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the 37th Frame

A Newsletter for Photographers


by Mike Johnston

Number 3
No Advertising Accepted

February 25th, 2002

35mm Prime Lens Reviews, Part I


The 35mm prime lens is, today, a poor-selling focal length. Most everyone buys zooms, and even some professionals consider the 35mm focal length to be too nondescript, preferring more radical wide-angles in hopes, perhaps, of imparting more pizzazz to their pictures. The exceptions to this rule are the Leica M cameras, which dont take zooms and cant easily frame ultra-wide lenses; the 35mm focal length remains the most popular Leica M lens focal length, eclipsing even the more famous 50mm. Its too bad that the 35mm has fallen into this undeserved obscurity, for it may be the most useful single lens type there is. Thirty-fives are commonly small and light, and in most cases not terribly expensive. They frame a dynamic angle of view, wide enough to be inclusive without calling attention to themselves with obviously wideangly visual characteristics. Theyre often usefully fast without being large. They offer a great balance of good depth of field with good hand-holdability. Theyre not too wide for most flash units to cover. And their image quality is typically quite high, in general equaling, or in some cases surpassing, the best in the rest of the makers line. Im not the guy to talk about 20mm or shorter lenses, or 300mm /2.8s. I use prime lenses in the focal length range of about 28mm to 135mm for 35mm cameras, with outliers at 24mm and 180mm. Within those focal length ranges, however, Ive tried hundreds of alternatives-some very extensively, and many at least to the extent that Ive been able to formulate a personal opinion about them. What follows are my subjective comments about some of the 35mm lenses I know well. Ive tried many more of them than Ill list here. Bear in mind that we each have our own tastes and our own uses; since Ive generally only shot color for commercial and freelance work, I wont talk much about color transmission. I typically shoot black-

All contents 2002 by Michael C. Johnston and The 37th Frame

and-white. Bear in mind also that bokeh (the aesthetic properties of out-of-d.o.f. blur) is fairly important to me, whereas it may not be for others.
AIS NIKKOR 35mm /1.4: This was an important lens in its day, being one of the first Nikkors to be multicoated as well as being one of the first superfast 35mms made in a well-known and widely used lensmount. Photojournalists in particular snapped these up in the days before zoom lenses infiltrated the profession. The lens is physically very beautiful, built with the rocklike solidity and smooth, welldamped focusing action that made manual Nikon lenses world-famous; yet the smallish 52mm filter size lets it retain a sense of overall compactness despite its relatively large size. Few lenses feel better on any camera than this lens does-it balances wonderfully on most Nikon bodies from the era of the classic SLR (even the FE/FM series) and its wide focusing ring falls to hand as well as any lens. Image quality is characteristically excellent. During the classic era of the SLR (say, 196080), Nikons strategy was to make slower lenses more to a price point for the amateur masses, and to lavish its optical expertise on the fast lenses that professionals were more likely to buy. This meant that, mostly, faster Nikkor lenses were better performers than slower ones, despite the fact that the principles of optical science would predict the opposite. Center sharpness is quite high (it was exceptionally high for the mid-1970s), and contrast is very good across the frame, although the AIS Nikkor 1.4s high image quality is not now as uncommon as it used to be. The lenss Achilles heel is an unpleasantly complex bokeh that looks jarring where it shows up. As with most 35mms, this is mitigated at small apertures, and I suppose some might claim that the harsh blur might make the in-focus image pop more; but I dont buy that. I think its distracting to the eye. This may not matter to you, in which case the charms of this once-famous lens are still there to be enjoyed. NIKON SERIES E 35mm 2.5: Heres a lens that is nearly the antithesis of its famous cousin discussed above. Very small, very

light, quite cheap-feeling, with somewhat insecure focusing action, and slow, it exhibits sharpness and contrast that is merely good (although good enough, especially for ISO 400 films), but it has excellent, smooth, very pleasing bokeh. Still a viable option, especially for manual-focus Nikonophiles who use the 35mm focal length only sparingly. LEITZ (later Leica) PRE-ASPH 35mm /2 SUMMICRON-M: Arguably the most renowned 35mm lens ever made, the Walther Mandler designed 1979 version of the Summicron-M is a richly characterful lens that has been responsible over the years for many famous and great photographs. It may not be the most popular lens in Leica history by sales figures (I dont know what is), but it is possibly the best-loved, and it is certainly the ideal companion for for an M4 or M6. Exceptionally small, its construction quality is probably one tier below the best, especially (by reputation, at least) the Canadian-built version; but it makes up for that by its wonderful handling properties on the camera: its one of the few lenses your hands can learn to operate as thoughtlessly as a kid rides a bicycle. Optically it is wonderful, though not by any means perfect. To dispense with its flaws: it vignettes rather severely by modern standards (Leica, of course, like the Lamb washed clean and pure, never admits to such problems- until after it fixes them), and it has a higher than normal degree of perspective distortion. Now, by the strict definition, perspective distortion is a property that is purely geometrical, affected only by angle of view and camera position. People have argued with me by the book that this lens cant show any more or less perspective dstortion than any other 35mm lens. Fine-so Ill call it apparent perspective distortion then. The fact remains that if you take a photograph with a round object such as a basketball up in the extreme corner of the frame with this lens and also with a retrofocus 35mm lens, the Summicron will show the basketball to be more distorted into an oblong shape than the other lenses show it to be. Call this whatever you want; its a fact. Try it. Next, the lens more or less sucks wide open. While it takes serviceable pictures at /2, it gets soft and loses most of its distinctive properties. (Only slightly stopped down,

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however, contrast begins to kick in, and matters improve quickly.) And finally, although it is highly flare-resistant, it is not flare-free. The lens, of course, has gobs of character, to which even some of its flaws contribute. On a tripod at middle apertures with a slow film it can show astonishing detail; its contrast is perfect, neither exaggerated nor at all lacking; and its bokeh from /5.6 is so cohesive that in some instances it actually fools the eye into thinking objects far out of the d.o.f. are rendered clearly. Once you know the lens you can recognize pictures taken with it at ten paces. I know of one Magnum photographer who switched from this lens to the SummicronASPH when it came out, and then, a year or so later, quietly switched back. That seems a wholly appropriate tribute. ZEISS CONTAX DISTAGON 35mm /2.8: Its a particular burr under my saddle that Zeiss never made a 35mm /2 for the Contaxes, except the one for the G series. Now, of course, since the introduction of the N1, its a mooted point-if you think its been an endless wait for new lenses to appear in the manual-focus line, try hanging around while primes in the newborn autofocus line get filled out. You could look like Rip Van Winkle before your hearts desire (or the lens you most need for jobs) comes along. The 35mm /2.8 for the Contax SLRs is a very odd and occasionally very beautiful optic, especially in regards to its contrast, which is in some cases phenomenal. However, it is strangely, almost mysteriously inconsistent. Of all the lenses discussed in this article I think I know best how this one behaves, yet I am least confident of my ability to describe it in words. I think that some of its inconsistency is due to the fact that the lens images object lines with one orientation significantly better than objects aligned with the other, as shown by the widely diverging sagittal and tangential lines on its MTF chart; at times it can look almost unsharp where it simply shouldnt be. It is also not consistent in performance over either its aperture or focusdistance ranges, seeming almost, chameleonlike, to change its fundamental character as those parameters change. Its bokeh is among the weirdest I know of: objects deep in the o.o.f. seem almost to col-

lapse in on themselves, becoming smaller almost as much as they become blurry. You can see this property most easily in the blur of sparsely-leafed trees in the distance; lines like small branches, twigs, and leaf stems simply disappear, while the leaves themseves collapse into smaller, relatively hard shapes. I cut my teeth on this lenss look, so I mostly tend to like it, but other bokeh connoisseurs have widely varying opinions of its peculiarities. Yet just when you find yourself getting perplexed or fed up, the lens will reward you with a string of stunning pictures that seem beyond the capabilities of more pedestrian glass. All in all, its a very alluring oddball, capable of great results along with its curious, nagging oddities. KONICA HEXAR 35mm /2: The Konica Hexar now seems to me to have been the first of a series of inventive Leica M knock-offs. The Hexar is just about exactly the size and shape of an M6 with the pre-ASPH 35mm Summicron on it. Its almost as if the M6 mated with a good-quality point-and-shoot and the two gave birth to baby Hexar. Oddly, the combination works. The Konica Hexar has graced the camera bags of a great many photographers in the years since it was first introduced, whether temporarily or permanently, and it still has a loyal following. Two facts about the Hexar filtered down through the grapevine to me. The first is that a major design goal of the cameras engineers was quietness. Konica certainly achieved that objective: subjects two yards away from you will be oblivious to the faint noise of the shutter. The second fact is that Konica set out deliberately to copy the pre-ASPH Summicron in designing the Hexars lens...even though the company has semi-officially denied this. And sure enough, the Hexar lens more or less shares the Leica lenss design, albeit with the addition of a last (innermost) element called a follower intended to reduce vignetting. Its not surprising, therefore, that the Hexar lens shares many of the Leica lenss pleasing qualities. The difference is that it vignettes less, it is better wide open, and QC- and thus average performance-isnt quite as high. This isnt difficult to account for, since Konica sells the entire Hexar, camera and all, for less than Leica ever sold its Summicron for.

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OLYMPUS OM ZUIKO 35mm /2: Another old-fashioned lens that is in most ways very good, if sometimes maddening. It has a relatively complex cross-section with a large, steeply convex outermost element, and its of a nice size and shape and handles well. Olympus was late in the game with effective multicoating, which meant that earlier OM Zuiko lenses-some of which still exist in the now-doomed OM catalogue-were prone to flare, sometimes rather badly so. The old 35mm 2 is decently coated and makes a brave go at controlling flare, albeit sometimes with imperfect success. Its lens shade isnt very effective, since it doesnt seem that perpendicularly-impinging light (sidelight) is what gives the lens trouble. Also, like many Zuikos, it gets flustered at small apertures, throwing in the towel to diffraction effects and letting its image quality go pretty much to hell. This can happen at /11 in unpropitious circumstances, and it frequently happens at /16. Despite this, the lens has a certain indefinable quality that is hard to deny. Its quite sharp at most apertures, and seems to have a way with contrast and tonal reproduction that can give its results, especially in black-andwhite, a seductive quality. Its not the best 35mm lens at any particular parameter (and the two Ive owned both seemed to allow the OM-4Ts meter to get fooled more often than is the case with other Zuikos, somehow), but at middle apertures the results it gives can be quite lovely. CANON EF 35mm /2: I first heard about this lens from The 37th Frame subscriber Bill Pierce, the darkroom wizard who writes the Nuts & Bolts column for Dirck Halsteads outstanding Digital Journalist web site, when he (Pierce) was printing the master repro prints for P.F. Bentleys book on Bill Clintons first campaign, Clinton: Portrait of Victory. It is probably, all things considered, the most technically perfect 35mm lens you can buy. It is supremely well-behaved: superbly sharp across the frame and throughout the aperture range, with loads of contrast. Its properties dont change much with focus distance, and its bokeh has great integrity whether slightly or greatly blurry, and whether in front of or behind the plane of focus. Even at the settings that confound most other lenses-relatively

wide open and focussed relatively close, with objects in the frame that are far out of focusits bokeh still holds up. Its also highly flare resistant-among the best in the focal lengthand its compact and light. Although its not a USM lens (it doesnt really need to be, since its so small and quiet anyway), it autofocuses fast and its image pops nicely in the viewfinder. Yet for some reason it tends to get backhanded compliments from lens nuts. As tends to happen with Canon glass, some call its look synthetic. The reclusive multilingual polymath and brilliant extreme connoisseur of photographica, O. Grad, has even let slip the epithet boring on occasion. Still, few lenses are so predictable or excellent in performance, and almost none have such consistently smooth and reliable bokeh. If all that excellence and predictability add up to a lens that fails to call attention to itself, well, at least you wont mistake its images for something youd see from a Nikkor. 35mm Prime Lens Reviews Part II, coming in Issue #6, will cover the Pentax Super-MultiCoated Takumar 35mm /2 M42 screwmount lens, the Leica 35mm /1.4 Summilux Aspherical Type 1, the AF Nikkor 35mm /2, the Leica 35mm /2 Summicron-R, the Pentax SMCP-M 35mm /2, and the Zeiss Contax Distagon 35mm /1.4. Also, Ill discuss comparisons and defend my opinion as to which is the best 35mm prime Ive ever used.

Photography of nature tends to be either centripetal or centrifugal. In the former, all elements of the picture converge toward a central point of interest to which the eye is repeatedly drawn. The centrifugal photograph is a more lively composition, like a sunburst, in which the eye is led to the corners and edges of the picture; the observer is thereby forced to consider what the photographer excluded in his selection. -Eliot Porter

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Abberzee

and Coates: Zippy-Zappy Zonies

Abberzee: Wannabe Zonies are like birdwatchers. Theyve got this standard life list. Mono Lake, Bodie the friendly ghost town, Anasazi ruins, that adobe church that Ansel and Strand photographed, yatta yatta yatta. Every modern Zonie acolyte has to collect the life list. Hell, if Georgia OKeefe could only live to be 200, shed be on the Zonies life list too. Glowing birch trees against the dark forest, abstracts of slit canyons. Gag me with a stirring paddle. Coates: Slot canyons. Which Bruce Barnbaum pioneered as a photographic subject, by the way. Abberzee: Praise be. Coates: Well, for Gods sake, you can hardly complain the man is only photographing derivative subjects if hes acknowledged as having pioneered new subjects! Abberzee: New subjects which became clichs in about a year. If I never saw another damned slit canyon picturesorry, slot canyonId survive. Coates: This is getting outrageous, even for you. Bruce Barnbaum is a superb photographer, widely acknowledged to be among the best in the country. Hes one of the few photographers who can make a living selling prints. Why do you think that is? Because his prints are marvelous. Because people love them and photographers admire them. Abberzee: Sorry, buddy, but I cant concede you much for mass popularity. Hes a guy who prints for effect, and I dont think he has any real visual interests beyond mere effects. He has no interest in subject matter. Old stone archways, mountainsides, stormy skies, theyre all just excuses to make zippy-zappy prints. Thats not what I call photography. If this guys a master, Im a horned toad. Coates: You said that, not me. Abberzee: Hey, you asked me who I thought were the top printers alive. I told you Id rather not play that game. Barnbaum wouldnt make my top 250. Coates: He makes my top 25. I think his work is marvelous, and his prints transcendent. Im astonished its not something everybody thinks. Abberzee: So heres an odd situation, Bobyou and me disagreeing. Alls well with the World. Robert Abarzejian and Robert Coates

Abberzee: Oh, jeez, I dont know, Bob. William Clift. Howard Bond? I suppose I should say Ansel Adamsdoesnt everybody? But you know, Im really not the guy to ask. Coates: Oh, cmon. I want to know. Who else? Abberzee: Well, I guess I would say Paul Caponigro. Hes a guy whose books I really like. Coates: Any classic guys? Edward Weston? Abberzee: No, probably not Weston. A lot of Weston prints are great but theyre kind of all over the place by modern standards. Coates: More recent masters? Michael A. Smith, George Drennan, John Sexton? Abberzee: Cant really say I know their work. I have a Sexton calendar. Never heard of Drennan. Coates: Your loss. One of the best warmtone printers around. His prints are incredibly rich, with just a hint of an old-fashioned quality. But not directly derivative of historical prints. Hes one of the only printers going who can play warm tones like Ashkenazy plays the keyboard. Beautiful stuff. Distinctive. How about Barnbaum, who writes for Mikes old magazine? You know his work from the magazine, dont you? Abberzee: Oh, yeah. Theres one photographer I can say I hate. Coates: What? Hate? Are we talking about the same guy? The guy who does the Master Printing Class features. Abberzee: I know who he is all right. I guess hate isnt a very nice word to useI take that back. But I know who were talking about. Coates: How can you hate Barnbaums work? Abberzee: How can you like it? Its got all the failings of standard Zonie crap. Any excuse for a picture, never mind what it is. Every print done to death, zippy-zappy, cut-your-eyeballs contrast. Ill tell you how to make a master print Barnbaum style: kick up the magenta filter and bleach the shit out of the shadows. Its all overdone, all of it. Coates: Excuse me? I hardly consider Bruce Barnbaums prints to be overdone. Not unless youd call all those mediocre 35mm printers you like underdone. And what, pray tell, is the standard failing of people who practice the Zone System? This is going to be good.

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The Rant
IMAGE IS EVERYWHERE The word image has lately been spreading like a sort of verbal kudzu, choking out everything in its path. What appears to be causing this linguistic plague is one part monkey-see monkey-do and two parts snobbery. Critics and academicians have long employed the word image to imply that what theyre talking about are more serious than mere pictures. They also use it because not every photography-based creation that merits their interest and attention is a picture. And because critics and academicians (who are thus excused) employ the word so frequently, image has spread downward from the ivory tower like a virus until it has infected the entire art-photographic community. The word has become a signifier: an image is worthy of attention; a picture is a common low-class fillip that any tourist can make with a disposable. The implied hope seems to be that an image, as opposed to a humble picture or photograph, is something special, something that shows artistic intent, skill, sensibility, and accomplishment. People who make images must be artists, since image is the word that folks who talk about art use when they talk about photographs. Right? Image, unfortunately, is also a weakwilled, dirty-dishwater, sniveling little sot of a word. Its an umbrella wordbland, characterless, general. It takes in everything. You dont see a photograph of yourself in a mirror, you see an image. A line drawing of a smiley face isnt a picture, but its an image. Man was made in Gods imagebut lets hope the Lord doesnt look like Danny DeVito. Caricatures, fantasy posters, the Proctor and Gamble logo, Messonier paintings, a cloud reflected in a puddle, Flash Gordon streaking across the page of a comic book, Apple Computers appleeven the beautiful specter of the world cast by a fine lens on a view cameras groundglass theyre all images. But none of them are photographs. We shouldnt be afraid to get more specific, and to hell with vague connotations of status. Photographs are distinct from most other images, and photography is distinct from most other means of creating images. The word photograph, thought to have been coined by Sir John Herschel and the sole sur-

vivor of the mixed-up jumble of nineteenthcentury descriptive terms and coinages (taken any good Heliographs lately?), is a good, specific, muscular descriptive term that wears its etymology proudly on its sleeve. Even the cheerful proletarian word picture is more specific than image, since it is A visual representation or image painted, drawn, photographed, or otherwise rendered on a two-dimentional surface (AHED, mod. auct.; italics mine). In other words, a picture is a particular kind of image-the kind that most photographs are. So why doesnt anybody take pictures any more? No one seems to; everyone makes images. The overuse of this pale and tremulous little word is ludicrous and middlebrow. The phrase would you like to see my images? is faux-proper, like saying would you like to come to dinner with Martha and I?

Image is a weak-willed, dirty-dishwater, snivelling little sot of a word.


The dull-witted term digital image is, on the other hand, perfectly suitable, because it describes something specific that isnt quite a photograph and isnt necessarily a picture or a representation either. Unfortunately, it doesnt translate to other word forms very well-no one calls themselves a digital imager (they say digital photographer, a truly woeful hybrid) and the term digital imagery sounds like you got forced to sit through a government seminar in Verbal Obscurantism three jobs ago. Various alternatives have been proposed -I like digigraph, digitographer (dij-ih-TOG-raf-er), digitography myself, not that anyone cares. But the actual terms are evolving pell-mell, without forethought, and were going to get stuck forever with whatever evolves. Whatever. Strong-minded men and women are not timidly fearful of being thought to use gauche terms if those terms are correct, and have no compuction about saying what they mean. I think we should show some backbone, and call pictures pictures, and photographs photographs, and reserve the squirrely little pseudo-euphemism image for occasions when its really what we mean.

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How to Write Internet User Reports of Cameras


A Guide for Idiots 1. First of all, dont be shy. One need not know how to spell, how to use upper case and lower case letters correctly, or how to put the apostrophe in the right place when ending a word with s. (O, the cameras Ive seen.) The internet is a triumph of democracy, even if youre Republican, so be sure to remember that knowledge of elitist codes such as grammar is just the sort of thing that got people in eyeglasses slaughtered during Maos cultural revolution. Nobody likes an egghead. Youre fine. Forge ahead. 2. Pay no heed to your level of ignorance of the subject at hand. Its a brave new world: speculation is as good as opinion, and opinions are as good as facts, and your facts are as good as anyone elseseven if you made them up. If youre in college and youre disagreeing with a guy whos been a professional for thirty years, not to worry: youre probably as smart as he is. Hey, hes not in college, is he? If he were so smart, hed be in college. Its a level playing field, or might as well be. Take advantage. 3. If you suspect that you may actually be far more ignorant than someone who is disagreeing with you, use more emphatic language. If that fails, call the person names. You know what they say: the best defense is a good offense! 4. Anecdotal evidence is cherishable. If you heard something from a friend who heard it from a friend of the guy it happened to, for Gods sake get it out there, man! Put it on the table! We really do want to hear about it from you if you once heard it somewhere. How else are other people supposed to hear things somewhere? 5. It is not necessary to actually own a camera to review it. It is not necessary to have tried it to review it. In fact, it is not necessary to have ever seen it to review it. If youve read a published review of it, you may adopt that reviewers conclusions (just dont let on where you read them); if you are acute enough to have noticed a

trend among the complaints in previous reviews on the site, you may pile on; and, certainly, if youve skimmed the brochure, well, how much more about the damned thing does anyone really need to know? 6. Keeping a stock file of generic complaints and dispensing them randomly may backfire. For instance, if you say too much mirror slap about a camera that has very little mirror slap, people may begin to see your review for what it actually is. (The tactic is especially dangerous when you use terms without knowing what they mean.) 7. Always remember: the critical thing you must contribute to the worlds sum of knowledge is your unique opinion as to whether Canon or Nikon is better. It is very important that we hear from you on this matter. 8. If you have ever been personally wronged by being sold a camera that turned out to have a defect, now is a good time to get back at the manufacturer. 9. Xenophobia in regard to the location of a cameras assembly has somehow escaped being revealed as racism, so you have a free hand. If you use a camera marked Made in Germany, you are, as you know, a better person than someone whose camera was made in Japan, and you should let people know that. You may use the term Japanese shit if you like, even if your camera was assembled in Germany by immigrant Turks or was built in Portugal and only shipped to Germany for final assembly. If your camera was made in Japan, however, take care to note whose pieces of shit were made in the Philippines or Thailand, so you can feel superior to those people. (Note: if you bought a Cosina Voigtlaender, and your camera is stamped both Made in Germany and Made in Japan, figuring out how to feel superior by calling something else shit may be too complicated a proceeding to undertake alone. See a psychotherapist.) 10. Rule 9 conflicts with the ultra-low-volume exclusion. For instance, everything made in China may be referred to as total shit unless it is made in numbers insufficient to supply, say, 1% of the population

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of a mid-sized Japanese city. In that case it is ultra-rare, which means it is great and cannot be called anything bad at all. 11. If you own an ultra-rare camera, you may rave on and on about it on the Internet. Since no one else has ever heard of it, you wont be contradicted. 12. Judge things even if you lack any sort of basis for comparison. No one will know! Isnt the Internet great? 13. If someone catches you out by pointing out that something you wrote in your review was just plain wrong, take personal affront and start making accusations, pretending not that verifiable facts are in dispute but that the other person has motive to slander you based on your sex, age, race, religion, writing style, country or origin, country of residence, or physical handicaps. Go ahead and invent said motives. Anything that sounds plausible works. 14. If you were comparing two cameras of approximately the same price and description but from two different companies, and bought one of them, it is usually appreciated if you take the trouble to post a denigrating, sarcastic, and dismissive review of whichever one you didnt choose. Try not to be negligent about this, as all the world is eager to hear proof of your good judgment and a detailed accounting of your personal shopping criteria. 15. If you were comparing two cameras in the same manufacturers line and decided on the more expensive one, post a review about the less expensive one and complain bitterly that it doesnt have, but should have, all the features the more expensive one does.

Please take the trouble to post a sarcastic and dismissive review of whichever camera you didnt choose.
16. If, on the other hand, you were comparing two cameras in the same manufacturers line but decided on the less expensive one, post a review to point out that all the features the more expensive one has, you dont need, and that, therefore, anyone who bought the more expensive one is an idiot who likes to waste money. People who wasted their money in this way

always appreciate having their errors pointed out to them by perfect strangers. 17. On any given review site, if a camera that competes with yours has a higher rating than yours, go over there and slam that damn thing. Even though you came very close to purchasing it yourself, give it a zero or a one or whatever the lowest rating is. That will teach those people who dont agree with you whos who. 18. Preying on peoples natural insecurities works. Saying its just not a professional camera even when comparing one amateur camera to another amateur camera usually helps make other people feel bad. 19. Plastic = poorly built. Mine it, baby. 20. If you spent far more money than other people have, then they cant argue with you. This is one thing that makes stupidly spendy kit so deliciously worthwhile. 21. A type of scathing putdown useful in reviews is to point out the obvious, or something that could easily be discovered and decided upon before purchase, but phrase it as if it were a negative. For instance, I bought this fixed-lens camera, and its a decent enough camera I suppose except for the fact that is has a fixed lens. Or, if you chose a small camera, complain that its small; or, if its made of polycarbonates and engineered plastics, say it has too much plastic, in a disapproving way, as if you actually bought one and this awful realization somehow took you completely by surprise sometime during your third month of ownership. 22. A nice variation of this is to pretend to be confused by something that would take any rational person two minutes to figure out permanently the first time he ever used the camera. If it took you a few moments to figure out how to use a certain switch, for instance, say that the switch is confusing. 23. If you are ever forced to resort to the instruction manual, it is proof that a camera is poorly designed. If you havent found a feature that is in fact on the camera because you havent read the manual, its okay to say it isnt there. Everyone will understand. 24. Finally, when writing your review, please pay no attention to whether your new camera is useful for taking pictures. The

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rest of us do not want to hear subjective, touchy-feely bullshit like that from you. Argue from a common foundation: the feature list! That way, people who have never done much photography (but who spend lots of time on the Internet) will feel riiiiiight at home.

Institute of the Arts, The Photography Center of Atlanta, and Houstons Amon Carter Museum are also among the new subscribers to The 37th Frame since last issue. Please send subscriber news by mail to 316 Windsor Drive, Waukesha, Wisconsin 53186, or by e-mail to michaeljohnston@ameritech.net.

Subscriber Notes
The 37th Frame subscriber Christopher James has just had published The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes, from Delmar, a division of Thompson Learning, Inc., ISBN 0-7668-2077-7. This one looks like a real winner to me-he concentrates on practical explanations of alternative processes as they are practiced by artists today, which seems an astute approach-but since Im not an expert on alternative processes, Ive invited a friend who is to review the book for a future issue of the newsletter. Chris James, a professor at Harvard University from 1978 to 1991, has lectured extensively on alternative processes all over the world. His work has been exhibited in shows at the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and George Eastman House. He is currently Chair of the Photography Department at The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University. Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee subscribed recently. Both are among the most accomplished large-format photographers in the United States. Outside of my recollection of a beautiful spread in the old Camera & Darkroom prior to its unfortunate demise, I know Michael Smiths work only by reputation, but I have two of Paula Chamlees books and prize them. Natural Connections is a sophisticated journeyman piece of subtle horizonless landscapes that are like a cross between the work of Frederick Sommer and Edward Weston; High Plains Farm, an even better book, documents her parents and the farm where she grew up in the Texas Panhandle. I think High Plains Farm, which James Enyeart calls a visual poem, is one of the great books of documentary photography published in the 1990s. Its been a book Ive returned to regularly for both pleasure and contemplation. A really fine piece of work. The ICP Library, the George Eastman House, Ted Hartwell at the Minneapolis

Comments & Queries


Paul Butzi writes: Im trying to cut down on my subscriptions but I was hooked by the You are a punk quotation on the reviews part of your web page. The world is overrun with pre-digested, guaranteed non-offensive opinions. Please preserve us from the unbiased, uninformative, overweeningly positive reviews of everything from breakfast cereal to candidates. Kerry Thalmann writes: Its about time somebody was willing to step forward and tell it like it is without kowtowing to the advertisers and other self-important powers that be. Ed Kirkpatrick writes: I always enjoyed your editorials in Camera & Darkroom and then Photo Techniques and I was very pleased to find a copy of your first issue. It was posted on the lab bulletin board at the Smithsonian where I teach photography and I instantly recognized the columns name...Good luck! John Wren writes: If film is doomed, how come Nikon just released a new all manual camera? Mike replies: Film is indeed obsolescent, but I doubt it will ever disappear entirely. The FM3a came into existence because a) theres always been a persistent call for the return of the FE2, and prices for used ones continues to be strong, b) it in effect replaces the F3, and c) Nikon has a large enough customer base, and a large enough installed base of existing manual-focus equipment out in the world, to justify it. You wont see Pentax, Minolta, or even Canon (because of FD-EF incompatibility) following suit and introducing a new manual/mechanical camera. Regarding the industry and digital, consider the almost warp-speed of digital development over just the past few years. Looking at digital cameras from 1995 is like looking at film cameras from1950. It used to be that pro digital SLRs cost $25,000 and consumer

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digicams had only a quarter or a half a megapixel and very poor image quality. That wasnt long ago at all. Now you have the D1x at, what, $5,500, and the Coolpix 5000 at barely more than a grand (the same cost or slightly cheaper than the Olympus OM4T or the last of the recently discontinued Pentax LXs, by the way) that has 5 megapixels and is actually a pretty darned good little camera. So whats happening is that the extremes of the scale-the cost of the top models and the capability of the consumer models-are coming together at a very dramatic rate. The effect hasnt really been felt at the consumer level yet, but there are certainly signs. In 2000, Kodaks film sales actually decreased for the first time in decades. Sales of film point-and-shoots, which have driven the industry since the 1980s, havent grown since 1998 and have probably declined in 2001 for the first time. Sales of high-end point-andshoots like the 35Ti are way down-more than 50% down in 2000 alone, and down the year before as well-as well-heeled consumers choose same-priced digicams in preference to them. Oddly enough, sales of film SLRs are up slightly. Thats because entry-level film SLRs are getting so good, so cheap, and so easy to use that dealers are presenting them to customers as better-quality, more versatile alternatives to medium-cost point-and-shoots. This isnt more than a break in the clouds for film, however, since overall sales of SLRs are still only a small fraction of the camera market as a whole. The digital technology the consumer will eventually accept is here now. But it will take a few years for the public to catch on, or for the tipping point of acceptance to occur. It will happen gradually as converts to digital convert their friends, equipment gets better and cheaper and easier to use, and film and processing availability begin to constrict and perhaps rise in price. At the very least, generational changeover will eventually seal the deal-there are already young adults who got into digital when they got into photography and have never used film in a very conscious way. Generation X will be the first to largely embrace the new technology. Theyre more computer-savvy than preceeding generations, and still young enough to be accepting of new ways of doing things. The last film-using gen-

erations will eventually die off, even if people of those generations choose not to switch to digital of their own accord-which they may well do. Is film doomed, though? No way. Its a relatively low-tech, limited-investment product to manufacture (perfect for emerging secondand third-world economies, for example), and as long as theres even a small market for it there will be somebody willing to produce it. But early this year, sales of digital cameras in terms of gross dollars spent eclipsed film cameras for the first time. Film cameras, although still maintaining a large cushion in terms of total unit sales, will never regain that lead. Soon enough, digital will eclipse film in total unit sales, too-and by then, film will be well on the way out...except for those of us who choose to continue using it. Kent Phelan writes: Stunning, or mebbe not stunning, news about Olympus, eh? [See The News.] A significant event if you ask me, even if Oly never managed to get into the center ring of the circus. A true group of dedicated people. People with a single vision, people who got it, people who tried to (and almost did) change the course of later 20th century photography. They should be applauded-most likely they will be forgotten. A real pity. On the other side of the coin is Bill Pierces theory that we are entering a new renaissance of photojournalism because of digital. Read about it at: http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0201/nutsand bolts.htm. Pierces idea is that photojournalism is finally back at the forefront of news gathering. I have to say I agree. I dont know about your newspapers, but the photography in the St. Louis PostDispatch has changed dramatically in the past year. The pictures coming out of Afghanistan are outstanding. They remind me of the news photos of my youth-pictures of Vietnam, pictures of the civil rights movement, pictures with a sense of urgency, pictures that mattered and, for an adolescent like me, pictures that were revered as The Truth. I love it. Turns out, digital is OK. John Collier writes: It is great to hear from you again and I know I will enjoy your writings. Your dd bokeh articles [in Photo Techniques, Mar/Apr 1997] are what made me realize why I was avoiding certain lenses; a real eye opener. I was doing laundry in Jasper National Park and wandered over to check out what the drugstore

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might have in the way of magazines. There was that issue staring me in the face. I have bought every issue since, although somewhat less enthusiastically lately. I used to always read the last page first and then jump to the old Grumps [David Vestals] column. Between the two of you, you have greatly altered my perception of photography. Thank you! Here are my silver shekls to keep you on your blasphemous ways. Mike replies: And thank you, John. Since youve brought up DV, I should mention that we received a signal honor in the last issue (no. 78) of Davids newsletter GRUMP, on which this newsletter is, in part, modeled: DV not only mentioned but even briefly reviewed The 37th Frame. (Ive always wanted to make it into GRUMP, so I was really pleased.) He did criticize the first issues lack of pagination, and offered me a set of numbers to use in No. 2, a gift I dutifully availed myself of. For those of you who might not know GRUMP, its an 8-page plain-paper newsletter published informally and occasionally by David Vestal, P.O. Box 309, Bethlehem, CT 06751-0309, $30 for six issues. GRUMP 79 has just arrived at my house, along with the tiny gem of an original print that David always includes in the holiday issue. I plan to savor both. As I told David when I took over at PT, Ive always been a Vestalian at heart. Please send comments and queries by e-mail to michaeljohnston@ameritech.net, or by mail to 316 Windsor Dr., Waukesha, WI 53186.

badly balanced, overheats, has a coarse LCD screen finder thatll make you say they must be kidding out loud, and, in terms of both style and construction quality, looks like one of your better-made products from Mattel. You might expect this from big electronics companies that havent come up the learning curve when it comes to making ergonomic cameras. But Minolta?!? Cmon. A Cheap Crap Award for the Dimage 7. If this is the future of photography, Ill be running in the opposite direction. [Thanks to Neil Young for providing theme music for this award.]

Good Solid Gear


The Good Solid Gear Award for Winter 2002 goes to the Speedotron Force 10 monolight. Powerful, fast, flexible, and well made...and made in America (we thinkChicagger, by all appearances). Takes all Black Line accessories, too. If youre looking for a nice monolight, youve got two options: you can waste hundreds of dollars on a cheap one and then be forced to buy a better one later for more money, or you can spend your money wisely from the start and get one like the Force 10.

The View
THE SIREN SONG OF DIGITAL As a photographer, Ive always been principled (which is another way of saying stubborn) and faithful to what I want to do. Aside from professional work, my personal work for many many years has been 35mm black-andwhite. There are lots of reasons for this, but Ive been consistent. Theres nothing important here about my specific choice. Substitute your own technique, whatever it happens to be. Im very drawn to two ideas that contribute to my desire to continue being faithful to what Ive always done. First, I learned long ago from photographer John McIntosh that a real body of work is not the same thing as a discrete project done during a finite period of time. A real body of work is the sum total of what a photographer has been able to accomplish over an extended period of investigation

Piece of Crap Award


I wanted this inaugural award to go to one of those awful 28-200mm lenses-any example of that wretched breed would do. (If they were the only lenses available, Id do what Frederick Evans did when the first world war interrupted platinum production from Russia and platinum papers ceased to be manufactured commercially: Id quit photography.) But it turns out that there finally is a really good 28-200mm lens. Well, actually its only a 28-200mm equivalent-its the 7.2-50.8mm /2.8-3.5 on the Minolta Dimage 5 and Dimage 7 digicams. Unfortunately, this fine lens is attached to a PIECE OF CRAP. The Dimage 7 is awkward,

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or interest-over years, decades, or a lifetime. And the more consistent we are with our methods, the more consistent our bodies of work can be over time. A 35mm black-andwhite picture I took in 1980 can be presented right alongside a 35mm black-and-white picture I took last summer and the two will go together seamlessly. Switching to digital would create a schism in my work, a dividing line, closing one period and beginning another. Im just not sure I want to do that. Ive also always been attracted to the example of Atget, who went from using materials that were current, then obsolescent, then anachronistic, then obsolete-and all without ever changing the way he worked. Ive always thought it would be a cool thing to still be shooting 35mm black-and-white in, say, 2030, by which time the technology will not have been in general use for fifteen or twenty years. The technique would go from being current, to pass, to stick-in-the-mud, to interestingly uncommon, to romantically antiquarian. Cant you imagine a newspaper article in 2040 about some old guy who still uses old-fashioned 35mm film to make pictures with-just like they did back in the 20th century? It will be a distinction someday, prized because its rare. However, Im also lazy. This is my Achilles heel, and Ive always known it would be the leading wedge of any attraction to digital I might someday feel. My true interest is in shooting pictures and looking at pictures rather than in any given technique. Ive always used 35mm cameras only because they suit the kind of pictures I like to take; Ive only mastered black-andwhite printing because those are the kind of prints I like best. Digital prints are finally starting to get pretty, to have their own aesthetic. Its been a long time coming. But they also enable more shooting with less expense and printing with less effort and in shorter time. It takes me about an hour and 40 minutes to develop and proof 105 exposures of film (setting up to develop, developing, cleaning up; clipping and sleeving the dry negs; setting up chemicals, making proofsheets, cleaning up). I typically workprint between one and eight frames per roll, and fine print maybe two in 10 workprints. Meaning that a long-term average of anywhere from .3 to 2.4 fine prints will

result from that hour and a half of processing labor. I can account for the dollars and cents about as accurately: Cost per 105 exposures (three rolls): $2.89 x 3 = $8.67 for film Processing chemicals roughly $.40 per tank PrintFiles sleeves $.75 for three Paper and processing chemicals for proofs roughly $.50 per roll = $1.50 Total: a little more than $11.25 per three rolls / 1 tank. By contrast, the SmartMedia card in my digicam cost $50 and the per-use cost decreases every time I use it; but in any event, it has paid for itself completely by the time Ive taken the equivalent of 18 rolls of film (I shoot 100-250 rolls of film annually). After that point, the cost of developing and proofing 105 digital pictures is $0.00, and the time spent doing so can be measured in seconds. To insert the card in the card reader, download the card, and open all the pictures to look at takes all of three minutes, maybe 5 minutes at most. So thats $11.25 and 1 hr., 40 min. vs. $0.00 and 5 minutes. This is simply not an advantage to be cast aside lightly if what you want to do is shoot, and look at, pictures. Despite this, Im hoping I have the moxie not to create an artificial schism between the last 20 years of my work and the next 20. Perhaps my habitual stubbornness will save me from abandoning my longtime working method and succumbing entirely to the siren song of digital. Since Im both lazy and cheap, however, this is far from a foregone conclusion. Time will tell. WHY PRINT L.E. IS IMPORTANT FOR DIGITAL Practically speaking, and contrary to the conventional wisdom, digital files dont have an infinite life. Theyre subject to the same sort of attrition that affects a physical object. I read a book forward recently by a woman who specializes in trivial collectibles like Beanie Babies. (For foreign readers not aware of this phenomenon, Beanie Babies are a range of small bean-bag animals that were all the rage for several years in the U.S.) The

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list of things she collected and dealt in was very long, from lampshades to lunch boxes. She was asked how Beanie Babies and things like them could possibly have any value as collectibles if everyone was collecting them. She writes that even when people try to preserve things, they still become rare over time. People will lose Beanie Babies in moves, in floods, in fires, to vermin, to mold; get uninterested and allow children to play with and damage them; die and will the stuff to someone who doesnt care; etc., etc. Her guess was that 100 years from now, Beanie Babies will be as rare as any other type of antique toy. Theres a good analogy to photography here. Even if a photographer is conscientious and tries to file his negatives carefully, there is still a certain amount of danger to their survival-uncaring heirs, disorganization, loss or displacement caused by moves, and the physical dangers listed above. Although its often claimed that digital files are permanent, in fact the same thing will hold true of them. Most photographers will archive them to the extent that they want or expect to use them. But beyond that there is a gulf of time that most historical objects dont make it to the far side of-the gulf between the time when the item was last useful to its maker and the time when it begins to be considered valuable to posterity. The majority of all digital picture files will fall victim to crippled computers, data switchovers when new equipment is purchased, sloth or indolence in filing, accidental deletion, failure to keep the files in a readable format as formats evolve, loss of or damage to physical filing devices (e.g., CDs) over time, and so forth. As digital imaging becomes the prevailing medium for imaging, what will happen to it is what happened in every other visual medium from copperplate etching to pastels. Most practitioners will use it thoughtlessly or incompetently or purely for practical or obligatory uses, and a very small minority of people will become adept enough at it to master it and make valuable creations with it. Regarding those few people, the file is only half of the creation, just as the negative is only half of the creation with traditional black-and-white-the other half of the craft, creativity, and judgment involved is the reifi-

cation of the print, the matching of the file to the materials chosen to print it with and on, etc. A file optimized for a program and a printer that exist on the digital photographers desk today and a paper she chooses today may not be meaningfully preserved when that type of printer no longer exists and that type of paper is no longer made. Finally, theres the issue of the separation of the finished object from its raw data-analogous to the separation of prints from their negatives in traditional photography. Most of the tens of thousands of old prints Ive examined in archives dont have corresponding negatives. The reason is not far to seek: the prints are often valued and preserved by someone remote (geographically or in time) from the person who made it. If a photographer sends a print to a magazine as a promo, and it gets filed away in a drawer and forgotten, and its discovered half a century from now and given to a museum and exhibited, what are the chances that whoever values it at that point in the future will ever be able to locate the negative? Slim to none in most actual cases, even if the original maker valued the negative and tried to preserve it. For all these reasons, print life expectancy (LE) remains a critical issue. And of course, historically, it doesnt really matter what kind of print LE is possible; it matters what kind of print LE is prevalent. In other words, just because there were dye transfer printers working in the early 1970s making prints with very high LE doesnt mitigate the fact that most color materials from that era are unstable and are now deteriorating. The present doesnt know what posterity will value, either aesthetically or historically. So it matters not just that a few printers are able to create archival prints; it matters also how the average printer performs. Its typical at this point in an exegesis like this one to make a call to arms, and claim that every photographer has an obligation to agitate for the best possible print LE. But of course that wont matter much either. The lucky historical condition that I think pertains here is that early digital prints had such awful LE, lasting sometimes only months or a small handful of years. This had the beneficial effect of calling attention to print longevity and elevating it to the status of a marketing concern. It was so bad that consumers became aware

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of it-and subsequently responded with their purchasing dollars to improvements. In retrospect, this will be seen, I believe, as a crucial and important historical accident in the paradigm shift to digital technology. THE CANON S800 INKJET PRINTER Its not common these days for a Canon product to have to play second fiddle to anything. Epson, however, has come to own the burgeoning market for desktop inkjet printers for photo imaging; Canons an also-ran by comparison. Epson makes larger-scale commercial printers such as the excellent 7500, and its 1280 remains the desktop standard for home digital printers who wish to make prints larger than letter size. With the recent C80, Epson is pioneering the changeover to more permanent pigment inksets in inexpensive all-purpose printers. One result of all this has been to obscure the considerable attractions of the Canon S800, which may be, all things considered, the very best letter-sized inkjet printer for photographers. First things first. The S800 is a compact, solidly-made little unit, conservative in its styling but not without a certain modest gracefulness. At $300 or a little less, it is affordable to most. Because its from Canon, its reasonably easy to find if you look around. As an all-purpose printer, its not much, and its gotten some tepid reviews as an office printer. Text printing is okay but not great, and text pages are very slow to print. Performance is so-so with plain paper. Its when you look at it exclusively as a photo printer that it shines in comparison even to the very best of its competition. Image quality is excellent; the phrase that crops up repeatedly from users is that image quality is at least as good as the Epson equivalents, and, if that implies that its as good and maybe a wee bit better, I agree. Colors are excellent. The printer is particularly adept at skin tones, both for caucasians and people of color, distinguishing easily between subtly different types of skin colors and textures. If it has any weakness in the area of skin tones, its that shadowed areas can sometimes look slightly too gray. Evenness is superb, with individual ink dots virtually invisible to the naked eye and only

barely visable under a 4x loupe. Maximum resolution is 2400 x 1400 dpi. The printer sets up quickly and with a minimum of fuss and works equally well with PCs and Macs. A flash card reader comes with it, as does Canons barely adequate ImageBrowser (Mac) and PhotoRecord (Win) software; connectivity is USB or parallel. It is perhaps the fastest letter-sized printer when printing photos, taking a mere two or three minutes for a full page, and its among the quietest once it gets going (turn-on noise is greater but hardly objectionable). You wont hear this printer from the next room unless your house is particularly quiet and your hearing acute. It can certainly be operated without waking the baby.

Its when you look at it exclusively as a photo printer that it shines in comparison even to the very best of its competition; image quality is excellent.

Operationally, the S800 has two great advantages. First, if not used frequently, Epson printer heads have a tendency to clog, requiring time-consuming and (because they consume ink) costly cleaning regimens. The S800s printer head is not only not prone to clogging, it is easily replaceable should it ever fail. A new one costs $90 or so, and is simplicity itself to install: just unwrap it, drop it into place, and throw an easily-identified locking lever. If a printer head on an Epson goes bad, youre out the cost of the printer. Not so on the Canon. The biggest attraction of the Canon from an operational standpoint is that, unlike most of the Epsons, the S800 uses six individual ink colors, each in its own cartridge. Although the ink cartridges are expensive, costing some $13.00 each at retail stores, there are better deals on the internet: www.techstore.com, for instance, sells them for $8.93 each (be aware, though, that they take a good long time to ship). This expense is mitigated further by the

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fact that the full inkset sets lasts much longer than most all-in-one ink cartridges do, and, of course, no inks are wasted since you replace each cartridge individually as it expires. This efficiency is easy to track: typically, for every single Cyan and Magenta cartridge you use, you will probably use approximately one and a half Black and Yellow cartridges and two Photo Magenta and Photo Cyans. Ink Codes: BCI-6Bk (Black) BCI-6PC (Photo Cyan) BCI-6PM (Photo Magenta) BCI-6C (Cyan) BCI-6M (Magenta) BCI-6Y (Yellow) The ink cartridges are simple to install. Flip back the printer lid, and the printhead centers itself for your convenience. The ink cartridges snap into place positively and easily. Once efficiency and ink cartridge life are taken into account, economy becomes (that phrase again) at least as good as the competition. And yes, I believe probably a little better. Finally, using a glossy paper like Canons Photo Paper Pro or a good matte paper like Epson Archival Matte, print LE can be expected to be at good end of the spectrum for conventional dye-based inks, on the order of 25 years before noticeable fading occurs. According to Wilhelm Research, the very best dye-based ink and paper combinations beat the S800 by a mere two years or so. Canon appears to have ceded the field to others where printers for 13-inch-wide papers are concerned, which is too bad. And the S800s virtues are not very widely known. If youre looking a letter-sized printer mostly or exclusively for printing pictures, this is a superb printer that deserves to rank at the top of the list of currently available models. Its not often that anything Canon makes can justifiably be called a sleeper, but the S800 is one of them. Its a product that combines uncompromised quality with outstanding convenience. Highly recommended. Note: A wide-format model of the Canon S800, called the S9000, has been announced in Britain. Its been talked about in Japan (as the F9000) for months. I assume a U.S. version is imminent; if so, its really exciting news.


When the good pictures come, we hope they tell truths, but truths told slant, just as Emily Dickinson commanded. We are spinning a story of what it is to grow up. It is a complicated story and sometimes we try to take on the grand themes: anger, love, death, sensuality and beauty. But we tell it all without fear and without shame. -Sally Mann

The News
Happy Birthday to Manuel Alvarez Bravo, who turned 100 on February 4th. Who says photo chemicals are bad for you? Sic Transit OM: after a bad year financially, Olympus finally discontinued the proud old OM system. Although its been moribund for years, the company had kept the system alive out of loyalty to its customers and, probably, a sense of pride. Actually, the decline of the OM system in the 1980s inspired changes in the way Olympus did business that helped make it one of the most profitable camera companies of the 1990s. After large losses in 2001, however, the OM system became a luxury the company could no longer afford. NOS (new old stock) will be available through March of 2003, and the company will try to maintain parts supplies until ten years after the discontinuation of any given product. Dear God, I almost left out the jazz notes again! We cant have that. You probably already know about Blue Notes Connoisseur series-limited-edition 20- and 24-bit CDs of tapes from Blue Notes vaults. Ive been floored by Lee Morgans The Procrastinator and Hank Mobleys Third Season, both of which are marvelous. Connoisseurs really are limited editions, so get em while you can.

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A bad year: The photo industry as a whole spent 2001 in the toilet. In a pointed juxtaposition, the digital camera site Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com) noted two recent figures: first, that Eastman Kodak lost $209 million in the fourth quarter of 2001, mainly due to a 10% drop in film sales; and second, that sales of digital cameras were up at least 42.7% from 2000 to 2001. According to PMA, 400,000 digital cameras were sold in 1996, a figure that rose more than tenfold, to 4.5 million, by 2000; and projections for this year are for sales of something like 8.3 million units. You can see why so many companies are angling for a piece of this market. The problem is that nobodys figured out how to make much of a profit selling digital cameras yet. Development costs are astronomically high, product lifecycles are ruthlessly short, pricing is cutthroat, and competition is fierce-especially since electronics and appliance powerhouses such as Sony and Matsushita are trying to position themselves as players. Hope for a healthier year in 2002. Follow-up: Steve Simmons was concerned that I reproduced his private insults in the last newsletter, and indeed it probably did make me look worse than it made him look. I was angry because for years he had pretended to be a friendly colleague, a posture which was evidently little more than a ruse. In any event, he wrote to claim that his remarks were copyrighted, and then threatened legal action against me for repeating them. So, as a precautionary measure, Ive converted all the newsletters assets to bearer

bonds, Ive got the private plane gassed up and waiting, and Im keeping my passport and a packed suitcase by the back door. The minute I sniff trouble, Im off to find a Caribbean island that has no extradition treaty with View Camera. Kyocera on the move: Contax has introduced a second autofocus camera as a companion to its first AF camera, the N1. Called the NX, the new camera will apparently be a simpler, lower-priced advanced amateur model. Also introduced were three new 35mm Zeiss lenses, all zooms. Norman C. Lipton, whose byline many photographers will remember, passed away Nov. 26, 2001, at the age of 88. Norman Liptons involvement in the photographic industry spanned 75 years, as a journalist, technical expert, and industry publicist. He served as managing editor for Popular Photography and later launched an independent public relations firm that represented companies such as Ilford. He was a good photo guy.

Id like to ask everybody a favor. Could you kindly help get the word around that the 35mm Lens Reviews are in this issue? Over the years, many people have asked me for my comments on various lenses, but theres really no way for me to contact all of them now. If you would, please spread the word however you can. Thanks! And hey, see ya next time. Mike

The Fine Print: ALL CONTENTS COPYRIGHT 2003 by Michael Collett Johnston. All rights reserved. Up to 18 copies of ONE item or article herein may be photocopied for educational uses in valid educational settings, but this copyright notice must be copied with it. ELECTRONIC REPRODUCTION OR POSTING OF THESE CONTENTS ON THE INTERNET OR THE WEB IS PROHIBITED. The 37th Frame is a white-paper newsletter published at least 4 times a year, available by subscription. Prices: 4 issues (1 yr.), $18; 8 issues (2 yrs.), $32; 12 issues (3 yrs.), $42. Add $3 per year for Canada or Mexico, $7 per year for all other countries. To subscribe, send check made out to Michael C. Johnston to The 37th Frame, 316 Windsor Dr., Waukesha, WI 53186.

-No advertising accepted-

Please refer interested parties to: www.37thframe.com


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