A clear sign of spring are the first Great Crested Grebes (Podiceps cristatus) that find their way to Krankesjön in Southern Sweden.
This particular morning was very cold and windy, but nevertheless with lots of courtship going on. Heartwarming!
The Kiev IV has a thrilling history, almost worthy a new James Bond film. The camera is often called a russian copy of the legendary pre-war Contax 2 and 3 cameras and their Zeiss lenses. But actually the true story is much more fascinating and to some extent explains the good quality of these cameras as compared to the Leica copies of the time, sold under the name Zorki.
So what is the story behind?
Shortly after World War II the Soviets had occupied the eastern parts of Germany, including the city of Jena, home of the Zeiss Contax factories. The buildings and production lines were despite extensive bombing fully operational. It was decied to move the Zeiss Contax II and III factory from Germany as part of war reparations, including machines, technologies, spare parts and key personnel
After some pilot production the production lines were set up in Kiev, Ukraine in the Arsenal factory. Even though the production was based on local workers, the technical coordination was done by a small group of German professionals, most notably Wolfgang Hahn, the designer of the Contax cameras. The first Kievs were actually build using original Contax parts and for a long time most of these cameras were made on the original Contax machines.
Despite the initial lack of trained personal, the fact that the entire production line were moved and the high pressure to produce cameras in a very big quantities, the Kiev has proven itself a very well built camera (The design itself is very fault tolerant). It is in fact much closer to the original Contax in quality than any other Soviet cameras especially early models were very high quality.
It has to be said that there were significant drops in quality as the camera was simplified in the sake of productivity as the members of the original crew retired. All in all the original design from the 1930’s is so rigid that despite the circumstances the Kiev cameras were build with only minor changes until 1987.
My sample is from 1977 and works still very well, including the excellent Jupiter-8 lens, a exact copy of the pre-war Zeiss 50mm/f2 Sonnar. Although craftmanship is not up to the german Contax standards (note that the Contax was an incredibly expensive camera at the time), it still feels solid and very much CAMERA. As the Contax, this camera does not have any metering, in fact the only piece of wire is used for the flash sync. The rest is pure mechanics.
A few sample shots on Fuji Velvia 100.
To me very appealing is the typical soft and “gloomy” appearance of these images, typical of the pre-WW2 Sonnar Construction of the Jupiter-8 lens, quite different from the accurate and contrasty look of today’s multicoated optics. Remember also that these lenses were not designed with colourfilm or sensors in mind, B&W ruled back in the 1930’s.
Some time ago, I started to dig out my old cameras and started to re-explore analog photography. I even aquired a few that I found interesting and revisited old images taken on film, many years back. These posts are for the geeks, if you don’t share an interest in old cameras and their history, you are welcome to enjoy all the other pages on this blog…:-)
So here we go with the first of these amazing mechanical marvels:
The Nikon FM/FE series was made between 1977 and (with modifications and different names) up to 2001; this camera arguably represents a hallmark of Nikon’s semiprofessional cameras of the era. It also inspired to the design of the current “Retro Nikon” Df.
This manual-focus camera is constructed almost entirely from metal and uses a mechanical shutter with manual exposure control. The FM utilizes a for its time modern titanium-bladed, vertical-travel focal plane shutter capable of speeds from 1 second to 1/1000 of a second. It also first introduced an entirely new compact, but rugged, copper-aluminum alloy (duralumin) chassis that would become the basis for a highly successful range of compact semi-professional SLR cameras. Being all mechanical, the FM needs no batteries to operate (though batteries are required to operate the light meter). The metering system is 60/40% center-weighting through-the-lens at maximum aperture, with its reading displayed by a “center-the-LED” system with vertically arranged light-emitting diodes (LEDs). This system can be traced back to the Nikkormat FT of 1965 and its “center-the-needle” system. The succeeding Nikon FM2 used an improved center-the-LED system until 2001.
The images below were taken with a great lens of that time, the MicroNikkor 55mm, f3.5, considered one of Nikon’s sharpest lenses ever.
The haptics and the appearance of a camera like this is just not comparable with a modern digital camera. These images were taken with the either the 55/3.5 or the Nikor-Q 135/2.8. Only the film is somewhat more modern, a Kodak BW400CN, actually not a real B&W but a C41 negative film, just without colors.
There are endless discussions on the net about this topic. At times they have an almost religious character, similar to other important issues in our world, such as Nikon vs Canon, Apple vs Microsoft or whether man landed on moon. This post is not going to add to the truth but will only give my own subjective observations. Take it for what it is, at face value.
My main topic of my photography are birds. Below 2 images from very different birds and situations, but making my take on this clear:
The first is one of my favourite images from my stay in northern Finland during the summer of 1989:
A Snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) looks from the summit of Mount Saana into the valley of Kilpisjärvi. This image is taken with a reasonable 500mm mirrorlens on Ektachrome 400, my typical birding setup at the time. The image is basically uncropped and the best of 5 shots, for a poor student of biology a substantial proportion of a 36-roll in terms of cost and effort.
The second image shows a bird of similar size, a Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaeneus), seen at Krankesjön in southern Sweden.
The image was taken during the summer of 2014 with my current setup, a Nikon D7100 with a Nikkor 300mm/f4 + TC 14 and is cropped by about 40%. Although the bird sat in this position for just a short while, I got about 40 shots, this one being one of my favourites
Conclusion: Of course it is a bit unfair to compare these 2 lenses directly…But overall, I will never touch film again for birding, both for cost, result and convenience.
My second topic is general landscape:
The first image is from the famous Pasvik Nationalpark in northern Norway, just a few weeks later than my stay at Kilpisjärvi. Taken around midnight and with a thunderstorm approaching in the distance, the scenery was breathtaking with colours I had never seen before. The image is taken on the now discontinued Kodachrome 64, using the well regarded Sigma 28mm/f2.8 wide angle lens.
The second image shows an early mornig during spring 2014, at Vombs ängar in southern Sweden, captured with a Nikon D7100 and an old manual Nikkor Q 135/f2.8 lens.
Conclusion: Would the Kodachrome 64 still be around, film would be clearly something to think about for landscapes. But even Velvia is not that bad…
The final item on my list of motives is B&W photography.
The below images are taken under similar conditions, with either on Kodak TMax100 film, using a Nikon FM with a Nikkor- Q 55/f3.5 (left) or my D7100 with the Nikkor 18-70 kit lens at ~35mm (right).
Another comparison: Above Kodak TMax100 , below D7100
And finally an Kodak TMax100 analog image without a comparison. This image has an almost graphical touch. In all these images, film may not be as punchy and contrasty, but the gloomy look captures foggy weather well….
Overall conclusion: Apart from birds, for which digital is a no-brainer, I would say that both media give you the freedom to choose your favourite flavour..the results will be same but different. And there sure is a gourmet touch to the shutter sound and touch of a Nikon FM from the early 70’s!
Although not on a birding trip, I could not resist to sneak out of our cottage one early morning. The early hours and a quite strong wind gave the scenery a magic touch and on top of that there actually were quite a few nice birds looking for food in the shallow lagoon. I must have appeared as very honest and credible to them, since they allowed me to come quite close – typical of a true paradise!
Not surprising, given the time of the year, a migrant from Northern Europe, the Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata). During the European summer this birds with it’s amazing bill is quite common in Sweden. A few images of this bird, captured at Vomb’s ängar, can be found here.
But even under the surface of the lagoons, the wildlife on Zansibar is amazing. Snorkelling is an excellent way of exploring the rich reefs that surround the island. Beautifully colored coralls make up these amazing underwater gardens that are inhabited by a alrge number of different animals.
This little guy was just about 10-15 cm long, but showed a fascinating curiosity, hovering in front of my face in several seconds. A quick search on the internet indicates that it might be a Bigfin Reef Squid (Sepioteuthis lessoniana), often seen on coral reefs and seagrass beds. It is found throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific, from Hawaii to the Red Sea. Or it has a totally different name…
And despite the abundance of food on the reef, bananas make some of the inhabitans forget their shyness. These hungry guys just could not resist…
A few impressions from a recent trip to Zanzibar. An amazing island with stunning beauty and a dark history. Of course birds were not to be missed, but more on that later.
A dhow at sunset
Low tide under a not so blue sky
Stonetown, the capital of the island has doors as one of the characteristic features. They can be modern style or pieces af art
This one is a reminder of a past of whealth and cruelty: Tippu Tipp’s door, who’s wealth was build on trading slaves.
Zanzibar is an fascinating blend of cultures and religions. The angilican cathedral and it’s neighbor, one of the large mosques in Stonetown.
Another signum of Zanzibar: Spices!!!
Wires and tubes