Dead Hand Cameras

5 cameras you’d need to prise out of my cold dead hands

What film cameras could you not be parted from. It’s a question myself and some other film bloggers have asked ourselves recently. So here’s my list of five cameras you’d need to prise out of my lifeless hands. And there’s a few surprises in here with everything from technical production, to simplicity to in production today cameras.

Now to be clear this is not a list of classics. these are my 5 cameras that I perhaps shoot more with than any others. And actually most care not that pricey with exception of one camera which alone could allow you to buy all the others twice over and still have enough for loads of film

I’ve also listed my fellow bloggers own take on this idea at the bottom of this post with a range of views from the likes of Mike Eckman, Kosmo Photo, Alex Luyckx and whole host of others.

A F5 lite for Takeaway Pizza money
– Nikon F75/N75

Nikon F75 with Diana F+ lens
Nikon F75 with Diana F+ lens. Not exactly the best lens but do-able

I own a few SLR bodies that is to be said and whilst House Canon has swayed me of late there is one body that I personally tend to carry. And that’s the F75.

Sons oF Soul. Nikon F75. 2022
Graffiti Alley, Toronto, July 2022. Nikon F75 + Nikkor AF 28-100mm 1:3.5-5.6G + Kentmere 100. Processed and scanned by Ag Photolab

It is not seen as a classic Nikon. But and here’s the thing it was one of the most advanced film cameras ever made. It was also the second last film body that Nikon would release with only the F6 following it. And it just does. Wikipedia describes it as ” basically a version of the F5 with a plastic frame. The F75 was designed for consumers and professionals working on a budget as it has most of the options of the more advanced F5 at a lower cost,”

Whitby Anatares. Nikon F75. 20121
Nikon F75 with AF Nikkor (D) 28-80mm Yodica (Anatares). Processed and scanned by AG Photolab. Whitby 2021

And it it truly does That

Light but tech ‘o’ tastic

In addition it can use most Nikon AF lenses. Has the best metering of any Nikon film SLR with the exception of the F5 & F6. Granted it is plastic and lacks the wow factor I get when I pick up my F4 or the feel the Legacy of my FE. But it is lighter and if it dies you can get another for £20. You can even shoot Manual (AI) lenses with focus assist in manual mode (unmetered). And it joins the F5, F6 and F100 as the only film bodies to support the vibration reduction features of Nikon’s VR lenses

My better built F80 lies gathering dust as it’s heavier and has no real advantages. And it and the F100 have technically worse metering.

Mama mia. Nikon F75. 2019
Keswick August 2019. Nikon F75 with Nikkor 50/1.8 D prime. Shot Yashica Black & White at 100 ISO (box 400ISO) as no DX so defaulted). Pull processed and as scanned by AG Photolab. Click on image for full size

And the Ergonomic of this are just fantastic. Admitted technically following the F70, Nikon could have just given you a box Brownie to be better ergonomically. But this is a rare time I actually feel Nikon beat Canon at their own game.

There are flaws

Its not so great if you want to shoot non DX coded film (just defaults to 100ISO) and there is no cable point (although a proprietary remote exists with 3rd party versions for a few quid available). And although manual lens can be used the AF screen makes it not the easiest

And if if I didn’t own it ?

I strongly suspect my Nikon FE would be here although if I could find a handgrip battery cover for my Canon EOS-1N…..

The travel Camera – Konica EYE

Konica EYE

A travel camera needs to be easy to use and pocketable. And for a classic one you’re spoilt for choice with a legion of cameras from the Olympus PEN EE series to the LC-A each with their own pluses and minuses. I’d argue even Reto UWS meets this criteria.

Old Town Flags. Konica EYE
Geneva 2024. Konica EYE with XP2.

But the one I find myself loading out with time and and time again is the Konica EYE. You get a brilliantly engineered half frame from 1960’s Japan. It is was so good it was a one of several cameras the Soviets copied in the form of the FED Mikron (more on that later)

Scalby Mills Diptych. Konica EYE
Half frame Diptych, Scarborough 2013. Konica EYE + XP2

You get a camera with in-finder display of zone focus and a Konica needle meter display. It looks great, has retro charm and a killer lens.

Salève. Konica EYE 2024
Salève, France overlooking Swiss Geneva. Konica Eye with Fujifilm 400 (kodak emulsion) 2024

It’s a perfect classic camera, much quieter than using an AF compact and oozes class. It’s only achillies heel is the flash provision – you’ll need to use PC sync and a flash bracket making it pointless.

I’ve found when I don’t take the SLR/DSLR, the eye comes along with my modern favourite Digital travel camera the Lumix DMC-TZ70

The Konica EYE and Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ70 are my 2 favourite travel compacts.
And if if I didn’t own it ?

Before I got this my Olympus PEN EE-2 would have been here, It’s a close second to the EYE as a travel half frame made all the more impressive by being fixed focus and narrower exposure. If I had to pick a travel zoom film camera it would likely be my Pentax Espio AF Zoom.

The New 120 – Lomography LC-A 120

Lomography LC-A120
Lomography LC-A120. 25th anniversary edition

Let’s be frank the LC-A 120 is frankly slightly flawed genius. Created by the Lo-Fi gurus from Austria, it takes it design cues from the classic LC-A but goes large. It find s itself in a class of it’s own. Yes you can buy lo-fi Holga like 120 cameras or ‘serious’ hand built stuff (lens board often not supplied). But this is a fully auto exposure, focusable 6X6 that is as compact as it could be with a style all of it own. Made today.

Storm Brewing. LC-A 120, 2021
Lomography LC-A120 with Kodak Portra 800. Whitby, July 2021.Click on image for full size

Granted it’s not as well constructed as I’d like for a £300+ camera. A point reinforced by just how well its sibling, the LC-A Wide is made. And it can skip frames and a option to switch to another frame format would have been nice over the 6×6.

The Bay Hotel. LC-A 120. 2021
Robin Hood’s Bay. Lomography LC-A 120 with Kodak Ektar 100. July 2021. Click on image for Full size

But the Minigon XL38mm 1:4.5 lens is good. It’s pretty wide for 120 and whilst not clinically perfect is full of character. And it meters well. Quite frankly, there is nothing like it on the market.

I Love Whitby MX. LC-A 120 & Delta 3200 @1600. 2021
Accidental MX. Lomography LC-A 120 with Ilford Delta 3200 @1600. As processed and scanned by AG Photolab. Whitby, July 2021. Click on image for full size
And if if I didn’t own it ?

So I’d probably not save my Diana F+s & Holgas 120 as they’re too easily replaced. But I’d probably clutch my Kodak Brownie No 2. Arguably oneof the most important cameras ever made. It was first sold when Queen Vic was still on the Throne but still useable with no mods today. And a camera that helped launch photography for the masses as well as giving us 120 film.

The Redefined Plastic-fantastic –
The Kodak Ektar H35N

Kodak Ektar H35N
Kodak Ektar H35N

If I had to do this list 2 years ago another Reto camera would have been here. But there’s a link. That camera of course was the Reto UWS a clone of the lo-fi legend the VUWS, a camera with an insanely good but characteristic plastic lens.

Bikes.  Kodak Ektar H35N. 2023
Suomenlinna, Helsinki, October 2023. Reto made Kodak Ektar H35N with Ilford XP2. Click on image for Full size

So Reto took that lens and went half frame and added retro. This gave us the original Kodak Ektar H35. It was good but the H35N just tears up the script with its half glass half plastic hybrid VUWS 22mm lens, 2 stops and features like cable points and lens threads still wrapped up in en pointe vintage shell. There’s even a built in optional star filter.

Helsinki, October 2023. Reto made Kodak Ektar H35N with Kodak ColorPlus 200. Click on image for Full size

This blurs the distinction between plastic fantastic and proper camera, although the images suffer when you shoot on the wider flash aperture setting. And you do need like all limited exposure cameras take into account condition for film speed choices.

From the Harbour, Helsinki. H35N, 2023.
H35N & Ultramax 400. Helsinki, 2023. Click on image for full size
And if if I didn’t own it ?

Obviously I might choose my Reto or another VUWS clone but actual I’d pick my Lomo Smena 8M. Another camera which is plasticky. But if you get a good ‘un, has a fantastic lens (although quality control was not exactly a strong point)

The Mutant Love Child from Kharkiv –
The FED 50

FED 50
The FED 50

Oddly this camera links 2 two others on the list.

This is one of 2 cameras developed from the FED Mikron (a clone of my Konica EYE). But it’s blinged up and goes full frame. And it feels less Mikron, more like the product of a one night stand between a backpacking Oly Trip 35 and a LC-A in a FSU student night club in the 1990’s

Angular Fiscal. FED 50. 2014
Edinburgh, 2014. FED 50 with K2 Yellow filter with Ilford XP2. Click on image for full size

It made little sense when launched in 1986 when AF compacts were rising (and manual focus were going ultra compact). It’s selenium cyclops meter feels dated. But it was a reasonable success selling over 100, 000 units and its production outlived the fall of the Soviet Union.

Fancy A Nibble ? FED 50, London 2018.
London, July 2018. FED 50 with Ilford XP2 Super. C-41 processed and scanned by Digital Photo Express Carlisle. Click on Image for full size

The Industar 81 38mm 1:2.8 lens is very good as you’d expect for FED and I think works better than the 30mm of it’s half frame sibling. Its got more shutter flex than a Trip 35 and unlike the Mikron has a standard flash mount.

It makes it a very capable more modern soviet camera but much rarer than the Lomo LC-A. It also has a weird Glasnost bling to it. Like the Trip and the LC-A you can bung it into flash mode but it also comes with a bulb mode (although that’s wide at f/2.8) and a cable point

Deck Chairs on the Baltic. FED 50 2022
Overlooking the Øresund, Copenhagen 2022. FED 50 with XP2. Click on image for full size
And if if I didn’t own it ?

I would obvious consider fighting you off for one of my LC-A, the archtypal soviet fully auto compact and the grandaddy of lomography. The original FED Mikron is also worthy. Its lens whilst not as good as the Konica EYE on which it’s based nor the FED 50, is still good. And it brings a retro feel soviet style.

And My Fellow Bloggers ?

Ai image of skeleton with camera

So what cameras could you not be parted from ? My fellow bloggers have their own choices….

3 thoughts on “Dead Hand Cameras”

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