Nikon D300 vs. Panasonic GF1

To start off, for those of you looking for a comparison between the two, you’ve come to the wrong place as I only own one of these fine cameras… The following are merely some musings of mine regarding my photographic future so to speak…

 

I love taking pictures, but I don’t love lugging around heavy cameras.  My most used camera is an Agfa Optima because it’s tiny, and doesn’t weigh much.  I mean it helps that it takes great pictures, but it certainly isn’t the only criteria.  While I do love film cameras, I still have a digital slr that honestly takes wonderful pictures.  Where it fails me is in the weight department.  I often get great pictures with my Agfa not because it has some wonderful secret touch to it, but because it’s always in my shoulder bag or in my pocket, ready to be whipped out and used, whereas the Nikon is usually sitting on the shelf collecting dust with a big honking lens attached.  When I do take the Nikon D300 with me, I thoroughly enjoy using it, it’s auto focus (of which none of my film cameras are), and the immediate feedback is a refreshing change.  The problem is it gets used very, very rarely these days.

 

This has got me thinking whether I should switch to a smaller system?  I’ve always liked the size and design of the Panasonic GF1, it’s very rangefinder-esque and with the small pancake lens would certainly be very portable.  I realize it’s got a smaller size sensor which isn’t going to be able to touch the quality of the D300, but I so rarely blow up my digital photos, maybe it just doesn’t matter?  I could easily pay for the GF1 by selling my Nikon kit (and have a fair bit of cash to spare), but then I also worry wether this would then replace my Voigtlander rangefinder?  I’d have two cameras with similar focal lengths, similar sizes, but one has auto focus, auto exposure, instant feedback, whereas the other has none of these things…

 

With the recent GF2 announcement, I suspect the GF1 will drop in price before it is sold out, so maybe a deal could be had and I could keep both, cause I really need more cameras at this point…

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AGFA Optima Review

You may remember a while back I was fortunate enough to receive a free AGFA Optima Sensor Flash.  I’ve had it a few weeks and have ran a couple of rolls of film through it and feel ready to write a brief review.  Don’t expect hard hitting facts and lens reviews, I’m not interested in those things.  All photos here were Fuji Superia 400, scanned with my diaper scanner, so not the greatest quality…

Some quick details about the camera:

  • 40mm f2.8 lens
  • scale focus
  • flash (pops up quite high to avoid red-eye)
  • powered by 2 AAA’s
  • large red shutter release
  • film is rewound using the film advance lever

The first thing you notice with this camera is that it is well built. Although there are plastic parts, there is obviously a lot of metal in the construction. It feels sturdy in your hands and has a bit of heft to it.  Although scale focused, there are click stops at 1.5m, 3m and infinity which can help when taking shots on the fly.  The flashes powers up almost instantly and while a bit harsh, it helps in a pinch.  I was quite impressed with the quality of the photographs.  The other roll that I shot was actually slide film, and it had absolutely no trouble getting the exposures correct.

So as I said this review will be short on technicals, however I think the feel of the camera is what’s important.  This camera as I said feels great in your hands. It’s well built and leaves you feeling confident that it will perform well and not leave you stranded.  Loading the film is simple as you only have to slide the leader under a special flap and it catches on it’s own. The film advance is smooth with just enough resistance to let you know the film is indeed advancing.  The only oddity I noticed is that when you get to the end of the roll of film (12, 24, or 36, you can’t take anything besides these multiples) the camera will allow you to keep pressing the shutter release and allow you to move the film advance. No more pictures are taken, and the film doesn’t actually advance, so it’s odd that it doesn’t simply stop working like most film cameras.

I also love this camera’s simplicity.  Sometimes it’s nice just to take pictures without too much thinking, and that is something this camera excels at.  Simply guestimate the distance and snap away!  I took it to a few markets and found it a great street photography camera as you are generally the same distance away from all the stalls so it’s easy to pre-set the distance and take pictures of what ever interests you, no need to worry about exposure and aperture.  I’ve got a roll of BW in it now, and I’ll be searching for a yellow filter later this year to see if I can boost the contrast up a bit.

Agfa Optima Sensor Flash

What’s the best kind of camera? FREE! And you thought I’d say Leica…  It’s always fun getting a new camera, but nothing beats it being a free one.  I was visiting my Uncle over the weekend. He’s a photographer and camera collector (they often go hand in hand…), and I mentioned that I had often thought the Agfa Optima line were cool and that I’d almost bought one once.  My Uncle then mentioned something about being able to help me out and came back with three Optima’s.  Shortly after I was the proud owner of an Agfa Optima Sensor Flash.

So what’s so great about the camera? Well honestly I was first drawn to it for it’s design aesthetics.  Frankly it looks “cool”.  Apparently it was designed by the same person who designed the Plaubel Makina (and they do bear a striking resemblance).  On the camera side of things, this model has scale focus, auto exposure, and a built in flash.  The lens is 40mm f/2.8 which is nice in a point and shoot type camera, although I’m not clear on whether the camera adjusts the aperture and the shutter or just the shutter.  An interesting design item on this camera is the film wind crank is also the rewind crank. It’s not overly fast but it does free up the camera from excess clutter.  And finally, it’s the camera with the big red/orange shutter button (I believe this how it is mostly known.

They made many different models of this camera (335, 535, 1035, 1535, Sensor, Sensor Flash) with slight variations in lens aperture, the inclusion of flash, and the 1535 model had a rangefinder.  I haven’t taken any pictures with mine yet as I’ve already got film loaded in three other cameras that I need to finish off.

More info on the Agfa Sensor Series