oh yeah baby. you know what i like.

Nikon’s F100 is a film camera that garners outrageous acclaim. As quite likely the last of the film cameras that was serious enough to be pro but not a full pro body, you have the ultimate in consumer film capture technology. Interface beckons and rewards with a intuitive transparancy… except for the custom function menu. But you know what? If you need to use any of the custom functions, you’re doing something that isn’t EVER going to feel transparent, so that’s really not a big deal.

And it seems like every reviewer says that it’s not a big deal because the camera, aside from the CSM, is as good as it can be. And it is.

What makes film so magic is that it’s really mysterious… there’s a box and it captures a moment in time – if you’re lucky, a feeling. Something unique, something brilliant. A great photograph isn’t just a picture. It’s a suspended emotion… beauty framed. Film is physical, textural. All the old adjectives people talk about. I’m not the first to expound these words but they’re true… film makes you wait. You have to prepare. You have to stay with it. You have to be present and think about what you’re doing. It slows you down. It demands you wait for the right time, and it demands your undivided attention. It’s meditative and it’d difficult. You miss things; you’re surprised by things. You develop film and something shows up that you didn’t even know was so beautiful, but the film shows you. Sometimes you think you got something just right, and the film tells you it was all in your head.

It’s all that and more, but what makes film special is that it’s not a good tool. Digital is better. Film is expensive, it’s unreliable, it expires, things go wrong… of course things go wrong with bits of information, too, but film failures are so much more tangible. It’s more costly and harder to back up. Dust and scratches and fingerprints are realities all too unavoidable.

Lately I’ve been shooting color film, having it developed and scanned for me. The scans are low resolution and the film is cheap, silly birthday party film… but it allows me to get itty bitty prints for pennies and pick the pictures I want to process digitally. The developed scans go through Lightroom 3 where I can expose them and saturate them and tone them to something hybrid, something that walks in a duality; the pictures are digital and film, and they are hyperreal in a beauty I can’t fathom.

The camera… the camera’s what I meant to write about but honestly… what makes it so great is that it’s perfectly invisible. It’s heavy… but it’s like a black hole. You don’t even notice you’re using it. The controls are like every Nikon pro camera in the last decade. The film advances in the blink of an eye. It’s loud and mechanical but solid and flawlessly operational so even though it’s there, snapping and driving screws and motors and shutters right before you, it just melts into your hands.

It’s so rock solid, so surely constructed, so massively compact… it’s like holding some platonic ideal of trust. The viewfinder’s so large and bright that you aren’t framing the shot so much as imagining a picture… and then you get to wait for it while you finish the roll and develop.

This camera is everything it’s cracked up to be and more.


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