Canon EOS RT – Kodak Tri-X

I really like this camera. The body is unmistakeable with bold lines and defined corners. It shares the same design as the very first EOS model, the EOS 650. The models that followed steadily evolved into the utilitarian blob of the modern EOS.

What sets this apart is the fixed pellicle mirror. It’s transparent; bouncing a portion of the incoming light to the finder, while passing the rest through to the film plane. Hence it doesn’t need to flip up during exposure, and the finder doesn’t ever black out.

I’ve heard it compared to shooting with a rangefinder. I’d agree except the finder doesn’t extend beyond the frame. However it does hold its own when shooting candids and reportage due to the uninterrupted view of the subject.

I shot this roll with the Canon EF 35mm f/2. It’s not the fastest glass, but the focal length is just right for the type of photos I intended to take. And since the lens came from the same period, it completed the kit in terms of style, build, and ergonomics.

I shot Tri-X pushed to 3200 to make up for the slightly slower lens and to complement the type of photos I intended to take.

Likes

  • Instantly familiar operation, if you’ve ever shot Canon EOS.
  • Bare-bones feature set provides an uncluttered shooting experience.
  • No viewfinder blackout or mirror slap thanks to the fixed pellicle mirror design.
  • Features a horizontal split focus screen, uncommon in autofocus SLRs.
  • The relatively slender body and deep grip feels great in smaller hands.
  • The Eighties’ boxy aesthetic makes a statement and is currently en vogue.

Dislikes

  • Needs plenty of light. The viewfinder taxes 2/3 of a stop from the exposure.
  • Manual mode is cumbersome. Display reads OP or CL—as in open or close the aperture. What?
  • The pellicle mirror is delicate at .02mm thin and requires regular dusting, as particles can show up on the negatives.

I ran into the Achilles heel of the pellicle design. The 2/3 stop penalty isn’t an issue when there is plenty of light to go around, but as the sun goes down its impact increases exponentially. Compounded with the three-stop push, I found extremely thin negatives waiting in the tank. Moving forward, I’ll need to be show restraint and consider the camera’s actual readings; it should be lower than what I’d normally expect.

Talia, Mount Airy, 2015

Pizza Night, Mount Airy, 2015

Rob and Joe, Brewerytown, 2015

Cabin, Hocking Hills, 2016

Olympus Stylus Zoom 80 Wide DLX – Kodak Tri-X

I’ve been on an ongoing quest for the perfect riding camera. Unlike the original Stylus models which have attained cult status, this zoom version can be had for dirt cheap. It was worth a shot.

For this first roll I pulled Tri-X one stop for a classic look from a not-so-classic point-and-shoot. I couldn’t manually set the film speed, so I hacked the DX encoding using a blade and some vinyl tape. Developed in Xtol. The photos turned out punchy even when I exposed for the shadows.

Likes

  • While it’s bulky for an ultra-compact, its girth provides ample grip even when gloved.
  • Its contoured form slips easily in and out of jersey pockets despite its size.
  • The sliding lens cover and weather-resistance allows for quick, care-free use.
  • Powers up to a useful, slightly wide 28mm focal length.
  • A breeze to shoot thanks to modern conveniences like autofocus, autoexposure, and built-in flash.

Dislikes

  • Heavy for an ultra-compact; there’s no upside to this on the bike.
  • The tiny viewfinder and vague markings make framing a challenge even without eyewear.
  • Its tired, erratic motor whine does not inspire confidence.
  • Disabling the flash—which is on by default—requires awkward fiddling.
  • The champagne-colored plastic body doesn’t exactly embody the spirit of analog photography.

Imagine stopping on the side of the road to catch a fleeting scene on film while your riding buddies patiently humor you or—worse—ride off into the distance. While I normally prefer to have more control over my exposures, in this situation the Stylus wins hands down. It’s quick on the draw and simple to shoot. I do wish it was slimmer and lighter, but for twelve bucks I can’t complain.

Cabin Entrance, Pennsylvania, 2017

Henry Avenue Bridge, Philadelphia, 2017

Deck Chairs, Philadelphia, 2017

Henry Avenue Bridge, Philadelphia, 2017

Balomingo Detour, Conshohocken, 2017

Tammie, Jenkintown, 2017

Caddy, Mount Airy, 2017

Maxine, Mount Airy, 2017