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March 22, 2013

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My Nikkormat FTN which I bought while backpacking in Kenya in 1970. It was my first "real" camera and it just felt right. I had only one lens and grew so familiar with it that I could "see" in the same manner as the camera lens. I loved the match needle metering and was able to use it intuitively. I still have the camera although I haven't used it for years and it is difficult to find batteries for, but when I pick it up, the feel comes back. Even though I have had better cameras, nothing else has ever felt quite the same.

The first serious camera I ever used was my dad's Nikkormat FT2. I do not miss 35 mm film (not one little bit), but I do miss the feel of that camera. I'd be able to recogize the sound of its lever a mile away. I also miss the view through the finder, with the exposure needle and the split screen/microprism ring. Is there some way we can get that emulated in an EVF? I'd pay good money for it...

Amen, Gordon.
You are definitely right.
Among my audio favorites: Hasselblad 500C (shutter and rewind crank), Nikon F @ 1/60" w/motor, rubber pump operated Compur leaf shutter on a 4x5inch view camera. But also Olympus OM-D (any speed above 1/10").
Visual and tactile pleasure: the same Hasselblad and Nikon, along with the M Leicas (especially a black M4-P). But I confess I have a thing for the Canon Powershot G10 and G15 too.

Amen.

I'm one of those post digital folks, I'm 27, but when I began taking photos eight years ago a quality digital camera was out of my reach so I picked up a Canon Ftb for a song. The weight, the cool steel chassis, and the snick and click of the wind lever and shutter reminded me of a quality rifle. I also remember the not quite comfortable squareness in my right palm, but I forgave it's ergonomic imperfection because those uncomfortable boxy lines were so stunning. Looking through the viewfinder was cinematic. It made prosaic everydayness feel poetic.

I now own a Nikon D80, and although it doesn't possess the manly charisma of the Ftb, it's still a beautiful object to hold and use. I love the way my fingers cleanly wrap around the precisely engineered grip. It's obvious that some engineer sweated the details to get the shape and tactility of the grippy rubber surface just right. The view through the finder isn't as inspired as the Ftb's, but it's good enough. I also enjoy the perfect placement of the power switch, and the satisfyingly precise way it breaks over its detent when I flick it on. I also enjoy the way it looks. Some use the unflattering term Wunderplastik to describe the autofocus era of camera design, but in my opinion these cameras are just as beautiful as their metal, mechanical, and manual ancestors. The fluid organic lines are designed to be kind to human hands, and I find the gental curves aesthetically pleasing. I get the feeling that the outside is as carefully engineered as the inside.

The appeal of the film camera came not from the whirs and clicks. All the whirs and clicks and jingles and bells can be created electronically, but that will not satisfy the needs of a photographer. The appeal came from the layout of the controls. With one glance one could see the settings. Aperture, shutter, ASA, focus distance, depth of field and the framing were all just there to see in a very efficient way. The first serious camera (after much loved Kodak Browne Box) I had was "Agfa Sillete-I with just a couple of shutter speeds, a lens with a focusing scale (no rangefinder) and a simple optical view finder. It did not even have a light meter and so needed no ASA dial! But even that camera gave me the feeling that I was in control. I do not get that level of comfort with today's menus and functions. Even DSLRs do not have decent aperture rings or shutter speed dials. Instead they have many modes and setting and user defined configurations. Who needs them? Can any of them match the functionality of basic film cameras?
I wonder what stops the camera makers from making such cameras?

"I wonder what stops the camera makers from making such cameras?" - I guess marketing driven decisions (keep in mind that we are a tiny minority).

My favourites are Leica M6 and Olympus EM5 (the M8 feels sounds like a broken camera by comparison). The original Olympus E-1 would be high on the list, maybe above the M6, if I still would possess it.
Leaf shutters are too quiet for audible pleasure - stealth shooting is another matter of course.

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