The Old Camera

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently was given my father’s old film camera. It is a 35mm Nikomat that was purchased in 1968 as far as I can tell. I was excited to get this camera as I can remember my dad carrying this camera around at various times as far back as I can remember. He kept using it for years as 35mm film has always been readily available and it is relatively easy to use. Below is a a photo showing the Nikomat 35mm film camera versus my more modern D750 35mm digital camera. He had a 50mm prime (as shown) and a Vivitar zoom macro lens that I have yet to use.

Another interesting thing about this camera is that it is the version sold in Europe, Germany to be specific, which is why it is branded Nikomat rather than Nikkormat as it was distributed in the United States. The story goes, that my uncle was in the Air Force and stationed in Germany during the 1960s and he purchased this camera there. When he returned home, my father wanted the camera as he was starting a family and traded my uncle a calf for it. My dad then used it quite a bit for family pictures. Below are some photos taken in the mid 1970s of yours truly. Frankly, if I had a son that was so photogenic, I’d want to take a lot of photos too.

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When I got the camera, it was in decent condition but in need of a little repair. I brought it to a local camera shop that also repairs cameras and they fixed the shutter, replaced some seals, and converted the light meter to where it would use a more modern battery. The assistant at the store also showed me the basics of operating the camera and even gave me an original manual for the camera that I read right through. I picked up a role of Kodak color ISO400 film and tried to find something useful to shoot photos of.

Focusing is not as difficult as I thought it would be, there is a microprism in the center of the view finder which allows you to focus by aligning the halves of the image together.  Focusing is done with the aperture wide open and then it automatically transitions to your aperture setpoint when you activate the shutter. There is a light meter dial visible in the viewfinder that helps prevent over or under exposure based on the ISO setting, aperture, and shutter and this works quite well. You can even check depth of field in the viewfinder with a button that closes the aperture. A pretty good system that is not very difficult to learn.

I took the Nikomat and D750 out to Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife refuge to do some hiking and to take some side-by-side photos for comparison. I shot both with a 50mm prime lens. I had the D750 set to ISO400 to match the speed rating of the film so the two photos should have very similar settings. Below is the out-of-the-camera photo from the D750 and the scanned in developed photo from the Nikomat with Kodak color film.

As you can tell, the film photo is quite a bit warmer than the basic photo that the camera produces; this may have been the result of clouds occasionally blocking the sun. With film, there is no changing the white-balance, saturation, hue, etc. in post so the film is designed to give you a certain profile. With the RAW image from the D750 I can easily go warm up the photo, change the hue and saturation to be more like the film photo. But the film photo looks really good right out of the camera.

I also made a couple of crops to show the detail in each photo. You can probably tell that I got better focus using the autofocus of the D750 than I did manually focusing the Nikomat. You can also see a bit more grain in the film image than in the DSLR image. I would say that the modern 24 MP 35mm sensor is probably better than 35mm film. Though 35mm film was never really considered high resolution film but rather it was more compact and manageable as opposed to the larger medium format and large format films.

Below is another pair of similar photos shot at 50mm, one with the D750 and the other with the Nikomat. You can see here as well that the film image is warmer and more saturated than the basic image out of the camera.

In this contrasted scene, the sky nearly fades to white in both images but I can bring the blue back into the sky in post-processing of the digital photo. See the same photo from the D750 below after I adjusted the white balance, saturation, sky, etc.

D750 Image Processed in LightRoom

And finally, here are a couple of recent pictures of me and my children using the same film camera that was used to shoot photos of me when I was kid.

Thanks for reading.

30 thoughts on “The Old Camera

  1. I’ve gotta say, I prefer the digital to the film, due to the better resolution. But as you say, that’s due to the film itself, and not the camera.

    Looks like your dad taught you how to shoot when you were quite young. Though not with a camera.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the warmer images. especially the blueness of the sky in the last picture. Nice pics of you and your daughters, and who again is that cute boy in the other pictures? 🙂
    It is really nice that you can have your Dad’s camera, the sentimental value is priceless. I remember the days of anxiously waiting for my film to be developed. Now I can see my pictures instantly, the problem is they get stuck in my phone, instead of being printed out!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, I have been messing with this camera for quite a while now and I was kind of excited to make this blog post.
      I do a lot of printing at a Walgreens between my house and the office. You can print 4x6s there for cheap as there is usually a 50% off code on their website.

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      1. The Walgreens App is finally freeing my pictures. I just recently came across it. Cheap is good when I have so many photos! In the past I have made Shutterfly books with my special photos from trips that we have been on. I really liked how they turned out.
        That little boy isn’t shooting Bambi is it? Maybe you were aiming at a pink, evil squirrel?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I don’t think that I have ever shot an animal in my life. Just a lot of paper targets and clay pigeons. I think I was just posing for a photo.

          My main instrument for killing animals has been my car.

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            1. One of my daughters actually hit a deer. She was very upset by that. The worst I have ever done is probably a big owl that flew in front of me. I was finding feathers on my car for weeks after than.

              Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I agree, a modern digital camera is better in every way. I was mainly just enjoying the process and the nostalgia. There is no or little anticipation when I shoot with my DSLR as I can see the result on the back of the camera a second later. Waiting to go through a role of film and carefully choosing your shots and waiting for the film to be developed takes some patience and I like to practice patience (I have teenage daughters, you know).

      Also, I shot this on a role of Kodak and I have an equivalent role of Fuji in there now so it’ll be interesting to see the difference.

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  3. Interesting comparison, thanks. I still have my first 35mm film camera, a Fujica that I bought in the early ’80s. As you say the controls are fairly minimal and you don’t have to worry about the battery running out – other than the small one for the exposure monitoring and that lasts for years. I think that you can pick up really good 35mm film cameras reasonably cheaply these days.

    Recently, while clearing out the garage, I came across my old 35mm film developing tank. I did some B&W processing and printing many years ago but never had room for a dedicated darkroom. You can still buy all the chemicals and papers etc. but I’ve not yet felt the need to go down that route again even though I now have the space!

    Liked by 1 person

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