4 Things You Should Know When Choosing a 35mm Film Camera
So you’ve decided you want to start shooting 35mm film. Maybe you learned to take photos on an old Canon AE-1 back in high school ✋ and want to get back to your roots. Maybe… just maybe your tired of squeezing off 100’s of soulless “pics” with your phone and/or digital camera for them to sit somewhere in the cold vault of the effervescent cloud space.
It’s true, we are in the heart of this digital swamp of 1’s and 0’s. Why would you want to purchase a tired piece of historical dust. Insert film rant here and end with… basically you can get some high-end pro quality gear at stupid low prices.
I have found old pro’s that caved in and bowed to the queen of digital refuse long ago, their sweet sweet gear hiding, well cared, in a cardboard box high the back of the closet under the shoes he/she wore to that one wedding they shot back in 1992. I cheerfully accepted, sad faced for them but shit eaten grin inside for myself, a pristine Canon T-90 + prime lens and flashes, etc for a measly $20 plus gas milage to East County.
#1 Be practical
Don’t be like Grandpappy McHipster with the fuzzy twisty mustache picking out a early 1900’s model. They were difficult to use and lug around back then… they still are! In addition you do not want to run into issues where film is scarce, no parts, and exhaustive measures for taking shots as well as developing. Choose a well known brand built in the last 50 years or so.
#2 Be one with the features
You should already know how to shoot manual but if you don’t you probably will eventually. Most photographers I known started out in fully automatic mode and as time progressed move to AV mode, TV mode and eventually in the full control freak mode called manual. That said… I do love that T-90 with its auto film loading feature and aperture priority mode. This allows me to make the camera my bitch and do exactly what I tell it! (did i already say photographers are control freaks?)
If you are reading this in the Spring/Summer of 2016 you should be in good shape to capture some great prices on excellent photography gear. BUT look out for that guy. You know the guy, the craigslist guy who see’s people buying these up. He sees the winds of change coming and he starts buying them up cheap too and selling them for 3-6x’s his purchase price. In major cities on this beautiful West Coast I am seeing the $20 AE-1 being sold around $200. This camera is NOT worth $200. Please don’t pay that! Especially form Craigslist Rick who doesn’t even know what type of film goes inside it.
Lens choice is VERY high up on your list here, well not here on my list but high on your list as in the list you have in your mind when your standing in the shower thinking about a sweet rig and taking actual physical analog photographs. Anyway, I would start with a good prime lens (a lens that has a set focal length). Most pro and pro-ameture photographers knew to have good glass in the 50mm range. Hopefully with an f1.8 or near that. They also rarely spent as much care into a zoom lens. You will see this fact in how they often “throw in” the zoom lens with the purchase. I have a box of these zoom lenses that will never see the light of day as the glass is just not there… but they were free so I took them. Hey maybe sell them and then its like getting the camera for free!
Your going to love it! And after you’ve processed the first couple rolls let me know how they turned out.