Traditional Photography: Film

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Frame 36.

Having used my Nikon FA for the past few days, I've started to learn a little.

I would pull out my Nikon FA only with:

- Scenes with wide dynamic range, and

- Scenes with colours that digital can't handle well (like bright red, red-red, deep green, purple, etc.)

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I realized that all of my shots (till current frame) were made in aperture-priority mode. Why? Because this is how I shoot under bright daylight. When light is ample, shutter speed isn't a matter- thus I focus my attention towards the depth of field. In dim light however, I switch to S mode to take control of the shutter speed to reduce any unwanted blur. However with slow film, I never shoot under dim light. Even if I shoot in dark with a tripod, the shutter speed becomes negligible and I'd focus myself on the depth of the image instead.

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Since every single exposure costs me around 1 bucks, I now shoot less. I shoot film only when I see something interesting or attractive, and normally only 1 frame for each scene/subject. With my D90, I take 20 shots of the same thing, and only use 1 of them.

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I've read that the FA will overexpose a little in scenes with high contrast. Well this is ok considering that it's the first ever camera to offer Matrix metering (called AMP metering at that time). To compensate, I dial in 0.7 stops underexposure in such situation. We'll see when the results come out.

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I often get frustrated when bright points of lights in my photo are washed out and appears as a sharp white circle. That's the same when I check the histogram and notice a distinct straight line on the most right side of (red) histogram. In such situation I'll underexpose a little and pull them back in Lightroom later. But woot! All that follows are ugly noise and coarse details.

However, film can overexpose and still not wash out into a complete white paste. Film can overload gradually, unlike digital which when the load is full it straightly bangs the wall and haemorrhage. That's why I shoot film in high contrast scene- but I'd need to take an eye at the exposure.

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Few days before I tried shooting candles and some lantern with my trusty D90. My cousin was playing with a red lantern that night and the colour was superlatively vivid. It's a very reddish red (like Ferrari red or Chinese red) and it makes a perfect photographing subject. I took a few shots and reviewed the images- woot! I was shocked when I saw the pink, detail-less paste of "thing" on my LCD. I zoomed in and saw no detail in the photo. The exposure seems to be correct, and the lantern looks just 1/3 stop overexposed. I checked the histogram and- sacre merde, the red channel was totally blown out.

Just a matter of fact, the red is the easiest channel to blow (bleed). What's more, the colour space (sRGB, Adobe RGB or whatever) of digital sensors are restricted- primary red can't be shown on digital display. Red-red only goes to an orange/yellow-red. Try taking an image of a fire-truck in daylight. Then check your RGB histogram. You'll see.

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Film however, captures all the colours we see. Red-red, red-red-red, anything. The dark, deep green of many trees you see on film can't be reproduced by digital. Try compare your film image with digital image. You'll see the difference.

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By the way, I've found out an awesome website about Tokyo's "camera style". It is so darn cool. I never knew that in Tokyo that you can randomly spot so many people bringing not just DSLR, but gorgeous film cameras around! "It’s almost to the point where I am starting to believe that every single person who passes me on the street in Tokyo has a Leica M on them." You can see many LEICA M3s, Nikon manual focus film cameras, Rolleiflex medium format cameras, Contax rangefinders, Olympus film cameras, Canon manual focus cameras on the street! This is just awesome, really. now I feel like going to Japan, not Korea.

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By the way, there are a few minor complaints about my Nikon FA. As you know I bought this camera used, and (due to the relatively inexpensive price) compromised on its cosmetics. Well I surely can't tolerate with any mechanical failure at this price for the camera. Generally this Nikon FA is in good shape with not too many wears and dents. But still, it doesn't come with the detachable handgrip. The previous owner must have been using the MD-12/15 motordrive and lost the handgrip, hmm. That's too bad because I needed the handgrip to feel that this FA is "perfect" (in terms of parts).

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Second issue on this camera is the rubber surrounding the viewfinder has a small part of it chipped off. Again I feel the imperfection. The third thing about this camera is the minor dents around the ring connecting to the neck-strap. And oh, then remaining feelings of imperfection comes from the brassing of the camera. Haha.

Well one day I'll buy another perfect Nikon FA for collection. And FE and FM and F and F4. Woohoo.

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P.S: The plastic AF 50mm 1.8 doesn't match well with the Nikon FA. I'll buy a used solid metal 50mm 1.4 or any other manual focus lenses in near future to match with this great camera ;)

P.P.S: All shots made with available sunset light shining into my room.

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