Gear

I prefer shooting film and my three favorite cameras are entirely mechanical – they each use batteries to power a light meter but otherwise are completely mechanical. If you prefer to use a handheld light meter – or the sunny f/16 rule – no batteries are necessary. (In terms of light meters I use a Gossen Digisix and a Sekonic L-208 – both are cheap and work well, I favor the Sekonic. Film: for years I used Kodak Tri-X Pan. After Kodak reformulated Tri-X I switched to Ilford HP5 Plus. I use only Ilford RC Multigrade paper as Kodak discontinued its Polycontrast Rapid II RC. For chemistry, with film I use either Kodak HC 110 or Ilfosol 3 – developers – and Ilford Rapid Fix. For printing I use all Ilford chemicals and a Beseler 23C II enlarger).

I started using these cameras in 1985 and, despite using modern D-SLRs for photojournalism, they remain my work horses.


Camera Zero is a 1978 Praktica MTL 3, manufactured in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic). The Zeiss Pentacon / Praktica line, introduced in 1949, featured a non-proprietary M42 (x 1mm thread pitch) screw mount that was adopted by Pentax (and Zenit) which made it very popular. There are many lenses available including a Zeiss aus Jena DDR Tessar, Meyer Optik Görlitz, Pentacon (the 50mm f1.8 is a gem) and the, still produced, Zenitar 16mm fisheye (shown here).


Camera 1 is a 1974 Nikon F2 Photomic with a DP-1 head / viewfinder. It is an (very slightly) improved version of the venerable Nikon F. I am not alone in regarding it as the greatest 35mm SLR ever made. I use a variety of lenses with it including a clunky Nikkor 43~86mm Zoom, a Tokina 28~70mm Macro focusing zoom ($21 used), and the classic 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor kit lens.


Camera 2 is a 1986 Soviet-made Zenit 12 XP with a Helios 58mm lens – augmented by a Vivitar 28mm wide angle. A large number of high quality third party M42 lenses are available on eBay for very little money. The Helios line, Zeiss knockoffs, are also readily available and are very good. The Zenit has a cloth shutter (similar to a Leica), consequently the flash sync is slow: 1/30. I use it primarily in existing light or with still lifes on a well lit workbench.

The East German Praktica, Japanese Nikon, and Soviet Zenit SLRs were designed to last and are rugged, reliable, cameras that have served me well.

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