Some subjects draw me in every time I pass by with a camera. This scene on Main Street in Zionsville has become one of those subjects. I am sure I have at least one more photo from here, but I can’t find it now. Enjoy these five.
How fortunate I’ve been these last couple years to live so close to Zionsville’s charming downtown. It’s just a short drive to enjoy the boutiques and galleries and restaurants.
We make good use of Zionsville’s Main Street. On the morning I’m writing this my wife and I are waking up after an impromptu and deeply enjoyed night on the little town. Often when family comes to visit we stroll this brick street and pop into whatever shops are open. It’s always a lovely time. I bring a camera, naturally. That’s how I made this photograph. This potter’s work is always for sale in this particular gallery.
How improbable Zionsville’s Main Street is to me, lined with these perfect little shops that are seldom busy. At any random time I’m in town, several of them aren’t even open. I wonder how any of them turn a profit.
Together, my wife and I are in the top five percent of earners nationwide. (It takes surprisingly little to join that club.) Yet I am sure we are in the bottom quarter of earners in Zionsville. There’s serious money here.
I assume these shops are run by people whose families have plenty of money. Nobody’s counting on these boutiques to pay the mortgage and feed the children. As long as their shops break even, they’re fine.
Metal, mechanical 35mm SLRs with coupled light meters are my favorite way to shoot. I like how substantial they feel. The best of them, like my 1967-75 Nikon Nikomat FTn, feel like they’ll outlast me.
On my first outing with this camera I loaded some since-discontinued Arista Premium 400 (which was allegedly rebranded Kodak Tri-X 400) and went to the State Fair. The camera felt a little clumsy in my hands at first, but I soon adapted to its ways and enjoyed the experience.
And then this camera went onto the shelf and stayed there. I simply have too many lovely metal, mechanical SLRs to choose from, and I kept reaching for my Nikon F2 and my various Pentax bodies first. This is one of the reasons for Operation Thin the Herd: to pass on gear I’m just not going to use enough. Let this good gear go to its next owner.
But I don’t want to be too hasty. This is really a lovely camera. Through the 1970s Nikon put its name only on its professional cameras. Starting in 1965, its not-quite-pro cameras got the Nikomat name in Japan and the Nikkormat name in the rest of the world. I see no evidence that they were not as solidly built as the pro cameras. They just lacked some of the pro features of the F-series cameras like interchangeable viewfinder-meter heads and focusing screens. When reasonably cared for, a Nikomat/Nikkormat is a lifetime camera.
This camera is from before Nikon had devised a way for a body to automatically find the mounted lens’s aperture range. Such cameras and lenses are called “pre-AI,” where AI means “automatic indexing.” This is the only pre-AI body I own, and I keep my only pre-AI lens on it all the time, a 50mm f/2 Nikkor H-C. The H means Hex, for the lens’s six elements. The C stands for multi-Coated, an improvement over earlier H lenses, which were single-coated.
I loaded some Fujicolor 200 into the FTn and shot the roll. It wasn’t until I shot the fourth image past 36 on the frame counter that I realized something was wrong. I opened the camera to find the film leader sitting next to the spool. I had struggled to get the film to wind around the spool and sure enough I’d utterly failed. But this time when I stuck the leader into the spool it grabbed immediately and wound strongly. I got on with shooting the roll again. We were in Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis.
There’s nothing light about the FTn in use. The winder feels substantial. The shutter button requires a solid push. The lever on the lens mount that adjusts shutter speed feels hefty and clicks surely through its stops. This, friends, is what I like about metal, mechanical cameras.
The meter is classic Nikon 60/40 center-weighted. You adjust aperture and shutter speed and the viewfinder needle moves along a scale. When it’s horizontal between + and -, you have a good exposure. + is one stop of overexposure and – is one stop of underexposure. I like how Fujicolor 200 looks when overexposed by up to a stop, so I tended to meter so the needle pointed more towards the +. It didn’t work out for me on this roll; I had to adjust exposure in Photoshop on nearly every frame. I did scan the negatives on my flatbed scanner, however, and I haven’t perfected my techniques yet.
By the late 1970s, SLRs from all makers had largely standardized their controls, placing the shutter-speed selector on the body’s top near the shutter button. That’s what I prefer. I know of two SLRs that place the shutter-speed selector on the lens mount: this one and the Olympus OM-1. The FTn does the OM-1 better in two ways: its selector ring features a tab that makes moving the ring easier when the camera is at your eye, and you can see the selected shutter speed through the viewfinder.
While doing some light shopping on Zionsville’s charming main street, I tried making some photos inside the shops. My shutter speeds were low, like 1/15 sec. But the camera operates smoothly and I have a steady hand.
I shoot Fujicolor all the time and know it better than any other film. The lab’s scans didn’t look great; everything was very brown, and large areas were blotchy. I thought maybe the lab had a bad day with its scanner, so I scanned them myself. They, too, were very brown, but at least they weren’t blotchy. You’re looking at my scans in this post. I had to do a lot of Photoshop work to try to correct the colors.
I also shot a roll of Kodak Portra 400 in the FTn — my first ever, so it’s a film I know not at all. Those images were blotchy too but the colors were good. The lab agreed to take the negatives back and re-scan them. If that makes any difference I’ll let you know. Meanwhile I’ll share scans I made from that roll in an upcoming post.
I like this camera fine. I like my Pentax KM and my Nikon F2 more, and so I reach for them all the time and this Nikomat FTn almost never. This is only the second time I’ve used it. Sadly, that sounds the death knell for the Nikomat FTn in my collection.
Lab scans of 35mm color negatives are miracles. Any lab I routinely use reliably sends me crackerjack digital images.
Getting usable scans from my CanoScan 9000F Mark II via its ScanGear software, on the other hand, is a lot of work involving a number of subjective choices in scanning and post-processing.
I used to think that the colors I got back from the lab were the film’s true colors. I see now how much of that is in the scanner settings, and that I don’t actually know how any film I typically use renders color.
The improvements I made this time were to scan to lossless TIFF files, and to turn off ScanGear’s Image Adjustment setting (which I had overlooked when turning off all the other image-enhancement settings). It helped? I think?
Here’s my scan of a photo I made on Kodak Gold 200 with my Olympus OM-1 and a 50mm f/3.5 Zuiko Auto Macro lens. There’s a little of that mottling in the blue sky that I keep trying to prevent. But it’s not as bad as in previous scans.
Roberts Camera scanned this film when I had them process it. It’s a touch brighter than my scan. The sky has a slight turquoise tint and lacks any mottling. Otherwise, either scan is fine.
Here’s my scan of a butterfly pausing over this flower. Notice how purple the flowers in the background are.
Roberts made those same flowers quite pink, but brought out the detail lurking in the butterfly’s wings.
I also tried scanning some Kodak Ektar 100 I shot in my Pentax Spotmatic F with a 35mm f/3.5 SMC Takumar lens.
Here’s Robert’s Camera’s scan. They got richer colors than I did, although I’d say the sky in mine looks more realistic. The green tint on the right edge of my scan is clearly an artifact of the negative that Robert’s somehow edited out.
I walked over to the building to make this close shot. My scan:
Roberts Camera’s scan got a richer red, but my scan offers better highlight detail.
It was so much easier when I accepted whatever color I got from my lab scans, as if they were the final word on film and lens. Now I’m suspicious of every scan, because of all the choices it represents. Is it possible that the only way to truly know what colors are in a negative is to make a darkroom print?
This, by the way, is the last in this series of experiments. I’ve learned what I need to. I get good enough black-and-white scans now to start processing and scanning black-and-white film, which was my goal. Now that I work Downtown in Indianapolis, eight blocks from Roberts Camera and their C41 lab, I’m likely to have them process and scan my 35mm color negative film. They charge just $10.
I’m smitten with the great color and sharpness my Yashica Lynx 14e delivered on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 the day I walked around Zionsville.
It was a rare sunny day this extra-gray winter. After a heavy snow event the temperatures rose to near 50 degrees and so the streets were full of puddles.
I photograph Zionsville a lot now that I live here, usually the charming Main Street. This day I walked along some of Zionsville’s back streets and alleys looking for interesting compositions.
The town was chartered in 1852 and many buildings and homes from the last half of the 19th century remain. Some of them have been repurposed, like this little church that is now someone’s home.
This green house at the north end of Main Street is probably my favorite in town, and I’ve photographed it over and over. Zillow says it was built in 1918, and has 3 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms.
Zillow also says that this house is worth about a half million dollars. That’s a huge amount of money for a house in Indiana. The same house in Indianapolis would go for far, far less. “The Village” in Zionsville can command these prices because it’s such a charming place to live. Margaret and I would love to move to the Village, but unless we luck into an incredible deal its home prices put it out of our reach.
Red umbrellas at the Brick Street Inn Yashica Lynx 14e Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 2019
This isn’t one of my finest compositions, but I love how the Yashica Lynx 14e captured the light and detail of this scene. Also, the reds and blacks here are so good you’d think this was Kodak Ektar, not Fuji 400.