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I'm thinking of going back to film camera

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Posted on 14 May 2012 21:03:35 BDT
G. E. Hearn says:
Ah, X, you'd love my latest purchase for my tiny and much loved Rollei B35:

Proper machined and anodised aluminium. Screws into the filter threads and has absolutely no chance of falling off and getting lost like the cheap plastic original. That's a very poor pic in the listing. The actual item is far more neatly machined.

Posted on 19 May 2012 20:17:36 BDT
Pickwick says:
I was a late -and reluctant - digital convert. My first camera was - to give you some idea of how ancient I am - a Lubitel TLR. On a single-figure salary back in the 60s that was all I could afford (actually I couldn't - lived on beans on toast for a month to buy a 17 camera.) Won prizes with its output. These days, I have (courtesy of eBay and antiques fairs) a collection of cameras that I'd have sold my immortal soul for 50 years ago. The Zeniths were always my favourites - like the Lubitel, variable in quality. But -again like the Lubitel - if you got a good one it was really good. I have 3 or 4 of both - obscenely idle on a shelf. Still very fond of them, though I've used a score of others over the years.

Latterly my affections lay mainly with a Canon EOS 500 film model, which I used for many years. Took a bank loan to get the first one many years ago - I now have another, in better condition than my old one, got for 20 in a charity shop! Though even with the EOS I was often keenly aware of shots I missed that I'd have certainly got with my old manual Zenith.

I haven't been out of the house without a pocket camera of some kind in over 60 years. Originally 120 folding models actually more compact than many modern 'compact' cameras - and a damn sight better built. Over the last few years that changed to modern digital compacts - usually Canons for no better reason than I'm familiar with them. But never with any real enthusiasm - quality wasn't up to film, and as for that damned delay when you pressed the shutter release... But when you have grandchildren the old priorities change - just getting those shots is the main thing.

But my photography dropped off - partly because I don't get out as much these days, but partly because the quality of available film processing fell drastically and I couldn't find the quality I was used to in the more more modest digital cameras. I used to do my own processing years ago, but I don't have the room these days.

So - courtesy of a generous extended family and Xmas - I now run a Canon 600D which takes a lot of the old lenses I own. It's as close to good film quality as anything I've used yet, and I'm extraordinarily pleased with it. Though I've learned there can be just TOO much choice on a camera!

So I suppose I'm now a digital convert - by circumstance more than conviction. It's appealing technology - what's not to like - instant results and all? Not mention the economy. But I still miss my old cameras. In 60 years I've gone from wedding photography on a TLR and perspective-corrected large-format photos with a Gandolfi to automated snapshots with a digital - and I'm not at all sure it all amounts to progress. Not if you know what the word 'art' means. I've gone from filtering dodging and toning on an enlarger to PhotoShop (actually PaintShop Pro - who the hell can afford PhotoShop) - and I'm not sure something hasn't been lost on the way.

For some years I was in email contact with an American firm (details escape my failing memory) who spent almost a decade trying to develop a digital back to universally fit most older cameras, certainly 35mm models. They finally gave up, mainly because they became convinced likely low sales would result in a price beyond most pockets. A huge pity as a device like that might have resurrected a lot of cameras I'm so fond of.

I suppose it's all a bit like travel - when places become easy to get to, they lose their appeal.

Or perhaps it's even simpler - I'm just getting old. {:o)

Posted on 19 May 2012 22:21:32 BDT
X says:
Pickwick: Nice paper! Welcome, and please stay around; so much of what you have written matches and confirms posts made by many of us. While you are still young, go for it: find yourself a nice little 35mm camera, like an Olympus Trip and get out there to run through some film. It seems that one of us, G Hearn, may just have found a great and easy to access provision of processing. The consensus here is that digital re-working of photographs is not the best way to go. I suppose that means that progress, which you so correctly question, is not always improvement.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 May 2012 20:42:58 BDT
Pickwick says:
Thanks for the encouragement. And thanks for the pointer towards other posts concerning processing. I gave up totally on film about 2 years ago - the results from processors was just so poor.

But if I've kind of given in, my wife hasn't - or hadn't until very recently. She's addicted to the Canon compact film camera she's had for years. She eschews any idea of being a 'proper photographer' but has a talent for framing that would shame many with higher claims (and framing is so often 90% of good photography, I feel).

Right now she is - finally and very reluctantly - experimenting with my Canon Powershot A620, courtesy of some Xmas pictures she took of our grandchildren on her film compact - the results from the processor being so shockingly poor she was seriously upset.

But hope yet ... one of the things I haven't seen mentioned (possibly here but I missed it?) is how useful digital processes can be even to us film-lovers. I'd love to find good film processing (and I'm already following up on some of the suggestions in this forum) but these days all I actually require is negative processing - prints are no longer a problem. Even an old hand like me finds it hard to deny the advantages of negative-scanning and inkjet printing over messing around with an enlarger.

I've had some good results with a Canon flatbed scanner and a negative adaptor - but often better results with my new EOS 600D and a home-built slide/negative copier. I know there are more sophisticated transparency scanners out there, but they seem totally beyond my means.

So it's fortunate that there are advantages to having half a century of bits and pieces we can adapt into something new. My EOS 600D spends a lot of time atop an old BPM bellows unit (wonderfully adaptive kit those), a beautiful old Zuiko 50mm lens from a sadly non-functional OM2 I picked up in a charity shop, a slide/film holder made from bits and pieces - all mounted on the column and rack unit from my old Durst enlarger. Lights courtesy of an old kitchen spotlight unit suitably chopped and adapted. Total cost - next to nothing - and looks quite professional. Results so far from a lifetime's old negatives and slides are good enough to warrant my 600D on that score alone. Though I've estimated I may not live long enough to copy all the slides and negatives I'd like to - going to have to be selective.

My tortuous point being that digital and film don't have to be mutually exclusive. I'm not sure that anything short of the new digital technology might ever have given me access to so many of my treasured old pictures. Old prints have faded or been lost. Even negatives and slides are a shadow of their former selves. But scanning and re-photography - followed by digital processing - brings at least a taste of past glories.

So perhaps less a case of either-or and more a case of horses for courses?

Posted on 21 May 2012 20:50:50 BDT
Good move. Why not push the boat and consider rangefinder cameras from Leica or Zeiss or if money does not allow, Voigtlander as you could put Carl Zeiss or Leitz lenses onto Voigtlander bodies. You would not be disappointed

In reply to an earlier post on 23 May 2012 21:56:31 BDT
Sinnerman says:
Surely (I'm no expert, being a very average DSLR photographer), digital _is_ the fresh baked bread straight from the oven, by it's very nature?

In reply to an earlier post on 23 May 2012 21:57:35 BDT
Sinnerman says:
Isn't the big question "When will film become unavailable because nobody wants to make it anymore for such a small market"?

In reply to an earlier post on 23 May 2012 21:58:57 BDT
Sinnerman says:
FWIW I do agree with your point - why should you give up film if that floats your boat? But I do wonder if film will be commercially viable to make in 10-20 years time

Posted on 24 May 2012 07:29:47 BDT
C. J. Calver says:
Sinnerman, you also have to consider other influences. The rise of digital has resulted in many more people taking photographs than ever before, this has expanded that particular market. It has also resulted in many more people getting hooked on photography and thereby realising the limitations of digital photography, as have been discussed here in some depth. This, in turn, has resulted in a great many more photographers using film, probably enough to compensate for the number of professionals moving from film to digital for commercial work. Although professionals talk glibly about the number of rolls that they shoot daily, I would suggest that a few million amateurs moving to film would soon more than compensate for that loss to the manufacturers of 35mm film media. You should also consider that by far the greatest bulk of 35mm stock is used by the motion picture industry, and that has seen a resurgence over recent years. OK , there are digital cinemas around the world, but by far the greatest number are still film based. If a digital movie corrupts, noone sees it and the punters are pretty displeased, if film breaks, it only takes a quick splice and it is up and running again.
As a final reminder of the upsurge in the popularity of film recently, just check out the prices being asked on ebay for good quality film cameras, prices have been steadily rising over the past few years with classics such as the Nikon FM2a now averaging nearly 200 asking price, only a few years ago these were readily available for way under 100. You can also get cheaper amateur/enthusiast grade, plastic bodied, cameras which are highly useable with automatic features such as the F80 for about 30 (body only), and for those who want a brand new film camera, Nikon are still producing the FM10 and F6 so, presumably, they see the death of film as being somewhat exaggerated. The film cameras on view in charity shops around the country seem to be being snapped up as fast as they hit the shelves, so someone out there still likes film!
As always, it pays to think outside the box, and to realise that film isnt just used by a relative handful of professional photographers, my wife, for example, still prefers to use a point and shoot Canon Sureshot EX, that she has had for years, to paying through the nose for the latest technological wizardry. That technology remains even more incomprehensible to her than programming a VCR. Even on fully auto, she dislikes all of the controls on offer as they are a distraction from the point of a camera - taking pictures! 15 per year for the film and developing to take the 24 or so snaps she wants to take is pretty cheap compared to the cheapest digital camera! And why does she have to learn the intricacies of Photoshop et als to make her pictures look half decent, when there is nothing wrong with the images from the Canon straight out of the box?

Posted on 29 May 2012 01:21:30 BDT
Two points:

I remember the thrill of watching an image appear on photographic paper and wonder why none of the experts suggested developing test strips face down and the real thing face up for the thrill.

Also, I have a query regarding what I assume is a roll film camera. I don't know the make, but it's probably the most commonly illustrated camera in the country. It's the one whicch appears on road signs warning about speed cameras ahead etc. It's obviously based on a roll film camera, BUT haven't they designed it with the knobs wrongly positioned? The big knob needs to be higher as this is the one to wind the film on. If this is the wind on knob, it should rotate clockwise and as illustrated this would not work.

Anyone else noticed this?

Posted on 29 May 2012 02:13:15 BDT
G. E. Hearn says:

Posted on 29 May 2012 08:28:25 BDT
This is an interesting article showing Kodak Ektar 100 film delivering more detail than a Canon 5D MkII.

Just shows that 35mm can give you a lot of resolution, if processed and scanned well. I think if you want to get back into film, 35mm is a good place to start. You can get a nice camera and lens, second hand, for under 50, which is capable of what you see in that article.

Medium format is wonderful, but the cameras tend to cost more, especially if you want a small one. You can get old "folders" though, for under 100, like Zeiss Ikonta. They often don't have meters, so you need to guess exposure, or have a hand held meter.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 May 2012 08:46:46 BDT
It has no viewfinder, has bellows but has oversized knobs. No doubt all are visual cues which remind us of a camera.
I think it resembles a Kowa 6.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 May 2012 08:50:47 BDT
You could get an Ikonta for about 30. 100 will be a bit short of a Super Ikonta. I bought a nice f6.3 6x9 Ikonta with leather case for 13. You don't need a fast lens, especially when estimating the focussing distance. This has an interlock to prevent double exposures. Double exposures can be made deliberately by using a cable release (after removing the blanking screw, if fitted).

Posted on 30 May 2012 11:43:25 BDT
C. J. Calver says:
Hi guys, I just picked up a Yashica-Mat for under 30 with leather case. Anyone know much about them? I managed to get a manual on the web, but any tips would be appreciated!

Excellent article GT, thanks for posting it. It really does highlight the fact that you get a hell of a lot of bangs for your buck with film!

In reply to an earlier post on 30 May 2012 12:36:50 BDT
Hi CJ,
You did well - Mats can go for up to 80!
There isn't that much to know really:
Try Youtube for a demonstartion:

In reply to an earlier post on 30 May 2012 16:08:31 BDT
T.J.Byford says:
Hi, CJ,

As Dr. A has said, there isn't really anything complicated about a 'Mat or using them. Once you learned how to load the film you're set to go. As you've soon discovered aperture and shutter speed are set independently via the little wheels situated either side and between the taking and viewing lenses.

My first 'Mat I got in 1963 and loved it. The Yashinon lens is a very good performer and you should not be disappointed in it. It gives sharp contrasty negs. The lens coatings, although satisfactory, are not up to modern day standards, and whilst the lens is not prone to flaring, I would advise nevertheless seeking out a lens hood for it. From memory, I believe it is the same as a Rollei size 1.

Although you primarily use the focusing screen for framing and focusing, once you get used to using the camera and the slightly more limited depth of field compared to 35mm cameras, once I'd focused I'd pop open the sports finder and to use the camera at eye level. This was certainly an advantage when following movement, as whilst the image is right way up on the screen, it is laterally reversed, and was perfectly feasible when focusing at the hyperfocal distance for the aperture in use.

I used to keep mine on a short camera strap and this enabled me to pull down on the camera pulling taut the strap round my neck. This trick gave a noticeable solidity and enabled me quite often to get sharp results as low as 1/15 sec when called for.

If you've not used a leaf shutter before, the top max speed of 1/500 sec usually isn't! More like 1/400 or even 1/350. Generally speaking, though, if your shutter is running smoothly, you can usually count on 1 sec through to 1/250 being fairly accurate. Should the 1 sec or 1/2 sec speeds appear to be longer, this was usually nothing to worry about and indeed could be an advantage as it tended to offset the reciprocity failure of most b/w films when light levels dropped, thus demanding such slow speeds. The top speed invariably being slower than indicated was really only of importance when shooting slide film where the slight over-exposure would be just noticeable. Otherwise, in b/w work, this wasn't really an issue.

The main thing to remember about 'Mats is that when they were available new, I paid 48 for mine, they were considerably less expensive than the Rolleiflex, and as the 'Mat could turn in results virtually on a par with them, they were favourites of professionals as well, and thus well used, and so finding a good one can be a bit of a gamble, but worth it.

Posted on 30 May 2012 20:18:33 BDT
C. J. Calver says:
Thanks four your inputs Dr G and TJ.
This is the one I bought;
It looks pretty clean from the pics, and I guess I will have to wait for delivery to find out how good it is now!

Posted on 30 May 2012 22:54:45 BDT
X says:
CJ: The results obtainable with a YashicaMat 24 or 124 or 124G in good condition are as good as the photogapher. It's not the sort of kit to limit your (reasonable, they are old cameras and most have been mis-serviced at least once) expectations. Well done, great price, get shooting, and if your work inspires doubts or questions I'll try to help.

Posted on 10 Sep 2012 21:04:08 BDT
I love film and apart from a digital compact for cycle touring have been using two 35 mm Minolta SLRS for over 25 years,and am looking at buying an Olympus trip a camera I had when at school.

Posted on 10 Sep 2012 23:32:30 BDT
Last edited by the author on 10 Sep 2012 23:33:48 BDT
G. E. Hearn says:
Then this thread may be of interest to you Karl:

Posted on 13 Sep 2012 13:47:58 BDT
Sgt John says:
Sure glad I kept my Olympus OM2Sp & Nikon 601, neither top of the range, but coupled with reasonable/good lenses are more than capable of producing very acceptable "snaps". That which goes around, comes around.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Sep 2012 20:32:23 BDT
paulz says:
I have a pentax and a praktica (not sure what models) 35 mm film slrs - were in good working order. If you, or anyone else wants them you can have them for the cost of postage. There are several lenses that go with them.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Sep 2012 23:28:49 BDT
I have continued to use film (Velvia) in my F5 and also medium format, alongside digital ... until now. Since I got my D800 in April I haven't used anything else. I loved the quality and dynamic range of Velvia and still do, but now I can get the same results with the D800. I will probably shoot a bit more film to use up the stock I have. As soon as I have done that I will dispose of my medium format gear. I'll keep the F5 as I will still have Nikon lenses but I doubt it will see much if any use.

My point? I believe the D800 brings digital (affordable, not Hasselblad H5D) to the point where it is a match for film.

If you are thinking of going back to film, then you can pick up a lot of cheap secondhand medium format gear.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Sep 2012 11:04:57 BDT
I have been knocked out by my scans of Ektar (processed by Fuji Digi Imaging) and taken on my Bronica ETRS. I just love the camera. I always liked the 6x4.5 format and now I have an SLR, 2 interchangeable backs with metered prism and 75mm and 50mm lenses for less than 250! I can swap between colour and mono in a few seconds. The weight is the only issue but I feel it's worth it.
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