Tuesday, July 24, 2012

GOING RETRO: Nikon FE Film SLR Camera Review

"They dont make things like they used to" ahhh how many times have we heard people say such remarks. Up to a certain extent its mainly true. Consumer products now are designed to last for no more than two years. Well, in my latest trend setting movement of "GOING RETRO" I have yet again to take another step back in the past and went bought a Nikon FE Film SLR camera.

Old and new "Nikon" Font

No batteries required, No autofocus, no beeps or LCD displays and of course no memory cards!!! This particular Nikon FE is actually older than I am. It rolled out of the factory way back in 1978 and now 34 years later it lands in my hands. Even though it has minor signs of aging, the camera still works flawlessly after all these years.

Why go back to film???

Truth be told, I actually started photography with film, back in 1995. I played around with my teachers nikon FM10. What I missed the most about film photography is the semi-circular focusing screen that you would use to help with focus. With film there is relatively no digital noise and as a photographer one can really appreciate the fundamentals of photography by taking my time and making sure everything is just right before I click the shutter. After all, one can't just simply fire away and delete the pictures like on a digital camera. Going back to film, I can fully utilize "full frame" photography which would be much more expensive to go for digital full frame.

The camera...

This little baby was built tough and robust, most of the components are made from metal. You can feel the weight but its still marginally compact when compared to a DSLR. The beauty about getting a nikon Film SLR is that the lens mount has never changed for nikon. I can happily attach my digital nikon AF-D lens to my film camera and vice versa. So even though I am venturing into a film SLR, I can still make use of my current collection of nikon lens (just as long as the lens has an aperture ring)
Brilliant!!! so now I have two nikon bodies and bunch of lenses that I can mix and match.

Tough and robust

Operation and controls...

For someone that is just getting back into film the nikon FE is a friendly camera. Load a film (I would recommend ASA 200), Crank the frame advance lever and you are good to go. The nikon FE was one of the first few to have an Aperture Priority mode (Auto) so instead of setting the shutter speed your self and adjusting the aperture to get the right exposure, all you hade to do was to set it in "Auto" select the aperture on the lens and the camera will determine the correct shutter speed (dont forget to set the film speed). Wait a minute...doesn't "auto" mode require a power source? yup it does but only the "metering" part. If you are a seasoned photographer or use an external light meter then you can go full manual mode. The built in meter uses 2 LR44 batteries (laser pointer batts)

Film advance lever, shutter release and shutter speed dial

Other interesting features...

The shutter speed can be varied from 8 seconds to 1/1000th of a second, there is a Bulb mode, M90 flash sync mode and it can sync with an external flash up to 1/125th of a second. A Depth of Field preview button to check your composition and even a little mirror so that you can see what aperture you are on without taking your eye of from the viewfinder.

Metering scale to the left, aperture window at top and the lovely semi circular focusing aid in the middle

What I like best...

Even though this camera was made in 1978, it is compatible with nikon lens and flashgun made today. I hook it up with a nikkor 50mm f1.8D and even with an SB-800 flashgun and everything works flawlessly. Well done nikon.

Processing film...

Now this is the hard part, its hard enough to find places that sell film rolls of your desired speed, its even harder to find places that can process and develop them. Lucky enough for me there are a few places nearby my house and work place that can do this for me.It might be hard but its sure worth it when you look back at the photos develop and your hard work.

Rolled up and ready to be developed


Going back to film requires a lot of patience and you may find that sometimes you learn the hard way. Everything must be set up properly before you press the shutter, from film speed, shutter speed and aperture. I once emptied an entire roll not realizing that I had mistakenly set the shutter speed to 1/1000 and in the end, all the frames were pitch black :( oh well lesson learnt.

I know some of you generation y geration whiners are mere laughing at the fact of going back to film when digital is soooo much easier but give it a shot and who knows you might actually like it an dappreciate the "art" of photography.

Retro is the way to go.......

See some more pictures captures with the nikon FE here : http://www.facebook.com/#!/media/set/?set=a.10151058001628746.455251.632673745&type=3

Monday, July 2, 2012

Citizen AT0-660 Eco-Drive Titanium Chronograph Review

Ahh.. Titanium, the space age wonder material. Its super strong, high temperature resistance and yet super lightweight. I was bedazzled by how light a titanium watch was when I first got my hands on a Seiko Titanium chrono SNA139P watch. After using for more than 4 years I decided to let it go because I worried about the battery running out. (replacing batteries meant that I the case had to be opened and thus affecting the water resistance). Realizing the problems of quartz battery powered watches I knew that my next titanium chrono must not have this same problem.

My old Seiko Military Titanium Chrono 200m

Searching for my next Titanium watch it had to have the following criteria :

- Case made from Titanium. Preferred a rubber or leather strap as titanium bracelets tend to scratch too easily
- 200m water resist as I ride my bike in all weather conditions
- Solar powered as this would solve the battery replacement issue. (and appeal to my environmentalist side)
- Chronograph, as long as it was solar powered, why have some extra features right?
- Simple military chrono design with arabic numerals

Searching all over the net I stumbled across the Citizen AT0-660. Design wise it looked similar to my old seiko Ti chrono and of course it was an Eco-Drive :). Searching high and low around town in Pertama, Money River, and other places in KL I was dissapointed to find out that this model was never made for the SEA region. Arrrghhh!!!! No other choice but had to resort to ebay. After ordering and mailing it to my sister who was in Dublin en route back to KL. My watch was on its way...thanx sis :)

The watch came is a minimalistic box and printed on the bottom of the box read "made from recycled materials" Way to go Citizen...doing its little part is saving the earth. The watch came with a black nylon strap. I opted for this strap option instead of the titanium braclet becasue in my past experience titanium braclets scratched far too easily and I would swap out the nylon strap for a leather on later anyways. After inspecting the watch I noticed that the second hand was moving in 2 second intervals indication low power reserve. So off it sat beside my window to charge it up.

 "Eco" Friendly box

The watch...
First of all the watch is big... but not too ridiculously big. At 44mm (not including crown) its just a tad bigger than my Seiko "SPORK". Thickness is just nice. The crystal is a flat surface mineral type and is about half a milimeter higher than the bezel. No rotating bezel or markings like "tachymeter" on the bezel just clean matte titanium finish. The crown is screw down type and well protected. The chronograph pushers nice and big. The lug size is 22m so its very nice to change straps with a variety of rubber, nato, zulu and leather straps. Please dont use a steel bracelet on this watch as it would defeat the purpose, people choose titanium for its lightweight properties.
 The watch beside the window with its black nylon strap Big dial, easy to read. 

The dial, hands and lume...
The dial is nice classic and a no nonsense design. Big hour markers with arabic numerals on 12,3,6 and 9 with silver linings give it an elegant touch. I guess my only beef with the design is that second sub dial actually cuts the number "6" making it look a bit deformed. The date window is rather small and I wished it was lined with silver instead of white. The chrono minutes sub dial, 24 hr sub dial are nicely placed and do not interfere with reading of the time thank to the big hour and minute hands. Lume for this watch is excellent nice and bright initially and lasts all through the night until it was time to wake up. One thing that I really liked is that the lume is Blue/Cyan in colour which is a frech change from the usual luminous green.

 Nice blue lume for a change.

 There were two main things that made me worry when I got the watch, the nylon strap and its large mineral glass area with no sort of protection.

1) The glass problem was fixed by applying a "screen protector" now I dont have to worry about scrating the face.

2) The nylon strap has been reported to become stinky after a short duration of use. So instead wearing it with the nylon strap. I replaced the strap with a nice tough looking leather strap a la "timex" expedition type strap. I further modified this strap by replacing the standard buckle with a "butterfly" deployment clasp...Perfect!!!

 Thick rugged leather strap with butterfly deployment clasp.

I love this watch, the big size, the light weight, and combined with the leather strap, this watch will follow me to my jamming sessions (im a drummer so its either this watch or my G-shock, bracelets are a no-no for drummers). Also suitable for casual outings and the office it doesn't seem out of place anywhere I go. The fact that this watch is not available in the S.E.A. region makes me love it even more because of the unique factor. Lastly this watch also for the "environmentalist" in me and doing my small part in "going green"!!!!!

Rugged look.

Big but not too big on the wrist.

Size comparison to the Seiko 10 Bar...