FD Shooting with the legends: the Leica M6TTL

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Advance disclaimer: I’m not a full-blown Leica M nut, so most of my opinions are just that: opinions. But I’ve used a few of these things in my time, both professionally and for personal work. These images predate my recent DIY film efforts, so you’ll see a mix of color negative and slide film in there – I was mostly shooting Provia 100 and Velvia 100F at the time. The vintage of the images is also given away by the early watermark…

The Leica M6 series is perhaps the most accessible film Leica for most; I mean this in terms of both usability and price. A very large number of these cameras were produced in several key variants from 1984 to 1998; this volume means that prices on the secondary market have stayed relatively affordable. For not much more money over a ‘classic’ M2, M3 or M4, you can have something with slightly updated materials – likely resulting in longer service intervals – and of course, most importantly, a meter. With any of the classic M bodies, you need to use an external meter or an experienced eyeball to determine your exposure. Ignoring the design oddity that was the M5, the Minolta-collaborative CL and the more recent (and expensive) M7 and MP, we’re left with the M6 for most people if you want a film M camera with a meter.

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FD Shooting with the legends: The Olympus [mju:]-II

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I suppose it’s possible to call this camera the epitome of film point and shoots; it was, after all, quite possibly the Volkswagen Beetle of its generation. Made in huge numbers (3.8 million for this model alone, 10 million of all Mju variants), not especially expensive, but by all accounts incredibly reliable and delivering consistently excellent results. I certainly remember lusting after one while growing up, but through some strange turn of events landed up buying a rather useless Fuji 1010ix APS camera instead, which I still regret to this day. Thanks to some blind luck and the quick actions of a friend, I managed to eventually get my hands on one – new in box, for not much more than a brick of film.

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FD Shooting with the legends: The Hasselblad 903 SWC

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All of Hasselblad’s SWC (originally ‘Supreme Wide Angle, then Super Wide Angle, then abbreviated from ‘Super Wide Camera’) cameras are slightly odd beasts: they’re tiny for medium format, but large for anything else; they look very much like stunted miniature versions of the regular V series bodies. It’s as though somebody chopped the middle section out, taking the winding crank and waist-level finder out along with it. In place, the camera has grown a large megaphone-like viewfinder, and the shutter release has migrated to the top of the body.

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FD Shooting with the legends: The Hasselblad 501CM

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There are two cameras that are synonymous with 6×6 medium format film: the Rolleiflex TLR, and the Hasselblad V series. (I may well do a piece on the former in the future). Today’s subject, however, is one of the final incarnations of the V line – the 501CM. I suppose you could think of it as the distilled essence of the V series – unlike the 503s, it lacks TTL flash metering; unlike the 200-series, it still relies on a lens-based leaf shutter and remains completely mechanical. But at the same time, the camera has interchangeable focusing screens and the gliding mirror geometry of the 503CW to prevent vignetting with longer lenses. (I have a brief intro to the Hasselblad V series here.) It’s my pick of the bunch because a) I have no intention of using it with TTL flash, and b) I’d rather not have to rely on electronics in any way – there are modern digitals for that…

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FD Shooting with the legends: The Nikon F6

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Many thought this camera would never see the light of day, or it would do so as some strange film-digital hybrid with interchangeable backs. In 2004, however, Nikon gave the world one last hurrah in its long lineup of film cameras – the F6. The camera differs from its predecessors in many ways – firstly, it’s the only single-digit (pro) F body to lack interchangeable prisms; apparently this feature was so seldom used on the F5 that it was dropped. (Too bad, because the super-high eyepoint sports finder for that camera was a thing of beauty; easily the largest and brightest finder I’ve ever seen on a 35mm SLR.) It also revered to the F4 and previous designs that made the vertical grip a detachable unit, as opposed to the built-in on the F5. One can only suppose the F5 required a built in because of its insatiable hunger for AA batteries. The F6 uses a pair of CR123A lithiums; it lasts a bit longer, but two of those things still costs quite a bit more than a whole set of AAs for the F5.

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FD Shooting with the legends: The Nikon F2 Titan

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The F2 was introduced in 1971 off the back of the hugely successful F. Though external resemblances are similar, the camera was completely redesigned internally to improve reliability and ergonomics – firstly, the backs became hinged, and the shutter button moved forward to a more comfortable position at the front of the body and the wind stroke became shorter. The camera’s internal construction became modular, improving ease of repair. Batteries for powered finders migrated to a small cavity in the base of the body, with mirror lockup now standard. The titanium horizontal-travel FP curtains were improved and speeded up to offer 1/2000s and a 1/80s x-sync, up from 1/1000s and 1/60s in the F.

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Film diaries: Shooting with the legends

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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.

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Photoessay: KLCC abstracts in monochrome

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Half of perhaps the most iconic building in Malaysia.

Rather frustratingly, I’d actually typed out a long history about KLCC, but WordPress ate it and it’s nowhere to be found. Here we go again…

The Petronas Twin Towers – 88 stories, and part of the greater KLCC complex (including a park, two hotels, conventionn center, mall, mosque and another two office blocks) – put Malaysia on the map for megaprojects. Opened in 1998, the towers were designed by Cesar Pelli and completed by competing Korean and Japanese firms. It was paid for entirely by petroleum revenues from the eponymous national oil company; during the Asian Financial Crisis, occupancy was low – again with the exception of the name tenant – these days, things are back to normal and space is at a hideous premium, even on an international level. Architecturally, the site is challenging as it’s a former racecourse with very little bedrock and a lot of clay and porous limestone; this is the main reason for putting the taller, heavier structures around the periphery. Even so, extensive piling and foundation works had to be done, and many of the lower basement levels underneath the main towers are filled with concrete to settle the ground and form a floating slab on which some of the other outlying structures sit.

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Film diaries: Nine months on

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It’s now been a healthy chunk of time since I started shooting film again; enough to have a baby. What kind of child has this experiment turned out to be?  Building on an earlier article of random thoughts and also from a digital perspective, I’ve had some more time to reflect on things now that a) my workflow has matured, and b) I think I’ve figured out where it fits in the grand scheme of things creatively for me. All I’m going to say is that the point I’m at now is very much not what I expected when I bought the F2 Titan in October last year.

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Thoughts on street photography with medium format

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Ostensibly, this is already perhaps not the most practical of ideas; if one is extremely masochistic, things can be compounded further into the really bad idea class by using film. And a manual focus camera. Without a meter. I think it takes a certain amount of insanity – or at least a healthy dose of optimism – to even attempt it. Street photography (the genre itself being discussed in this previous article) is the kind of thing that’s handled best with a responsive, unobtrusive camera that also has a goodly amount of depth of field for a given aperture, plus what I like to think of as being very forgiving of slightly loose shot discipline. This generally means good high-ISO ability, perhaps a stabilization system, a low-vibration shutter and decently large pixels to make the effects of camera shake less obvious.

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