Yes, I “want” a new backpack

I’ve 2 backpacks, one that is just a laptop sleeve from 2002 and really is falling apart and the other is a camera backpack.

Me: I need a new backpack. *Starts looking online*

Lily: You mean you “want” one, you don’t “need” a new one. Use the one from Costco. I’m not using it anymore.

It’s this one BTW. I think it’s a little large and doesn’t have padding for a DSLR camera.

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In 2008 the whole family went to Disney World and I purchased a Lowepro Fastpack 200 backpack.

At the time I got it for it’s quick access to the camera; you swing the bag off of one shoulder, do a triple somersault, perform a mid-air unzipping of the bag and poof you have your DLSR in your hand before you’ve put your feet back on the ground.

Thinking about it, that’s not a feature I’ve ever used…

That bag went with the family on a cruise, to China (that was an awesome trip) and has seen thousands of miles. It’s a bit small for non-camera related items and doesn’t have a laptop sleeve. My 11″ MacBook Air fits barely but without padding every impact risks breaking it and I do bump into things. One of the zipper straps broke and I replaced it with a keychain ring.

At the moment I’m leaning towards the Tamrac Aero 80 but I need to see it in person. It’s got enough space for my laptop and camera but if I can’t fit the other stuff (salad Tupperware, small assorted junk I carry with me everyday) then it won’t work.

There’s two really big camera stores near me at work so by the end of the week I may get what I need. I mean “want”.

First roll from the Yashica Electro 35 GSN

When I get a new camera I usually pop in a roll of Fujifilm Superia X-TRA 400 and just quickly take photos. My recently acquired Yashica Electro 35 GSN is no exception.

My focusing needs work as I’m too used to working with a zone focus camera like the Olympus Trip 35. :-)

It’s not a big camera but oddly enough it feels like a real camera. It’s very well built and solid. One roll of film isn’t enough for me to describe the pros and cons but so far I like it. A full review will be in a later post.

Tonight I’ll take it to a family dinner and shoot some more with it. I get a kick out of taking photos in a Chinese restaurant, I hope they have a tank of live crab and fish.

Yashica ME 1 Camera: Not bad for $4.88

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I got my test roll back today from Costco for the Yashica ME 1 and I’m sharing the ones that I like below. I bought this camera at a thrift store last week for less than $5 so I can’t really be unhappy with any of the results.

The Yashica ME 1 camera was made in Brazil in the 70s and except for the fact that is has a built-in battery powered light meter and a 38mm f/2.8 lens I don’t know an awful lot about it. The Yashica Guy has some info on his page but the ME 1 is just not a popular model to collect.

It’s an all plastic model but it doesn’t feel cheap or poorly built. It’s light and sits in my coat pocket easily. Unlike my favorite Olympus Trip 35 it doesn’t weigh my coat down.

Like the Trip 35 this camera uses zone focusing and has a “Judas window” so you can see what the aperture setting is well as the focus distance are from the view finder.

The metering is different from what I’m used to. With the Trip 35 if the camera thought there was not enough light then you just set the aperture to f/2.8 manually and took a 1/40 second exposure. I did the same thing on this camera but some of the results were really underexposed.

This  photo came out alright so I may just need to practice some more.

I don’t think this will replace my current walkabout camera but it’s not bad either. When spring arrives I’ll use up a lunch hour or two and walk around Union Square. There you can see some real interesting sights when the weather gets warmer and having a small black camera might be more inconspicuous.

Golden Gate Bridge from Alcatraz

This was taken with my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens with a circular polarizer from Alcatraz Island.

Nikon D300s, Sigma 30mm @ ISO 200 f/5.6 1/8000 second, Aperture Priority

Not too shabby. Except for cropping and straightening it out (I can’t quite get the horizon right holding the camera by hand) I hardly made any changes at all.

Using Photoshop Elements 9 and saving for the web got me some banding on top, but the original Nikon RAW file is good and that’s what I’ll upload to Flickr.

Now to finish going through the pile and post the ones I like.

An example of film vs digital

Last weekend my family was having dinner at my in-laws, looking at photos from their recent trip to China, and having a good time. Since I knew there would be a lot of us there I took my cameras.

Here’s a photo I took with my DSLR  and no flash.

Nikon D300s, f/2.8, 30mm (45mm equivalent), 1/25 second, ISO 640

It’s a good capture and I’m shocked that a 1/25 second exposure worked out so well. My hands shake and that lens is not a stabilized version.

A few minutes after this someone asked why I wasn’t using my film camera. So I shot this next photo using my Olympus Trip 35 loaded with Fujifilm Superia 200 and also with no flash.

Olympus Trip 35, f/2.8, 40mm, 1/40 second, ISO 200

If I had thought about it, I would have set the D300s to 200 ISO! But this is still a good comparison. The film version is more grainy and, thanks to the lighting, a little underexposed. Here the Nikon clearly beats the Olympus film camera.

My DSLR takes awesome photos but next to the Olympus Trip 35 it’s a tank. My film camera is not small enough to go into my pocket but just the right size to go with me everywhere in my backpack or even outside coat pocket.

In the year that I’ve been shooting with film I’ve shared 500+ photos on Flickr and I won’t get tired of it anytime soon. But it’s good to know my DSLR really is a better camera than the one I purchased via eBay.

It ought to be better, that film camera was manufactured in 1975.

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Kodak BW400CN Film

Just for comparison, I ordered two 36 exposure rolls of Kodak BW400CN film. This is a black and white film that, like Ilford XP2 Super 400, can be developed anywhere using the C-41 process. That means cheap film development at Costco.

Somehow the Kodak B&W film is cleaner. I’m going to explain it poorly, but the Ilford comes out developed with dust particles. Not every frame but some do.

At first I thought it was just a bad day at the developing machine but it’s not that. Every Ilford Super XP2 400 roll I have used has samples where you get that look of scratched film or small particles of dust.

I don’t mind it as it adds character, but the Kodak doesn’t have that. It generally looks sharper and cleaner to me.

Shooting in B&W remains a surreal experience. It’s not like using Photoshop to make the image black and white, it’s got a separate character to it. With digital photography I almost always do some adjustment. It’s an automatic part of my process and makes for better images.

Not so with film photography. Even though it’s digitized and modified by the developer/scanner I never make adjustments. I don’t crop or change anything although I have re-sized the images for presenting here.

I’ll keep ordering both B&W films but for now I think I appreciate the Kodak more than the Ilford version.

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Holga 120 CFN for Christmas

For Christmas, one of my brothers gave me a Holga 120 CFN. This is a camera that takes 120 film and is entirely made out of plastic. Even the lens element is plastic.

Considering my infatuation with older film cameras, this really was a great gift. I’m always looking at eBay for a new vintage camera and this one is in that spirit. It’s all plastic; I’d never have bought one myself. But trying out 120 film was fun and I enjoyed shooting with it.

The Holga and the whole Lomography shoot-from-the-hip idea always struck me as silly. Switching to film still means you should still compose your shot and think about framing your image. While some out of focus images can be insightful, Lomography seems to me to be based on light leaks and poor photography.

That’s not to say that you can’t get good shots from one of these cameras, and I do admire the gallery. It’s just some of the examples look like the photographer wasn’t really trying.

After shooting a couple of rolls I can say that my opinion has been changed. The Holga is just for fun and intentionally taking soft picture is part of that.

This model comes with a built-in flash with color filters. You rotate the dial and get red, yellow, blue, or plain white. For black and white I used the white flash, for color I liked the yellow filter.

With 120 film there are two mask inserts, one for 6×6 cm and another for 6×4.5 cm. The 6×6 gets you 12 shots and the 6×4.5 gets 16. My first two rolls were shot with the 6×6 and I haven’t developed the 6×4.5 rolls yet.

Once thing I really need to watch out for is double exposures. On my 35mm cameras, the film advance cocks the shutter and you can’t take more than one exposure. On the Holga, the shutter and film advance knob are not mechanically connected. You can expose the same shot multiple times and that ability is part of the appeal.

I ruined a few of my B&W T Max shots because I hadn’t realized that I had already exposed that film. That’ll teach me to pay more attention.

Overall it was fun but I don’t expect this to replace my Olympus Trip 35. When the weather gets warmer I’ll take some outdoor shots with my remaining roll.

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The Gakkenflex is a cool kit camera

My son received a camera from his uncle, a cool Fuji STX-2 SLR with a 50mm lens. The girl wanted to have a camera too. So rather than get another film camera from eBay, I went to Makershed and ordered a Gakkenflex kit.

I mean, fair is fair right?

This is a TLR camera meaning it has two lenses. The top one is a viewfinder and the two lenses focus together. The kit took less than an hour to assemble and the results have been fun. If you’ve ever assembled a Gundam MG kit then you will have no problems with the instructions or the assembly. Just in case Makershed provides a link to the English PDF version of the instructions.

This camera takes 35mm film and I’ve already shot 2 rolls of 200 Fuji SO film. It’s light and small but not too much so. It’s not tough, my girl already cracked the viewfinder gear when she had a er, disagreement with her brother.

I’m still getting the girl to take photos but she’s learning and having fun. Someday I may get a real TLR with 120 film, but for now this will work nicely.