The Cameras: The Nikon EM

When I was 15 I had my first desire to get into photography. It was something my dad had always been into, and I remember growing up watching him assemble systems to take with us to some place.

We stopped at Dodd camera in Cincinnati one day where I saw a camera I liked. A Minolta Freedom Dual 60. It was the early 90’s soccer mom camera back when soccer moms had film cameras. It was a rangefinder, with a dual zoom system and auto focus. I didn’t know what any of that meant, told my folks I liked it and it was gotten for me.

I eagerly went out and started taking pictures. I shot three rolls of film on various subjects, and rushed them down to the Kroger to get developed.

After the film was developed, I was disappointed. None of my images were any good. Everything was blurry, colors were crumby. I tried different films, different subjects, different times of day. Still the images remained iffy.

Dejected, I decided I was a bad photographer and abandoned the hobby.

The Minolta Freedom Dual 60

The Minolta Freedom Dual 60.

When I turned 18, I decided I wanted to get into it again. But after doing a little research, I learned that the Minolta had a bad autofocus system. I decided that I was going to pursue a different kind of camera. I wanted an SLR. But not just any SLR…

Growing up, my Dad would carry lots of cameras. At school events, he usually had the largest camera in the audience. At the time, all I knew was that it was a big, black Nikon. Once I turned 18 and the interest in photography returned, I asked to see his photo gear. It had been quite a while since he had used any of it, and the last camera he has used was a Pentax given to him by my aunt. But there, at the bottom of a hastily converted Army radio case, was Dads Nikon.

A Nikon EM with attached motor drive, similar to Dads.

A Nikon EM with attached motor drive, similar to Dads.

The Nikon EM was launched in the late ’70s as an effort to bring women into photography. It was, and still is I believe, the smallest Nikon SLR ever made. It was also the cheapest, bringing legendary Nikon optics within reach of anyone who wanted them. Nikon also launched a series of lenses, called Series “E,” which were made of slightly cheaper materials than the standard “Nikkor” lenses, but retained the same optical quality. My dad bought an EM in 1981, looking to replace an old Kodak that had broken. It was the only Nikon he could afford and he had wanted a Nikon forever. So he bought it, and took a ton of amazing pictures with it.

The first time I had ever held the EM in my hands, I feel in love with it. I had held other film and digital SLR cameras and very few of them felt right. They were too big or too small, too heavy or just felt like a joke. But my dads EM felt perfect. It was the right weight, it was the right size. It was black, it was sexy, and it was a Nikon.

So I told my folks I wanted another go at photography. And for Christmas 2008, I was given a Nikon EM with two lenses and a macro zoom converter.

I used it pretty heavily for about two and a half years. I took a lot of pictures. They were okay, mostly just snapshots. I didn’t seem to grasp any artistic or technical concepts, I just took pictures.

In 2011 I stopped. A lot of life happened, and then I just kinda drifted away. I only pulled the EM out for major events, and even then I didn’t take that many pictures.

But now the desire to get into photography has come back. Life is… Well, insane still. But now I see that I come across some pretty awesome stuff. Which leads to another problem…

I’m the kind of person that carries an amazing phone with an amazing digital camera. I carry a Nokia Lumia 1020, with a Carl Zeiss lens and Carl Zeiss software, and rated at 41 megapixels. Impressive. Yet, I never really pull it out to capture the moments life gives me that are capture worthy. I guess I feel like a cell phone camera isn’t good enough to capture these important moments.

So I’ve started carrying the EM with a purpose. And any time I see something I want to take a picture of I do. Some people look at me like I’m strange. Others think I’m a professional. Others still think I’m a crazy hipster…

I’m none of these. Well, maybe I’m strange…

But what I really am is a guy that wants to do a lot with his life. And photography is one of these things. And my little Nikon EM is one of my chosen weapons. A tiny little camera, fully dependent on the person behind the viewfinder to make good images.

My Nikon EM with its Nikon Series "E" 50mm lens attached.

My Nikon EM with its Nikon Series “E” 50mm lens attached.

My EM from the top. Notice all the settings: Film speed, and whether I want to camera to control shutter speed, do a basic 1/90sec shutter mode, or "B" mode, meaning the shutter is open for as long as I hold the release.

My EM from the top. Notice all the settings: Film speed, and whether I want to camera to control shutter speed, do a basic 1/90sec shutter mode, or “B” mode, meaning the shutter is open for as long as I hold the release.

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