Saturday, February 26, 2011

Old School Film Cameras

A few weeks ago I wrote about my old Canon AE1 and the Nikon F3 that Rob Boyer is giving away. I missed the Canon SLR and wanted a chance to win a Nikon replacement so I entered Rob’s contest.

I had a month to wait for the giveaway so I started browsing the cameras on eBay. I watched the F3’s at first but soon started watching the YashicaMat’s too. I already owned one - the 1958 LM pictured above. I love that old camera. I use it from time to time to shoot B&W film which I then develop myself.

What I was looking for though is a slightly newer EM model - circa 1965. The EM uses a similar selenium powered light meter and a faster method for matching the needle to the f-stop / shutter speed scale.

Most of these cameras are selling for about $150. Occasionally one would go for $100 and sometimes well over $200. My maximum bids stayed around $80. Well, as luck would have it nobody outbid me on this particular camera and I became the new owner of a decent YashicaMat EM. It’s in the picture above and to the left of the LM. I can’t wait to put some film in it and see how well it works (or not).

The camera front and center is a 1956 Agfa Silette-L 35mm viewfinder camera. It’s the hardest of the cameras to use. You have to turn a dial to match a needle. Then read off the resulting number (between 2 and 18) and rotate a dial behind the lens to match the number. This locks into place giving you a range of f-stops with matching shutter speeds. With those values set we can now focus on our subject. Got a tape measure? Are you good at guessing distances? Think your subject is 10ft away? Then turn the lens until 10ft is top dead center. There’s no way to know if you’re right unless you pull out a tape measure - or, better yet a laser distance meter.

So, back around to the Nikon F3. While waiting for Rob’s contest I came across a gently used one on eBay. It was a reasonable price, came with the MD-4 motor drive and four rolls of film. The camera was built in September 1998 so it’s in good shape. The motor has taken most of the beatings and I can see why - this thing’s a beast! It uses 8 AA batteries and feels like it weighs 10 lbs. Take the motor off though and F3 is small and light.

I’m working through my first roll of film and still getting used to the controls but I already like this camera a lot. It uses the same lenses as my D90 - okay, check that - it uses the same LENS as my D90. I only own one lens. I have two bodies and one lens. Hmmm, sounds like I need to spend more time on eBay.