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Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
8/19/21 10:39 a.m.

My wife purchased a Polaroid-like instant camera (or maybe it was a gift, I don't really remember) not too long ago, and I've really enjoyed how easy and fun it is to point and shoot with it and the physical aspect of having a moment captured in time. Plus, I really like how the lo-fi look that a lot of pictures have.

My point is that I want a similar camera that I can snap photos with and still get a physical photo to have. The thing is, I'd like to have a little more control over focus and lighting and what-not (I'm not sure what else, I'm far from a professional), but I don't know if I should go out and get something like Canon AE-1 or more of a "toy camera" from a website like this since I'm not serious about film photography at the moment–I just like the way it looks.

I'd appreciate whatever input you have.

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
8/19/21 10:48 a.m.

My first camera was one of these.  I've still got it kicking around here somewhere https://www.ebay.com/itm/184891897312?hash=item2b0c6a75e0:g:Ky0AAOSw9ctgypzJ

Great camera for a beginner and a fairly decent camera for someone that knows what they're doing.

Also, this: 

Colin Wood said:

the physical aspect of having a moment captured in time

The pressure of the shutter button, and the sound.  There's nothing like a proper film camera's shutter sound, it feels like someone cut that moment out of the world.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim MegaDork
8/19/21 10:51 a.m.

Lomos have a very specific look to it and basically can't do anything else, so they're not very versatile.

An SLR would be a lot more versatile and might come in handy if you have glass that would fit. Although a lot of the high quality "retro" bodies are not AF.

An AE-1 is certainly a fine camera if you want an SLR. Another good/interesting choice are the Minolta SRT series ones, there is some pretty spectacular glass out there for them that at least didn't use to be that expensive. Plus of course Nikon also made some very nice film cameras. Oh, and don't forget the Yashica-made Contax models...

If you want simple and cheap-ish with really good glass, I would also look at the Yashica Electro 35 - they can often be had cheap and if you can live with the fixed focal length, they have a really good one. Which reminds me that I should finally try to clean up my charity shop find and put some new gaskets on. Or maybe just try out and see if it works.

One issue with older film cameras is battery availability as a log of them take mercury button cells that are no longer available, and the common fixes provide a different voltage that throws the meter off.

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
8/19/21 10:52 a.m.

In reply to Mr_Asa :

I've read good things about the Pentax. I don't think I'm the kind of person that "knows what they're doing" just yet, but I imagine that any film camera comes with a learning curve.

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
8/19/21 10:55 a.m.

In reply to BoxheadTim :

Good to know. I'll have to keep battery availability in mind.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim MegaDork
8/19/21 10:55 a.m.

In reply to Colin Wood :

Depends - if you are used to a modern DSLR, you can get film cameras that get fairly close from an autoexposure point of view.

The fun starts with the old stuff that has fully manual exposure control and potentially not even a built in light meter . Stuff some B&W film in that and have fun, but it's definitely a learning curve.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim MegaDork
8/19/21 11:00 a.m.

In reply to Colin Wood :

Very common one is the PX625 cell that was used in a lot of 1970s cameras. IIRC there are zinc/air versions available that work pretty well, and others that use the same form factor but provide a slightly lower voltage (and thus throw the meter off). For certain cameras there are also adapters available that allow you to use a modern battery of the correct voltage - I think I have one of those for my Electro 35..

A bunch of 90s SLRs that have electric winders use AAA batteries instead and those are obviously much less of a faff (and tend to have automatic modes, too). The one body I own that uses AAA batteries eats through them like their going out of fashion, though.

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
8/19/21 11:04 a.m.
Colin Wood said:

In reply to Mr_Asa :

I've read good things about the Pentax. I don't think I'm the kind of person that "knows what they're doing" just yet, but I imagine that any film camera comes with a learning curve.

Thats where the beginner part comes in, hell I only sort of know what I'm doing.  Honestly, a quick 10-20 minute from my Dad and I was off and running.  If the built-in light meter is working (check the battery) then it just takes patience to get good at everything.  You probably will screw up and over-expose an entire roll of film once as you're figuring it out, though but that's part of it.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim MegaDork
8/19/21 11:25 a.m.

In reply to Mr_Asa :

One of the reasons I suggested B&W film (although that would probably require home development) - they tend to be more forgiving than colour, and especially slide film.

02Pilot
02Pilot UltraDork
8/19/21 12:00 p.m.

I would suggest you narrow down what you want to concentrate on here: is it learning to expose film, or to develop film (or both), or do you just want the end product? If you're willing to do it the traditional way, then you will want a camera that gives you manual control over everything, with a fixed focal-length lens, shooting B&W film and developing it yourself. While this is definitely the steepest learning curve, it also lays the foundation for having much better working knowledge and thus better end results. I would argue you should also forego a light meter, but I know that's a bit extreme for many. If, on the other hand, you just want to make pictures and have them be decent, get a later SLR with metered auto-exposure and blast away, then send the film off for developing.

Edit: The toy camera/Lomography thing is a different ballgame. It can be fun, but I really think that it's not an ideal starting point for anyone who has ambitions of learning more about the technical aspects.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
8/19/21 12:47 p.m.

Pentax K1000. It's what we used in high school: bulletproof, easy to operate, totally manual. You'll quickly learn how shutter speed, f-stop and ASA all come together. Batteries come from Walgreens. Sounds and feels great. Just got this one the other day, in fact. smiley (Thank you, Dan.)

I had a Canon A1 back then, too, and still have it. I used this one through college and also here at the magazine. It's a much more advanced camera--several auto modes, etc. Batteries are still available. I'd say either one will deliver the vintage camera experience while also still supported. Go with a 50mm lens and just start shooting. 

A Canon EOS film camera adds more automation: auto focus, auto film advance, etc. I still have my EOS film cameras, too: EOS 630 and Elan IIe, I believe. The EOS was the logical step after the A1, but if looking for the "vintage camera experience," I'd go either K1000 or A1. 

Clem's Classic Camera at the Daytona Flea Market stocks film cameras. 

Also, Colin, you'll need to get the film developed. In Orlando, check out Colonial Photo and Hobby on Mills. Here in Ormond, we have Reformated Film Lab. He scanned all of the slides for the recent One Lap history feature. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
8/19/21 1:04 p.m.

And here's something that's a hybrid, kinda. My go-to for personal stuff is now a Fuji X100V. This model came out last spring and features all of Fuji's latest technology. It's fully digital. I believe it can even shoot 4K video. 

Here's the biggie: It feels and acts like an old rangefinder (film) camera. In fact, I have the back screen totally turned off. From above, you can see how the controls have that vintage feel--dials that you have to touch. Unlike most digital cameras, you can change the settings while the camera is turned off--no menus required. 

I really dig this camera. It's not for capturing action at the track, but for walking around and stuff, I love it. It has a vintage feel. Since it's a Fuji, it also allows you to digitally add some grain and even emulate Fuji films. It's not film but, like I said, a cool hybrid. (Previous models can be found used.)

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
8/19/21 1:06 p.m.
Mr_Asa said:

My first camera was one of these.  I've still got it kicking around here somewhere https://www.ebay.com/itm/184891897312?hash=item2b0c6a75e0:g:Ky0AAOSw9ctgypzJ

Great camera for a beginner and a fairly decent camera for someone that knows what they're doing.

Also, this: 

Colin Wood said:

the physical aspect of having a moment captured in time

The pressure of the shutter button, and the sound.  There's nothing like a proper film camera's shutter sound, it feels like someone cut that moment out of the world.

That's not film, that's SLR. You can still get that with digital. Unless you're also talking about the motor drive...

I learned on a Pentax with an external light meter. My dad bought it in the 60s, I think it might have been a Asahi-Pentax S something. I think it's still at my mom's place. I was shooting Kodachrome 64 so the exposure times were looooong and I learned how to stabilize a camera very well :) 

The difficulty is that the lag time between shooting the picture and seeing the result is so long that it's hard to get a good feedback loop going. I have a hard time getting nostalgic over not knowing if I'd actually managed to capture what I was hoping to capture, honestly.

grover
grover Dork
8/19/21 1:09 p.m.

If you want a similar experience to instant film, i.e. point and shoot, then I'd ebay a leica mini ii.  Great little camera that you should get for about $100, or that's about what I paid several years ago. I've shot about 100 rolls through mine and really like it for size and quality.  I honestly REALLY like it with front flash at night in black and white.  

Film photography is not unlike digital in that there are many avenues to explore.  I've shot just about everythign other than plate, and I'm happy to answer questions. 

My favorite buying spot is KEH, their bargain rating is actually super nice, and I just happen to live close now.  I like portra film stock but a lot of my stuff is for paying clients.  

Not sure what else to say other than have fun.  

Lots of good labs out there but richard photo lab is the gold standard.  I have used photovision and indie film lab extensively over the last 10 years and a few hundred weddings

 

grover
grover Dork
8/19/21 1:10 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:
 

The difficulty is that the lag time between shooting the picture and seeing the result is so long that it's hard to get a good feedback loop going. I have a hard time getting nostalgic over not knowing if I'd actually managed to capture what I was hoping to capture, honestly.

This is very well put and hard to manage without being disciplined about sending film in and having a decent memory.  

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
8/19/21 1:11 p.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

Honestly, I'm really just interested in the end product. I can appreciate the art of developing film, but I'm not certain I'd have the patience to do that.

Also, I hear you on the toy camera thing. It sounds like I can get that specific look I want, but going that route can back you into a corner and only give you that single result.

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
8/19/21 1:13 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

Thanks David. Sounds like I really can't go wrong so long as I keep "entry-level" in my camera searches. I like the battery availably of the Pentax.

02Pilot
02Pilot UltraDork
8/19/21 1:55 p.m.
Colin Wood said:

In reply to 02Pilot :

Honestly, I'm really just interested in the end product. I can appreciate the art of developing film, but I'm not certain I'd have the patience to do that.

Also, I hear you on the toy camera thing. It sounds like I can get that specific look I want, but going that route can back you into a corner and only give you that single result.

It's true, film developing does require a degree of patience, but it's also easier than you might expect (at least for B&W). But it's best to be realistic about what you're willing to commit in terms of time and effort.

The toy camera approach, as typified by Lomography (at least if you believe their propaganda), thrives on not just the lo-fi look, but the unexpected, the happy accident, the idea that both the subject and the flaws of the camera are intrinsic to the photograph. It requires a very different mindset than the Ansel Adams pre-visualization approach of traditional photography, almost like the surrealist "found objects" photography, except with the photograph itself becoming the discovery rather than a representation of it (sorry, I'm inclined to go to deep into this stuff sometimes). I've struggled with it, frankly.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim MegaDork
8/19/21 2:03 p.m.
Colin Wood said:

In reply to 02Pilot :

Honestly, I'm really just interested in the end product. I can appreciate the art of developing film, but I'm not certain I'd have the patience to do that.

For the "lazy" way, look up "Rodinal stand development". Only works for B&W, but it's about as low effort as these things go and mostly needs a kitchen timer to remind you to fix and wash the film afterwards. But yes, it's a time commitment.

You basically let the film sit in a highly diluted developer (1:100 Rodinal, which is one of the oldest developers still on the market) for something like an hour, then wash/fix/rinse.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim MegaDork
8/19/21 2:14 p.m.

Forgot to mention, I like FreeStyle Photo for film & other supplies: https://www.freestylephoto.biz

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
8/19/21 2:16 p.m.
02Pilot said:

The toy camera approach, as typified by Lomography (at least if you believe their propaganda), thrives on not just the lo-fi look, but the unexpected, the happy accident, the idea that both the subject and the flaws of the camera are intrinsic to the photograph. It requires a very different mindset than the Ansel Adams pre-visualization approach of traditional photography, almost like the surrealist "found objects" photography, except with the photograph itself becoming the discovery rather than a representation of it (sorry, I'm inclined to go to deep into this stuff sometimes). I've struggled with it, frankly.

By all means, carry on. I think you summed up exactly the kind of photography I like: spur of the moment, happy accident kind of photographs that aren't going to win any contests, but capture a moment and a feeling.

My mother has ingrained in my head the importance of photographing everything, especially the mundane, because those are the images that give us the most insight into the past.

Without waxing philosophical too much, I appreciate the advice everyone's been offering. I think I know what I'll be shopping for after work today.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim MegaDork
8/19/21 2:21 p.m.
Colin Wood said:

Without waxing philosophical too much, I appreciate the advice everyone's been offering. I think I know what I'll be shopping for after work today.

Welcome to yet another time consuming rabbit hole

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 MegaDork
8/19/21 2:38 p.m.

For me, the best part of shooting film was developing and printing film.  In a previous life, I was processing and printing color film in my apartment kitchen.  Turned out some awesome prints too.  Recently dragged out some equipment and made some B&W prints using Caffenol.  https://www.caffenol.org/

Very cool!  Thought I'd do more, but I have too many hobbies, projects, and responsibilities.

sleepyhead the buffalo
sleepyhead the buffalo Mod Squad
8/19/21 4:33 p.m.

I'll chime in another vote for a Pentax.  I got started shooting with sleepydad's... pentax SLR (can't find what model his original one was).   Then, absconded with his P30 (P30t?) in college.  I liked the the P30 because the focus screen is split diagonally, so it was easy to get focus right portrait or landscape, nice and tight.

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) UltimaDork
8/19/21 4:55 p.m.

The thing I don't like about those slightly later Pentax film cameras is how they took away direct ISO selection (and often exposure compensation as well) when DX coding became available.  I cannot understand what they were thinking when they did that, unless the thought was "our customers are stupid".  I personally don't know if I would accept one of those if they were given to me.

I'm interested in Konica's like the T4 due to the AR mount and that lovely 40mm f1.8 kit lens they offered.  The cameras seem to sell for peanuts.  A Nikon like an FM2 sounds nice as well.  But I haven't wanted to bother venturing outside of Pentax's k-mount ecosystem.  

I really like shooting with my Ricoh XR7.  I have an MX and it's... okay.  I don't think it's really all that special although a fully mechanical camera is not without virtue.  I've got a couple Chinon's (a CE-4 and a Revue AC3 which is a rebadged Chinon) and they're quite nice to shoot with and straight foward but are said to be basically unserviceable beyond basic cleanings and seals and such.

To do it again I'd go looking for another XR7 or Sears KS-2 (same camera, one says Sears on the back) with a 50mm lens for under $50.  I'd order half a dozen rolls of Fomapan 400 and just find a lab you want to work with to develop the film and scan it for now. This is assuming you want to get into 35mm film.  If that's what sounds interesting, eventually I would find a way to develop and scan or make prints at home.  There's more investement involved getting there but the above should give you a nice taste test for under $100.

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