It's a recreational day. Which camera am I using right now?

You caught me. You know me so well. It had to happen sometime. You know what I'm talking about, I woke up this morning and I just had to have a full frame camera. That big ole 35mm frame that confers so much on a photographer. And you could tell what with my flirtations about Nikon and what not which direction I'd head in. I mean, it was like a trail of bread crumbs, right? First the dalliance with the D7100 and then the manic acquisition of two D7000s in short order. It was only a matter of time before Photography's most fickle practitioner reached out and grabbed up a working, big, sexy full frame Nikon. 

I've got the camera set up just the way I want it. I've got an AIs 60mm lens on the front and I've got the internal mechanism set to shoot monochrome (or black and white) at 400 ISO. I takes a little bit of getting used to, I mean the positioning of the controls and the very, very, very understated menus, but I seem to be getting the hang of it. The weird thing is that the body I picked up, while huge and very heavy, seems to be following the new Leica-trend in terms of minimizing features in favor of unimpeded operation. This unusual full framer does have three metering modes but it doesn't have any special AF point distribution modes. As best I can tell it's limited to only using the center focusing point. The finder doesn't light up in red like a Christmas tree when I half press the shutter button. It does seem to snap into sharp focus with gusto! 

I've also been over every square inch looking for picture looks or profiles but I can't find any at all. Then there is the relief of not having the stupid features resident on so many competing cameras. Things that clutter the mind and suck on batteries with reckless enthusiasm. Crap like GPS (who, besides cartographers actually uses that frivolous feature? And you really depend on it? Sure.) The camera maker kindly resisted efforts to include wi-fi, bluetooth or AM radio as well. Which is good because I understand that the model I have chosen requires a ridiculous amount of post processing before  the files are usable. Nothing you can pop up on Facebook that lets you tell all your friends, "I am standing in front of the middle urinal at the south Costco and things are coming out fine..."

While I loves me the EVFs there's no option for that here. Just an OVF but a pretty nice one. It's usable for interior and exterior shooting and does a good job conveying bokeh if I squint just right. Excuse me for just a minute but I need to look at the manual again because I can't figure out how to switch back to sRGB.... Oh, right, there's no color management on this camera. But it's heavy enough to anchor a small boat. And when it first came out the magazine reviewers fell all over themselves to praise its operation. 

What is today's usable camera? See attached.

I woke up this morning with a strange desire to shoot some Tri-X black and white film in a camera that's really just no fucking nonsense. I guess it's a reaction to shooting and processing well over 20,000 digital frames over the last two months and just being bone tired of remembering to switch color balances, switch to uncompressed raw from Jpeg when switching from a web assignment to a magazine assignment mis-remembering whether or not I turned off the I.S. when I put the camera on the tripod and the frustration of hitting the video button when sticking my camera back in the bag only to find an hour of so of very dark video resident on the now full memory card after lunch.

I know, I know; I'll soon (probably mid-afternoon) chaff at carrying this primordial beast around all day without sherpas. I know that the digital revolution has hacked away at my once great attention span and by 4 or 5 today I'll be so anxious to see what I've shot and so ready to blog about it.... But I guess this is another one of those ill-fated, Zen-Like, self imposed exercises where we try to re-learn patience, humility and focused thrift. 

Call it a day off with an old friend. 

A review from a reader:

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cure for a Sluggish Pulse June 24, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I recall reading “The Exorcist” one night (back when it first came out – the early 70’s), and I just could not put it down. Page after page, tension mounting, my heart racing, I pushed through to the end. At about 3 AM!

“The Lisbon Portfolio” got to me the same way. I began reading on the plane from Philly to Dallas. (To about 20%, according to the Kindle reader app’s little gray note on each page.) We were visiting with some of my wife’s family, but there were periods when I had time to myself, so I’d open the Nexus tablet and plow on. All were amused by my periodic “percent complete” reports. I finished it by the end of the second day.

If you have followed Kirk Tuck’s Visual Science Lab blog for any length of time, you can get a sense of who the man is. And I think Kirk Tuck is “The Lisbon Portfolio” protagonist Henry White. But, Henry White is not Kirk Tuck, even though they both hail from Austin, Texas. Not unless Kirk has been keeping his NSA and CIA adventures a secret from us. Just today (Monday), Kirk describes his gig at the RLM Math Conference in Denver, and it could easily have been a passage out of the book, as Henry Smith describes how he plans to shoot the Global Data Systems (GDS) 4-day international conference in Lisbon. He even brings in references to his Leica cameras. (Hint: a film Leica plays a significant role in an exciting scene in the book.)

Having spent the last several decades in the Corporate IT world, I could relate to his depictions of the GDS annual sales conference, aka “the dog and pony show,” intended to entice current and would-be customers to take the chance on the next (buggy) software release. More interesting to me is the depiction of GDS itself, (which seems to conflate both IBM and Ross Perot’s EDS), as the kind of amoral and controlling transnational corporation ably portrayed in Kim Stanley Robinson’s epic “Red Mars,” “Green Mars,” “Blue Mars” trilogy. The minor notes also ring true; for example, GDS’s ability to remotely access the hardware it sells, and reconfigure it on the fly. I can attest that that’s not fiction.

This is one of those stories where I wish I had taken notes of each new character as the plot-line moved forward. Good guys, bad guys (and gals), who they work for, or against, or both at the same time. And an increasing body count. The timeline jumps back and forth, with rapid scene changes typical of an action movie. The narrative flow reminds me of Tom Clancy’s “Red Storm Rising.”

Do I recommend it? You only get one guess. And remember to look up from the page every so often to catch your breath.

Good job, Kirk!


Dave Jenkins said...

To each his own. I remember when the photographer with whom I shared studio space walked in one morning with one of the first Nikon F4s in our town. I hefted it, said "Hmmmm," and put it on the UPS scales on my desk. Then I picked up my Pentax 6x7, also with a normal (105mm) lens and put it on the scales. They weighed exactly the same. I thought, "It will be a very cold day in a very hot place before I carry that kind of weight to photograph with a piece of 35mm film."

Andrew Livelsberger said...

That definitely is a beautiful camera.

I find on my "fun days" shooting for me and not clients that I have quite the selection of cameras that I am enjoying.

On the digital side, I do love my OMD cameras, and pick the EM5 when I am wanting something small and light.
There is also my favorite digital camera of all time, the Nikon Df. I feel that once you get to understand what the camera is all about, it gets out of your way and lets you create magic.

On the analog side, I am finding favor with a Yashica Lynx 5000. I don't have batteries for the meter, so we gotta go old school with it, break out the light meter at times.
I'm also experimenting right now with a Diana f+ with instant back.

When I want to go "full frame", I have a Mamiya C33 that I got for a steal!!

Sometimes it is refreshing to just fall back into the ways of old. I find that there are so many legacy techniques/tools and ways of doing things that make so much more sense than the way that we do it now.

Anyway, glad you still enjoy the "simpler" things.

Nick Davis said...

Nice one, Kirk. Just one small suggestion; try it with TMAX 400 film. I know I'll get crucified by the Tri X fans, but it may prove to be a revelation!

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Cool review! Mine should be online now as well, in Germany (but in English): http://www.amazon.de/Lisbon-Portfolio-Henry-Portfolios-English-ebook/dp/B00L1WNKUS/

Steve Renwick said...

I think that model originally shot 400 ASA, not 400 ISO. Maybe there is a firmware upgrade.

Have fun!

Kirk Tuck said...

Wolfgang, Thank you for the really wonderful review. I'm so happy you enjoyed "The Lisbon Portfolio". I'm hard at work on the next one. I hope I learned a lot in the process.

Kirk Tuck said...

Nick, I tried T-Max 400 a number of times and every time I got the impression of fresh food versus frozen food, Tri-X versus the T-Grain family. Too much weirdness in the highlights.

Owen Murphy said...

You could always go for a compact full frame like an F3.

Zac said...

There must be some therapeutic aspect that we seek out with film. After ~20,000 frames digital (not in 2 months like Kirk though) and having never shot on film, I just re-sealed my grandfather's Nikkormat FT3. I ran some rolls through it and just started learning to develop them. I swear to God that is tangible magic, its nothing like pulling bits and bytes off an SD card!

David Yeager said...

I understand what you mean, my daughter and I still go out every month or so with an old 4x5. There is nothing like watching your image come to life in the developer. I just dont get the same excitement seeing my just shot picture in the 3" LCD on the back of my digital

John Krumm said...

Wait a minute, where are the images? I hope your darkroom is still in order. : )

You likely have a good lab in town. Most of us in smaller places have to send in film (especially color) to some place online if we want better than Walgreen quality. I've been using thedarkroom.com with good results (I think they also do Ilford's stuff in the U.S. when you send it to Ilford labs). Hard to cough up the money when I send in 4 rolls of film, but I always enjoy seeing what I get.

Godfrey DiGiorgi said...

Every so often I get hit with the same madness. I reach in the closet and pull out the Nikon F, the Leica M4-2, the Leica R8, or the Hasselblad.

Once the madness has passed and I return to the Leica X, the Olympus E-M1, or the Leica M9, I realize again how far the technology of Photography has advanced ... And how little a difference it makes in the end. Because the game really is all about seeing, not about the equipment or the recording media.

Paul Glover said...

As handy as it is to get instant feedback (or even better, pre-chimping with our little Sony SLT) I find I enjoy the process much more when I'm not worrying about the ISO/focus mode/exposure mode/focus area/exposure comp/drive mode/file format/etc/etc/etc/... and so I gain most enjoyment from my hobby when I stick with black and white film in cameras which have just enough automation to help, but without all the options which hinder. Think 1980s Canon F-1, Olympus XA, original Pentax 645 (though that silly calculator button interface does get in the way a bit)

Experience tells me roughly when the center weighted meter will be badly off. Habit puts me in aperture priority, or manual if I need to lock exposure. Focus point, area and distance is "exactly where I want it" at any time (compare to the Sony and "oh crap I'm on the wrong focus point entirely" or "WHY the HELL is it focusing THERE???")

Ahhh... simplicity, a highly underrated feature which needs to stage a comeback in a big way.