Review: Fujifilm Venus 800 (pt 2)

Hello, everybody! Happy Spring to you! It’s hay fever season here again in Japan and for those who know me personally or for those who have been following this blog for some time now you will know that this is the season where I feel like a wet towel because of all that hay fever medication. The good thing is Spring in Japan is beautiful and the colors of the season is a delight for photographers compared to the drab brown-and-grey tones of Winter. This means that it’s time for me to shoot photos of people dressed in colorful and beautiful clothes and I now have a new favorite film for portraiture.


Let’s continue with our Fujifilm Venus 800 series. In part 1 I showed you photos that I am used to taking, photos that people usually associate with me if you have been following me and my blog. Pictures that were taken in the night with a fast lens in an Asian setting where neon and tungsten contrasts with the darkness of the night, making for a difficult scene to meter when shooting with film. That type of photography may not be available to everybody who reads my blog and it may just not be for everyone so I’m going to show you a more common application of this film – available light photography in the shade or at least in a scene that’s not lit artificially.

FH000035You have seen similar photos in part 1 where I talked about shooting with this film in the dark. Now, I am going to show you how this film performs in a different situation so you can have a better grasp of how this film works in most situations. More


Review: Fujifilm Venus 800

Hello, everybody! I was listening to an Eagles tribute band (one of hundreds!) and they’re so good that I thought I was listening to the real band. I was searching in YouTube for the song “Best of My Love” but the only thing I could find was from this tribute band. I was a bit upset when I found out that it’s just a tribute band but I gave them another minute. It was worth it because it satisfied the damn earworm that’s ringing for the past few days! I stopped the video and thanked the opportunity to listen to them and also for the lesson I that learned on giving something or somebody another try. Today, I am going to tell you a story about how I used to hate a certain film stock but grew to love it as I gave it another chance and learned more about its nuance and quirks.


Fujifilm Venus 800 is one of those films that make some people scratch their head because of its odd speed. It was made to be sold together with the disposable plastic cameras and with the lower-end of the Japanese film market in mind (mainly aunties) who don’t want or own a fancy setup or film and all they cared about are nice vacation photos. This was probably the reason for its feminine name because it was mainly aimed for this market. Fujifilm probably wanted to give the impression that it takes good photos of people and it does according to the official Japanese catalog. Many people mistake this to be the same film as the Fujifilm Superia 800 but there are small differences according to the catalog. It probably is so insignificant that you can treat them both as the same film in most cases. I am sure that the subtle differences will only show in controlled conditions or when these 2 stocks were shot side-by-side to compare the resulting prints or scans. Its official name is called the Fujicolor Superia Venus 800 just to make it clear to all that it’s a Superia with different formulation. If you want to be technical about it and if you read Japanese then I will just lead you to this official PDF and let you decide if the differences matter to you or not, you can’t get more official than that since it’s Fujifilm who wrote that film guide. You may also want to see this detailed datasheet for the Fujifilm Venus 800 (Japanese only).

IMG_1176Many people outside the Far-East haven’t heard of this film because it wasn’t sold outside of the region through official channels but it’s available through importers and these can be bought easily online these days. Some people treat this as a novelty film because of its “rarity” but more and more people are getting to know and love this film lately. It used to be hard to find information about this film just a few years back on the English-speaking web but you can now find plenty of sample photos online these days thanks to those who like to share their photos like yours truly.


Repair: Nikkor-H 50mm f/2 Auto

Hello, everybody! I was listening to the Air Supply this afternoon. While I liked the duo in my younger years I got tired of listening to them after buying their “Goodbye” album. It’s an OK album with a catchy song in it but it was played-to-death by DJs so you could hear the song everywhere you went. It got so annoying that listening to somebody singing in a falsetto voice made me want to act violent. After some 27 years after “Goodbye”,  I finally decided to make my peace with Air Supply and began to enjoy their music again. It looks like I just need some time-off from them in order to re-kindle my love for their music. It’s now fun again to listen to their music and re-live your younger days when you dedicated a song to a girl that you liked and had the DJ play it. Today, I am going to show you a lens that was so popular that people began to treat it as a mere lens cap despite the fact that it is a nice lens with more-than-decent performance.


The Nikkor-H 50mm f/2 Auto is probably Nikon’s most prolific 50/2 lens and it’s certainly the most successful if you consider the longevity of its optical design. It was sold in 1964 as the Nikkor-H 5cm f/2 Auto and it was revised as the lens in this article and later as the multi-coated Nikkor-H•C 50mm f/2 Auto. A huge re-design effort by Nikon in the 1970s or the late 1960s turned it into the New-Nikkor 50mm f/2 and the lens arrived at its last form as the Nikkor 50mm f/2 Ai in the late 1970s. All of the lenses that I mentioned above used the same basic lens formula and was modified in small ways to improve its performance or to give it a new feature such as the ability to focus a bit closer. The reason why it was so successful is because its performance is great for its time and so the need to develop a better design wasn’t so urgent. This earned a lot of money for Nikon as the same design was used for almost 15 years spanning several model changes! This is the dream of many accountants and the optical designer must’ve been really proud of his work! The key to it is the simplicity of the design which makes manufacturing easier and cheaper. Lenses of this type are usually sold together with cameras as “kit-lenses” as they will be called later in the new millennium and they should have a more-than-decent degree of performance and they should also be able to be manufactured cheaply. This lens fulfilled them all and so it became one of Nikon’s most successful “kit-lenses” of all time.

IMG_8382Many consider this to be amongst Nikon’s best 50mm lens designs that can still compete with many modern lenses. This lens was so successful that it stayed in production until 1979 (from 1964) in the form of the Nikkor 50mm f/2 Ai which is simply the New-Nikkor 50mm f/2 with a few modifications. It’s a very good lens if you ask me but it’s also why I don’t like it as much as the Nikkor-S 50mm f/1.4 Auto because I like lenses with quirks.


Mod: Converting Gadgets to Use 1.5v Batteries

Hello, everybody! I am in the process of fixing the pipeline of our studio at the moment. I am spending many hours evaluating and creating new tools for our artists and throwing away what the previous guy did. He basically made everything too-complicated and now he can’t fix it himself and so he had to quit! Making something more complicated so that only you know how to fix it can backfire, too. Instead of giving him job security, it made things more difficult for him and everybody else so the company is losing millions of yen in wasted time and missed-schedules. Being a tinker, I am used to seeing what others did and how and where things can be improved or fixed. Today, I’m going to show you a little mod that you can do to save yourself some money.


Many useful photography gadgets like light meters, cameras, etc that were made several decades ago all share something in common that limits their use today – the use of an old battery type that has a different size, voltage and chemistry to mainstream batteries that you can buy today. These are the old mercury-type cells that went out-of-fashion around the late 1980s. It was a very good battery type because the power drop-off is steep so this will allow it to function near its nominal voltage for longer until it exhausts itself. Newer ones that use different chemistry has a smoother fall-off curve so they’ll emit lower and lower voltage gradually until they die. This leads to erratic operation like inaccurate and intermitent operation. The call for greener batteries resulted in the end for this because it has a scary-sounding name and so these batteries are now scarce. Sure, you can buy a few alternatives like the Wein cell but they’re not cheap at all and they usually die within a few months whether you use it or not. Hearing aid batteries share similar dimensions but the voltage is different and they can be hard-to-obtain in an emergency. The best way I know of is use the common and cheap 1.5v batteries and modify your gadget so they’ll work with them with as little fuss as possible. This is a popular mod that any people do, I am sure that you have seen or heard this done somewhere, I personally learned about it some time ago in the 1990s when these batteries are beginning to become scarce.

img_1116You will have to open your gadget just like what you see in this picture. It looks scary but it’s one of the easiest things you can do if you’re an intermediate-level repairer. This is an old Sekonic Apex light meter, it’s one of my favorite meters because it’s easy-to-use and it is still reasonably-accurate in everything but poor lighting conditions where light ratios and other things may affect its performance. The only thing that I hate about it is it uses the older 625/MR-9 mercury-cells. Somebody stole my trusty Sekonic L-308 that I’ve been using for many years and so I had to bring this old meter back from retirement.


Repair: Nikkorex F part 2

Hello, everybody! How are you today? I am busy today and my head is painful but I have to write something for you today. I am currently busy with work so I cannot maintain the blog like how I used to and it doesn’t make any sense for me to do so I will be writing less than usual from now on but I will keep this blog online as much as I can. Now, for more light-hearted news, I will continue with our Nikkorex F series today in this article so read it to know more aout what’s going on inside this little camera.


In part 1, we talked about how to clean the camera inside-and-out. While we will only do minimal cleaning and lubrication, it’s enough to make this camera work again and it’s a good exercise for those who wanted to get into camera repair as these cameras are cheap and simple to take-apart. In this part, we’ll go deeper and work on the mirror box. This is a common problem with many older cameras because the lubricants may have dried up or the wrong type of oil or grease was used by anybody who opened the camera before. I had to dig-deep into this camera to extract the mirror box in order to clean and oil it but it’s still relatively easy compared to the Nikkormat series of cameras.

img_5243Here’s the camera with the Nikkor-P 10.5cm f/1.25 Auto, it’s the “tick-mark” version of this lens and it makes a good partner for the Nikkorex F because both of them represent early Nikon F-mount products. While the lens is certainly of a slightly-older vintage this combo is still representative of that exciting era in 35mm photography history when the Nikon F showed the world what’s possible with the “small” format. More

Repair: Nikkorex F part 1

Hello, everybody! I don’t know if all of my readers are aware that I work for the Japanese animation industry. I am currently working on the latest season of “Ghost in the Shell” so I am currently busy with so many things that I cannot publish a lot these days. It’s a show with characters who had their consciousness “downloaded” to synthetic / robotic bodies. While they’re actually “people”, they’re not “humans” in the true sense of the word. This makes us question what it really means to be “human”. If you ask people who grew up in the New Wave era like me, my answer will be The Human League song and its lyrics! This may sound too simplistic but the chorus goes like “I’m only human, of flesh and blood I’m made.” and then it goes “Human. Born to make mistakes…” – this is where things get more profound. The last line of the female part goes “While we were apart, I was human, too.“, this line is the most powerful line in the song, it cements the idea that making mistakes is part of the whole package of being “human”. Before I get carried-away and sound like an old man contemplating about life I’ll show you something today that makes you question what it means to be a “Nikon” and how mistakes from its marketing and experience gave Nikon a lot of valuable lessons that they used to make one of their best cameras, read on.


Today, I will talk about the Nikkorex F, it’s a camera that’s not being talked much about in many photography circles and many people are even ignorant of this camera. This is not a rare camera at all so its vagueness cannot come from its rarity, the reason probably lie in the fact that many people don’t consider this to be a real “Nikon” at all! Yes, this wasn’t made by Nikon but it carries the Nippon Kogaku brand so who made this and why? Well, the answer to the first question is Mamiya made it, the answer to the next question is the need to make a cheaper F-mount camera to sell along with the expensive Nikon F so that people will buy more Nikkors to use with their new “budget F“. Who proposed this idea is not really clear but one thing is sure, the late Joe Ehrenreich distributed both Nikon and Mamiya in America so he probably had a hand in this decision and so the Nikkorex F was unveiled in 1962, the 2nd F-mount camera to be ever sold!

img_3464The Nikkorex F is a solid camera despite feeling “hollow” in your hands and not as dense as true Nikons tend to be. This is due to the numerous cost-cutting decisions so materials and assembly had to be compromised in some ways. It actually feels much like a Canon 7 or a Yashica to be honest, solid cameras that feel like a tin toys due to cheaper materials and simpler construction. You’ll definitely feel that this isn’t a “Nikon” right away. More

Repair: Nikkormat FTn part 2

Hello, everybody! It’s getting cold now and the walls can get moist at times due to water droplets forming due to precipitation. While the air is generally dry around this time, it’s easy for fungus to form because of the said water droplets. You won’t know what’s there until you remove the furniture and see what’s under it. The same thing goes for cameras and clocks and I will show you once such camera today.


We’ll continue with our Nikkormat FTn series with this article. In part 1, we saw how the steps on how to remove the top cover properly. In this part, I’ll show you around what is inside of the top cover. Most, if not all Nikkormats require some work here so this is very important. There are a few articles online outlining what’s going on here but here’s what I do and I hope that I will make a better article.

IMG_1197Yuck, this is not my idea of a white Christmas! The good thing is it’s localized to this thing only and the other important things seem OK. More

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