TK Roll 2015–51: Erratic Exposure (Nikon EM, Nikkor 35–70/f3.3–4.5 AF, dm ISO 200)

Looking back over the past fifty (by gad, fifty!) rolls, it’s kind of amazing how many turned out ok. How few issues I had. Sure, there was a film or two that had suffered from being frozen and thawed and refrozen when I moved from one apartment to another, but mostly that could be fixed by some generous cropping. Most cameras I used I had shot a test roll in before, and I knew they were in working order. I wasn’t in the business of experimental exposures, I didn’t attempt complicated alternative processes, or encounter crazy challenging flash setups. I loaded film, I metered, and I trusted that I, or the camera, or some combination thereof, would make sure there was a picture in the end. A picture that could be recognized as what I had meant to take a photo of.

But, alas.

Not everything went swimmingly, and this roll is testament to that. It comes from an almost pristine-looking Nikon EM that I took a chance on at some point in the fall of 2015. The Nikon EM is a wonderful design piece, carrying the signature 1980s lines of Giorgetto Giugaro, designer of the Nikon F3 and F4, the Volkswagen Golf (the first one, before all cars became aerodynamic blobs), and one of the most iconic cars of all, the DeLorean. For a camera nerd like me who is also a design nerd, of course this was something I needed to have. The Nikon EM is something of a point-and-shoot SLR: it only has bulb, a fixed flash sync speed, and aperture priority mode.

Since I like aperture priority for out-and-about photos, this didn’t seem like much of a limitation to me. And technically, it isn’t. Except in a malfunctioning camera, you will get images that are blurry or too dark, and sometimes this lead to me taking odd or accidental frames. Photos that shouldn’t have been photos. The camera was pretty much dead when it arrived, but after some common sense cleaning and a few YouTube videos about how to do minor repairs, it seemed to function. Well enough, at least, to try out.

So I loaded it with a roll from my waning supply of cheap ISO 200 drugstore films from just a year earlier, when those were still widely available, and went out to document a street festival on Cologne’s Severinstraße.

Entertainers entertained, food trucks provided food, music was heard and balloons were sold to happy children. A good time, I may as well cliché, was had by all. Well, all except my little Nikon. I had obviously not managed to completely fix its exposure meter the first time around, and the needle sometimes jumped wildly, sometimes stayed stuck, and sometimes seemed to indicate correct exposure even when that wasn’t the case.Generally, the pictures from this roll are not quite up to what I would have wanted out of them. Compared to so many other rolls, I seemed to be downright cavalier in framing and shooting with this one. To top it all off, I fiddled with the camera in the end, and somehow managed to get light leaks all over the last few frames, after I had taken the small EM to Munich as my travel camera. Then again, that’s all part of the journey as well.

It truly was a crapshoot of a roll. I’m including as much of it as possible here, though, to document the experience. At least the frames that weren’t completely dark. Lest I, or anyone else think years down the road that 52rolls 2015 was all smooth sailing, and that everything just worked out in the end. I haven’t completely given up on the Nikon EM. Maybe when I have some extra time one of these days, I’ll open it up again and fix the meter for real. It’s so small and pocketable, yet not a viewfinder point and shoot, but an actual SLR. Certainly something worth having around. Erraticness of the little Nikon’s behavior aside, the roll still was fun to shoot. I had a blast.

One more to go.

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