Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

The Dark Horse Region

The Dark Horse Region
A View into the center of the Milky Way

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My First Quality 35mm Camera

Way back in the mid-1970's my initiation into 35mm photography took a quantum leap forward when I purchased my first quality 35mm camera,,,a venerable Fujica ST701.

The ST701 was one of the first SLR cameras that Fujica ventured into.  It was relatively compact and felt like a brick and all the functions were mechanical.  It came with a high quality 55mm f/1.8 M42 mount ( threaded screw mount) lens and I purchased an additional 135mm Vivitar lens and a basic Vivitar bounce flash.  It was the first camera using a silicon photo-cell receptor coupled to FET ( Field Effect Transitor) circuit for light metering.  Compared to other cameras of the day, the silicon photo-cell provided a higher sensitivity, instantaneous response and precise measurement of all types of light.  Basically, the metering system was visually transfered to the user via the view finder by the use of a needle inside the +/- exposure window that indicated when the exposure setting was set within acceptable ranges.

Taken with the ST701
When I purchased the camera, it was a substantial cost outlay from my meager finances at the time, but the value that camera added when it came to learning the basics skills of 35mm photography far outweighed the impact of that financial sacrifice.

With that little camera I took hundreds of photos...a good percentage of them being Kodachrome Slide (ASA 25) and for the first time I began to understand what all the exposure settings were all about...aperture, shutter, ASA (today ISO), type of film (indoor or outdoor...which today equates into white balance).

It was a great camera for its day, and if I were to teach a beginning high school or college course in photography, I would make sure all the students had the opportunity to use this camera simply because of its teaching potential.  This camera can still be found on the internet from $10.00 on up to maybe $50.00.  I purchased one for $10.00 a few years ago and it still works just fine. Its a great teaching camera because of how the mechanics of the camera visually demonstrate how everything works together.

Crater Lake - Taken with ST701 and Polarizer - Circa 1975
Although it did function with one of the first generation of built in light meters, you still had to set everything manually then visually verify the setting by checking the needle in the +/- window in the view finder.  By doing so, you became one with the had to think through the exposure process and visualize what the camera was doing and how it would react to various light meter settings.

One of the first things I learned about light and film was that print film was much more forgiving of exposure errors ( as much as one to two full stops ) than slide or transparency film.  I didn't fully understand why this was until years later.  With print film...your final exposure is actually made by the lab tech doing the processing who could compensate somewhat for errors made in the field where as with slide film, the developing requires a much more tightly controlled process and you pretty much get what you took...errors and all.  With print film, you could fudge a bit and still get a reasonably well exposed image, but with slide film, you really had to understand more clearly the exposure process and make adjustments within a tighter range.

Some years later after I purchased that old camera, I sold it thinking I would replace it within a short turned out that wasn't to happened for many years.  A few years ago I graduated into the digital world and was captivated how the marvels of modern technology has transformed the world of photography.  Where the mystery's of photography was once where professionals roamed, the new technology has brought easy to use high quality equipment into our everyday realm.  Even so, that technology has spawned a generation of...may I politely say...lazy photographers who want the camera to do it all for them and they have not a clue as to how it all works.  The basic concepts that once were so important have been lost in the electronic circuitry built into the artificial intelligence of the camera.

I would not trade my days of using that old ST701 for anything as it not only was a good camera for its day...but it was the perfect teaching tool as well.  Today's technology is wonderful for the new school environment, but as for me...the old school ways just might have been a better teacher.


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