Lightbox Wednesday #32

As I work my way through hundreds of film images I have shot since 2010, I never quite know what to do with the small number of photographs I have made on slide film. While color print and some black and white films are forgiving of exposure errors, slide film isn't. Knowing how to meter for shadows or having a camera with TTL matrix metering is almost essential in getting fine quality chromes.

I don't think I have ever really made a satisfying image on slide film. Mostly, it's because I don't shoot enough of it to work my way through to exposure competency. Almost all of my recent work has been on Velvia 50 and 100, films that just gush super saturated color. When I shoot these films, I seem to always get color that just seems, 

Kodak is bringing back Ektachrome later this year. Maybe I will try some of that.

Bodega Head, CA (Contax RX, 50 Zeiss Planar, Velvia 100)

Bodega Head, CA (Contax RX, 50 Zeiss Planar, Velvia 100)

Tagged Picnic Table, Bodega Head, CA  (Contax RX, 50 Zeiss Planar, Velvia 100)

Tagged Picnic Table, Bodega Head, CA  (Contax RX, 50 Zeiss Planar, Velvia 100)

Lightbox Wednesday #31

I've just about edited and cleaned up my archives of work from the past seven years. It's interesting revisiting photographs you took years ago. How many you keep and how many get deleted.

This one is a keeper and the only image I have taken so far that has earned me money. A local company licensed this for use on collateral materials for an internal sales incentive trip. Does that make me a professional photographer? I don't know, but it sure is nice when someone appreciates your work enough to want to pay for it.

Lightbox Wednesday #30

I am so fortunate to live within walking distance of the Pacific Ocean. With a photographic subject so grand literally on my doorstep, it's no coincidence that coastal images dominate this site. 

Living in the Arizona desert for most of my adult life, I had no idea how much a beach changes day to day and even from high to low tide. I can visit the beach one day and it's a vista of smooth, windswept sand. On other days, the water has washed it all away, revealing the rocks below. 

I made this photograph on the last day of 2015 with my Contax RX and Carl Zeiss 50mm Planar lens. The film stock was Kodak Plus-X.

Sonoma Coast near Bodega Bay, CA

Sonoma Coast near Bodega Bay, CA

A Fresh CLA. A Fast Lens. A Roll of Ektar.

I've altered my strategy a bit this year. Rather than buying more cameras, I'm investing some of my photo hobby funds into servicing the cameras I've grown to love. Most have just needed a CLA (clean, lubricate, adjust). Some have needed minor repairs. One of my two Pentax LX cameras suffered from the dreaded Pentax sticky mirror syndrome, its meter was twitchy and infinity focus was off.

For this LX, I decided to try Robin Gowing at Harrow Technical, the Pentax film camera specialists in the U.K. Communication was excellent, his price was very fair and his work exceptional. Outside of having some issues with inbound Royal Mail customs on the U.K. side, I loved dealing with Harrow and highly recommend them for any Pentax film camera. Robin took his time with my LX, even letting it set a few days after fixing the sticky mirror to give it additional bench testing. He wanted to make certain all was well before shipping it back to me. Here is the link for Harrow:

Pentax LX with SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.2 Lens 

Pentax LX with SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.2 Lens 

It's always fun to get a camera back from service. Sparkling clean viewfinder, buttery smooth film advance and satisfying shutter sound, not to mention the confidence of knowing your classic camera is performing back to factory specs. I hadn't shot Kodak Ektar 100 film in a while, so I loaded up the LX, mounted my 50mm F/1.2 SMC lens and headed out for a walk. I had just finished planting some new flowers in the hanging planters on my deck, so one became my first shot.

This is about the limit of my gardening skills.

This is about the limit of my gardening skills.

I got the neighbor's flowers on the way down to the beach.

It was such a beautiful day, I was surprised to see the beach mostly deserted.

Except for the birds...

Like I said, literally no one on the beach but me that day.

These flowers growing between the rocks seemed an interesting subject.

The next day, I finished off the roll of Ektar in Fort Ross. These kayakers were out fishing.

This was my first outing with the 50/1.2. I really want to play around with the lens more as I think it is capable of some interesting bokeh. Close focus down to 1.5 feet is pretty cool too.

Old fence at Ft. Ross

Old fence at Ft. Ross

That evening, my patio lights

The cat

And me.

I used to shoot a lot of Ektar 100. It was my "go to" color print film. Lately, I've been using Portra 400, exposing it at half the box speed. Portra's colors are more muted, but when you overexpose it, there's just enough saturation to make it least to my eye. I have a few more rolls of Ektar and when they're gone, I think I'll stick to Portra 400 exclusively and work on getting it to really sing.

I've written before about how much I love my Pentax LX and having one serviced really makes it a satisfying camera to shoot. I love the LX viewfinder, with its stunning yet simple analog display and LED lights. The meter seems to be able to handle most anything I throw at it and I could play around with Pentax SMC glass for the rest of my life and be happy as a clam. I'm starting to really appreciate small cameras like the LX, Olympus OM2-n, Nikon FM2n, Minolta XD and Leica M bodies. Small, light, simple cameras that you can have with you all day and not weigh you down.

As I get my beloved cameras serviced this year, I will share those experiences with you here. I highly recommend Robin at Harrow Technical if you need any Pentax film camera work. They're in the U..K, so the wait is longer and you might have to pay customs fees as I did. In the U.S., I have used Eric Hendrickson, the Pentax master, many times. His work is exceptional and reasonably priced. If you have a Spotmatic, he is definitely the man, but he works on Pentax M bodies and the LX as well. He did my other LX. You can find Eric here:

I'll probably continue to gush praise on the LX. It's just a wonderful little SLR. And I do need to spend more time with this fast Pentax 50. As for color print film, I think it's Portra 400 from now on.

Lightbox Wednesday #29

I haven't printed many of the photographs I've made. I'm content to look at them on my laptop or iPad. This is one that I did have printed and mounted because it contains two things I love; horses and the Sonoma Coast. I have this hanging in my living room at home.

I shot this in 2013 on the beach near Bodega Dunes. Camera was my Nikon F2 Photomic with 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor lens on Kodak's Tmax 100 film.

Horses on The Sonoma Coast 

Horses on The Sonoma Coast 

Cameras I Have Known: The Polaroid SX-70

I am seriously committed to the process of reducing the number of cameras in my collection to only the ones I love and use regularly. There's nothing worse than a mechanical camera sitting on a shelf. Like a BMW, these old machines need to be driven. I've been true to my commitment so far this year, selling off at least a dozen to date, along with related accessories. The PayPal balance is in nice shape.

One camera I can't seem to get myself to put on the block is my SX-70. I bought it because I wanted to try this legendary camera and was curious about shooting instant film. When I got it, The Impossible Project had just released early batches of their instant film. Even though you had to take out a mortgage to shoot 8 instant photos with this film, I was anxious to try Ed Land's masterpiece.

Early batches of SX-70 film from The Impossible Project

Early batches of SX-70 film from The Impossible Project

Polaroid cameras were all around me growing up, but I never used one during the days when the company was still making film for them. I have childhood memories of one of my relatives taking black and white shots at Christmas using one of the old Land cameras that took peel apart film. After you took a shot and ripped the film from the camera, you had to coat it with this icky smelling goo.

The SX-70 was different though. Integral film packs with a built-in battery and a little pod that contained all of the chemicals for development and fixation. Frame, focus, shoot! The SX-70 whirred and spit out a little framed marvel. In 90 seconds or so, a beautiful color image appeared.

The Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera

The Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera

I found my SX-70 on eBay. I seem to recall that the seller was a pawn shop somewhere. The camera in the photos looked nice and it came with the original box. The seller said it was film tested, something that today I realize means absolutely nothing.

My SX-70 was on the doorstep a day or so after a shipment of Impossible Project film arrived from B&H Photo. I was anxious to try this camera. I have to say, that first photo ejecting from the front of the camera was quite exciting! The SX-70 was truly a marvel. Polaroid's SX-70 film developed in front of your eyes pretty quickly and that was part of the magic. Impossible's film took longer and they recommend turning the photo upside down top shield it from light during the process.

I took a few photos around the house and placed them on my chopping block. I used my iPhone to take a picture of the picture.

An old flash cube/flash bar was included in the box with the camera, but none of the flash pictures I took with the SX-70 came out right. I put the SX-70 on the shelf after the first two packages of film and the camera mostly sits there. Once a year or so, I get the itch to shoot instant and out comes the SX-70 again for a pack or two. The camera is especially fun when Baby Boomer friends come over--everyone in our age group fondly remembers Polaroids. Once, I even brought it to the office where it amazed the Millennials when a finished print popped out of the front of the camera.

I'm thinking that my SX-70 needs a CLA and there are a few companies out there that will bring these back to factory specs. And Impossible's film is getting better and better.

Sell it or keep it? 

I'm on the fence.

Lightbox Wednesday #28

I've flirted with several medium format film cameras over the past seven years, struggling to find one that feels good to me. I owned the Mamiya 645Pro system the longest, but it was a big and heavy beast. I can see how this camera would be great in the studio or on a wedding shoot, but for an avid hiker like me, it was just too much to lug around. I recently traded it for a Pentax 645n, which is smaller and lighter than the Mamiya. 

Mamiya 645Pro

Mamiya 645Pro

I did make some pleasing pictures with the camera. Here are some Portra 400 shots taken a few years ago in Freestone, CA.



Lightbox Wednesday #27

Sorting through 7+ years of images I have taken since re-entering film photography...

Some of the photographs I've taken that have given me the most satisfaction were created with simple old cameras and very inexpensive lenses. The 55mm f/2 Super Takumar cost next to nothing. Screwed on to the front of a Pentax Spotmatic SP with ancient stop-down metering, I got these shots on Portra 400 film.

Sunday Afternoon Walk on The Beach

I've been learning my way around a Leica M-P Typ 240 that I just received last week from Ken Hansen in NYC. I've been so busy at work, all I've had time to do is skim through the manual, charge the battery and hold the camera in my hands. This afternoon, I finally had some time to pop on my 35/2 Summicron and take a little walk to the beach. I didn't fiddle with much, just left everything on the factory default settings. It was a nice day.

After working my way through most of the Leica film bodies: M2, M3, M4, M6TTL and MP, I've settled on the Leica M7. I think I can safely say that I have finally found my personal favorite film Leica in the M7. I'll be writing more about the M7 here soon and why, after shooting all of these legendary M body Leicas, the M7 was the one I liked best.

Likewise, on the digital front, I've owned the M8 and M9-P. The "something missing for me" in those two cameras I have finally found in the M-P Typ 240. Of course, I'm only one day and a few shots in. :-)

Upcoming very soon:

  • My thoughts on the Leica M7
  • Why, after lots of research, I chose the Leica M-P Typ 240 for my only digital camera
  • The most unique and amazing Leica dealer on the planet
Leica M-P Typ 240 with 35mm f/2 Summicron Lens

Leica M-P Typ 240 with 35mm f/2 Summicron Lens

Cameras I Have Known: The Nikon S2

I never would have been able to afford a Leica if it weren't for a Nikon S2. More on that in a moment.

Nikon S2 Rangefinder with 8.5cm f/2 Nikkor-P lens

Nikon S2 Rangefinder with 8.5cm f/2 Nikkor-P lens

I have a memory of seeing a Nikon S2 in a "how to" photography book I borrowed from the library of my junior high school. It's funny how one little memory like this can stay with you all the way into adulthood, but it did. I don't remember the name of the book or the author. I do remember that it was written in the 1950s by a woman photographer and that she shot with the S2. I learned how set up a darkroom from reading that book. And how to develop black and white film. I wish I could remember, because it would be fun to try and find a copy and revisit it today.

Early in 2014, I got to thinking about that old book and the Nikon rangefinder that was burned into my memory. I began to look for one. All of the eBay examples were well over a grand and way out of my budget. One night in April, scanning the San Francisco Craigslist photo listings, I saw a pretty nice example with 5cm and 8.5cm lenses for $500. The camera, advertised as belonging to the seller's grandfather, was located in South San Francisco and the ad said that the camera was jammed and was being sold as is. I called the seller the next day and told him I lived in the North Bay. After some back and forth, he agreed to meet me half way in a Safeway parking lot in San Rafael. It felt a little like a drug deal.

Once we found each other in the grocery store lot (the seller turned out to be a nervous young man who now seemed very irritated about having to drive half way to meet me), I inspected the camera. It did indeed seem to be D.O.A. The film advance wouldn't budge and the shutter release did nothing. I checked the lenses, which looked and operated just fine. There was even a little clip on viewfinder for the 8.5cm lens. The seller seemed to be more interested in whomever he was texting on his iPhone than what I was doing with his camera. I opened the back of the camera and moved the film advance gear with my finger and I heard a couple of clicks. Whatever I did unstuck the camera and the film advance began to work. As I was about to let the seller know that I think I got his camera working again, he told me that he really had to go and did we have a deal? I asked him if his price was firm, he shot me an angry look and he said "four bills is as low as I'll go." Based on my research, I was getting a pretty good deal, even if the camera needed repair. And the seller seemed a bit less irritated now with four one hundred dollar bills in his hand.

It was obvious that the seller wasn't a photographer and had no attachment to his grandfather's camera, if indeed it even was his grandfather's camera. And if he hadn't been such a disagreeable person, I might have felt badly when later that night, after a little exercise, the old Nikon came nicely back to life.

I put a roll of Ektar 100 and a roll of Plus-X through the S2. It was a camera I did not enjoy shooting. I didn't take to the viewfinder and the focusing wheel with razor teeth was like finger torture. The camera was fiddly to use, not intuitive at all. Perhaps it was because Nikon wasn't really in the camera business at this time. They were an optical company and what really shines in this system is the glass--these old rangefinder lenses are astonishingly good. Here are some Ektar shots.

Two rolls was all it took for me to realize I wouldn't be loving this camera. I listed the kit on eBay and during the last minute or so of the auction, a frenzy of bidders drove the price up netting me a profit of almost $2300! More than enough for my first Leica M camera and lens.

Lightbox Wednesday #26

Pierce Point Ranch, out on the very tip of the Pt. Reyes National Seashore, is one of my favorite hiking and photo-taking destinations. Whenever I am there, I am likely to be in the company of other photographers. There's a certain sense of pleasure standing amidst a sea of DSLR and mirrorless digital photographers with my 50 year old Pentax Spotmatic.

Pierce Point Ranch, Spotmatic SP, 50 Super Tak

Pierce Point Ranch, Spotmatic SP, 50 Super Tak

Cameras I Have Known: The Nikon F2 Photomic

While I was still getting to know the FE2, I started reading up on Nikon's professional bodies. The legendary F looked interesting, but having to remove the entire back of the camera to load film and finding one with operating and accurate TTL metering steered me to the next generation: The F2.  The more I read and learned about the Nikon F2, the more fascinated I became with the last purely mechanical, hand assembled Nikon pro SLR. Over the decade that the F2 was in production, there were six versions. The body remained the same, only the removable metering prisms changed. The non-metered F2 was simply called F2. The body with a DP-1 metered finder was called the F2 Photomic. As metering technology progressed and Nikkor automatic indexing lenses were introduced, the metering heads kept pace. After the F2 Photomic, there was the F2S, F2SB, F2A and finally F2AS.

The F2 Photomic was my first F2 and this is the version that I enjoy using most. Over the years, I have collected all of the metered F2s. I haven't paid much for any of these cameras, but as budget has allowed, I've sent each off to the UK and the shop of legendary F2 repairer Sover Wong. Sover doesn't just repair F2s, he restores them to almost new condition.

Here's a photo of my F2 Photomic just after I got it back from Sover's shop about five years ago.

A Gray Day with the Minolta XD

A line of three deep at the film processing counter at my local camera shop afforded me the opportunity to wander across the store to the used department. There's a glass case there full of old SLRS, lenses and flash units. I need to stay away from this case. A visit always parts me with my money. On this day, $100 got me a mighty fine Minolta XD with 50mm lens. The asking price was $150, but when I pointed out that the viewfinder was a bit hazy in the lower left corner, the price came down and I became an owner.

Black Body XD with 50mm f/1.4 MD Rokkor-X

Black Body XD with 50mm f/1.4 MD Rokkor-X

I figured when I got home that some lens cleaning solution on a micro-fiber cloth might clean up the haze, but it turned out that it was inside the viewfinder eyepiece. It wasn't fungus. Most likely haze that develops on glass when the seals and glue in old cameras deteriorate. The haze wasn't enough to obscure the image in the finder, but it was damn annoying. A great time, I thought, to try out a new repairer I'd heard good things about. So off the XD went to Blue Moon Camera & Machine in Portland for a CLA, with special instructions to clean the haze in that viewfinder.

After a month up in the Northwest, Blue Moon informed me that the XD didn't need much; new seals, a good cleaning and gentle adjustment of everything back to factory specs. And their tech thought the haze was probably caused by the deteriorating foam seals, glue or oil that was drying up. When I got the camera back, it looked good as new, worked just swell and the viewfinder was crystal clear. Full review on Blue Moon coming soon.

The Minolta XD's release date was right in the sweet spot for 35mm SLR design; 1977. These were the last gasp years for mostly metal, finely crafted camera bodies and hand assembly. Plastic bodies and lens mounts as well as lots of in-camera electronics were on the near horizon. Minolta was working closely with Leica at this time and some of the innards of the XD found their way into the Leica R4. I had an R4 and I can tell you that the controls on this camera feel a lot like its German counterpart. 

The XD was called the XD-11 in the US, the XD-7 in Europe and just XD in Japan. The XD is a historically significant camera because it was the first SLR to offer both aperture-priority and shutter-priority auto-exposure modes. More important still, the XD had a built-in, simple but effective microprocessor. In shutter-priority mode, if the photographer selects a speed that the camera determines is outside proper exposure parameters, it will automatically select another one that will deliver a good exposure. This was the first ever "program" mode on a camera. The XD also offers a fully manual exposure mode.

I've become particularly fond of the smaller sized SLRS like the Olympus OM-2n, Pentax ME and LX and Nikon FM2n. The XD is similar in size and weight. A very comfortable camera to wear all day. Controls feel familiar and are well placed, with the exception of the shutter release. Its design, dropped down into the middle of the shutter speed dial and with a reverse concave had me firing the shutter a few times when I was simply trying to meter my shot. A soft release might help here.

The split image viewfinder in the XD is big and bright, helped I'm certain by the Acute-Matte focusing screen which Minolta also made for the Hasselblad V-Series medium format cameras. How good is an Acute-Matte screen? Google one for Hasselblad and see how much they sell for. The XD's viewfinder serves up essential exposure information along the right side of the frame with LEDs; either aperture or shutter speed depending on exposure mode. 

My XD arrived from Blue Moon during a hot and sunny week and by the time I got around to shooting it, gray skies had moved in. Not a good test for a new camera but any day taking pictures is a good one, so I loaded up some Portra 400, set the ISO at 200 and off I went. Here's the coast near where I live under the overcast.

Some birds on the beach with one taking notice of the photographer.

I saw this old fishing rope wedged into some rocks and thought it would make an interesting shot.

Hardly any color on this gray day.

In the absence of color, go hunting for texture.

Heading back to the house, I grabbed some shots of neighborhood flowers. Sun really would have helped these out.

This Minolta performs superbly. I've never shot any Minolta product before, so I had no expectations. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed using the XD. The Rokkor MD lens exudes quality, with nice focus action and clicky f-stops. These late 70s SLRs and manual focus lenses really were the best of the bunch.

Minolta began moving in a different direction after the XD, releasing their last manual focus cameras; the X-370, X-570 and X-700. These cameras had additional metering and exposure features designed to appeal to new photographers, but had more plastic parts to lower cost.

In the early 1970s, Minolta purchased the patent on autofocus technology from Leica and in 1985, released the first autofocus SLR, the Maxxum. Minolta did well with the Maxxum line, but as they further developed their autofocus technology, Honeywell sued for patent infringement. The two companies settled out of court, but Minolta was financially bruised. Minolta merged with Konica to form Konica/Minolta, eventually exiting the photographic business.

For people just discovering film photography, a Minolta camera might be low on a list with names like Nikon, Canon and Pentax coming up first. After shooting this XD, I'd have to say--this is a stunning little camera and very capable performer!

Lightbox Wednesday #25

Yeah, I know it's Thursday. I'm a day late. I work in retail advertising and the days leading up to July 4th are alway hectic. The week got away from me.

Street photography options are few when you live in a town of around a thousand people, so I practice my own form of it on the beach. I love shooting silhouettes of people against the setting sun. If I get noticed, most people think I am shooting the sunset, not them. I do plan on attending a street photography workshop in San Francisco later this year which will give me an opportunity to make some photographs in a more urban setting. Until now, these will have to do.

Contemplation  Canon F-1n, 50mm f/1.4 Canon FD, Kodak Tmax 100 film

Contemplation  Canon F-1n, 50mm f/1.4 Canon FD, Kodak Tmax 100 film

Cameras I Have Known: Nikon FE2

Sprinkled throughout my digital archives of film photography from the past seven years are hundreds of iPhone images I have taken of the cameras I have bought, used and sold. I think I have taken more photos OF my cameras than WITH my cameras. Many of these photos were for camera reviews on the old WordPress blog or for use on eBay when I decided to sell them.

I've learned so much about the process of buying old cameras online; what to look for and what to avoid. I've been stung a few times. I've built some very special and rewarding relationships with a few trusted sellers. And I've developed a good network of camera repair technicians to help me keep these fabulous old machines running.

As I look through all of my old camera photos with sometimes misty eyes, I hope you'll indulge me and allow me to share them here in mostly chronological order. 

Here's a photo of the first camera I bought on eBay after my re-etnry into film photography. This is the Nikon FE2.

The FE2 is an early 1980s manual focus film SLR with aperture priority and manual exposure control. It uses modern batteries and accepts hundreds of Nikkor lenses. It was considered an advanced amateur/professional body at the time. There are lots of these for sale online and I would buy one without hesitation. I've owned several after this one and the only things these camera usually need are new seals and mirror bumper foams. 

I was shooting a lot of C-41 process Kodak BW400CN film at this time because it was easy to get developed and scanned at the local mini lab. Here is a shot from this camera.

Lightbox Wednesday #24

Looking back through seven plus years of images, I realize that there are some cameras that I should have spent more time with. Such was the case with the Nikon D700. I only had my D700 for a few weeks before someone offered me more money than I had paid for it and it was gone. I should have gotten to know this Nikon better.

I did wander down to the beach near where I live on a late November day in 2014 and got this shot of some folks and their dog returning from some Sunday fishing.

Nikon D700 with 50mm AF-D f/1.4

Nikon D700 with 50mm AF-D f/1.4

Lightbox Wednesday #23

Looking back through seven years worth of images, I am reminded that I need to return to Fort Point in San Francisco. Built during the Civil War to protect the city, this historic structure sits directly below the Golden Gate Bridge. I arrived just a few hours before closing in late October, 2014. Once inside, I realized the abundance of photo opportunities.

Here is one shot taken with my Leica M6TTL on Kodak Tmax 100.

First Impressions: Shooting The Pentax ME

I really need to start setting aside my preconceived notions about certain classic cameras. I had always dismissed the Pentax ME as being a simple, entry-level and even cheaply made 1970s SLR. When I got the itch to try the M series bodies, I stepped right over the ME and bought the ME Super. The Super is a great little camera with aperture priority automation and manual modes. I chose the Super over the ME because I thought it was a better camera. Super = Superior...or so I thought.

A couple of months ago, the electronics in my Super started sputtering. The meter would only work in fits and sometimes not wake up at all. I checked the batteries and contacts. Even put a little piece of tin foil between the battery cap and battery--something I read might correct the problem I was having. One day, my little ME Super just rolled over and died. I was sad. I liked my Super. It almost always had film in it and I used it often. Repairing this camera would cost more than buying another, so I went browsing on eBay.

There, among all the chrome Supers, was a nice black body ME. You don't see many black body M series Pentax cameras. It looked nice and the "buy it now" price was very right. But I didn't want an ME. Too basic, too pedestrian. Amateur. Entry-level. I put it in my watch list and went to bed. 

When you're shooting Nikon F2s and Leica rangefinders, it's easy to become a photo snob and look down your nose at consumer grade cameras like the ME, but that little black body Pentax kept popping into my head. I checked eBay the next day. It was still there. I clicked the "buy it now" button.

Pentax ME with SMC Pentax 85mm f/1.8

Pentax ME with SMC Pentax 85mm f/1.8

When the ME hit camera store shelves in 1976, it was priced at $189.95. That's around $800 in today's dollars.  That's a lot for an entry-level SLR and you'd have to be pretty committed to taking good photos to plunk down that kind of cash. It's also a testament to the fact that Pentax was building really fine cameras. The ME might be basic, but it is not cheaply made.

The ME just feels really good in your hand. Like the little Olympus OM and Minolta XD it was competing with, the ME is small and balanced with thoughtfully placed controls. With one of the tiny Pentax 28 or 35mm lenses, or even the kit supplied 50/1.7, this is a camera you can wear on your shoulder all day long and almost not know it's there.

Loading film is a snap with the strange little Pentax finger things on the take-up spool. Set the button on top to AUTO and click away! Big, bright viewfinders are trademarks of the entire Pentax M series and the no-nonsense analog display tells you everything you need to know. Aperture-priority autoexposure, the only mode available on the ME, is about as close as you can get to point-and-shoot. I saw that as a deficiency when I bought the Super over the ME originally, but now I realize that this single shooting mode quickly reveals itself as the ME's allure. Mount your favorite Pentax lens to this camera, spool up some film and go out and shoot. The ME gets out of your way and lets you concentrate on making good pictures.

In the first ten days I owned this camera, it gobbled up two 36-exposure rolls of Portra 400. That means I liked shooting it a lot! I'll be dropping the film off at the lab next week and will share the results here soon. If you like aperture-priority shooting, you really can't want for more in a camera body. And with an amazing selection of readily available and very affordable Pentax K-mount lenses, you could build yourself a fine system that could handle about any photographic task you could throw at it.

I feel a bit foolish at my camera snobbery. This little ME put me in my place.