Wednesday, March 5, 2014

When Retro was really Retro

With the X100 and X-Pro1 Fujifilm began a trend towards retro cameras and hit a responsive chord in the photographic community. At first we were responding to the nostalgic look and feel of the retro camera designs, but gradually mechanical knobs and dials began replacing digital menus, and we rediscovered the tactile experience of working a camera. Photographers of the roll film era adjusted the controls of their cameras without needing to think about what they were doing. Using a camera was an intuitive, fluid response. You just knew what to do and when to do it. The recent Nikon Df and Fuji X-T1 have reintroduced this experience into the digital age. I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the inspiration for the retro look?

For this series of photos I dusted off some the old retro classics to have their portraits taken by a new retro classic, the Fuji X-T1. I used the 35mm f/1.4 lens for the close-ups instead of the 60mm macro because I wanted the shallower depth of field from using f/1.4.  I added a Nikon 4T close-up lens to allow me to get in tight on my subjects. The Nikon close-up lenses are different that close-up filters because they are made up of two lens elements cemented together, which makes them a lens and not a filter. The series is no longer made, but often turns up on ebay. I have the 3T (1.5x) and 4T (about 3x), which happen to be 52mm so they fit on the Fuji 35mm lens. (I plan to do a blog post on these lens/filters in the near future).

The images are black&white jpg straight from the X-T1. I almost always work in RAW and convert later, but here I boosted the highlights and shadows by +1 in the camera to add a starker contrast, selected the B&W jpg mode, and just went with the results.

Leica III, 1937

Leica I, 1930

Rangefinder accessory on a Leica I

Nikon S2, 1954

Kodak Bantam Special, 1936-48

Contax II 1936-1938

Contax Model I of 1935

Leica IIIb, 1938

Rolleiflex, 1930

Leica IIIG, 1957

Nikon FTn, 1968-72

Leica M2, 1959

Leica M4, 1968

Minox Riga, Latvia, 1937-43

Contax G2, 1996-2003

Fujifilm X-Pro1, 2012 -- a classic that fits right in with the rest of them.


  1. Wow, what a collection you have. Question: why not use an extension tube instead of a closeup lens? Is there any difference? I see some on amazon, such as Fotodiox Pro Fujifilm X Macro Extension Tube Set for Extreme Close-up


  2. Good question. Actually, I use both techniques but often find it quickest to screw on a filter. Check out this blog post where I discuss the merits of each method: