So, you want to get into film photography? A few days ago, while shooting my film camera on the Dania Beach Pier, a random guy came up to me and my wife and started talking to us… about my film camera. He was very excited to see a ‘real’ camera being used and also develops his own film.
Yes, film shooting is becoming more popular once again. Film and digital both have their unique advantages, but purists (and hipsters) consider film to be the more artistic and ‘zen’ of the two. Film is so popular now that you can even get it at Walgreens and Walmart. You don’t even have to order it on eBay or Amazon anymore. Of course, you can get much better film online or in the few remaining independent camera stores but that is another story.
So why shoot film?
Really, it’s annoying and frustrating. It takes much longer to process even if you do it yourself, it’s expensive and you don’t know what you are getting until its developed.
You do it for the challenge, the artistry, and the experience.
With film, you have to slow down your process and truly concentrate on what you are shooting, what the exposure is, what the subject is and what the focus is. You only get one chance to make that shot. You also have to ask yourself if the shot is even worth taking to begin with. It’s truly an art as opposed to a quick button press. That’s not to say that digital cannot be an art, as millions of fantastic images from talented people prove digital can be an art too. But film requires a different mentality.
One of the positive things about shooting film is the number of cameras available today which come at so many price points. In this article, I wanted to point out a few that will help you get started if you’ve never shot film before or haven’t in a long time.
If you don’t have much of a budget or just want to get started “dipping your toes in the water”, you can start with a film camera with film already in it for about 12 dollars. I’m talking about the disposable cameras offered at Walgreens or Walmart (buy Amazon or eBay). You can’t get it easier than this. The film is already loaded into the camera for you and all you have to do is point and shoot. Then you don’t take out the film, you simply return the camera to the store, wait about a week or less and your photos are ready. You can get prints or a CD made. I’m actually going to recommend this to those who are young, like in middle school or high school and just want to have fun with a “new” old technology. It’s so different than a cell phone shot.
If you want to move to the next step up you can start with a point and shoot film camera which you can purchase on eBay or Amazon, or even Urban Outfitters for around 50-70 dollars. For most people of the smartphone generation, taking images is rather easy. You point your phone at something, tap the screen and you’re done. No need to think about photographic terms such as depth-of-field or aperture. No need to think about exposure. Simple point and shoot film cameras can be the next step up. One example of a simple point and shoot is the Minolta Freedom Action Zoom 90 35mm Camera. It gets pretty good ratings for outside shooting and so-so ratings for inside. This along with many similar cameras will give you a zoom lens and a flash. Basically all you are doing here is the same “point and shoot” that you are used to on your cell phone, however, you’re doing it on film and your photos will have a unique look that simply can not be duplicated by any Instagram filter. Side note, follow me on Instagram @eatthisdish. With this camera, you can have your choice of any 35mm film and begin to explore how different films produce different results even under the same conditions.
The first two cameras are nice and can take some really good shots, but at the end of the day, they are not going to provide you with the serious experience film shooters enjoy. You have to eventually move up to a manual camera. One where you can set up your own shutter speed, aperture and exposure. To that end, I’ll point out two “popular” SLR (single lens reflex) cameras which you can buy in used camera stores, online, and occasionally at flea markets or vintage stores. They are both extraordinary cameras and in their day they would cost hundreds of dollars. Now, despite the renewed interest in film, they can be had from 100-150 dollars. With that, you’ll great a fantastic lens, which you could adapt to a mirrorless or digital SLR, along with the body. Single Lens Reflex and many mirrorless cameras have the advantage of being able to pair up multiple lenses with the camera body so you can bring a specific lens to take a specific type of shot.
The first one I’ll mention is the Canon AE-1. (Buy on Amazon or Ebay) Built in Japan from 1976 to 1984, this camera is older than some of you reading this. But it will still work very well. With over one million units sold, there are many surviving AE-1’s in great condition for sale. It was the first SLR to use a microprocessor which will help you to get the right exposure (the right amount of light) and it also features a shutter speed priority mode. That means if you are taking a photo of something fast, say a dancer, runner, a car or so on, you can set a faster shutter speed so the object is in focus.
The second I want to mention is the Minolta X-700. (Buy on Amazon or Ebay) With a large cult following, just like the Canon AE-1, you know this is an enthusiast camera. This camera will give you full manual controls but also ease you into the process with features such as full autoexposure as well as aperture priority. Aperture priority lets you set the “speed” of the lens, meaning how much light you let into the lens, then adjusts the camera to make up for that. The camera also featured a TTL type flash metering, which means that the meter for exposure/flash goes thru the lens to give you much better exposure.
With the feature modes on both of those cameras, you can slowly work into full manual control when you are ready and become a much better photographer over time. Eventually, you’ll be able to use any camera effectively. No matter what camera you use, and there are literally hundreds more than what I’ve posted here, what you need to remember most of all is that YOU are the artist. The camera, no matter how good it is, is nothing without your eye and your thoughts. Even the worst camera in the hands of a good photographer can produce award-winning photos, and the best camera in the world is just a paperweight to the non-thinking person who thinks its all just about pressing a button.
So which film camera is the one you are learning to shoot on? Let me know in the comments.
Leonard Goffe is an author, writer, and journalist based in South Florida. He is available for your public relations, content development, SEO and technical writing needs.
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