Tag Archives: film camera

The Minolta 600si And Why You Should Buy One

I have been on a film use slump.  I have a closet full of film and I just have not been shooting film for the last six months.  Why, I bought a full frame Nikon D750 and two lenses in May six months ago and spent the whole summer and September using-testing it.  Then I sold the D750 and lenses and bought a Sony A7iii.  And I have been testing it for the last two months.  Yesterday after writing the previous post about how it was hard to love the Sony, today I thought, “Use a camera you really do love and have some fun”.  So I got out my original Minolta 600si that was loaded with Portra 400 and got out my best, but heaviest tripod and started shooting.  At first I did not get out the tripod out of laziness.  I have learned in the last few years that if you want to get the best flower and plant shots a tripod helps.  When you are doing close ups it is always best to have the camera rock steady.

macro of 4th of july
All of the photos in this post are from the first two rolls I put through my first Minolta 600si when I got the camera.  The film is slightly expired Fuji 400 Superia and the lens that came with the camera at Sigma 50mm 2.8 macro.  All of these were shot hand held.

One of the great benefits of shooting film over digital is that you have to wait to get it processed and cannot edit it immediately.  What I mean is that you can have an enjoyable shoot and then keep enjoying yourself.  You do not have to feel obligated to edit what you just shot.  With film if you are using a good quality not long expired film likely all of the shots will come out.  Maybe some need tweaking a bit but I almost never have ruined shots any more.

Purple Haze

The above shot was the fourth shot I took with this camera and when I saw it I just went, “Wow”!  Keep in mind this was consumer grade film from Wal Mart that was given to me for free and the processing was with a just OK lab.

When I get my film back from the lab scanned it usually is mostly processed and edited when I get it.  Sure I Lightroom it a bit if needed, but way more often than when using a digital SLR the film shots come out right from the get go.  And they are already in jpeg, plus I have the negatives or positives and a CD scan as back ups.

Back to why I love the Minolta 600si.  This thing was designed and made as an anti menu statement.  All controls are easy to use and this is a modern camera, auto focus with more than one point, adjustable metering with spot, center, and matrix, auto film load, advance, and rewind, top LCD giving you setting information, front and back adjustment wheel, even high speed sync on the flash.

Minolta 600si
top view of 600si

All functions are obvious marked simple switches, dials, or marked buttons.  Things that are individual marked controls are AF mode (Continuous, Auto, Single), Auto focus area (simple marked switch with picture grams ), Exposure (spot, center, matrix), exposure and flash exposure compensation dials, just like todays full frame digitals the front control dial is for shutter setting and the rear dial for f-stop, there is a mode dial with program, A, M, S, and drive switch with double exposure, bracket, single, multiple, and timer.  In the manual it points out that if you have all the switches so they are either vertical or horizontal you are set on full auto and you can just point and shoot.  Full Manual is also very easy to activate.

Riding train

Red rose bud

Picture of Barbara on skyway
The 600si easily shifts from people to macro if you have the right lens.  What it cannot do is give neutral color if the film tends to go a little green like Fuji can.

Having individual switches and dials for adjustments means you just make one direct movement to change the setting.

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If you want to adjust AF area you just move the setting lever.  Same with metering.  Spot, center, or matrix meter setting you look at the dial and either move it or not.  On the Nikon D750 or Sony A7iii you push the metering button and then change the setting.  With the Nikon D5500 you need to bring up the back touch screen.  Touch the place for setting, and then touch the setting you want.  It is certainly true that the digital cameras have more settings.  If you need those extra settings then the 600si won’t do for you.  Very likely you do not need them.

Auto focus mode.

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Same deal.  Look at the knob and set to what you need.  One movement.  No menu screen.

Or look at the way the 600si handles drive.

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Simple and direct.  The indicator switch can be set to double exposure, bracket, single shot, multiple shots, and timer.  The Sony A7iii is about ten times this complex.  It has all the settings for this, but you have to remember where they are in the drive settings.  The Nikons are also much more complicated but much easier to learn than the Sony.

The 600si also has a built in flash.  I think this is a significant feature.  The Nikon D5500 and D750 do too.  But the Sony A7iii left it off.  Why?  They included it on my tiny compact camera and include it on the crop sensor bodies.  It is much better to use a full size flash, but the built ins are very good for fill in.

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You will also notice the Minolta has a double dial for exposure compensation and flash compensation.  And the Minolta does high speed flash.  And very handily it has built in motor drive for loading, advancing, and rewinding film plus auto film speed.

Conclusions – To me the Minolta 600si is for the film shooter who wants automation plus manual.  So this camera is good for landscape, people, and wildlife.  Landscape is usually easy and all manual settings usually work fine.  But for people and wildlife it helps to have some automatic features.  As a bonus, with an adaptor you can get the AF lenses from this camera to work on the Sony A7 bodies almost as though they were native lenses.  I have found the auto focus and exposure work very well.  Not so much with the TTL flash.  These camera bodies sell for about $35 on eBay.  Make sure you get a good one and maybe pay a bit more.  The batteries are not common, but for sale on the internet at reasonable prices.  I have found the batteries are good for a year or two.  The manual states 15 rolls of film.  I think it is about double that.  I would suspect it depends on how much you use the built in flash.  I bought a very capable high speed sync Minolta flash on eBay for $35.  And I bought the 24mm f2.8 macro lens you see in the picture above on eBay for $80.  The lens is a Sigma/Quantaray.

If you buy one of these in good working condition you will be able to learn to use it in a day.  The manual is on the internet.  It is simple, simple, simple to use.  I would guess you can get a whole kit with one body and three lenses for $150.  A stunning deal.  I already have $4,600 into my Sony A7iii with only two lenses.

Film Fiasco

Several times I have posted on this blog that I love using film instead of digital some of the time.  But the two rolls of film I used over the holidays that just ended turned out terrible.  I was only able to save a few pictures using heavy edits in Lightroom.  Why, well I let myself get lazy because my digital cameras are very new and they work quite well with no effort other than point and shoot.  So even though the last 10-15 rolls of film I have shot have had almost all of the shots turn out great, I took them all in daylight and outdoors.  The two rolls I shot in the last few weeks were indoors and I mostly used a flash.  And the film I used was balanced for outdoor light and not for flash or indoor lighting.

So the color balance was terrible.  But there were also other problems.  On one of the rolls I shot about half the pictures using a 135mm lens which is a medium telephoto.  Well, 35 year old lenses don’t come with vibration reduction.  So I took quite a few pictures at too slow a shutter speed.

My first reaction was to make a New Years resolution to give up taking film pictures.  I actually put my least favorite 35mm SLR on ebay.  But then I cooled down.  The bad pictures were my own fault.

poor white balance shot
poor white balance shot

Modern cameras have become so good that most people today don’t really know how to take pictures, they just point to camera/ computer at what they want an image of and usually the result is acceptable.  Even my six month old Nikon can be used without adjusting it at all.  You just put it on automatic and it does almost everything.  However, if you want better than acceptable it takes a lot of learning and some skill.

Both taking great digital pictures or great film pictures takes lots of effort.  It is the same with cars.  Automatic transmissions are nearly universal today.  I learned to drive with a manual trans and still in many ways prefer it.  On a sports car I much prefer a manual.  Even on my Jeep Wrangler.  The one thing I would like to change on it is to have a manual gear box.  Automatics work fine, but if you want to learn to drive well or really feel what your car’s wheels are doing nothing can beat a stick.  And if you want great photos you can’t just set your camera on auto.  What you will get is moments but not art.

I will restate my feelings about digital vs film.  One is not better than the other they are different.  Just as watercolor painting does not replace oil paints, digital does not replace film.  But there is also the factor of old lenses.  All lenses have a different look.  Many modern lenses are quite sharp but they don’t look the same as a vintage lens. My son is a TV and movie professional cameraman.  He has a large collection of vintage Leica lenses he puts on modern digital bodies.  Why, because of the look you get.  Are the old lenses better than the modern lenses?  That is not the right question.  The old lenses give him the look he wants for his art.

So my new years resolution is that I am going to keep a log of how I shot pictures in the notes app on my iPhone.  That way when I get the film developed I can refer back to the log and see what I did right or wrong.  I am also going to try some regular consumer grade film from Kodak.  I have been using the expensive pro grade stuff only and I am going to try out the regular grade because it is set up to be used indoors and out.  With or without flash.  Plus I will save a significant amount of money.  Pro film now seems to run at least 10 bucks a roll.  Ouch.  Regular consumer grade $2-4.50.

August 7 2016 update.  It was my fault that the film photos came out badly.  The film was expired.  The film I used was not supposed to be used for indoor shots.  The next two rolls of film I used after this had unexpired film and was shot outdoors.  The results were great.

Here is one of the shots.  And this is low cost Fuji Superia 400

4th of July rose

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More Pixels Is Usually Better

I run checks with different cameras and I can say in general that more pixels is better.  Makes sense that if you have more information on the image that it will carry more detail, color, and depth.

This is a finely detailed scan of a 35mm film picture taken with an Olympus OM2n.  Originally it is a 38 mp image.
This is a finely detailed scan of a 35mm film picture taken with an Olympus OM2n. Originally it is a 38 mp image.

When you open this image full size on a large monitor the details are very good and the color is very rich.  Some of this richness has to do with the film process as opposed to digital.

Here is an cropped image of a bush taken from our yard.  The first one is from a Nikon image that was originally about 11 mp.

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Here is a crop of shot that was originally about 4 mp.

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As you can see there is much more detail in the image with over twice the pixels.

Of course photo quality is a combination of many things.  For example.  Here are four shots with three different digital cameras and one film camera.  The first one is with a Motorola Maxx cell phone.

motorola

 

This is an older Sony compact with a Zeiss lens.  Approx the same mp as the cell phone.
This is an older Sony compact with a Zeiss lens. Approx the same mp as the cell phone.
This is a Nikon shot with twice the pixels of the cell phone or Sony.
This is a Nikon shot with twice the pixels of the cell phone or Sony.
And this is a scanned film shot from an old Olympus Stylus 35mm.
And this is a scanned film shot from an old Olympus Stylus 35mm.

When you blow these up on a good monitor the cell phone shot has the most detail.  Why, the cell phone focused the best on the main image of the subject.  The old film camera has good detail on the leaves because that is what it focused on.  I don’t know what happened to the Sony and the Nikon.

And then there is the problem of software and the affects it adds to perfectly good pictures when it makes jpegs.

So on a practical basis what does this mean.  More pixels is better in general.  But that is highly affected by the lens in the camera, the focus mechanism, and the software used in the camera.  Also, camera engineers are improving the results from cell phones rapidly.  Learn to use the camera in your cell phone and you will get very good results.  I recently went to visit relatives and almost exclusively used my cell phone camera for a week.  Some the the shots were quite good.

This is a shot with my cell phone.  It is almost 10 mp in it's original.
This is a shot with my cell phone. It is almost 10 mp in it’s original.

The Most Important Feature Of Digital Photography Over Film

Please keep in mind this is my opinion and not a fact.  But, in my opinion the most important feature of digital photography over film is immediacy.  You can see what you have taken right now.  This means you can see the live view, take the picture, and see the results on the back of the camera right away.  The key importance of this is to see if you got the shot you want.  If yes, you are done.  If no, you take another one.

For this shot I watched live view on the DSLR and then could see the picture right away and know I had what I wanted.
For this shot I watched live view on the DSLR and then could see the picture right away and know I had what I wanted.

To get this with a film camera you would take shots bracketing the exposure and hope what you wanted came out when the film was developed.

Victorian building in Port Townsend WA.
Victorian building in Port Townsend WA.

On the other hand this is an easy shot with any camera.  I took this with a cell phone 10 mega pixel camera.  Any film camera including a disposable one would give you a more detailed image.  You could crop the heck out of it and see every detail in the Victorian woodwork.

The other important aspect of immediacy is sharing.  The way most pictures are viewed today is through social media like Facebook, Twitter, texting, emailing, and so on.  With digital pictures you can do this immediately.  Film at best takes a day.  And if you are traveling like we are now, I have seen none of the film pictures I have taken so far and we are five weeks into a 9 week trip.

So I am back to what I said in my first post on this blog about photography.  Both digital and film still have a place if you want the best results.  There is a reason nearly all feature films are shot with film.  The results are what the director and the audience want.  But if you are not a very skilled person, using digital cameras are very useful in tough to shoot lighting and where you want the results now.