Flipping Great

So… as part of a plan for a new project—and in the interest of denying my gear lust, or at least lowering the cost associated with it some—I decided to buy a film camera instead of the D750.

What did I buy? How did I decide? Read on to find out…

My considerations were as follows:

  • compatibility with my current lenses
  • less than $200
  • reasonable physical and operational condition
  • fairly small and light

So pretty much any Nikon film camera, apart from the f5, f6, fm3a, and maybe a couple of others, probably from keh or the used department of one or another of the big NYC stores.

So I started researching.

Then I remembered the f100. Of course! The f100! Perfect! An f100 would use most all of my lenses and function similarly to the D7000. A good one would push through the top of my budget, but $200 was a fairly arbitrary number anyway. But somehow, I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Sure, the f100 is a nice-enough film camera, but it doesn’t quite look like a film camera. Additionally, insofar as it operates similarly to the D7000, I’d probably tend to use it similarly to the D7000: largely in Aperture mode, mostly thoughtlessly.

So then I thought, well if I’m willing to forego my budget, why not pick up an f4: great camera, would use most all of my lenses, is one of the pro film cameras, and looks pretty cool too. I hunted, but most all of them have the lcd-bleed issue. Not that that makes any difference, really: the camera should work fine, despite a bleeding lcd, but I couldn’t pull the trigger, largely because it had… a bleeding lcd. And, anyway, they’re fairly large, and on the heavy side.

What I really wanted was something a bit more manual, a bit more classy-looking, and much smaller.

So I hunted around for the smallest Nikon F-mount film camera.

Ends up, it’s the EM. Plenty of people give it plenty of glowing reviews and a used one can be had for $50 or less. Sure, there’s no manual exposure (outside of the m90 mode), but the EM is tiny and cheap, thus fulfilling three of my criteria.

The FEs and FMs (and their offspring) all look good, but the best of the lot—the fm3a—is way out of my budget, and all the others have some sort of drawback: the m’s are all full manual, so no Auto mode(s) for those times I’m feeling lazy; the e’s are all electronic, and thus turn into paperweights without batteries, mostly.

Ken Rockwell has a nice page on the various iterations, and he more or less suggests to get the fm3a (beautiful, but way too expensive) or the fa.

Now there’s one I hadn’t considered… the fa: small and light-check; fairly cheap; could use most of my lenses (except for the G’s, but none of the older, manual film cameras can use those anyway… the f100 can, but it’s an oddball, and was kicked out of the running anyway. But try as I might—and I did try, hard, for a couple of months, both through keh and ebay—I couldn’t pull the trigger on one of those either…

So I kept hunting, reading reviews, checking used and auction sites, and it took me something like 5months, but I finally pulled the trigger on one, and it’s Fabulously Groovy.

But I’ve gone on long enough for today. Stay tuned: there’s more to come on my new piece of kit, as my darling, adorable wife would say.

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