Window in our room at Hotel Allegro

Morning light, hotel window
Nikon F3, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor
Kodak T-Max P3200
2018

Just one more shot from the F3 on that remarkable T-Max P3200. It did a wonderful job rendering both the light and dark areas of this scene. As I shot this, through my viewfinder I could clearly see a television on top of the cabinet at right. The P3200 does have its limits.

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Film Photography

single frame: Morning light, hotel window

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Camera Reviews

If I could own only one camera it would be the Nikon F3

It’s a bold statement, I know: if I could own only one camera, it would be the Nikon F3.

Nikon F3HP *EXPLORED*

My camera collecting has been, in part, a journey toward finding the cameras that work best for me. I think I’ve tried enough cameras now to make this judgment. 

I’d miss my other SLRs, especially my Pentaxes ME and KM. Once in a while I’d pine for my autofocus, autoexposure Nikon N90s. There would be times I wished I could slip my Olympus XA into my pocket, or enjoy a Kodak Retina.

But if I owned only my Nikon F3, I’d make wonderful images for the rest of my life, and be perfectly happy doing it.

The rugged Nikon F3 can withstand any conditions I might subject it to, including my own considerable klutziness. After I send it out for a CLA, it should work beautifully for me for the rest of my life. I own a good range of capable Nikkor lenses. I’m ready for pretty much anything I might want to shoot.

The F3 offers aperture-priority exposure, my favorite way to shoot. It also offers full manual exposure.

The F3 is heavy. One could argue that I might enjoy one of Nikon’s lighter semi-pro bodies more. I own one, an FA, and it’s a good camera — and less fatiguing at the end of a long day slung over the shoulder.

But it took me no time to adapt to the F3’s ways, and now whenever I shoot it I feel one with it. That kind of bonding has happened for me with only a few cameras, my FA not included.

This was going to be my Operation Thin the Herd writeup on the F3. But it is silly to keep you in suspense through a long post when I’ve always known there was no way I would get rid of this camera. So here now, the photos that would have graced that Operation Thin the Herd post. The lens is the 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor, and the film is Kodak T-Max P3200.

Chicago River at night

These are from our December trip to Chicago. I really enjoyed being able to capture the city at night on that fast, fast film.

Chicago River at night

I just can’t get over how good these night photos are. That P3200 really performs.

State Street at night

Heavy cloud cover made for poor light during the day. The P3200 let me shoot at comfortable apertures for plenty of depth of field.

Hotel Allegro

The F3 hung off my shoulder nonstop for three days. By the third day I was beginning to wish for relief. That’s my only beef with the camera.

State and Lake

I love Chicago as a photographic destination. I haven’t even begun to exhaust the obvious subjects yet.

Chicago

The F3 is quiet for an SLR perfect for shooting inside a museum like the Chicago Art Institute.

Inside the Art Institute

I managed one photo inside the Merchandise Mart before security sternly warned us that photography was prohibited.

Elevators in the Merchandise Mart

I made a portrait of Margaret at our Sunday lunch, at a restaurant called The Dearborn. We shared a bottle of delicious Spanish wine.

Margaret

All was not perfect with the F3 on this outing. I didn’t know it until the images came back from the processor, but the shutter was acting up a little. On my first roll it affected about a dozen shots, but did not occur at all on the second roll. It’s possible that the shutter was just a little crabby from disuse. I had been using my F3 regularly until about a year ago, when Operation Thin the Herd began. It’s kept me busy with my other cameras!

I’m going to shoot a few more rolls through my F3 to see if the problem recurs. This is a good reason to use up some ten-year-expired Kodak Max 400 I have in the fridge. If I see more of this, I’ll move the camera up in the CLA queue and include a repair to the shutter.

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View from a 15th-floor hotel window

View from the hotel window
Nikon F3, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor
Kodak T-Max P3200
2018

I just love how much definition the T-Max P3200 delivered at night through our Chicago hotel window. Just look at the cars in the glowing parking garage! They’re so clear you can almost tell what make and model some of them are.

If you’re looking at this on a computer monitor rather than on your phone or tablet, you can see how even at this larger size the considerable grain doesn’t detract at all from the image.

Film Photography

single frame: View from the hotel window

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Film Photography

A pilgrimage to Central Camera

A pilgrimage to Central Camera

Despite our many weekend getaways to Chicago’s Loop, this was the first time we sought out Central Camera. We found it closed on Sunday. But because we were staying over through Monday, we went back.

A pilgrimage to Central Camera

We stepped in, and it felt like stepping into 1948. There were counters on both sides and an aisle down the middle. The left side was crammed with used gear. I dared not dwell. I passed through to the film counter. Oh my gosh, but I’ve not seen that much film for sale in one place since the 1980s.

A pilgrimage to Central Camera

The array of films in stock was impressive. I bought four rolls of Arista.EDU 200. Yes, they carried Arista.EDU from Freestyle Photo! The kind young woman behind the counter wrote my receipt by hand.

I did get one color shot of the exterior, so you can take in the sign’s great shade of green.

Central Camera

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Photography

Chicago at Christmas on Kodak T-Max P3200

Christmas at Macy's

I loaded my Nikon F3 with Kodak’s resurrected T-Max P3200 film and took it along on our early-December trip to Chicago. It was to be a gray weekend, and we were going to be walking about a lot after dark. That seemed like a perfect opportunity to try this nominal ISO 800 film that cheerfully pushes to 3200.

Wooden soldier

It was so much fun to shoot anywhere and everywhere — indoors, after dark, on an overcast afternoon — at generous apertures and shutter speeds. I was too busy having fun to take notes, but I think I was shooting at f/8 anywhere I wanted with shutter speeds of at least 1/30 second. I never had to worry about camera shake. 

Macy's Christmas

The first two photos are from the Christmas display inside Macy’s on State Street. Here’s a shot of Macy’s exterior all decorated for the holiday. The P3200 needs just a little ambient light to make a plenty usable image.

Marshall Field & Co.

Macy’s bought the former Marshall Field department-store chain. I miss Marshall Field.

Christkindlmarkt

We also walked through Christkindlmarkt twice. The first time was on a busy Saturday afternoon and the second was early on a Monday when we had the place largely to ourselves.

Bulbs at Christkindlmarkt

I shot an ISO 100 film on our Chicago trip last year. That slow film gave me limited depth of field, which limited what I could do. Not so this P3200 — I could shoot up close and choose just how much blurred background I’d get.

Dragon at Christkindlmarkt

Christkindlmarkt offers so many subjects: the market itself, the individual booths, the wares in each booth, and the people enjoying themselves. 

Wooden toys at Christkindlmarkt

The P3200 let me photograph any of it in pretty much any way I pleased. I’ve never had so much flexibility in bad light with a film camera.

Christkindlmarkt

So many people wander Christkindlmarkt with their cameras out that I don’t feel as self-conscious as usual about photographing people. But I’m happy I didn’t notice until this roll was back from the processor that this fellow here spotted me in the act.

Selling nuts at Christkindlmarkt

One night we walked over to Millennium Park to take in the Christmas fun. The ice-skating rink was open late.

Ice skating at Millennium Park

The P3200 wasn’t fast enough to let me freeze the skaters as they sped by. I suppose you can’t have everything.

Ice skating at Millennium Park

We also explored the Great Hall at Union Station. It’s gorgeous; you should see it.

Polar Express, Union Station, Chicago

It, too, was all decked out for the holiday. You might not be able to make it out, but this Christmas tree is decorated with logos from various railroads, past and present.

Christmas tree, Union Station, Chicago

I had a ball shooting Kodak T-Max P3200. Anywhere I went, in virtually any lighting conditions, my Nikon F3 could get a solid exposure and I could make an image.

As you can see, the images I got have good sharpness (through my 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens) and decent tonality. I especially enjoy the rich blacks this film returned.

These images would make lovely snapshot-sized prints. I’ll bet they’d even make usable 5x7s. But the grain becomes more pronounced the larger you make these images. Click any of them to see them on Flickr, and then click the image there to see it at full scan size. You’ll see: the grain is giant. Fortunately, it’s also really pleasing — and subjects hold their definition.

I’ll definitely buy more P3200 and keep it on ice for gray-day and nighttime shooting. Shooting these two rolls and seeing the wonderful results was a real joy.

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