For my entire 27 years on Earth, I have been plagued with the habit of spacing out and leaving things places. Sometimes it’ll be a jacket, but most of the time it’s something more important. (I still kick myself for leaving a bag of cassettes of my friends’ improvised music in the Philadelphia train station in 2017). But I seem to lose cameras the most.
At the end of one particularly long night out in Hollywood in the fall of 2020, I realized I had got off at the right bus stop but my prized Chinon Auto 3001 hadn’t. The 3001 was my favorite camera at the time. Its 35mm/2.8 lens renders beautifully sharp, contrasty images seemingly without fail, and the multi-beam infared focus system (the first of its type on a compact camera) nails the autofocus with a similar consistency. I got lucky and paid $25 for mine at a used camera show. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw it, since “parts only” 3001s can go for $250+ on eBay. I ran a couple rolls through it, then – just like the girl in an Eagles song – it was gone.
Replacing it wasn’t an option, so I began to look into alternatives. I had a Konica MG at the time that I would use as a backup camera. I liked its 35mm/3.5 lens too — and it had the added benefit of a manual control for the ISO/ASA that went up to 1000. But it just wasn’t nearly as sharp, the pittance of an autofocus system was easily led astray, and when I got back a crucial roll with 1/3 of the shots completely out of focus I decided to pass the camera along to a less critical friend. After that, based on my love of this photo I picked up a Ricoh AF-5, which was a fantastic Nikon L35AF-ish thing, also with the 1000 ISO option. That lasted another few rolls, and then one day it wouldn’t stop rewinding. I bought a second one and soon it just completely stopped turning on. I don’t know what’s wrong with the build quality on these, but in retrospect it’s telling the only Amazon review for the model is a 1-star, terse “doesn’t work.”
At that point I got frustrated, because the few precious rolls of Superia I’d run through my 3001 had showed me there was a better way to be shooting film. Then one beautiful December morning, I saw this piece by Thang Nguyen. You’re kidding! An alternative 3001 with a flip-up flash? Other than manual ISO control, that was the only feature I had longed for on my Chinon! And you’re telling me that the Kodak version goes for closer to $30 than $250? I’m pretty sure my fingers started kicking up smoke while typing – E…B…A…Y……
These shots are from the first roll I ran through my new friend. Taken in Los Angeles in early 2021, and scanned in 2023 on a Primefilm XE, once my negatives, scanner and I were all finally in the same place.
I spent most of 2022 focusing on the MY WORLD project. In that context, I exclusively use my 3.2 megapixel Nikon Coolpix 3200. That was as much an economic consideration as anything else, although I learned to coax a surprisingly dreamy image out of its CCD sensor.
But a recent move to greener pastures has inspired me to start shooting film again, and my S1100XL is the perfect tag-along camera. I trust it. The autofocus hasn’t failed me yet, the lens is tack-sharp, and the flip-flash ensures a lack of red eye in the rare case that I photograph a person rather than a building or a plant. In other words, it accomplishes what I consider to be the ultimate goal of any allegedly point-and-shoot camera: it gets out of the way, captures the things around me faithfully, but still adds a pinch of its own unmistakable character. Really, I ask you — what more could I want?
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