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Archive for the ‘Cameras’ Category

Nikon introduced their new Z6 and Z7 full frame mirrorless bodies and Canon shortly after did likewise with the EOS R. These new cameras from the “classic” makers are designed to take a bite out of Sony’s dominance in the FF mirrorless market. Canon has already quietly become the number one seller in the Japanese mirrorless market without a FF body in the mix. Now armed with a FF body they are poised to make a move on the global stage. Meanwhile Nikon has entered the field with an opportunity as well since they no longer have to deal with the antiquated Nikon F mount. Things are about to get very real in the space and this bodes well for all of us that shoot regardless of the brand we choose to use.

What does all this modern camera mirrorless introductions really mean? Simple, with every new mirrorless user another person will discover the joy of using old school vintage glass on a modern digital body. Mirrorless cameras have a shallow flange distance that allows easy adaptation to older lenses. Camera events like PhotoFair bring dealers from all over the region to trade and sell classic glass. Now with multiple choices in the full frame mirrorless space, a lot more users are likely going to be in the market for Leica M lenses, classic Zeiss and a variety of other cool adapted lenses like Petzval barrel lenses and such.

Mirrorless cameras are not without faults. They tend to be much harder on batteries and despite amazing technology in the electronic viewfinders, many pros still prefer the optical viewfinders of a DSLR. That said, the mirrorless cameras are substantially more compact, offer superior flexibility in the application of older lenses and are beginning to challenge to DSLRs in focus speed as well.

I have yet to decide whether I will buy a Canon EOS R. It is the logical choice for me in the FF arena since I have an enormous vested interest in Canon glass. I own the EOS M5 the current flagship of the Canon APS/c mirrorless line. It is small and compact offering amazing versatility and a solid design. The EOS R is nowhere near as small so if I do buy one, I think I’ll still keep the little M5. If I buy the EOS R it will in fact be the defacto replacement for my aging EOS 5D Mark III. So for me it is a choice between the amazing proven performance of the EOS 5D Mark IV or this new kid EOS R. The R model is a thousand dollars less expensive and that seems attractive. Canon has launched several amazing lenses unique to the EOS R including the fastest FF zoom lens ever made a 28-70 f/2! They seem to be serious about this. Canon is taking some heat for not using an in body stablization system. Honestly if the EOS R had it, I would own one already. The advantage to in body stabilizers as they can stabilize older glass. That is a big deal to me and many people like me that shoot vintage lenses. Nikon and Sony have this feature in their FF mirrorless bodies. Come on Canon, get with the program 😉

I am very excited about the direction of photography and it seems the three biggest players in the hardware game are ready to rumble!

 

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man holding camera

Me and my Signet

Today I want to chat up the Kodak Signet 35. What a great little camera. It is small and compact, plus it features a sharp and contrasty 44mm f/3.5 lens. I really like the subtle art deco design elements that were already a bit retro by the time the 1950s rolled around and this camera was in the mainstream.  Kodak had a wide variety of these cameras including some rare military issue models that fetch over $500. For those of you that follow my twitter feed, you will find many photos of this camera as it has traveled around with me and served as a still life subject in many of my lens tests.

picture of camera on bar

My Signet 35 and my Beer at the Yardhouse in Portland, OR

The camera is very small and even reasonably light weight. The 44mm lens is plenty sharp. This model had a limited range of shutter speeds, B, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/300. It does stop down to f/22 for those bright sunny days. It is easy to load and fairly simple to operate. The shutter does need to be manually cocked separately from winding the film. The frame counter also needs to be manually reset after each roll.

This camera is surprisingly fun to shoot, and great for street shooting as it is an unassuming camera that can even be a bit discreet. It will however capture the attention of any hipsters in the vicinity 😉

picture of car

2015 Mustang made with Signet 35 on Ilford HP5

I really like the fact that these can be found at photo shows and on ebay for $20-$50 unless it is one of the aforementioned military models. As cool as the Air Force and Army issue models are, I really like the polished and elegant lines, along with the overall look of the standard model.

The camera is all metal and very well made. Focus is very easy but not super smooth since it isn’t a well damped helicoil. That could just be my camera and not necessarily the design. The weakest link in the camera is the rangefinder. It has a cool triangle-shaped image align, but the viewfinder is tiny and dim. To make matters worse my particular camera could stand a viewfinder cleaning. Even a mint condition version takes a bit more effort to get proper focus than say a Leica M3 or Canon 7. Neither of those cameras are sold for $25 though, right?

I shot the photo of the Mustang with my Signet 35 and you can see it makes good contrasty and sharp photos. The Ektar lens design has always been a fantastic quality lens. American made lenses have often been overshadowed by their German counterparts from Zeiss and E. Leitz, but Eastman Kodak made the Ektar line of lenses dating back to 1914 and they were their professional grade lenses. Kodak even felt like the Ektar 44mm used in this cameras was superior to the German Schneider lenses they used on the Retina models. Here is an interesting bit from a photo historical site:

Kodak Ektar f/3.5, 44 mm., This 4-element Tessar type lens was supplied on the Kodak Signet 35, and was described by Anne Ruder in Modern Photography magazine as “comparable to lenses in the most expensive 35mm cameras”. Kodak advertisements of the time claimed this lens was superior to the German lenses on their own Retinas. From the 1953 version of Kodak Data Book – Lens, Shutters and Portra Lenses, “This four-element completely Lumenized Ektar lens, especially designed for the Kodak Signet 35 Camera is one of the finest lenses ever produced for a miniature camera, regardless of price. Black-and-white negatives are crisp and needle-sharp, capable of being enlarged many diameters without loss of detail. Kodachrome transparencies have greater color purity and saturation than ever before. Focusing is consistently accurate throughout the entire focusing range from 2 feet to infinity. The lens mount is supported by 50 ball bearings, working smoothly and accurately at all seasonal temperatures.”

I always love it when something this well made, that looks and feels this good, and is still usable as a shooter, can be found for chump change prices. What a fun little camera and a delight to own, even if you just look at it on a shelf or take it to the local watering hole as a drinking buddy 😉 

 

 

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