Shopping: Kitamura Camera

Hello, everybody! Do you remember Bruce Lee’sGame of Death“? It’s one of the best martial arts movies ever made. It also inspired a lot of video games since each floor of the tower Bruce Lee was at is guarded by a villain, giving you this anticipation as to what or who to expect on the next floor. This is a great concept, something that has never been done before and copied ever since. Today, I will show you something similar, this time with cameras, not Bruce Lee.

Kitamura Camera (カメラのキタムラ) is a well-known name, it certainly is a giant in the camera retail business. Unlike its rivals, Kitamura’s shops are all small and scattered. You will find several shops in an area, even. They’re also selling used gear which many of the bigger names don’t do. They offer great customer service, if you saw something from their website that you’d like to see, simply request for the product to be sent to the branch nearest to you and you could check the camera there and buy it if you wanted to. This is a unique service that nobody else offers. I don’t buy much from them but I used to have my rolls processed by them regularly until recently because they have jacked–up their fee. I was curious as to why they would do that, I now know the reason, that is probably to pay for the rent of their new shop.

This is their flagship, it’s their biggest and best shop ever. It’s open until late at night, 11PM. This is something that nobody offers! This shop is helping a lot in terms of promoting the use of film by offering this service! While I do not know about the cut-off time for processing I do know that you could get your roll from the reception any-time they’re open. This is great for tourists who value every minute of their time during their trip.

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Repair: Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 K/Ai

Hello, everybody! I was watching a documentary on the different types of passata, the tomato paste used in Italian cooking. They are fundamentally the same but there are numerous variations that makes each one special. I am not an expert in Italian cuisine but I do cook, which I am pretty good at and I can tell you that small differences go a long way. Small things such as the hardness of the water and where your salt came from matter at the end when it reaches your mouth. People who enjoy food will notice these subtle differences but those who just wanted to have a full stomach won’t. That is not a bad thing, it’s just differences in the way we perceive things. Today, I’ll show you a lens series which has small variations within its production but you can treat them all as the same lens.

Introduction:

The Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5K/Ai is merely a cosmetic upgrade of the Micro-Nikkor-P.C 55mm f/3.5 Auto. An excellent lens by all standards, many people claim that this performs slightly better compared to its predecessor when it comes to resolving objects that are further into the frame. I cannot confirm this myself but all I can say is that better manufacturing capabilities can be the biggest factor to this claim. Going back to the exterior, the new-look was needed to make this lens look in-line with the rest of the catalog. This set the final look of this lens for years to come until the last one was assembled. It’s the last model of the venerable 55/3.5 class of Micro-Nikkors.

It feels solid in your hands, a real tool for professionals. If you took care of this lens it will outlive us all and it will still be relevant for decades to come. The tough build of this lens is something that we don’t see these days as we are constantly introduced to plastic lenses on a constant basis. The build is all-metal apart from the optics, a true classic.

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Shopping: Alps-Do Camera (Last Day)

Hello, everybody! It is with profound sadness that I bring you the news that the best camera shop in Japan has closed. This shop has been an institution for 9 decades, pre-dating and surviving the war, even. Times were hard, the corona issue has been harsh to nearly-all businesses. Majority of mom-and-pop shops and medium-sized enterprises found it difficult to cope, that and the problem of nobody wanting to take-over the family business forced lots of long-standing shops to close. It’s just not sustainable. Today, I’ll guide you through this shop’s last days and through its last business hour.

For many, Alps-Do Camera (カメラのアルプス堂) is a familiar place, many of my friends, local and abroad found their best bargain here. I consider this place to be the best camera shop in Japan because of their service, price and selection. I was a regular here, at one point visiting the shop several times a day when I was working at the area. This shop helped me appreciate classic photography gear, it helped inspire me to build this blog and nurtured what I would call a “healthy addiction” to restore junk equipment to their former glory. Many people called this shop their favorite and the people here were considered friends to the regular customers.

This is the last time I will be walking through this junction with a purpose. I would meet with my wife or friends at this shop since I see to it that I visit it at least once-a-week. For many, this was a routine, a ritual. For those of you who haven’t seen or known this amazing shop, read my article about Alps-Do Camera in its better days before you proceed.

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Repair: Nikon 36-72mm f/3.5 Series-E

Hello, everybody! I’m pretty busy these days practicing programming. I am one of those people who prefer to use a simple text editor to code instead of using the latest code editors since I believe in good foundations. All the new and convenient features mean nothing if your fundamentals are weak. The simple ways will hone your discipline so I end up writing cleaner code. This can be translated to just about anything including photography. I like using older gear because it helps me focus and think before I click the shutter. I’m going to show you something today, it’s down-to-earth and it will teach you a lot about patience if you’re a new photographer. These don’t cost much as well and they’re great for students or people who are on tight budget.

Introduction:

The Nikon 36-72mm f/3.5 Series-E was sold from 1981-1985, quite short for a production zoom by Nikon’s standard. It was designed to be a portable and cheap companion to the Nikon EM which was marketed towards the lower-end of the market segment, by that Nikon meant the amateurs, students and women. Yes, you heard me right, Nikon and the rest of the world back then thought that women enjoyed small, light and easy-to-use setups. This would have caused a controversy these days but that was the late 1970s. This lens was quite popular since it was sold to be cheap at a time when zooms were rather expensive and served a specialty market unlike today where it is the most common type of lens due to their convenience.

It offers a good range for practical photography, its f/3.5 maximum aperture is adequate in most cases but indoor photography will be challenging if you are shooting with film. It’s a nice lens to use with a Nikon F3 but I believe it deserves to be paired with a better lens, it was Nikon’s flagship camera.

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AF-Nikkor 80mm f/2.8 Ai-S

Hello, everybody! Anybody rocked a mullet several decades ago? I once had a mullet and even had it quite recently. It’s considered ugly today, and you’ll get images of MacGyver in your mind whenever you see somebody who has it. That was the 1980s for you. But mind you, not all things from that time is ugly. There are things that were made back then that made plenty of sense, some of the most beautiful things were made during that time, too. Today, I will show you something that stuck-out amongst the rest. Compared to what the other manufacturers were making, this is pretty in a sea of ugliness.

Introduction:

The AF-Nikkor 80mm f/2.8 Ai-S is an odd lens today. Many people do not see or even knew about it but it has attained cult status amongst people who do and that all has to do with a special characteristic of this lens which you will see later in this article. This was made to compliment the Nikon F3AF, that’s the first professional autofocus Nikon that entered production. Without any lenses that could autofocus that camera would have been useless. Back then the servos and motors needed for this were relatively huge and fitting them to a small lens was challenging but Nikon did it and in an elegant way, too.

It’s a familiar-looking shape but back then many AF lenses have unusual or even out-of-place form like what Pentax and Canon had for example. Those were ugly, Nikon thankfully had better sense and taste! The engineers did a lot of work just so that the barrel is cylindrical as it should be. That made it easier to grip and it doesn’t feel odd in your hands. This may sound trivial, I don’t think anybody realized how difficult it was until they consider that it was the early 1980s and miniaturization wasn’t as good as it is today. Do you remember how ugly the old handy-cams were? That’s just the result of what technology could offer us back then.

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Repair: Zoom-Nikkor 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 Ai-S

Hello, everybody! I went to the $1 shop to buy some supplies. It’s incredible what you could buy for just $1, it’s surely helpful for my savings. What can you buy for $1? Not much, a burger from McDonald’s, perhaps? Cigarettes? I don’t think so, too. Well, maybe a loaf of cheap bread? How about a lens? Yes, a lens. I was lucky enough to find one for $1! It was sold as junk and the state was utterly poor so it was sold for just that much. I didn’t even have a second thought and I just caught it as soon as it was placed in the basket by the shop owner. Today, I will share with you my lucky find and I will show you what makes it even more special.

Introduction:

The Zoom-Nikkor 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 Ai-S was introduced in 1983. It’s one of the new designs from Nikon to accompany their then-new flagship camera, the Nikon F3. Designing this was difficult since it had to use 52mm filters, it was important since it was conceived to be a lens for daily use. It had to be compact, too. Through great hardships, the designers eventually produced a lens that would define a new class of Zoom-Nikkors.

This is a lovely, little lens. It’s not as compact as a prime lens but for a zoom it is quite small specially considering its focal-range. It’s the first Nikkor for this genre, a general-purpose zoom-lens with a focal-range that’s more-than double, most of these lenses have the now-familiar variable-aperture. It was important to have a fixed-aperture for zooms back then, it affects metering but that’s not such a big deal in the 1980s when TTL metering became more reliable. Of course, professional lenses will mostly have a fixed-aperture but most won’t mind this at all, the most important thing is that it zooms and it takes decent photos.

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Repair: Nikkor 45mm f/2.8 Ai-P

Hello, everybody! I was looking at reviews of The Ten Commandments. This movie is one of my favorites, it’s the original movie that will make you pee at the seat because it’s too long! What many don’t realize is that this movie is a remake, a re-imagination of an earlier film with the same title. It was so good that people forgot about the original movie. This is rare because many remakes these days pale in comparison to the originals like Ghostbusters. It is such an entertaining film that I never get tired of watching it. Since we’re talking about remakes, I’ll show you a lens that’s a re-imagination of an old design, a modern remake of a real classic, and it’s better in many ways.

Introduction:

The Nikkor 45mm f/2.8 Ai-P is a modern take on a classic lens design. It was sold from 2001-2006 to compliment the Nikon FM3A. When this debuted, it kind of confused and excited the market since both it and the Nikon FM3A are re-imagination of old, manual equipment. People were used to seeing a new, modern design coming out each month at that time, but this? It has an appeal that and many people fell-in-love with this combo that they will not part with their setup. This was making a big statement, film isn’t dead. This was a time when people were selling all of their film cameras to buy digital cameras. Could it get any bolder? Hats-off to Nikon and the engineers!

It’s a really tiny lens, so-tiny that it can be annoying to use at times. Cameras with large, over-hanging prisms can be problematic since it can obstruct the view and you can’t see the aperture scale well. You can also get confused, its rings are so-thin and spaced closely-together you can accidentally turn any of them. These are sacrifices that we all have to make just so we can use the tiniest F-mount Nikkor.

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Repair: Zoom-Nikkor 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Ai-S

Hello, everybody! I was watching some old basketball matches and I saw a familiar face, Muggsy Bogues. He’s tiny by NBA standards, certainly not the typical player in this league. I always admired him since he held his own in a game dominated by giants. He showed determination and drive, that was his biggest asset and that made him very entertaining to watch. There were many people who were surprised back then at his performance and he was and still is an inspiration for a lot of people who play ball. Today, I will show you a lens that’s tiny but it packs a huge punch. It’s unassuming and people poo-poo’d it on the internet but I’ll demonstrate just how nice it is specially considering its humble origins as a “kit-lens”.

Introduction:

The Zoom-Nikkor 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Ai-S was made from 1984-2005. It’s what Nikon had to counter what its competitors were making at the time. It was a time when cheap, compact and competitive zoom-lenses were replacing the normal 50mm prime lens as part of a beginner’s kit. They have to be cheap, small and good in order to attract would-be photographers. Consider these as entry-level drugs to photography the same way as 18-55mm zooms were for photographers from the mid-2000s up to this day.

This is a really cheap-looking Nikkor, even the grip is plastic. Despite that, it can handle a lot of abuse as you can see from my sample. I got this for a low price because of its condition. I wouldn’t bother with it if it costs more. This is one of the bottom-shelf Nikkors that were made for the budget-conscious. Many people confuse this with the Zoom-Nikkor 35-70mm f/3.5-4.8 Ai-S, the names sound similar and they look nearly-identical, too. The latter is what many people use to reference with this lens, they may have been confused, too. And that also contributes to this lens’ bad reputation.

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Review: Kodak Gold 200

Hello, everybody! Does anybody here enjoy a McDonald’s burger? I used to think that they’re terrible since my gold-standard is always Burger King. It’s something that I used to eat a lot to save money but I didn’t recall loving it. I always thought that it’s bland, mediocre and small but it gets the job done. I came to realize lately that they’re better than how I remembered them to be and they can be quite tasty, too. There are some things that are worth a look after not having them for a long time. We’re probably attached to the image or taste of something that it made our opinion biased. Today, I’ll show you a good example of something that many of us take for granted but it really is a decent product that’s worth another look.

Introduction:

Everyone knows that my favorite cheap film is the Fujifilm Industrial 100. It was the best bang-for-buck film available locally but Fujifilm decided to end its production so prices went up to unreasonable levels. I was faced with no other choice but to make-peace with a film that I hated, the Kodak Gold 200. I never had any great experiences with it before but I also did not hate it so much that I won’t ever use it unlike Mitsubishi’s cheap version that I used to buy a very long time ago. I hated it because it didn’t give me the qualities of the Fujifilm Industrial 100 and I hated shooting with ISO200. It’s a weird ISO and I preferred ISO100 for slower films and ISO400 for moderate ones. This is a weird in-between ISO that I have not much use for. With ISO100 I could calculate my exposure within my mind but ISO200 throws things off.

This film is still priced reasonably-well despite not being cheap at all. I am a cheap photographer and I would never use expensive stocks unless the lens I used demands it. For taking mundane photos of daily things I prefer cheap films. Having said that, I bought many rolls of this to give it another chance. I was surprised by what I saw, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered it to be! It’s quite decent to be honest, maybe my photography skills have improved or I was just shooting with cheap equipment back then (a Canon T80 and zoom).

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Repair: Nikkor 135mm f/3.5 Ai-S

Hello, everybody! I’m currently tired of what’s happening at work, life and the world. Things aren’t going smoothly and I have to deal with difficult and unreasonable people. Hopefully, that will all change as it’s driving me to my physical, mental and emotional limits. There’s always closure to everything, nothing is permanent. Speaking about closures, I’ll show you the last lens in one of Nikon’s longest-selling lens family. It marked the end of an era and it is a worthy lens to end it all.

Introduction:

The Nikkor 135mm f/3.5 Ai-S was sold from 1981 to 1983, a very short period as far as Nikkors go. It’s the last lens in the 135/3.5 family which began with the Nikkor-Q•C 13.5cm f/3.5 from the early days of Nikon. That lens family is known for being reliable, sharp and practical. With the arrival of autofocus and other technologies and trends, this lens family became redundant. The market demanded something else and that made it difficult to sell this lens.

It’s similar to the older Nikkor 135mm f/3.5 Ai in terms of dimensions but it’s lighter because it was made with fewer parts. It’s an elegant lens with clean lines and is a joy to hold in your hands.

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