Tag Archives: Camera Review

{Lomo Instant Wide} Introduction

Please allow me to introduce you to the Lomo’ Instant Wide. Hold onto your seats, because this will be a lengthy introduction!

It’s quite a camera and an unexpected addition to my collection.

When I first read about the upcoming release of the Instant Wide, I winced at the price, but I really got a bee in my bonnet about owning one! Lomography was selling it via pre-order, with shipment expected by Christmas. I kept going back and looking and thinking “Can I do this? I can’t do this! But can I?” I got an itchy trigger finger one October day because I just got a feeling in my bones that I was supposed to have this camera (hey! It happens!) I immediately got buyer’s remorse. It was a chunk of money! But here was my justification: I have been wanting a better Fuji Instax Wide camera for YEARS because I love the format but hate the available cameras for it. The hope was that Fuji would put out a better Instax Wide. Doesn’t look like we should hold our breath waiting for that to happen.

Before I can really get on with the Instant Wide review, I need to address what I mean by “better Instax Wide camera.” Basically, the readily available Fuji Instax Wide cameras left a lot to be desired. I have owned an Instax Wide 200 since about 2005, which had to come from England and film wasn’t available in the US for it at that time. Even once the film was easily found here, I just didn’t use the Wide 200 very often because it had so many limitations. It was auto exposure only. There was no ability to turn the flash off (though you could force the flash to fire.) There were only two focus settings which left a lot to be desired for versatility. The Wide 200 was an older model of the Instax Wide camera, but even the subsequent models weren’t really improvements over the 200.

Now, what features did the Lomo Instant Wide offer that piqued my interest? Here are the camera’s tech specs from the Lomography site, and I’ll bold the things that got their hooks in me:

  • Lens Focal Length: 90mm (35mm equivalent)
  • Auto exposure type: Programmed Automatic
  • Aperture: f/8, f/22
  • Shutter Speed range: Bulb (Bulb Mode), 8s-1/250 (Auto Shooting Mode), 1/30 (Fixed Shutter Speed Mode)
  • Exposure Compensation: +1/-1 Exposure Values (Ambient)
  • Ejection Mechanism: Motorized
  • Multiple Exposures: Yes
  • Built-in Flash Guide Number: 13 (m)
  • Built-in Flash: Automatic Electronic Flash & Flash Off Mode
  • Closest Focusing Distance: 0.6m (0.1m with the Close-Up Lens)
  • Zone Focusing Setting: 0.6m / 1-2m / infinite
  • Tripod Mount: Yes
  • Remote control transmission: Infrared
  • Battery Supply: 4 x AA batteries (4 x 1.5V)
  • Filter Thread: 49mm

Again, straight from the Lomgoraphy site, here’s what was in the box:

  • Lomo’Instant Wide Camera (Central Park edition, in my case)
  • Colored Gel Filters (four of them)
  • Lomo’Instant Wide Ultra Wide-Angle Lens Attachment and Viewfinder
  • Lomo’Instant Wide Close-Up Lens Attachment
  • Lomo’Instant Wide Splitzer
  • Remote Control Lens Cap
  • Shooting Technique Cards
  • Instruction Manual
  • Bonus accessory: Lomography Light Painter, a special gift for pre-order customers
  • Bonus accessory: An additional four colored gel filters for the flash, a special gift for pre-order customers
  • Bonus accessory: Camera strap, a special gift for pre-order customers

I received the Instant Wide in December, as promised. I knew the camera would be large, based on the size of my Fuji Instax Wide camera, but, WOWZA! It’s big!

What was in the box (minus the tip cards) with my Central Park Edition camera

Tip cards: example photos taken with the Instant Wide, with info about settings/accessories used on the back

Close-up accessory

Ultra wide-angle accessory

The best, most useful accessory for the Instant Wide: the lens cap that is actually a remote control. You use the instant side to snap a photo instantly (duh) and the time side to hold the shutter open for up to a minute in Bulb mode.

Controls: flash on/off button, multiple exposure button, exposure compensation button, on/off/auto/bulb/fixed shutter speed selector

Where the picture is ejected after you take a photo

You’re supposed to be able to use the shiny silver circle to help compose self-portraits (fine: selfies!)

All cameras that use Instax film (wide or mini) are easy to load because there’s a yellow mark on the camera that corresponds with a yellow mark on the film cartridge, so you’ll know which way to insert it.

The light painter tool in use

One of the colored flash gels inserted over the flash

The only reason you might feel like this camera is heavy is because it’s powered by four AA batteries. Otherwise, the camera’s pretty lightweight.

I don’t know if Lomography does their product releases in December because they want people to give their new releases as gifts or because the winter holiday season is rife with photographic opportunities. Okay, it’s probably the former but the latter turned out to be true for me. I really liked having the camera put in my hands during a time of year when I would have good reason to take a lot of photos.

First shot! I’m in love!

Close-up attachment focuses at 10cm (about 4 in.)

My mom’s flawless accessories (much better in person rather than in the digital photo of it)

Arm-length self portrait

Bulb mode + flash + moving the camera in circles during the exposure

Another close-up accessory success – my eyes turned to hearts when I saw this shot

It’s underexposed, but I like it (close-up accessory used, of course)

Tried the ultra wide-angle accessory. Focusing guidelines given in the camera’s manual didn’t steer me correctly here.

The only time using the ultra wide-angle accessory worked okay. I have more work to do to figure it out.

Quick grab-shot of my mother’s earring, with the close-up accessory <3

Close-up of fabric. Textural. 

Attempted double exposure. It looks…ethereal?

Never taking the close-up attachment off this thing

Street art in Oxford, Mississippi

The Lyric venue in Oxford

Breads on display at Bottletree Bakery in Oxford

Uncomfortably close-up shot of a pastry from Bottletree Bakery in Oxford

Patio table outside a business in Oxford

Shop window in Oxford

City Hall Christmas Tree in Oxford

I can never resist the red phone booth (from England) that’s in Oxford
(Weird lens flare in this photo has been experienced by other Lomo Instant Wide users)

Shop window in Oxford

Me, standing outside Square Books in Oxford

Dress outside a clothing shop in Oxford. Reminded me of something Lady Mary would have worn near the end of Downton Abbey 🙂 (the 1920s)

My Lomography La Sardina on a table outside a business in Oxford

Santas and angels under the Christmas tree at my brother and sister-in-law’s house

My nephew Braeden and the beard I crocheted him for Christmas 🙂

Christmas tree at my brother and sister-in-law’s house

My niece Anna Marie in the Dragonball Z shirt I got her for Christmas

Yours truly, in the crown from my Christmas cracker 

My swirly ring (close-up attachment used)

Listening to my original Stax record “King and Queen” by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas

Last shot in my four pack test run for the Lomo Instant Wide (when I did this for my 365 project)

So. 

Thoughts? Likes? Dislikes? Conclusions?

I think this is a really interesting camera. And it better be for the price tag it carries! I am not into the “Lomography” look of blurry, soft-focus, or wacky looking photos. For the first four packs of film in the Lomo Instant Wide, I didn’t really find it to have those qualities. I wish the ultra wide-angle accessory hadn’t turned out to be so difficult to use correctly. I plan on doing some focusing tests with that accessory attached, but I really shouldn’t have to. I have found that even setting the exposure compensation to -1 for both shots, I have gotten terrible results trying to do double exposures outdoors. The photos have turned out so overexposed that there was virtually nothing on the frame of film after it developed. I also find that the camera is leaning toward overexposure in general if it’s used outdoors and sometimes even indoors. It’s frustrating!

The most advanced Instax Wide camera that Fuji itself has produced, the Instax Wide 500AF, has no where near the features and controls of the Lomo, but I have seen comparison photos taken, and the Fuji definitely wins in the sharpness department. But I see a lot of potential for the Instant Wide. I hope I can make the most of it and create some worthwhile images with it. I’ll keep you guys in the loop though 😉

…Enter the Samsung NX300

I don’t really review or write much about digital cameras, but lemme tell you a story all about how I ended up with another digital camera in my collection (and I didn’t mean to.)

It all starts with two happy years with my Samsung NX1100. I’d been using the little kit lens that came with the camera for those two years, but I finally decided to invest in a nice, prime lens for it. I chose a 30mm f/2 lens. It’s tiny and classified as a “pancake lens” because it’s so compact. The lens arrived, and I gleefully took it outside to quickly test it a little. Here are those test shots:

Such pretty shallow depth of field! I’m in love with this lens! 

Then, I took the camera in to charge the battery fully, as I knew I’d be shooting with it lots in order to have fun with the new lens. Charged the battery for awhile, put it back in the camera, and the camera wouldn’t power on. WAAAAAHHHHH! There was lots of panicking and searching the world wide web for answers to my problem.

What’s a girl to do?? This girl decided to bite the bullet and buy another Samsung camera body which would allow me to use my pretty new 30mm lens. Doing so did not make me a happy camper, but what were the odds that my NX1100 would stop working the very day I finally got a better lens for it? Inconceivable! But I did a little research and decided to buy a slightly upgraded model, a Samsung NX300.

30mm pancake lens…

…vs the 18-55mm kit lens that came with the camera (at it’s shortest)

The NX300 has a lot in common with the NX1100, as far as form and fuction go, but notable differences (in my day-to-day life) are: 1) The NX300 has a touch screen, which you can use to adjust focus points on the fly, access the menus and   2) The NX300 has an articulating screen that rotates 45° for shooting overhead or 90° for shooting lower angles more easily.

Articulated screen folded as flat as it will go

The angle for shooting up high

Shooting low

One of the things I like best about these Samsung cameras is that they have wi-fi built in that allows you to send files straight from the camera to your phone or tablet. That’s one thing that has made it hard to compile this blog: I wanted to save a lot of the shots for writing a blog about the NX300, but I found myself sharing a lot of them to social media while I was waiting to write a blog about the camera! Plus, I have already dedicated a few different blog posts to photos taken with the camera already because I couldn’t hold on to them any longer! (Here, here, here, here.) I tried to mainly use photos here that haven’t been seen elsewhere on my social media, but there are some that my Instagram or Facebook friends would have seen already. I just wanted to show how many different aspects of my life I’ve been capturing with this camera. Okay? Let’s go!

Desserts I made for my family’s catering business

Naturey stuff outside my house

Decor in my sister’s house

Vegan mini cakes I made

More scenes from my “yard” at home (pssst: I live in the woods)

1969 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS at work

1972 Chevrolet Custom 10
(the last two photos of this truck were taken with the Samsung’s 18-55mm kit lens)

#SoSoBrit – the day there were randomly some British Jammie Dodger biscuits in an office at work

My brother’s fiance made candy apples. My niece said they were GOOD!

Previously unseen shots from Muddy’s holiday look book photo shoot

Like to Instagram your food? The Samsung NX300 and 30mm lens do it well!
(Waffle House in Nashville, TN on the way to our family vacation in The Smokies)

Some more photos from the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

“Madonna” at the Guinness World Records Museum in Gatlinburg, TN

The newest troublemaker in the family: Arrow, the Mountain Cur who wandered up to my sister’s house

Self-portraits

My brother’s family’s pit bull puppy, Poseidon

My niece, the sulky model

Dilly, at her favorite spot in the house

…And, actually, I brought the NX300 to document my brother’s impromptu wedding!

Honestly, the Samsung NX300 is my favorite digital camera. And that’s saying something, coming from this film photographer!

Pentax Espio Mini {Two Rolls In}

My point-and-shoot 35mm camera collection has grown again.

Back story:

I have actually wanted a Pentax Espio Mini for awhile now. Always searching for the best compact 35mm camera, ya know. I nearly bought an Espio Mini from Hamish some time ago, but that didn’t work out. As fate would have it, my dear friend David was slimming down his camera collection and remembered the fact that I wanted an Espio Mini. He very kindly sent me his! I’ve seen a lot of photos he’s taken with the camera, and it’s cool knowing he’s used it to capture images of his life and I’m using it to capture images of my life now.

About the Pentax Espio Mini UC-1:

  • The Pentax Espio Mini UC-1 is an auto-focus, auto-exposure 35mm camera
  • It has a 32mm/3.5 lens
  • It features a clamshell design, where you slide the cover open to turn the camera on and close it to turn the camera off. It also protects the lens.
  • User selectable modes, via mode buttons on top of the camera: auto, flash on, flash off, slow-sync flash, bulb mode, bulb mode with flash (plus red-eye reduction mode selectable any time the flash is used)
  • Panoramic mode, via sliding switch on back of the camera
  • Automatic aperture range of f/3.5 – f/22
  • Film speed set automatically with DX-coded film cartridges, ranging from 24-3200 ISO
  • Automatic shutter speed range of 2s – 1/400s, bulb mode usable from 1/2s – 5 minutes (wow!)
  • Focusing distance of 1 ft. (.3m) – infinity
  • Real-time parallax correction shown in viewfinder when focusing at close distance (more on that later)
  • Self timer is 10 seconds long, with a blinking indication lamp on the front of the camera (the camera’s instruction manual says “the lamp starts blinking 3 seconds before the shutter is released, letting you know when to smile.” That makes me smile 🙂 )

SAM_0187

clamshell design

Top and back views of the Espio Mini

A couple of things:

  1. I am very happy about the fact that the Espio Mini has a panoramic mode. I know a lot of people don’t like cameras that just mask out part of the film area to create a panoramic effect, but I don’t mind it. I liked having that option on the Pentax ZX-7 I used to have, so I was excited for it on the Espio Mini too.
  2. This camera has BULB mode. That’s crazy! Only high-end point-and-shoot cameras have bulb mode, usually. This means you can take long exposures with the Espio Mini, and while I haven’t tried it out yet, I’m very excited that the option is there.
  3. I have never experienced a point-and-shoot camera with this type of viewfinder before. Shooting with a non-SLR camera means you don’t see in the viewfinder exactly what is being recorded on the film. This is a problem when you’re photographing something close up. Some cameras have indication lines printed in the viewfinder to give you some idea of what will be included in the photo when focusing at close distances. The Espio Mini’s viewfinder greys out portions of the viewfinder to give you a clearer indication of what the final photo will be like. I can’t explain it that well, so here’s an excerpt of the camera’s manual (which can be found here)

Enough technical stuff. On to the photos!
(note: on the panoramic photos, I included a link to their full size images, because they look better bigger than blog post will allowed them to be displayed. You can click the panoramic photos to see the full-sized versions.) 

Roll #1 was Ilford HP5 Plus

I can’t resist photographing lace curtains

Nor can I resit photographing a Vespa. This one was at the auto auction where I work a couple of days a week. 

My family enjoyed having ice cream at Area 51 ice cream in Hernando, MS this summer. Here are a few photos take outside the shop.

Barber shop next to Area 51

We took Dilly with us to Area 51 one time

Dilly, on a car ride with us

Pei Wei in Midtown Memphis before I had a photo gig with Muddy’s

Area 51, again!

AM, having some mint chocolate chip ice cream at Area 51

Owl mural in Cooper-Young, Midtown Memphis

Aldo’s Pizza Pies in Cooper-Young, Midtown Memphis

My sister, visiting Otherlands Coffee for the first time (Midtown Memphis)

Me, in a mirror at Otherlands

On the rooftop patio at Aldo’s (we ate there twice in one week, actually. This was taken on a different day than that earlier photo from Aldo’s…)

My Kiev 4AM, at Aldo’s with us

Corner of Cooper and York, Midtown Memphis

Parking lot behind Aldo’s

Some onions in the kitchen at home. Not my onions, obviously. Onions are my arch nemeses!

A few panoramic shots outside the auto auction (Memphis)

Roll #2 was Agfa Vista 200

This roll has all the signature “Amanda” things: cars, red shoes, my niece, mirror self-portraits.

I photographed this car two different days at the auto auction. The first time was in the lobby of the auction’s building, because I didn’t know I’d later have the chance to shoot it in the auction bay, with better lighting and fewer distracting things in the background…

Dodge Challenger Hellcat, take two…

Another Harley at work

Malco theatre in Oxford, MS, where I took my niece to see the new Dragon Ball Z movie

You know me, taking my photo in bathroom mirrors since way back in the day

THIS WAS THE BEST! We went to Bottletree Bakery in Oxford, found out they were about to close for the afternoon, ordered some coffee to go, and were handed a box of free, delicious pastries as a consolation prize. 

Me, in a mirror outside Bottletree Bakery

What your to-go cup of coffee looks like when you wear red lipstick

Me and some models in a clothing shop window in Oxford’s town square

I love red shoes and I love tiles

AM, having some iced tea outside Square Books in Oxford

Mom, browsing the sale table outside of Square Books

Mirror in a boutique’s sidewalk sale in Oxford

My shoes and some books, Oxford

Statue on the town square in Oxford

Conclusion?

I like it. I really, really like it. I’ve said before that I wish the features of Konica Big Mini and Canon Sure Shot Sleek were combined in one camera, and I feel that the Pentax Espio Mini does just that. Not to mention it has features that none of my other compact 35mm cameras do. Sure, it’d be cool if it had an f/2.8 lens like an Olympus Stylus Epic, but I am really not complaining since I’ve gotten use to the f/3.5 due to using the Big Mini and Sure Shot Sleek. Plus, the Pentax’s lens is wonderful. All in all, I think I’ve found my go-to compact 35mm camera. Thanks so much, David!

Fujica ST605N {Two Rolls In}

This could be subtitled “I got my mirror self-portrait mojo back”

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I am trying to get back into shooting m42 cameras/lenses. In the aforementioned blog about my Praktica MTL 5, I told of a “jumpy” meter needle that didn’t make me feel very secure about its readings and said I’d actually bought another m42 body after shooting that roll with the MTL 5. The second m42 body I bought was a Fujica ST605N.

Just as with the MTL 5, there isn’t much to say about the features on the ST605N. They’re both pretty basic cameras. The film speed selector goes from to 25-3200 ASA. Shutter speeds are 1/700s – 1/2s, plus bulb. However on my Fujica, the slowest two speeds, 1/4s and 1/2s are inaccurate. This is no big deal, as I very rarely use those shutter speeds anyway. One of the Fujica’s selling points for me was the fact that it takes batteries that are much easier to find than what the Praktica takes. Battery availability is one of the main reasons I bought this camera.

Shutter speed dial on top, with shutter speeds from 1/700s – 1/2s, plus B. Film speed selection is within the shutter speed dial.

It’s not lightweight, but I do like how much more compact the Fujica is compared to the Praktica.

This is kind of a strange thing to like, but I really like the little button that activates the meter/stops the lens down! Most other cameras of this ilk have a lever (as the MTL 5 does) that you press to turn the meter on. I like both the way the round button on the Fujica looks and the way it feels. It’s pleasant, I guess.

Little round meter activation button

Another thing I like is that the Fujica has a shutter speed indicator in the viewfinder. I don’t believe I’ve ever had an m42 body that’s had that feature, but it’s pretty handy and reminds me a bit of my beloved Nikon FE’s viewfinder.

Now, to the photos. As I always say, camera bodies are just vehicles for lenses and lenses are the thing that determine image quality. But inaccurate shutter speeds or a faulty meter can ruin photos taken with even the best lens. So when I am testing a “new” camera body, I’m really testing the shutter speeds and the meter (where applicable.) The Fujica’s meter seems just fine! I was shooting some of my expired Kodak High Definition 400, so I dialed in a film speed that was a little slower than 400 to help compensate for potential stop loss of the expired film.

Roll #1 was Kodak High Definition 400, expired in 2011

Chevy Camaro, Hennessy edition in the auction bay at work. I heard a really interesting story while I was taking these photos that maybe I’ll tell you one of these days. 

Me in the beauty shop the day Rachel gave me “fancy hair”

“The new Sunday dinner” – we stop and get Popeye’s, and I get a biscuit and an ear of corn. I use agave nectar instead of the “honey sauce” (it’s not honey) that Popeye’s gives you for the biscuits. 

Hope you aren’t tired of Wyatt’s photos yet!

Sunday dress

Ewwwww

There were already way too many photos of my new favorite book on my Instagram feed, but here’s another one!

Afternoon coffee and readin’ The Scarlet Letter

Roll #2 was Ilford HP5 Plus (and outshines the color roll IMHO)

Chevelle at work

Coffee out on my aunt’s deck in Texas

Some shots using a macro extension tube on the Fujinon lens

Some sweet little champagne coupes I got at Goodwill recently

Sundress days

Memorial Day at Huddle House

Boop

“The day my Vans arrived”

Vans mirror self-portrait

Hey

Eureka theatre, Batesville, MS (color images taken that same day in Batesville, coming soon)

Photos taken with Fujica ST605N, mostly with a Fujinon 55mm/1.8 lens, though a few were with a Sears 28mm/2.8 lens

Conclusion:

I really like this Fujica! I have had so many different m42 cameras over the years, and this is definitely one of my favorites. And I’m still likin’ my Fujinon 55mm/1.8. I wish I’d not gone through the frustration and cost of having a Praktica with a weird meter before getting the ST605N, but “God bless the broken road that led me straight to you” 😉

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