Hands in the Play-Doh

Did you know that when you mix all of the Play-Doh colors together, you get gray? Our granddaughter sure found out. I made these photos with my Nikon F3 and my 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor lens on expired Kroger 200 film, which is a Ferrania stock. I shot the film at EI 100 to get past the color shifts I got the last time I shot it.

Hands in Play-Doh
Hands in Play-Doh
Hands in Play-Doh

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Film Photography

My Nikon F3 is back from repair and CLA


I was mighty bummed when I picked up my Nikon F3 a few months ago and found its meter dead and its winder locked up. If I could own only one camera, it would be this one. I reach for my Pentax ME and Olympus OM-2n more often because they’re smaller and lighter. But as a pro camera, the F3’s robustness outclasses them. With proper care, it might well outlast me.

I sent it to James Holman at International Camera Technicians. $275 and a couple weeks later, it was back in my hands, good as new.

I put a couple rolls of color negative film through it to test it, with my 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor lens mounted. I enjoy moving in close to things, which the Micro-Nikkor lets me do. For other subjects in good light, leaving it focused at infinity delivers enough depth of field that I don’t have to do any fine focusing.

The price of gas I

As expected, the F3 performed beautifully. All of the controls were smooth and sure. They were all pretty smooth and pretty sure before the winder locked up — my F3 was in good condition in the first place. The only trouble I’ve had with it before this is failed light seals; last year I replaced them myself.

Triple ATMs

James charges $50 to diagnose a camera, but applies that fee to the final bill if you go ahead with the repair. After I paid the fee, James let me know within a day what work my F3 needed and what the work would cost. After I authorized the work, James completed it in a few days. My camera spent more time with the USPS than it did in James’s shop.


James services 35mm, medium format, and large format film cameras, as well as lenses. When I’ve sent some of my other cameras out for repair and CLA, I’ve always looked for the One True Expert for that kind of camera: Eric Hendrickson for my Pentax SLRs, Sover Wong for my Nikon F2, John Hermanson for my Olympus OM-series SLRs. There doesn’t appear to be One True F3 Expert, and my buddy John has always sung James’s praises, so I gave James a whirl. Verdict: Recommended. I’m sure I’ll send more cameras his way, as more of my old gear needs work.


For my test roll I did what I like to call “la-de-da photography” — walking around photographing anything that even remotely catches my fancy. It was early spring, so I moved in close on a lot of flowers.


These photos are on Agfa Agfacolor Vista 400. I was gifted two rolls of this stuff; I shared images from the other roll here. This film hasn’t been made in some time, and my rolls are expired. Last time I shot this film at box speed and got grainy, color-shifted results. This time I shot it at EI 200 and got much better performance.

Stained glass

I’m relieved to have my F3 back and working again!

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Collecting Cameras

Sooner or later your cameras will break

I got out my Nikon F3 earlier this year, as it is one of my very favorite cameras and I wanted use it just for the pleasure.


To my disappointment, I found it to be not working — the winder was stuck, and the meter wasn’t reading.

Whatever is causing these failures is going to be beyond my meager repair abilities. I boxed up the F3 and sent it to International Camera Technicians for evaluation. They charge $50 to figure out what’s wrong with your camera and what it will cost to repair it. If you then have them do the work, they apply that fee to the repair charge. I hope to hear from them soon.

So it goes with old photographic gear — sooner or later, it will break. It’s why I’ve started to learn basic repair skills. I replaced the light seals on this very F3 myself a couple years ago.

Finding my F3 on the fritz led me to test every camera I own for proper functioning. Now that I’ve thinned the herd to about 25 cameras, it was a pleasant afternoon’s task.

I discovered metering problems in five of my cameras. The meters in both my Olympus OM-1 and my Olympus XA were reading several stops off. The meter in my Yashica Lynx 14e is one stop off (but I’ve known that for years). The meters in my Nikon F2AS and in my Pentax Spotmatic F had both gone all jumpy.

I also found that the winder on my Nikon F2A sometimes gets stuck mid-wind, but if you back off the pressure and try again you can finish winding just fine. This was disappointing, as I has Sover Wong, the premier Nikon F2 repairperson, overhaul the camera a couple years ago. I’ll test this camera with film soon to see if the condition persists.

Finally, my Sears KSX-P is dead. I bought it only last year, immediately put two rolls of film through it, and then set it aside in my camera cabinet. I can’t fathom what would cause it to not respond at all now.

That’s how it seems to go with old cameras. I’ve never had one fail under use. They always malfunction or die while sitting on the shelf.

I’ve already had the Spotmatic F repaired; I wrote about it here. I had the OM-1 repaired, too; a post about it is coming on Monday. I chose to test the Olympus XA with film — it actually has two meters, one to power the viewfinder needle and another that sets exposure, and one meter can go south while the other works. A post about this test is scheduled for early May. I hope to have the F3 back soon, and will share my test roll with you as soon as I have scans.

Next, I will send the F2AS out to have its meter repaired. I will use Sover Wong, but I’m bracing for impact, because his service is expensive. Also, his wait list is currently two full years.

I’m on the fence about the Lynx 14e. I’ve not shot it since completing Operation Thin the Herd. It’s either time for that camera to find its new owner, or to go to Mark Hama for repair.

The KSX-P also has me on the fence. It is a surprisingly pleasant camera to use, which is why I kept it. On the other hand, it’s worth essentially nothing. Perhaps Garry’s Camera can do it, as he lists other Sears SLRs on his site. Perhaps this camera should just go into the trash.

Now is the time to have your broken cameras repaired, and your working cameras overhauled, so they might last. The men (it seems always to be men) who repair old cameras are no longer young. I know of no young pups learning the film-camera repair business.

One day, when our old gear breaks, that will be that.

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Film Photography

The mixed results I get from Kodak T-Max P3200 are putting me off this film

When I first shot Kodak T-Max P3200, I was blown away by the great results. I shot the film in my Nikon F3 with my 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens attached. I don’t remember for sure who I had develop and scan the film, but it was probably Old School Photo Lab.

A pilgrimage to Central Camera
Open late
State Street at night

Unfortunately, I’ve had mixed results using other labs, and developing and scanning this film myself. I shot these two images with my Nikon FA, the first with my 50mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor and my second with my 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor. I developed them in HC-110, Dilution B, and scanned them with my Plustek OpticFilm 8200i. I find the grain to be obtrusive and not pleasing on these.

7th & Wabash, Terre Haute

On my recent trip to Chicago I shot a roll of this film in a Minolta Maxxum 5 with a 35-70mm f/4 Maxxum AF Zoom lens. I had Dwayne’s Photo develop and scan the roll. If this had been my first experience with this film, I would never have bought it again.

Blue Chicago sign
Chicago River at night

I believe my cameras all to be in good working condition with accurate meters. Perhaps this film requires great care in developing and scanning. If that’s true, I clearly haven’t found the touch yet. Perhaps this film looks better in developers other than HC-110. I suppose I could always send this film to Old School Photo Lab, as I get the best results from this film when I use them for processing. But I want films that I can develop and scan at home and get consistently good results. With my home development, I’ve had great luck pushing HP5 Plus to 1600. I think the next time I’m up for some night photography, that’s what I’ll try.

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Ghost sign

F. S. Schardein & Sons
Nikon F3, 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor
Adox HR-50
Adox HR-DEV 1+49

Sometimes you just get the feeling that there’s an interesting photograph when you walk up on a scene. I got that feeling here.

I moved all about this little parking lot trying to find the right composition, my camera at my face. I’m sure someday I’m going to trip over something doing that. Finally I noticed the plane of the ghost-sign wall intersecting with the plane of the light streak in the pavement, and I knew I had my shot.

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Film Photography

single frame: F. S. Schardein & Sons

Juxtaposing planes in a parking-lot scene in Louisville, on Adox HR-50

Film Photography

Autumn scenes on expired Kodak Gold 400


After testing the new light seals in my Nikon F3 recently I wanted to keep going with this satisfying camera. I loaded my last roll of Kodak Gold 400, expired since January of 2008. My previous roll of this film looked very good shot at box speed, so I shot it that way this time too. The results showed greater color shifts and noise than last time, but a little quick Photoshoppery made these images look much better.


I mounted my 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens to the F3 for this outing. Despite its noticeable barrel distortion at the wide end, I really like this lens. It’s small and light, and its zoom range gives me good flexibility.


We met our granddaughter and her mom in downtown Zionsville, where there were gourds and pumpkins for sale. Here are three of Margaret’s kids, our “granddog” Obie, our granddaughter, and her mom.

With Grandma

We see our granddaughter most Sundays now, and it’s been lovely. When the weather’s nice enough we meet in town or in a park.

Book blind date

The used bookstore was open this day, running a clever promotion where they wrapped books in kraft paper, wrote what the book was about on the front, and sold them as book blind dates.


I finished the roll around the house. As the weather has grown chillier I’ve gone out less, but I’ve still wanted to make photographs. That means looking for new subjects, or new angles on old subjects, at home.

Purple crock

The 35-70 focuses from about 13 inches. I enjoy zooming this lens to 70mm and moving in close.

Heating the coals

Our last gas grill gave up the ghost last season after just three years of service. That’s the way of $250 gas grills. I didn’t want to blow another $250 that way so I bought a little Weber charcoal grill instead. It’s more hassle to grill on charcoal but the flavor is better. Anyway, I’m pleased that I was able to capture this fire so well.

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