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Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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26 Oct 2020 11:51AM   Views : 429 Unique : 293



I have written about the feel of certain cameras many times, in all sorts of places. Maybe one or two people wonder what I mean, and maybe others understand something different from my interpretation.
Iím not entirely certain that everyone gets the idea, so please excuse me if I rabbit on about something that is not of any interest to you. Letís see if it helps if we start by talking about car doors. There are some that close with a satisfying, heavy clunk sound: others that clang, like a discordant cymbal. Some that bounce and fail to latch properly, whether you close them gently or slam them hard.

And itís the same with cameras. For a complete, all-round lack of a nice feel, Iíd nominate the Diana F that I bought a while back for an EPZ article. Everything about it was too stiff, or too loose, and it was, generally, very little fun at all. Sorry, Lomographers Ė it just isnít a satisfying camera to use.


Similarly, the cheap plastic autofocus film cameras of the Nineties, which creaked a bit when you squeezed them, and where the back closed with a sort of slightly metallic plastic snick. Never convincing that it was going to stay closedÖ


My benchmark is a Contax RTS, and the two pictures show the difference between the resting position and the fully depressed, shutter has gone off situation Ė well below one millimetre, and requiring less pressure than any other camera I can think of.

Similarly, the lenses have a silky, lubricated feel to the focus ring, with a lack of backlash. Change the direction of rotation, and thereís no lost movement before the focus changes. With a poor lens (and that includes most early autofocus optics) there can be one or two millimetres of movement before anything happens. This is irrespective of the quality of the results lenses produce, by the way.

A Nikon D7000 has a much longer travel to the release, though it doesnítí take a great deal more pressure than the Contax. There are three distinct points in the travel where you can feel something different is happening Ė meter, focus, release. And thatís fine when youíve got used to it: the distinct stages allow you to control your image-making very precisely.


By way of contrast, a Zorki 4 has a long-travel release, needing high pressure, and thereís no easy indication of when the shutter will go off. You just have to keep pushing until thereís a whirr and clack of the shutter going off. Iíd count the noise as being part of the feel: a sort of hollow clonk (Alpha 900) is less satisfying than the D7000ís clipped snick.


Over to you: does the feel matter to you? Have you any pet hates or loves?

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Chrism8 Avatar
Chrism8 16 1.1k 34 England
26 Oct 2020 12:41PM
I know exactly what you mean John, I use the kit I do because of the feel / balance and overall image quality, its a blend of all 3
GGAB Avatar
GGAB 7 31 1 United States
26 Oct 2020 12:55PM
I add the battery grips to all my Canon Camera's so they balance better with the big "L" glass.
altitude50 Avatar
altitude50 19 23.9k United Kingdom
26 Oct 2020 1:24PM
My favourite film camera to use is my Canon AE-1 nothing particularly outstanding but I am very used to it having put more film through it than any other camera except one.

A few months ago I did a comparison of the smooth action of the lever wind on about 10 different models of film SLR (somebody else's idea!) including a Contax 139 Q, Leica R4, Nikon FM2, Olympus Om-1,Pentax Program-A, two Yashica FX-D, the AE-1 and a couple of others. The smoothest was a Pentax S1a, possibly because it had been in use, on & off for 55+ years?
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
26 Oct 2020 2:07PM
Chris - very much agreed!

George - horses for courses... I only own one battery grip, because it was a freebie when I bought my OM-D EM-1, and don't use it often. But we do very different kinds of images, so have very different needs.

Richard - I think there are various factors that contribute to the smoothness of a lever wind, one being that older, simpler cameras - like the S1a - are only winding up a straightforward mechanism. More complex cameras with (for instance) vertical run shutters may have different things going on - quite apart from the quality of manufacture and the balance between features that the effort went into. I recall that Jaguar were immensely proud of the rear axle and suspension of the XJ-6: I think owners might have liked similar attention to reliability and feel in the power steering.
saltireblue Avatar
saltireblue Plus
13 14.5k 89 Norway
26 Oct 2020 3:54PM
When I moved form Canon (5Diii) to Fuji - initially the X-T2, subsequently the X-T3, it was a strange new world, where the camera had dials on top (shutter, ISO and exp. comp. and more) which you had to turn and lock in the correct settings, instead of a small lcd window and all changes done via menus on the rear screen. It was a baffling experience at first. However, I soon developed a ritual before taking images, almost like a pre take-off cockpit check, if you will, and this led to me slowing down and taking more time over each shot. I even found out after a while that this check had developed a set order of dial-checking.
The manual aspect of the Fuji, compared to the Canon, gives a very satisfying feeling, almost as if I am deciding, and not the more automated (or so it seemed) Canon.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
26 Oct 2020 4:47PM
Yes - dials make it feel far less fly-by-wire, Malc.

My pet hate, I have to say, is touch screens... I switch them off...

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