Dances With Digital Dilettantes – Pt 1

Shooting with film for the last five years or so has given me huge pleasure, taught me a great deal about the basics of composing and taking photographs, and created a small body of work I’m very happy with.

But there came a point some months back where I deconstructed what film photography gave me, and whether these benefits could be gained from a digital machine.

To my surprise, the majority of the reasons I shoot film, can be experienced very similarly (and some identically) using a digital camera.

Now I’ve begun exploring digital more again (I never stopped entirely, it was just secondary to film photography output wise), I want to simplify and get down to the essence of what I like about each machine I have.

With film, I’ve honed down pretty much to three SLR bodies with about a dozen lenses, plus three compacts.

I could feasibly go to two SLRs, maybe three lenses and two compacts. But I’m at peace with the kit I have now, so don’t feel a further “urge to purge”.

With digital though, I do want to hone down even further, and maybe this is in part due to the greater complexity of digital cameras.

With pretty much any film SLR, once you’re familiar with one, you can pick up any other and be taking pictures within a couple of minutes.

With digital cameras and their endless options and menus, this isn’t quite so simple.

I don’t want to learn the settings and menus all over again every time I pick up a camera, I want it to be instinctive and immediate, like an extension of my eye, hand and mind.

But is it possible to have and master just one digital camera that suits all my needs?

This is part one of a two part post on the five main digital cameras I have and have extensively used, what they do for me, and why I like them.

As usual on 35hunter, you won’t find extensive tech spec, 100% crops or pixel peeping. These are my purely subjective thoughts on how and why these cameras work (and fall short) for me and my photographic preferences.

Sony NEX3N

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Handling

Disappointing. The grip at the front isn’t big enough to grip, and it always feels like a slightly awkward device, rather than a camera.

Since I’ve always used the NEX with a vintage lens and adapter, I end up mostly holding the lens/adapter. Which is fine, but the NEX itself could have such better handling. With this set up the camera is always front heavy to, so is a bit awkward and unbalanced around your neck.

This is quite possibly its biggest downfall, for me, and it becomes even more apparent when I return to a camera with excellent handling.

It is small, but once you put on a vintage lens and adapter, the depth is the same as a DSLR. Maybe with a pancake Sony AF lens it would feel very different, but I have no interest in modern AF lenses.

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Flexibility

This is excellent. I have used the NEX with at least half a dozen different adapters for vintage lens mounts, and on Aperture Priority (Av) mode the NEX is very simple to use and gives reliable exposures.

Focus peaking is a huge plus, and makes focusing with all kinds of manual lenses (even very slow ones) a breeze.

It shoots RAW (JPEG is an option, I’ve not really used it) and has all the ISO range I have ever needed – ISO1600 is relatively clean and grainless on the occasions I’ve used it, though mostly I use it at ISO400.

The tilting screen adds a great deal, especially for low or high shots that you just couldn’t get into the right position with using a DSLR.

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Enjoyment

AV mode, with the tilting screen and focus peaking, makes playing with vintage lenses great fun. This is what my NEX quickly became – the body to test any new lens I discovered and purchased.

It’s the major reason why I bought over 100 lenses in 50 months.

But it remains very much a fun device for testing lenses. A device or tool, rather than a proper camera for the kind of immersion in a scene I so value.

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Its performance in terms of sharpness is unequivocal. And with the focus peaking you can finely craft exactly how you want your images to look in terms of focus placement and depth of field.

But I’ve never much liked the colours it gives.

Really, only the images that have had fairly radical (for me) post processing having pleased me, colour wise. Most of the time either the colour is flat and dull, or it’s vivid enough but too clean, too clinical, too, er, digital.

Which is a major flaw for my needs – I don’t want to be heavily processing images, when there are other cameras that give me very pleasing pictures and colour with next to no processing.

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Overall

The NEX has made tens of thousands on photographs in my hands. Whilst it’s a very capable tool, I’ve never bonded with it as a camera. And I have to do quite a bit with the final output to get it looking how I want. It took the discovery of the next digital body on the list to hammer these realisations home.

Pentax K10D (/Samsung GX10 / Samsung GX-1S)

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Handling

I loved the K10D the moment I picked it up. It just felt right in my hands and up against my eye. It’s not light, but its heft is reassuring and further enhances the handling, and the feeling that this is a serious, quality camera. I don’t think there’s anything I don’t like on this front.

The Samsung GX10 is a rebadged Pentax K10D, so handling is identical, as is everything else for the purpose of this review.

The GX-1S is a smaller, lighter body, with a 6MP CCD sensor, instead of the 10MP CCD in the K10D/GX10. The difference in weight and size is quite significant, the different in image quality isn’t.

I think of the GX-1S as just a smaller, simpler version for when I want to travel lighter, otherwise all three cameras are very similar.

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Flexibility

These bodies can use any of my M42 lenses with a simple adapter to shoot on Manual mode, and any of my Pentax K lenses. They shoot RAW, and 90% of the time I keep them on their native ISO – 100 for the K10D/GX10, 200 for the GX-1S. All give highly usable images down to ISO400, when the light is less.

This is exactly the same ISO range I’m used to from shooting film, so I don’t bemoan the fact they can’t see in the dark and shoot at ISO6400, in fact I’ve never even used ISO800 on any of them.

That’s all the flexibility I need.

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Enjoyment

The K10D is a joy to use overall. Nothing else gets me as close to that immersion in the moment experience I get from 35mm SLRs.

Focusing with slower lenses can be tricky so I stick to faster ones, and anything f/2.8 or over presents no problems. The cameras’ focus confirm light helps if/when the light is tricky and has proved to be reliable.

I have found a couple of things that I don’t like so much.

After a while, maybe an hour of shooting, my eyes get really tired using the viewfinder (VF). This doesn’t happen with cameras with screens and no VF.

Also, with vintage lenses, exposures often need a bit of fine tuning. With the NEX, I get maybe one inaccurate exposure per 100 shots, it’s amazing. With theses DSLRs I’ve come to expect I need to shoot, tweak, maybe shoot once or twice again, and make use of the “blinkies” and histogram.

It’s good in that it makes me slow down and I rarely end up overall with what I think is a great shot, but that’s let down by poor exposure. But it’s sometimes frustrating to not be able to point and shoot and trust the exposure will be ok first time.

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Post processing for these cameras goes like this – Copy RAW files from SD card to computer. Import images into LightRoom. Export favourites as JPEG after LightRoom automatically does its very subtle tweaking. That’s it.

I love the colours the CCD sensor of the Pentax’s give combined with vintage lenses. It’s not film, but it gives a very pleasing, warm look that reminds me of film, and is very different to the cool, clinical performance of the NEX.

Ironically, those CCD sensors are the work of Sony! Maybe if they stuck one in a NEX I’d be far more happy with the final images from that! All in all, the K10D and its siblings produces my favourite photographs I’ve made that haven’t been on film (and some are amongst my favourites in any medium).

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Overall

The K10D has been a revelation. Being able to use my beloved vintage M42 Takumars, plus a few very appealing Pentax A series, on a “proper” camera with a great viewfinder and excellent handling, plus the convenience of digital, has made me very happy.

The only slight downside is the sometimes demanding need to be very precise with exposure and that the VF tires my eyes pretty quickly. I envisage continuing to use these bodies for when I want that slow, immersive, film-like experience with my favourite vintage lenses.

Nikon CoolPix P300

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Handling

Despite being a compact minimalist black block of plastic and metal (it always reminded me of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey), the Nikon is impressively reassuring to hold.

The little rubber strip down the front of the camera and the rubber thumb grip at the rear make the handling really quite good. No VF, but the screen is bright and clear and gives all the info you could ever need. The shutter button is responsive on half and full press and all other controls feel sturdily made.

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Flexibility

No RAW option, but when I got the CoolPix back in 2011 I was oblivious that this even existed, and it didn’t hold me back.

The camera has a variety of modes (Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual) plus some very useful settings in the Scene modes. I made (and still make) extensive use of the high contrast b/w mode which gives really moody, inky and contrasty images straight out of camera.

For colour shots, a tweak of extra saturation gives me surprisingly pleasing colours without any further fiddling too.

A macro mode which goes down to a few centimetres adds to the flexibility, as does the zoom lens (which starts at a really wide 24mm and goes to 100mm, I think) and that screen which encourages different angles and closeness compared to a viewfinder camera.

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Enjoyment

When I got the Nikon I shot around 1000 photographs a month for eight months, before discovering film. In many ways this camera taught me how to compose, how to see in black and white, and how much I liked shooting up close with a blurred background.

It remains fun to use and really couldn’t be much more compact or versatile.

The only thing I would like is some indication of the focal length you were at, and a zoom with set steps, rather than zooming constantly. Obviously I know the wide end is 24mm and these days use it almost entirely at this focal length, but I would like to be able to set it to 35, 50 or 80 or 100mm, and know I was at that setting.

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As mentioned above, for b/w I use the high contrast mode, and for colour I usually slightly increase the saturation in camera, and with the screen of course I can preview how it looks before I take the shot. Aside from that, I do nothing with the images the camera creates.

They never see LightRoom, and for that it feels one of the most streamlined and hassle free cameras to post process. I just download them from the camera, then choose the best and delete the rest. Ideal!

The only thing I’m not so keen on is the 4:3 aspect ratio which kind of feels an awkward compromise between 1:1 and the 3:2 of film, my NEX and my Pentax DSLRs I’m so used to.

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Overall

I have an attachment to this camera because it was my first “proper” digital camera after a few years playing with camera phones.

It’s also the camera that’s documented dozens of family trips and occasions, and I even shot (video) one of our best friends’ wedding, and they were delighted with the final film.

The more I’ve used other cameras since (and I’ve had a few!) the more I have appreciated the build quality, compactness, versatility and images from the Nikon. It cost me more than any other camera before or since (around £300) but has been tremendous value in the six years I’ve had it.

It’s an excellent compact, which for a while was – and still could be – sufficient for many dozens of pleasing photographs.

So those are the first three of five digital dilettantes, thanks for reading this far!

In the follow up post I’ll talk about two more digital cameras that have made a significant contribution to my photographic adventure, then sum up the whole lot, and make some decisions on what stays and what goes.

What’s your favourite digital camera? Please tell us about it in the comments below. 

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

 

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The Lomo Itch (And How I Scratch It)

Lomo photography is an itch I periodically get and have to scratch. Here’s how I came to it, the allure it has, and how I scratch that itch these days…

Though I was using camera phones to intentionally make photographs from the mid 2000s, my first film camera, in 2012, was about as Lomo as it gets, a Holga 120N.

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My initial disbelief that this simplistic toy hunk of plastic could make any kind of image turned to wonder and delight I had the first roll processed. Then another, and another.

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Finding that shooting medium format 120 film was pretty expensive, I followed this by adapting the Holga to take 35mm film – considerably more affordable to buy and have developed.

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Realising that the Holga exposed 35mm film across its whole width – and that the cost to have this scanned was ridiculous – I invested in my own scanner and modified one of the scanning masks/frames.

I also experimented with some close up filters, and again got some surprisingly pleasing results.

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This in turn was soon followed by the first genuine 35mm film camera I bought, a possibly even more Lomo, er, Lomo Smena 8M.

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Most of my cameras since (and there have been many!) have been less lo-fi, and I eventually expanded into the sedate control of SLRs, and some five years later, DSLRs.

Other notable plastic fantastic cameras I’ve had are the Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim (UWS) clones – I’ve had a Black Slim Devil and an Olive San, both made by Superheadz – the Konica Pop, a Pentax PC-330, and a couple of Miranda and Halina panoramas.

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Though these days I shoot mostly digital with vintage manual lenses, that Lomo urge still periodically reappears.

Why?

Because not having to think about anything but pointing and shooting, and knowing that the final photograph will be high contrast, overly saturated, soft at the edges (if not all over), and have significant vignetting (if it comes out at all), and be a little bit unpredictable, is somehow very attractive and addictive.

But, ironically, the most Lomo images I make these days aren’t on film at all, but with my iPhone, plus the Hipstamatic app.

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After taking a few hundred shots with the iPhone and finding them good enough for snapshots but overall a bit dull, I tried the in built filters, like Noir, Chrome, Instant and, my favourite, Transfer. The latter makes for especially appealing spontaneous portrait shots, in my opinion, and it’s my default setting for family outings.

Keen to explore further (and after stumbling across it via another app I already had to use my iPhone as a lightmeter for my oldest 35mm cameras), I downloaded Hipstamatic.

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The range of options available via changing the “film”, “lens” and “flash” in any combination is quite dizzying. I’ve managed to find a handful of combos I really like, and recently settled on just one.

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Hipstamatic offers seven different aspect ratios, but the one that I use most is the pure 1:1 square. I sometimes use 3:2 as I’m so familiar with it from shooting 35mm film and with my Pentax DSLRs.

And occasionally too I’ve been dabbling the widescreen cinema apsect of 16:9, which can work well for landscapes and adds drama.

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The iPhone plus Hipstamatic pairing gives me results very similar to my favourites I was getting with probably my favourite 35mm plastic fantastic, the Superheadz UWS clone.

As I can do this with no expenditure on film, a way higher hit rate, and the convenience that my iPhone is always with me, it’s pretty much resigned my Holga and Superheadz to a dusty shelf.

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Plus the whole process of scanning was unbelievably time consuming, and for me at least, just not worth the time and frustration. I fairly quickly reverted to having my film developed and scanned to CD again, and let the lab do their best.

The time saving and the relief was a major revelation, not unlike my recent giving up of eBay to gain more time for other aspects of photography.

More often than not I love the control and image quality that SLRs/DSLRs with vintage manual lenses give, not to mention the tactile experience and the immersion of a good viewfinder.

It’s these that get me closer to the majesty and wonder of the world that’s too easily overlooked.

But for when I feel that Lomo itch, and want a quick and dirty image that’s a delicious hyperreal dream take on reality, all I need do now is reach in my pocket, swipe right, open Hipstamatic, point and shoot. And that has a great appeal.

What are your experiences with lomo/lo-fi photography? Let us know in the comments below.

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Why An iPhone Can’t (Yet) Be My One And Only Camera

Ever wanting to minimise my camera kit, it’s crossed my mind more than once than a camera phone could be the only one I need.

Which would be ironic, as this is how I began photographing with intention over a decade ago, years before I discovered film, or knew what any of those intimidating and multiple numbers dials and buttons on an SLR were for – with a series of Sony Ericsson camera phones.

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Could it be, that after shooting my way through literally hundreds of cameras and lenses, and making tens of thousands of photographs, I’d arrive right back where I started, albeit with (I hope) a better understanding of and greater competence in the dark mysteries of the art?

Well, almost, but not quite.

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On the plus side, here’s what I like about my iPhone (5C), the most capable phone camera I’ve used –

1. It’s compact, convenient and always with me. The best camera you have is the one you have with you. That’s always the iPhone!

2. The images are more than acceptable, especially shot via an app like Hipstamatic. I don’t make huge prints, and any “defects” of the lens/sensor/app I see as a specific character of the device.

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3. I have plenty of control. Again Hipstamatic allows me to manual adjust shutter speed, ISO, exposure compensation, zoom, focus and white balance.

4. The phone works very well as a point and shoot, on Auto everything. For when I want to relinquish all that manual control that Hipstamatic offers. Which is 90% of the time.

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5. It’s not much different to using a digital compact. Especially when using 3:2 ratio with the phone on its side and the volume button(s) as the shutter button.

6. Different aspect ratios are readily available. Especially with Hipstamatic, though I confess that I only really use 1:1 (which just seems right for iPhones, the seemingly obvious modern digital successor to the classic Polaroids) or 3:2 (as I’m so used to this ratio from 35mm film, my Sony NEX, and my Pentax DSLRs).

7. I don’t feel the need for further uploading, processing, etc. Keeping processing simple is vital for me with film or digital. With the iPhone I just use the images as they come out of the phone (granted I have a Hipstamatic combo of “film”, “lens” and “flash” that I tend to use for most shots, so they’re rarely straight out of camera/phone).

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On the minus side, there is very little, but they add to the reasons why I can’t abandon all other image making devices for the iPhone yet (or maybe ever) – 

1. It might not feel much different to a digital compact, but it does feel very different to even a DSLR with a vintage lens. Let alone a 35mm film SLR. The tactile experience of holding and using a “proper” camera and those beautiful old metal and glass lenses remains a vital factor in my enjoyment of photography. The iPhone just feels like a device, a gadget, albeit a very capable one. I never pick it up and smile at the beautiful ergonomics and glove-like fit in my hands.

2. The screen is pretty good for framing and focusing, but I miss the viewfinder experience of a “proper” camera. That sense of being immersed in the confines of those four straight sides and everything else in the world evaporating can’t be replaced when holding a device with a screen at arm’s length. (This is also a major reason why my Pentax DLSRs have almost entirely replaced my previous main digital Sony NEX camera, which despite its many outstanding qualities, also lacks a VF).

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3. Storage seems very limited. My iPhone is also my iPod, my main email and messaging device, my portable internet browser, YouTube viewer/listener and more. Although I have very few apps, music or anything else overall, it always seems to be close to full, and I can only shoot maybe 40-50 photos before it maxes out. It doesn’t help that Hipstamatic is doubly storage hungry, keeping an original copy plus the filtered/processed version of each photo. I’ve toyed with the idea of upgrading to a new phone for everything but photography, then stripping everything but Hipstamatic from my current iPhone and using it purely for photography. But then I wouldn’t want to always be carrying two phones around, I may as well be using a “proper” camera.

4. Because it’s digital and so easy and instant, the pictures always feel disposable. This perception then extends so I feel I can’t/don’t make any images worth keeping, in the way I can with other cameras, even other digital cameras. Even though I have indeed made some photographs I really like with it. This is a state of mind I know, and maybe could be overcome in time.

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5. I have very little emotional connection with it. This is similar to no 1 above or maybe a combination of 1 and 2. It’s just a clever little device – and has a huge range of uses of course, aside from being a very competent picture maker. But beyond that it has very little charm or attraction, and doesn’t evoke any particular affection. I’m not one for adulation of objects, but I can say that even my Pentax DSLRs bring a smile to my face when I pick them up – they feel like a comrade or companion in the quest to capture beautiful images.

All in all then, I can’t see that my iPhone will become my sole, even my main camera any time soon, if ever. 

But it still makes an excellent back up for those spontaneous images when I don’t have another camera – or the time to get it out.

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Addendum – I realised after publishing my last post about using just one camera and lens for a month, that I’ve also been using the iPhone, and even included images made with in that recent post!

But it hadn’t even crossed my mind that this had broken my one camera one lens run with the Samsung/Miranda combo!

More than anything else I think this shows how I don’t even count the iPhone as a “proper” camera…

Would you ever consider using a camera phone as your only camera? Let us know in the comments below. 

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

Champion The Wonder Zoom?

Traditionally I’ve been a prime lens kind of photographer. I just like the simplicity of having one less variable to consider.

Plus the journey of getting to know how the world looks at a fixed focal length and field of view – so you can visualise the part of the scene the camera will capture with this particular lens before you raise it to your eye – is very enjoyable and satisfying.

But I confess I’m increasingly drawn towards zooms, albeit using them as a set of primes. I’m still not comfortable with the stand-in-one-fixed-position-and-just-zoom-until-the-scene-fits-the-frame approach that I imagine zooms were/are designed for.

Also I’m gradually coming to settle on a range of focal lengths I like shooting.

50/55mm is where I began and have most experience, and 135mm is something I’ve now used a fair bit too.

Less familiar are wider angles, though the Super-Takumar 28/3.5 I’ve used a few times has delighted me already, and is an absolutely joy to use.

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As I’ve started to consider zoom lenses more, I’ve chosen them based on the gaps they can fill in my collection.

I’m geeky enough to have recently sat down and plotted every lens I have on a chart of focal lengths, to see where there is duplication, and see where there are shortfalls.

The outcome of this exercise was – plenty of coverage at 50/55mm and 135mm, one 28mm and three 35mm lenses covers the moderate wide angle front, and lovely f/2.8 Takumars at 105 and 120mm elegantly bridge that 105-135mm gap.

What remains missing then, is anything wider than 28mm, and between 55mm and 105mm.

Conveniently, I came across someone selling two rather well regarded Pentax-A series zooms together – a 24-50mm f/4 and 35-105mm f/3.5.

Given my previous experience of Pentax-A zooms – a solitary, but very impressive 35-70mm f/4 – I thought these two could potentially fill any remaining gaps in my optical arsenal, so made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

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Indeed, between the 24-50mm, the existing 35-70mm and the 35-105mm I now have everything covered from 24-105mm (and 35-50mm covered three times over), pretty much the entire range I shoot. In three lenses.

I currently have 15 other lenses (all primes) that, on the basis of focal lengths at least, could be replaced by just these three A series.

Collectively the zooms cost me around £90. The remainder of my 15 lenses probably amount to £750+.

Ah, another reason why people like zooms.

So today I went out with the 35-105/3.5 and my Samsung GX-10 (almost identical sibling to my Pentax K10D) to see if there was any chance it could indeed replace a handful of primes. 

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The short story is, there’s plenty to like about the 35-105.

It’s well made, with lots of metal and big Super-Multi-Coated glass on the front. It’s smooth to use and feels robust.

The focus initially goes down to 1.5m, on paper very disappointing, especially at the wide end.

But, cleverly, and crucially, shunt the (wide and easy to handle) focus ring forward a few mm and it shifts into a whole other “macro” scale, which, even better, works at all focal lengths, not just at one end of the scale, like many similar zooms.

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In practice this means focusing is possible down to around 0.15m at 35mm, 0.3m at 50mm, 0.5m at 80mm and maybe 0.7m at 105mm.

All of these are as close or closer focusing distances than any equivalent primes I have. If you’re a regular here, you’ll know I like my close focus. A big +1 for team zoom then.

Performance wise it’s more than sharp enough for my needs (I don’t pixel peep and/or make 3m x 2m prints) and the colours are in line with other A series I have, which on my Pentax/Samsung DSLRs with their CCD sensors means lovely vivid colours, that are natural without looking too garishly digital or processed.

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As I said, plenty about the 35-105 to want to cuddle it close on a cold winter’s night.

So far so peachy. But are there any downsides?

Ultimately, there is only one, which itself all depends on how you view it. The size and weight of the lens.

At a shade over 600g, it’s not exactly a bazooka, but heavier than my biggest prime, the Takumar 120/2.8 which weighs in around 350g. Paired with the GX-10 / K10D it’s not a pocketable, lightweight combo you want dangling from your neck for eight hours.

The overall size itself in terms of handling is not an issue, and that wide, chunky focus ring is fun and reassuring to use. Especially once you get used to that macro shift feature.

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The 35-105 has markings at 35, 50, 80 and 105mm, so in my one-zoom-equals-a-handful-of-primes outlook, this equates to four primes in one. 

If you make a direct comparison with any of the primes I have (35, 50 and 105, I have nothing at 80mm anyway) then in terms of weight and size the 35-105 seems a bit of a dinosaur.

But that’s not exactly its point or purpose.

On the flip side, you could quite easily argue that you could use just this single lens for all kinds of different photography over a series of photoshoots, and it would be far lighter, smaller and cheaper than the comparable four primes you’d need to carry around to cover the same range. As I said, for maybe 90%+ of my shooting needs, this one lens would deliver.

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The other potential negative for some might be the f/3.5 maximum aperture.

For me, the only time this would make it difficult are the occasional very low light church interior explorations I venture on. In these instances, my A series 50/1.4 or 55/1.8 Takumar would be the lens I reached for, as my lenses at all other focal lengths are f/2.4, 2.8 or 3.5 anyway.

But for all other situations, where my default aperture tends to be around f/5.6, the max aperture is perfectly fine – fast enough to make the viewfinder bright and clear to focus, and to mean that my optimum shooting aperture is a comfortable stop and half down from the lens’s maximum.

So, does this “champion the wonder zoom” mean I’ll be selling every other lens from 35-105mm that I own? 

No, not exactly.

But because it’s more than competent at all of its focal lengths (four, if you stick to the barrel markings as I do), it has made me strongly question whether I need another three 35mm, four 50/55/58mm, and one 105mm prime lenses over the same range, that will in most situations not give me any significant advantage or better final photographs than the zoom.

A more thorough testing of the 24-50mm is next on the plan, though on its initial outing it’s shown enough promise to be optimistic.

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If it lives up to its reputation – and my experience with its 35-70 and 35-105 siblings – it will no doubt further the argument for a few quality zooms potentially replacing a bunch of primes.

Which would free some funds maybe for some more unusual additions, like something even wider than 24mm… A 20mm Takumar? A 15 or 21mm Limited? Time will tell.

How is the balance of primes and zooms in your kit? When do you favour a prime over a zoom, and vice versa?

Let us know in the comments below.

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Guilty Secrets And The Great Film Fallout 2017

This feels something of a confessional. I started writing 35hunter in late 2015 with the following intentions –

35hunter is a diary of my photography hunting adventures.

The three things I’m hunting for are –

  1. Beautiful objects and scenes to capture with a photograph. Usually using 35mm film cameras.
  2. The ideal camera. Or, more realistically, a small collection of excellent, individual cameras that I love using.
  3. A balance between being a photographer and a camera collector. Mostly I want to be the former, and feel like the latter.

I’m pleased to find that, some 20 months and 80 posts later, my intentions are much the same. Especially parts 1a, 2 and 3.

What has changed rather significantly is the extent of my use of 35mm film.

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I’ve never been an exclusively film photographer, and since buying my Sony NEX in 2014 have kept around 3500 photographs. As I edit quite strictly, and maybe only keep 20% at best, I must have shot around 15000+ with the NEX.

In other words, I’m no stranger to shooting digital. 

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Since 2012 I’ve gathered some 15000 items in my film photograph folder on my MacBook, shot with 130 different cameras. Yikes. So, I’m pretty familiar with film too.

But the number of rolls of film I’ve shot this year, 2017, can be counted on two hands. 

Since May I’ve shot a single roll of film, barely any more on my NEX. But I have kept some 1500 photographs from my newly discovered Pentax K10D and Samsung GX-1S DSLRs.

Again these are just the keepers – I’ve likely shot approaching 7000-8000+ images across these two bodies so far.

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What this all means is I’m not what you could call an active high volume film photographer anymore. 

I’m barely a film photographer at all.

So, the truth is out! Where does this leave me?

As I see it, I’m actually closer to my original aims outlined at the launch of 35hunter (and ones I’ve had in my head for some years previously) than ever before.

I still love seeking out beautiful things to photograph, and they’re still usually trees, flowers, crumbling gravestones and weathered paint flaking doors.

Also, I’ve found as close to the ideal camera set up as is probably possible, in my K10D and its little brother the Samsung GX-1S.

So much so that I’ve literally just taken arrival of a Samsung GX10, the Samsung clone of the K10D as a back up/ complementary camera.

Using my beloved old Takumars and a few other vintage M42 lenses on the K10D, a handful of A series SMC Pentax on the GX10, and potentially any of these (but mostly my recently discovered super light and mightily impressive Pentax DA 35/2.4) on the little GX-1S, makes a manageably small but formidable arsenal – three cameras and around 20 lenses.

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When I do feel a hunger for film, I still have my Spotmatic F for M42 and Program A for K mount lenses.

This set up also makes me feel closer to being a photographer than a camera/lens collector than I have done in about four years.

Which is a big thing for me – I hate just collecting stuff for the sake of collecting and not actively using it, plus that unhealthy binge/purge consumption cycle it’s so easy to get sucked into.

So whilst this post does feel a bit of a guilty confession, in fact I’m nearer my aims than ever.

Which, it turns out, is nothing to hide about after all…

Where are you in your photography journey? 

Let us know in the comments below.

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