Entries in nikon fm3a (3)


X100 vs. V1 vs. ???

My photography gear includes a Nikon D90 and FM3a and a collection of nice Nikon lenses. I love carrying the FM3a (with a 40mm or 50mm lens) around for casual shooting as a "have everywhere" camera but the convenience of digital is attractive. On the other hand, the D90 fits my needs perfectly and has an ideal set of features for me, but it's too big to carry around everywhere (although I don't mind carrying it, with a bag of lenses, when photography is a primary activity). Options for an "everywhere" camera? I admit I haven't actually had my hands on any of these cameras (since the Fuji is always out of stock and the V1 hasn't been released yet) and I'm just thinking through options (i.e., this isn't a review; it's me thinking out loud about if/what I want).

Fuji X100

Upsides: Good, simple controls; a fast lens; groovy retro styling; the relatively large sensor.

Downsides: I've read that the focus system is a bit slow; not sure how I feel about a fixed-lens (I like that it's a prime lens, but will it be limiting to not be able to swap out for other lenses?).

Nikon V1

Upsides: Compact, with (in the future) a system of small lenses; some interesting new technologies; using my other Nikon lenses with an adaptor...the 35mm 1.8 and 50mm 1.4 are interesting possibilities.

Downsides: Relatively small sensor...I'm not as worried about the image quality, but the limited ability to have a really shallow depth of field is a bit of a concern; lack of buttons/knobs for key controls, instead having to dig around menus.

A micro 4/3rds system camera

I admittedly don't know a a lot about these systems; is there a small m4/3 camera with a viewfinder and good manual controls? Do I want to invest in another lens system (admittedly, the V1 would lead down this path as well)?

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Probably the best solution would be a Leica M9 with a handful of lenses. But I'd have to sell a kidney and all of my guitars to go this route!




Update (10/7/11): I decided on the X100; the two downsides (slow[?] focus and fixed lens) are fine given that if I want to shoot sports or carry a kit of lenses I'll take my D90. The appeal of the X100 is that it complements my Nikon system; I shouldn't expect it to have all the same features in a smaller package.

The X100 is hard to find, at least at it's list price...Given it's scarcity (non-reputible) on-line retailers seem to be jacking up the price and it's backordered at all the places I like to shop (both on-line and locally). But Crutchfield seems to have just received a shipment, and one is on its way to me!


Digital film...I'd pay good money for this

Image from wired.comThis is an interesting idea (just to be clear, this isn't a real product; it's a concept that a designer has come up with): an insert that is shaped like a canister and film that would contain a digital sensor and memory. See the description of this concept on wired.com.

I'd totally buy something with similar functionality. What I don't like about digital SLRs is that they have a limited lifecycle as technology evolves (or at least they are marketed that way), they are overly complex, and they don't facilitate the connection with the user in the same way as older film/mechanical cameras do. As someone who fetishizes objects, I love the idea of a single camera body that the photographer can use for years/decades. It would be fantastic to be able to shoot with my FM3a, and have the ability to update the digital innards periodically rather than move from generation to generation of Nikon digital camera bodies. Just let me set the exposure manually with knobs/dials and capture high quality RAW files, and I'll be happy.


Some love for the Nikon FM3a

In November of 2009 I decided to take a stab at photography. I had done some very basic photography in grad school, but it never really stuck. After doing some research, I selected the Nikon D90; I'm sure I'll write more about that camera in future posts. In the spring of 2010, in anticipation of taking a darkroom/film photography class, I started looking into manual operation film cameras (Nikons only, so that there could be some sharing of lenses with the D90). I was primarily interested in the FM2 and FE2, which were made in the 1980s through 1990s, but eventually settled on the the FM3a. The FM3a is essentially an updated hybrid of the FM2 and FE2; it's fully mechanical and can operate without batteries (sans meter), but does have an aperture priority mode. It's the last mechanical, manual, SLR that Nikon made (the Cosina-built FM10 notwithstanding), still being produced into the first few years of the 21st century.

I won't give the full laundry list of the features of the FM3a (there’s tons of great info about the FM3a here). And let's save the discussion of film vs. digital for later (I like both). I want to talk about the feel, handling, and ergonomics of the FM3a; the connection between machine and human user. I can sum it up by saying that “I LOVE IT!” It’s compact and rugged, with a minimum of plastic. The shutter fires with a deliberate and confident click, and I don’t even mind advancing the film with the lever. Setting the aperture with a ring on the lens and shutter speed with a knob is much more satisfying than spinning a couple of dials. It just makes the experience much more thoughtful. I enjoy manually focusing (yes, I know I can do this on the D90), and with a pancake lens like the Cosina/Voigtlander 20mm F/3.5 or 40mm F/2.0 SLII, or even a bigger lens like the Zeiss 50mm F/1.4 or CV 58mm F/1.4, the camera is small and unobtrusive. It can fit under a jacket easily and you don’t freak people out by sticking a huge hunk of plastic and glass in their faces when you are shooting on the street. I leave it in my bookbag at all times; the FM3a and iPad make perfect travel companions in a small shoulder bag. There are still plenty of times I need to opt for the D90 and a laptop, but together they feel collectively more cumbersome.

I should probably note the things I *don’t* like: while I do love the needle-match metering system, it is a pain to use when it’s dark (I guess that’s when aperture priority mode is useful). The center-weighted metering is fine, but it would be great if Nikon would have graced us with a spot meter. And I wouldn’t mind if the shutter was quieter. I also don’t like that I can’t decide if I like the chrome or black version better (mine is chrome, like the one in the stock photo here).

Please Nikon, give us a digital version of the FM3a! Even back in 2004 some bloggers speculated about it. I’m hoping that Fuji’s soon to be released X100 will start a trend, however I just don’t see it happening anytime soon. But I can always dream!