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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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Nikon L35AF Pikaichi – Camera Review

Nikon Pikaichi L35AF Review

Photophiles in the 1980s enjoyed a camera industry that was in the midst of a surge toward greater automation, ease of use, and affordable quality. At the head of this surge was Canon, a masterful designer of sophisticated and desirable machines for border-line enthusiasts and amateur snappers. Not one to play catch-up, Nikon quickly launched their own point-and-shoot, the L35AF.

This machine was everything consumers wanted. Small, durable, simple, and affordable, it also offered something many of its competitors lacked; a truly excellent lens. Marketed by Nikon as a superb do-it-all piece of glass, the 35mm was fairly quick and deceptively simple. Nikon’s new lens combined with a number of automatic features, including Nikon’s first-ever auto-focus system in a compact camera. Add to the package automatic metering, automatic aperture control, automatic pop-up flash, and automatic film wind, and it was clear that the L35AF was looking to usher in a new era of automated Nikon compacts. This was a promising machine for a new type of shooter.

At the time of its release, Nikon nicknamed it Pikaichi, meaning “top notch”. Self-imposed nicknames rarely catch on, but this one did, and the camera became synonymous with top notch quality. But time marches on. What was top notch then may be on quite a lower notch today. Last week I spent some time with the L35AF, to determine whether or not it still deserves the name Pikaichi.

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Noteworthy Lenses – Nikon Nikkor 20mm ƒ/3.5

Nikkor 20mm 3.5 18

It’s time for another examination of a noteworthy lens. Last time we looked at the Minolta Fish-Eye Rokkor-X 16mm ƒ/2.8, and again we’re checking out a wide-angle lens from the Land of the Rising Sun. It’s Nikon’s Nikkor 20mm ƒ/3.5 AI-S. Made in 1981, this thirty-something-year-old lens remains one of the best wide-angle lenses for the F mount system.

Lighter, more compact, and less expensive than modern Nikkor lenses of similar focal length, the 20mm ƒ/3.5 AI-S is a lens for which it’s easy to justify ownership. When it’s understood that the optical characteristics of this lens are equal to those same modern lenses, ownership should be a foregone conclusion. I’ve qualified the previous statement with the word “should”, because not everyone will love this lens. For some shooters the requirement that it be focused manually will be an unfortunate deal-breaker, but for those who embrace the past and eschew ultrasonic, auto-focus motors, the Nikkor 20mm ƒ/3.5 will be a real gem.

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Quick Tips : How to Zone Focus / Scale Focus

How to Zone Focus

There’s always something new to learn in photography. Even people who’ve been shooting for years have little gaps of knowledge intermittently speckled throughout their skill set. This in mind, we’re starting a new feature that will quickly and directly answer some of the more common questions that puzzle shooters, both new and old. In coming articles, we’ll explain things like ISO, crop-sensors, and the intricacies of home-printing. For now, let’s look at zone focusing (sometimes known as scale focusing), how it’s done, and how it can help your photography.

Zone focusing is a technique used to quickly and accurately achieve proper focus on a subject in photography when it’s not practicable to compose a shot through the viewfinder. By setting a lens’ aperture and focus rings to a set position, it’s possible to shoot in-focus photos candidly, quickly, and accurately in situations where autofocus (AF) lag or contemplative composition would otherwise cause you to miss the shot. Simply observing the numbers and position of the focus scale (sometimes called depth-of-field scale) will let you know what will be in focus before you take the shot.

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