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.
- 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.
- 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.
This Mamiya was my first—and for a while, only—medium format camera. I wanted to shoot larger negatives but didn’t really know what to look for. I was lucky enough to pick out this dependable workhorse. I had to re-familiarize myself since I haven’t used it in a while; I used to know it better .
The Mamiya-Sekor C 80mm f/1.9 was mounted for this roll. It’s sharp enough wide open and the bokeh is okay, good for shooting indoors with natural light. It also excels at taming high contrast scenes. My other lens option is a punchy 55mm with a leaf shutter. Considering the location it may have been more appropriate.
I’ve only used FP4 once before. It was on a sunny day and bringing out the shadows worked well for me. So for these high contrast scenes, I pulled the exposure two stops to ISO 32. Developed in Kodak Xtol. I had just finished scanning when I noticed a line scored on the left of each frame from the film transport.
- Built like a tank and weighs like one, too.
- Large, bright viewfinder features an angled split screen, a microprism ring, and a magnifier.
- Top-mounted auxiliary shutter release works well with waist-level shooting.
- Electronic timing is consistent and relatively easy to tweak.
- 6×4.5 is a nice compromise between frame count and negative size.
- Main shutter release trips too easily, requiring constant engagement of the safety lock.
- The shutter speed dial is awkward; a safety button needs to be depressed while setting the speed.
- When the large mirror swings up towards the finder to take the exposure, it causes a visual sensation of camera sway. It’s alarming.
- The top speed of 1/1000s can’t actually be achieved, at least not on this sample.
- Battery life is unpredictable; there might be a constant draw.
For medium format, this kit handles well enough. I don’t have to match backs to bodies, mess with dark slides, or peek through red windows. It has all the right stuff. Whenever I pick it up, I’m reminded of it.
Unfortunately I’m more likely to pick out a 6×6 or a 6×9 over this smaller format. If I’m going to shoot big, may as well go BIG. Well… you know what I mean.