Most film photographers tend to have a menagerie of gear available to them. Being asked which one is your favorite is kind of like being asked which one of your children is your favorite. To which most people would reply with the obligatory “HOW DARE YOU? I LOVE THEM ALL THE SAME!” I’m making two points here. The first is, I consider my cameras my children. The second, for the remainder of our time together here when I say favorite what I really mean is the one I grab most often when going out to shoot. For me that’s my Canon New F1. The following three reasons are why when I usually press the shutter, the New F1 is what I’m holding with all the love of a first born.
Typically I have three options when going to shoot. An Eos 1n, the New F1, and a Mamiya C330 (medium format). While I may cherish the Mamiya as if it were a Faberge egg, complete with its square and medium format glory, its flow is about as quick as a turtle going backwards. That’s not to say that it is difficult to operate, just that it’s reserved for only the most contemplative and carefully considered shots. Conversely, the 1n model is a veritable sports car, with its automatic frame advance and autofocus it’s perfect for when you really just need to nail the shot, and don’t mind burning through film while you do it. The New F1 on the other hand finds a happy medium in between these two. Manual focus and an advancement lever, with practice, it’s as nimble as you are when you need it, but still manual enough to make you consider that decisive moment at what I’ll describe as a good cruising speed. The porridge is just right, for me, and my wallet.
Anyone who knows the Mamiya C330 knows that it looks like a brick, but I would never treat it like one. Regardless of claims of high durability, I just would never ever decide to willingly test them. The 1n however should be classified as a weapon. This is the camera I would take to a riot, a war zone, and even SantaCon. While the New F1 is certainly no blunt force object, it isn’t a delicate flower either. A mostly brass construction (which ages beautifully by the way) will weather all kinds of dings, bumps and drops with usually no more than some of the black paint coming off the exterior. I would confidently take it almost anywhere, knowing that it will perform marvelously in a large variety of conditions. This confidence adds to the grab and go quality of the New F1. This chair feels just right.
Lastly, ease of usability is a major factor when deciding what to take with me on the way out the door. Again, the 1N has many positives in this regard, but some big negatives too. It’s heavy, and large, therefore conspicuous. It’s a performance monster, and with it comes the feeling of overkill. It has it’s time to shine, just maybe not out on walk around the city or at a BBQ. As for the Mamiya? It is not a snapshot tool. Slow and steady, it’s the camera I’m most likely to use with a tripod. It isn’t particularly light either. The bellows focusing takes more of a considered approach, as well as the mirror reverse of the waist level finder. As I said before it isn’t difficult to operate, just slow. The New F1 is easy because its somehow basic while chock full of useful features. It isn’t large but it has a nice heft to it making it feel stable in your hands. It can be completely manual but with the AE finder will operate in aperture priority, for those days when you really don’t want to be distracted by the technical aspects and just want to focus on…well…focus, and composition. Everything from film speed, exposure compensation and loading can be done in seconds. Like the perfectly cozy bed, the New F1 is hard not to love. Just don’t tell my other children.
Some additional plus factors of the New F1:
-The view finder is modular. Different view finders can be used for different purposes or not at all if you want a waist level experience. This also means the focusing screens can be swapped out to fit your preference or style of shooting.
-FD Lenses are fantastic quality and plentiful and cheap. Accumulating good glass will not set you back too much. If you see this camera in the streets, don’t wait, don’t hesitate. Grab it and start shootin!
Christian is a bit of a mystery with a talent for black and white discoveries. Check out his Instagram here