Back in September, while on vacation in Vermont, my beloved Nikon D40 broke. This made me sad because, although I have many, many other cameras (including a respectable digital Canon Powershot), the D40 is my go-to camera, what I would instinctively grab for any pictures I was taking around the house, what I would use for Etsy photos, what I would always throw in the car even if I was going out to take pictures with film cameras.
The shutter mechanism got stuck, a problem which seems to happen sooner or later to cameras of this model. I was reluctant to send it in to be repaired, partly because of the cost, and partly because I didn’t like the idea of sending it anywhere. A few months went by, and then finally Travis decided to have a go at fixing it himself.
Following a tutorial he found somewhere online, he opened up the body partway until he found screws that were too stripped out for him to remove. Fortunately, a bit of the shutter mechanism was visible, and he was able to drop a few drops of oil into the workings. And behold, the Nikon snapped back to life!
It’s not perfect – the shutter has stuck a few times since then, which is always greeted with a sense of dismay. We’ve stopped being gentle with it and have taken to giving it a firm smack on the bottom when it’s finicky. For now, it works. I definitely foresee buying a new digital Nikon sometime in the new year, though. Hopefully, it’ll wait until I’ve got the money put aside for it.
When the D40 was in its sad, extended period of not working, I had the thought that I should get a Nikon 35mm film camera body – something that would let me use the lens that came with the D40 and my Lensbaby Composer with the Nikon mount even if my Nikon digital camera wasn’t working. So this year, for Christmas, Travis bought me one. Meet the newest member of the family, the Nikon FM2N:
Since the D40 is still roughly functional, I outfitted the FM2N with the Lensbaby Composer. I’ve always wanted to try shooting film with the Lensbaby, and now I’m finally able to!
The first roll of film I shot through the FM2N was, ironically, the last roll of Kodachrome I’ve shot. Considering that 1. the Kodachrome was probably outdated by at least a decade, 2. this was my first time using the FM2N, 3. I shot half of the roll outside at night without using a tripod, and 4. I knew I needed to get through the roll quickly in order to get it shipped off to Dwayne’s before today (the last day they’re accepting Kodachrome to develop EVER), I bet that roll is a hot mess. If it did make it to Dwayne’s in time to get developed, I’m not holding out a ton of hope that I get any decent results off of the roll. If nothing else, though, at least I’ll have some new junk slides to make curtains and lamps out of.
Speaking of Kodachrome, we shipped off 6 rolls to Dwayne’s a few weeks ago. I haven’t heard anything from them, but hopefully there were no post office shenanigans, and all of the film made it there safely. Honestly, I only shot the Kodachrome because I felt obligated to – I shot a few rolls of it back in the late 90s, and then never went back to it, probably because of the delay it took to get the film processed. If I hadn’t've accumulated some Kodachrome this summer when I went to the camera auctions, I don’t think I would have gone out of my way to acquire any before the great Kodachromepocalypse. As is, I had to force myself to shoot with them, which seems sacrilegious, I know, but I just really like shooting film that I can develop myself. Process K-14, why must you be so mysterious and complex?!
I won’t even mention the 12 or so reels of Kodachrome movie film I never got around to shooting. As much as I want to, I just can’t force myself to get into shooting movies. Oh well.
Anyway, back to the FM2N! I shot the roll of Kodachrome through it, then an old roll of Kodak Vericolor from 1990 which I’ve yet to develop (it’s C-41), and then I finally loaded up something I could develop quickly – a roll of black and white Rollei R3 400 that expired in 2008. Semi-fresh, even! We took it out for a test drive yesterday and developed it in Kodak HC100b last night.
Hey, it works! Maybe there’s some hope for the roll of Kodachrome, after all!
The FM2N is really a great little camera. The shutter mechanism is entirely mechanical, which means it doesn’t use battery power to operate. The only thing in the camera that uses the battery is the meter, which actually works better than the Nikon D40 did when using the Lensbaby. Whenever I had the Lensbaby on the Nikon, I couldn’t get a meter reading at all, and would just wind up taking a bunch of pictures in order to find the right exposure. Since it was digital, it wasn’t that big of a deal, but with the Nikon FM2N, I don’t need to do that. The exposure indicator lights inside the viewfinder let me know if I need to adjust the shutter speed without having to do any guesswork. I shot two rolls of film yesterday using only the in-camera meter as my judge of shutter speed, and I got perfect results.
Also, when I wasn’t looking, Lensbaby released a new product, a lenshood/step ring for filters. It’s like they anticipated my needs and met them before I had even realized what I needed! Spooky! Anyway, this nifty little gadget screws onto the Lensbaby lens and allows you to use 52mm filters, which is perfect, because all of my good filters are 52mm. Hooray! When I took the photo of the pony, above, I used a red 25A filter to darken the sky.
So, this is all leading me towards the ultimate goal of shooting infrared film through the Lensbaby. Exciting! I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, and I may wait until spring to actually give it a try, but at least now it’s possible. I’ve got a few rolls of the color infrared film left, too (the one roll I shot got sent to Dwayne’s for processing, since I wasn’t sure when I’d get around to developing more E-6), and what could be more awesome than shooting color infrared film with a Lensbaby?
The FM2N has made me a lot more interested in shooting 35mm film in general. It’s not my preferred format – I far prefer 120 or 4×5. However, I’ve accumulated a boatload of 35mm, a lot of it really weird stuff that was never available in the larger formats. Now I have an excuse to shoot through it and be excited about doing so.
I also shot through a roll of color film (some Rite-Aid branded 200 speed expired film) with the FM2N yesterday. We took it to CVS for a quicky developing, and got pretty good results with that as well. Since most of the pictures on both of the rolls were of the same subject (I was trying out the different optics and taking notes! Go, me!), here’s one of the non-test subject pictures.
On the lower left edge of the above pic, you can just barely make out one of the stars from the star aperture disc. Fun!
Anyway, now that the Nikon D40 is working (sort of) again, I should be getting my Etsy shop back and running here in the next week with misc. camera weirdness in stock. I like the Canon Powershot SX 1S that we have, but it really sucks for doing product photos. Nikon 4-evah! I’m also going to try and post some articles about using different filters, since it’s something I’m interested in learning more about right now. I did a really wacky filter experiment yesterday, but want to try it again with a different subject before posting the results.
I’ll leave you with one of the few pics I took on vacation with the Speed Graphic. The entire frame is cropped since I can’t scan in a complete 4×5 negative in my scanner, but it’s enough to give you an idea until I make a print with it. Waterfall goodness!