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Zeiss Ikon Contina II (524/24) – Camera Review

Zeiss Ikon Contina Camera Review 8

In shooting vintage cameras there exists something of a “sweet spot”; a kind of “Goldilocks zone” that only a certain number of cameras occupy. For many shooters, a camera needs to be old enough to have the vintage appeal we’re pining for, yet not be so old that it’s prohibitively slow and archaic in its operation.

We’ve seen it before. If a camera’s too old it puts people off. Because of this, many excellent cameras go unappreciated and unused. Think of the folding cameras of the 1950s or even TLR (twin lens reflex) cameras like the Minolta Autocord. These are exceptional machines capable of taking amazing pictures, and they’re pretty easy to use once you’ve done a bit of reading.

But these cameras look simply ancient, and it’s this old-fashioned aesthetic that causes many people to shy away. The result? They may never experience the joy of ground glass viewfinders, the calm of shooting a fully manual camera, or the exceptional image quality of larger format machines. It’s a shame, really. But just because a camera’s very old, doesn’t mean it can’t be a fun, everyday shooter.

Take the Zeiss Ikon Contina II that we’ve been using for the past few weeks. It’s more than six decades old, smells like a dusty old goat, and looks like it belongs in a museum. But guess what? It takes great pictures! Sure, it’s not as quick or as sexy as your Sony A7R, but you still love your grandma even though she’s no Hannah Davis. So cut the Zeiss some slack.

If you’re looking for a beautiful, antique, 35mm folding camera that’s actually usable, the Contina II may be it. There are some issues, but they won’t be a deal breaker for most. If you’re ready to find out what Germany had to offer photographers of the 1950s, read on.

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How to Slow Down & Love Photography … Again

Leica M3 Cafe

Photography, for me, is often a solitary pursuit. At times this is a blessing. The calm of twiddling dials and manipulating a tripod can be a meditative experience, and the solitude of being alone in nature, or anonymous on a busy street is a familiar and comfortable place. Occasionally though, I pine for some company. This is especially true when life becomes excessively chaotic.

Which brings us to last Sunday. It’s 5 AM. I’m sitting at my desk. On the computer screen in front of me, a flashing text cursor continually reminds me to finish a half-outlined article. Disorganized piles of notes are scattered across the desktop like leaves in fall. With my head in my hand, I shuffle through the notes; large, white postcards reminding of articles to write for CP, or cameras that need to be shipped from my camera shop. The hand-written notes stare back, things like :

Inventory Nikon FE, Rollei Review Notes, AF35M Notes, Pickup Prints for Yashica Review, Nikon 50mm Lens Shootout Notes, 

and a diagonally jotted and somewhat cryptic scrawl stating,

M3 – 1960 Wheat Bokeh 

Apparently that last one’s supposed to mean something to me, but what that is I can’t recall.

Just as I begin to feel the familiar, crushing weight of too-much-to-do, too-little-time, the excited electric hum of a vibration motor signals an incoming text message. Snatching up the phone (and the welcome distraction) I see a message from a friend; Shoot some photos? It takes me about two seconds to respond; YES. We finalize plans to meet in an hour for some street photography.

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Casual Photophile’s 2014 Year in Review

Casual Photophile 2014 Review

Eight months ago I launched Casual Photophile, and in that time the site has quickly become one of the most intellectually rewarding endeavors with which I’ve ever been involved. In this short time the site’s readership has grown at an astounding rate, and I’m thankful for every visitor. I’ve also been given the opportunity to play with an incredible number of cameras, met countless interesting and friendly people, and learned a lot about this hobby of ours.

I’d like to take a moment to thank every one of you who have visited the site. Additional thanks go out to all those friends I’ve met out in the field when shooting. And a special thanks to those who have reached out in the comments, on Facebook, Ello, or on Instagram. It means a lot to connect with friends from all over the world to discuss cameras and photography. This is, in fact, the entire purpose of the site. So thank you, to every one of you.

As 2014 winds down, I’ve put together a collection of posts from this past year. These are some of the site’s most popular posts, some of my personal favorites, and some that you may have missed.

Thanks again, have a great new year, and keep checking in to Casual Photophile for everything that’s to come in 2015.

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5 Great Film Cameras Under $100

five film cameras under 100

These days, film cameras are a dime a dozen, and while they may not be as alluring as the newest mirror-less marvel from Sony, they’re definitely worth owning. Not convinced? Well if their natural full-frame quality, bulletproof construction, and undeniable hipster cachet hasn’t won you over, consider the fact that just a few decades ago these machines were being used by every single professional photographer and photojournalist in the world to capture everything from product photos to war-zones, portraits to moon landings. Yes, film cameras have been to the moon. And you haven’t. Show some respect.

What’s the downside? There are too many. In less than ten minutes shopping online, a would-be film shooter can come away with an astounding number of pro-spec options. With this many machines to choose from, selecting the right camera can be pretty overwhelming. I think that’s why it’s one of the questions that most frequently trips me up: “Hey, what camera should I buy if I want to shoot film?” For ten minutes I yammer on about the pros and cons of twenty different machines, leaving the asker more confused than before the question was asked.

My typically fumbling response springs from the knowledge that every camera has its own suite of strengths and weaknesses; the same attribute that might make a camera ideal for one person could make it problematic for another. Choosing the right camera depends greatly on answering the question, “What are my shooting habits and preferences?” With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of five all-around excellent film cameras, and included the type of photographer for whom each would work best.

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5 Best Travel Cameras – Film Edition

Best Travel Cameras 9

One of the greatest joys in life is travel, and one of the greatest joys in travel is taking pictures. Whether you’re looking to populate an album with touristy shots of famous landmarks, or taking the time to compose artistic shots of eclectic locales, travel photography is one of the most exciting and rewarding areas of the hobby.

That’s not to say vacation shooting is always heavenly. Many travelers make the mistake of lugging around far more gear than they’ll ever need. Carrying all that weight quickly becomes tedious and annoying. Any excitement and joy has been bled from both photography, and the vacation. With an aching neck and a sense of lost opportunity, the overloaded traveler stows his camera bag in the hotel safe and spends the rest of the trip happy, but photographically unfulfilled.

So what’s the best way to avoid missing out on potential once-in-a-lifetime shots? Bring a camera that fits the trip. Here are five machines that are absolutely perfect for any vacation, the reasons why, and where you can pick them up for yourself.

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