Not blogged about any film or cameras recently – been shooting though. Colour films have been stacking up in the fridge as my local lab stopped processing 120. So I went and got myself a Tetenol C41 kit and processed the negs myself…….
Not posted for a while as have been mega busy, but the workload has eased off and i’ve found myself trying out the Silverfast 8 scanning software with my neg scanner. Here are a couple of really old shots I dug out just to see what I could do with good and bad negs. The first is from a roll of HP5 that I think went through my Olympus Trip. The second is Pan F, taken somewhere at some time, probably on my Olympus OM1. The last is HP5 also, and very underexposed, but I dragged out what I could because I like the picture. Probably Olympus Trip or 35 RC – not sure.
I was tempted to go with hyperbole and pronounce ‘BEST CAMERA EVER’ but resisted. It is however my favourite camera. This got me to thinking what makes a great camera? For me and the OM1, it’s a mix of nostalgia, quality and comfort.
It’s the first SLR I owned. When I went to art school – I, or rather my parents, were given a long list of equipment, bits, bobs and books including an SLR camera. I think my mum found my OM1 in the back of the local paper for not much money. I’ve used a OM1 continuously to this day, having replaced my first one after a took it apart to ‘fix’ it. By fluke of not being able to afford anything better I ended up with a fantastic camera that taught me how to take photos. Because its fully manual, I had to turn all the dials until the little needle in the viewfinder fell between the plus and minus sign, or thereabouts. Although I wasn’t fully aware of what all of them were doing, it taught me the relationship between shutter, aperture and ISO. I learnt quickly that a click here usually required another twist there to compensate. Over time I learned about the effects of the different settings but the interrelationship was evident from the start, which is something that’s not obvious with modern automatic cameras.
The quality is fantastic. Its tiny, practically bullet proof and the 50mm f1.8 lens that come with most of them is pin sharp with no distortion. It takes a small battery for the light meter, but will work without this as everything else is mechanical, winding the film on resets the shutter curtain and everything else. If you know how to judge your exposure you don’t need a battery! It’s a masterpiece of engineering. When you open one up it’s all tiny cogs and dials and there is even bits if waxed string traveling through the camera pulling levers and setting dials.
Back to my art school days, a teacher once told me this: “when you buy a camera, the most important thing to consider is how comfortable it is in your hand”. Its good advice. There is no point in having a camera with all the bells and whistles if you don’t like using it, because you will take fewer pictures. And it goes beyond ergonomics, buttons and such. I hate using long lenses because it makes you conspicuous. In fact, I would much rather shoot weddings with something like this OM1 rather than my huge Canon, but I do have to compromise as a professional. But again, simple things like colouring in the Canon logo black makes the camera stand out less. I also get rid of the lurid Canon strap for something much more basic. When I’m out with the kids I much prefer my OM1 as it’s just such a joy to use and feels great in my hand.
I suppose it relates to the more recent phenomenon or people taking pictures with iPads. I mean, you just attract attention right? But some people seem fine with that. I suppose the moral is, don’t look at the numbers. Make sure it does what you need and concentrate on ‘feel’ of your camera above those extra megapixels.
Quick word for Fuji Neopan. And that word is CONTRAST!!! Seriously insane contrast.
Its strange to think how my kids will approach photography when they grow up. Technology is second nature for them, using smart phones from the age of two or three they can make movies or pictures with simple intuitive touches. And the results are instant.
Thats why I thought it would be fun to get my oldest boy Kurtis (nearly 4) a film camera. I’m always playing around with old film cameras and kids all react the same when you let them have a go. They click the button then stare at the back of the camera waiting for their image to appear! Children are stupid.
I started doing some research and found a number of blogs extolling the Canon Sure Shot A1 as it was simple to use and being a waterproof camera, child proof! I picked up the one in the picture below for £17 on eBay. Its fully automatic with one big dial on the front and a big red button on top. Stick it on auto and off you go! There were a couple of downsides though. Kurtis being so young cannot wink yet, so looking through the viewfinder was problematic. He also won’t put his head under water. I tried dunking him but it just made him cry. On a serious note, I found the autofocus pretty slow, meaning you have to hold the button down for quite a long time while it focuses and calculates exposure. This confused him, having to wait. Kids aren’t good at waiting. It was good to see Kurtis’ artistic side blossom though as he kept trying to take pictures of the ceiling.
All in I was pretty impressed with the results. Focus missed A LOT but then again I wasn’t really using the viewfinder under water, just pointing the camera using guess work. Kurtis took many of the shots as well so I suppose file these under ‘user error’. Out of the water I was surprised by the sharpness and lack of distortion from the fixed 32mm wide angle lens. The picture of the ferns below starts to stretch at the corners but in the centre its really quite excellent, especially when you consider it cost £17!
The instructions advise when shooting underwater to use fast film. The below shots are on Fuji Superia 1600 and Ilford Delta 3200. I’ve scanned the negs but my scanning skills are lacking so some of the colours look a bit funky.
For me film is all about the accidents, the focus misses, the guesswork. Its not knowing what you’ve got until you get it back from the shop. Thats where the magic is and thats what i’m trying to show the kids. If he’s lucky I might even make some darkroom enlargements of the black and white pictures with him. Smart phones are amazing but sometimes its nice to slow down just a little.
A while ago I picked up a couple of packs of Polaroid film from The Photographers Gallery in London. ‘The Impossible Film Project’ has started making film again for vintage polaroid cameras. Its currently a little experimental with long development times and the images not being fixed properly, so fade and discolour pretty quickly. That said, they are updating their formula all the time and I notice the warnings have been removed from their site so I guess its getting much better.
After tinkering with a couple of cameras I had laying about I got one working. During my tinkering the film packs were loaded and unloaded a couple of times so its likely that some of the films were exposed. Focusing is auto (apparently) but i’m not sure what it was doing most of the time. The camera intermittently lost power as well, reseting the film count so I was never quite sure how many shots I had left. The results are a little odd but i’m definitely going to get some more film and experiment more.
Classic slide film revered by the professionals back in the day. This stuff is very hard to use but if you get it right it produces amazingly saturated colours. These were taken with the Olympus trip 35 which doesn’t really have enough control to expose properly this film properly. Or it might just be my laziness/lack of talent/lack of skill. Who knows…..
I, like the majority of (non insane) commercial photographers shoot digital. I still however have a love of film, especially black and white. A couple of years ago my mum gave me an old camera she found in a drawer, an Olympus Trip 35. This promptly disappeared into one of my cupboards until about 6 months ago when I found it and decided to run a couple of films through it. Its an amazing little camera. The only problem is it has ‘focus zones’ so you have to estimate the distance to your subject and then set the lens to that zone, e.g. 2 – 3 meters. It turns out my judge of distance is pretty rubbish and as such most of my shots were out of focus. More recently I picked up an Olympus 35 RC for around £40 on Ebay. Its essentially the same camera but it has a range finder spot so you can focus properly.
The absolute joy of film is that you do not know what you have until it has been sent off to the lab to be developed. Also, with these old cameras being so unpredictable you get unexpected exposures and as previously mentioned, out of focus shots. There is also something precious about only having 24/36 exposures, I think of my parents taking this camera on holidays and shooting maybe two rolls of film. What they got was their memories of the holiday, badly exposed, out of focus, they all went into the album as it was all they had.
I’m rambling now. Below are few shots from both of the above cameras. Mostly of family and from day trips, but you get the idea. If you are interested in photography, dont go in for those fashionable and expensive Lomo’s, get yourself down the boot fair and pick up anything you can find for a few pounds and run some film through. If anyone wants tips on where to get film and where to process cheaply feel free to drop me a mail.