ian / nikon fe

Nikon FE2 Ilford HP5 400 Nikkor 35mm f2

Ian is my son.  He is seldom featured here on Only One Eye Open because he's wily and usually gets somewhere behind me when the camera comes out and, when he can't do that, gives me a perfect withering teen 'Dad...' look which usually causes me to hold off on the shutter button.  I got lucky on this one because my parents were in town from Portland and Ian was engaged in conversation with my mother.  I was able to lift the camera to my eye, focus and grab this one, quick image.  I also got another one of the top of his head but I thought this one was more blog-worthy.

The light is coming from behind his head, but the nice thing was that there was diffused light coming from his right side as well, plus reflected light from the table which illuminated his face softly and warmly.   This is my favorite kind of photograph, and my favorite kind of photography, portraits with nice soft bouncy light.  

I took this shot with my Nikon FE2, pictured here:
Nikon D7000 50mm f3.5 microNikkor

In this photo it is wearing my Nikkor 50mm f1.8 lens.  Until recently these were my goto lenses, together with the Series E 50mm 1.8, but I recently found an 50mm f1.4 Nikkor down in Ventura at Dexter's Camera (highly recommended if you're looking for anything except a brand new digital SLR, 'cause they don't really have many of those).  The f1.4 is marginally faster, a tiny bit heavier and quite a bit pricier.  I haven't shot enough with it to know if the out of focus rendering is better but certainly the tiny bit faster helps for available light stuff.

The FE2 is an improved FE and was introduced in 1983 and made until about 1987.  Like the FE it features manual shutter speed control with an option for aperture priority automation (the little green A on the speed dial, that large round dial above where it says FE2).  One of my few chrome cameras, the FE2 was highly recommended by Joel, who let me spend some time with his FE2 and FG long before I owned any Nikons.  I have to admit that at the time I was a committed Pentax shooter and the Nikons felt foreign in my hands.  By now, though, having used FMs, FM2s, F3, FA and all sorts of other Nikons the FE2 is very comfortable.  The primary improvement over the FE for my purposes is a much faster max shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second.  It achieves this by using a really nifty looking honeycomb titanium shutter which looks real cool but of course, you almost never see it.  Interestingly, as time went on Nikon phased out the honey titanium and replaced it with a re-engineered plain aluminum shutter, which is what my FM2 has.  Apparently the titanium wasn't hold up quite as well as they'd wanted.  Sadly, with aluminum it doesn't look nearly as nifty when you open the back to show if off.  (this is what camera geeks do, by the way)  

The FE2 was wearing a Nikkor 35mm f2 lens which was probably open to 2.8 or so, judging by the out of focus areas.  This lens was a find at the Pasadena Camera Show and was a trade for an Olympus OM4 that I no longer wanted.  Since I bought that OM4 "not working" from KEH for cheap and repaired it, including another ten bucks for new light seals, this lens was a pretty good deal.  I haven't yet decided if I like the 35 better than a good 50, but I like it enough to carry it around in my bag.  It is quite useful for portraits in close quarters, particularly if I'm seated at a table and can't easily back away.  The 50 is just a bit tight in those circumstances.  The out of focus blur is also quite nice from this lens.  The 50mm f1.8 does NOT yield a nice out of focus and I don't know yet how the f1.4 is going to do yet so for the moment this is one of my favorite Nikkors in that particular regard.

Ilford HP5 really nice film, again, highly recommended by Joel.  I bought a whole bunch of it from Freestyle when they were having a two for one sale and I don't regret it.  I don't really have the appropriate knowledge of experience describing the differences between films to adequate communicate it but I would start by saying that the Ilford just feels refined and rich and gives me beautiful tones and gradients.  I'm still a fan of the tri-x, but Ilford is awfully nice.  Not nice enough to be twice the cost, but nice.