18 Aug 2014

Minolta X-300 SLR Review

This is an overview/review of the Minolta X-300 SLR camera body.

This was in fact the very first ancient classic-looking SLR that I put my hands on, with a 50mm f1.7 prime. This was the first full frame + fast prime combination that I ever looked through. Having been used to a crop-sensor DSLR and its 18-55mm f3.5 kit lens (2 stops less light), the viewfinder on the minolta was such a pleasure to look through with that beautiful microprism thing in the middle for fine focusing.

I did not use that camera, however. The wind lever was stuck and the shutter release button did nothing. I let it go for £5 on top of the lenses that I had for it. The man who took it was very happy when he put 2x LR44 (A76) button cell batteries in it and it worked like a charm. This has to be the first and most negative point to mention about this camera. I do not like a camera that will not work without batteries. They run out, you're stuck.

When batteries are present and the camera is turned on, the viewfinder shows the metered shutter value in red LED dots to the right of it. In the top right corner one of two letters will be lit: A if your shutter dial is set to Auto, or M if you're in Manual mode. To lock a metered reading, you press the AEL thing on the front of the camera body, cleverly combined with the Self-Timer in a single two-directional switch that you can press with your middle finger to lock while reserving your index for the shutter release.

The second point to mention is that this is an Aperture Priority camera only. It does not support a fully automatic P mode where the camera sets both the aperture and shutter speed based on your ISO and available light, and similarly no TV (shutter priority mode) where you set the shutter manually and let the camera choose the appropriate aperture value. This is simply because this camera does not have a facility to automatically control the aperture. You can either use it in full manual mode, or Av mode simply by setting the shutter speed dial to Auto.

This camera also lacks a PC-sync port, so that rules out the option to sync your studio strobes, or some old pc-sync-only flashes such as hammerheads, without the use of a hotshoe-to-pcsync adapter.

It also lacks a depth of field preview button, as there is nothing to pull that aperture lever until you actually release the shutter. When you dial in a different aperture value, the aperture actually stays open until the shutter is released so there is no way of previewing your depth of field if you ever need to do that. On the plus side, this maintains a bright viewfinder and the shallowest possible depth of field for fine focusing.

The last useful thing that I think this camera lacks is an exposure compensation switch. It is not the end of the world to live without one though, as you can always compensate by changing the ISO value (lying to your camera) so that it exposes an extra stop for a lower-speed film, or minus a stop for a high-speed film.

Giving up the things mentioned above, you get a nice, durable, very simple to use without any complications, film SLR capable of producing stunning photos thanks to the Rokkor glass which has some interesting entries in its lineup. It is interesting to mention that the mount for this camera is actually called SR, while the often wrongly used MD designates a generation of lenses, according to this document.

The video below is my overview of it, showing where all the functions are located. I hope you find it useful. Please hit subscribe to support what I'm doing.

12 Aug 2014

Mamiya 645AF: Back, Film, Battery

I've been meaning to post this for a couple weeks now but never got to finishing (or actually re-filming) the video, so as usual, it ends up being posted as is.

As you could see in a previous post, I am now the proud owner of a Mamiya AFD II + ZD digital back outfit. It works a treat and delivers stunning images under the right circumstances. What I love most about this system is its versatility.

I've always loved things that I could use for more than one thing. I do not like proprietary accessories for this reason: you can only use any certain accessory for one thing, and one thing only, and because I'm on a budget, I like to get the most out of any one piece that I pay for. I think companies that thrive on propriatery accessories are the incarnation of economic evil.

The Mamiya AF series, however, is versatile enough to do everything you need with one system.The same system can take either film or digital backs. The same film insert can do either 120 or 220 film. The Mamiya ZD digital back, unlike any other digital back, is designed so that the hot mirror is user-accessible and removable and interchangeable, so you can easily switch between IR photography and regular photography, for example, any time you want. Also, the digital back accepts both SD and CF memory card formats, so there. You can use anything you have on this camera. Moreover,  the camera takes 6xAA batteries so you're never stuck with proprietary batteries that could possibly be discontinued, and the digital back accepts another brand's batteries which are much cheaper than Mamiya's own make and do the same thing. Flashguns? I'm using my Canon speedlites in manual mode with YongNuo's YN-622c's as remote triggers. Bingo!

The Mamiya that I had bought only came with a digital back though, and I just had to get a film back for it. But buying them separate is not a budget-friendly idea as they go near £50 second hand. What I do in such a case is simple: I pay more. So I got myself a nice Mamiya 645, 80mm f2.8 and film back kit. My plan is simple: keep the back, sell the rest. The seller has a second film back going separately but I missed that.

The new arrival, Mamiya 645AF, never released the shutter no matter how much I tried. It was the first version in the series and therefore not compatible with the digital back I had, so that could not be tested. Also, when I put the film back on my AFDII, the latter would not fire. It was obviously something to do with the film back, and I thought it simply required loading a film.

The following video shows what happens when you remove and attach a film or digital back. In some cases, the shutter/mirror should flip up for protection but sometimes they don't. If that happens to you, find the little thing in the corner and release it quick to save your camera a possible death.

Then I finally get to loading a Kodak Ektar 100 in the film back. But does that solve the problem?

The videos I took above show a silly problem I had which required a silly solution. The film back simply required a new CR2032 battery. This battery is very important because it does more than just power the LCD. In fact, the LCD on the film back can be powered via the camera body's own battery. As you could see in the videos, the small LCD did in fact reflect 120 Film @ 100 ISO even as the button cell battery was flat, and this is why I was confused and did not suspect a flat back's battery. I thought some of the things I said, especially regarding the shutter/mirror problem is very important to share, so I hope this post has been informative for someone and helps answer any questions.

11 Aug 2014

Mode, Meter and Autofocus

This question was asked on a certain Facebook page and I thought I should share my answer with everyone not just the poster.

"... if I am shooting manual and manual focusing, does the metering mode matter? Evaluative, partial, spot etc..."

In this question you see a confusion of what the modes are and what interrelations they have to one another, so I felt it necessary to define what each part of the settings does. I hope you find the following information useful.

The meter's JOB is to measure incoming light and give the nearest shutter/aperture value that produces %18 gray for the area you are metering for given the current ISO setting and taking into consideration the compensation value you are asking for.

Meter mode is the "area" you are metering for. It is the area of light that is taken into the consideration of the meter.

If you are metering for a spot, the meter will tell you what settings give ONLY that spot mid-gray tones. It ignores the rest.

If you're metering centre-weighted, the meter will incorporate the rest of the frame, giving priority to about %20 in the centre of the frame, attempting to make it appear mid-gray in the end result.

If you are metering with Evaluative, the meter is measure different light values across the frame and taking all those into consideration to sum up the best time/aperture values that give an overall nearest thing to mid-gray. Then of course compensation value if you specify one.


The photography mode you set on your camera (P, T, A, M) is what tells the meter's algorithm what setting it is responsible for calculating automatically:

If you are in Aperture priority mode, the meter will give the nearest Time (shutter) value to achieve mid-tones and your compensation value for the area you are metering for.

If you are in shutter priority mode, the meter will give the nearest Aperture value to achieve mid-gray and your compensation value for the area you are metering for.

If you are in Manual mode, the meter will is asked to sit aside and just watch.

If you are in P mode, the algorithm is measure the combination of shutter/aperture settings that achieve mid-gray taking into consideration the compensation value you have specified.


Metering has nothing to do with autofocus. The autofocus lock button and metering lock button can simply be the same button (usually half-pressing the shutter locks them both).

To sum up:
Internal light meter tries to calculate values that achieve mid-gray.

Metering mode: what area of the frame are you metering?
Camera mode: what setting is the meter responsible for?
Metering and autofocus: different things. But are locked together in the default settings.

I really hope this is of help to anyone. Feel free to leave any comments or send any questions.