Since I have used Nikon DSLR for many years. In fact, ever since my interest in photography started, it was only natural that my first analog SLR was also a Nikon. Otherwise the main requirements I had for a used SLR was that it had to function without the battery and be solid. That one have to focus manually and set the shutter and aperture was no problem for me because I think I learn a lot more if the camera is all manual. I landed quickly on Nikon F series and FM2 matched perfectly with my requirements. After a long (and good…) search session on ebay.com, an excellent item from japan appeared in my mailbox. In addition, I had got myself three lenses 35, 50 and 85 mm, which should cover most situations the camera should be used for.
Type: 35mm single-lens reflex (SLR) focal plane shutter camera
Film: 135 film cartridge.
Shutter speed settings: 1s ~ 1/4000s, Bulb
Viewfinder: Eye-level 93% coverage with shutter speed, f/number, and LED exposure display for exposure. Split-image micro prism focusing screen (K2).
Exposure meter: TTL center-weighted full aperture exposure measuring system
Frame counter: S, 0~36. Automatically reset.
Film sensitivity range: ASA/ISO 12~6400
Self-Timer: Set/cancel type provided. Approximately 10s.
Multiple exposure lever: Provided, disengages frame counter for correct count
There are a lot of lenses that fit this system, but I chose three different Nikkor AF-D lenses to go with this camera house. 35mm 50mm and 85mm. This camera house is not made with autofocus however I chose these lenses because I could also use them on my digital cameras. Nikon FM2N takes all Nikon F bayonet mount lenses that supports the Automatic indexing feature (AI). Nikon-made AI lenses of this type are the AF-S, AF-I, AF-D, AF, AI-S, AI and E types. The three focal lengths 35mm, 50mm and 85mm worked great for me. 35mm for landscape, 85mm for close portraits and details, and 50mm for everything in between. The lenses are small in size and all together is packed quite compact. And that is important to me because I am hiking a lot, and wants a lightweight backpack.
Interchangeable focusing screen: Matte/Fresnel with focusing spot (B2) and matte/Fresnel with focusing spot and etched grid lines (E2). Split-image rangefinder/microprism system K2 is standard
Motor Drive: The use of the MO-12 motor drive unit with the FM2 enables automatic film advance when the unit’s trigger button is pressed.
Flash: Speedlight can be directly mounted onto the FM2’s built-in hot shoe. Sync cord terminal.
Remote: Screw thread cable release
Well, actually I can’t pinpoint any major problem with this camera system. But I can say that his camera is not for the person who depend on full automation. Another disadvantage is that analog photography has become increasingly popular in recent years and camera prices have unfortunately increased to values higher than I think they are worth. I have also read that the left-eyed people will have a problem with the film advance lever. The lever needs to be out in order to take a shot.
This is a very robust and steady camera. Easy to use and very convenient to throw down the backpack. However, after all the film rolls I have run through the camera, I have come to the conclusion that I prefer a larger format. That is no fault with the camera, only a limitation in the film format it uses. I find the full frame format (24mmx36mm) to be limited when making digital scans, and the grain can be a bit too much. And especially prominent at higher ISO film. Of course, there are cases where I’m looking for exactly that grainy expression, but if I have to choose, I prefer the medium format over the full frame format. So far, I have not made darkroom prints from the 35mm format, so I have no experience of how the resolution and grain appear on the paper. Hopefully, it will change soon because I want to build a darkroom with an enlarger.
Source: Nikon FM2n manual.
When I did the research to buy my first medium format camera, I quickly came to the Fuji rangefinder series. If you read forums and other online sources, good things are often written about the Texas Leica (as it is also known as). When looking to other 135 film rangefinders the GW690 is huge and bulky, but compared with many other medium-format cameras, the GW690 series has a manageable size and are reasonably priced. My photos is mainly taken in the field, so I depend on being able to carry it in my backpack among thermos and lunch. Size matters. I prefer the 2:3 format and a positive feature is that each frame measures 6 x 9 cm. One can easily make large prints from a picture made with the GW690. All this together the Fuji GW690 stood out to me as a good first buy, and the search for a good item started at ebay. Finally, I landed on a camera for sale in Japan. And after a few weeks of waiting, I received a third generations GW690 camera in mail here at Svalbard.
This rangefinder series from fuji (fujica) was introduced in the late 70s and was produced until 90s. All the pictures and tests I have done is with a third generation GW690 made in 1992. The camera has a very good fixed prime lens at 90mm with leaf shutter integrated between the glasses. The aperture goes from f/3.5 to f/32 and shutter speed between 1s and 1/500s. The lens has a somewhat long minimum focusing distance of just 1 meter. Other things worth mentioning is that the camera has a hotshoe for flash, a lock on the trigger, and a built in retractable lens hood. The lens has inner threads with 67mm diameter for your ND or color filters.
What I like the most with this camera is the huge negative it produces. 6 cm x 9 cm is the biggest size negative one can make on a medium format camera. If you want a larger format than that you need to scale up to large format cameras (4×5″ for example). And that is a different ball game.
What I liked least about this camera is that I find it a bit difficult to achieve focus. The yellow spot focus area is tiny, and I need to search around the image to find a suitable place to align the “double image”. It is tough in a low contrast scenery and bit difficult on a tripod.
After shooting approximately 20+ rolls of 120 film, I have discovered a little light leak which appears in the bottom of the image. I have solved this easily with electrical tape. The workaround has not been a major problem for me. One can expect such error with old cameras, and if it bothers me too much I will replace the gasket with a new one. I have really enjoyed this camera and think it should run a great deal of rolls before I switch to other medium format cameras. The camera has been perfect as a introduction to the medium format. I have learned a lot with the fact that the settings are all manual. This is probably not the camera for the person who takes pictures of fast moving scenes or prefer full automation. With this camera one must think carefully and use some time before the photo is taken.
Early 2016 I placed six pinhole cameras in the terrain around Longyearbyen, and let them collect sunlight for about one year. The cameras were made from a beer can with a photographic paper curled inside the can and with a small pinhole to let in sunlight. Apart from the pin hole, the camera was lightproof and mounted on a wooden frame.
When I collected the cameras I soon understood that I had made a mistake. The sun and weather has dried and cracked the wooden frame and it must have caused a movement to the camera during the exposure time. I saw warped wood on all six of my pinhole cameras. The picture below is the one with least movement.
Some edit is needed in lightroom and/or photoshop:
This last image is the original photographic paper straight from the pinhole camera to the flat bed scanner. No development or other chemicals added. If the paper is submerged in developer it will turn completely black. Don’t do that!
Lesson learned: Create a better foundation for the camera. It must withstand the weather conditions without creating any movement. One year is too long to wait to find out that one has camera movements …
A pinhole photo made inside a rectangular box will make no lens distortion, wide angle images remain absolutely rectilinear. However if you want a more distorted look to the pinhole photo, why not try out a pinhole camera made from a coffee can! The left and right side of the image looks stretched while the center is normal.
Create the pinhole. Like the box-camera, I made the pinhole with a thin piece of aluminum (from a beer can) and the diameter size is 0.3mm in diameter. A standard needle will make a hole to big and the picture will not appear sharp. So I experimented a little… By only using the tip of the needle against a hard surface and a few sheets of paper between I was able to punch a hole smaller than the needle itself. Sanding down the edges is important!
Add photographic paper. In the darkroom, slide a photographic paper inside the can (with size 10×17 cm for this coffee can). The light sensitive side of paper should be facing the pinhole. The lid should be light proof, and remember to cover the pinhole with a black tape. The coffee can was shiny on the inside, so I used black spray paint to eliminate reflections.
The rest of the process (exposure timing, development and more) is the same as for the box pinhole camera. You can read the DIY Pinhole I there 🙂
This is how the coffee can pinhole photo looks like:
It started with pinhole photography. Making my own pinhole camera were my way in to the analog photography world. It is a relatively easy project that everyone can do, and doesn’t cost much. All you need is a box, photographic paper, developer chemicals, a red light bulb and a dark room.
The box. I decided to work with photographic paper that is 18x24cm in size. The depth of the box is 12cm, and that gave me a OK wide angle field of view. So inside of the box is 18x24x12 (HxWxD). The box is made of a wood frame and a aluminum plate that makes the front. I used tec7 sealant to make sure no light leaks in to the box except through the pinhole. This is a simple construction that did not take much time to assemble. If you have 10 thumbs or not the time to build a box, you can easily make a pinhole camera out of a shoe box and black tape. However it will be less sturdy. The pinhole is made through a thin piece of aluminum (from a beer can) and has the size 0.5mm in diameter. I used a standard needle to make the pin hole and I carefully sanded down the edges.
Loading the Camera. Inside a darkroom with safe light on, I load the camera with photographic paper with size 18x24cm. Emulsion side facing the pinhole. I secure the Ilford Multigrade IV photographic paper to the back wall of the box with magnets. The front of the camera is hold in place to the frame wall with tape. The tape will also make it light proof. Before I exit the dark room I make sure the pinhole is secured with a small piece of tape. It will function as the shutter!
F-number and pinhole size. The sharpest image is obtained using a pinhole size determined by the formula:
where d is pinhole diameter, f is focal length (distance from pinhole to image plane) and λ is the wavelength of light. For standard black-and-white film, a wavelength of light corresponding to yellow-green (550 nm) should yield optimum results. The f-number of the camera may be calculated by dividing the distance from the pinhole to the imaging plane (the focal length) by the diameter of the pinhole.
Exposure. Once I am out in field I use an App on my phone to measure the exposure time. Input to the App is ISO=4 and f-number=235. The pinhole box is mounted to a tripod because exposure time is typically several seconds to minutes depending on the light conditions. You don’t want camera shake or movement during exposure. I use a watch for exposure timing.
Develop. To develop the image I mix the chemicals as described in the maker instructions. For a 18x24cm paper, 1 liter is sufficient. Under safe light in the darkroom open the box and put the paper into the developer. Soak the paper 1 min in developer bath. 10 sec for stop and 30 seconds for fix the bath. Wash for 2 minutes. If you correctly exposed the paper you should see an inverted image the paper. The image needs to be inverted and horizontal flipped in photoshop. I am not going to explain that here. It might be an topic for a later blog post.
Further reading: Pin-Hole Camera at Wiki