iPhone Camera Degradation

I hope you will indulge me as I go off on a bit of a rant.

I bought my iPhone 5s in the fall of 2013 for $199. I got it to replace an older iPhone that I placed on the roof of my car while talking to an associate in the parking lot at work and, like an idiot, drove off without remembering that I had left it up there. That old iPhone clung to the roof of my car with all its might until I swung onto the freeway on ramp. That's when I heard the clunk as the Apple phone bounced once onto the trunk lid then spilled its guts across the highway.

If it weren't for the iPhone's excellent camera and the ease of which I can shoot a picture with it and have that image seamlessly and immediately available on my MacBook, I wouldn't have one. I rarely use it as a phone. Since new, I have just over 5 hours of total talk time on it. Looking at my monthly bill, I average about 22 text messages a month. Most of them were unnecessary and any situation addressed in them would have self-resolved.

Co-worker:  "The meeting is starting, Where are you?"

Me:  "Coming down the hall. Be there in 10 seconds."

I have the most minimal data plan my carrier allows and my monthly usage hovers a fraction over 0%. I think that is the amount needed for the phone to keep its heart beating since I have cellular data turned off everywhere I can. I have just one app installed for my bank and only use that when I have access to a trusted wi-fi connection and then only a few times a year.

I treated myself to a late model used car last month to replace the 13 year old one I had been driving. The new car has navigation and Sirius XM, so I don't need the iPhone to tell me where I'm going or provide music during my commute. When I'm home, I prefer quiet or listening to a great old vinyl record on my Technics turntable, McIntosh amp and Klipsch Heresy speakers (all three of which are nearing 50 years old and working just fine).

Most of what I use my smartphone for is taking pictures of old cameras for this blog and for the various analog photography Facebook groups I'm a member of. I love the way I can take a photo and immediately crop it and drop it into a blog post I'm writing or drag it into a Facebook post. But over the nearly five years I have owned this phone, I've noticed the quality of the images it produces are slowly getting milky. There's also a very apparent loss of sharpness. Here is an unprocessed photo from the first week I got the iPhone 5s.


Here's another from about 8 months later with just a bit of vignetting added post process.


And here are two recent images taken with my 5s.


All of these photos were taken in the same physical location, on my kitchen counter near a big window facing east. I place the cameras on a large white cutting board. There's a big fluorescent light overhead that mixes with natural light coming in through the window. Not a totally controlled environment, but consistent enough to prove that something is going downhill with the iPhone's camera.

When I was at the Apple Store a few weeks back laying down some serious cash to replace a stolen MacBook, I asked about my phone. The very helpful young woman who patiently assisted me with my laptop smiled when she saw my generations ago 5s, suggesting that it might be time for an upgrade. A nearby Genius looked at my camera's lens and noticed it had a bit of crazing on it. He said this happens with constant use and carrying it around in pants pockets or scraping it across a table in a restaurant. I told him that I hardly use my phone, rarely carry it, that it has never been in my pocket or even on a restaurant table. I told him that for most of its life, my phone has slept in the comfort of a felt pocket in my laptop bag. He shrugged his shoulders.

It appears my little Apple camera is dying and I must do something about it. If the whole phone were failing it would be easier to justify the expense of a new one, but for the few minutes I talk on it or for the small number of text messages I engage in, everything else on it works just fine. And other than the camera lens, it looks brand new.

The cheapest iPhone, the SE, is like three and half bills. Move up to any of the current models and you're paying a lot more. Even that would be ok if these things lasted. Used to be if you bought something and took good care of it, the thing would serve you well for a long time. Not so with today's devices. They are truly disposable.

It may sound like it, but I'm really not a luddite. You should see the technology I am harnessed to at work. I'm not cheap either. I have no problem spending serious cash on a Leica Summicron because I know it will last me a lifetime and if I decide to sell it down the road, I'll get my money back and usually more.

I wish Apple made just a simple digital camera I could tether to my iCloud account, but they don't.

I might look and see if there are some digital point and shoots with wi-fi capability, even though that adds several steps to my workflow.

Or maybe I should consider how many images I have gotten out of my $199 investment, hustle my butt down to the Apple Store and just pony up.

End rant. :-)



My Favorite Camera

"What's your favorite camera?"

I've been asked that question a number of times, mostly by my non-photo hobby friends who think my analog photography passion is quaint and are somewhat amused by my desire to use old film cameras when it's far easier and more convenient to take pictures with a smartphone. No matter if they're just making conversation or are truly interested, it is a question I find difficult to answer. I will try here.

Nikon F2


The Nikon F2 is a favorite because it has real sentimental value to me. It's the 70 era SLR that I dreamed of owning as a teenager and it's the first SLR that I bought when I started getting serious about film photography again in 2010. But as I've started to hike more and carry a camera with me all of the time, the F2 is a bit big and heavy. And, after my cataract surgery and a return to better eyesight, I am having difficulty with the F2's standard diopter setting. This can be easily remedied with a screw on diopter lens, I just have to get serious about finding the right one for my new eyes.

Contax RX


I bought my RX because it was the most affordable way to try Carl Zeiss lenses. I didn't expect that I would like shooting it as much as I do. The RX is a 1990s era technical marvel and I worry that if its electronics start to fail, it might be too expensive to fix. That'll mean either picking up another body or finding another platform for my Zeiss Planar lens.

Olympus OM-2n


I'll put my OM-2n cameras aside for nearly a year and sometimes even think about selling them. Then, I will read a review or user report online and it'll get me excited about shooting mine again. Every time I use the OM-2n it's a hoot and I'm glad I've kept them.

Pentax Spotmatic


Ok, I'll admit it. I have a bit of a Spotmatic problem. I have, I think...like a dozen or so now and one by one, they're all going off to Eric Hendrickson for CLA. My addiction is fed by my Pentax pusher, a friend who used to work for the factory and, over the years, assembled a nice collection of hardly used Spotmatic and other film-era Pentax bodies. Somehow, he knows just the right cadence of when to send me an email with a photo or two of yet another wonderful old Pentax that needs a new home. So, as he wisely thins his own herd, my shelves fill. This simple Pentax SLR has been the most pleasant surprise of my film photography adventure. A joy to shoot. Simple. Dependable. And the M42 mount Takumar lenses for these bodies are superb! No one in their right mind needs so many of the same thing, so I will be selling off some of these. If you or someone you know wants a very, very nice fully serviced Spotmatic, drop me a line.

Canon F-1


I expected this Canon to come and go, but each time I use it, I like it a little more. The metering is really precise and I am quite blown away by the sharpness of these affordable Canon FD lenses. Like the Nikon F2, it is a bit heavy to carry all day in the field, but once you see the images this camera produces, it makes carrying it seem worthwhile. As I Nikon guy, I had always looked down on Canon. This camera changed my mind.

Pentax MX


I bought an MX early in 2017, took it on Carmel photo shoot and sold it a few months later for a nice profit on eBay. As I was going through images for my Lightbox Wednesday project, I went through those Carmel photographs and realized how nicely this simple little manual everything SLR with an inexpensive SMC 50mm f/1.7 lens performed. The MX is the first camera that I bought, sold, regretted my decision and then went and found another. Well, I found two. When I reached out to my Pentax friend he offered up both a chrome and black body. Of course, I couldn't resist.

Nikon FM2n


Here's a little secret I've never shared before. Whenever I take one of my serious photo adventures to Carmel or Yosemite or even back to New York to visit my family, no matter what other camera I bring, I always throw my Nikon FM2n in the bag as a back up. I guess I know in the back of my mind that this is just a really dependable, never let you down, simple, mechanical Nikon. I am reminded in writing this that after serving so faithfully as my trusted back up camera,  the FM2n really does deserve some time of its own in the Fogdog Blog spotlight.

Minolta XD


What a delight the Minolta XD has been! Small, light and feature-packed. An amazing viewfinder--in fact the only SLR that comes standard with the famous Acute-Matte focus screen that Hasselblad owners pay big bucks to upgrade to. When I had my Hasselblad, I paid more for just an Acute-Matte screen than I did for this XD, lens and a CLA. With this camera, you get three shooting modes; manual, shutter-priority and aperture-priority. The XD accepts an affordable accessory motor drive and an really outstanding selection of Minolta Rokkor lenses. I can't believe I waited so long to try a Minolta.

Nikon F4


My only autofocus 35mm camera, the F4 is big, heavy and beautiful! I've reduced the battery configuration down to the smallest available in the MB-20 power grip and still, this is a big camera. The F4 can accommodate most every Nikon lens ever made and is packed with features I'll never use. Because of its size and weight, I only use it a few times a year, but could never see myself selling it. Truly a revolutionary camera that I could've never afforded when it was new!

Pentax LX

IMG_1539 (1).jpg

I'm shooting my LX as I write this blog post. Some call this camera the culmination of everything Pentax learned after decades of building film SLRs. The LX is just the right size and weight to be the camera you carry with you everywhere. Big, bright viewfinder with a great analog display. Weather-sealed controls. Ability to use a wide array of affordable Pentax K-mount lenses. The only negatives are high repair costs and a very weird strap lug arrangement that causes your camera strap to twist up as you carry and use the camera. If your LX stays healthy and you don't mind untwisting the strap occasionally, this camera just might be one of the best film SLRs ever!

Pentax 645n


As a photographer who loves small and light cameras, finding a good fit for me in the medium format world has been difficult. I've tried Rolleicord, Mamiya 645 and Hasselblad. I'd about given up when I was offered a Pentax 645n at a good price. Of all of the medium format cameras I have tried, this one handles most like a 35mm SLR. Its built in grip makes holding the camera comfortable. Without the option of a removable film back, Pentax created a smaller and lighter package that just feels right to me. The viewfinder is big and bright. You get several shooting modes plus an auto-everything mode that turns this Pentax into a medium format point and shoot. And the 645n can use autofocus or manual focus lenses. I have an autofocus 80mm lens and focus is fast and precise. I need to use this camera more.

There are more cameras on this list. Like my lovely little Pentax ME, my nifty Canon P rangefinder, Pentax ES, the Canon A-1 that I'm still finding my way around, Minolta XE-7 with its sublime shutter sound, and my Pentax K2 that's off for a CLA. 

If you've read this far, you're probably asking..."So what IS your favorite camera?" Truth is that I've learned over the past eight years that it kind of changes depending upon a number of factors:

EXPERIENCE:  As I become a more competent photographer, certain cameras that seemed complicated now are intuitive. The Nikon F4's controls at one time looked like the space shuttle cockpit. Now, everything makes sense. Feeling comfortable with your equipment makes you want to use it more. A camera that seemed overly complicated can become a favorite once you know your way around it. When I first used stop down metering in my Spotmatics, it seemed like a real pain. After shooting a few rolls, it became second nature and even helped me fine tune my depth of field.

LOCATION:  A long day on the trail makes a small, light camera a must. Easy film loading is good too. While my Contax RX might be a favorite for a short stroll on the beach, the Pentax ME, MX, Olympus OM-2n or Minolta XD will feel better on a six mile hike.

LENSES:  Sometimes the camera body is secondary and it's the lens that shifts a camera into favorite position. If I have an itch to shoot 85mm, I only have two choices: Nikon mount for my 85mm f/1.4 or M42 mount for my 85 f/1.8 Super Takumar. Some lenses really sing when shooting black and white like my Canon LTM 50. That lens will only fit my Canon P or my Leica M-P with an adapter. And the only telephoto lens I have is for Pentax K-mount.

MY PEERS:  Once in a while, one of my favorite bloggers will write about a camera I also own and share some of their photos and it'll inspire me to get that camera out of the camera bag, check the batteries, load some film and go out and shoot. I've also been inspired after watching a user video on You Tube. If anything I write here ever inspires anyone to get out and use their camera, it's all been worth it.


Super Bowl Sunday With The Pentax ME

At least a few times each year, I head up the Pacific Coast Highway out of Bodega Bay, across the Russian River at Jenner and then north to Fort Ross. It's just under 23 miles, but the drive can take an hour or more depending on how much traffic there is and how fast it is moving. On Sundays, it's mostly moving slow, but as you thread your car around the tight curves, the slower pace allows you take in some incredible views.

Meyers Grade Road just off of the Pacific Coast Highway on the way to Fort Ross

Meyers Grade Road just off of the Pacific Coast Highway on the way to Fort Ross

After a few weeks of stress, including having to unexpectedly and expensively replace my laptop, I needed to decompress and figured that the traffic on the PCH would be lighter on Super Bowl Sunday. It was. The road was wide open. The sun was shining through cloudless skies. Only a light breeze. Perfect!

My destination was the State Historic Park at Fort Ross. I love this place because it has history, it's peaceful, quiet and the ocean views are stunning!  I brought my little Pentax ME and normal 50mm lens with me because the simplicity of the ME fit the feel of this day perfectly; wonderful, carefree photography. I shot Kodak Portra 400 exposed at half the box speed.

Fort Ross was a thriving Russian settlement from 1812 to 1841. After the Russians left, the property changed hands several times until George Washington Call purchased it in 1873. Call housed his family in the various fort buildings for several years, finally building a house in 1878. I'd walked past the little Call house on the property during previous visits, but it was never open to the public. I found out that it was open for docent tours the first Sunday of each month, so on this visit I got lucky and took the tour. Here's a shot of the sewing machine near the front door.

Sewing Table.jpg

Call ran several businesses at Fort Ross including a general store, saloon, hotel and a lumber business. He built the first schoolhouse in the area and even strung telephone lines, establishing the first party line phone service on this remote part of the Sonoma coast.

Kitchen lamp in the Call House

Kitchen lamp in the Call House

The Call family occupied the house until 1972 when son Carlos, the last occupant, passed away. The property was then sold to the State of California. The house sat vacant for many years with many of the family's possessions safely stored in the attic. The Parks Department restored the home and volunteers give tours.

Kitchen window Call House

Kitchen window Call House

Tools on the sunny front porch

Tools on the sunny front porch

A house has to be built well to survive the wind and battering rain of the Northern California coast. This house felt solid and safe. With a few modern conveniences, I could feel quite comfortable moving right in to the Call House today.

Out the front door, flowers blooming on the path to the Pacific.

Fence and Path.jpg

That narrow strip of pavement you see in the foreground of this photo is a very old alignment of the Pacific Coast Highway which, at one time, ran right through the fort. It's a foot path today. As I headed down to Fort Ross Cove, I looked back to get this shot of the Call House.


An old fence


And Fort Ross Cove


As I snaked my way back down to Bodega Bay, I thought how perfect this Sunday was. The weather was just wonderful. I had selected just the right camera to help me decompress. I learned some new things about Northern California history. I got fresh air and exercise. Photography had brought me back to center again.

A New Camera & A New Film

My first camera review of 2018 has me walking a bit on the wild side; shooting a new camera with a film stock I've never used.

The camera is the Pentax K2 and the film stock is Kodak Pro Image 100.

The Pentax K2

Pentax K2 with SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/1.2

Pentax K2 with SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/1.2

The Pentax K2 is a pro-level 1975 vintage camera body. The K-Series of SLRs were introduced as a bayonet mount replacement to the wonderful M42 mount Spotmatic line. There were several variants including the KX, KM and very popular K1000. The K2 was the top of the line in the series, offering up mid-70s automation in the form of aperture-priority auto exposure. The K2 would only last a few years on the market as Pentax was nearing debut of their first truly pro body, the amazing LX, which would be the flagship Pentax film body well into the 1990s.

The K2 is nearly the same in features as the M42 mount Spotmatic ES with several important improvements. On the ES, the metering system is disabled if you take the camera out of automatic mode. The K2 offers the aforementioned auto-exposure mode and a fully manual mode with match-needle metering. In addition, the classic Pentax fabric shutter has been replaced by a metal blade Copal/Seiko shutter. The K2 is powered by two modern S76 button cells.

I bought my K2 from a friend who is a retired Pentax employee. The camera he sold me was from his personal collection and is new/old stock. I thought twice about using the camera and considered for a moment just leaving it in its original condition. But I am a user, not a collector, so off came the wrapper and protective inserts.

Plastic pressure-plate protector on the K2

Plastic pressure-plate protector on the K2

Having never cut my photographic teeth on the K1000 like so many photographers, this is my first K body. First impressions mean a lot and I have to admit that the K2 felt very good from the moment I picked it up. Even when I mounted my large and heavy 50/1.2 lens, the camera felt comfortable and well balanced. I can see why so many legions of photographers bonded with their K-1000s and why so many still use them today.

The only unusual feature of the K2 is that the ASA setting control is around the lens mount, very similar to the way Olympus positioned the shutter speed control on the OM series. Figuring out how to change the setting required reading the owners manual. Pushing a little black button on the lens mount and grasping the control ring in the right places was the trick, but the control was also unusually stiff from lack of use.

The internet warns of using cameras that have been sitting idle for 40 years, recommending a good CLA prior to use. My experience with Pentax SLRs however gave me the confidence that this camera would work just fine. I inserted two batteries, mounted my fast normal 50 and loaded up some Kodak Pro Image 100 color print film.

Kodak Pro Image 100

Kodak Pro Image Pro-Pak

Kodak Pro Image Pro-Pak

Kodak Pro Image 100 is a C-41 process color print film that is primarily sold in Mexico and India. The internet is full of conflicting information on this film. One theory is that it is re-packaged Portra 160. Another is that it is Kodak Gold 200 film that for some reason or another, Kodak is recommending you shoot at 100 ISO. Perhaps this is due to their concern about the film's storage conditions in warmer temperatures in these markets?  Still another says it is Ektar 100 that got messed up in the manufacturing process, producing less saturated color. I am not sure and honestly, after shooting my first roll of this stuff, I don't care. It's a wonderful film. Here's my first shot with Pro Image in the K2, available light of my Kodak retro t-shirt.

We Sell Kodak Film.jpg

A few shots around the house, sunlight and shadows.


As you can tell by the sun streaming into the house, it was a nice day. I headed to the beach.


I found some blooms.


And sunlight through the leaves.


To my eye, Pro Image 100 sits somewhere between Ektar 100 and Portra 160. I haven't shot enough Gold 200 to compare, so it's hard for me to tell. Kodak makes a Gold 100 as well, so maybe this film is a repackaged version of their 100 speed consumer film. That makes the most sense.

What is a bit perplexing is that when I got back my usual end of the roll selfie, it had a greenish tint.

K2 Me.jpg

I've made this same shot, under this same fluorescent light source on Ektar, Portra 160, Porta 400 and Gold 200 and have never had the greenish tint. Hmmmm.

I bought tens rolls of this stuff, so I'll be shooting it up this year. It's an interesting enough film stock to get me excited about trying it under different conditions. And it's fairly cheap, about six bucks a roll for 36 exposures.

As for the Pentax K2, other than the weird ASA setting ring, there really isn't anything unusual or annoying about the camera. And that's what makes this Pentax so pleasant to use. Everything felt so natural and comfortable, I forgot about the camera, concentrated on the photographs and had a blast! And that's what a camera is supposed to do--make you want to take pictures with it!

Because my K2 sat in suspended animation for so long, its film advance was a little stiff and the film counter kept sticking. Shutter speeds seemed pretty good though and the center-weighted metering is nearly flawless. As I write this, my K2 is off to Eric Hendrickson for a well deserved spa vacation at the Hendrickson Pentax ranch in Knoxville, TN. He tells me that all of the issues I've noted here are common and cured with cleaning and lubrication.

I think if I were looking for a K1000, I'd browse the K2s first. They're less well known and typically cheaper. The K2 does everything the K1000 does plus it offers aperture-priotiy auto exposure. And as the Pentax flagship camera from the era, you're really getting the best the company could build at the time.



Lightbox Wednesday #53 or I Hope The Rest of 2018 Doesn't Go This Way

After work on Tuesday, while I was was parked in a public parking lot for only a few short moments, my car was broken into and my laptop computer stolen. I never realized how much of my life was on that little laptop and how violated I feel now.

I've spent the entire day today putting the pieces back together. Apple has been wonderful and so very helpful.

This blog may be quiet for a spell while I first secure and then rebuild my digital life.

Lightbox Wednesday #52 or Signs We Don't Pay Much Attention To

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, a nearly 8.0 earthquake off the coast of Alaska triggered tsunami warnings up and down the entire west coast of the US. The Sonoma County Sheriff's office pinged my phone and of course, I slept right through the whole thing...including the cancellation of the warnings.

I'm far enough away from and several hundred feet above the water, so even if the big wave did hit, our little community wouldn't have noticed much. It did get me thinking about those signs I always see when I'm hiking down to the sand.  I've photographed them many times. Here are two shots.

Warning Sign at Pinnacle Gulch, Sonoma Co, CA

Warning Sign at Pinnacle Gulch, Sonoma Co, CA

Warning Sign on Doran Beach, Sonoma Co, CA

Warning Sign on Doran Beach, Sonoma Co, CA

For me, these signs have always just been interesting photo subjects. Until this week, I really never paid much attention to the real message or even thought about the likelihood of the actual event they were warning me about.

It made me think about another sign from my youth that I saw attached to my school and all sorts of public buildings; the fallout shelter sign.

Fallout Shelter Warning Sign

Fallout Shelter Warning Sign

This was the 1960s and the Cold War was in full swing. We had air raid drills as often as fire drills. During an air raid drill, the teacher would have us move away from windows and crawl under our desks. Even as a child, I wondered about how hiding under my rickety wooden school desk was going to protect me from a nuclear bomb. We had a fallout shelter in our school as well. It was in the basement. You would think that during at least one of these drills, they'd have us practice going down there, but they never did. I wonder if during the real thing, only the administrators would go down to the fallout shelter leaving us kids up top clinging to our desks?

Luckily, the real thing never came...back then and while I slept peacefully Tuesdsay morning.

Lightbox Wednesday #50

Fires, floods, hurricanes, mudslides...if you pay any attention at all to the intense weather events we've been experiencing recently, it has to make you realize that global warming is very real. We've had a couple of wild years out here in California for sure.

After a brutal storm, this fishing boat washed ashore near Bodega Head. I'm not sure if the storm drove the boat into the sand or it was scuttled there. Over several weeks, I made some interesting photographs of it with my Nikon F2, 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor and some TMax film. One day, I looked and it was gone. Either someone had it towed back out during high tide, or the Pacific reclaimed it. Not sure.


Last Photos of 2017/First Photos of 2018 & A Processing Failure!

I had a grand plan to bring 2017 to a close and celebrate the beginning of a new year of photography; shoot a roll of film on New Years Eve and another on New Years Day.

I selected two of my most dependable classic cameras. For the last day of 2017 and a sunset walk on the beach, my serviced Pentax Spotmatic F fitted with a crystal clear SMC Takumar 55mm f/1.8.

The New Years Eve Camera: Spotmatic F 

The New Years Eve Camera: Spotmatic F 

For January 1st and my traditional long hike out to the tip of Point Reyes, my trusty little Minolta XD, serviced by Blue Moon Camera & Machine with a splendid MD Rokkor-X 50/1.4.

New Years Day Camera: The Minolta XD

New Years Day Camera: The Minolta XD

I decided to use Kodak's Portra 400, a color film that I use almost exclusively now. I'm getting comfortable with Portra and feel like I get consistent and dependable results shooting it at ISO 200. 

Dependable Kodak Portra 400 

Dependable Kodak Portra 400 

Good hardware and trusted software...what could go wrong? Turns out...lots!

The moment I stepped through the front door of my local camera shop and saw the pouty face on my friend behind the counter, I knew that either they decided they didn't like seeing me anymore or something was wrong. The latter was true. My little camera shop started a new employee in their mini-lab the week between Christmas and New Years. During her first day running the C-41 processor all on her own, the machine decided to jam up and shut down, leaving my two rolls of Portra cooking in the developer. Amidst blinking error lights and alarm signals, she panicked and by the time she was rescued by another employee who got the machine running again, my Portra, over exposed intentionally, was now over developed as well.

You can see trouble afoot from my first shot on the New Years Eve roll, the wavy vertical lines in this frame of my Christmas poinsettia.


It was approaching magic hour. My plan was to grab some sunset shots with the Spotmatic. The light was spectacular. Considering that my film was sitting in the soup for way too long--kudos to Kodak! This film actually held up pretty well to the chemical torture. Note: I have not used any digital post processing on these.


I'm not an expert on the processing machinery used at my camera store, but my research indicates that the UFO-like dark spots on this next shot are caused by two rolls of film coming in contact with each other or with some part of the machinery.


Even pushed one stop and mini-lab processed, Portra 400 typically exhibits very fine grain. Over development yielded very apparent grain and tons of contrast.

Last Day Fish.jpg

Strolling along the beach at sunset on New Years Eve with my Spotmatic was a great way to wind down the year. It really is one of my favorite cameras and the walk was reflective and peaceful.


The Tomales Point trail is a nearly 10 mile roundtrip hike that starts at Pierce Point Ranch on the tip of Point Reyes National Seashore. It's become sort of a New Years Day tradition for me and requires layered clothing and a backpack full of snacks. The compact and lightweight Minolta XD camera and prime 50 are the perfect choice for this hardy hike. I considered taking one of my Pentax K bodies and my 135mm telephoto lens as I knew I might encounter Tule elk on the trail, but I opted for portability instead.

There are a number of ranch outbuildings at the trailhead.

Outbuildings at Pierce Point Ranch trailhead

Outbuildings at Pierce Point Ranch trailhead

I'm not sure if this roll preceded or followed my New Years Eve roll through the processing machine, but this entire roll over-cooked as well. Unaware of the future chemical catastrophe, I headed up the trail.


I've shot this same seascape from this same place many years in a row on Fuji Acros black and white film and on Portra. Over development made grain apparent, increased contrast and disturbed the film's wonderful color palette. Again, I am not digitally correcting any of these images.


Pierce Point is a Tule elk reserve and it wasn't long before I spotted some. They could have cared of less about me snapping away.


And that's about where this roll really got into trouble in the soup.


When I looked quickly at the negatives at the photo counter, it seemed as if some of the shots indicated a light leak in my camera, but the XD has new seals, a full CLA and roll of Acros I shot after these turned out just fine. I think it's safe to assume over development caused these issues as well.

Apparently, a great many people make Tomales Point trail a January 1st expedition. I had lots of company.


As I looked at my end-of-year/start-of-year images on my computer that night, I was overwhelmed with disappointment and considered changing labs. I've had near perfect results when I've used Richard Photo Lab and thought perhaps that in 2018 I should use them for all my work. Sleeping on it, I realized that I've sent many many rolls of C-41 through the machine at my local Mom & Pop camera store, all with very good results and I like to support local businesses whenever I can. Come to think of it, in all of my years of photography, these are the only rolls of film that have ever been spoiled in processing.

Of course, the camera shop refunded my money and let me select two rolls of film for free. They don't stock Portra (I get it at B&H), so I picked up two rolls of Tri-X. I haven't shot any in a while and I'm going to make a serious effort to home process my black and white work this year. 

Free film

Free film

Considering the chemical torment the newbie lab tech put Portra through, I have to give this Kodak film credit for returning any images at all. 2018...cheers!

EOY Ramblings...

Looking back and forward...a little bit of this and that as the clock ticks down.

I can't believe how prejudiced I had always been towards certain camera brands and how this year really opened my mind. 

Take Canon for example. Pooey! Until, on a lark, I tried a Canon F-1n 35mm SLR.


Canon F-1n

Made me a Canon fan!

It's a great, truly great professional grade SLR! I love shooting it, the FD lenses are wonderful and I can't recommend it enough! I enjoyed the F-1n so much, I bought its predecessor, the original F-1.


Original F-1

Love the patina!

While this camera doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the later version, its minimalism is endearing. The more I use it, the more the body reveals a wonderful brass patina.

One of the cheapest cameras I have ever bought delighted me to no end as I "point and shot" my way through a Sonoma County winery this summer.


Canon A-1

Point & Shoot & More!

Set the A-1 in program mode and let the camera do all of the heavy lifting. Or, take it out of automatic and learn to drive a stick shift. Hipsters are clamoring to buy AE-1s, making the better Canon A-1 a steal! If you see a nice A-1, buy it! Great camera!

I would never try brussels sprouts because I had myself convinced I wouldn't like them. Then, I tried roasted brussels sprouts and guess what? Loved 'em! Somewhere on the internet, I read that Minolta cameras were plastic and cheap and prone to breaking, so I stayed away. Unexpectedly, a little XD fell into my hands this year. 


Minolta XD

Small package. Lots of features!

Although working fine, it had a smudge inside the viewfinder. After a quick trip up to Blue Moon Camera & Machine and a simple, affordable CLA, the Minolta XD quickly became one of my favorite shooters this year. This camera shoots in manual mode, shutter priority mode and aperture priority mode. It's small, light, made of metal and is the platform for a wide variety of stunning and affordable Minolta Rokkor lenses. I was wrong about Minolta. So much so that I went looking for a good example of a legendary camera; the XE-7.


Minolta XE-7

A Leica in disguise.

The XE-7 was released during a time when Minolta and Leica were joined at the hip. This camera has one of the nicest sounding shutters and smoothest film advance mechanisms of any classic SLR I have used. I love the fact that the XD and XE-7 can share the same lenses. Although my XE-7 is purring like a kitten, I like it so much that I am going to invest in a Mark Hama CLA in 2018.

I stumbled across a professional photographer cleaning out his freezer.


Old Film

Kodak & Agfa

I bought some Plus-X from him (2012 expiration) and some Agfa APX (1998 expiration). I have no expectations of performance, but I've shot a roll of the Plus-X so far and it seems fine.

Expired Plus-X, Pentax Spotmatic SP

Expired Plus-X, Pentax Spotmatic SP

As I have written before, about once a year, the Polaroid bug bites.


New Film

Polaroid Originals

Santa brought a pack of new color and a pack of black and white film for my SX-70, which spent the fall back in New York in Matt Widmann's shop. The camera got an extensive refurb. Like total rebuild! I got it back just before Christmas and shot a few test shots with the film pack Matt left for me in the camera. The guy is a genius and what fun to have an SX-70 that works like it is supposed to! There will be a series of posts next year documenting everything Matt did to my old Land Camera and some instant shots.

2017 has been the year of Pentax, another camera brand that I snubbed my nose at while shooting my Nikons and Leicas. I never would have tried my first Pentax camera, the ME Super, if it weren't for Jim Grey's Down The Road blog. 


Pentax LX

Love my LX!


Pentax MX

Basic & Beautiful!


Spotmatic SP

Simply sexy!


Pentax ME

Get one!


Pentax SPF

The Ultimate Spotmatic!

I've had a lot of fun since discovering Pentax. Thanks Jim!

To get better, to grow...you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone.


Street Photography

With the Leica M

I am far more comfortable with my camera on a deserted stretch of beach than I am poking it into the faces of strangers. That hasn't kept me from admiring the work of fine street photographers, past and present...and yearning to try it myself. I set a goal this year to read, study, learn and force myself to get out there and work at my own street photography. Two street workshops this year with my Leica M rangefinder and an "AH-HA" moment the last time out. I'll be posting more about that next year.



So grateful.

I am grateful for the kind community of photographers, craftspeople and merchants I have gotten to know so well since re-entering film photography in earnest 8 years ago. The people shooting film and supporting film photographers right now are an amazing, giving group. Like my good friend Sover Wong in the UK who has carefully serviced all of my Nikon F2 cameras. Ken Hansen in New York who trusts me enough to send me a Leica before I have paid him for it. Eric Hendrickson who skillfully CLAs all of my classic Pentax bodies. Youxin Ye who returned youth to my Canon P rangefinder. The cool folks up at Blue Moon Camera & Machine who re-did my Minolta XD and Canon F-1. Bellamy Hunt, the Japan Camera Hunter, who is up to any camera or lens hunting challenge I've thrown at him. Matt Widmann at 2nd Shot SX70 Service who did an incredible job turning back the clock on my SX-70. The aforementioned Jim Grey, who got me on to Pentax cameras and offers frequent encouragement in the comments here. One of the first photo bloggers I discovered was Mike Connealy  and I still look forward to his posts. Mike does amazing work with some very very old cameras.

To the small group of regular readers of the Fogdog Blog...I so appreciate you and wish you the best of everything in the New Year.

Lightbox Wednesday #49

I guess the best way to wrap up the year is by posting the first photographs I took in 2017, New Year's Day out on the very edge of the continent, the tip of Point Reyes.

For the past several years, I've been trying to start the New Year with a healthy, hardy day hike on the Tomales Point Trail. This year, I kept it simple; a light pack, good shoes, layered clothing, my Spotmatic SP and Acros film. The trailhead is at Pierce Point Ranch where I always find interesting subject matter in the old outbuildings.

Weather permitting, I'll start off 2018 in a similar fashion.



Does camera love last? I'll let you know starting today and throughout 2018 as I revisit cameras from my collection that I gushed over when I originally bought them. How do classic film cameras hold up over time? First up, my Contax RX.

Contax RX with Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.7 Planar

Contax RX with Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.7 Planar

I bought my Contax RX almost three years ago for two reasons, one more rational than the other. Rationally, I wanted an inexpensive way to try Carl Zeiss glass. Irrationally, I thought the Contax/Yashica bodies produced in the mid-1990s were cool looking. Although I buy a lot of old cameras on eBay and have had really good luck there, the RX is a pretty complicated camera full of electronics. With that in mind, I decided to get mine from a trusted source with a solid return policy, so I kept my eye on KEH, B&H Photo and Adorama. It wasn't long before a nice one turned up at B&H. They also had a 50/1.7 Zeiss Planar in the Contax/Yashica mount, so I heated up the credit card.

When I originally reviewed the RX on my old WordPress blog, I couldn't heap enough praise on this camera. Even though the RX was big and fairly heavy, I wrote that it felt just wonderful in the hand. It's metering was spot on, I loved its digital focus assist, big and beautiful viewfinder, built-in diopter adjustment and oh-so-sweet sounding shutter. Here are some shots from my first roll through the RX on Acros film.


I haven't shot this camera nearly enough and when I took it out for a walk on the beach a few weeks ago, I had to ask myself why. The RX is truly a very pleasant camera to shoot. Like the Nikon F4, it offers up most every metering mode a photographer could want. And the camera will bend to the skill level of its user with fully automatic everything shooting mode to manual. The integral motor drive will have you shooting up 36 frames in no time and I still think the Contax RX has one of the best sounding shutters of any camera I have tried.

As I have written before, the RX was released just as the photographic world was beginning to embrace auto-focus, so it has the brains of an auto-focus camera without the ability to actual automatically focus a lens. As you are manually focusing, an indicator at the bottom of the viewfinder will tell you when you've nailed focus. It's cool, but with this big and bright viewfinder, stunning Zeiss lens and split image screen, you really don't need the computer assist.

I would buy the RX all over again and even though I have only tried one Carl Zeiss prime lens, I love the way it renders. There are a couple more C/Y mount Zeiss lenses I have had my eye on, the 28mm f/2.8 is supposed to be amazing and the 35-70mm f/3.5 is reviewed as one of the best zooms ever made. After living with my Contax RX for a few years, I can definitely say I'm still in love. Here are some shots from my beach walk during a negative tide, ironically shot again on Acros film.

Negative Tide.jpg
Negative Tide 2.jpg
Two Dogs.jpg
Two Fishing.jpg
Doran Horses.jpg

Lightbox Wednesday #48

I'm not much for Christmas.

I suppose after nearly 30 years of working in retail advertising, putting together ad campaigns for Black Friday, Christmas sales and year-end sales events, the holiday season has become something I just slog my way through. Deadline looming. Deadline met. I only come up for air around the first full week of January, taking a deep, deep breath and toasting the fact that I got it all done again for another year. So while you're celebrating, I'll be sleeping...and enjoying every wink.

When I do let myself think about Christmas, my mind drifts back to a gentler time. Here's my sister and I on a Christmas Kodachrome my father shot oh...in '65 or '66 I would guess.

Kodak Retina IIc, Kodak Kodachrome color slide film

Kodak Retina IIc, Kodak Kodachrome color slide film

Finishing the Roll

Every year I say the same thing; seems like the weeks between Halloween and Christmas just fly by. This year has been no different. Wow! It's almost Christmas again!

And, as in past years, I find myself finishing off partially shot rolls of film in some of my cameras as we click off the final days of 2017.

It was on a hike in July that I started this roll of Portra 400 in my Pentax MX. These were shot with the SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/1.2

Thinkin Place.jpg

Five months later, I finished up the roll on a December Sunday using my 85mm f/1.8 SMC lens. First, reading the morning paper...


Late in the day, near the magic hour, a stroll on the beach...

Yes, those are birds, not specks of dust!

Yes, those are birds, not specks of dust!


Back home, some Christmas gift wrapping...


It had been so long since I started this roll of Portra that I had forgotten what was on the first few frames. Getting the scans back from the lab was a pleasant surprise. I remembered that it was a nice July hike. Good air, exercise, some quiet time. And finishing the roll with my 85mm was a good reminder of how much I like this focal length and how I must use it more in 2018.


Lightbox Wednesday #47

My Dad was always a General Motors man. Growing up, his pickups were always Chevy or GMC. And Mom hauled us around in a Biscayne wagon. After he retired, he bought a Cadillac. GM through and through.

I've always been a Nikon guy. Just as my Dad swore that a Ford would never grace our driveway, I couldn't imagine ever liking, let alone loving a Canon. Until I bought my F-1. Love that camera. And those old FD lenses...sweet! Here are some shots from my first roll through the F-1 this past February.


Lightbox Wednesday #46

When my old MacBook started throwing fits last fall, I knew that sooner rather than later, I'd be paying a visit to the Apple Store and laying down some serious bucks for a new one. I really hate spending my hard earned money on technology because as soon as I buy something, it's outdated. But my laptop is a tool I use every day for work and pleasure, so I justified buying the most robust one I could afford; a new MacBook Pro.

This Lightbox project started out as a simple cleaning of my digital garage. I wanted to get rid of documents and images I'd clung to on the old machine rather than transfer all of it to the new one. Cleaning up my documents was a pretty easy process, accomplished over a couple of weekends. I decided to attack my images in a more methodical way, viewing them all on iPhoto's lightbox desktop, thinking about each one before I kept it or slid it to the trash can.

I've been at it for 46 weeks and the exercise has been cathartic. It feels good. The garage is almost clean. My images are organized for easy retrieval and the editing process has revealed my growth both as an operator of the equipment and as a photographer. I still have a lot more to learn and I'm excited about that.

One added benefit is that as I looked through my photos, it made me remember how much I enjoyed using a particular camera, or in some cases, didn't enjoy using it. I realized that I've written some thoughts here on the blog about certain cameras and then never really followed up down the road as to my feelings as I spent more and more time with the camera. I am not alone in this area. Occasionally, when I read a camera review online or watch a YouTube camera review, it's interesting to see a photographer gushing over a particular camera. Then, scrolling through the comments, I'll read that the photographer ultimately ended up getting rid of the camera for one reason or another. So I have decided to revisit some of the old cameras I haven't shot in a while and see if I still feel the same way about them. As I came across this image from January 2015, I realized I hadn't put any serious miles on my Contax RX in far too long. I have some Acros in the RX now.

Bookshelf, January 7, 2015 shot with the Contax RX, 50mm f/1.7 Zeiss Planar on Tmax 100

Bookshelf, January 7, 2015 shot with the Contax RX, 50mm f/1.7 Zeiss Planar on Tmax 100