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Archive for July, 2017

I shoot several film cameras including a Canon 7 rangefinder and an assortment of old cameras, mostly 120 folders. I’ll have to write some of those up in the next few months. But today I want to talk about modern film cameras. In particular a sort of modern, Canon EOS1. The EOS1 is the original professional grade camera for the newly minted Canon EOS system back in 1989. Canon introduced the EOS 650 and then the 620 as consumer models in 1987 and ’88, but the EOS1 was the big dog for the pros. The camera was replaced in 1995 with the EOS1n which had upgraded guts, faster drive system, better AF etc. I found an original EOS1 on ebay for less than $100 in great shape a couple of years back.

This camera actually handles a lot like the modern Canon DSLRs. It has the rear thumb wheel that I have always loved about Canon’s mid to high-end EOS cameras. This camera will shoot at 2.5 fps and 5.5 with Canon’s booster grip attached. I chose not to seek a booster grip as I will simply use my 5d Mk III if I need such speed. When using film I tend to stick with black and white. One, I can develop it at home (XP2 excluded of course) and two, I feel like color images are better suited to modern digital cameras that just do such a great job, don’t they?

What I like about the EOS1 is that it uses all my awesome EOS glass! It has surprisingly good auto focus for being a nearly 30-year-old design. No wonder Canon kicked Nikon in the crotch with the EOS for the first decade of autofocus. No it is not as fast as my Mk III but it is close considering it is a single focus point. Don’t expect any performance out of continuous focus mode on these old ones, but for single AF it is pretty quick.

I can shoot my 16-35L, my 70-300 DO, my 50 prime or 85 prime and a variety of classic glass with an adapter. Black and White film definitely gives off a vibe especially when scanned to digital. I’m sure there are photoshoppers that can do a great job of imitating film, but I like just shooting it now and again. For those not interested in personal home developing or waiting a long time for custom local black and white, Ilford has XP2. This is a 400 ISO black and white film that uses the C41 color process to develop. That means any lab that can do color film and prints can do XP2. The prints you get may have a warm tone if they are printed on color paper. I always just do a develop only and then scan to digital at home.

The EOS1 is a solidly built camera that offered up weather sealing just like the 5D cameras. Its weather seal isn’t quite as good as the modern cameras, but it is solid. I can’t believe people are selling these so cheap! This is a well made quality machine being sold for chump change. this camera will use a 2CR5 lithium battery which are still available and there are even people who have made a rechargeable version of the 2CR5 so I got one of those too. The camera will get a great deal of pictures on a single battery or charge. Not sure how many but I haven’t charged the battery in months.

The camera has 14 programmable custom functions and an impressive shutter that has speeds from 30 seconds to 1/8000 sec. I absolutely love this Canon EOS1. You can still find them in the low 100s and if you want a little better performance you can find EOS1n models for upper 100s to low 200s. The EOS1RS was a motor drive film fiend with a blistering 10fps. Those still fetch $300 or more.

This may look like a modern EOS DSLR, but be aware that the technology in 1989 was very limited especially in the light meter. Although the EOS1 does offer a pattern type meter it has only a few zones and the camera’s processor is not sophisticated enough to make complex lighting calculations. You will need to either bracket or use old school tactics for dealing with harsh lighting conditions. Subjects with strong back lighting will likely be at least partially silhouetted unless exposure is increased. But all of that aside, what a fantastic way to explore film for the first time or to revisit the ‘good ole days’. This EOS1 is fast and easy to use and is dirt cheap. What’s not to love?

Maggie, EOS1 with EF 70-300 DO, on Ilford XP2

Use caution when shooting as film and processing are not cheap. Don’t just rip through the roll snapping away. Use a digital for the casual, crazy, snapping away like mad moments. Film cameras require you to stop and think about the scene, the image you want to get and the lighting. Take your time. A roll of Ilford XP2 or Delta 400 36 exposures will run in the $7-8 range and it will be at least $4-7 to process negatives only.

Now I always feel a bit bad for users of Nikon or other camera makers when I focus on Canon so much. It isn’t that I don’t like Nikon or Pentax, I just happen to shoot Canon. But I did a little checking and one can still find Nikon F4 bodies for less than $200. The F4 was Nikon’s first top-level pro AF camera. It is a true “system” camera like the Nikon F heritage models the F, F2, F2a, F3, etc. Canon has not made a true system SLR since the New F1 back in the 80s. A system camera has a HUGE selection accessories and attachments. Typically they have interchangeable viewfinders as well. That old F4 is a tank of a camera. The big problem for Nikon users is the issue with lens compatibility. The story is rather interesting how it all worked out.

Back in 1985 Minolta (now Sony) made a huge decision to abandon their old legacy Minolta MD lens mount and create a new line of modern auto focus SLRs. It was ground breaking technology and the Maxxum 7000 became first SLR with auto focus that actually worked worth a crap. Canon and Nikon soon decided they needed to step up or get crushed. Canon also made the decision to abandon their legacy FD mount. They created the amazing EOS system we still use today. But Canon’s approach was very interesting in that they had absolutely no mechanical connection at all. The entire connection between lens and body was electronic. The mount was also wider and fairly shallow giving Canon lens designers room to build some exotic glass. Canon was the largest camera maker in the world at the time with a huge amateur and prosumer market share. They were a distant second to Nikon among working pros however. That was about to change.

Nikon had been using the F mount since the 50s and were determined not to alienate their sizable base of working pros with a new lens mount. The end result was a bit of a hybrid system like Minolta using a drive shaft to focus the lens from the body and maintaining the original Nikon F mount. Early Nikon AF SLRs still had the same mechanical connection to the lens as previous Nikon AI bodies did. The hybrid system in the early days was clearly inferior to Canon’s fully electronic system and Canon made a solid push to convert photographers in the events, sports, and nature fields where the sheer speed of Canon’s system was just to good to pass on. For the first time ever, Canon was the top professional brand for 35mm SLRs. They haven’t yielded that position back in the digital market today. Nikon spent the next ten years tweaking the lens to camera connections to compete with Canon. Now here we are in 2017 and Nikons focus just as fast as Canons and they still use that old Nikon F mount. But all of the various changes in lenses have led to a confusing list of this lens works on that camera but not this camera and that lens works here, but not there, and… It is so ironic that in trying to keep pros by keeping the common lens mount they lost the pros to superior tech. In order to catch up and be competitive again, they had to abandon compatibility with older gear. Monday morning quarterback says you should have changed the damn mount Nikon!

Be careful if you decide to buy an old Nikon AF SLR, your modern lenses may or may not function on the old bodies. The aforementioned Nikon F4 will work with the largest selection of lenses of any Nikon AF body. All Nikon F mount lenses with an AI style or non-ai that have been converted dating to 1977 work fine in manual focus and limited metering modes M or A. Pre 77 non converted lenses will mount to the F4 but remain uncoupled from the light meter requiring stopped down metering. Almost all AF Nikkors will work perfectly, except the latest AF-P which will not focus at all on a F4. Go ahead Nikon fans, get an old Nikon F4 or even the spendier and newer F5 and shoot some film. That camera for less than $200 is like buying a GT40 for the price of Fiesta. It is soooooo worth it.

The irony continues as an old Nikon lens like my Nikkor 105 f/2.5 that I wrote up on this blog a few years ago, click here. works better on a modern Canon DSLR than it does on a Nikon. Some higher end Nikon cameras offer a menu option for older non-cpu lenses and they can be used although they remain cumbersome. On any of the Canon SLRs I have ever had and this includes the following film and digital bodies, EOS1, EOS A2e, D30, D60, 10D, 30D, 40D, 50D, T2i, 7D, 5DmkII, and 5DmkIII that old manual focus Nikkor lens works perfect with either Aperture Priority Auto or Manual exposure even with the camera’s sophisticated multi-pattern metering. Of course an adapter ring is needed to mount it, but nothing else need be done.

Their you have it a little modern tech and a little old school film mixing it up together.

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