Relationships is a new series about how my loved ones shape me. It also pertains to the realization that I am a completely different person to everyone I know, and that my personality is only constant to myself. Each photograph is made with my Nikon Df and 50mm lens. I plan on continuing this series over the coming months.
First available in 1982, the Nikon FG is a compact, consumer-grade 35mm SLR. It functioned in Nikon's line-up as a baby brother of sorts to the more professional FE model. As their cheapest SLR at the time of release, Nikon's FG was intended for use by amateurs who wanted to deepen their knowledge of photography. This is made apparent by the inclusion of a speaker that screams at the user if they try to use incorrect settings (thankfully this can be turned off). The FG has manual, aperture priority, and program (full-auto) exposure modes. It accepts all AI and AI-S F-mount lenses, but non-AI lenses will not meter or mount properly.
The shutter on the FG is electronic, and requires two 357 button batteries in order to fire. In case you run out of batteries, the camera can still fire at 1/90th and bulb. Shutter speeds between 1 second and 1/1000th are available, and the selection dial is one of the best I've ever experienced on a 35mm camera. The dial is large, and hangs off the front of the camera for easy adjustment. In conjunction with the shutter dial, the internal light meter is one of the nicest I've seen; leagues better than the more expensive F3's meter. All of the shutter speeds are displayed on the focus screen, with a solid red LED next to the speed you currently have selected. Next to the speed the camera thinks you should use, a red light will blink. It's super intuitive and way nicer than a match-needle or over/under LED meter system.
One of the perks of the FG is that it's totally tiny! Its diminutive size is accentuated when the camera is paired with a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 E lens, as seen above. Thanks to its plastic build, the FG is also lightweight and easy to carry around all day. If you want the camera to be even comfier, there exists an optional plastic grip that attaches to the front of the camera. The build does feel a bit on the cheap side compared to other cameras in its league; I don't think this camera could handle too many drops or other mishaps.
Besides the somewhat cheapy build, there isn't a lot to complain about with the Nikon FG. My personal gripe is that it can't perform multiple exposures, but that probably wont bother most people. The shutter is kinda loud and sounds like a dying robot. The camera is not modular like more expensive 35mm cameras (no interchangeable focusing screens or viewfinders), but most beginning photographers wont care about that. The FG gets the basics right, for a price that shouldn't set you back more than $125 with a lens. I highly recommend the FG for photography students who are taking their first darkroom course.
I took my FG out with me on a few bike rides to test it out. Below are some pictures I made with it. I used a 50mm f/1.8 E lens and Arista 400 film.
Cameras don't get much more beautifully steampunk than Kodak's first 35mm camera, the Kodak 35. Released in 1938, the Kodak 35 is a simple, yet well-made viewfinder camera designed for amateur photographers. Though compact and easy to take with you, the camera's metal and Bakelite build feels solid in the hand. I love the symmetrical nature of the design. It's essentially a heavy, functional piece of Art Deco jewelry. I had this camera sitting on my shelf for a few years as decoration, and just recently decided to put some film through it.
By today's standards, the 80-year-old Kodak 35 is pretty clunky in operation. Advancing and rewinding the film is done by rotating the knurled knobs on top of the camera, which can be a slow process. A small button next to the advance knob has to be pressed before the film can be wound to the next frame. Advancing the film also cocks the shutter, so multiple exposures are basically impossible. There's a cool little red indicator on the lens that tells you if the shutter is cocked and ready to fire or not. Be careful not to advance the film too quickly; I ripped my film trying to wind it on because I was a bit too aggressive and impatient.
Take note that you cannot fire the shutter without film in the camera, and the frame counter needs to be reset manually before each roll.
The leaf shutter in the Kodak 35 is by no means quick. It tops out at a speed of 1/150th, so I recommend using a slower speed film if you plan on making pictures in bright sunlight. The only available speeds are 1/25, /50, 1/100, 1/150, and B+T. Available lens apertures depend on which iteration of the Kodak 35 you own. Mine is a later, post WWII model, and has an f/4.5 "Anaston" lens. Regardless of iteration, all Kodak 35 lenses have a 51mm field of view.
Acquiring exact focus with this 51mm lens is a challenge, as the Kodak 35 does not have any kind of focusing aid. All you can do is guess, and there is no depth-of-field scale on the lens to help zone focus. Needless to say, close-ups can be quite difficult to pull off.
While focusing is tough, composing works great, thanks to the Kodak 35's nifty folding finder. The finder is surprisingly bright and sharp, and it is even parallax corrected thanks to a little distance knob below the mechanism. For me, this finder is the Kodak 35's most iconic feature.
Image quality is AWFUL. All of my pictures came out extremely soft, which surprised me, because most of my exposures were made at f/11 or f/16 with the camera's fastest shutter speed in decent light. At first I thought my focusing was off, but nothing in these pictures turned out sharp. I do not recommend using this camera, but it's still a cool camera to have on your shelf. Below are some pictures I made with my Kodak 35 using Portra 160 film.