Olympus OM System: A Landmark in Compact SLR Camera Design

Let’s revisit some noteworthy models of this popular 35mm SLR series and the cool facts that make them film photography favorites.

Sometimes, size does matter in the photography world, as there will always be photographers who hold a preference for more compact and pocketable cameras. In the realm of SLR cameras, one series has retained its title as a lightweight champion: the Olympus OM-System. At nearly five decades and counting, it remains the SLR camera of choice for many film photographers who prefer more portable options that don’t compromise optical quality. Just in time for the 100th anniversary of Olympus this year, join us as we look back at one of the most innovative 35mm SLR systems ever made.

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The September 11 Photo Project: A Reminder of Photography’s Importance

The September 11th attacks will live in the hearts and minds of people for a lifetime. Photography ensures that, when everyone alive that day is gone, the world will never forget.

It was around three in the afternoon in the UK, and I’d just got home from school. As I always did, I put on the television to watch my favorite shows before heading to soccer practice, only this time none of them were on. Instead, news reporters stood in front of a blazing New York skyline as the city went into a state of emergency. “Mum, New York is on fire,” I shouted as she frantically made my pre-soccer snack. I knew the magnitude of what had happened but was too young for it to sink in. When the clock struck half-past four, I switched off the TV, picked up my ball, and headed to practice.

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Nat Geo Photographer Ira Block on Processing His Home City After 9/11

National Geographic Photographer Ira Block has worked to ensure that we truly never forget 9/11.

“They weren’t panicking,” related photographer Ira Block as we sat in his NYC loft and examined images from 9/11. “They were instead trying to figure out what was going on.” The image Ira is referring to is one very typical of New York. We were all in plenty of shock on 9/11. Everyone was in a state of confusion throughout the day. Said photo, which is the lead image of this story, was shot by Ira while walking down 7th Ave. The photos Ira took were for himself. Though a National Geographic photographer, Ira isn’t a news photojournalist–but he started out as one. To that end, he wasn’t on an assignment that day and the images he shot were just for him.

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Exploring Why Photographers Did or Didn’t Pick Up a Camera on 9/11

What made some of our community members pick up a camera, while others chose to leave the gear at home and take in the traumatic experience of 9/11?

We all face the dilemma of photographing the moment vs. being ‘in’ the moment. Inarguably, our view behind the lens can be completely different than the view absent of one. We encounter it regularly when it’s a beautiful sunset, moments with friends, cute episodes with my cats, etc. These moments are superfluous and trivial in comparison to the gravity that is the traumatic experience of experiencing 9/11 firsthand. With that said, the question remains – do I want to document what I’m seeing, or experience what I’m seeing? To explore this concept, while also giving appropriate reverence to the anniversary we’re coming upon, we interviewed two wonderful photographers who lived in the city and were present the day of the attacks. Ron Jautz chose to leave his camera at home, while Thomas Donley grabbed his gear and ran out the door. While one chose to make photographs and the other chose to experience the moment, their answers reflect many similar sentiments. Continue reading…

A $35,600 Kodak Camera and Others That Tell the Story of 9/11

cameras of 9/11

In the grand scheme of things, the cameras of 9/11 aren’t important. But without them, photographers would not have been able to document this horrific moment in world history.

The terrible events that unfolded in New York City on September 11th, 2001 sent shock waves around the globe. The unthinkable had happened, and terror was brought to our doorstep. New York City streets were filled with citizens fleeing the chaos unfolding around them. There were a few photographers who were in the area that made it their mission to document the scenes. The photographers and the cameras of 9/11 captured the terror, chaos, and heroism of New York City on that fateful morning. Without them, the pictorial history of 9/11 would not be as complete as it is today. The events in New York City on Septemeber 11th will never be forgotten thanks in part to the cameras of 9/11 and the scenes they recorded. The world became a much darker place that day and life as we knew it changed forever. The photographers, along with millions of other NYC residents, started out their day just like any other. Little did they know that their day would become one they would never forget.

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You Really Should Stop Over-Photoshopping Your Landscape Images

landscape images

What if we told you that you can make beautiful landscape images without Photoshopping them to death.

Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One, and any photo editing software out there (including Instagram) can help make our images look great. As good as these programs are though, they can easily be abused. Unfortunately, there seems to be a growing trend where photographers are taking things too far during post, especially when it comes to landscape images. The world is a beautiful place, but there are many hell-bent on making their landscape images look like something from an alien planet. When you over-process your pictures, you’re doing the scene zero justice. You’re just destroying what would otherwise have been a gorgeous image. Let’s talk about this after the break. Continue reading…

The Nikon F: 10 Milestones to Celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Iconic Camera

We’re pretty sure a lot of you still have a treasured Nikon F series camera lying around; today would be a great day to celebrate its place in the history of photography.

As much as 2018 was an important year for Nikon with the introduction of the Z Series of mirrorless cameras, this year is also a big one for the company as the iconic Nikon F celebrates its 60th birthday. The first in the company’s highly successful line of professional 35mm SLR cameras, it was one of the most advanced cameras of its time when it came out in April 1959. To honor the Nikon F and its legendary successors on this special occasion, here are some key milestones that we believe are worth the revisit.

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Before the Metabones SpeedBooster, Kodak Had Their Own Design

Back in 1994, Kodak had a focal length reducer just like the SpeedBooster that made Metabones famous.

Back in the 1990s, digital photography was still just gaining a foothold and engineers were trying to figure out a number of problems and issues. It was done in a similar way to how the Metabones SpeedBooster gave cameras the ability to use lenses for larger format sensors while providing more light and field of view. Except for Kodak, it was to solve a significantly bigger problem around significantly smaller sensors. Before most cameras used CMOS sensors, they used CCD sensors–and really small ones at that. The sensors in those cameras would be laughable today for the professional photographer, and one of the big problems that needed to be solved was using available lenses.

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This Unusual Lens was Used at the Nevada Test Site in the 1950s

Could this 1000mm Cyclotar lens have been used to document bomb experiments?

Today’s awesome vintage find on ebay is something for collectors with a taste for rarity and curiosity for military history. You definitely don’t see a 1000mm 40-inch f/8 Cyclotar lens spring up from the depths of ebay everyday! What exactly is this curious-looking item? Well, there’s not much info out there other than what ebay seller brcamera has provided. This rare Cyclotar lens was made by Alan Gordon Enterprises for the US government in the 1950s. It was used at the Nevada Test Site for documenting testing activities (we’re definitely itching to know what kind) from the 1950s to the 1970s. It was especially constructed around a 40-inch Bausch + Lomb f/8 Telestigmat lens and was equipped on a Crown Graphic 4×5.

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Gallery Review: Stephen Shore Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art

Stephen Shore’s Retrospective at the MoMA is worth exploring for every photographer

A tangerine sunset casts a Texaco station in an eerie light in a middle-of-nowhere highway. Flashbulbs on a Rollei 35mm capture a grotesquely delicious image of an omelet, white toast, and a stark white glass of milk in what could be any diner in the United States. For the past five decades, Stephen Shore has captured an unflinching and unapologetic perspective of America. His work justified the mundane and changed the way the world saw photography. After his work hit the mainstream, the world suddenly saw that photographs of parking lots and the average citizen were not a waste of film, and they followed suite.

Stephen Shore was born in New York City in 1947, and began his life as a photographer very early, receiving his first Darkroom kit from an uncle at age 6. By 1958, he was given the book American Photographs by Walker Evans, and his life was forever changed. By the age of 14, Edward Steichen had purchased a handful of Shore’s prints, launching his prolific career. From 1965 – 1967, he joined Andy Warhol’s inner circle and spent the majority of his time documenting the unique group of artists. At age 24, Shore exhibited his first solo body of work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which just so happened to be the first solo exhibition of a living American photographer in history. The rest of Shore’s career was just as prolific as his beginnings, and he went on to create many masterful bodies of work.  

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A Musing and History of the Pentax 67 SLR

All images and text by Zeb Andrews over at Blue Moon Camera. Used with permission.

Where to start with the Pentax 6×7? How about if we start with the fact that I love this camera; so this way you know exactly where I am coming from as you read this. I have been using this camera for over a decade now, and though I now carry other cameras with me more frequently, my Pentax has a special place in my camera lineup that no other camera can compete with.

The Pentax 6×7 is not that dissimilar to most 35mm SLR cameras –  if you gave those cameras steroids and pumped them up to twice their original size. The Pentax 6×7 is a pretty straight-forward camera. Exposure is done entirely manually, it uses its own line of bayonet mount lenses, can accept alternative prisms (including a meter prism and a waist level viewfinder) and is able to use either 120 or 220 film, creating either 10 or 21 6x7cm exposures per roll. The camera is a beastly tank, but such a good beastly tank. At the time of its introduction, it did exactly what a pro photographer needed it to: make 6x7cm medium format images while viewing through the camera’s main lens… and it did it well and surprisingly ergonomically for its size and weight.

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The Old NPC ProBack Let You Shoot Polaroid Peel-Apart Films with a Nikon SLR

The NPC ProBack was a pretty nifty idea, if not a waste of film

Once in awhile, you come across a photography contraption whose purpose or use eludes you. Some of the ones that occasionally still pop up on eBay and photography forums is the NPC Polaroid ProBack, a camera back that was designed to take Polaroid peel-apart instant films for checking exposure, lighting, and composition on the spot. Back in the days, Polaroid films had a different purpose in photography than what most of us today use (and love) them for. They were very helpful for photographers who needed precise exposures for demanding projects. For those who wanted or needed to do this without an actual Polaroid camera (or wanted to get a preview of their camera setup), there was the bulky and unwieldy Speed Magny for those used Nikon F cameras. The cool factor of this was that the back essentially turned the 35 mm Nikon F camera into an instant or large format camera.

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Albert Watson Relates the Story of His Iconic Image of Steve Jobs

“That’s maybe the best picture ever taken of me” is what Steve Jobs told Albert Watson.

Photographer Albert Watson has photographed many celebrities and important people; but his image of Steve Jobs is one that really, truly stands out to lots of folks. Albert shot it with large format film and Steve was questioning why. With all honesty, Albert said that he didn’t believe that digital was there yet–and amazingly Steve agreed! But this was pretty difficult for Albert as Steve Jobs apparently hated photographers.

Of course, you can immediately see what kind of difficulty this must’ve been.

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Speed Magny Backs Turn Nikon F Cameras into Instant or Large Format Cameras

Screenshot image from the Speed Magny 45 video by Doug Bardwell

From the 1960s to the 1980s, photographers who wanted to check their lighting or churn out images for very quick reportage had a secret weapon: the Speed Magny. This interesting contraption allowed them to produce Polaroid prints with their Nikon F cameras. While the entire setup looks rather bulky and awkward, it was still marketed as the “Instant” Nikon.

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Ronald Herard: 9/11 Through the Eyes of a Photo Lab Technician

This photographer walks in, drops off his pictures and stands off to the side. I asked him “Are you okay?” He says he was standing there with the camera in hand and all of a sudden him and the firemen hear these sounds. THUNK! THUNK! He didn’t know what it was. When he turned around, he found out it was people hitting the ground and jumping out of the World Trade Center. He says to me “I couldn’t lift my camera.” He was covered in ash, and tears were coming down his eyes. They were flesh colored where the tears were streaming down and cutting through the ashes. That photographer cleaned himself up in the bathroom and he went back out there.

During 9/11, Ronald Herard was one of the people running the Time Life Photo Lab in NYC. He got into the art form through graphic design only to shuffle around while working in studios, retail stores, and then photo labs. Today, he’s both a member of Kamoinge and a camera salesperson at Foto Care in NYC; but on 9/11 he was a photo lab tech working the counter–and so he’s seen the work of so many photographers who shot during that day. We sat down in a pizzeria around the Flatiron neighborhood (as us New Yorkers do) where I mostly listened to Ron relate the experience of how he got into photography and how those experiences lead to him being in the lab. On September 11th 2001, photographers of all types poured in as the Time Life Photo Lab made themselves open 24/7 for a period of time.

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David Forrest: Documenting How 9/11 Affected The Brooklyn Waterfront

All images by ​​David Forrest. Used with permission.

If you were to think about all the things that happened during 9/11, you’d surely consider that there were probably photographers who wanted to get closer to the tragedy to document it but simply couldn’t–and that was the situation for David Forrest. When the planes crashed into the towers, police prevented people from getting into Manhattan from the other boroughs. But the towers are so large that they’re easily visible from every borough no matter where you are pretty much. So when the smoke and embers came over the city, it travelled quite far and was very visible. And while a lot was happening in Manhattan, the ash traveled to the other boroughs.

David’s story is one that is unlike many others–because while many stories concentrate on what happened in Manhattan, not many people talk about how Brooklyn was affected.

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Michel Leroy: A Photojournalist’s Perspective of 9/11 While Not on Assignment

All images shot during 9/11 by Michel Leroy. Used with permission. Contact Sheets created by the Phoblographer with permission.

When you look at the modern portfolio of Photographer Michel Leroy, you wouldn’t at all believe that 9/11 was a time that touched him personally. But not only was photography bred into Michel since high school, but so was journalism. On September 11th 2001, the World Trade Center fell here in NYC as the world and many New Yorkers looked on in horror. For this year’s remembrance, we wanted to interview a number of photographers who were around and on the scene during that time. Many of them have never looked back at their archives, and with Michel the experience was one that he felt really changed him. But as many photojournalists will tell you, the camera can be a shield of some sort from your own emotions.

Before you go on, I want to warn everyone that this post contains images that may shock or cause a stir amongst some readers. I personally saw the second plane hit the towers, and both putting this story together and looking through Michel’s images certainly was difficult to do.

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The Leica H: A Little Leica Camera That Never Got Made

All images “Photo (c) Lars Netopil Classic Cameras, Wetzlar“ Used with permission.

The story of the Leica H is a rather unfortunate one that in many ways, makes me question how it would have affected the camera manufacturing industry. Imagine being so committed to a creation of yours: treating it almost like a special part of you only to know that while the idea is pretty fantastic, it just won’t make it into the world because of problems that are completely out of your control. You’d be destroyed–and that’s exactly how Adam Wagner felt when he learned that Leica would essentially be crushing his dreams. Many photographers and resellers can speak with great detail about the history of the R series, the M series and even the company’s other cameras like their film point and shoots. But as I discovered in over two years of research, not much is really known about the Leica H.

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Sebastião Salgado and the Silent Drama of Photography

Many of the most iconic photographers have lived colorful and interesting lives, filled with events and encounters that have shaped their brilliant works. Such is what we can discern from the works of Sebastião Salgado, a Brazilian social documentary photographer and photojournalist known for his dramatic black and white photographs that explore man’s relationship with nature and with each other. If you’re discovering Sebastião Salgado’s works for the first time, prepare to be amazed and inspired. His timeless photographs remain relevant and captivating even for today’s budding photographers, so you’ll definitely enjoy this video primer on his life and work by Aidan Moneyhon. Here, you’ll hear Aidan briefly cover some important details about Salgado’s life, and get a glimpse of the imagery that earned him worldwide recognition.

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The Stories Behind Some of the Greatest Photos Ever Taken

We have all seen great photos over the course of our lives, be that images you have taken, or that you have come across that inspired you. But few images have ever reached the level of greatness to where they were ingrained into the psyche of the modern world as a whole. These are images that aren’t just worth a thousand words, they are so much more than that. Many of them have changed the world and many others are copied and paid homage to. Continue reading…