I’ve recently decided that I’ll attempt to have a proper holiday this summer, and a holiday more or less requires taking photographs. I have a Canon Powershot S50 that I bought several years ago, which is a 5 megapixel camera that’s done me pretty well, though it’s limited to a 3x optical zoom.
I also have a camera I received for my 18th birthday, which is a Nikon FG-20 SLR. It’s been gathering dust for far too long, so I’ve scrubbed it up, and have been busily taking a few snaps here and there, to make sure my technique isn’t too rusty, and also to experiment with shooting in black and white. You can see some more of the results on my Flickr photo stream.
One of the things that I’ve noticed is that with digital cameras, people spend an awful lot of time snapping everything. Because it’s cheap, we don’t always spend so long thinking about what will be a good shot, and trust that at least some will be really good.
Worse, very often you see people who end up experiencing significant parts of their holiday not first hand, but through the viewfinder or screen of their camera, as they snap every inch of the inside of a cathedral, rather than standing and marvelling in awe at their surroundings. They may tell themselves they’ll relive the experience when they look at the photos, but if you didn’t really use your eyes first time round, is that even possible?
So, I’m thinking of taking my old Nikon on holiday with me to shoot film, and most likely in black and white, with the intention that that will make me think more before clicking the shutter.
Of course, I’d quite like a decent digital camera too; my Canon is ok, but lacks the resolution of newer models, and things like a decent movie mode. I have a couple of lenses for the Nikon SLR, and I’m probably going to buy at least one more – a wide angle – before I head off on holiday.
The obvious choice for protecting that investment would be a Nikon digital SLR. Unfortunately, none of the ones that I can afford will actually meter with my old manual lenses; you don’t find that functionality until you reach the D7000, which at £900 for just the body is really a bit more than I want to spend right now; the D300s will work with them too, but that’s £1100 for the body only. If you’re in a similar position, you may find this page helpful, as it explains what functionality you get when you mate different Nikon lenses and cameras; it doesn’t include the new D5100, but that won’t meter with manual lenses either.
A micro solution?
One solution that I’m considering – and hoping to be able to borrow the equipment to try – is a Micro 4/3 camera, like the Panasonic DMC-G2 or Olympus PEN E-PL1. These are more compact than an SLR, so won’t be too much trouble to lug around alongside the Nikon.
And, though they’re designed primarily to work with their own lenses, one of the things I find most interesting about the Micro 4/3 system is that there are adaptors available – which can be bought for around £30 on eBay – which allow you to mount many other types of lens. You can, apparently, still get metering to work, by telling the camera there’s no lens mounted.
So, in theory it should be possible to use my old Nikon lenses on one of these cameras, and that’s what I’ll be exploring on my holiday. It may turn out that things are too limited to be worth it – there certainly are restrictions, and differences. For instance, the ‘crop factor’ means that a 24mm lens from the SLR will effectively become a 48mm when mounted on a micro 4/3 system. More interestingly, my 70-210 zoom will become the equivalent of a 140-420 zoom. And there will be compromises with depth of field.
It may, then, turn out that it’s not really worth worrying about using my old lenses, for many tasks, and the best thing to do is to save up for a Nikon DSLR, or simply accept that I can’t really carry on using them in the digital domain. But it should be an interesting experiment, and one that I’m looking forward to.