My first really good camera was a Kodak Retina IIIc , a folding 35 mm camera sometimes considered a "poor man's Leica." It was made in Stuttgart, West Germany by Kodak's West German subsidiary in the late 1950s.
This rangefinder camera had a Schneider Xenar 50 mm f2 lens, top-of-the-line Synchro-Compur 1-1/500 leaf shutter, and a not too wonderful selenium cell light meter. The light meter in mine never worked, but I had already learned to judge exposure pretty well without a light meter.
For many years this camera was my constant companion, riding in a home-made holster on my belt, loaded mostly with Tri-X black and white film. It was a very rugged camera, got very beat up over the years. Even after I got into Rolleis, Nikons, Bronicas, Linhofs, Graphics and my Arca Swiss 4x5 for my more serious photography, I still carried the Retina. Of all of my 35 mm cameras, I seemed to have the highest "batting average" of good photos per roll with that camera compared with anything else.
The Xenar lens was about as good as anything out there, and with good exposure and a steady hand it delivered super results.
Eventually, I was lured away from the Retina by a Nikon Lite Touch, which weighed much less than the Retina, and featured auto exposure, motor drive, and a 28 mm wide angle lens. I have always enjoyed working with wide angle lenses, and the Lite Touch was a great camera in its own right. It was at that time the smallest 35 mm camera available.
The Lite Touch was later supplanted by a Minolta Explorer, only a bit larger but featuring a 28 to 70 mm zoom lens.
When I went over to the Dark Side, digital photography, I wound up buying a Nikon Coolpix 2500 in 2002. The 2500 lived in my right pants pocket for 3 1/2 years, withstood a huge amount of abuse, but had its limitations. It was only 2 megapixels, didn't do great in low light, and the lens didn't zoom all that wide.
At the end of Feburary, 2006 I came back to the Kodak fold, withthe purchase of a V570. The big thing that attracted me about this was the 23 mm (equivalent) wide angle lens. No other pocket sized digital camera currently available comes close to covering this width. They say it's 23 mm equivalent, but actually it's a bit more in practice, because 35 mm cameras give you a 3:2 aspect ratio, while the V570 defaults to a 4:3 ratio. Thus, though the long dimension is equivalent to a 35 mm's 23 mm lens, the short dimension take in more than you would get with a 35 mm 23 mm lens. (If, for some reason you prefer the 3:2 aspect ratio, there's an available option to shoot in that mode.)
The V570 actually has two lenses, the fixed wide angle, and a conventional 39 to 117 (equivalent) zoom. Each lens has its own 5 megapixel sensor.
This camera is so cool! In addition to the remarkable wide angle lens, it as the ability to do 180 degree panoramas by stitching 3 of the 23 mm images together in the camera!
The camera provides a "slice" of the first and second images to help you line up the second and third images. It works most reliably with a tripod, but the image above was made handheld in 30 degree weather.
Click to see full resolution un-manipulated image, 5040 x 1364 1.2 mb
It also is a full-VGA (TV resolution) video camera with image stabilization. It features a wealth of shooting modes, but no actual manual controls, aside from some slow shutter speeds from 1/2 to 8 seconds in half-stop increments.
Kodak supplied "EashShare" software with the camera, sort of like their version of iPhoto. One major plus is that it loads up the photos I already have on my hard disc without making copies of them as iPhoto does. It took overnight for it to load the images on the "Pictures" directory of my 250 GB hard disc, over 26,000 images! I'm afraid the software is pretty much choked by the large volume of data, 'cause it runs reallllllllly slowly...It has taken a long time to prune the images down to a number that permits the software to run at a tolerable speed.
The V570 also does full-motion video with sound. It does VGA size (640 x 480 pixels) or smaller (320 x 240 pixel) video at 30 frames/second.
I've been playing around with mounting it on bicycle handlebars. The wide angle lens helps minimize vibration issues, and the camera's built-in image stabilizer also helps, with amazing results.
The clip above was done with a universal mount clamped onto the left side of the handlebar. You can see the left brake lever in the lower left of the image. As the handlebars move back and forth, you'll notice the lever moves much more than the actual image...that is the action of the electronic image stabilizer.
Click here for a 30 GB, 1 minute long sample at full VGA resolution.
The wide angle lens increases apparent speed, makes it look scarier than it actually is.
This depicts the first minute of my daily commute.
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