Tuesday, 12 May 2015

More treasures in the attic! Some great cameras this time.

My goodness, there's a lot of stuff up in my attic! Yesterday I came across some photo equipment from the film era. I hadn't touched any of it since I went digital in May 2000.

Now this was something I couldn't throw away! Or at least not my three favourite cameras from film days. These were: a Konica Auto S3 compact, bought in 1973; and two cameras from 1993 - a sub-compact Minox 35 GT-E, and a secondhand Olympus OM-1N SLR. Here they are, brought down from the attic and set up on the table in my study:

It was lovely to handle them again!

The Konica was my first 'proper' camera. It cost me £75 in August 1973. I used it right through to 1990, when I switched to a secondhand Olympus OM-10 SLR. The Konica wasn't all that pocketable, but it was small enough to carry around all day and never miss a shot. Its 38mm f/1.8 lens could cope with a wide range of subjects and lighting conditions. Manual focussing was accomplished with a rangefinder. It still felt impressively solid and well-built - all-metal, naturally.

No screen on the back of the camera! (Doesn't it look strange?)

The only snag with the Konica was its viewfinder, which was fine while I had young eyes, but once I began to wear glasses from 1986 it was a nuisance to squint through it.

The Minox was truly pocketable, and of course you paid for both the famous name and the miniaturisation. It cost me £199 in February 1993. But what a handy little camera it was. Its forte was being there in your jeans pocket. Its mainly-plastic construction made it very lightweight, and because the lens folded completely away, it was very slim. That said, I gradually fell out of love with it, because focussing was by guesswork (which led to too many slightly-less-than-crisp shots) and creatively it had severe limitations - you couldn't use filters, for example. Nor was it good in poor light - its 35mm f/2.8 lens was strictly for daylight shooting. But nevertheless it was and remains a design icon:

The best of the bunch is of course the Olympus. The original OM-1 was launched way back in 1972, but stayed in production for a very long time virtually unaltered. My secondhand OM-1N was a late model, probably made in the mid-1980s. I'd already been shooting with the 'amateur' OM-10 for some while, and was ready to upgrade to the 'professional' OM-1N, although by then 'real pros' would have been using the OM-4. Intending to explore low-light photography, I bought it with a secondhand 50mm f/1.4 lens. The combo cost me £220 in August 1993. Other lenses followed, but the standard 50mm lens always seemed to give me the very best results, and I generally stuck with it. I used the Olympus heavily until May 2000. It was a very pretty camera. It gave me great pleasure throughout, and great shots, and I was sorry to relegate it to the attic.

Here are some side-by-side shots which show how these cameras each compare in size with my current Leica D-Lux 4 digital zoom compact, bought for £550 in June 2009:

That Minox really was very small!

I was an early convert to digital photography, getting into it before before the main rush began. I recall many an article in photo magazines about whether digital was 'better' than film. The answer was, and still is, that the two media produce distinctively different results, and it's a matter of taste as to whether you prefer one to the other. But there's no denying that digital surpassed film for clean resolution of sharp detail years ago. And digital can secure usable images in extreme lighting conditions well beyond the capability of film. Once uploaded (or in the case of film, scanned) onto a computer, both can be tweaked as much as desired, of course. But it's hard nowadays to do anything serious with film, because film manufacture has almost stopped. Even that giant of film, Kodak, has gone.

Talking of Kodak film, guess what I discovered in the front pocket of the Olympus carrying-case?

Two Kodak Gold 100 film packets, one of them opened - meaning that there must be a partially-used film in the Olympus. And an unused film waiting to be loaded up and exposed after that.

Isn't this tempting? Both films must be fifteen years old, and well past their best, but I'd love to see those undeveloped shots from early 2000, and how I would look now if captured on 35mm film. And also what would be the outcome of a grand digital Leica/film Olympus head-to-head comparison test. Time to get out the tripod, methinks, and experiment! I asked in Boots today whether they still processed films (Yes) and what it would cost to to have prints off a 36-exposure film (£4.99 quoted to me).

It looks like a tenner's-worth of fun is looming!


  1. The film SLR cameras were much nicer to hold and use than the mainly plastic things they make now but my heart leapt seeing the Minox. I had a version without all the red bits and loved it, guess focusing and all. Sadly it had a basic design fault, which was pointed out to me soon after I bought it, by a camera repair technician who predicted the lack of a braided wire connection would cause an early demise as the camera was regularly flexing the wire each time it was opened. Mine dies as predicted... Only problem I found was its small size meant it sometimes took a while to find which pocket it was stored in!

    Digital has finally matured but I find it interesting that in the film days there was always a short list of cameras which were desirable to own, now with digital there is nothing below the price of a small car which stirs my heart...

  2. Yes, come to think of it, my Minox did develop a fault of some kind, although I can't remember what it was.

    I'm stymied on using the Olympus - the battery powering the CdS exposure system has died. I could of course guess the exposure needed, but that wouldn't be entirely fair on the camera. Assuming one is still available, do I want to buy a new battery? To expose one and a half films? Well, yes, I suppose so...


  3. Smartypant phones often have apps for using them as light-meters...

  4. Another thought. Unlike digital which is very picky about exposure, colour negative film will give you a result even if you are several stops out. There used to be a rough guide with each film, sunny f16 at 1/125 for example, I used such a guide for a whole months trip on a bike because the guide weighed almost nothing and the light meter was anything but light! Ten rolls almost no failures...

  5. Thanks, Coline - useful ideas here!


  6. Modern DSLR cameras are so sophisticated it can seem daunting for a new photographer to fathom out how to take control and use it properly in full manual mode. This is an account of how I learnt to use the main features of my two DSLR cameras. I don't consider myself a professional photographer, but with what I've learnt, I feel far more confident about attending an advanced photography course and being able to get stuck in straight away, without having to muddle along not knowing how to work my camera properly. Get the camera know-how out of the way, and then you'll be able to focus on learning the creative skills these advanced courses offer. That's what this article tackle: getting to grips with the main features of a DSLR. Dashcam Bluetooth Wholesalers


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