Answering Your Questions About Cameras and Photography – 001

Answering Your Questions About Cameras and Photography – 001

2560 1440 James Tocchio

I recently asked our readers and friends on social media to Ask Me Anything (about cameras and photography, mostly). I promised to answer some of those questions in an article on the site, and today we’re doing it.

The answers in this article are informed by ten years of shooting a different camera every week, and writing articles about cameras and photography over the same period of time. Though I’m undeniably a dummy, I hope the answers, opinions, and advice included here will help, or advise, or (at the very least) entertain.

If you have a question you’d like answered the next time I do this, ask it in the comments section of this article. I’d like to do this sort of article every couple of weeks, but only if it’s something you all enjoy.

And let us know if you agree, disagree, or have a different perspective on any of the questions below!

[Some of the links in this article will direct users to our affiliates at B&H Photo, Amazon, and eBay. By purchasing anything using these links, Casual Photophile may receive a small commission at no additional charge to you. This helps Casual Photophile produce the content we produce. Many thanks for your support.]

Q1: What do you think about the retro styling of the Nikon ZF? – Daler Fergani

I’ve been shooting the Nikon ZF for the last few months, coincidentally, so a full review of that camera will be coming soon. The short answer is that the Nikon ZF is the second-most beautiful digital camera I’ve ever used, and the best looking camera in Nikon’s mirror-less lineup. I adore the camera’s extremely restrained splashes of color (blue paint on the dials), and I think the satin-sheen of its paint is absolutely perfect. It’s not matte or speckled like the more traditionally-styled Nikon Z5, Z6, Z7, Z8, and Z9, and not quite as glossy as the old Nikon film cameras.

I once said that the Nikon FM3a and FE2 are my favorite Nikon SLRs, which is still true. The ZF has all the looks of these amazing machines. Aesthetically? It’s perfect.

Q2: Any plans to cover 1990s Canon EF bodies? They’re the last best value in film photography. – cfurz

This question confused me a little bit, because we’ve written dozens of articles about Canon EF cameras and lenses, and I’ve even written articles advising new photographers to skip the Pentax K1000s and Canon AE1s and Nikon F3s, and instead opt for plastic-fantastic autofocus SLRs from the late ’90s and early 2000s. They’re just better, and Instagram user “cfurz” is right; Canon made some of the best.

But then again, it’s entirely possible that readers are having a hard time finding certain reviews on the site (I do think that Casual Photophile could use a bit of an overhaul soon).

Baby steps – I’ve started by adding a “By System” section to the website’s main menu, and will be organizing this to completion over the next week. By clicking on “By System” readers will be able to get to all of the reviews and articles about their preferred camera system with one simple click (i.e., Canon EF, Nikon F, Nikon Z, Leica M, etc.). I hope this helps!

Q3: Should I buy a Hasselblad X-Pan? – BaxMevill

Why buy the imposter when you could buy a FujiFilm TX-1? Fuji made the dang thing, after all. Skip the X-Pan and buy a TX-1 instead!

[See our review of the Hasselblad X Pan here!]

Q4: What is your go-to film camera? – charlieslrpics

My go-to camera changes depending on what I’m shooting. And this advise is useful for anyone who might have fallen into the trap of thinking that they need “this or that” trendy camera. I adore my limited edition Nikon SP 2005, but that camera cost me $4,500 and I’m not taking it to the beach. For that, I’m using a cheap SLR with a 50mm F/1.8 or F/1.7 prime lens.

But I suppose that doesn’t answer the question, which could be rephrased as “What camera do you grab for most often?” And by that metric, in normal shooting situations when I’m simply living my life and taking pictures of it, my go-to camera is a Minolta A7. That said, any similarly specced camera could take its place. The Nikon N65, Canon EOS Elan or Elan II; something like that, something that I know will just get the shot and get out of the way.

Q5: What’s your best advice for someone switching from analog to digital? – Catarinamilhais

I think the switch from analog photography to digital doesn’t need to be too complicated. Just sit down and determine the key factors – budget and needs. To start, figure out how much money you’re willing to spend, and then sort by price.

A few key points that I will mention, however – If you already have a set of lenses that can be used on digital cameras as well, start there. Pentax K mount users should look at Pentax DSLRs, Canon EF users should look at Canon DSLRs, Leica M users will want a Leica digital, and Nikon F mount users might want to look at Nikon’s DSLRs (although we’ve just heard that all Nikon DSLR production has ended, as they turn their full attention to the new Z series mirror-less cameras).

If you love the feel of analog cameras, try to find a digital camera which offers the same tactile experience. In this way, I like the Leica Q series, Nikon ZF or ZFc, Fujifilm’s many X series cameras, etc. Cameras like these offer the same sort of user experience as film cameras.

Laslty, don’t stress about buying a bad digital camera. None of the major manufacturers have made a bad digital camera in a long time. They’re all pretty amazing.

Q6: Is there any good reason to get a rangefinder camera if I already have a bunch of SLRs? – _soeik

Absolutely. But you needn’t spend a ton of money doing so. There are a number of inexpensive rangefinders that are truly wonderful cameras. I’ve written three or four articles listing them, in fact. See those here, here, and here.

Rangefinders, TLRs, SLRs, Polaroids, Instax cameras, medium format versus 35mm; all of these different types of camera offer entirely unique experiences and I think it’s useful, or important, or maybe even fun (remember fun?) to have new experiences. Some people say that rangefinders are better, or SLRs are better, or this brand is better than that brand. All of that is nonsense. No camera format is “better” than another. They’re just different.

Sometimes I use a rangefinder, sometimes I use an SLR. I wouldn’t want either format to disappear forever.

We are all seeking a feeling of natural comfort. Our friends are people we feel comfortable with. Our spouse is the person we feel most comfortable with. We read the authors for whom we feel kinship. We love the music we grew up with. We all want to feel at home. For some of us, SLRs feel right and for others, it’s a rangefinder. I encourage everyone to buy an inexpensive (but good quality) example of whatever type of camera they’ve never used, and give it a shot. That’s how this website began ten years ago, after all.

Q7: Did you ever think about doing a podcast? – martino.schillaci

I’ve spoken to some of the other writers about creating a podcast, and we’ve all been interested in the idea from time to time. But it’s a big time commitment and we’d really want to bring something unique to the listeners. For these reasons, we’ve just never launched into it. I love to talk about cameras, believe me. If any of our readers are podcast producers who want to volunteer to run the Casual Photophile podcast, do get in touch!

Q8: What’s the best camera that Nikon ever made? – lrarabian

Nikon’s best film camera (specs and features) is the Nikon F6. Easy!

Nikon’s best film camera (all things considered – rarity, aesthetics, collectibility, usability, cachet) is the Nikon SP 2005 Limited Edition. And I swear, I’m going to publish my review this week.

Nikon’s best digital camera is the Nikon Z9. No question. But for $5,500, it better be.

But Nikon has made so many amazing cameras. It’s absurd! Let me just point to a few of my personal favorites: the Nikonos underwater cameras, the Nikon FM3a, random Nikon point-and-shoots from the early 2000s, the Nikon Action Touch, the Nikon F2, the Nikon N2000… there’s just so many.

Q9: Picked up my first TLR, a Yashica, and would like to know hot to clean it myself. – lensarticulate

We have an in-depth article all about the best practices for cleaning, storing, and even repairing classic cameras. See that article here. The short answer is; Q-tips, isopropyl alcohol, mild cleaners, soft-bristled brushes, and a nice air blower. See the linked article for the step-by-steps, but it’s easy stuff.

Q10: What is the one vintage lens you would love to try or own at some point? – alexcosy

This is such a great question, because as we all know, the lens is the heart of the camera. Without beautiful glass, a camera body is nothing. And in today’s modern era, a time in which old lenses can be so easily adapted to modern mirror-less cameras, vintage and special lenses are more relevant than ever.

I’ve used a lot of lenses over the years. I’m a big fan of sharp, fast, interesting lenses which render with a special character. One of my all-time favorites is the Zeiss Planar 45mm F/2 for the Contax G series. I reviewed that lens here. But wait. I wasn’t asked about lenses that I’ve used, but rather about which I’d want to use.

If I had to choose one lens, it’s going to be the lens that comes fixed to an extremely specialized camera created by Zeiss in 1969. This camera, called the Zeiss Ikon Hologon Ultrawide, is nothing more than a simple camera body whose only purpose is to hold the Hologon Ultrawide 15mm F/8 lens that’s fixed to it. And that’s the lens I want to shoot.

I know that I can find this very lens (and similar versions from later years) in many different lens mounts. But I really want to shoot the one found in the original Hologon camera. They only made 1400 or so of those things and I’ve yet to convince myself that I should spend the big chunk of change that buying one requires. But who knows? Maybe this is the year.

Bonus Question: Favorite flavor of milkshake? – Sjeffgreenstein

Is coffee a milkshake?

The best part of running this site for the past decade (aside from the endless millions of dollars in revenue) has been connecting with photo geeks, helping people enjoy the hobby of photography more than they might without my site, and just being exposed to so many readers and photographers from all over the world.

When I’ve had the opportunity to interact with you all through social media or even at in-person events, it has been so energizing and lovely. The times that we’ve hosted Ask Me Anythings on social media have been similarly fun. Hopefully you all enjoy them as well.

I plan to continue running AMAs on Instagram and elsewhere, and sharing some of the fun questions and answers with you all here on the site in articles like this one. If that sounds interesting (or not) let me hear about it in the comments below.

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[Some of the links in this article will direct users to our affiliates at B&H Photo, Amazon, and eBay. By purchasing anything using these links, Casual Photophile may receive a small commission at no additional charge to you. This helps Casual Photophile produce the content we produce. Many thanks for your support.]

James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop

All stories by:James Tocchio
  • The XPan was introduced in 1998, and the XPan II in 2003. I remember considering buying one back in 2002. I went to the main Hasselblad distributor in my city to take a look. I brought along a roll of film and they suggested I take the camera outside for a quick photo-walk, trusting me purely on gut instinct I guess. I could simply have walked away with it and never come back! (I guess they had me on CCTV, but still, they just handed me the camera and let me walk out the door.) Anyway, I decided it wasn’t for me and I bought a Noblex 135S instead – which I still have, use and love. There’s a cult around the XPan nowadays, and the supply/demand ratio has sent prices crazy. Personally, I just can’t get along with a rangefinder. Remember, there’s no perfect camera. The XPan is probably ideal for some people, but I’d advise anyone not to let the intenet hype overly spellbind you.

  • I Love vintage cameras and such. I cant wait to read your SP review. I have a s3 and I use the lenses from that camera adapted to leica M with an amedeo so I can shoot the lenses digitally. Unfortunately the 3.5cm f1.8 lens wont work with the adapter. I recently used my hasselblad 907x with the amedeo adapter and 5cm f1.4 S mount lens. Its a goofy looking thing but creates the coolest most characteristic photos ever.

    A good bang for your buck canon ef camera is the eos 1 or 1n. I have owned both and they are tough and cheep. Pro spec for some times around 100$ for a body. I have an eos 3 now and love it too. I think I payed 150$ for it.

    Random thoughts above but thanks for keeping Casual Photophile going! its been a pleasure reading it for years!

  • Dear James

    I just wanted to quickly thank you for creating this site and providing us with all these beautifully written and inspiring articles.
    I enjoy them very much and have learned so much about photography since I began reading your (and the guest authors’) articles.

    Thank you!

  • I grew up on the north shore but moved to JP for work. I think this will be my last year here but I never took the time to explore. What are some locations south of Boston I shouldn’t miss?

    • South of Boston? I personally like Florida.

      In all seriousness, Chatham, Sandwich, and a bunch of other small villages on the cape are nice. Martha’s Vineyard is great, but it takes a ferry to get there. And none of these places are worth visiting between November 1st and April 1st.

  • And what is the most beautiful digital camera you’ve ever used?

  • I’d second the Minolta A7 as a great modern, everyday, under-appreciated overperformer, paired with Minolta AF lenses boasting equally outstanding performance. I’ve owned 2 A7 bodies. Have you had any trouble with the door latch? The film door on my second A7 doesn’t shut tight – you can kind of pry it open.

  • Hi James,

    Given your vast experience, I’m wondering:

    Which (not toy or entry point-and-shoot) camera did you keep going back to, hoping it wouldn’t disappoint you the next time around, only to conclude that it’s just not going to ever deliver the promised goods?

    Same theme: which film stock (not expired or lomo specialty) felt like a waste of effort over and over again? Thanks!

  • I have a question. Can you offer any encouragement to this slide film enthusiast? Opening the lab envelope and unfurling that sheet of little blue jewels is the essential film experience, but it’s becoming unsustainably expensive, and my favourite film, Provia 100F, is now hard to find at any price. Is anyone going to make things easier or more affordable for me, or should I just learn to love negative film instead?

  • I love your site have been reading it for years!

    My plastic fantastic is the Nikon N80. Put the Voigtlander 40mm SL II on it and I get full matrix metering, manual controls (or auto exposure), beautiful images and pancake form factor. Or toss on any AF-D Nikkor for auto focus. Fuss free!

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop

All stories by:James Tocchio