The Nikon Let me Down (Travel Blog #1)

I just got back from a trip to Cookeville TN, and boy are my arms tired. From carrying bulky film cameras around!

Some friends and I had been planning to rent a cabin in middle TN for months. I’d never been to Cookeville, so I was super excited for some photo opportunities in a new place. And being it was early May, the weather would be picture perfect.

So what photo expedition would be complete without Too Many Cameras?

I hadn’t taken my Nikon F4 on a serious outing yet, so I was definitely bringing that.

I also decided to also take another relatively new-to-me camera, the Konica Pearl II.

If the Nikon is like a jet fighter, the Konica is more like a rag and tube biplane. In the end, I really enjoyed both though.

The First Roll

With my roster selected, the day of the trip rolled around and we were on our way.

I loaded up some Pro Image 100 in the Nikon. Autofocus and auto-exposure made snapping quick pics on the first jam-packed day super easy.

This bird is metal. It fooled me at first too.

The Nikon may not be the ideal travel camera given that it weighs the same as a small dog, but with the first day under my belt I definitely wasn’t regretting bringing it.

But Suddenly…

The next morning, I finished up the Pro Image and went to load my next roll. But after five or so frames, the camera’s winding motor jammed, and a red error light illuminated.

I’d never seen the camera do this before, and I was a bit alarmed.

I accidentally activated rewind motor and wound it all the way back into the canister. I didn’t bring my film retriever, either. That was my last roll!

Well, the last roll of color. Thankfully I had some black and white HP5. I loaded that, but the same thing happened again. This time, when it jammed I was able to get it unstuck with the manual rewind. But now I didn’t trust the camera.

Switching to the Konica

That left me with two options: Trust the Nikon (which still made weird sounds when winding) or switch to the Konica.

I still had 3 or 4 rolls of 120 film, so the latter option sounded pretty appealing.

In contrast to the Nikon, the Konica is a fully manual camera. It doesn’t even have a built in light meter!

Shooting the camera is a simple 7-step process:

  1. Check the shoe-mount light meter and set the shutter speed and aperture accordingly.
  2. Focus using the weirdly-placed focusing knob
  3. Recompose and press the shutter button
  4. Realize you forgot to wind the shutter
  5. Wind the shutter
  6. Recompose and press the shutter button
  7. Forget to advance the film so you get tons of double exposures:

Jokes aside, I did genuinely enjoy using the Konica. I was a little worried about using it in a semi-fast paced environment, but it got a lot easier and faster as I got used to it.

It’s a great camera, very tactile and well-made too. Shooting it was a treat, and while I did get a couple double exposures, the ones that turned out made up for it:

This was from my first roll of Portra 400

Even with a relatively slow f3.5 lens, that 120 film depth of field is something else.

I wound up having plenty of 120 film to get through the rest of the trip. I even finished the roll of B&W in the Nikon without issues.

Ilford HP5, pushed to ISO 1600


Everything seems to have worked out, but I’m still a bit wary of the Nikon.

In fairness to it, my copy of this camera has a LOT of miles on it. Even though I’d run a couple rolls through it without issue before the trip, I’m not that surprised. It’s earned the right to be a bit temperamental.

That said, the Konica is even older, by at least 40 years, and it performed flawlessly. I really enjoy automatic cameras, but old manual cameras can be so reliable. Mainly because there’s no features to break in the first place.

I get the feeling my Nikon may not be up for heavy use anymore. Maybe the occasional shooting I do at home will be easier on it. I still love this camera, but I probably won’t be spending a ton of money on accessories for it if it could conk out at any moment.

Before the trip, I thought I might sell the Konica because I didn’t really get along with it. But after getting used to it (and seeing some of the results from this outing) I think I’ll hold onto it.

Oh, and if anyone asks, those double exposures were artistic intent, okay?

2 responses to “The Nikon Let me Down (Travel Blog #1)”

  1. Colin Greening Avatar
    Colin Greening

    These photos turned out great! Also love the breakdown on what went wrong with the camera.

    1. Thank you! Always more failures than successes but that’s the way it goes with film.

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