From Point and Shoot to Single Lens Reflex, a film shooters Journey.
Film. I love Film. The more I shoot the better it gets. Roll after roll, there’s nothing like getting your negatives back and having them in your hand. And the more you and I as well as others like us shoot film the more that will be made. (supply and demand) One roll at a time we can bring back some film we all miss. (Looking at you Neopan 400) The more film we use the better, but how do you use it?
The interesting thing about Film is that to a point, everyone is equal. To explain with 35mm film the images (or negatives) are all the same size roughly, so it doesn’t matter if you are using a point and shoot like a Mju or a rock solid Nikon F it all comes down to the negative.
But what you don’t get with a point and shoot is ultimate control of how the images turn out, on a point and shoot there tends to be no cable release for long exposures, no shutter speed or aperture control and it’s rare to find DX coding override in a point and shoot! All these things are tools for you to create powerful images on film, ones that will surprise you. In 2017 most people’s introduction to film begins either with a disposable or an op shop point and shoot. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact, it’s a great way to consume film. A point and shoot takes film and turns them into memories and that’s one of the best things about Film, you both have images and negatives left when the process is finished.
Film is great and I as you know I can’t get enough. But when you scratch the surface of film you might want more. And this what this blog post is about. Point and shoots can be fantastic or they can underexpose, overexpose or not expose your film at all. They take the guess work out of shooting film as well as most of the work. (in my eyes) and that’s where an SLR like a Nikon F2 comes in.
It’s tough, dependable and fully manual. What I mean by that even if you don’t have any batteries the Nikon will still function with everything but the light meter. For those with experience that can guess exposure you, in theory, will never need batteries, just your own eyes, and some film. (I know a photographer who has never put batteries in his om-1) Even with batteries in the F2 (which will last you years I’ve only ever had to replace batteries in a light meter once), it’s easier than you think. Going from a point and shoot to a fully manual SLR may be a big jump but getting used to the leap and added responsibly of being the only one in control of the exposure but it’s a process that requires you to think and the satisfaction is awesome. The match needle system is classic to cameras such as the FM1 and it will have you shooting Film accurately immediately. When you shoot film make it your own, not a point and shoot’s.
With an SLR you get things that you don’t find in a point and shoot, no matter how expensive it is. Cameras like the Nikon F2 have full suites of lenses that can be picked up for not a whole lot of cash. This includes lenses such as telephoto for sports or action from a distance, Lenses that are up to a whopping 1.2 in speed and specialized lenses like the 85mm f2. (one of the best 35mm portrait lenses ever and very underrated) All available at shops like FND or ebay. All these lens are nicer and will produce sharper and better quality images than all but the super high-end point and shoots. (Looking at you mji) All these lenses especially the primes are made in Japan at the height of fully manual lenses. To put it in a way, “they don’t make them how they used to” these lenses even after years in the cupboard are still mostly fungus and separation free, just need the just cleaned off them and they are ready to produce amazing images.
A 35mm SLR’s is the second step into Film and its one of the best choices you can make. For the most part, it doesn’t matter if your SLR costs $50 dollars or $2000 as long as it makes you work for your photos. In my mind the more effort I put into taking an image whether it is framing, depth of field or metering the more care and effort put into an image the better it turns out. I still have my first SLR. It is covered in duct tape, half to keep it light tight, half to keep it in one piece. I wouldn’t inflict it on my worst enemy. Its finder is dirty, the camera is ugly and made out of a combo of plastic and poor quality metal and its shutter is loud if not unpredictable. But I love it. Why? Because that camera cost me $50 and to this day I’ve taken some of my favorite images with it. I still take it out, go back to it and shoot it again. Because your first SLR might not be your favorite, but it’ll have a special place in your heart.
So what do you want/ need in an SLR? The poster child for manual Film SLR’s is the venerable K1000. Everyone knows what they are and has/ knows someone who shoots them, for good reason. In my use of one, I’ve realized that they are incredibly dependable, robust and very easy to use. They are also expensive, for those 3 reasons. In my opinion, you if don’t need a pricey camera don’t buy one. Get an SLR that suits your personal needs and spend the money on more film!
Get an SLR that works for you rather than an SLR that you work for. So don’t fork out $400 for a mint K1000 there are other options for less money. Cameras like the Pentax Spotomatic series the predecessor to the K1000 or the OM series by Olympus are both great alternatives.