Film diaries: Shooting with the legends

_6001544 copy

Warning: what follows is an unashamed post about gear. Yes, Ming is writing a gear-centric post. There will be no photography in this article beyond the obligatory camera p***.

Imagine, for a moment, this is an automotive blog. In fact, the precise segment that comes to mind is Richard Hammond’s recent series in Top Gear on driving the classics; every month we see him wrestling his boyhood poster fantasies with a silly grin on his face. After re-reading that sentence, I realize that sounded very, very wrong. I can’t claim to be anywhere near as popular as Hammond or the rest of the Top Gear trio, nor does my enthusiasm for photography extend that far so far back as for me to have boyhood fantasies about it, but I do distinctly remember lusting after a lot of (then) out of reach gear in the early days of my obsession. I admit that one of the high points of this job has been having the opportunity to fulfill those desires. I may never get the opportunity to drive a BMW 3.0 CSL, let alone a 250 GTO SWB or a Bugatti Veyron Supersport, but a 903 SWC is still feasibly within reach…

What follows today’s article is a little mini-series; I wouldn’t really call them reviews, because the context is very different and they’re not really that relevant as current products.

_6001477 copy

The main reason anything becomes a classic is because it stands above its peers in some way or another – the best, the fastest, the largest, the weirdest, the most expensive, the least production – take your pick or combination thereof. And it’s combination of properties – almost always in conjunction with price – that causes us to obsess and fetishize over said product. In the camera world, there are a number of cameras that can arguably be called classics; fewer that can be called legends. If these were cars, the former category would include the Citroen 2CV, Volkswagen Beetle and co; the latter would remain the lofty realm of the likes of the Ferrari 250 GTO, Bugatti Atlantique etc. I’m going to cover a bit of both here – partially because I have a limited budget, partially because I’ve picked a very biased, eclectic collection that works for me, but might not mean anything for another photographer.

_1030042 copy
I wanted to include an article on this – the Minox A/B/C – sadly, I couldn’t find any film to put in mine, and my IIIS (A) is sticky, and nobody makes the mercury batteries for the C anymore.

Most of these cameras are things I approach with trepidation and a slight bit of nervousness; I’m forced to reach for something to wipe my hands on lest the acid of my sweat starts affecting the finish of the object in a way that causes it to depreciate alarmingly. They’re intimidating in the sense that you wonder if your compositional skills are up to the task of doing the camera justice; there’s really nothing helping or hindering you in the photographic process. They are pure in the same way a rear-wheel drive, manual-gearbox, double-wishbone suspension, non-power assisted steering car is; the kind of thing that produces “The Tingle” that James May experiences when driving something particularly exciting. In short: you really need to know what you’re doing. A lot of them don’t even have meters – autofocus? Pah. Even though these cameras may not be that expensive on an absolute scale, compared to say a modern pro-DSLR, Leica or medium format digital back, the kind of hesitation they precipitate is one of awe rather than ‘oh crap, if I drop this it’s going to be expensive…’

_5015921bw copy

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not so jaded or successful that I can afford to treat a Noctilux 0.95 or H5D with disdain, but ultimately those are tools: they are still in production, and designed to do a job. If they break, they’re replaceable – if costly. What we’re talking about here are cameras for which only a fixed number still exist, fewer still in the kind of condition that make you really handle them with a good amount of care, knowing that it’s not a simple matter to mend a broken one. Much like classic cars, once the original spares are all used up, it’s down to the skill and ingenuity of individual restorers to bring them back to life. Again like old cars – most of these cameras are thoroughly impractical as daily shooters for a huge variety of reasons; all of them are based around a film-based workflow, most are ergonomic disasters by today’s standards, and all require a healthy dose of masochism to operate. Only one of them has anything resembling custom functions. I don’t care: we have plastic fantastic DSLRs to make our lives easy. (I believe they call these quirks ‘character’ and ‘charm’.)

_D90_DSC6001 copy

The cameras which will feature in this mini-series will probably be familiar to you all; they were flagships and poster-children and the pin-ups of the photographic world at one point or another – even if that might have been the better part of half a century ago. I don’t have a Nikon F, the first professional SLR system camera – but I do have an F2, and what is perhaps the epitome of the F2s – the Titan. It’s also the most manual of the F2s – the standard matching prism is unmetered, and though there’s a battery compartment in the base – to power optional metered heads and accessories – the camera portion is fully mechanical and requires no power to operate. Next up is the classic Hasselblad V: I’ve owned a 500C/M, a 501C, and the 501CM; I’m going to write about the last of these, because this particular camera is special to me for various reasons beyond being the last descendant of the cameras that went to the moon. Branching off this tree, we have the Hasselblad 903 SWC; this camera is built around a lens design so legendary – the Zeiss 38/4.5 Biogon – that barring coatings, the optical formula remained unchanged for well over 50 years. It’s the camera equivalent of the Volkswagen Beetle or the Morris Oxford for longevity, but obviously isn’t the same workhorse for the masses that the car was. Perhaps the Porsche 911 is a better analogy. The optical formula was changed for the final camera in the line, the 905 SWC, due to the earlier design requiring glass that contained lead-arsenic. We’ll look at a couple of modern classics – the Leica M6, the Nikon F6, perhaps the last of the great Nikon film cameras, and something for the people: the Olympus Mju II. I’d add the Ricoh GR1v to this series, but I’ve already reviewed it here – along with the Contax T3, here. Finally, I’m going to finish with a lens: the Nikon AI-S 58/1.2 Noct-Nikkor.

_D90_DSC4134bw copy

Yes, this lineup is by no means comprehensive or complete – there are some conspicuously absent candidates like a Rolleiflex of some description; the Canon AE-1; the Leica MP – preferably the Hammertone or Titanium versions; a Polaroid SX-70; an Olympus OM-4 Ti; a Kodak Box Brownie; a Barnack Leica; the Pentax 67II; something exotic and fast with a pellicle mirror, like a Nikon F High Speed; large format cameras of any sort, and finally, a Minox. This is because I either can’t get access or afford to buy them, or they simply don’t interest me; in the case of large format I’m clueless, and for the Minox – I have a IIIs, a C and even the developing tank – but alas no film to shoot them with, nor even an empty cartridge to allow me to splice a 35mm roll into.

_5025383 copy

Not that I’m about to advocate vintage cameras as a good investment – though looking at recent auction prices for some Leicas might make you question that statement – it’s worth remembering that so long as you a) buy it at a fair price, and b) don’t diminish the value by breaking it after forgetting some little release catch and forcing a lever the wrong way – it’s not as expensive to experiment as you might think. Unlike other hobbies, like say, drinking, what you spend isn’t consumed; you’ll get back what you put in when it’s time to move on to the next camera on your bucket list. I don’t see them as investments, but I certainly don’t think I’m spending wantonly. Darkroom costs are quite another matter, however…

_8035996 copy

In any case, I highly encourage you to come back and join the party over the coming week or so: even if you have no affinity for the cameras, you can certainly appreciate the craftsmanship and the images. Who knows, you might even get hooked yourself…

The best place to find vintage gear is on the secondary market in Japan – send an email to Bellamy Hunt of Japan Camera Hunter; he can source to spec and budget. I get a good chunk of my stuff from him and can’t recommend him highly enough. Send him an email and tell him Ming sent you!


Visit the Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including workshop and Photoshop Workflow videos and the customized Email School of Photography; or go mobile with the Photography Compendium for iPad. You can also get your gear from B&H and Amazon. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the reader Flickr group!


Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. I’ve been using a Koni Omega Rapid 100 6×7 rangefinder camera. Bought it for, what, $175 on eBay. I acquired its 58mm true wide angle lens with the accessory finder. I shoot T-max 400, develop in a Jobo using T-max developer, then scan the negs with an Epson 750. You end up with a file of over 7500 pixels on the long side, and images sharp to the edges, with amazing highlight transitions and it makes a lovely black and white print. Output seems to have the sharpness of medium format digital with the smoothness of film. Instead of spending $30,000 on a high end Phase One back, you get the same result for under a thousand, including the extra lens and the scanner. The funniest aspect is the reaction of people who can’t figure out what is hanging off my neck: this giant hunk of metal that just demands to be taken seriously.

    • I’m doing exactly the same thing with the Hasselblads and my D800E as scanner. That said, there IS a big difference in resolution between the scanned film and my 39MP digital back…

  2. Reblogged this on photo potpourri.

  3. Gianluca says:

    Dear Ming, there is no 250 GTO SWB. I guess you mean the 250 GT Berlinetta SWB, which is a order or magnitude cheaper than the legendary 250 GTO but still not affordable 😉

  4. Peter Kunzemann says:

    Dear Ming,
    you can still get film for the Minox here: . These are new resized Agfa films, colour and BW. I think they ship worldwide.

  5. Having old classic cars and cameras and never using them is like being married to a super model and never sleeping with her!

  6. Hi Ming,

    I’m just starting out with a Stylus Epic and an Olympus O-M2. I used Tri X ASA 400, but didn’t like the grain. What would be a good choice for something less grainy and nice and contrasty? Thanks in advance Ming. You’ve really got me intrigued to shoot film again and slow my process down. Also, developing my own film for the first time was a great experience. I’m sure there are better ways of doing it, but I got a whole roll of shots first time!! 🙂

    Thanks Again,


    p.s. Really looking forward to the new videos you are launching. My money is ready and waiting!!

    • Actually, Fuji Acros 100 pushes nicely to 400 – little grain, but the contrast increases. Could be what you’re looking for. Otherwise there’s always Ilford Delta 400, which will stand another stop or so of push beyond that.

  7. Brilliant post Ming! Love your work too!

  8. Great article Ming! Just reading this gives me The Tingle! 🙂
    I could replace the camera’s for motorcycles and electric guitars and enjoy reading it again and again! 🙂

  9. This will be very interesting Ming. I got (back) into film photography a couple of years ago and have been collecting, fixing and using film cameras ever since. I think it would be great to see you trying an old medium format folder to see what you could get out of one of those. You can buy them ‘ready repaired’ by Jurgen Kreckel or Leslie Gilmore on eBay. I have not bought from them myself, but they both have decent reputations. Jurgen sells as ‘Certo6’ ( and Leslie Gilmore as Beedhams ( I’m not trying to promote either of these guys (both get plenty of business already) but you won’t want to waste any time trying to get them working/properly set up, I’m sure. Interested at all?

  10. Digging this, Ming! So fun. I remember renting a 501 for a weekend many years ago, in order to shoot my sons’ portrait. I had never loaded film like that before and couldn’t believe the roll was only 12 shots (right?). But the few rolls I shot are some of the best work I’ve ever done. Something just magic about that camera. What’s so great about the Leica M9 to me is that it’s like the classic, manual camera with the digital back. Is such a back available for the old Blads? Really looking forward to this!

    • 12 shots really makes you think. And sometimes, even that’s a couple too many, it seems. I actually think the uniqueness of the compositions from the ‘Blad has to do with the reversed image: if it’s balanced both reversed and right-way, it’s likely to be a much stronger composition.

      There are digital backs available for the V series, but none of them are full frame 6×6. The best we get is nearly-full frame 645 or square at a 1.5 crop, which requires a special masked focusing screen and some oddity when trying to shoot vertical. It also completely messes up your lens selections – 50-80-120-150 works perfectly for me on film; with the digital back I’m finding 50 not wide enough (too close to my dreaded 35mm); 80 in no-man’s land, and 120/150 to render about the same. I think I might need a 40.

  11. Carlo Santin says:

    Looking forward to your thoughts on the little Olympus. I just bought one a few weeks ago and have put about 10 rolls through it. I’m amazed at how good that tiny lens is. It is a remarkable camera really. Also looking forward to the F6, which is a camera I suspect I will own at some point. I use an F100, which is a great camera and one I just love shooting with, but I know the F6 is much better. Which reminds me, I have a bunch of 35 and 120 waiting for me to develop. I need to get on it before the rolls start stacking up. Digital is great and has its benefits, but I just love the whole experience of shooting film, the cameras, the sounds they make, even just loading film into a camera body, it feels special and gives me great joy.

    • The Mju lens is excellent, but the rest of the camera really seems to have a mind of its own – neither AE not AF lock seem to work properly for me. Perhaps mine is defective, though I doubt is because my friend’s one does exactly the same thing.

  12. Minox film was available here until recently backordered, but they say more on the way:


  13. Michael Matthews says:

    You must do something about your 3.0 CSL lust before they all disappear into museums and closely guarded private collections.

    Assuming the object of your affection is the original road-legal coupe, not the race vehicle with its air dams, scoops, and spoilers, they’re still out there — and for sale.

    Yes, the 200% tax makes importing one impractical. However, as a frequent international traveler, you might set aside an additional half-day to sample those being offered for sale in various countries. Form an ad hoc investment syndicate with a few like-minded people of exceptional taste and buy one.

    The 3.0 CSL truly is the most beautiful, elegant design ever produced by BMW.

    All that glass….uninterrupted sight lines from the driver’s seat….does it get any better?

    • No, it really doesn’t get any better. But they’re still far too expensive for me even if shared with another four or five people – assuming one could find such individuals in KL. The really sad thing is that there are one or two in the country already which transacted 5-10 years ago for not that much money, but they’ve long since disappeared.

      I have to be honest – if I had one, I’d drive it. It’s far too beautiful to sit in a garage.

  14. NeutraL-GreY says:

    Very exciting!

  15. Tom Liles says:

    Can’t wait for this. Bravo!

    And thanks for putting the F6 in there Ming. It does feel right to reserve “classic” for things that are at least a generation old and have stood the test, but that isn’t a hard and fast rule for me—and I can even treat “classic” out of time: sometimes you see something, brand new and virgin as the driven snow, but you just know that’s a classic [illogical, but still]. When I watched the Ridley Scott film GLADIATOR for the first time, I had this exact feeling. I bet first time viewers of STAR WARS, say, felt the same.

    If the series goes over well and you feel like following up, be interesting to have a few companion articles on what you feel will be future classics. And it’d be fun to hear everyone’s opinion on what is/isn’t to boot. One vote for the Nikon D3, and another for the Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, sorry, the OMD, here 😀

    • Oh yes. Gladiator was an awesome, if slightly cliched, movie. Lovely use of color there, though perhaps a bit overly strong in places. Still remains one of my favourite movies.

      Maybe I’ll do a digital classics article…but for the purposes of that, I’ll need to get my hands on working cameras again to shoot with – a D1 might be tough, for instance, since none of them have functioning batteries anymore…

      • Tom Liles says:

        You’ve kinda been there already — for anyone that’s interested — with the Inspirations From Older Cameras articles, dotted about the archives. I enjoyed all of those. I’ll enjoy these new [old] ones too. A few “Future Classics” sketches would be a treat; let’s wait and see.

        And with any of these, you could definitely touch on the sufficiency topic that has come up a lot recently.
        [if so inclined; you have written on it extensively before, I know]

        GLADIATOR was great; they made that film up as they went along, believe it or not. The script was being written as they shot. Joaquin Phoenix is the unsung hero of the picture, for me. Literally, an imperial performance. Connie Nielsen doing the “there was once a dream that was Rome..” hammy stuff at the end was painful. I’d have killed that whole denouement… but, OK, forgiven because RUSSEL CROWE AND JOAQUIN PHEONIX IN A MANO-E-MANO CLINCH AND RUSSELL CROWE’S JOWLS SHIVERING AND EYES LOCKED ON WHILE HE QUIETLY PUSHES A DAGGER INTO THE EMPEROR’S THROAT is one of the best 100 seconds, or so, in cinema. Crowd noise fades, music nill; Maximus, Commodus, cold revenge. Or was it justice? Titus Andronicus would’ve liked it, either way.
        Speaking of color, and another Scott film, did you catch UNSTOPPABLE? The film was mezzo-mezzo, but the colors and photography were SUMPTUOUS. The greens, yellows, fawns of the trees, the red train, and blue skies: very saturated but not gaudy. Lovely. I have a real soft spot for the scenery in that part of the US—don’t know why.

        Oh, I caught LIFE OF PI, by the by. OK on the CGI; but a good story, well told. Doesn’t get much better. We’re talking legends, Mr Ang Lee => a Titan

        [pun intended!]

        • I’ll have to go check out Unstoppable when I have some time. Perhaps in August, I’m trying to keep that month relatively quiet.

          Have to be honest: I hated The Life Of Pi – the CG was too much and the whole thing not quite outlandish enough for you to suspend your disbelief to make it enjoyable, but too outlandish to be believable. I wanted those few hours of my life back afterwards. I could have written a post instead, or gotten something worthwhile on a couple of rolls of film.

          • Tom Liles says:

            I liked the whale breach, the floating island at night, and the psychedelic trip in Richard Parker’s eyes… on that last one, I think this could be an Ang Lee trope: in his HULK (another one that took heavy criticism for its CG; maybe he needs to rethink his approach and creative partners) he put in Eames style zooming sequences [the bar is high for that reference] that were meditations on lichen. HULK was the first Ang Lee film I ever saw and I loved the guy after that. The Nick Nolte performance he got aside, an action film which just stops in the middle of a fire fight to mediate on lichen? That’s a director you make a note of 🙂 Anyway, I think he may have a weakness for “what’s behind? What’s under the surface?” type questions.. So LIFE OF PI, CG and all, is kind of like the perfect Ang Lee film.

            The scene in the first act at the religious festival [laying the candles in the river] => instant “MT” association for me: the candles because of the PS video [an M9 shot of a crowd laying candles in the street at night] and of course your amazing photos with the M240 at Shwedagon Pagoda and your lovely OMD shots on Wesak Day.
            But the shot of the film? On hazy memory now, I’ve watched a few since!, but maybe the early morning calm with a yellow and pink and blue sky mirrored in a still ocean, Piscine on his impromptu raft, Richard Parker in the lifeboat, they both stand and silently look at each other. Loved it.

      • Iskabibble says:

        I’d really love to see which digital cameras will be used 30+ years after they were made. I suspect they will all be landfill by then.

        • Tom Liles says:

          I dunno, those first Seiko Astrons are still knocking about and fetching halfway decent prices; I have an early 90s compaq laptop [the size of a briefcase] that I tried to learn assembly language on in my teens, still works! Though I get it: 95% of the digital cameras ever made probably don’t get used even 3 years after they were bought.

          And Iskabibble, I’m on a meterless F2 now 🙂 Drifting away from the fluff –> or am I drifting into it? Either way, LIKE.

          • Go Cromagnon!

            My pair of Neanderthals (the ‘Blads) send their regards. I suppose that makes the 501CM with digital back a sort of missing evolutionary link. Too bad they never evolved full frame 6×6 sensors…

            • Tom Liles says:

              The ‘Blads are a very cultured type aren’t they—the best Cromagnon could do is grunt back 🙂

              What’s the deal with not having full 6X6 digital backs? I was just looking at the Mamiya Leaf mini-site and the top draw Credo doesn’t seem to get there, either. Is it just overkill [hard to believe in this market]; or technical; or cost?

              It’d be interesting to see what happens if they did produce them though—given the nature of medium format and its users, would everyone go for it?
              [I think it may pan out like rangefinders where most users are pretty hardcore and actively prefer film cameras]

              • Not at all. It’s a consequence of having pretty much no I/O at all, other than the obligatory PC sync port.

                I think it’s the cost of the sensor: wafer sizes are standard, error rates per wafer are standard, and if you can only put four or six sensors on a wafer instead of (I’m guessing) 12, then the yield is going to be terrible. Costs will increase commensurately. And then there’s the question of market: how many people would buy it, given there are no new 6×6 cameras still in production? Personally, if the IQ is anything as good as the CFV, I’d go for it. A stop or two more usable high ISO wouldn’t go amiss, either – OM-D levels would be fine, no need D3s (though with D3s-sized pixels, we’d still get 45+ MP on a 6×6 chip).

        • My 2004 D2H is already a paperwight – it was after about two and a half years of hard use – succumbed to moisture of all things (it’s meant to be a pro grade weather-sealed monster). I see and hear of very few in use; partially because people want more IQ, but I suspect also because many have died – you see very few up for sale these days. To answer your question: probably none will remain usable 30 years from now. At very least, the limited lifespan of lithium battery technology will see to that.

  16. This is a great idea for a series of articles, and I’m looking forward to reading it!

    I borrowed a friend’s 500C/M this weekend and I think I get it. Loading film is kind of an ergonomic disaster, especially out on the street, the viewfinder is not the brightest, and the whole thing is this Rube Goldberg machine that really shouldn’t even work half as well as it actually does, but the pleasure of using it is another galaxy compared to my regular Sony NEX-5N, and I think I just fell for the camera. I just loaded today’s film into the tank (first time ever developing film), so we’ll see how it goes …

    • I fell for it when I a) could appreciate the different drawing style of a larger format, and b) looked through the finder for the first time. It made my D800E look like a drinking straw, which isn’t the same thing I could say for even the Leica S2 or Hasselblad H4D. I think your friend’s camera has an older focusing screen; mine are every bit as bright as my Nikons and have far more ‘snap’ to make focusing easier. As for loading – this is why I usually carry multiple backs 🙂

      • I think KEH would rate my friend’s 500C/M as “BGN.” There are black specks and crud all over the mirror and screen, so it’s probably not the best example of the breed. There’s also some kind of yellow cast in the viewfinder. But I agree that focus is very easy to find: the split focus seems kind of slow and coarse (relative to memories of Canon FD SLRs), but the diamond pattern circle and clear areas are pretty discriminating. And yes, the drawing style is readily apparent even through the viewfinder.

        I just processed my first roll of film (Acros in 1+50 Rodinal) from the Hasselblad, and there’s definitely some kind of light leak. Not sure if it’s my tank loading technique or something wrong with the camera. I guess I’ll find out when I get the Provia also shot on it developed. Just looking at the contact sheet, I could see how someone can easily fall for this camera as a purely B&W camera.

        • Ouch. Are you seeing light areas towards one edge of the frame? Or in the center? The former is probably a light leak from the back, the latter might be a sticky secondary shutter.

          • Apparently I’ve fallen prey to the light trap seal leak in the film back — the leaks are mostly on the left edge. Holding the back up to a light, at one angle, I can actually see through the dark slide slot! Fortunately, it looks like it’s pretty easy and cheap to fix. So far the 500C/M is acting like a classic car: metaphorical oil leaks, quirks and all. Fortunately, nothing’s gone up in flames yet! 🙂

            I just processed another roll from the Fuji GW690, and Acros is blowing me away with its highlight headroom. I think an interesting experiment for me will be to see if I can use this as a way to separate out the subject from the background.

            • Ah, that’s a very easy fix. You just need new light seals – it’s a sticky bit of plastic that should press cleanly against the dark slide.

              Acros is good stuff, eh? 😉

  17. I own a Leica M3 double stroke body. Not sure now but I think it’s from 1954! Run’s smooth like first day (okay, that’s a guess since I am much younger. Let’s see how smotth I’ll run 30 years from now). Wished modern bodies would be as simple and solid as the classics. On the other hand I appreciate the digital convenience and in the end this is what made me a photographer. Two sides of the same coin.


    • Okay, now that goes on step further – it’s the same age as my father! Have you ever serviced the M3?

      I think digital made us appreciate the vintage gear more, to be honest. If I had to learn on a Hasselblad, I’d probably not have taken up photography at all; in fact, the first few times I used on – well into my digital career – I hated it. Cue complete reversal today…

      • Hi Ming

        No service at all. Not needed. Works. I actuate all shutter speeds from time to time to make sure it stays this way. I’m sure that the shutter speeds are a little off, but the difference between e.g. 1/500 and 1/450 is not a difference at all. The finder has a little yellow tint from age, alignement with a 50/2 is fine. It’s a nifty-fifty cam with the widest frame being a 50mm. Focussing is so much easier: Viewfinder magnification is 0.91 and therefore the dedicated focussing area is huge by comparison with modern Leicas. I had tried an M at the Leica booth at Photokina 2012 and found it …well … different, maybe even difficult. A digital M3 with the most reduced digital interface that’s possible would be very tempting for me. Less buttons, some nice dials… unsure if it would do without a screen as well…

        The “less is more” feeling might be the biggest impact (benefit?) from vintage gear.


        • A third of a stop is no issue at all. My F2 – as close as a digital recording can make out – is bang on the money. Not bad for something 30 years old and never serviced…they definitely don’t make them like this anymore.

          Completely agree on the stripped down digital: I’m thinking FM3a-levels of automation at most. That said, perhaps this is why I’m so attracted to the CFV at a subconscious level: it really is nothing more than a digital replacement for a film magazine; the rest of the camera remains as-is. Manufacturers will probably have no choice but to explore this niche as things get more and more saturated…

    • Stephan and I are on the same wave length. Pick up one of the “screw mount lens” Leica cameras and one is instantly transported to the time of Bresson….:} The “build quality” of these Leica cameras is still magical to experience….and the prices are actually falling a bit. One can “relatively easily” collect a complete collection of such early Leica cameras…and us them daily…


      • I’ve been looking, but nothing is in good enough condition to justify the asking price locally, and international on these things makes me nervous. I’ll go hunting when I visit Japan later in the year…

  18. A doubly memorable article in that I’m old enough to have used most of the classics you mention… including the neck-achingly heavy Nikon F2 High-Speed with it’s double battery-pack which swallowed 36-exposure films in just a few seconds for recording Bill Haley & His Comets during the filming of “Blue Suede Shoes” in 1979. Digital shooters of today don’t know how easy they have it!

    • I’m amazed you could even put the F2H around your neck without the body strap-lugs distorting and ripping out of the metal! What happened to that camera, out of curiosity?

      • The Nikon F2 High-Speed was a loaner from Nikon UK… I was a member of the “Nikon V.I.P. Service” for several years and also did lectures, demos and editorials for the Nikon Club of Great Britain as well as for Ilford, Agfa, Pentax and others. Interesting times, to be sure, having also published a specialist “darkroom” magazine in the UK for seven years, but unfortunately my house had a permanent odor of Rodinal and Hypam fixer, and something else, as well as the pungent Kodak acetic bath between dev and fix, had to stop!

        • I can imagine that wouldn’t go down so well with the other half. I know my wife sometimes walks in and wrinkles her nose after a prolonged darkroom session…

  19. Kristian Wannebo says:

    I’d just like to mention a couple more…

    Linhof Technica (a fairly portable foldable 6×9 cm with interchangeable Zeiss lenses and backs, and tilt/shift built in)
    Plaubel Machina (an odd 6×9 cm system, built in bellows between film and lens mount)
    Both were in their time also used as press cameras.

    The Zeiss Ikon(ta) series of coat pocket sized collapsible 4.5×6 cm and 6×6 cm rangefinder cameras, the better ones with the sharp Tessar 3.5/75 mm lens – they were fairly fast to operate, film winding slower than on Rolleiflex or Hasselblad though.

    • Ah yes. There are a lot of other cameras we could include too, though I admit getting hold of them – even the Linhof, Plaubel and Ikon – will be challenging…

  20. Hi Ming, I’m also looking forward to this. For the past several months I’ve been contemplating getting back into shooting film. The one thing that’s held me back so far has been budget. Then there’s the issue of what to buy. I have friends who shoot with Hasselblad or Rolleiflex and I’m always blown away by their photos (even when I don’t like the photos themselves). There’s a texture there, for lack of a better word. A warmth. They feel more like the work of a human than a computer.

    And let’s face it, in the old days, things were built to last. Which is why a 50 year old camera, properly restored or maintained, will still take beautiful photos. In one sense, they were simpler too. No software bugs. No firmware updates.

    Anyway, I know you’ve been to Hong Kong, I’m wondering if you’ve ever been to Champagne Court in Tsim Sha Tsui? It’s a tiny little old style shopping mall and most of the shops there are selling vintage camera equipment – more Leicas, Hasselblads, Rolleiflexes, etc. than you can shake a stick at (if that’s your idea of a good time). More than likely none of these shops have web sites but for people coming to Hong Kong who are into this sort of thing, it’s a must visit.

    • Most of my vintage gear is older than me! Looks and functions just fine, as you can tell from the images. I doubt I’ll be able to say the same thing about my digital cameras in half the time.

      Not been to Champagne Court, but I will check it out on my next visit. Seems like possibly a place to find a bargain or get totally ripped off. In the meantime…there is always Tokyo. 🙂

  21. Just yesterday, I was thinking it’d be quite cool to look into getting a classic film camera, I managed to stop that chain of thought … now you post this … sigh!

  22. Would these batteries work in the Minox:

  23. Ray Evans says:

    Looking forward to this sequence Ming. The “demise” in film also allowed me to acquire my boyhood dreams. 5 years ago I scoured the ads and came up with some absolute bargains. Hasselblad 501CM full kit, Rollei 6002 full kit, Contax G2 and all the lenses, Contax RTS 111 and and a Contax RX with 3 pristine Zeiss lenses, Konica Hexar AF, Hexar RF, Leica M6 ttl, Rolleiflex TLR 3.5 for $150 (!), and most of all, a Konica Minolta MultiPro scanner which was the most expensive of all at $1200. (have you seen today’s price?)

    I figure I outlayed approx. $8,000 for the lot but I see it as akin to money in the bank that I can spend every day without loss of interest.

    • I too figure they any possibly depreciate any more; and in some cases, prices of the really collectible stuff have been holding constant or slowly increasing. Buy the right thing and it just becomes another form of alternative investment. And of course assuming you don’t destroy it, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it in the meantime. If only the same could be said for classic cars…


  1. […] not saying the solution is film – though it’s great fun to shoot with the classics – all I’m saying is be in conscious control of the creative choices you might be […]

  2. […] exotic lenses so special at Photography Life + shooting with the legends (legends = camera gear) at Ming Thein + extend your DSLR with a mirrorless camera at Photography Life + so you are dumping your DSLR […]

%d bloggers like this: