If you open my instagram or snapchat lately, you will know that I'm currently kinda crazy about film photography. I've spent days and night googling through articles about film cameras, looking at the film results in tumblr, and stalking people in Australian Film Photographers facebook club for some weeks now. Before you call me obsessed, I have been interested at shooting film for years, but my parents had always turned me down on it. They always look at me in horror each time I'm asking for money to buy $400 20 years old analog camera which I don't even know working or not! So now in 21 years old of age, I am finally, confidently, taking a big big step by getting a Contax T2 (Oh yeah).
Probably among you guys, many are interested to start shoot film instead of digital. So I want to share from my personal experiences, how to take your first baby steps on film. Let's roll!
1. Choose the right gear for you. It must be a camera that you know you'll love. You have to have butterflies in your stomach when you look at it, or whatever.
There are so many options to choose, yet for a beginner, this can be super intimidating.
I think, a classic SLR like Nikon F3, Canon AE-1, Olympus OM-2 or Minolta SRT 101 are great options. They are super easy to use, produce great quality images and they are perfect for learning! So as either one is good, don't contemplate too much!!! Just find one that is working and grab it!
I choose Contax T2 as my first film camera because I just love point and shoot camera. It's a perfect cam for street photography because it's so silent and small. It goes nearly undetected by your subject and easy to bring everywhere. Plus point, it looks super duper cute on girls.. (lame reason I know)
Bargain Guide: For Canon AE-1, you can find one in Very Good condition as cheap as 150 AUD, while Nikon F3 body + Nikkor 50mm 1.4 lens can be bought from 230 AUD. That price is quite a bargain tho. It should not cost you more than 400 AUD, except if you are looking to get something in mint or limited edition condition. Finding cheap stuffs is a skill itself, which I will tell you in the following chapters.
2. Join local film photography club in Facebook
I joined Australian Film Photographers club several weeks ago and I'm regretting why I didn't find this group earlier. This group ROCKS! The people are always posting their latest film frames that keep me motivated and informed. Many knowledge on good camera, lenses, and types of films can be learned just from stalking this page. Now I know what is the difference of shooting in Kodak Portra, Fujicolor, Agha Vista, etc. Every several days there will be some random strangers selling cheap films, camera, lenses, or asking for barter. It'll definitely cut the cost on your camera gear expenses and find some real bargains.
I met the guy who sold me Contax from here, and it's such a bliss! I called out in the group if someone have a mint Contax T2 and this guy appeared. If it wasn't for him, I would spend 50 to 100 more bucks on a camera with worse physical quality than what he sold me.
3. Make a watch list on ebay and watch the price for a week or so.
So if you've decided what camera you want to buy, go to ebay and start to look at the available listings. Remember. Always, always buy from seller who offer return options. We don't want any heartbreaks here. Also, always check the details.
There's fungus in the lens? Skip.
Dust? Red light, but it's okay if it doesn't affect the photo. You can clean it.
The level of appearance depends on how much you are willing to spend. If you don't get eye itch by looking at the scratch and wear marks, then go for the cheap one, as long as it is technically working. "You don't buy camera to look at it, but to use it", one camera seller said to me.
But still, hold your watch list for a week or so to see how much does people usually spend on that type of the camera. It can help you to judge better and land a bargain.
4. Go to local op shop
Sometimes you can get a point and shoot camera for as low as 5 AUD. Sick.
5. Learn the basics
Film is expensive, so you can't take each click for granted like you always do with your digital camera or smartphone.
Know how exactly shutter speed, metering, and aperture works! It seems obvious, but trust me, shooting in film is so different with digital. You ought to know how to properly use camera to be able to shoot with it. Think twice, shoot once. Always.
6. Invest in a film scanner
It's too bad that good film scanner from 2000s like Pakon is gone for good. Or you can buy the second, but it needs old Microsoft Software to operate as far as my knowledge go (I haven't researched enough on this and my IT knowledge sucks). Probably buy Epson v300 or.. maybe just scan in your school scanner. This will help you to reduce the expenses because holycow, scanning one roll of film cost freaking 10 AUD. So approximately....
15 AUD for film
10 for developing film
10 for scanning
Cost 35 dollar to shoot 36 frames. At least with scanner you can cut it down to 25.....
7. Be bold and experiment!
Photography is art not science, so just go out and take some shoot! Film photography is really exciting because you take more control in your shoots, but at the same time, it can surprise you when you see the results. Try different range of films and see what you like the most. It will come with a lot of trials and errors, but I guaranteed you, it's really worth it.
So that's it! Thanks for reading. Hope this post inspired you to go analog. I know that film is expensive, and it's not for everybody. It's not convenient, obviously. But film helps me to slow down and really think on my composition, so in some ways, I think it is more relaxing and educating than my pro digital camera. There is just great feelings I can't explain when seeing those film rolls after it gets developed. Something about nostalgia I guess. See you in next post to see my first roll results.