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Nikon 35Ti – Guest review by Marc-Olivier Gilbert

If you asked me 6 months ago, I never thought I would want a compact camera. But that was 6 months ago, and now I have a Nikon 35ti.

When I was 16, my uncle gave me his old Canon AE-1. I found it gorgeous and I just wanted to use it. So I bought the battery, put a film in it, and started shooting. This moment changed my perception of photography. For my generation (I’m 19), digital technology has always been so obvious and so easily accessible, that there is just nothing impressive to it. Don’t get me wrong, digital photography is amazing, and I use it almost everyday. But for me, the real “new thing” at that time was to shoot film. That’s how I started off. I read on the web, getting to know the whole thing, read books too. I failed so many rolls of film, tried different cameras. I had two canon AE-1, one Yashica electro 35, and finally got myself a smaller SLR, the Olympus OM-1, with an amazing 50mm 1.4. I had cameras that I like.

Then three months ago one of my friends told me to look at this camera by Nikon, the 35Ti. I got back home, and I read about it. You really need to understand that I didn’t know anything about compact cameras at this time so I wanted one. It was a compact, and I was surprised, because I thought that point and shoot were just not good. After that, I read about the Contax T2, the T3, Ricoh GR1, TC-1, the list is long, and you know how overwhelming it can be to make a choice with all those cameras available. All that to say that I was clearly wrong about point an shoot cameras, so after hesitating a lot on which one I would get, I chose the Nikon, so though I would share my thoughts about it.

nikon35ti_portrait-2

What attracted me in the first place was to have a lightweight camera, with a good lens, and an impressive matrix meter. There is another version of the camera, that comes in black and has a 28mm lens, but I personally preferred a 35mm lens. The camera can do just as much, if not more than my OM-1, for 1/4th of the weight. Physically, it’s beautiful, and the analog display is just incredibly nice looking and old school, but quite useless. It’s charming, impressive at first, but you just get to realise how useless it is. I mean, it’s function is not useless because it shows information that you need, but the fact that they chose an analog display to give you information such as aperture, exposure compensation, or focus, is not very user friendly. When you look in the viewfinder, it only gives you the shutter speed (you can also ask for the aperture to be displayed instead, but I find the shutter speed more useful since there’s nowhere else to see it). I mean, it’s pretty intuitive, except that as I said, the analog display is not quite versatile. You get used to it. I enjoy it pretty much anyway.

The menu is really hard to understand and it takes a while to figure out how it works. It’s some kind of binary mid-nineties technology that looks like 1 0 0 1 style. You get to memorise the whole thing don’t worry, and you don’t need to touch it really often. The viewfinder is large, nice and clear. If the focus is not correct (which rarely happens unless you’re too close from your subject), the middle circle flashes. There’s also a scale focus option. It corrects the parallax while you focus, based on the distance of the subject.

nikon35ti_portrait-3

The meter in the Nikon 35ti is super accurate, and really I can’t insist more on how great the meter is. It’s pretty much always right. Most of the features are adjustable, and the camera remembers your settings. You can turn off the flash permanently and just press on the flash button in front of the camera to activate it when needed, which is I think the best of both world. I’ve never seen the shutter speed going faster than 1/250th, which makes me wonder why it never uses speed such as the maximum 1/500th. But still, it doesn’t show in the pictures.

The matrix meter is very impressive, even with a wide range of tones, it reads it properly.

The matrix meter is very impressive, even with a wide range of tones, it reads it properly.

I would totally recommend the Nikon 35Ti. It’s in my bag all the time. It doesn’t really fit small pockets, maybe in a coat or something but for me the bag is just fine. Lightweight in a certain extent (probably heavier than most of the cameras of it’s class), reliable, easy to use. The handling feels a little weird at first, since the lens just pops out of it, but you know, human adapts. Also, you’ll have no fun with the buttons: they’re small and not accessible, but again you don’t need them really often. Here are some other shots I took with it

 

I feel like in program, when I focus further away, it automatically set a smaller aperture, to get the focus right.

I feel like in program, when I focus further away, it automatically set a smaller aperture, to get the focus right.

This nightshot was on program mode, I was suprised is turned out properly.

This nightshot was on program mode, I was suprised is turned out properly.

I use mostly Ilford FP4 for black and white, I love the dynamic range it offers.

I use mostly Ilford FP4 for black and white, I love the dynamic range it offers.

In conclusion, most people say that the Contax t2 is much better, but to be honest, I don’t quite get why. The lens of the Nikon 35Ti is not a Zeiss lens, but is just as nice. The focus is not the fastest, but for what I do it’s perfect, and I mean, there are just so many bad comments on the focus, I cannot imagine that Contax and Ricoh focus are much faster? Probably, but for having used it for the past two months, it’s not so bad. I have to say I thought about the T2, and will clearly try to get it one day or who knows, maybe even the T3, but I got a good deal on a brand new Nikon 35Ti, so I mean, I took a chance. I’m really happy with it.

If you ever want to see more of what the Nikon 35ti can do, I have more coming up on flickr, and if you want to see what I do, you can always go on my tumblr: mogsphotos.tumblr.com or my instagram: @mogsphotos.

Thanks Hamish for having me, and thank you all for reading,

Marc-Olivier Gilbert


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20 Comments

  • Reply
    jeremy north
    September 21, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    Great review M-O. I like the objectivity. Some lovely pictures too with a wide range of lighting situations.

    I love the look of these Nikons and very nearly bought one a while ago, I probably would have but it was the 28. Much as I love the 28 as a focal length, I agree with you that for a none lens setup 35 is perfect, I’d have bought the 35. I fall into the Zeiss camp so would always go for a Contax in preference.

    Keep up the film photography and writing about it, you obviously have what it takes!

    • Reply
      Marc-Olivier Gilbert
      September 23, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      Thank you very much for the great comment, I really appreciate your support. I am a Contax guy all the way too usually, and as I said, I hesitated. I had a really good deal on the Nikon, so I told myself, well, lets try it, and if I hate I can sell it for the same price for sure. I will get the T2 eventually, but I’m saving for an M6 right now. Thanks again for the great comment, and for reading!

  • Reply
    joby
    September 21, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    Funny, I have had my eyes one of these for a while. I have the T2 which is magnificent and I’ve just bought a Ricoh Gr1 and, for fun, a Canon SureshotA1. The Nikon looks good too. But that’s probably ţoo many cameras! And I have a Contax G2 which is spectacular. So I guess that I have just talked myself out of buying one…

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      September 24, 2015 at 8:19 am

      No amount of cameras is too many 😉

      • Reply
        joby
        September 24, 2015 at 8:31 am

        I wish I agreed! I just bought the Sureshot (after your excellent review) for £12. It looks new. So now that’s 4 35mm cameras that I (re) own. That’s going to have to be my limit (unless I but a T3)! I’m tempted to superglue the 21mm lens onto my G2 and sell the other ones as I never use them. But, even now, my most favoured camera is the tiny and amazing SONY NEX 5N…..

        • Reply
          Hamish Gill
          September 24, 2015 at 9:06 am

          The T3 is probably the logical conclusion – If you don’t like having lots of cameras, or indeed trying lots of cameras, you can almost just skip to the end and buy the Contax. Of course, the walk is more enjoyable if you veer off into the undergrowth of cheaper cameras on the way to it … 😉

          • joby
            September 25, 2015 at 5:50 pm

            Bollocks! I just bought another T2!

          • Hamish Gill
            September 26, 2015 at 6:44 am

            Hah, good work!

  • Reply
    Ric Capucho
    September 24, 2015 at 7:27 am

    Hello!

    I also have a Contax T2 which is dynamite during daylight hours but a bit trickier once the sun goes down due to its aperture priority, limited +/-2 exposure comp, and hardwired DX. So I’ve started to game the damn thing at night by setting the exp comp to -2, use ISO 400 film (XP2), and if still necessary, meter the damn thing against a bright streetlight, recompose, and then snap. Then tell the developer I’ve pushed the film two stops. The only way to get the shutter speed faster than 1/30 for handheld shots. Mixed results, but the odd lucky shot works out.

    So the obvious questions: does the Nikon 35ti have an override for the DX? What’s the exp comp range?

    Nice pickies, by the way.

    Ric

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      September 24, 2015 at 8:17 am

      All cameras like this are tricker to use in low light since they need to be manipulated into functioning the way you want. The Contax T2 is actually one of the easiest to manipulate – certainly easier than the 35ti in my experience. The way you are shooting with it is perfectly valid. Since it has a centre weighted meter, pointing it at something you want to meter from then recomposing is quite easy. This is slightly harder with the 35ti as it has an evaluative meter which in simple terms intelligently averages out the entire frame, taking much of the metering decision slightly further out of your hands.

      Have a read of my Contax T2 review if you haven’t already, it might be useful

      In terms of DX override, no, it doesn’t. But this isn’t really a problem if you know how to recode your film – here’s my guide

      • Reply
        Ric Capucho
        September 24, 2015 at 8:50 am

        Right, so I’ll be keeping the T2 then. I played with the idea of recoding the DX on the side of the film roll but basically couldn’t be @rsed as yet; and anyway, there’s a place I can buy recoding stickers for a few pennies. Meanwhile I figured XP2 ISO 400 with the T2 gamed up to 1600-3200 should do the trick, but it’s not yet settled down to a repeatable trick. Shall continue to experiment until I have it off pat. XP2 is incredibly forgiving, but not sure if it looks that great when pushed. Got me some HP5 for later, but quite happy to waste a few more rolls of XP2 seeing where it gets me. Of course I could always use the manual settings on my M6 to do it properly, but that’s another story. Brassai can rest easy…

        • Reply
          joby
          September 24, 2015 at 8:55 am

          I just keep the flash on all the time. But I only photograph people so they are usually nearish. And TriX is super flexible either way…..

        • Reply
          Hamish Gill
          September 24, 2015 at 9:02 am

          HP5 pushed is probably a much better bet than xp2. Xp2 is certainly forgiving, but it’s not as versatile as hp5. I push hp5 in ilfortec ddx with very nice results.

          • Ric Capucho
            September 24, 2015 at 12:51 pm

            Right, so I’ll keep on mucking about with XP2 until I know what’s what with nightshots and the switch to the HP5. Sounds like a plan. Cheers. Oh, and by the way I like yer blog.

          • Hamish Gill
            September 24, 2015 at 9:47 pm

            Cheers 🙂

      • Reply
        Marc-Olivier Gilbert
        September 24, 2015 at 9:44 pm

        The 35Ti has a spot metering option. Basically replacing the mattrix meter for a spot in the setting. But no DX overide indeed!

        • Reply
          Hamish Gill
          September 24, 2015 at 9:46 pm

          That shows how much time I spent with one 🙂 That’s interesting! Can it lock the meter separate from the point focused?

          • Marc-Olivier Gilbert
            September 24, 2015 at 10:11 pm

            I’m sorry, it’s center weighted! So ovioulsy it center weights the mesure, which is more accurate than mattrix, but I would still go for spot in night situation.

          • Hamish Gill
            September 26, 2015 at 6:52 am

            It’s not so much that it’s more accurate, just that the different types of metering provide different level of control. Evaluative meters like the one in the Nikon will often give very good results, but can both be outwitted as well as being a little more difficult to override. Centre weighted meters are the most common in these types of cameras and provide a good balance between being able to just point and shoot and yet still manipulate into reading how you want them to read. Spot meters need a lot more skill, but as you rightly say are quite good for night photography as you can meter directly off your subject.

  • Reply
    Alex Hakimi
    June 11, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    Marc-Oliver, a nice overview of the camera and write-up on the user experience. I landed a 35Ti a couple weeks ago that was sold AS-IS with shutter-sticking issues. Strangely enough, the issue vanished with persistent use and now it works perfectly. The camera certainly has limitations (no exposure lock, no shutter-speed priority, no DX-override), but there are work-arounds. The portability and image quality are the real stand out features. I no longer have an excuse to be without a camera.

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