The web is full of excellent pages written by film geeks and people with far too much disposable income.
I had hoped that getting into film would help me stop obsessing over cameras and just get out and shoot. But now I’m pouring over retro camera blogs and second hand dealers, because it turns out, old film cameras are even more beautiful than digital cameras.
Yashica Ts, LEICA Cs Contax Gs, Olympi (plural?) and Konicas are all calling my name. The annoying thing is that most blogs speak of finding cameras like the oly mju ii for under £10. Then you check the date and find that today; a decade later, the same camera will cost you around £100.
This is the price inflation of the film revival – amazing that old analogue cameras are appreciating in a way digital probably never will.
Another factor is that charity shops have got smarter. Many now have expert led websites or eBay shops where cameras are properly valued. Gone are the days of finding a bargain because the shop assistants don’t really know the value of the device. Presumably the internet has also informed pricing. In the long run this is good news for the charities, just not for hard up collectors.
I’ve now processed my second film. Again it was Ilford fp4. The camera this time was a Trip 35. It worked well for street photography although I found the zone focussing a challenge. I got 38 images on a 36 spool which seems good value too.
Here are a few favourites from the resulting images. They are not the sharpest – that’s probably my fault.
I have an ongoing ‘discussion’ with a family member who is not a fan of processing digital images. She prefers ‘pure’ images straight out of the camera. I get what she means but I also point out (the discussion takes the same direction every time) that the image on a phone or cheaper camera is almost always a jpeg. Which means that the raw image has already been processed. The difference is whether the camera makes the processing decisions or the person does.
There can be snobbery and inverse snobbery about processing images. Those who prefer minimal manipulation may be surprised to know that, even in the age of film, processing decisions were made. I remember seeing this when, I think it was, Magnum released contact sheets and annotated prints with instructions about visual effects.
However there can be snobbery too relating to how technical processing is perceived to be. For example, in an earlier blog I suggested the inclusion of filters in Instagram was essentially dumbing down. But in the immediately preceding post I lauded the provision of film effect Lightroom presets. Surely there is little difference between Instagram filters and Lightroom presets borrowed from others.
Today I was trying to grab a few shots between giving friends a lift home, working and dinner. Such is the life of a middle aged hobbyist. I look back on my wasted youth with envy. Why didn’t I buy a Leica in my 20s when I could have afforded one (maybe). Why didn’t I take street up phototgraphy when I actually still visited some of the world’s vibrant cities. Not that I’d change anything in the present, I’m glad with where I’ve ended up.
Anyway, I was messing around with Lightroom Presets. I used one that Eric Kim gave away years ago – it mimics fuji velvia 400. Now, I’d normally never crank up the contrast or reduce some of the saturation like this, but I was delighted with the results. This is pretty much the image in my head when I took the photo; the raw file looked nothing like it.
Hats off to Eric Kim for the preset and for giving it away for free. I suppose this shows one of the challenges and opportunies with digital. The raw sensor data gives pretty flat images, so you can shape it in thousands of ways. But you are limited by your imagination and willingness to spend time experimenting. With analogue much more was decided at the start by your film choice.
I processed my first film today – Ilford fp4. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to look quite so contrasty. The processing actually went ok, despite slight chemical burning to the hands and a lots of mess.
Sadly, there seems to have been an issue with the camera (I know, blaming my tools). A number of frames/negatives were blank. They had the manufacturers tags and numbering on the film borders suggesting they were developed but were unexposed. On closer inspection the camera shutter is sticking.
It’s a cheap point and shoot from the 80s or 90s and it has fixed focus. The resulting images feature lots of out of focus subjects and many completely bleached white by the flash at close range. But all in all this was a good start.
For those interested:
I used Ilford Ilfosol 3 developer.
The dev time was 4.25 as suggested by Ilford. They provide excellent fact sheets and videos eg here.
I used the ‘massive dev’ phone app which has customisable recipes and a good timer.
The camera was the Miranda ME-Z I mentioned recently.
I bought my tank etc from Ffordes who also have a great range of cameras.
This little camera was one of my first real cameras. I think it was a gift when I was around 11 or 12.
I was obsessed with photography, you can see this from the marks aside the lens. These are the remnants of velcro strips which I attached to fix on my home made filters – plastic and coloured acetate.
Having recently started shooting film again, I thought I’d bring this one back into service. I’m planning on making the film currently inside the first I develop myself at home. Perhaps some of the results will make it online.
This camera brings mixed feelings for me. As well as being my first proper camera, it’s also the last camera I used between the my teens and my mid thirties.
I used it for a photography project at a youth organisation. Part of this meant receiving feedback on images I’d taken. I remember taking in my little book of prints to show the class. I was especially proud of a couple of shots and waited with great anticipation for the leader’s comments. Unfortunately for me, these comments were not altogether positive. And constructive criticism was more than my 12 year old mind could handle.
I don’t think I lifted up a camera much again, for the next 20 years.
In my thirties, I began taking photos with a phone and reveived encouragement, especially from my wife, to start shooting again. This has developed into a fulfiling hobby accompanied by a thicker skin to critics.
Sometimes I get to speak to groups of children about photography and I take the opportunity to encourage them to keep going despite knock backs.
I recently became the proud owner of this lovely wee camera. I’ve spent hours pouring over similar specimens online and also incredible refurbished versions such as sold by Tripman. I finally purchased this from the veritable Aladdin’s cave of secondhand cameras that is Ffordes.
Here’s the thing. It’s a fully automatic camera which chooses the exposure for you, all you have to do is choose the correct zone focus setting. When using it I’m not the least concerned by this, in fact it’s quite freeing. But then creeps over me slight uneasiness at my feelings of pride and superiority when I lend a mft camera to a family member who always requests it set to intelligent auto mode.
Shame on me for this double standard, as if replacing a digital sensor with film suddenly makes auto mode more ‘technical’.