Pentax ZX-M

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Pentax ZX-M sporting the M 135mm f/3.5 lens

I’ve long joked that the greatest thing about digital photography is that it has pushed the price of old film gear way low. And it’s true, the Pentax PZ-1p I paid $700 for 10 years ago, can now be had in excellent condition for around $100.

Another case in point is this camera. A fellow PDML member found a lens he wanted to buy which came with this camera. The price was low enough he bought the entire package then asked the list “who wants this camera?” He got the lens he wanted and I got a neat older camera in perfect working order for the price of shipping.

While the other camera companies were adding buttons and dials like there was no tomorrow, Pentax simplified this system giving it a very retro look. I think the idea was outstanding, but I don’t think it ever really caught on. Most folks seem to like their bells and whistles, even when those bells and whistles detract from the actual experience of photography. Oh well.

Anyway, the ZX-M was the lowest model of this line. No autofocus. Center-weighted meter only. Mostly plastic body. It was aimed at the beginner/student photographer. It does offer autoexposure modes.

I’ve been shooting with it a bit and it seems like a decent enough camera, especially when you consider how much I paid for it. The viewfinder strikes me as not being as nice as my Program Plus, but that may just be a matter of acclimation. I haven’t sent in any of the film yet so I’ll have to wait for a final verdict.

In regards to my joke about digital photography things appear to be changing though. Prices for old film gear (especially lenses) have been on the rise the last several months. I think this is for several reasons.

First of all, a lot of folks who jumped on the digital bandwagon right off are now switching back to film for some or all of their work. Second, lots of younger folks who grew up in the digital era are discovering the joys of working analog.

And thirdly (and maybe most importantly), some enterprising manufacturer saw all those old, classic, vintage lenses being sold for nothing and invented adapters allowing you to mount just about any lens you find on any interchangeable lens digital camera. Damn it anyway.

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iPhoto vs Photoshop

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For the past several years, I’ve used iPhoto for nearly all of my personal photography editing needs.

I’ve tried out the various demos of Aperture and Lightroom and Photoshop. I simply have not been able to fully convince myself to spend the money for one.

I think one of the reasons I’ve never been able to persuade myself to purchase one of the “major” editors stems from my practice of striving to make my photo in-camera as much as possible and only using the editor for final, minute tweaks.

iPhoto is perfectly capable of giving a well-made exposure the final tuning it needs for printing. It cannot however salvage a poor image. The “I’ll fix it in Photoshop” attitude has always rubbed me the wrong way.

Ducking into Hastings last night, I was perusing B&W Magazine and was excited to find these sentiments mirrored somewhat by one of the authors expounding on the reasons he preferred film photography and silver gelatin printing.

One of the reasons was he felt Photoshop gave people too much control over the image.

For the time being, I am happy to shoot my film, scan the negs and print digitally. There is no possibility of me having a darkroom at this point in time, however I can definitely see the time coming when I will want to be able to make my own traditional, wet darkroom prints again.

Film vs digital photography: cost

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Most folks today run on the assumption that digital capture is less expensive than film photography.

And on a per-shot basis, they’re generally right.

The thing is it’s not that simple.

With digital you pay most of your costs when you purchase the camera, there’s relatively little to buy after that one major expenditure. Using film the costs are broken up into small payments over a long period of time.

What it comes down to is this: I cannot afford to plunk down $1,000 for a digital camera.

But I can afford to buy a $69 ME Super with $30 M-50mm f/2 lens one month. A couple months later I can splurge on a $50 M-135/3.5 lens, and I’ve been thinking maybe one of the 28mm lenses which run about $100 might be nice to have soon. All the while buying one or two Wal-Mart four packs of Fuji film a month at $6 a pop, get them developed at $3 a roll and scan them myself on my $125 Epson V500.

And I’m not even going to talk about how the $69 ME Super will probably be running strong long after the $1,000 dSLR has bit the dust (or worse, gets thrown away in perfect working order because it’s “obsolete”). Not going to go there. 😉

This is not to say that the only reason I shoot film is because I can’t afford to buy digital. I truly prefer film photography and will willingly continue to shell out ever-increasing amounts of money to continue working in this medium.

I’m just kind of tired hearing everyone spout off about film being so expensive all the time.

Analog in a digital world

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There’s something special about paper and pencil.

Permanence.

It’s something you can hold. Something you can look at. No further technological input required.

What I wrote earlier tonight — barring catastrophe — could be picked up 100 years hence and read.

It won’t matter what a computer looks like then, or even if they exist at all.

My great-great-grandchildren with their direct neural connections to the net could find the (paper) notebook in which I wrote this post and see what I had to say. This blog will be long gone.

It’s one of the reasons I prefer my photography as prints.

Physical analog copies have a staying power that bits and bytes cannot have unless the keeper of the information has the time and money for the constant upgrading of file formats and storage media.

Five-and-a-quarter inch disks made way for 3.5’s which were replaced by CD-ROMs until Blu-Ray came along. Hard drives are starting to fall to flash-based media. Computers are obsolete the day after you buy them.

My shoebox of prints and negs will also be there 100 years from now.

The upgrade cycle is great for tech company’s bottom lines. I am weary of it.

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