Collecting Cameras, Film Photography

Operation Thin the Herd: Minolta Hi-Matic 7

Fishers Construction

This Minolta Hi-Matic 7 was one of the first cameras I bought when I restarted my collection in 2006. I had decided to collect 35mm rangefinder cameras, and this was the first one I found at a price I was willing to pay. I happily kept buying rangefinders right up to the day someone gifted me a 35mm SLR. Right away, through-the-lens composing charmed me and my rangefinder predilection went right out the window. But I’ve kept this camera nevertheless.

Minolta Hi-Matic 7

I’ve shot it but twice before: once Sunny 16 without a battery, and once with a PX-625 battery inserted to take advantage of its onboard metering. That metering couldn’t be easier: twist the aperture and shutter-speed rings to A and the camera chooses both aperture and shutter speed for you. It does so on a linear scale from 1/30 sec. at f/1.8 to 1/250 sec. at f/22 — this camera biases toward the greatest depth of field possible. This was a mighty advanced system in 1963 when this camera was new. Here’s a photo from that latter session, on Fujicolor 200.

Bug light

I’d never shot black-and-white film in my Hi-Matic 7 so I loaded some Kodak Tri-X and headed out on a full-sun June day. Right away there was trouble in paradise. Inside the viewfinder a needle points at the exposure value (EV) the meter calculates, from 5.6 to 17. On that bright day I expected to see that needle point at EV 15 or maybe 16. Instead, the needle was in the red zone above EV 17, meaning it was underexposing by a stop or two. Drat! At least the meter functioned — they often don’t in cameras this old.

Reflected vinyl

What I didn’t do, but should have: set the camera to EI 200 or 100 to compensate for the underexposure. I don’t know why I always think of such things only when I sit down to write about my experience with a camera. Sigh. Fortunately, Tri-X’s incredible exposure latitude — up to 4 stops in either direction — mostly covered for me. Where it didn’t, a nip and a tuck in Photoshop usually did the trick.

Cars

Despite being large and heavy, the Hi-Matic 7 is pleasant to use. A lever on the focusing ring is well placed; my finger always found and moved it without me needing to move my eye from the viewfinder. The rangefinder patch is bright enough even for my middle-aged eyes (and was probably even brighter when it was new). I was able to move fast enough with it to capture my son playing a game at the dining table with the family.

Damion

The Hi-Matic 7 is a lot of camera to carry. Mine has its original leather “everready” case so I slung it over my shoulder, camera inside, as I carried it around. Or at least I did that until the leather shoulder strap broke.

At Rick's Cafe Boatyard on Eagle Creek

I finished the roll at Rick’s Cafe Boatyard, a seafood restaurant on Eagle Creek Reservoir in Indianapolis. It was the site of one of Margaret’s and my early dates, so we like to go back sometimes and reminisce.

At Rick's Cafe Boatyard on Eagle Creek

We always sit on the outdoor deck. Therefore, we only dine at Rick’s in the fair-weather months.

At Rick's Cafe Boatyard on Eagle Creek

One finds few opportunities to make dockside photos in landlocked central Indiana. The Hi-Matic 7 was up to the task. These photos needed little Photoshoppery to look good.

At Rick's Cafe Boatyard on Eagle Creek

See more photos from this camera in my Minolta Hi-Matic 7 gallery.

I had a hard time deciding whether this camera would stay or go. I’m emotionally attached to it as one of the first cameras in my collection, I enjoy using it, and I love the images it returns. But I can’t escape the fact that I’ve put only three rolls of film through it in 12 years. I’m unlikely to use it more than that in the next 12. As I shrink my collection to just the cameras I’ll actually use, I have to let pragmatism win over sentimentality.

Verdict: Goodbye

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Blogosphere

Recommended reading

This week’s best blog posts (as judged by me):

You have only so much time in each day, and your phone and computer waste more of it than you probably realize. Michael Lopp, who writes under the pen name Rands, shares his ruthless and effective techniques for making his electronic gear suck down less of his time. Read Rands Information Practices

Madonna of the Trail

Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom, 2007

As the number of film photographers grows, counter-intuitively so does the backlash against Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS). I’m part of that backlash: I’ve owned hundreds of cameras in my lifetime but am currently thinning my herd. So is James Tocchio, who shares his excellent lessons learned along the way of collecting cameras. Read Five Lessons I’ve Learned In Five Years Of Shooting A Different Camera Every Week

Seth Godin reminds us how much of our society has changed in 58 years (tl;dr: hugely), and to expect at least the same amount of change in the next 58. (Why 58? I don’t know!) Read 58 years ago

Is there a perfect camera? Nope, says Pekka: they all have quirks. We can just learn to live with some of them, and not with others. Read Camera quirks

David Heinemeier Hansson, writing for Signal v. Noise, on why open offices suck. Read The open-plan office is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea

Camera reviews and experience reports:

 

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Film Photography

Operation Thin the Herd: Progress report

What’s been remarkable about Operation Thin the Herd is the clarity it’s bringing me about what I want my photographic future to be.

That future is SLRs from Pentax and Nikon. They strike that right balance among image quality, usability, and reliability. Also, SLR shooting just suits me.

Canons are usable and mostly reliable, but the images I get from them seldom wow me even though they are technically very good. Minoltas deliver wonderful images and feel great in my hands but I’ve had too much trouble keeping them working. The few SLRs I own from other manufacturers are all fine in their ways, but I know I won’t use them enough to justify keeping them.

Argus A-FourI’m going to keep a couple medium-format cameras, too, especially one of my Yashica TLRs. Good gracious, but do I love those things. I will also keep a handful of other cameras that I enjoy or that have sentimental value. I’ve already committed to keeping my Olympus XA, for example — it’s a stunning performer and slides right into a side pocket. I’m sure to keep one of my big fixed-lens rangefinders, too; maybe my Yashica Lynx 14e if I can get its meter calbrated. Even though I haven’t shot it yet as part of this project, I’m betting I’ll keep my Argus A-Four, too. Its lens does lovely black-and-white work, and I have a wonderful memory from my high-school days of shooting a roll of Plus-X in one of these and then processing it in the school’s darkroom with a buddy.

I don’t know how far I am through this project but it doesn’t feel like I’ve hit the halfway point yet. Fatigue is starting to set in — I want to just get on with shooting my forever cameras. As a result, I am now more likely to say goodbye to a camera when I do shoot one — or even to sell one on without shooting it again.

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Some of the blogs I follow post photos of interesting doors on Thursday. This apparently started with a blog called Norm 2.0, which has featured interesting door photos for years. I’ve always wanted to play, but I seldom get out around interesting doors.

But recently I visited Madison, Indiana, which is rich in great entryways. Herewith, a series of Madison doors on this Thursday.

Madison door

Madison door

Madison door

Madison door

Madison door

Madison door

Madison door

Madison door

Madison door

Madison door

Madison door

Madison door

Canon PowerShot S95

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Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

Thursday doors: Madison, Indiana

A bunch of doors from Madison, Indiana, on this Thursday.

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Growth, Stories Told

Living life after running out of things to graduate from

I first shared this in 2013 as my older son was about to apply to colleges. Now he’s weeks away from his final year of college, and I’m thinking about this message again.

I overheard my sons talking the other day about college. I found that to be encouraging, because I think they’re both bright and capable and should go to college.

My youngest said, “Elementary school prepares you for middle school, which prepares you for high school, which prepares you for college. And then college prepares you for life.” I was with him right up until the last link in his chain.

My degree itself didn’t prepare me for life. My overall college experience helped prepare me for life a little. But after I graduated college and lived on my own, my adult life was significantly new and different from anything I had experienced before. I had to figure it out as it happened.

Cueing a record

On the air at Rose-Hulman’s WMHD

Now, I loved my studies. I majored in mathematics and minored in German and sociology, and exploring these subjects made my heart sing. A few things I learned in class have directly helped me in my software-development career, but otherwise, my studies have benefited my life and career only intangibly.

Surprisingly, my time working at the campus radio station gave me much better clues about life and career. I had fun doing my regular air shifts. I learned a lot about working as part of a team and taking care of my commitments to them. When I became station manager, I led an executive board and had responsibility for about 100 staff members. I also learned to deal with difficult people (primarily the chief engineer, who seemed always to look for reasons to clash with me) and still get the job done.

There were no tests and no grades; there was no end goal. We meant to stay on the air indefinitely. (Sadly the station shut down in 2013.) We aimed to deliver the best on-air work we could today, and do it a little better tomorrow.

What I didn’t see very well at the time was that this was a lot like real life. When you run out of things to graduate from, you need to set your own goals and live to make each day as good as it can be.

I’ve lived more than 8,700 days (in Sept. 2013 when I first published this; it’s 10,600 now) since I graduated college. There have been some great times and some really awful times as I’ve figured out what works for me and what doesn’t. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on it now that I’m middle aged. With good health and good fortune, my sons will have many thousands of days after they graduate from college, too. I hope they figure this out faster than I did.

Did college prepare you for life? What prepared you best? Tell it in the comments, or write it on your own blog and link back here.

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The beginning of the Michigan Road

The beginning of the Michigan Road
Canon PowerShot S95
2018

When I surveyed the Michigan Road end to end in 2008, I failed to photograph this marker at the road’s beginning. The Daughters of the American Revolution placed it in 1916, on the occasion of Indiana’s centennial.

Margaret and I have made our first trip on our re-survey of the road. We did not fail to photograph the marker this time!

Sadly, no Michigan Road Historic Byway wayfinding signs were present. One should stand near this rock with a “Begin” sign under it, and another should stand across the street with an “End” sign under it. They have gone missing.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: The beginning of the Michigan Road

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