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Getting Started with Film Photography



Film photography is experiencing a comeback – Kodak has just reissued Ektachrome, a movie they'd quit five years ago, and for good reason: when everything is digital, analogy is fun. It can also make you a much better photographer by slowing down and thinking. Getting Started

Some key words

The market for high quality digital cameras is more homogeneous than the market for movie cameras. You really only have three major digital players ̵

1; Canon, Nikon and Sony – with two camera designs – DSLR and Mirrorless – and two sensor sizes – crop sensor and full-frame.

The old film market, on the other hand, was like the Wild West. There were dozens of serious camera manufacturers – including Leica, Pentax, Olympus, Minolta, and many more – with different camera designs – including SLRs, rangefinders, medium format cameras, large format cameras, and instant cameras – each using hundreds of different films. Shares from even more manufacturers – like Kodak , Ilford and Agfa. The combinations were practically endless. Let us pick out a few key concepts.

  • A [SLR is a SLR camera. They are the forerunners of modern DSLR.
  • A Rangefinder is a mirrorless camera that was popular with street photographers.
  • Medium Format and Large Format Cameras shoot movies that are larger than 35 mm. They are more expensive, so maybe they are not the best camera when you are just starting out.
  • Instant Cameras are basically old Polaroids. The film does not have to be developed professionally.
  • 35mm Film Stock is the most common movie size. Usually it comes in 36-roll reels and works with any 35mm camera.

First Movie Camera

If someone in your family has an old movie camera and one or two lenses, they are sorted out – at least starting with. If you're not so lucky, let's take a closer look at buying your first movie camera.

Movie cameras have a dramatic price difference. A rare, desirable medium format camera in good condition could be sold for thousands of dollars. On the other hand, you can buy a solid 35mm SLR for less than $ 50. First, you should aim for the lower end.

RELATED: How to Find Compatible Lenses for Your Canon or Nikon Camera

If you're shooting Canon or Nikon, then I have good news: Get the proper movie camera and you can use most of your existing lenses. Canon's EF mount dates back to the late '80s, and Nikon's F mount dates back to the late' 50s. For Canon shooters, I recommend the Canon EOS 620; I received one on eBay for $ 40 in excellent condition. For Nikon fans, check out the F2 or F3. They go for around $ 100. There are still many of these cameras.

If no one owns an old movie camera and you do not use Canon or Nikon lenses, your options are unlimited. You have to decide how much you want to invest in a system and how many "modern" features like autofocus you want. If there is a second-hand store nearby, I recommend that you talk to someone there. You can handle some cameras and see what you like. Otherwise, set your budget and check eBay. You really only need a single lens to get started, as lenses, especially when they are in good condition, are more valuable.

Film Selection

One of the joys of film photography is that different movie supplies help make your pictures feel completely different. A snapshot film like Agfa Vista Plus gives a portrait film like Kodak Portra or a black and white movie like Illford HP5 a completely different look.

Here are some pictures with Portra.

And here is one with HP5.

These are just from the camera film photos.

Film also controls the ISO setting and not your camera. You can get different movies in different ISO values. Most movies are between about ISO 100 and ISO 800, but some are higher.

The white balance is not present in film photography. Different films give different colors. Most are designed for shooting in daylight or cloudy days. Every marketing description of a particular movie tells you what it knows is balanced.

You can buy stock of film as a single roll or at a small discount in boxes of three rolls. I recommend that you take a single role from each of the stocks of film you have in your hands and try them out. Filming is about having fun playing around. If you find a specific device that you like, you can buy it well.

Going Out and Shooting

If you've loaded your camera with film, you can continue shooting. The ISO value is set by the film to limit the lighting conditions in which it can be recorded. If you have Kodak Portra 400, you can not record in extremely low light.

Although your camera probably has an automatic mode, I recommend some sort of manual control. The aperture priority mode, as always, is the best compromise. You set the aperture, the movie sets the ISO value, and the camera sets the shutter speed. All you have to do is make sure your iris is big enough to get a fast shutter speed.

If the movie sets the ISO value, you may need to manually enter the ISO value of the movie on the camera. Newer film cameras recognize it automatically, but older ones do not. For information about changing the camera mode and making adjustments, see the online manual for your camera.

The first recording with film is an experience. I'm still looking at the back of my camera and expect a preview of the picture just taken. You also get only 36 shots before changing the movie. That's not much, if you just drove off in burst mode.

The biggest problem you'll face is the lack of focus. A lot of. If your camera is manually focused, you'll probably miss it for larger apertures. I know that it is me.

Even autofocus systems are nowhere near the accuracy that you are accustomed to with your digital camera. Expect many bad shots until you get a feel for your movie camera. But hey, that's half the fun.

The film is being developed

When you've made your first film roll, it's time to develop and print it. Most photo shops do this, although there are also online services. Expect to pay between $ 10 and $ 20 depending on where you're going, how many prints you want, how fast you want the negatives to be scanned as well.

Oh, that's right. While film is an analog technology, you can scan the negatives into digital images to edit, post on Facebook, and otherwise do what you want.


Filming addictive. I'm friends with a couple of models, and one fun thing we do is shoot a movie roll and then develop it for an hour while we get a drink. I also like taking pictures of a single roll of film during a weekend trip. Try it and believe me, it will improve your eye for digital photos.


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