Tokyo Mini Photo Essay #2: A Weekend for Compact Cameras

The weekend after my Fukuoka trip, I found myself in the nation’s capital again. This was my third time in Tokyo (not counting when I first flew into Narita from Canada). As usual, I brought my Leica M2, some bulk-rolled Tri-X 400, and some rolls of Superia and Portra. I was mainly there to see some old friends from Canada and elsewhere around the world.

Nikon Lite Touch - Portra 400-2
Nikon AF600/Lite Touch, Portra 400

I did, however, have a specific goal of finding a compact camera to replace my Konica Big Mini-301. The Big Mini’s ribbon cable finally crapped out on me (it was only a matter of time), so I was left compact-less yet again. I had my eyes on either an Olympus XA2 or a Nikon AF600/Lite Touch. I was hoping to do some hunting in Shinjuku to find either one at a decent price. I ended up leaving Tokyo with both.

compacts

I found the Olympus XA2 during my first day in Tokyo at a shop in Ginza first. It was up for a pretty decent price so I grabbed it. Later that day I was walking around Shinjuku and found a store that had a Nikon AF600/Lite Touch for a pretty decent price as well. I almost left without it but I couldn’t help myself. The first couple hours of the weekend trip had already yielded not one, but two compact camera purchases.

Nikon Lite Touch - Portra 400
Nikon AF600/Lite Touch, Portra 400

For the entire weekend, I only shot with these two compacts. My Leica M2 was safely stored in a locker at my hostel and it never saw the streets for the entire trip. These two compacts yield two very different shooting experiences, I’m very glad I ended up with both. The Olympus XA2 is a zone-focusing rangefinder with no on-board flash, sporting a Zuiko 35mm f/3.5 lens. I considered the XA but wanted a bit more automation and wasn’t looking for a true rangefinder (I have my Leica M2 for that).

Olympus XA2 - Superia 400-4
Olympus XA2, Superia 400
Olympus XA2 - Superia 400-3
Olympus XA2, Superia 400

The Nikon AF600/Lite Touch, on the other hand, is a whole other beast. It’s a fully-automatic point & shoot compact, sporting a 28mm f/3.5 lens. I thoroughly enjoyed the 28mm focal length experience. It’s been a while since I’ve used a 28 and I really enjoyed the wider experience. It’s a small body with excellent autofocus and sharp glass.

Nikon Lite Touch - Superia 800
Nikon AF600/Lite Touch, Superia 800
Nikon Lite Touch - Portra 400-3
Nikon AF600/Lite Touch, Superia 800

This weekend was all about compact cameras. I came looking to buy one, ended up with two, and shot with both of them the entire weekend, leaving my Leica behind every time I left the hostel. Both of these compacts are very different and each have their own quirks. I’m very satisfied with the experience of these two compacts so far. A full review of each camera may be in the works for the future.

Here are some additional images from the weekend:

 

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Fukuoka Mini Photo Essay

A couple weeks ago I had the chance to visit Fukuoka for a weekend. Fukuoka isn’t a place that’s talked about a whole lot when people think about Japan, but it’s got its own charm that is worth checking out.

FukFor this quick weekend trip I took just my Leica M2 and my new Summicron 35mm f/2. For film, I brought several rolls of bulk-rolled Tri-X 400, and a couple rolls of Portra 400. It wasn’t the most eventful trip but I did get to do a bit of shooting. I was mainly there to meet up with a couple dear old friends from back home in Canada who were travelling through the country.

Fuk-3

After seeing places like Seoul, Tokyo and the tourist-hive of Kyoto, it was nice to get a glimpse at a smaller city like Fukuoka. There’s definitely less tourists around and it doesn’t have the crazy hustle-and-bustle feel that Tokyo does. A certain charm in its own right. The evenings are calm, at night the streets are quiet and people go about their business at a slower pace.

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Fukuoka is known for being the birthplace of tonkotsu ramen, which I certainly indulged in. One of the places I went to, Hakata Ramen Zen, was absolutely fantastic. Their main attraction is their dirt cheap (only ¥320!!) basic tonkotsu ramen. To this day I still think it’s the best ramen I’ve ever had in Japan (and I’ve had a fair bit of ramen here). Fukuoka is also known for their yatai (outdoor food stalls). I had some ramen here too. Seeing these tiny outdoor food stands packed with patrons along the river was something else. The first time I’ve seen ramen served outdoors in Japan.

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While overall it was a pretty uneventful trip, Fukuoka was a welcome change of pace. Walking around the town without anywhere to be anytime soon was enjoyable. Sitting in a park by the port with the sun greeting the horizon, watching fisherman pack up for the day and couples out for an evening stroll was a welcome shift in mood.

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Shooting 16-year expired Ektachrome P1600

About 3 months ago I won an auction for 2 rolls of very expired Ektachrome P1600. I’m not too sure why I bought the stuff. I didn’t even know Ektachrome existed in a 1600 speed variant. I’m not a huge slide film user (I’ve actually only shot it once before on 120). Nevertheless, I was browsing the film section of Yahoo Auctions and it looked interesting so I thought I’d give it a go.

ektachrome box

Couple of days later it arrived. Expired in 2002, the ad made no mention of any sort of storage conditions. I assumed the worst. As a relatively inexperienced slide film user, I foolishly applied the general rule of thumb for expired color negative film to the expired Ektachrome. It was expired 16 years ago, so I overexposed the film 1.5 stops. I’ve since learned that this rule shouldn’t be applied to slide film, as the latitude differs greatly. Nevertheless, I was still able to get some usable results, albeit the slides look terrible.

Ektachrome 1600 (2002)

I shot this roll in my Nikon F3 and 50mm f/1.4. I used the Nikon F3 for its metering system. I shoot 90% of my work on my Leica M2 and meter by eye, but this was a very unfamiliar scenario for me. I almost never work with slide film and certainly not slide film that was this expired, stored in unknown conditions.  So I took the Nikon F3 out and shot the roll around Tō-ji temple and on the Skyway of Kyoto Station.

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As expected, there was a heavy amount of grain, plus some base fog and color shift. I was still quite impressed with the performance given the conditions. I tried to shoot both a mixture of soft, even light and harshly contrasty scenes to test the film’s capabilities.

 

The magenta cast and the severe grain is apparent in both the above pictures. I’m actually a big fan of harsh grain and I don’t mind it at all given my expectations of the film (1600 speed film, 16 years expired), but the magenta cast was a bit less desirable.

expired ektachrome-2

Overall I definitely enjoyed a handful of images the film yielded. I’m a sucker for grain and it was oddly enjoyable shooting a roll without much guarantee of what the results would look like. I have 1 roll of this stuff left so next time I’ll probably overexpose by less and try to shoot scenes with more forgiving light.

Seoul Mini Photo Essay #1

Seoul

Over the weekend I visited Seoul for Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving). It’s been about 10 years since I’ve been back to Korea, so it was almost like visiting for the first time. I honestly didn’t have a ton of time for sightseeing and photography as I spent most of my time with family, but I did manage to get a little shooting in.

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First, a small note on gear. I actually did the opposite of my last trip to Tokyo and this time I brought 3 cameras and a variety of film stocks (both b/w and color). I brought my Yashica Mat-124G (with the intention of selling/trading it), my Konica Big Mini and my trust Leica M2. I also brought some bulk rolled Tri-X 400 and 2 rolls of Fuji Superia 400. Although I brought 3 cameras this time around, I actually only ended up shooting the Leica. I never even took the Konica Big Mini out of my bag and I traded the Yashica Mat-124G in for a Sony DSC-RX100, thus getting rid of my last medium format camera and making the full leap to 35mm only (a topic for another blog post).

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Like I said before, I had barely any time to shoot during this short 2.5 day visit. I only got in one roll of Fuji Superia 400, one roll of Tri-X 400 (pushed to 1600) and one roll of Portra 400. During my first full day I visited Namdaemun market, with the intention of checking out the camera stores. I’ve heard great things about both Namdaemun and Chungmuro and their film camera stores. I wanted to visit both but only had time for Namdaemun (I’ve heard Chungmuro has a better selection of film-specific gear!). I highly recommend visiting both if you’re in Seoul! The smells and sounds and sights are quite something.

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As I was trading in my Yashica Mat-124G and saying goodbye to medium format (for now), I managed to grab some Kodak Portra 400 as part of the exchange. I used to shoot Portra all the time, but haven’t shot it in about a year and a half. This is due to many reasons, but mainly price. I just couldn’t justify paying for expensive film when there were cheaper options out there. I also had a period of shooting only HP5+ for the better part of a year. But when I got my hands on some from the trade I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I shot it again.

The warm pastel tones of Portra give it that classic 35mm film look and the dynamic range is to die for. I overexposed it to hell and back and everything came out really nice. I seriously missed shooting this film. I’m definitely going to start shooting it more often now. Even if this trip wasn’t too productive photography-wise, it served as a re-revelation to the wonders of Portra. tumblr-71

Although I didn’t get to shoot too much during this visit, I definitely enjoyed the few shots I got. If it wasn’t for this trip I wouldn’t have shot any Portra and fallen in love with it all over again. I’ll definitely be back in Seoul sometime in 2018 or early 2019. Hopefully I’ll have more content after that trip.

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All photos shot on a Leica M2 and Tri-X 400 (pushed to 1600) or Portra 400.

Nikon F3 Review: Understated Perfection

The Nikon F3 is the third flagship SLR from the Nikon F series. Released in 1980, during the peak of the SLR arms race from camera giants like Nikon, Canon, Pentax and Minolta, it enjoyed a 20+ year period of production before it was succeeded by the Nikon F4 (although the F3 was still in production well after the F4 was released). Enjoyed by enthusiasts and professionals alike. The technical details of this camera have been discussed to great lengths elsewhere. In this review I’m going to focus on my personal experience shooting this camera and where it fits in my arsenal. Here are my thoughts on this legendary SLR.

Nikon F3.jpg

I bought this Nikon F3 back in March of 2018. I got an incredible deal on it, $169 USD for the body, so I just had to get it. It was a bit dinged up but in 100% functional order. I didn’t really need it at the time, but with a deal like that I couldn’t really pass it up. Plus I had some Nikon F-mount glass already so I saw it as a good investment.

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I’ve only owned three 35mm SLRs in my life, the Canon AE-1, the Nikon FE and now the Nikon F3. The F3 is by far the superior system. The film advance is the best feeling advance I’ve experienced in an SLR, the modular nature and versatility are unmatched, and the design is to die for.

Nikon F3-6

The Nikon F3 was designed by Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, a famous designer who’s responsible for designing some of the most striking Italian sports cars ever. He was the one who added the patented red stripe accent to the Nikon F3, an accent that has been included in every major Nikon release ever since. The F3’s design is industrialist while still remaining beautiful. It’s understated but bold. Some might say that it doesn’t matter what the camera looks like, what matters is its functionality. While I agree to some extent, I also believe that having a camera that you’re inspired to create with is incredibly important. If you’re more likely to pick up a camera that’s beautifully designed, you’re more likely to go out and shoot. Of course, functionality is important too and the Nikon F3 is no slouch when it comes to this either.

Nikon F3-9

The viewfinder in the Nikon F3 is one of my favorite components of this camera. It’s clean, clear, offers 100% viewfinder coverage and isn’t bedazzled with distracting needles and LEDs. The shutter speed is displayed in a separate LCD window, as is the aperture display. There’s nothing to distract you from your composition.

Nikon F3-3

The metering in the F3 is pretty much infallible. I shoot on aperture priority mode 99% of the time, and I’ve never had a failed exposure, even in tricky back-lit and contrasty lighting. Even with aperture priority mode on, I have the freedom to meter for the shadows or highlights with the exposure lock button. With these two features in tandem, I pretty much have complete control over exposure even while in a semi-automated shooting mode. The Nikon F3 is the camera I choose when I want to go out and shoot and have nothing in my way.

Nikon F3-7

I love taking the Nikon F3 out when I want just a bit more control over my exposure and aperture than a point and shoot but want to turn my brain off a bit and not worry about nailing my exposure like with my Leica M2. It’s also a nice departure from the 35mm focal length that is on virtually every other camera I own. The lens that is permanently attached to my F3 is the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4. Only on the rare occasion that I do some portraiture work will I bring out the 105mm f/2.5. Besides that, its always the 50. I love how this camera offers full-fledged functionality but also allows me to just turn my brain off and shoot.

Nikon F3-5

There are many aspects of this camera that I love and very few that I do not. If I had to complain about anything with this camera, its the flash compatibility. I don’t often shoot with a flash so it’s not much of a concern, but the F3 has a unique flash hotshoe and it can be tricky finding a compatible flash without the use of adapters. But as I said before, this is hardly a concern for me as I prefer to shoot without flash in 99% of all situations.

All in all, this is a fantastic professional SLR that serves as one of my main 35mm cameras. The understated but powerful design, incredibly clean and clear viewfinder, robust metering system and the versatility of its automated/manual modes make this my favorite 35mm SLR of all time.

Nikon F3-4