Nostalgic Photography. Marrying Series E Nikon lenses and a Fuji X-T10 / by Keith Hunniford

Smaller and lighter than a bag of chicken feet. Put them together, and the world slows down and you can drop into to a simpler time.. with all mod cons.

Smaller and lighter than a bag of chicken feet. Put them together, and the world slows down and you can drop into to a simpler time.. with all mod cons.

I remember in my youth the anticipation of waiting for my developed photos to come in the mail.. and the frequent disappointment when they did.

Thinking back, how did we stomach that process?  How did we tolerate taking a shot, then waiting two weeks to find out if it was in focus and exposed correctly?  The idea of going back to that makes me panic!

My first Nikon was an FG and I bought the motorwind too because it sounded badass.  Like everyone else, I bought a 50mm and later saved up for a zoom.. for me a somewhat iffy Vivitar.  That 50mm delivered some nice shots for such a cheap and cheerful "budget" item, but then "budget" still meant "Made in Japan."

Then auto-focus came along.  A bit touch and go at first,  but it matured quickly.   I replaced my FG with a NIkon N65 and kit lens.  The N65 turned out to be a plastic turd and I was so enthralled with it I stopped shooting for a decade.

I sometimes pondered the magic of the FG and how it went missing.  Where was that combination of things.  Class. Quality. Solidity, Heft.  An honest to goodness piece of equipment that inspires you to pick it up. A thing of beauty.

Fast forward, and the digital age rekindled my love of this craft.  As my Nikon gear has grown better, it's also grown bigger, so a few weeks ago I pick up a used Fuji X-T10 in my never ending quest (now ended?) for a good carry around camera.  It came with a surprisingly good 18-55 kit lens, and I bought two more to suit my purposes.  The 27mm f2.8 and 35mm f1.8.   I also bought a $10 adapter to mount Nikon lenses on it and when I did, things started to click into place.

The Fuji X-T10 and it's modern digital marvelousness on the left, and the trusty old Nikon FG film camera on the right.  Both sporting the same Nikon 50mm f1.8

The Fuji X-T10 and it's modern digital marvelousness on the left, and the trusty old Nikon FG film camera on the right.  Both sporting the same Nikon 50mm f1.8

Now, I'm of course not the first person to use vintage lenses on Fujis, far from it.  It's not even my first time putting Nikon lenses on mirrorless cameras (Sony), but there's something a little bit magical going on here.

I realized that, yes, with the Fuji auto-focus lenses more of my "see it, frame it, shoot it" shots could be keepers.. but I had this strange notion.   "What's the hurry?  With some great Nikon manual focus lenses,  maybe life will slow down just a little bit.  Maybe I'll still get the shot, and if I don't?  Maybe that's ok too."

The Fuji started to evolve into a lifestyle choice rather than a gear one. 

I remember in a little camera shop in Manchester, England,  the drool escaping my lips and running down my chin as I handled the Nikon 75-150mm f3.5 and 70-210mm f4 constant aperture lenses.  If eating hadn't been a necessity at University I would for sure have splashed on one of those instead of my mushy Vivitar.

So I found myself with that same decision last week.  Which one? I mulled this over for at least 30 seconds then bought them both on eBay for less than a pair of shoes.  

Ooooh these are nice.  

Push / Pull is absolutely the way to go with manual focus lenses and constant aperture is the hallmark of the real deal.  The 75-150 has always been considered a bit of a weird length, but how small it is!  It's the zoom you take with you when you don't have enough space for a zoom!

Add these to what is already kicking around the house on  Nikons adorning shelves, and things look like this:

(for the record I don't expect I'll use all these with the Fuji, but who knows?  The 50mm f1.4 might get a lookin, as might the 135mm f2.8.  The 28mm f2.8, the 50mm f1.8 and the 70-210 f4 are most likely candidates.. but that 100mm f2.8.. it's just so tiny and pretty darned good!)

(for the record I don't expect I'll use all these with the Fuji, but who knows?  The 50mm f1.4 might get a lookin, as might the 135mm f2.8.  The 28mm f2.8, the 50mm f1.8 and the 70-210 f4 are most likely candidates.. but that 100mm f2.8.. it's just so tiny and pretty darned good!)

OK. So a quick reality check.  Are these lenses as good as their modern day counterparts?  Well.. uh, no.   Having said that, some of them are epic. That lens a the top right cost me 1c + shipping on eBay. It's an f2.8 135mm prime, and it's goooooooooooooorgeous.  This whole bag cost me a total of less than $750 over the years.  You're looking at around $10,000 to $12,000 for the modern day version - except modern day versions this size and weight don't exist at ANY price.

So as good?  No.  But that's not the point.

The point is, that if I have to get the shot, if I'm shooting something that is beyond my manual focusing capabilities, if I'm going out to shoot a specific event with purpose and the results must be the best they can can be.. then I take my Nikon D3s and a selection of really nice modern lenses. It's the right tool for many jobs, like shooting these lenses pictures above for example.

The point is, that if I want to have a camera with me "just in case", or if I want to leave the big guns at home, or if I want to just go and explore the world around me, I now have this really nice kit  that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

It's a great theory, right? I've had this theory before about cameras I've bought in my quest for a travel camera, and then been horribly disappointed with the results. 

So, to put it to the test.  

Camera etiquette 101.  If you are invited as a guest to a wedding don't show up with a pro bodied dSLR.  Yesterday as I got ready for a family wedding, I looked at my three Fujifilm autofocus lenses I took a breath, and reached for a Nikon 28mm f2.8, Nikon 50mm f1.8, and the Nikon 70-210 f4 instead.  

AND I HAD A BLAST

I had so much fun,  and I got shots I wouldn't have with the D3s.  People tend to notice when someone in their peripheral vision puts a black box the size of a fridge up to their face.. but the Fuji is much more subtle with it's diminutive size and it's mouse fart of a shutter noise. With the D3s I would have had less out of focus shots and some better low light performance.. but that's not the point.  I had fun, I got some great shots, and the official photographer didn't have to put up with a douche bag.

 

(Shot in Aperture Priority mode often stopped down one or two to give some depth of field wiggle room.  ISO either set manually or in one of the configurable Auto settings depending on lens,  e.g. 200 base, 3200 max, lowest 1/200th when using the zoom. Back Fn key configured for ISO)

Am I going to be another, "I'm switching to Fuji" fanboy?  Hell no.  This isn't about that.  I lurv my D3s.. it's a brutally awesome camera.  it makes me feel like I'm taking a machine gun to a knife fight.  Just a few short years ago it was the best pro camera money could buy, and cost the same as a nice used car.  Now, it still very much holds it's own and used it's only the cost of a crappy used car!

Bottom line. This is about leaving the house with a camera bag that weights half nothing but still being ready for whatever comes my way.  I can slow down and take photographs on a modern marvel of a camera,  and relish the joy of holding those old Nikon lenses again.  

Did you shoot film back in the day?  Do you remember?  Do you remember slowing the world down, framing the shot,  focusing, checking exposure, double checking focus, taking a breath, pulling the trigger.

Nostalgic photography. Life is good.