeve with me — give me buttons that feel solid and sure under my finger.

Kilroy's

Unfortunately, the button to zoom in was dead on this camera. I worked around it by putting the camera in macro mode, which zoomed the lens to the max, and then zooming out from there.

Social distancing

The camera’s so-called macro mode works well enough, though 1.8 feet is hardly macro. I used it in the photos above and below.

Broad Ripple Village

At least the viewfinder is accurate. It’s not on so many 35mm point-and-shoots. That’s another pet peeve of mine. But on the IQZoom 60, if you can manage to see the framing lines, whatever is inside them is actually in the frame, and nothing more.

Monon Bridge

To see more from this camera, check out my Pentax IQZoom 60 gallery.

Pentax’s IQZoom cameras are such a mixed bag. Some are great and others aren’t. The Pentax IQZoom 60 is not great — its negatives far outweigh its positives. I’ve tried one. Now you don’t have to.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Camera Reviews

Olympus OM-2n

I enjoy using my Olympus OM-1 from time to time. My film-photography friends all have encouraged me to get an OM-2 or OM-2n, as it offers all of the OM-1 goodness with aperture-priority exposure, my favorite way to shoot. I held off because I couldn’t find one at a price I was willing to pay. They’re not expensive, not really; you can find good ones for under $100. I’m just a cheapskate. My reticence paid off — a reader recently donated this Olympus OM-2n to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras!

Olympus OM-2n

The OM-1 came first, of course, in 1972. In 1975, Olympus introduced the OM-2, which added an electronic shutter and aperture-priority exposure. Then in 1979, Olympus released the OM-1n and the OM-2n, both of which offered a few improvements over the original models.

The OM-2n is a 35mm SLR featuring an electronic focal-plane shutter operating from 1/1000 sec. to 1 sec. in manual exposure mode and a whopping 120 sec. in aperture-priority mode. It offers through-the-lens metering with a clever inner shutter curtain imprinted with black and white blocks that mimic an average photograph. The meter reads light that bounces off those blocks.

Olympus OM-2n

You set film speed, from ISO 12 to 1,600, with a dial atop the camera next to the winder. Lift the dial and twist until your film speed appears in the window, then lower the dial and twist until the line from the window points at the tick mark. That mark can be hard to see. This dial also lets you adjust exposure by up to two stops in either direction.

Olympus OM-2n

The OM-2 is a system camera with interchangeable focusing screens (see a list here) and interchangeable backs. I know of two backs: a data back (one of which I have but have never used) and a back that lets you shoot up to 250 frames of bulk film. My OM-2n came with a 1-12 cross-hairs screen inside, but also with a smattering of other screens. I found a 1-13 microprism/split-image screen among them and swapped it in.

Unlike the OM-1, the OM-2n needs batteries to work. Without a battery, when you press the shutter button, the mirror stays in the up position. I’ll bet a lot of people think this means the camera is broken! Pro tip: insert two fresh SR-44 batteries and move the switch atop the camera to Reset. The mirror will come right down and you’ll be good to go.

Speaking of batteries, the OM-2n natively takes two silver-oxide SR-44s. It was designed for them. That alone makes the OM-2n a wonderful choice for a film photographer today. So many other old cameras take now-banned mercury batteries and/or batteries of an odd size. You’re stuck ordering silver-oxide or alkaline equivalent batteries online, which carry different voltages than the mercury originals. In theory that could mess up your exposures, although I think that worry is overblown. In contrast, you can buy SR-44 (also known as 357 or 76) batteries at any drug store!

The OM-2n is so pleasant to use! Because it’s small and light, you can sling it over your shoulder and shoot fatigue-free all day. The controls all feel precise and smooth, even luxurious. The OM-2n is solidly built.

If you like small 35mm SLRs, also check out my review of the original Olympus OM-1 here, of the Nikon EM here, and of the Pentax ME here. If you’re an Olympus fan, see my reviews of the XA here, the XA2 here, the Stylus here, the Stylus Epic Zoom 80 here, and the mju Zoom 140 here. Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

For most of my camera reviews I shoot just one roll then write up the camera. But I enjoyed the OM-2n so much that I put three rolls through it. The first one was Kodak T-Max 400 which I developed in LegacyPro L110 Dilution H (1+63).

Masked

This OM-2n came with a bunch of lenses. I tried the 40mm f/2 Zuiko Auto-S first. It’s a delightfully thin and light lens, and it focuses from 10 inches making it almost a macro lens. It handled beautifully on the OM-2n.

I was mugged!

I shot the OM-2n while Indiana was slowly reopening after coronavirus lockdown. We decided to take a walk along Main Street in Zionsville one Thursday to find the street closed to traffic. Tables and chairs were set up for people to buy dinner at local restaurants and eat outside. It felt like too many people in too little space to us, and we didn’t linger.

Dining in the street

This camera also came to me with a 21mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto-W lens — yes, that’s right, 21mm. I’ve never shot a lens so wide! I made a few photos with it but will explore it more deeply later.

Down the lane

I loaded good old Fujicolor 200 next and mounted a 50mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto-Macro lens. This lens lets you focus from 9 inches.

Weathered wood

I shot a lot of flowers on this roll. The OM-2n continued to handle flawlessly. It achieved that holy-grail state of seeming to disappear in my hands — I composed, focused, and shot fluidly, as if the camera were an extension of my eye.

White with a touch of pink

My, but do I love moving in close with a camera. This suncatcher hangs in our back door window. My mother-in-law made it.

Suncatcher

This lens is just a peach. Look at that up-close sharpness, and look at that bokeh. Given the hexagonal shape of the light points in the background, you should not be surprised to learn that this lens has six aperture blades.

Tiki

A 50mm macro lens is fine for non-macro photography, as well. I took it on a bike ride around the neighborhood and made a few photos.

Swimming pool

Because the OM-2n offers aperture-priority shooting, it eliminates my top complaint about OM-series cameras: the shutter-speed ring is around the lens mount. Every other major camera maker made it a dial on the top plate next to the shutter button. But shooting aperture priority means I never have to change the shutter speed.

XXX

I made all of these photos during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was fortunate to keep my job and be able to work from home. But my work computer needed service while I was using the OM-2n. I had to take it to the office Downtown for IT to look at it. I loaded another roll of Fujicolor 200 and walked around Downtown after IT fixed my computer. This was a couple weeks after the riots motivated by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In Indianapolis, some windows were broken and there was some looting. Many buildings boarded up their windows as a protective measure.

I used the 40mm lens for this walk. It was a good focal length — wide enough that I didn’t have to back out into the street to get a good look at a scene.

After the protests

I’ll share more from this walk in an upcoming post. I’ll wrap up with this photo of the outside seating at the Downtown Five Guys. A Five Guys cheeseburger is such a calorie bomb, but it is so good.

Five Guys

To see more from this camera, check out my Olympus OM-2n gallery.

The Olympus OM-2n is a fantastic 35mm SLR: compact, light, precise, smooth. The Olympus Zuiko lenses are similarly fantastic optically, and are solidly built with great feel in the hand. If you could have only one manual-focus 35mm SLR, the Olympus OM-2n would be an outstanding choice.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Camera Reviews

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55

When someone gives me a camera, I shoot it if I can. Most of the time people give me old film cameras, but once in a great while the gift is digital. When my mom’s neighbor moved away last year he gave her a bunch of stuff, including this Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55. Mom didn’t have any use for it, so she gave it to me.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55

Sony introduced this camera in 2010. It’s a “good features for the money” camera, neither top nor bottom of the line. It features a 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor that delivers 14.1 megapixels. Its 25-150mm (35mm equivalent) f/3.5-5.5 Sony lens starts wide and zooms deep. It saves images as JPEG only (no RAW option), with maximum resolution of 4,320×3,240 pixels. It saves video files as MPEG-4, 1,280×720 at 29.97 frames per second. It offers both optical and digital image stabilization. Its LCD screen is 3 inches diagonal. Its proprietary battery is good for only about 310 photos.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55

The DSC-H55 sold for about $250 when new. At 4.1×2.3×1.1 inches and just 7.1 ounces, it’s very small and light. I slipped it into my back jeans pocket and forgot it was there.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55

This camera offers some modes, including a panorama mode where you pan the camera and it stitches the image together. I didn’t play with any of that stuff so I can’t comment on it.

If compact digital cameras appeal to you, also check out my reviews of the Canon PowerShot S80 (here), the Canon PowerShot S95 (here), and the Kodak EasyShare C613 (here). I’ve also reviewed the Sony FD Mavica MDC-FD87 (here), an early digital camera that stored images on floppy disks! My first digital camera was the Kodak EasyShare Z730 (here).

I took this DSC-H55 out on a couple spring outings. I discovered right away that mine has a common fault: the LCD blanks out sometimes, turning entirely white. Since there’s no optical viewfinder, unless the screen works you can’t frame a shot. I found that pressing the buttons on the camera’s back often brought on this condition, so I used them as little as possible.

I found two ways to temporarily relieve this condition: press into the bottom right corner of the LCD, or repeatedly tap hard on the camera front between the Sony and Cyber-shot logos, until the display resets. Neither solution is great for the camera’s long-term health. But since it makes no sense to pay to repair a 2010 digital camera I did it anyway.

Sunset

Having to keep reactivating the screen was frustrating, but otherwise this camera performed well. Margaret and I made a sunset walk on a trail in a large Indianapolis park near us and the DSC-H55 delivered pleasing photos.

Margaret

Margaret was looking to practice her skill at shooting directly into the setting sun, so I did too. The lens flared, but I find the effect to be pleasing.

Margaret

The camera overexposes light colors that reflect light. I was able to tone it down in Photoshop on my wife’s jacket, above, but not on the frame of the soccer goal below.

Soccer goal

I did only a little low-light work with the DSC-H55, but I found that it tended to flatten colors that my Pentax K10D or my Canon PowerShot S95 would have captured well.

Sunset over the Toyota dealer

On gray days and when the sun is blocked, colors lose their punch in the DSC-H55. This is a sunny-day camera.

Pathside flowers

But in good light, the DSC-H55 returns accurate color. I like that. I haven’t used a ton of digital cameras in my day but among those I’ve tried I find accurate color hard to come by.

Cruze

This flower is a perfect example of the DSC-H55’s color accuracy. It perfectly captured the nuanced orange-purple gradient in this flower’s petals.

Orange flower

I also liked how the DSC-H55 could focus very close without me having to put the camera into macro mode. It’s common for digital cameras to switch to macro automatically now, but it wasn’t in 2010.

Droplets

The DSC-H55’s lens and sensor do a great job of capturing detail. Upper-tier Sony point-and-shoots boast Carl Zeiss lenses; my wife’s Sony RX100 has one and it’s wonderful. But this Sony lens holds its own.

Ash trunk

I am impressed with the camera’s depth of zoom, and its ability to get a sharp, shake-free image when zoomed to the max. I shot this early bird with its worm at maximum zoom from my front porch about 50 feet away.

The bird got the worm

I wished I could click in exact focal lengths as I zoomed, as I can on my Canon PowerShot S95. But I realize that most people use zoom to replace moving closer to the subject. I gave myself over to shooting the camera that way.

Reflecting in the pond

My one serious gripe with this camera is that the LCD reflects badly, washing out the display. In bright light, the LCD showed only my reflection, rendering me unable to compose. This is a dealbreaker.

At the pool

See more from this camera in my Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 gallery.

I’m sorry to say that I’m dropping this camera into the trash. Its white-screen problem made it more frustrating than rewarding to use. Also, its battery is nearing the end of its life as I got maybe 50 shots on a full charge. That one-two punch spells this camera’s doom.

But this is a pleasant little shooter, an easy companion for everyday photography. Except for its overly reflective LCD, it would have been a great choice in its day — capable for a good price.

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Camera Reviews

Canon Snappy S

In the early 1980s camera makers finally figured out how to make loading 35mm film foolproof. Meanwhile, thanks to the 35mm SLR, 35mm film had taken on the aura of quality photography. These two things finally killed the 126 and 110 film formats and opened the floodgates for 30 years of 35mm point-and-shoot cameras from bare bones basic to highly capable and fully featured. When Canon introduced the Snappy S in 1985, it was among the earliest basic 35mm point-and-shoots.

Canon Snappy S

Canon’s rationale was simple: get Canon quality at an attractive price. On the street these could be had for $50-60, which is about $120-150 today. It offered middling specs, starting with a 35mm f/4.5 lens, a classic triplet of three elements in three groups. Everything from 1.5 feet is in focus. Exposure is automatic, but I couldn’t figure out what kind of system it uses. The shutter operates from 1/40 to 1/250 sec. Flash is integrated, and the camera automatically winds and rewinds film. A red light blinks in the viewfinder when there isn’t enough light. Two AAA batteries power everything. You could get your Snappy S in black, red, green, or yellow.

Canon Snappy S

Mine came to me with the flash broken: plastic cover missing, flash unit dangling. The seller disclosed that, but I didn’t notice it in the listing. The flash even flashed, but I didn’t try it more than once because it didn’t seem quite safe. Also, as I used the camera, the auto-winder got weaker and weaker. The batteries were fresh, so I assume this old, cheap camera is just on its last leg. But it wasn’t objectionable to use that way.

Canon Snappy S

This camera sparked no joy, but there was nothing unpleasant about it. Frame, press the button, off you go. I was a teenager when this camera was new and I would have been perfectly happy with one had I been able to afford one then. It would have been a giant step up from the truly lousy 110 camera that was my main camera.

If you like point-and-shoot cameras, also see my reviews of the Kodak VR35 K40 (here), the Yashica T2 (here), the Canon AF35ML (here), the Pentax IQZoom EZY (here), the Olympus Stylus (here), the Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 (here), and the Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I loaded some Fujicolor 200 into it and took it out into my shrunken world. We were all still encouraged to stay home, or close to home, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. I spent most of my time in the nearby shopping centers looking for colorful subjects.

McAlister's

The Snappy S drank in the color and asked for more.

Wendy's

Everything’s good and sharp.

Denny's

The Snappy S weighs essentially nothing. I wrapped its long strap around my right hand and carried it about easily. In its time, I would have been very pleased to have a camera like this.

Don't order here

All was not perfect with the Snappy S, however. You have to look at the viewfinder perfectly straight on or you will misframe. Here, I thought I had the full Cracker Barrel in the frame.

Cracker Barrel

Here, I thought I had the entire awning over the gas pumps in the frame.

Marathon

Also, the viewfinder is massively inaccurate. I put just the tail end of my car in this frame. Look at how much more the Snappy S actually sees.

VW tail

Also, straight horizontal lines wind up slightly wavy. Notice the line that is the top of this wall.

Meijer

This photo shows it too, especially on the top sill of the garage on the right. Is this a lens aberration? Or does the camera not hold the film perfectly flat?

Utilities

To see more from this camera, check out my Canon Snappy S gallery.

The Canon Snappy S was a pretty good inexpensive point-and-shoot camera in its time. It wasn’t perfect, but I’ll bet most people who bought these neither noticed nor cared.

But because mine has two key issues that spell its imminent demise, I’m about to do something I’ve never done before after reviewing a camera. I’m going to put it into the trash.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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