Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Sorting out cameras and lenses.

I took a walk over to Old Town with the Minolta X-700 loaded with TMAX 100.  I was pleased to see the restored 135mm MC Tele Rokkor-QD lens performing up to my expectations.  The images which did not quite work out as hoped were victims of my own technical deficiencies, as well as a little bit to some peculiarities of my yard sale camera.
    The X-700 underexposes compared to my Spotmatic by about a half stop with a normal lens and up to one-and-one-half stops with the 135mm telephoto.  To further complicate matters, with normal lenses the X-700, the XG1 and the Spotmatic all seem to give the same exposure readings in subdued light. Some of this may be due just to differences in the metering systems, but I think the Minolta's auto-exposure system is a bit off.  There may be some way to adjust the sensitivity of the meter, but I haven't come across any clues on the web about how that might be accomplished.  Since the exposure error is pretty consistent with any given lens, the problem can largely be overcome by just adjusting the camera's ASA setting There is a bit of uncertainty that lingers in my mind, however, so I'm slowed down a little in my responses to photo opportunities.

A bigger issue for me with the combination of the X-700 and the 135 lens is that the aperture-priority auto-exposure system actually reverses my usual routine.  With a telephoto mounted on my Spotmatic I first set the shutter speed to ensure that it will be fast enough to stop any subject or camera movement, and then I set the aperture to obtain the proper exposure using stop-down metering.  With the X-700 I need to take a guess at what aperture is going to match the speed I want from the camera.  What happens, sometimes, is that my guess is a little off and if I have failed to note the camera-selected speed in the viewfinder, my shutter might be a stop slower than is required for best sharpness.  What is really at play is my own habits and routines which need to be adjusted in order to get the optimal performance from the camera system.  It is also possible with the X-700 to set the shutter speed manually, which makes the system behave more like my Pentax Spotmatics.

Using the Minolta system has been a useful way to examine my own part in creating the images I want.  As a photographer I have gotten into habits of manipulating the technology through a nearly unconscious learning process.  It is easy to form preferences for certain gear as a result which have much more to do with my performance than with the capabilities of a particular camera system.  My thought at present is that it will be useful to try a couple other cameras with lenses similar to Rokkor--QD.  My later Pentax cameras, for instance, have aperture-priority metering, and I have a couple telephotos similar in characteristics to the Rokkor-QD.


Jim Grey said...

What a fascinating line of thinking, about how we unconsciously play favorites with our gear. I wonder how many fine cameras I've not bonded with because they made me work in a way that didn't feel natural to me.

Mike said...

I have come across several forum threads in which people list cameras they have "bonded with". One can see some trends in those preference lists, but there is not usually much deeper analysis. I've been making more of an effort lately to be more critical and systematic in my approach to image making so as to extract more of the potential of the gear, film and chemistry.