Bench Kodak Retina Automatic III Kodak Gold 200 2017
When you shoot black and white, do you look for different things from when you shoot color? I do. I tend to look for shadows and contrast when I shoot black and white.
When I came upon this scene, it said “black and white” to me. But I was shooting color film. So when it came back from the processor I used Photoshop’s black-and-white tool on it. I added a virtual blue filter to bring out the grain in the bench’s wooden slats.
Except for a little mottling on the wall under and behind the bench, the conversion turned out all right. That mottling isn’t present on the original color shot, which is here. More from this camera in a full review tomorrow!
Do people actually like apartments like these? I know I’m biased against new construction. I feel like it’s all made with Balsa wood and Elmer’s glue. Give me a sturdy older home any day. Except that within every older home lurks half-assed homeowner repairs and renovations that at some point you’re going to have to tear out and do right.
I did not need another auto-everything 35mm SLR. But in what is probably my greatest guilty pleasure, which says something about my buttoned-down life, I really enjoy them. I’m no less devoted to my first love: all-manual, all-metal SLRs! Yet I was deeply tempted when I came upon this Nikon N8008 body at KEH for $13.
I resisted. But that afternoon KEH emailed me an offer of 12% off used gear and I was a goner. Twenty dollars shipped for a body that cost $857 new. Pennies on the original dollar! Now is the time to buy these higher-end auto-everything film SLRs. And the N8008 (known as the F-801 in most of the rest of the world) was higher end, as it rested just below the pro-grade F4 in Nikon’s pecking order.
Befitting its station, its specs are solid. They begin with a big, bright, high-eyepoint viewfinder, which means you can see through it perfectly even when you’re wearing glasses. It offers both matrix and 75% center-weighted metering. Its shutter operates from 30 seconds to 1/8000 second and it takes film from ISO 6 to 6400 (and it reads the film’s DX coding). It syncs with flash at 1/250 second. And common AA batteries power it all.
It offers all of the modern modes: manual, programmed, aperture-priority, and shutter-priority. But as you can see, it was designed before the mode wheel became idiom. You expect that from a camera made from 1988 to 1990. To set mode, you have to repeatedly press the Mode button and look at the LCD. It works fine and isn’t cumbersome. It just takes a minute to adjust to it.
The Nikon N8008 also offers depth-of-field preview, allows multiple exposures, and boasts a self timer that can take two shots in succession. And its focusing screens exchange. Three screens are available, including the matte Type B screen that shipped with the N8008. You could also get the gridded Type E screen and the microprism Type J screen.
This camera also takes most F-mount lenses. Nikon lens compatibility requires a secret decoder ring (Ken Rockwell keeps his up to date) but with a few exceptions and caveats (pre-AI lenses won’t mount, AF-S lenses won’t automatically focus, AF-G lenses work only in programmed or shutter-priority mode, the latest AF-P lenses won’t focus) you can use your legacy lenses on the N8008.
By the way, if you like autofocus, autoexposure Nikon SLRs, you might also like the Nikon N90s (review here). You should also check out Nikon’s manual-focus bodies like the F2, F3, FA, and N2000. Or just check out my big list of all the cameras I’ve ever reviewed here.
I considered mounting my 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor to this camera just to test that compatibility. The moment passed quickly, a fleeting shadow. I reached instead for my 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G AF Nikkor, a “gelded” lens that has no aperture ring. The N8008 drives this lens beautifully in P (program) or S (shutter-priority) modes. Even though Nikon shipped this lens with bajillions of its entry-level film SLRs, don’t underestimate this solid performer.
I loaded some fresh Kodak Tri-X and went to work at home, right next to my easy chair. I’d just finished a finger of whiskey. Photograph drunk, Photoshop sober?
I stepped back and zoomed out, revealing this lens’s one major fault: barrel distortion at the wide end. I reduced the effect in Photoshop.
These well-made auto-everything SLRs appeal to me, I think, because I can get high-quality images with almost zero thinking. That’s not to say I don’t like thinking. I get full joy from shooting my manual-exposure, manual-focus cameras. But sometimes it feels good to let the camera do all the work for you, all the while leaving you confident of good results. And with the N8008, I could have full control if I wanted it.
I never wanted it on this test roll. Good thing, as the gelded lens sharply limited my options. But on a stroll down Zionsville’s Main Street I didn’t much care. I twisted in my zoom level, pressed the button halfway to focus, and then pressed the button the rest of the way to get the shot. With a loud zip, the camera wound to the next frame and I was ready to go again.
I did, however, fall pray to one pitfall of easy-peasy shooting: I shot indiscriminately. Lots of uninteresting photos was the predictable result. This post shares almost all of the photos I think have any merit from this 36-exposure roll.
Here Margaret stands between our two Fords in the parking lot at work. I used to work not far from her workplace, a large suburban church where she’s in charge of buildings and grounds. She wears dresses on Mondays to remind her co-workers that she’s a woman after all, as otherwise it’s jeans and T-shirts because a Director of Facilities never knows when she’ll find herself cleaning up after a sick child or crawling around a failed baptistry heater.
My sons have always been curious about my cameras. When they were very small I used to get the boxes down from my closet and we’d play with them together, cameras strewn across the living room. As I got serious about my collection again in my 40s and began to shoot my cameras more, my sons often asked if they could shoot them too. Frankly, I wasn’t always thrilled to say yes. They showed no real interest in exposure and focus, so explaining it to them got us nowhere. I took to setting the camera for them, but they were often impatient as I read the light and guessed distance and all. But a camera like the Nikon N8008 is perfect for kid use, even if that kid just turned 18. It requires no explanation beyond “press the button halfway so it can focus and then the rest of the way to get the shot.” My son did that perfectly while we waited for dinner at a Perkins one evening.
Finally, I took the N8008 along the day I visited this abandoned bridge. It’s the one that cemented my love of exploring the old roads, because finding abandoned infrastructure is strangely exciting.
The N8008 is not without its flaws. It’s a little heavy for all-day use. The loud winder was annoying. Autofocus is slower than on a modern camera. But so bloody what? I don’t shoot sports anyway. This camera worked great, full stop.
But I still own a Nikon N90s, also a wonderful auto-everything 35mm SLR. One does not need both cameras. One does not need a hundred cameras stuffed into every nook and cranny of one’s house, either, but that’s where one is despite ongoing efforts to thin the herd.
If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here! To get Down the Road in your inbox or feed reader, subscribe here.
I found a deep appreciation of a 35mm lens on a 35mm film camera after shooting one all over Ireland last fall. The wider field of view over my usual 50mm lenses was just so darned useful. Yet I could still move in close without wildly distorting my subjects.
So I wondered if 28mm would be even better. Spoiler alert: worse.
Because at 28mm, it’s super hard to avoid what I like to call “The Twist,” a kind of distortion you get when you shoot something long, straight, and flat. Like this:
Photoshop can correct all sorts of problems but I haven’t been able to get it to correct that one. If you know how, do let me know in the comments. Of course, there’s always the good advice: don’t shoot scenes like that. Which I heeded through the rest of this roll of Kodak Tri-X, scanned myself on my Epson V300. I shot these with my Pentax KM, which I totally need to shoot more often because it is a jewel.
I drove over to Second Presbyterian and stood in my usual spot to shoot this stately church. At 50mm, I can’t get it all in. At 28mm it looks a little lost in the frame. 35mm might have let it fill the frame better. Or maybe I should have just walked closer.
Which I did for this dramatic shot. Finally I started to find this lens’s mojo.
I drove a mile or so south to the Meridian Street bridge over the White River and found this graffiti under one of the arches. I’ll share more shots from that bridge visit in an upcoming post. If you think the highlights are blown out here, you should have seen them before I gave them a good Photoshopping.
I visited common photographic haunts with this lens, including nearby Juan Solomon Park. I couldn’t have gotten this shot at 50mm, and maybe not even at 35mm.
I also drove over to 56th and Illinois to get this shot I’ve shot before. Sometimes it’s just comforting to revisit covered photographic ground. Every lens, camera, and film can see a scene in a new way.
I’ve also started taking morning walks through my neighborhood. My stupid left foot is still not fully healed going on three years after surgery and I’m gaining weight from inactivity (and probably age). I’m tired of favoring that foor and I just need to get mobile again, so I’m walking through the pain. Anyway, we finally had a skiff of snow in this unusually warm winter, and I photographed some tire tracks in the street.
I’ve shot this lens before and didn’t love it, and this roll of film didn’t help. I think it’s because its inherent distortion limits what I can do with it. It’s acceptably sharp, and (on color film) it renders color well enough. Faint praise, I know, but I managed to squeeze out a few good shots with it on this roll of film. There are some scenes for which this lens is a smashing fit, it turns out. And for that reason alone I’ll hang onto it.