Saturday, May 30, 2009

Garage Sales Adventures....and Misadventures


Shortly after I bought my D60 I began to search the Internet to get some feeling for the range and price of the lens that were available for the camera. While I was struggling with Nikon's confusing lens naming conventions, I kept finding reference to the Nikon 50 mm f1.8 manual focus prime. This cult lens from the film days had no fancy features except a classic lens design that rivaled its more modern rivals for sharpness and overall optical quality.

On ebay, it could be had for around $60--not bad for almost anything photographic I was discovering. But I dropped the idea of buying one. My unreleased and brand new 35mm f1.8 lens was preordered. That and the fancier lighting would exaust the budget. Another lens, even a cheap cult one, would have to wait.

Yesterday, when I spotted some scattered garage sales signs while returning from Home Depot I almost passed them by. Duty called. The bag of weed and feed was in the trunk, and once the clouds cleared off the weather was forecasted to be perfect for zapping the weeds that infested my lawn.

Still, what the heck, the weeds would still be there. Besides the garage sales would only be a detour on the way home. At the third one, I found and purchased a tripod that extended up to 6 feet for $2.00--not the sturdiest in the world but one that would work well as a light stand. And in the next few: a couple computer games Charlotte would love, and then a decent metal picture frame.

On a roll, the weeds can wait.

But as it sometimes happens--baby things, more baby things and even more baby things. By the time I had my fill of baby thing I'd driven out of my neighborhood. As I was driving home along some twisty side roads I almost missed the little sign pointing into a dead end court. One more sale and then home.

From the street the sale didn't look like much but inside-- the picture of the loot is below

A cleaning kit top right. A Nikon EM SLR complete with a motorized film advance, the 50 mm 1.8 prime I'd been semi-lusting over, and a dirty but otherwise decent UV filter. A non working but repairable ( broken battery terminal) off brand swivel flash. A Vivitar 35-70 macro zoom with an almost frozen focusing ring. A lens hood and polarizer. A Vivitar 2X teleconverter. And last but not least a padded photography case.

After I pointed out the problems--non working flash gun, seized up zoom lens and general worthlessness of film cameras in a digital age--we settled on $20 for the whole kit.

All in all, not a bad garage sale day.


Naturally I wasn't expecting the fancy stuff, vibration reduction and autofocus, that we have come to know and love. But I knew the workaround rules. Set your shutter speed to the reciprocal of your focal length for sharp photos. That worked out to 1/80 sec or less for the lens I bought. No problem. And over the years I'd manually focused some extremely complicated optical setups. Written on how to do it too so the field service folks wouldn't end up in too much trouble if they attempted a reallignment. Should be no problem either.

Even the stuck focusing ring on the zoom lens might be fixable. If I couldn't work it free I could tear the lens down, clean, and reassemble. Since it wasn't the lens I was after, the worst that would happen would be to end up with more additions to my loose lens and parts collection.

(After repeated twists and turns I managed to work out a squashed bit of something from inside the lens. Now it stiffen up when focusing around 10 feet, but I don't feel the need to reach for a strap wrench anymore.)

Best of all, page 116 of the D60 manual told me about the rangefinder. This neat little hunk of firmware uses the autofocus electronics to display a bar graph at the bottom of the view finder. It tells you which way to turn the focusing ring and when you have two little lines spaced around zero you have as good a focus as the autofocus motor would ever come up. Sweet.

Nikon takes good care of its customers. Or so I thought!

The real scoop.

First exposure metering. Everything needed to do it is mounded in the camera. If implemented correctly any lens--even a pin hole--will meter correctly.

How do I know. Camera hackers have mounted cpu clips from busted lens to extension tubes where you can solder to the necessary contacts without major camera surgery. With that hack to fool the firmware the camera meters correctly.

A hassle. One totally unnecessary. In the firmware they could have added a new line to the menu--elderly non cpu lens in use. With one or two dummy variables so the firmware thinks a cpu lens is mounted, metering would have worked. Easy programming too--a morning's work even if the firmware engineer hit traffic, arrived late and still took a longish coffee break.

Bottom line--Nikon deliberate crippled the D60,

It gets worse.

In the program, shutter, and aperture mode I get a big warning--Lens Not Attached. Can't take a picture--the shutter button does nothing. But lens or no lens warning the rangefinder still works like the manual claims.

There is one mode where I don't get the warning--manual mode-- and pushing the shutter button takes the picture.

But guess what! No focusing rangefinder appears in manual mode where it it is needed! Double crippled! In the crudest way!

What going on?

Nikon has gone to some length to:
Claim in their sale advertising that they have a great new feature.
Make their great new feature so difficult to use with manual lens that no one would want to try.

Why? To force you to buy their automatic and high profit lens, obviously. Garage sale lens don't add anything to their bottom line. Marketing strikes again

Did I waste my 20 bucks? No. My D60 and its lens and accessories now have a padded secure home. Depending on the flash's electronic innards, it maybe covertable into an optical slave flash. And while I already have a polarizer and lens hood I've been known to lose things out in the woods and fields. So it doesn't hurt to own spares

And there are workarounds for the lenses. If the optical quality of the 50 mm is a good as they claim--but that's the subject for another post.


  1. your camera "thingies" look very professional. i haven't been to a garage sale in a while, and when i have unneeded things, they go to goodwill. and on the last day of school, i'm donating all of the paper in my backpack. :D

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  3. Back in the eighties what the camera kit was new it was a serious amateur collection of goodies--not quite professional gear but still good equipment. Sort of like my D60 is today.

  4. mom must have been thrilled you chose to spare the weeds

  5. anony-gal

    I was so happy with my new goodies, I weeded and feeded the whole lawm. That same day, no less. So mom tis happy too, and the weeds--- we'll see.