Photography

Two unappreciated film cameras: Pentax K1000 and Pentax MZ-M.

Both the Pentax K1000 and MZ-M can be seen as bookends to Pentax's PK bayonet mount lens manual focus 35mm cameras. The K1000 was one of the first-generation PK mount cameras, and it became the longest-lived while the ZX-M was the last manual focus Pentax.

Both models are almost universally seen as budget cameras, good for students. Stepping stones to better. I think that misses the point and the hidden genius.

Pentax's K-mount series began in 1975. The K2 was the flagship model. As such, it incorporated aperture priority auto-exposure provided by a step-less, metal-bladed, Seiko shutter having speeds from 1/1000 second to 8 seconds, plus Bulb. Its match-needle manual metering is a sophisticated, center weighted, silicon photodiode system. Mirror lock up, depth of field preview and self timer rounded out its set of features.

The KX has center-weighted match-needle metering and silicon photodiode meter cells, with aperture and shutter speeds displayed in the viewfinder. The mechanical shutter has speeds from 1/1000 second to 1 second, plus Bulb. It also has mirror lock up, depth of field preview and self timer.

The KM has center-weighted match-needle metering and less expensive Cadmium Sulfide meter cells. The mechanical shutter has speeds from 1/1000 second to 1 second, plus Bulb. It features only depth of field preview and self timer.

The K1000 has a simplified averaging match-needle meter and Cadmium Sulfide meter cells. The mechanical shutter has speeds from 1/1000 second to 1 second, plus Bulb. It has no other features, eliminating the KM's depth of field preview and self timer.

See the trend? Pentax simplified or eliminated features to reduce the model's cost. So, the K1000 must be the cheapie. Well that's strictly true, it misses the genius of the design. Yes, compared to the other models of Pentax camera, it's quite basic, if not downright spartan. But compared to other budget SLR camera is, it's a completely different story.

Many of the budget SLR cameras made by other companies feature self timers and sometimes depth of field preview, trading off build quality by using less costly parts.

More importantly, they have fewer shutter speeds -- often only 1/8 second to 1/500 second. Had a glance, this may not seem important, but it actually is. Fewer shutter speeds means that the camera can take photographs in fewer situations, within a more restricted range of lighting conditions. In other words, it's a less versatile camera as a result of having a more-limited range of shutter speeds.

In contrast, the K1000 gave up features that do not directly relate to its ability to take photographs in a wide range of lighting conditions and situations. Depth of field preview, mirror lock up, or a self timer are nice features to have, but they don't affect the range of lighting conditions that the camera can take photographs in. They're convenience features. The K1000 also does not sacrifice build quality.

The name is no mistake. K1000 was chosen to draw attention to what the designers felt was its most important feature: the 1/1000 second shutter speed.

At the time, a quality camera was assumed to have at least 1 second to 1/1000 second shutter speeds. A narrower range of shutter speeds denoted a lower quality camera. For example, a contemporary of the K1000, the Ricoh KR-5, features shutter speeds from only 1/8 to 1/500 second plus B. This limits its ability when compared to the K1000.

That's the hidden genius of the K1000. The "full range" of shutter speeds means it doesn't compromise what matters most: a very wide range of situations where it will take a usable photograph, unlike most other budget models. Dismissing it as a student camera is a mistake. It's the result of a series of choices to give photographers the minimum camera features that does not sacrifice photographic equality, only convenience. Keep in mind that many professional cameras of that time have the same set of features as a K1000, although in larger film formats.

So, a K1000 could arguably give you professional quality at a lower price point then other budget model SLR cameras. That was exactly my experience with the camera. I begin my professional career using a K1000, and other than the lack of status appeal or convenience features, it let me achieve truly professional quality. It was the only 35mm SLR camera in its price range that would have done so.

So, I see the K1000 not as a merely a student camera. I see it as a professional capable camera on a budget that gives up a little bit of convenience for overall excellent quality. It is the product of a great set of design choices, and overall, it's been my most favorite camera for the past 40-odd years.

Fast forward to 1997. Pentax had just discontinued the K1000 and the P30T. By then, Vivitar, Promaster and others had introduced less-expensive manual focus cameras that had more features than the K1000 with the same range of shutter speeds. The K1000, from a business point of view, had lost its edge. So Pentax decided to discontinue it. Similarly, the more-expensive manual focus P30T was also deemed not to be market competitive, and thus was also discontinued that same year.

Nevertheless, Pentax felt that they still needed a manual focus camera in their then-current MZ (ZX) camera line.

Why? Because manual focus cameras give the photographer a degree of creative control otherwise not available. Autofocus cameras, although convenient, sometimes do not place the point of focus at the best distance pictorially. Serious photographers almost always prefer manual focus.

So, they introduced the Pentax MZ-M as the sole manual focus camera. The camera was positioned as the worthy successor to the K1000. Operationally it was based on the MZ-5N/ZX-5N with a classic knob-based control layout. It retained the built-in autowinder, but not the LCD displays and pop-up flash. More advanced features were also omitted, such as the autofocus mechanism, exposure auto-bracketing and TTL flash control.

The result was a lightweight construction, achieved by making the lens mount ring of plastic and replacing the traditional solid glass pentaprism with a pentamirror viewfinder.

Critics, many who were accustomed to older brass-bodied cameras, derided the MZ-M as excessively cheapened, with a flimsy feel, especially because of the short-travel electronic shutter release button. Other criticisms included the slow, noisy autowinder; the plastic lens mount ring, and the painted finish that was not considered to be durable.

I have several criticisms of these criticisms. "Flimsy feel" is an opinion, one not shared by many I've spoken to about shooting the ZX-M. Yes, it does feel quite a bit different than traditional brass body cameras, but it's also quite a bit lighter. And that's a good thing.

The shutter release is comfortable. It works easily. It's very durable. The short push stroke of the shutter release button reduces the tendency to shake the camera at the moment you take the photograph. So, I actually see it as an advantage.

Autowinders, usually, are by their nature noisy and slower than motor drives. The Pentax Winder ME-II for my ME Super is just as noisy and no one was complaining about its noise back then.

There is a tendency to react to plastic as being a material used in cheap products. And, most of it is. But, some plastics are just as strong as metal, if not more so. Pentax chose a very strong plastic for the lens mount ring. It's just as strong as a metal one, it's just as precision made, it works just as well, and it's just as hard to break. So what's the problem? I don't see any.

Camera finishes do get scratched and can look tatty over time. It doesn't matter if it's a cheap camera, or the most expensive camera, if the camera is used often, it's finish will become marred. So, it is no surprise that the Pentax MZ-M's finish is subject to damage. It's inevitable. Also, it's not a fair criticism.

The Pentax MZ-M it's not a cheaply made, stripped down, budget camera. It's a lightweight, precision made, very convenient manual focus camera. The built-in autowinder is a nice amenity that was an expensive option many years ago.

The Pentax MZ-M would make a nice introduction to film photography for those who presently are using digital cameras. It features DX film speed coding, which prevents mistakenly setting the proper film speed. The viewfinder is bright, making manual focusing easy. Three exposure modes (metered manual, aperture priority autoexposure and programmed autoexposure) increase the versatility of the camera. The built-in autowinder with automatic film rewind improves its ease-of-use.

Best of all, the Pentax MZ-M's light weight means you'll be more willing to carry it with you everywhere you go. The more often you carry a camera, the more opportunities you have to take a great photograph. It's been said, "the best camera is the one that's with you." The Pentax MZ-M could be that camera.

Stop! You Can't Use that Camera! It's Illegal!

Here's a small example of why I have grown to dislike government and its greed for ever-increasing regulation.

Let's say you want to record an hour long video. What kind of camera would you choose? Well, you could simply use the camera in your smart phone to record an hour of video. Or, you could use the WebCam in your laptop or desktop computer to record an hour of video. You could use a camcorder, which arguably is the easiest method. Or, you could get very fancy and use a professional video camera along with a professional video recorder. You're free to choose all of those methods.

But, you cannot record an hour of video on a DSLR, even though the camera is capable of recording hours of motion picture quality video.

Why?

Well, it's not a technical limitation with the DSLR.

It's the law.

I'm not joking, I'm not making this up, it is the law.

You see, in the United States it is against the law for an imported DSLR camera to be able to record video for more than 29 minutes and 29 seconds. Regardless of the technological capability of the camera. By the way, DSLRs sold in other countries around the world can record hours of video. That includes the same models sold in the USA.

Let me bring this home to you: the only reason a DSLR sold in the USA cannot record more than 29 minutes of video is because of government regulation.No technological limitation exists. The cameras are perfectly capable of recording hours of vide. The only reason they can't is because of an arbitrary, completely unnecessary, government regulation created out of thin air by an unelected, faceless bureaucrat.

Why? Who does that benefit? Not me. Not you. But I bet some big campaign donor benefits.

So, you see, our unenlightened government doesn't believe you should have the freedom to record an hour or more of video on a DSLR camera.

Now, I understand this is not a vitally important event. I bring it up because it goes to show the attitude of our government toward us, the citizens of United States. We, the government, will decide how you can record an hour of video - you don't have the freedom to choose what you want.

Now step back and think of all the other small, everyday freedoms that excessive government regulation has taken away from you.

Tell me, why I should support any politician who will not increase our personal liberty by curtailing this monstrous factory of neverending regulations that we call the United States federal government?

Beware counterfeiit K1000 SE cameras!

Some sellers exaggerate a camera's value.

Recently, there have been a rash of camera listings along the lines of, "First Edition Pentax K1000 SE 35mm Camera ... This camera body is an early variant of the K1000 SE.  It has a split image focus screen which is really a pleasure to use compared to the standard focusing screen.  The camera also has the rare diamond grip covering." 

Exciting, yes? 

Well, don't get too excited.

It's deceptive.

While the camera may be an early-production model, Pentax never used a diamond pattern leather covering. Nor did they ever use colored leather, lizard or alligator patterns, or things like paisley.  In their K and M series models, Pentax used only their standard black cowhide-grain-look leather or, in SE variants made before 1980, a distinctive brown cowhide-look leather. 

Any other kind of leather is an aftermarket modification, often made by camera stores -- or unscrupulous eBay sellers trying to sell a camera for more than it is worth. (You'll find that if you challenge these sellers on the veracity of their claims, they'll answer you by telling you that you're rude, they resent your message and they'll not answer you! Then they'll often nitpick your grammar or spelling and tell you to learn about cameras. A response from a seller like that is a sure sign of a scammer. Don't get angry with them, just laugh that you've smoked them out.)

But what about the split-image viewfinder? This was a factory option for the K1000, and some camera stores worked with camera repair shops to offer a similar non-OEM viewfinder screen replacement.

Some sellers do make the honest mistake of selling a K1000 with the optional split image viewfinder as a K1000 SE. Although rare and valuable in their own right, the option alone doesn't make it a K1000 SE -  a real K1000 SE has the "SE" engraved on its front. Pentax never used a sticker to designate the SE, by the way. That's a myth. Note that some unscrupulous sellers will claim the camera  did have the SE sticker, but it "fell off." Sorry, that's a sure sign the camera is a standard K1000 being misrepresented as a K1000 SE.

Only about 5% of the K1000s made had the split-image viewfinder screen option installed, most of which were sold in the Japanese market. It was an expensive option, and most buyers felt that it wasn't worth the money to buy it. For the same money, you could buy a higher-end model instead of a K1000. 

Now, nothing is wrong with a Pentax camera having diamond pattern leather. The problem is the false claim, or misleading implication, that the diamond pattern (or other color) is a Pentax factory production leather covering.

It's not. It's an aftermarket modification.

If you want to buy a Pentax K1000 (or other model) with such a leather covering, then buy it and enjoy -- they're beautiful. But don't pay too much for it, and understand it's not "rare," nor a "special edition," nor anything else of the sort. 

And drop the seller a line to let him know that the listing is misleading, or (at least) erroneous. 

Let's end the practice of taking an ordinary camera, modifying it, then selling it for more than it's worth because it's "rare." 


A special note about diamond leatherette coverings.

Note that Wikipedia and some online forums claim that Pentax did use a diamond pattern leatherette on "1st Edition" K1000 SEs. This is a minority opinion. The overwhelming evidence, along with the absence of any Pentax literature showing such a camera, is that Pentax did not use a diamond pattern leatherette. Some camera dealers at the time did, however, customize standard Pentax K1000s (lacking the engraved SE logo) with a diamond pattern leatherette along with the factory-optional split image focuser - which they then sold as a Pentax Special Edition. It's this past practice by camera dealers that has led to confusion over the issue of whether a diamond pattern leatherette was used on a so-called "1st Edition" K1000 SE. 

So, if an eBay seller offers a "1st Edition" Pentax K1000 SE with no SE engraved, a split-image focuser, and a diamond pattern leatherette covering it is NOT a genuine Pentax factory K1000 SE - it's an aftermarket modification made by a camera store.

You may also find the occasional Pentax K1000 SE that has the engraved SE logo and a diamond pattern leatherette. Is this a genuine K1000 SE? Maybe. It could be a camera that had the original leather replaced with the diamond pattern, usually to replace damaged original leather. It could be the original owner made the modification for personal tastes. Or, it could be an ordinary K1000 that has had its top cover replaced by one with the engraved SE logo and then covered with diamond pattern leatherette - which would make the camera a fake K1000 SE. There's no certain way to be sure in that case, so be on the safe side and assume the camera isn't a genuine K1000 SE.

Regardless, is a K1000 with diamond leatherette a collector's item worth higher costs? That is for you to decide.


What about stickers?

You'll often find Pentax K1000s with a sticker that says "SE" being sold as a K1000 SE, often with the claim that it's a rare "1st Edition" K1000 SE. At no time did Pentax ever add such a sticker to a K1000. Ever. This is a lie, promulgated by deceptive sellers, passed along by misinformed (but otherwise-honest) persons.

Admittedly, some eBay sellers mistakenly believe that they're selling a genuine K1000 SE with a sticker, but they're wrong nevertheless. 

Beware sellers claiming the camera is a K100 SE but "the sticker fell off." Yeah, right, that's a fake as it gets.  

Beware Fake Pentax K1000 SE cameras sold on eBay.

Some sellers exaggerate a camera's value.

Recently, there have been a rash of camera listings along the lines of, "First Edition Pentax K1000 SE 35mm Camera ... This camera body is an early variant of the K1000 SE.  It has a split image focus screen which is really a pleasure to use compared to the standard focusing screen.  The camera also has the rare diamond grip covering." 

Exciting, yes? 

Well, don't get too excited.

It's deceptive.

While the camera may be an early-production model, Pentax never used a diamond pattern leather covering. Nor did they ever use colored leather, lizard or alligator patterns, or things like paisley.  In their K and M series models, Pentax used only their standard black cowhide-grain-look leather or, in SE variants made before 1980, a distinctive brown cowhide-look leather. 

Any other kind of leather is an aftermarket modification, often made by camera stores -- or unscrupulous eBay sellers trying to sell a camera for more than it is worth. (You'll find that if you challenge these sellers on the veracity of their claims, they'll answer you by telling you that you're rude, they resent your message and they'll not answer you! Then they'll often nitpick your grammar or spelling and tell you to learn about cameras. A response from a seller like that is a sure sign of a scammer. Don't get angry with them, just laugh that you've smoked them out.)

But what about the split-image viewfinder? This was a factory option for the K1000, and some camera stores worked with camera repair shops to offer a similar non-OEM viewfinder screen replacement.

Some sellers do make the honest mistake of selling a K1000 with the optional split image viewfinder as a K1000 SE. Although rare and valuable in their own right, the option alone doesn't make it a K1000 SE -  a real K1000 SE has the "SE" engraved on its front. Pentax never used a sticker to designate the SE, by the way. That's a myth. Note that some unscrupulous sellers will claim the camera  did have the SE sticker, but it "fell off." Sorry, that's a sure sign the camera is a standard K1000 being misrepresented as a K1000 SE.

Only about 5% of the K1000s made had the split-image viewfinder screen option installed, most of which were sold in the Japanese market. It was an expensive option, and most buyers felt that it wasn't worth the money to buy it. For the same money, you could buy a higher-end model instead of a K1000. 

Now, nothing is wrong with a Pentax camera having diamond pattern leather. The problem is the false claim, or misleading implication, that the diamond pattern (or other color) is a Pentax factory production leather covering.

It's not. It's an aftermarket modification.

If you want to buy a Pentax K1000 (or other model) with such a leather covering, then buy it and enjoy -- they're beautiful. But don't pay too much for it, and understand it's not "rare," nor a "special edition," nor anything else of the sort. 

And drop the seller a line to let him know that the listing is misleading, or (at least) erroneous. 

Let's end the practice of taking an ordinary camera, modifying it, then selling it for more than it's worth because it's "rare." 


A special note about diamond leatherette coverings.

Note that Wikipedia and some online forums claim that Pentax did use a diamond pattern leatherette on "1st Edition" K1000 SEs. This is a minority opinion. The overwhelming evidence, along with the absence of any Pentax literature showing such a camera, is that Pentax did not use a diamond pattern leatherette. Some camera dealers at the time did, however, customize standard Pentax K1000s (lacking the engraved SE logo) with a diamond pattern leatherette along with the factory-optional split image focuser - which they then sold as a Pentax Special Edition. It's this past practice by camera dealers that has led to confusion over the issue of whether a diamond pattern leatherette was used on a so-called "1st Edition" K1000 SE. 

So, if an eBay seller offers a "1st Edition" Pentax K1000 SE with no SE engraved, a split-image focuser, and a diamond pattern leatherette covering it is NOT a genuine Pentax factory K1000 SE - it's an aftermarket modification made by a camera store.

You may also find the occasional Pentax K1000 SE that has the engraved SE logo and a diamond pattern leatherette. Is this a genuine K1000 SE? Maybe. It could be a camera that had the original leather replaced with the diamond pattern, usually to replace damaged original leather. It could be the original owner made the modification for personal tastes. Or, it could be an ordinary K1000 that has had its top cover replaced by one with the engraved SE logo and then covered with diamond pattern leatherette - which would make the camera a fake K1000 SE. There's no certain way to be sure in that case, so be on the safe side and assume the camera isn't a genuine K1000 SE.

Regardless, is a K1000 with diamond leatherette a collector's item worth higher costs? That is for you to decide.


What about stickers?

You'll often find Pentax K1000s with a sticker that says "SE" being sold as a K1000 SE, often with the claim that it's a rare "1st Edition" K1000 SE. At no time did Pentax ever add such a sticker to a K1000. Ever. This is a lie, promulgated by deceptive sellers, passed along by misinformed (but otherwise-honest) persons.

Admittedly, some eBay sellers mistakenly believe that they're selling a genuine K1000 SE with a sticker, but they're wrong nevertheless. 

Beware sellers claiming the camera is a K100 SE but "the sticker fell off." Yeah, right, that's a fake as it gets.  

Making It Click

I need to take some photographs.

OPTION A: Shooting my Digital SLR Camera:
  1. Be sure proprietary battery is charged. If not, charge battery and install into camera.
  2. Remove lens cap and switch on the camera’s power.
  3. Wait for camera to boot up, which could be up to ten seconds. If the camera bugs me to enter date and time, I do so. This occurs often, and will take about a week. Usually, I give up after five minutes and leave the camera set to to “01–01-2009.” This is why all my digital photos are dated Jan 1, 2009 and Apple’s “Photos” app (or the older iPhoto app) crashes every time I import photos from the camera.
  4. Select from among a variety of “scene modes,” or brainlessly select PROGRAM AUTO.
  5. Select focus mode.
  6. Select focus points.
  7. Select metering mode.
  8. Select metering points.
  9. Select ISO or ISO range.
  10. Select dynamic range expansion.
  11. Select white balance mode.
  12. Select JPG or RAW format.
  13. Select “soft button” mode.
  14. Select flash mode.
  15. Select USB mode.
  16. Select noise reduction mode.
  17. Select menu appearance options.
  18. Select LCD screen parameters.
  19. Select HDR on/off.
  20. Select about twenty other options. To do this correctly requires either a year of experimentation or a doctorate degree in digital image signal processing.
  21. Aim camera toward subject.
  22. Lightly press shutter release.
  23. Wait for autofocus to go in and out of focus, then cheerily beep that it has achieved focus. Or, at least, what it thinks is correct focus.
  24. Press shutter release fully.
  25. Camera takes photo! * * * *At this point I either feel like going out and getting drunk to celebrate, or I no longer care about photography — and I begin to yearn for the end of all life on this planet in a fit of nihilist rage against the machine! * * * *
  26. Wait for camera to process image. This requires several seconds.Repeat Steps 20 through 25. If I wait too long between shots, the camera will turn itself off, requiring me to begin over from Step 2.

OPTION B: Shooting my 1970s-era 35mm or medium format film SLR camera:
  1. The camera should already have the battery for its exposure meter installed. If not, install battery: it’s a common type, like an A76. The battery will last up to a year, so this step is a formality.
  2. Load film into camera. Wind to the first film frame.
  3. Remove lens cap.
  4. Aim camera toward subject.
  5. Glance at the in-the-viewfinder meter while focussing the lens. With practice, this requires less than a second. ALTERNATIVE: Meter the scene with handheld exposure meter. Then, focus the lens.
  6. Set aperture and shutter speed as indicated by exposure meter, or according to artistic requirements.
  7. Press shutter release.
  8. Camera takes photo!
  9. Wind to the next film frame.
  10. Repeat Steps 4, 7 through 9. Repeat Steps 5 and 6 only if the lighting or subject has changed. * * * * At this point I’m enjoying the creative process. * * * *
  11. Remove film after last film frame. * * * * At this point I’m eager to put in another roll of film and take more photographs! * * * *
  12. Take film home to my darkroom and process the film.

I choose Option B.

Now to pick which camera to use. But that’s another story.

Pentax MX Versus Leica IIc

Click on this comparison photo showing why I love my Pentax MX: it's the same size as a classic Leica IIc rangefinder camera! That gives you a pro-quality, all-mechanical, manual camera, blessed with magnificent SMC Takumar-M 50mm f1.7 lens (equal to any Leica's), quite accurate shutter speeds (especially at slow shutter speeds thanks to one of the best slow-speed governors ever made), great ergonomics, very accurate metering, zero-parallax viewing thanks to its SLR design, open-aperture focusing, depth-of-field preview and self-timer -- all in the same size and weight as a 35mm rangefinder camera! (It's even smaller than clunky Argus C3 and C4 rangefinders cameras).

So why I do I prefer film photography?

So why I do I prefer film photography? Am I a Luddite? After all, this is the 21st Century, the Digital Age, the era of The Cloud. Naturally, you’re supposed to snap your photo with your mobile device or digital camera -- and within an instant there they are, emblazoned across Facebook, Flickr, Snapchat, or your home computer.

I don’t care that everyone has the latest DSLRs, mirrorless cameras or smartphones, the results and the experience is what matters to me. Frankly, I dislike the experience of using digital cameras. Film cameras eliminate the distractions of switching the camera on, waiting for it to boot up, then tinkering with menus, setting, cryptic parameters, white balance, and other things You open the camera, focus, set the aperture, set the shutter speed, and click your photo. Done!

Honestly, our modern “digital life” makes me edgy, and  I have to flee it occasionally. That’s why I disappear from Facebook for days at a time.

I admit that, for me, part of the appeal is film’s scarcity. Film has become counter-cultural in a sense. Film lets you revel in the advantages of technology past. Photographers under the age of 20 probably has never used a film camera, so you can enjoy the looks you get when you unfold that huge Crown Graphic. It’s fun to watch youth search for The Menu Screen – in vain.

Film cameras are great icebreakers! Carry a vintage film camera and it will draw a crowd. People will want to try it. They’ll ask you questions about it.

A film camera sets you apart. It’s retro. It’s cool. It’s edgy, counter-intuitive, esoteric. Everyone can use a digital camera or a camera app on their smartphone. Big deal. Not everyone can use a film camera. It takes the ability to predict what the final image will look like before you ever press the shutter release. It takes practice. That makes it exclusive. That makes it hip. Yes, it makes it a bit elitist (and I do not like elitists, customarily), but elitist in a good-natured, artistic way. Sniff.

Film photographs are special. They’re an occasion. They’re not a flood of here-today, forgotten-tomorrow digital commodities, one of the flood of endless images banally flowing across computer screens every moment.

Most persons aren’t as camera shy once they know your camera isn’t digital because the photo isn’t instantly being gawked at by others online. They’ll feel more assured that the photo won’t end up online if they ask.

Film, especially when you shoot a fully-manual camera, forces you to think about each photograph. Ouch. No, that's a good thing. You'll take fewer photographs as a result, and have a greater percentage of those photographs that are great.
You don't just takes hundreds of photographs. I know a “professional” portrait photographer who typically takes 500 or more photos per session. Sadly, almost none are any good. How much better if this “professional photographer” took time to think about composition, lighting and the overall feel of the photograph instead of just blazing away like a machine gun. That's the difference between film and digital: a sharpshooter who nails it in one shot versus a machine gunner who blasts everything in sight hoping to hit the real target. I doubt I ever shot more than 36 photos on any professional job, usually much fewer; yet nearly every photo was flawless.

Each frame of film costs you money. That reality puts the brakes on the mindless machine-gunning of digital photography.
Your film camera has no LCD screen. You can't check each photo immediately after you take it. Good. This forces you to use your brain and learn to pre-visualize the subject.

You must wait before processing the photos you're able to keep emotionally detached from the photos during. The forced time delay serves you well and ensures objectivity. You'll show only the truly great photos instead of drowning your viewers with a hundred photos of your previous meal, the dog laying in the street, the mess from your latest home improvement project and the shopfronts of every you store you last visited.

Film has limitations and that's great. It's like chess – you master the rules despite the weird, arbitrary limitations. You then become a chess master. You master the game, instead of the game mastering you. So it is with film. You master the technology, instead of the technology mastering you, unlike digital.

Film has a special feel no software can equal. Colors are more natural, tone is smoother, and the overall look of film is more dramatic, more ethereal, and genuinely more artistic.

Film has superior dynamic range without the need to hassle with that cumbersome HDR multi-exposure technique and its attendant complex matrix light metering. Please.

Film exposure is easy to calculate, and film has a good margin of error that will still yield good photographs. You never have to worry about suddenly having the highlights of your photo disappear into a white blob image. Even when film is seriously overexposed highlights will gradually fade to white.

Film is grainy. Cool. Revel in it. Digital noise is ugly and makes the photo seem cheap and artificial. Film grain is beautiful, individual, non-intrusive and feels organic, a natural part of the photo.

Every film has different characteristics, creating a different interpretation of the same subject. You can photograph the same subject with different films and have very different photographs.

Film gives you a real hard backup. Yet you can still enjoy all the benefits of digital, like sending emailing the photos or uploading them to Facebook, SnapChat or Flickr.

Leica and the Jews

The Leica is the pioneer 35mm camera. Leica cameras have the deserved reputation of being superlative cameras against which all others are compared: precise, minimalist, and utterly efficient. Made in Germany beginning in the late-1920s, they were part of that country’s all-out effort to create excellent,innovative products and thereby end the world’s perception of German goods being cheap, shoddy and imitative.

Behind Leica’s worldwide acceptance as a creative tool was a family-owned, socially-oriented firm who, during the Nazi era, acted with uncommon grace, generosity and modesty. E. Leitz AG, designer and manufacturer of Germany 's most famous photographic product, saved its Jews from Hitler’s death camps. Ernst Leitz II, the steely-eyed Protestant patriarch who headed the closely held firm as the Holocaust loomed across Europe, acted in such away as to earn the title, "the photography industry's Schindler. "

When Adolf Hitler was named chancellor of Germany in 1933,Ernst Leitz II began receiving frantic calls from Jewish associates, asking for his help getting them and their families out of the country. As Christians, Leitz and his family were immune to Nazi Germany's infamous Nuremberg laws,which restricted the movement of Jews and limited their professional activities.

To help his Jewish workers and colleagues, Leitz quietly established what has become known among historians of the Holocaust as"the Leica Freedom Train," a covert means of allowing Jews to leaveGermany in the guise of Leitz employees being assigned overseas. Employees,retailers, family members, even friends of family members were "assigned" to Leitz sales offices in France, Britain, Hong Kong and the United States.

Leitz's activities intensified after the Kristallnacht ofNovember 1938, during which synagogues and Jewish shops were burned acrossGermany. Before long, German "employees" were disembarking from the ocean liner Bremen at a New York pier and making their way to the Manhattan office of Leitz AG, where executives quickly found them jobs in the photographic industry.

Each new arrival had around his or her neck the symbol of freedom - a new Leica camera. The refugees were paid a stipend until they could find work.

Out of this migration came designers, repair technicians, salespeople, marketers and writers for the photographic press. Keeping the story secret, the "Leica Freedom Train" was at its height in 1938 and early 1939, delivering groups of refugees to New York every few weeks.

Alas, with the invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939,Germany closed its borders. By that time, hundreds of endangered Jews had escaped to America, thanks to the Leitz' efforts.

How did Ernst Leitz II and his staff get away with it? Their corporate reputation was the key. Firstly, Leitz, AG was an internationally recognized brand that reflected favorably on the resurgent Third Reich. Secondly, the company produced cameras, rangefinders, binoculars, telescopes,gun sights, microscopes and other optical equipment for the German government and military. Thirdly, the Nazi government desperately needed hard currency from abroad, and Leitz's single biggest market for optical goods was the UnitedStates.

Nevertheless, members of the Leitz family and firm suffered for their good works. The Nazis jailed a top Leitz executive, AlfredTurk, who helped several Jews. He was freed only after paying a large bribe.
The Gestapo imprisoned Leitz's daughter, Elsie Kuhn-Leitz after catching her at the German-Swiss border helping Jewish women cross into Switzerland. She eventually was freed, but endured harsh abuse during her questioning, a common Gestapo behavior. She also fell under suspicion when she attempted to improve the living conditions of 700 to 800 Ukrainian slave laborers, all of them women, who worked in Leica’s factory during the 1940s.

After the war, Elsie Kuhn-Leitz received numerous honors for her humanitarian efforts, among them the Officer d'Honneur des PalmsAcademic from France in 1965 and the Aristide Briand Medal from the EuropeanAcademy in the 1970s.

Why has no one told this story until now?

According to the late Norman Lipton, a freelance writer and editor, the Leitz family wanted no publicity for its heroic efforts. Only after the last member of the Leitz family was dead did the story of the"Leica Freedom Train" finally come to light. It is now the subject of a book, "The Greatest Invention of the Leitz Family: The Leica FreedomTrain," by Frank Dabba Smith, a California-born Rabbi currently living inEngland.
 

Battery Not Included?

I've seen too many eBay sellers state in the description of a camera they’re selling something to the effect of, "There is no corrosion in the battery compartment, but it will need new battery (not included)."

Every time I've read that statement in a camera’s description I receive the camera only to discover that the meter doesn't work. Testing the meter for basic function, but not accuracy, is easy and there's no excuse for not doing it: put a battery in, take off the lens cap, point the camera out a window and adjust the shutter speed and f-stops. If the meter reacts, it's okay, if the meter doesn't change it's dead. This test takes less than five minutes.

It's often not what is said in a description that is important but what is left unsaid. These days, when I read the "battery compartment is clean" statement, I assume the meter doesn't work and therefore won't bid on the camera unless it looks to be extraordinarily clean and undamaged. Even then, I brace myself for the inevitable dead camera meter.

Fun: A Photofinish!

• HAVE FUN! If you don’t have fun taking the photo, no one will have fun looking at the photo! I’m serious!
• KEEP IT FUN! If you give too much attention to (and are too uptight while working on) being a successful photographer, you’ll crowd out your fun, kill the spontaneity of your work, and blind your artistic vision. You’ll end up as yet another “clichetographer,” churning out the same old stuff every other pro-wannabe cranks out. Good recipe for failure!
• So what if your camera isn’t the latest and greatest, lacks snob appeal, shoots film or is digital? Do you enjoy the photos you get with it? Perfect! It’s a great camera!
• Don’t blame the camera if the photos are bad. It’s a camera. You’re the photographer.
• Don’t let the camera be the photographer and you just be a “camera-aimer.” No camera’s automation can be as good as what you can achieve with practice.
• Delve into the settings, and tweak everything that affects color accuracy and overall photo quality, like White Balance, Image Mode, Metering Mode, Autofocus Target Select and so on.
• Don’t shoot auto-everything all the time, try manual exposure.
• Use optical filters instead of in-camera digital image filters or software effects.
• Photoshop can’t really save a bad photo, so don’t rely on it. If you get it right in the camera, Photoshop can add that extra something. It’s just like when film photographers use a darkroom to add subtle enhancements to their photos.
• Remember: the more of the photographic process you control, the better the photographs you’ll have.

Art should ... but does he?

• Art should make us feel more clearly and more intelligibly.
• Art should give us coherent sensations which we otherwise would not have had.
• Art should be unique and individually irreplaceable.
• Art should be hand made, not mass-produced.
• Art should spring from your true self and your deepest aspirations, not from your desire to impress others, make money  or to be better than someone else.

Artness

Artwork is more than just painting, drawing, or sculpture that you hang on a wall or set in a museum and think to yourself, “That looks pretty.” Art is the recognition of aesthetic, the recognition that an object is more than its obvious purpose. Although some animals create tools and build structures, humankind is unique in that our creations both serve functions and evoke emotion.
All of humankind’s endeavors can become art; indeed, they are art, a reflection of their creators. The most humble object can be imbued with “artness” when its designer and its maker recognizes the aesthetic of the object, seeing the object as something more than its innate function. One only has to look at the Bauhaus movement for excellent examples of the perception of the mundane object elevated to “artness” while retaining its essential function. The “artness” of an object enhances its function, creating an emotional bond and a desire for the object that makes the object more desirable, more valuable.
It has been said that art evokes emotion, and that is certainly true, yet art is more than crass provocation. When the designer and maker elevates a mundane object to become art the emotion evoked by the object cause the passerby to want to possess the object. Thus a cup can become a treasured heirloom, a piece of decoration within the room, and a moment of pleasure — all occurring simultaneously.
I posit that art sometimes has an obvious function, yet the function may also be to beautify your surroundings, to stir your emotions, to cause you to desire, to make your life more pleasant. Enjoy!

Getting The Most From a Digital Camera

Now that I've had my Pentax K-x DSLR for a few months, I've finally found how to get rid the most from its excellent imaging capabilities. Instead of writing a longwinded treatise, here are a few brief ideas that may help you get the most from your digital camera:

1. Delve into the settings, and tweak everything that affects color accuracy and overall photo quality, like White Balance, Image Mode, Metering Mode, Autofocus Target Select and so on.

2. Shoot in RAW format, DNG type, then import your photographs into Photoshop or another good editing software.

3. Shoot at the lowest ISO setting possible.

4. Support the camera whenever possible, with a tripod, monopod, or up against a wall or other solid surface.

5. Don't shoot auto-everything all the time.

6. Try manual exposure; my Pentax is at its best with manual exposure. Use the camera's exposure histogram instead of the meter or viewfinder LCD to judge when exposure is accurate.

7. Try manual focus and different combinations of shutter speed and aperture for creative effects. Wide apertures let you separate a subject from a cluttered or distracting background. Small apertures throw everything into sharp focus. Slow shutter speeds can create dramatic blurred or flowing motion effects; fast shutter speeds can freeze motion.

8. Use optical filters instead of in-camera digital image filters or software effects. For example, I get the best outdoor color when I set the camera's white balance to Tungsten then place an 85B filter over the lens. This creates a rich, Hollywood Technicolor movie look to photographs.

9. Remember: the more you control, the better the photographs. Don't let the camera be the photographer and you just a "camera-aimer." No camera's automation can be as good as what you can achieve with practice.

10. Take a break from your digital camera and shoot a good film camera to keep your perspective fresh and to give you a good comparison of what you should expect your digital camera to do.

Picking out a mat for framing your photographs

When you pick out colors for mats when presenting a photograph:

White is standard for museum and gallery presentation of black-and-white photos.

White will tend to make the colors in color photos look darker, and less saturated.

Black will tend to make the colors in color photos look more saturated, but be careful as it can make colors look gaudy or cheap.

Dark grey or charcoal grey will tend to make the colors in color photos look vivid without being unnaturally over-saturated. Find an old photographer's "18% grey card" that some photographers use for precise exposure metering; that shade of grey is nearly perfect for presenting colors in their most accurate setting. some pros use 18% grey mats as masks to judge color accuracy and saturation after enlarging or printing.

A colored mat will tend to de-emphasize its own color and emphasize its complement.

Beige, or other medium-tone earth tones are considered by some artists to flatter landscapes, but others regard them as tacky affectations.

Avoid pink or skin tone colors with portraits. When in doubt, basic black, a neutral off-white or a good grey will do.

Regarding colored mats as inferior to white mats or deciding to ask a colored mat for its papers is racist. (Joking)

So Why All The Cameras?

I received an email the other day that read, "You have a lot of cameras for an audio guy! What's up with that?"

That's a fair question, so the short answer is that they're from my private collection, I enjoy each of them, and I shoot all of them. They do serve a purpose other than the obvious: photography keeps me sharply-honed and fresh creatively. It's too easy to get stale creatively, to get stuck in a rut, doing the same thing, taking the same approach to everything. I don't want that to happen to me. Photography gets me out of the ordinary, and forces me to do things differently. Whenever I notice I begin to take photos of a particular subject the same way consistently, I switch to a different camera, one that won't let me keep shooting the way I have been.

Each of my cameras and lenses will give a completely different look to the same subject, so switching cameras or lenses often means that I'm always forced to see everything anew, to look at the same subject differently.

One day I shoot one of the 35mm SLR cameras to achieve a balance of precision with ease, the next day I have the fun of shooting the sneaky, spontaneous Minox B spy camera, or I may let the Pentax Auto 110 camera take control of exposure completely and just concentrate on composition. The next day maybe I'm taking the deliberative and carefully-studied approach imposed by the Calumet 45N view camera or the amazing Graflex.

Then again, I may be taking a completely different tack, shooting with one of the oddball Loreo lenses, or my pinhole lens or a zone plate lens -- each of which renders a scene in startlingly unique ways. Try it: take a photo of the same scene with a 35mm SLR and normal lens, a Minox, a Graflex, a view camera, a pinhole lens, a zone plate lens, a Loreo lens, and a 110 camera and you'll see what I mean -- each photo will be so different that some of the photos may not even look like you shot the same subject. How wonderful!

Similarly, as I produce each recording I gain new insights into how equipment affects sound, and get new ideas for eve more new designs, or for evolutions of my many existing designs. Then, as I finish each design, I learn something that helps me to make better recordings the next time. So, my recording experience makes me a better designer, and my design experience makes me a better recording engineer; they re-enforce each other. Photography adds the third cord to my creative rope, so to speak; it keeps me always off-balance, out of those deadly creative ruts. Besides, each of those cameras are really cool, man!

So you want to go pro? Here's some tips to get started.

You’re a good photographer, and now you're taking the plunge into going pro! Excellent! It's an exciting and creative career.

Here's the first steps I'd recommend that you take:

1.) Set up a great web site showcasing your work.

2. Get an Mpix account so you can get prints cheap-ish.

3. Matting: I don't care about trendy fads, do it museum style, passpartout, with white acid-free mats and neutral color frames.

4. Publicity: get the word out! Enter contests. Promote your web site. Send samples to publishers. Show your art at local exhibits, shows and art festivals.

5. Create a cult of personality. Make people they feel they know you and getting your art is the same as having you hang around, literally. Have a story for each photos. Articulate a philosophy of your art.

6. Careful with the digital processing! Don't overdo the unsharp mask or the sharpen photo, otherwise it blocks up contrast and makes grain stand out like you made the photo with Sharpie. (Some of your photos show this effect of overdoing the sharpen/enhance feature of your software.)

7. Yes, better camera, but don't let camera get in the way of great art. Some of the best photos I've ever seen were done with primitive cameras! A good camera is a convenience; it must blend seamlessly with your shooting style and artistic vision. I have 20+ cameras for a reason: each sees the subject differently and lets me take a different artistic approach to the subject. I can pick the camera that best sees as I want to interpret the scene.

8. Learn the fine points of pro photography: subtractive lighting, fill-in flash, anticipatory (hyperfocal) focus, and how different focal lengths change how the lens depicts perspective, form and sense of space.

Remember: light is the substance of your art; it gives form to the subject. The subject is merely the vehicle for the light to express itself as art. Study how light changes the subject, how it creates pattern and forms other than the overt subject. You do this instinctively already but now you need to become conscious of it and cultivate your eye.

9. HAVE FUN! If you don't have fun taking the photo, no one will have fun looking at the photo! I'm serious!

10. KEEP IT FUN! If you give too much attention to (and are too uptight will working on) being a success, that drive will crowd out your fun, stunt the spontaneity of your work, and kill your artistic vision -- leaving you as yet another "clichetographer" with their "art mills" churning out the same old stuff every other pro-wannabe cranks out. Good recipe for failure!