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As an adjunct to the Tangents blog, the intention with this forum is to answer any questions, and allow a diverse discussion of topics related photography. With that, see it as an open invitation to just climb in and start threads and to respond to any threads.

Film Camera Question

Kind of silly thought, but I've read more than a couple of places that a good way to grow your comfort level in digital would be to get it right with a film camera. If I wanted to pick one up on EBay, something like a Pentax or Minolta with a 50 mm lens, anyone got any ideas? I see them for 30 bucks, but don't know anything about anything. I never had a "real" camera growing up, one that you had to know what you were doing full manual control.



  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited April 2016
    The only thing I could tell you Dave would be to make sure you have a lab nearby that can not only develop the film into negatives but also get prints done and I think they would be getting fewer and fewer by the day, also you would need to be able to purchase film, I would start with Kodak Gold (used to be the most plentiful and cheaper) if you could but beggars can't be choosers so whatever you can get your hands on.

    If you can get that, well you would then need to expect a lot of expense because a roll of film may not be expensive in itself but then getting it processed and say 6x4 prints done will run you out around $30 approx (guessing, but it used to cost me around $35 for each roll of 36 prints in 5x7's), soon adds up a lot.

    Seriously, you have a digital, get a piece of cardboard, slap that over the back of the LCD and go for it, no peeking, then come home and be prepared for a dismal shock, but, at least NO costs involved.

    You will have to learn very quickly the basic settings for 'sunny/shade/deep shade' etc. if going manual. If you go into a priority mode you defeat the purpose of learning, and how to evaluate your inbuilt light meter in camera.

    This then leads to learning "how" your inbuilt meter reacts with varying lens and background influencing the meter.

    Shooting a subject out a bit from a dark background with a fair amount of  that background in the composition, well your inbuilt camera light meter will give you the settings, but you would need to take into account that in all likelihood your subject will be overexposed, and vice versa, bright sky, subject in shade, you would need to open up.

    To do that, and it's still applicable today if not shooting flash, you zoom or go right up to subject/object, zero out the meter (in manual of course) then step back and recompose and take the shot.

    I think you have a hand held light meter? I would also use that, but even then you will be still shooting in the dark with no reference for LCD.

    With film you could 'push/pull' it during processing if you knew precisely how you shot it, remember we are talking about "rolls" ie: ALL shots would have to be taken at the same compensation so during the processing of the roll, you would shorten the length of time you had the roll in the developer if you knew you 'overexposed' the total roll, or, lengthen processing time of the roll if you severely under-exposed, then, you can still adjust during the actual printing time of the individual shots.

    It was an art, no black magic, no pixel peeping, no 'light Gods' ie: LCD to smile upon you, all done blindly but with precision at the same time if you knew what you were doing.

    Yeah, sounds complicated but even now I fully appreciate that the fact you had to "really" rely on you inbuilt camera meter instead of an LCD was a blind act of faith, plus knowledge.

    Then that's just available light, try doing all that plus a flash into the equation. :-(

    Good luck.
  • Thanks, Trev. Very useful. We have Hunt Drug here in the Northeast US, local to Boston, that still sells film and processes it. It was just a bit of a wacky idea, but I think there is some merit. I have also heard the suggestion about covering over the LCD, and going out for only 36 shots at a single ISO.

    I remember writing a post here a few months ago, about my appreciation for those people who had to shoot fast-moving events with film. This was after I had a couple of them, and it was challenging enough with digital. You are right when you say "try putting a flash into the equation".

    I never had a camera that could have settings adjusted - full manual - until around 2000, and that was an IS-10, which was classified as a ZLR. Before that it was automatics, but I've always had some sort of a camera since I was a kid, just not a "real" one.

  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    If you shoot color negative film, your lab will fix your mistakes for you .. and then you learn nothing about getting it right in camera. 
    For that, you'd have to shoot slide film, which is costly. 

    Your best option would still be to shoot in digital - what you see is what you get. You have immediate feedback to correct lighting errors and errors in camera settings.  I really feel that going the film route on this is an unnecessarily tough road with no benefit to you. 

    Whichever websites told you that shooting film will help you learning, is misleading you. 
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