Author Archives: Shaun Nelson

About Shaun Nelson

Learning to shoot analog in a digital world. UtahFilmPhotography.com is dedicated to sharing information, sharing experience and sharing knowledge about film photography and vintage cameras.

Minolta XG7 (1977)

This camera was given to me by a coworker whose father owned it. I was told his father had another Minolta, accidently dropped it, and was told it would be cheaper to buy a new camera than have the repairs done. The XG7 is what he upgraded to. He gave me the camera with an awesome 50mm Rokkor-X f/1.4 lens, a Minolta Autowinder G, and a Quataray 85-210mm zoom lens. This camera and all the accessories are in fantastic condition. Normally, when I get a camera this old, I usually expect to replace the light seals or the mirror bumper, but not this camera. There’s no stickiness or crumbling foam.

The Minolta XG was the budget line or entry-level camera to Minolta’s XD series. Both the XD and XG series of cameras came after the SRT line from the late 1960’s. The Minolta XG7 (XG-E or XG2 in other markets) has the Minolta Bayonet MD lens mount, shutter speeds of 1 – 1/1000th second with bulb, TTL central zone CdS metering, and a hotshoe with PC X-Sync.

In 1977, the XG body and 50mm lens sold for $289 at B&H. That’s about $1200 today. For an entry-level camera, that’s a lot of money for 1977. From the information I’ve looked through on The Rokkor Files, I think this version of the 50mm Rokkor-X f/1.4 was made in 1979. The original owner must have purchased it a year or two after buying the body. And because this is a Bayonet MD mount lens, it’s highly sought after by digital mirrorless photographers.

The body of the XG7 is small, like a Pentax ME Super or Pentax Super Program, and is covered with a synthetic leather that has started to shrink a bit. One unique feature of the XG7 is the electromagnetic touch shutter button. This is the first time I’ve used one. How does it work? You lightly touch your finger on the shutter button, and the meter activates. The camera has aperture priority and manual modes. However, I’ve found that the autowinder only works in aperture priority mode and allows you shoot at 2 frames per second.

The viewfinder is bright and has LEDs on the right-hand side to show your shutter speed. The LEDs also have an up triangle above 1/1000th and a down triangle below 1 second to indicated that you are over or under-exposed. The LEDs in the viewfinder are bright but tend to jump around a bit as you place your finger on the electromagnetic shutter.

What this camera doesn’t have are some of the pro features that were included on the XD series. Things like depth of field preview, mirror lockup, and standard cable release. Because of the electromagnetic touch on the shutter, a cable release must be screwed into the side of the lens mount.

This camera requires batteries to operate the film advance and shutter. If you’re looking to buy one and the seller doesn’t think the shutter works, or they say it’s not been tested, there’s a good chance the camera doesn’t have fresh batteries. That’s another feature of the XG7. It takes two standard LR44 1.5v batteries.

The XG7 is one of those unknown cameras that pass by a lot of photographers. It doesn’t get much love compared to Pentax, Nikon and Canon’s from the late 70’s. You can usually find an XG7 on eBay starting at about $22 with a 50mm lens. And Minolta MD Bayonet mount Rokkor lenses have a reputation for being sharp.

Overall, I enjoy using the XG7. I like the size of the camera. Even with the autowinder, it’s not overly bulky or heavy. The body weighs 20 ounces.

Camera: Minolta XG7 (1977)
Film: Agfa Vista 200
Process: RepliColor SLC
Scanned: Epson V600 Photo

 

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Olympus XA (1979)

Back in August, my wife and I took our two teenage sons to New York for eight days. I knew this was going to be a great trip to get some photos, so I took 3 cameras; one digital, and two film. The digital was a Canon 6D with 24-105mm f/4 lens. The two film cameras were my Leica M3 with 7Artisans f/1.1 lens, and a borrowed Olympus XA. I always tell myself I want to travel light and end up taking too much gear. The camera that received the most use on this trip was the Olympus XA. Why the Olympus XA? I needed something that was wider than 50mm, and small enough to fit in my pocket.

The Olympus XA is a compact camera that was sold from 1979 to 1985 and has some not-so-compact features. It’s a rangefinder focus camera, aperture priority, with a 35mm Zuiko f/2.8 lens, and shutter speeds from 1 – 1/500th sec. The design of the XA is simple, you slide open the camera, uncovering the lens and activating the CdS exposure meter. The rangefinder focus is located below the lens, and the aperture is controlled by a vertical sliding switch on the front right-side of the camera.

Compact 35mm cameras are commanding higher prices on eBay, and the XA is no exception. The unique compact design and sharp lens are two features that set this compact apart. The electronic A11 flash can be detached from the camera, making the camera a nice 7.9 ounces. And how did they get such a sharp f/2.8 lens in such a small design? According to Modern Photography Magazine in 1979, “high-refractive-index glasses had to be used to control aberrations across the picture field, and optical elements had to be manufactured and aligned to very close tolerances.” Olympus was able to accomplish this with, “the XA’s “reversed retrofocus” [is] a 6-element, 5-group optic measuring about 31mm from front element to film plane. Focusing is internal, via moving third group. Achieving this extremely flat design necessitated high index crown rear element, special flint second element. Result is a super-compact, rigid camera body with rangefinder focusing.” Voodoo magic and pixie dust? No, just some super engineering and meticulous optics.

The size doesn’t predict the quality of images this camera can deliver. As you can see by the gallery below, the Olympus XA was used a lot on my trip. Unfortunately, the photos taken from the top of the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center were subject to a few days of poor air quality in Manhattan. The only complaint I have about the XA is the sensitive shutter. The feather-touch shutter doesn’t take much pressure to fire, and it can take some getting used to. This is hard to explain, but this is the first film camera I’ve used where I knew immediately whether I got the shot I wanted. The images in the gallery were shot on both Kodak TMax 100 and Kodak Tri-X 400.

Camera: Olympus XA (1979)
Film: Kodak TMax 100 / Kodak Tri-X 400
Process: RepliColor SLC
Scanned: Epson V600 Photo

 


Nikkor 35 – 200mm f/3.5 – 4.5s

Camera: Nikon F2 Photomic (1971). Lens: Nikkor 35 - 200mm f/3.5 - 22 - Macro.

I’ve really enjoyed shooting with the Nikon F2 Photomic (1971 – 1980), so I thought I’d like another lens. Since shooting film, I’ve gained a new appreciation for fixed prime lenses. The zoom lenses for older film cameras don’t appeal to me, but I wanted to give this one a shot (pun intended). Released in 1985, the Nikkor 35 – 200mm f/3.5 – 4.5s is a zoom lens with an Ai-S lens coupling, 17 glass elements in 13 groups, and apertures from f/3.5 to f/22. It also has a macro button that allows the lens to focus as close as 0.3m, about 12 inches.

These shots were taken at Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City, Utah, on July 24th. Being a state holiday, the garden offered free admission for the day. My wife and I took advantage of the day off and headed up to the east bench of the valley to enjoy some colorful landscapes. Keep in mind, I’m not much of a landscape or macro flower photographer. My intent was to test the lens and see if it was something I liked. I found myself fumbling when composing shots. First, trying to zoom, and then focus, while checking the meter, etc. That says more about me as a photographer than issues with the lens. Maybe a larger learning curve than I thought, so not enjoyable at my first attempt. It’s like Scott Bourne says, “99% of the lenses are 100% better than the photographers.” Slightly off topic, next to Kodak Ektar, Agfa Vista is my favorite color film for saturated bright colors. It’s disappointing that Agfa Vista has been discontinued. I’m happy with the results from a technical standpoint. The images show some soft grain where I think it should be. When the lens is opened to f/3.5, it grabs a nice slice of focus. I think the ultimate test for this lens would be portraits, and that’s what I plan to try next.

Camera: Nikon F2 Photomic (1971)
Lens: Nikkor 35 – 200mm f/3.5 – 4.5s
Film: Agfa Vista 200

 


Leica M3 (1959) – Part 2

While using the borrowed 50mm 5cm Summicron-M f/2.0 (Rigid/2nd version) (1956), I decided that I really needed to purchase my own lens. Having just spent what I think is a considerable amount on the M3 body, I wanted to limit my lens purchase to something more affordable. Searching for an M-Mount lens on eBay led me to this lens, followed by some research, and a week of careful consideration.

The 7artisans f/1.1 50mm is a new lens made in China. According to the 7artisans website, a group of seven Chinese camera enthusiasts, having various professional backgrounds, came together to create this new lens. The 50mm lens is a Leica M-Mount and has an aperture range from f/1.1 to f/16. It has 12 aperture blades, and 7 elements in 6 groups. The lens itself is a heavy piece of glass and aluminum, with a copper core. It weighs nearly 14 ounces, so slightly less than 1 lb.

As I was doing some research on this lens, I wanted to see actual images taken with a Leica camera. However, all I could find were digital photos taken with Sony cameras. I determined that Sony users are the perfect market for an affordable prime 50mm f/1.1 lens. I found this review by Hamish Gill on 35mmc.com, where he used the lens on a Sony body. And then found this review by Emulsive, where he used the f2 version of the lens on a Leica film camera. Note/opinion: the f/2 50mm has a better review because the f/1.1 tested was a pre-production model.

The shots below are my initial results with the Leica M3. Being a Leica newbie, I must have done something very wrong because the first half of this roll did not come out. Overall, this is a solid lens. The build quality is good. The aperture and focus are smooth and easy to use. Unfortunately, a focus tab is not built on to this lens. They ship a rubber tab that you can stick to the lens barrel if you want, not ideal. The optical quality is what I would expect for the price. I expected the lens to be soft when it’s open at f/1.1, but was surprised by a few shots. The thin slice of focus is nice, but hard to achieve. And really, how often do you need something at f/1.1? This lens is also shipped with a focus sheet and some instructions on how to adjust the focus. Something I don’t think I’d attempt to mess with.

I spent a week in New York with the M3 and the 7artisan 50mm f/1.1. After a while, my biggest complaint became the weight. The 50mm Summicron-M would have been a better choice. Or anything smaller and lighter for that matter. Walking 7 to 14 miles in and around the city made me reconsider the choice I’d made. There were three days I left the camera behind. I’ll be sharing some photos of New York in the coming weeks.

Camera: Leica M3 (1959)
Film: Kosmo Foto Mono 100
Process: Kodak D-76 (1+1) 10:00 @ 20c
Scanned: Epson V600 Photo

 


Leica M3 (1959) – Part 1

Over the past few years of buying and shooting vintage cameras, there’s one camera I never thought I’d actually own, and that’s a Leica. Why? A Leica always seemed like a “bucket list camera.” Nice to look at, but too expensive to own. Of course, I had to ask myself, do they live up to the hype? Or do photographers tell themselves they are outstanding cameras to justify spending the money?

About a year ago, my friend Scott Smith purchased this M3 from our mutual friend, Maurice Greeson, who is a Leica collector and expert on all things Leica. Scott decided that after purchasing an M6, he wasn’t using this M3 as much as he used to. It was a hard decision for Scott to sell me the M3 because it’s in beautiful condition, and Maurice had taken excellent care of it. In a small way, I had to convince Scott to sell it to me. However, with all Leica camera owners, I consider myself the “current possessor” of this camera. The build quality will outlive me or any of its future owners. And as a side note, I’ve promised both Scott and Maurice visitation privileges as long as I have the camera.

Leica M3 (1959)

Production of the M3 began in 1954 and was the transition point for Leitz to move from screw-mount lenses to the updated Leica M Mount. The M Mount was able to give new M-series cameras a single viewfinder/rangefinder window. The M3 features a coupled rangefinder with an incredibly bright viewfinder, and a focal plane shutter with speeds from 1 to 1/1000th second. Early models of the M3 had a two-throw film advance, meaning you had to move the film advance lever twice to move the film to the next frame. And those early models also had German-based shutter speeds of 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, etc. This M3 is a single-throw model and came with a Leicameter MR.

Several version of Leicameter’s were made starting in 1951. The MR was manufactured from 1965-1967 and has CdS cell behind a small lens. The meter mounts to the flash shoe on the camera and is coupled with the shutter dial. A meter reading is taken by pressing the needle release button for 2 seconds, then using the channel scale, you know where to set the correct lens aperture.

When I initially purchased the M3, I didn’t have a lens. Maurice loaned me his 5cm f/2.0 Summicron-M (1956). This lens is the second version of the Summicron 5cm and is a rigid lens, meaning it doesn’t collapse like the original. The updated lens increased the distance between the front lens elements. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of this lens on the camera. All the photos below were shot with the 5cm f/2.0 Summicron-M lens, making this part one of a two-part post. In the next post, I’ll share some images taken with the M3 and the new 7 Artisan’s 50mm f/1.1 lens.

Overall, I’m very happy to have an M3. A few friends have joked with me about becoming a Leica snob, or professing the “Leica lifestyle.” It’s been an ongoing joke with me and Mike Williams. I don’t see myself becoming obsessed with Leica gear. I may have champagne taste, but I’m always on a PBR budget. I’ve never used a rangefinder that has such a big, bright, viewfinder. That’s probably my favorite thing about Leica cameras. And the camera is so quiet to operate, you almost don’t hear the shutter click. And again, I could go on-and-on about the build quality of this camera because it is incredible.

Camera: Leica M3 (1959)
Lens: 50mm 5cm Summicron-M f/2/0 (Rigid/2nd version) (1956)
Film: Kodak Tri-X 400
Process: Kodak D-76 (1+1) 9:45 @ 20c
Scanned: Epson V600 Photo

 


Hasselblad 501CM (1997)

Over Memorial Day weekend last month, I rented a Hasselblad 501CM kit from Acme Camera in Sugarhouse, Utah. The camera itself is a medium format SLR and came with an 80mm Planar CFE 2.8 T* lens. The 4lb camera shoots 6×6 images on 120 film and features a leaf shutter with speeds from 1 – 1/500th of a second and bulb mode. The Gliding Mirror System in the body provides you with a full view of your image in the waist level viewfinder, and it’s incredible! It’s bright and clear from edge-to-edge. All of these images were shot on Ultrafine Xtreme 400, a film from Photo Warehouse. I used my Gossen Luna Pro S to meter the light. If I ever decide to buy a Hasselblad, I would want a pentaprism viewfinder with built-in meter. The slap of the mirror when firing the shutter is an incredible sound on this camera. And because this camera is a single-piece, cast aluminum body, it simply feels like a piece of professional gear in your hands. Overall, this camera was enjoyable to use. I’m still undecided on the Ultrafine Xtreme 120 film. It seems a bit grainy compared to other medium format ISO 400 black and white films. Even when trying to darken or lighten the images in Photoshop, I’m not really satisfied.

Some of these photos were part of a family day trip to two ghost towns in Utah. The trip was inspired by Jennifer Jones at The Dead History. The first ghost town we visited was Thistle, Utah, where a large landslide in 1983 blocked the Spanish Fork River. This caused water to engulf the town within 2 days. People moved away and the town was deserted. The next ghost town we visited was Spring Canyon, outside of Helper, Utah, where a town was established in 1912. The main purpose was to mine coal, and they were successful from 1924 – 1942. In 1969, the town was abandoned. Many of the homes and buildings have been torn down, with the exception of the main mining building, where coal still sits in a large bin.

Camera: Hasselblad 501CM
Film: Ultrafine Xtreme 400
Process: Kodak D-76 (1+1) 14:00 @ 20c
Scanned: Epson V600 Photo

 


Film Photowalk: Annual ‘No Show’ Air-Cooled VW Show

For the past three years I’ve tried to think of ways to organize a photowalk with other film photographers. The annual VW ‘No Show’ is one of my favorite car shows. Not because I’m a car guy, or a Volkswagen fan. It’s just a fun car show that’s not too big, or too small. The VW owners are fun to talk with, and they enjoy having their cars photographed. Mark your calendar and save the date!

11th Annual VW No Show - Kaysville, Utah

 

13th Annual ‘No Show’ Air-Cooled VW & Vintage Bicycle Gathering

Date: Saturday 18 August 2018

Start Time: 09:00 AM – Meet under the trees on the north-east corner of the park.

Estimated Duration: 2.0 hours

Country: United States

Start: 200 West Main Street (Bishop Field), Kaysville, UT, USA

On this photowalk, we’ll have the opportunity to photograph classic air-cooled Volkswagen’s and vintage bicycles. Please register for this photowalk at PhotoWalk.Me. By registering, you’ll receive updates on the photowalk, and can connect with other photographers to make carpool arrangements. Make sure to bring your favorite film camera(s) (or any camera), tripod, sunscreen, and water. More information on the show can be found on the VooDoo Kruizerz Facebook Page.

 


The Negative Positives Double-Exposure Film Exchange

After being a guest on The Negative Positives Film Photography Podcast with Mike and Andre, I offered to help with a double-exposure film exchange. The idea behind a double-exposure film exchange is that one photographer shoots a roll of film, rewinds the film, and then sends it to someone else, who then shoots on the same roll. Listeners of the podcast signed up via a Google form and filled out their preferences to shoot black & white, color, etc. The resulting shots can be anything from artistic to crazy.

The response to the exchange was fantastic, being that it was the first time. Forty-two photographers from around the world signed up, shooting a total of twenty-one rolls of film. Some listeners were so enthusiastic to shoot and share that they signed up twice.

My partner for the Negative Positives Double-Exposure Film Exchange was Dan Cottle from Birmingham in the United Kingdom. Dan provided a roll of Ilford HP5+ black & white film, and shot the roll around his city, including Cadbury World where they produce some of the world’s best chocolate. Dan was even kind enough to send a Cadbury Egg to me with the exposed roll of film, which my wife promptly enjoyed.

After receiving the roll of film from Dan, I set out and exposed it a second time around my part of the world in Utah. Many of my shots included the Utah State Railroad Museum and the Hill Aerospace Museum. While Dan and I planned to line up our shots in the camera, it didn’t quite work out as planned. And from others in The Negative Positives Film Photography Podcast Facebook Group, their intentions were the same.

This film roll exchange was a great way to become acquainted with another film photographer. It was also a good exercise at some abstract previsualization. We didn’t set any rules and had no grand expectations. However, our resulting images are interesting, mysterious, and creative.

Photographer #1
Dan Cottle
Birmingham, UK
Camera: Nikon FE

Photographer #2
Shaun Nelson
South Ogden, UT USA
Camera: Nikon F2

Film: Ilford HP5+ 400
Process: Kodak D-76 (1+1) @ 20° 13:00 Min
Scanned: Epson Perfection V600 Photo


Nikon F2 Photomic (1971 – 1980)

This post has been in the works for a long time. Why? My friend Mike Williams gave this camera to me almost 6 months ago, Christmas 2017. Mike knew I’d been very happy with the Nikon F and Nikomat FTn. And to this day, Mike says this is his best find at Goodwill. I think he’s right because the F2 Photomic still commands a high price online, especially one in this shape.

The F2 was introduced by Nikon in 1971, and is the successor to the Nikon F. It was discontinued in 1980 when the F3 was released. The original F and F2 cameras look nearly identical with the only difference being the meter mounted atop the camera body. The F2 features shutter speeds of 10s to 1/2000th sec, where the original F was 1 sec – 1/1000th sec. The ISO can be set from 6 to 6400. One item I came to appreciate on F2 Photomic is the meter. It’s activated by the shutter advance. When the advance arm is in its resting position, the meter is active. When pressed in towards the body, the meter turns off. On the F with FTn, you must press a button on the side of the meter to activate it, and then remember to push another button down to turn it off. What does this mean? The F2 Photomic isn’t going to eat batteries because you forgot to turn the meter off. Improvements were also made to the flash sync over the F. The F2 has a flash sync of 1/80th sec, where the original F has a sync of 1/60th sec. Another commonality between the F and the F2 is the weight. The F2 Photomic with lens weighs over 2 lbs!

According to Ken Rockwell, the F2 was “king of newspaper and magazine photography in the 1970’s.” And the development for the camera was driven by NASA for the Apollo and SkyLab missions. I found this comment from Ken Rockwell somewhat humorous: The Nikon F2 is so good that many photographers — including myself — preferred to pay more for used Nikon F2s in the early 1980s after they were discontinued than to pay less for a brand-new Nikon F3 with which Nikon replaced it. The Nikon F3 was electronic, and was not trusted to meet professional demands under all conditions.

The Nikon F2 is simply a great camera. One of the last mechanical shutter camera bodies made before electronic shutters appeared in the 1980’s. The F2 is a solid camera. If you didn’t know any better, you could pound nails with the body. Within a dozen shots taken with this camera, I decided that a telephoto lens would be a nice addition, so I purchased a Nikkor 35 – 200mm, f/3.5 – 4.5.

Camera: Nikon F2 Photomic (1971 – 1980)
Film: Kodak Tri-X 400
Process: Kodak D-76 (1+1) 6:30 @ 27° C
Scanned: Epson V600 Photo

 


Graflex Super Speed Graphic

Maurice's Graflex Collection

Some of Maurice’s Graflex Collection

This post wouldn’t be possible without my good friend, Maurice Greeson. Last winter, I was talking to Maurice about what an interesting camera I thought the Super Speed Graphic was. How you rotate the lens clockwise to cock the shutter, and the built-in electric shutter. Sure enough, Maurice had one and loaned it to me. He even loaded up two film holders for me to try. The camera sat in my office for several months because nothing outside in the winter landscape inspired me. A few weeks ago, I met up with Scott Smith at the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve in Layton, Utah. Scott is deciding whether he should get into large format photography, and he’s been kicking the tires on a Graflex before he buys it, on loan from Maurice.

Super Speed Graphic (1961 -1970)

Super Speed Graphic (1961 -1970)

The Super Speed Graphic was manufactured by Graflex in Rochester, New York, from 1961 -1970. The Super Graphic (1958 – 1973) and Super Speed Graphic would be the very last large format cameras that Graflex would make. These two models are nearly identical. The Super Speed Graphic features a 135mm, 1/1000th Sec Graflex Optar lens. To cock the shutter, the chrome lens hood is twisted clockwise. Using two 22.5 volt flat batteries, the shutter can be triggered by pressing a red button on the left-side of camera above the hand strap. This causes the solenoid built into the Super Graphic lensboard to trip the mechanical shutter. However, the built-in solenoid will only trigger the shutter and will not sync with the flash. A shutter release cable can also be used, connected directly to the lens. I found it very difficult to connect a release cable because there’s no room between the lens and the lensboard for you to twist on/off the cable. On top of the camera is an automatic focusing scale with a flash exposure calculator. The front standard of the camera has the movement features you’d expect to have: rise, tilt and swing. The camera itself is made from cast metal, unlike older Graflex cameras made from wood and metal. Surprisingly, this camera is heavy, 5.29 lbs. I’m comparing this to my Crown Graphic Pacemaker at 4.8 lbs. Overall, not my favorite camera, but I’m grateful to Maurice for letting me try it out. I’m very happy with the photos. All of them were shot at f/16, 1/60th sec.

Camera: Graflex Super Speed Graphic (1961-1970)
Film: Arista EDU Ultra 200
Process: Kodak D-76 (1+1) 9:00 @ 20° C
Scanned: Epson V600 Photo

Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve - Layton, Utah

Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve – Layton, Utah

Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve - Layton, Utah

Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve – Layton, Utah

Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve - Layton, Utah

Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve – Layton, Utah

Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve - Layton, Utah

Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve – Layton, Utah