Personally as a “photographer” I’m always inspired to create new photos, every weekend i’m thinking about shooting, travelling, exploring and my next photo. During the week I find myself viewing thousands of photos on Flickr, magazines, newspaper and more than often looking deeper into who the photographers are, their camera setups & most definitely the quality & techniques that make it such a great photo.
For me I have shot film in the past, you remember those disposable Kodak cameras!! A time when I never really cared about making great photos, just something my Mum brought me to take on a school camp.
I am not 100% sure what pushed me into this direction or to give it a serious go but I have to say after shooting digital for at least 10 years, this”old technology” is actually very refreshing. Perhaps it was Eric Kim a famous “street tog” who just raves about Kodak Portra 400 “..you just cant reproduce the color of film with digital” that made me sit up and want to see what all the fuss is about.
These are just a few words and personal photos on my experiences why i’m finding shooting film so enjoyable and perhaps help to persuade you to give it a try!.
I inherited this completely mint 1970’s – Made in Japan – Miranda RE-11 from the father in law about a year ago now. It took me a while to pick it up and actually want to use it, let alone finish the first roll of Fuji 200 which was possibly long past its expiry date as the photos came back with a ton of grain. At this stage I was happy something actually came out, including a couple that were in focus and exposed pretty nicely.
The Camera does have a light meter however I can not seem to find the correct batteries for it (mercury). At this stage I have been using the App on my I-phone5s “Light Meter” to help me along the way. Obviously there are times where you can use the “Sunny 16” rule or print off an exposure chart from the internet to correctly set the aperture and the shutter speed on a fully manual SLR like the Miranda I wont go into depth about calculating exposures or how to meter but there are tools and charts to help you everywhere.
Next i picked up a roll of Ilford HP5 400 which is a black & white film to try out after the original roll that was in the camera. This film gives a pretty nice overall look, nothing too contrasty or too grainy and a great all purpose film in my experience. It seems to be one of the more popular and i guess readily available films for black & white photographers. Just one note: That this has to be professionally developed at a film lab, or yourself with the right chemicals. Your average 1 hour photo shop may not be able to do this for you as it requires a different process to your standard color film.
Below are a few positives and negatives that i have worked out or experienced so far, hopefully this will give you a good overall idea of what its all about. I guess if this doesn’t help you, you may just have to pick up a cheap film camera off Ebay and give it a go for yourself. $100 might be the cheapest piece of equipment that you have brought for a long time in photography and in my opinion it may well be the best you may ever spend.
There are still a ton of brand new film available on the market to get that vintage, artsy or dated look that suits you or your style. You will never get bored of trying all the type of film. The best place to start is just search through the Flickr groups and find what you like the look of. Or like me you could purchase a “Bikkuri half case” of film from Japan Camera Hunter and be surprised with a mixed selection.
Dynamic range is another mentioned positive, film seems to capture more than your typical digital sensor so your less likely to blow out those highlights while still resolving details in your shadows.
Contrast, Sharpness & Color are all really nice, for a camera of this age you think it would be horrendous but everything looks so so good. The blacks are very black which is something film does nicely!
While there are many cheap systems that will get you under way for $100, or you could also splash out and spend 5-10K on some of the collectible Leica systems. Its very hard to justify spending that sort of money on a totally mechanical 30 year old camera but ill tell you now there are plenty of very rare gold or special edition models that fetch 30k and upwards. I guess these are considered a collectible art piece for many so be careful if you catch any of these bugs!
One of the best things film can do for you is slow you down. It makes you think about your scene, light & composition all while knowing you only have 24 exposures so make each one count! There is no 10 frames per second “shoot and hope” with these cameras. One tip i can give you is to advance the film lever right after your last shot so you are ready in case something happens that requires immediate shutter release!
Onto my last point; expense. It’s not as cheap as people say it used to be..While there are an abundance of reasonably priced film cameras & lenses, buying film, especially discontinued popular film can fetch a nice price while getting your local film lab to complete the process adds up really fast. If you are serious about it you will most definitely buy the chemicals and do the process yourself which is said to be one of the most enjoyable processes to the whole saga. For me my one or two rolls here an there im ok with just waiting that 1 hour while they are processed. A nice coffee & load the next roll.
I just want to leave you with this last shot. Possibly one of the more exciting moments I’ve experienced shooting film is getting back a photo that you totally forgot you even took let alone turned out perfectly. To top it all off it made the explore page on Flickr.