My first exposure to Nikon was at Penn State's Daily Collegian where the pool cameras were FMs and an F2. I didn't use the F2 much - with its motor drive and a 180mm lens it was wearing a cinder block.
The F2 was Nikon's mechanical, manual flagship system camera of the 1970s. Rugged and reliable construction along with a complete system of lenses, backs, finders and other accessories made it the professional's choice.
So much has been written about it already. My intention here is to give a quick tour of the camera, list some reasons why it may be better or worse than other cameras of the era, and describe what I like and dislike about using it.
The No. 2 Brownie is as basic as a box camera gets. Add in all the things that are missing and the result might be something like the Box Tengor. I found mine at a flea market, at a stall that always has some interesting camera gear.
Goerz made Box Tengors starting around 1924. By the late 20s Goerz and several other companies merged to form Zeiss Ikon. The Box Tengor line was continued under the Zeiss Ikon name. The model I have is a wartime 54/2 that probably dates to 1943 or 1944. Like Brownies, there were cameras made for different film sizes. Models 54/2, 55/2 and 56/2 take 120.
My local vintage store has a corner with stacks of cameras. Most are battered, unattractive, or unusable because film is no longer available. Some are both ugly and unusable: Kodak Instant Camera, anyone?
I found a No. 2 Brownie in the pyramid of box cameras which was interesting because it takes 120 film and it was cheap. The camera was in decent shape. The viewfinder and lens needed some cleaning. The cloth door hinge was loose and the latch tended to slide open. A rubber band fixed both of these problems.
No. 2 Brownies were introduced in 1901 and was sold for over 35 years with many variations. I learned from the incredible Brownie Camera Page that mine is a Model C, from between 1907-1914. Note that the No. 2a takes discontinued 116 film, NOT 120. Model number is important!
Body and construction. It's a small box made of cardboard, cloth with a leatherette texture, wood, cloth tape and some metal. In materials it has more in common with a book than a modern camera. Later models had metal inserts, then metal bodies.
As I've said in a previous essay, my first real 35mm camera was an Olympus OM-1n. It was the best I could afford at the time. Nikons and Canons were too expensive.
In college I worked on the newspaper and their cameras were Nikons: F2s and FMs. The cameras were big, heavy, and loud compared to the Olympus but the lenses. Oh, the lenses. And considering how the pool cameras were abused I was impressed by their durability.
Fast forward 20 years. I use Nikon digital and the later Nikon film cameras (F5 and F100). But I find myself nostalgic for a manual focus camera. The FE and FM bodies are identical but FEs are cheaper. I ended up with a beautiful black FE2 and a 35mm f/1.4, a lens that I couldn't dream of affording in college days. I enjoyed shooting with it so much I bought a second FE2 in chrome.
I'll be teaching a workshop on New55 in mid-December:
Polaroid Type 55 was a unique large format instant film that made both a sharp black and white print and a fine-grained negative. It was a favorite of many photographers including Ansel Adams, and was discontinued in 2008 along with all of Polaroid's other instant films.
New55 was a wildly successful Kickstarter project to recreate Polaroid Type 55. While New55 is very different, it can yield beautiful results once you understand its quirks.
The workshop will include:
A quick history, including examples of work shot on both Type 55 and New55
Materials and chemistry needed to shoot New55
How to use and clean a large format Polaroid back
Loading, exposing and processing
Fixing and washing
Special effects: Solarizing negatives
Next steps: Scanning, enlarging, printing
Participants will have the opportunity to shoot 2 sheets of New55 film. Please bring your 4x5 setup if it's portable, and a Polaroid back (545, 545i or 545 Pro) if you have one. Participants should be familiar with using a large format camera.
My solo show Parade of Spirits: Portraits is opening 2 December 2016 at Gravy Studio, 910 N 2nd St. in Philadelphia.
The parade this year is from 4 to 6 PM on 17 December at Liberty Lands Park. The gallery will be open from 6 to 8 PM, so join the parade then come see my show. If you go, please consider bringing a donation of new, unworn socks in any size. Urglaawe, a local heathen group, is collecting them for distribution to homeless shelters throughout the area.
History. Fed made rangefinders from the 1930s through the 1990s. The original Fed is a straight copy of the Leica II. There were several subsequent models, and within each there were submodels with incremental improvements. (Occasionally cameras will be referred to by submodel such as Fed 2b. This lettering system comes from Princelle's Authentic Guide to Russian and Soviet Cameras.) The Fed 5 was the end of the line. Soviet cameras such as Feds and Zorkis are very inexpensive compared to Leicas of the same era and they’re a cheap way into the rangefinder world.
I bought a Fed 5 on eBay because the price was good and it was shipping from the US. I can't remember why I thought this was a good idea.
History. Zeiss, now known for lenses, made cameras until the 1970s. Their medium format folding cameras were mostly sold under the name Ikonta starting before World War II. There were many different formats and lens options over the years. Certo6, who restores folding cameras, has an excellent introduction to the different models.
The Super Ikonta III and IV were the last models produced, from the mid-50s until around 1960. The IV is a III with a built-in light meter.
I found an Agfa Isolette at a local vintage store which I restored and used. I like the size and the quality of the pictures. I didn't like the "guess the distance" zone focusing. I sold the Isolette and bought a restored Super Ikonta III. I've been using it for five years, and like it so much I bought a second two years ago.
I'll talk about my particular camera - with a a 3-element Novar lens, and Synchro-Compur shutter - in this review. Because there were many variations over the years individual models may have different features or specs.
After several years out of photography, and a couple of years using a DSLR I was ready for a change.
My local camera store has a used equipment case strategically placed so you can browse while the staff is in the back fetching whatever it is you came in for.
There was a Mamiya C330 that looked almost new that reminded me of the TLR I used in the 80s. During the next week I kept thinking about it, and I went back to the store to take another look. Too late, sold. They did have one other medium format camera, though...
That's how I ended up with a Hasselblad 500C/M in 2008.
I began shooting the series Descent on medium format using a Hasselblad and the Fuji GF670. My father became more impatient and impulsive and these cameras could not keep up with him. I purchased an F5 because it had fast focus and film advance. I've been using it for about 4 years.
A print from the series Descent will be on display at Onward 2015. “Curated by guest juror Elinor Carucci, the exhibition of ONWARD Compé ‘15 features 53 images by 37 emerging photographers from across the globe.” Opening is Saturday, March 14 from 6-9 PM. • More info