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Monday, December 6, 2021

Christmas Gift Ideas

You're probably scrambling to find the perfect gift for a loved one, about now, but don't worry, Uncle Andrew has you covered. This is what you get:

What is this object, you say? It is only the finest and most convenient-to-use camera system yet devised. It is a D3100 DSLR from Nikon, paired with an AIS 50mm lens that's probably older than you are. It might be an AI lens, actually, I'm not sure. This is what I use the most, all these wonderful pictures I share with you are made with this thing. Mostly. Sometimes other lenses, but this one is my favorite.

But Andrew, you say, the D3100 is discontinued, and it was always entry level, can I get one and how does it work with that ancient lens anyway? The answers are: I don't know try eBay, and yes, very handily!

The main thing that makes this great is that all those confusing modes and things go away, because none of them work. There is exactly one way to take pictures with this, and it works like so:

Set the mode dial to anything except Manual. Sunsets, Food, A, Sports, anything other than M. You will need this to focus. There's a little LED rangefinder system in the finder that will help you focus, because sure as shit the finder is no help here optically. The rangefinder system is a little rough itself, so you kinda learn to hunt around a bit inside the "in-focus" range 'a hair left of dead-center is usually about right' sorta thing. So, focus, set your aperture on the lens, and set your shutter speed to whatever.

Technically you can skip this part if you don't care about focus. I won't judge.

Now flick the mode dial back to Manual, because the camera can't see the lens and won't go off in anything but Manual mode. Since you can spin the mode dial either way, only one of which is right, you'll end up in some Pet Portraits mode about 50% of the time and the camera will still refuse to fire. I end up in Pet Portraits mode 90% of the time, because my very existence offends and defies the laws of mathematics.

When you do eventually get it in Manual, it'll go off finally at whatever exposure you've selected with aperture (on the lens, no you can't see the aperture in the finder you big sissy, you have to look at the lens, or count clicks, remember that cute little mirror system that literally showed you in the finder the tiny aperture numbers etched on the lens, though? That was cool. I have one of those cameras too.), shutter speed, and ISO. Metering does not work, so you're on your own, chimp or look at histograms or just guess. Put your goddamned big-boy pants on, ok? We're not here to hold your hand, we're here to make photographs.

No, you can't just leave it in Manual, because the rangefinder only works in every mode that's not Manual, because the camera desperately wants to show you a metering thing in Manual, which is ironic in this case because the meter doesn't work with AIS lenses. So in Manual there's just a blank area at the bottom of the finder, with an AIS lens.

You can leave it in manual and use Live View plus a zoom in to focus, but this is useful only when you're doing studio work on a tripod. I actually do this a lot too. The meter still doesn't work, though.

Anyways. If you'd like to give your spouse a reason to divorce you for Christmas, get them one of these. Please be sure to write me a note with the details on how it went.

And no, I am not kidding. I literally take most of my pictures this way. It's fine.



  1. I did this with a Nikon D40 I found for real cheap. I didn't use the meter, just fiddled with aperture and shutter speed until the image on the rear screen looked okay. Press the shutter button and magic happens. Use any AI or AIS Nikon lens. Experiment, experiment, experiment, there is no penalty for failure. But there is a huge amount of FUN, knowledge, and skill to be gained.

  2. I should send you the old Nikon AI lens I have that's stuck at f/2.8. Sounds like that might really simplify your life.

  3. D90 here and 6 lenses bought for 50€ from a retiring photographer cleaning old stuff “nobody uses anymore”

  4. One of Andrew's papier-mâché skulls makes the finest gift. Ask for it by name.