Back to shooting film - within limits

I had a hankering to shoot some film the other day. Perhaps with over 200 cameras staring down at me from their lofty pine shelf perches, I might be starting to feel some real guilt in not shooting film. A kind of peer pressure.

So I looked up and down the rows to find just the right candidate for a day in the sun. Now, some of my really fine old instruments are out of consideration as they have media requirements too far out of date. There's no way I can (economically) find rolls of, say, 116 Kodak film and then process and scan it. Likewise for all my collection examples that shoot 126, 127, 110, and 620 formats. Sadly, that leaves just good old 35mm film cameras for my purposes. I keep a few rolls of color about the house.

With all the equipment choices I have for the venerable 35mm stock, I always opt to use one of my many EOS autofocus cameras. Can't help it.  So, yep, I passed up my Contaxes, Retinas, Weltas, Voigtlanders, Contaflexes, Minoltas, Nikons, Olympuses (Olympi?), and others and reached for, of all things, a Canon EOS Rebel S; one of the least expensive pieces in my collection. Got it for a mere $5 with lens.

The EOS Rebel is just about the most forgettable camera Canon made, though wildly popular in its day (hmm, kind of like the Argus C-3). All plastic, all black, no engraving on the body. This thing was made to be cheap. That's why I love it. I can go out and shoot all day shooting on auto-everything and never have to worry about the consequences of dropping it on a rock. For five bucks, I can get another. Disposable super-science.

For a lens, I chose only my favorite non-OEM optic, the Tamron 19-35mm zoom. I love that 19mm perspective. It makes any view interesting, even if pointed at my feet. Plus, with that field of view, I seldom worry about f-stop selections. The wide-angle view allows lower shutter speeds for using the camera hand-held.

Off I went, a digital shooter with 24 shots in the belly of the Canon. I blew half a roll before I remembered again how to shoot with film.Point, compose, adjust for light, check the background, ask yourself if you really want the shot, press the shutter.

I have my lab develop the negs and burn to a CD at an economical scan level (I'm not ready to make 16x 20 prints of any of them yet). While the shots won't win any art contest, the experience of shooting film is very pleasurable. It forces you to think before you shoot; a discipline I've sadly lost using my binary equipment.

I'm waiting the the inevitable first snows to fall so I can have another opportunity to go out and expose more silver salts coated on gelatin. For that cold weather day, I'll take a different Canon with me, an old F-1 with a tack-sharp F/1.4 SSC 50mm. I won't need batteries as the old gal is completely manual in operation. The batteries would just freeze anyway. Exposure? F/16 rule and I'll be fine.

I will never go back to shooting the volume of film I once did. Digital is clearly superior and far less expensive. But working with a film camera is a more deliberate, more enjoyable way to frame a shot, compose your mind. And that's what photography is all about, right?


  1. I agree -- as much fun as I have with my old cameras, when I want to do some serious shooting, I reach for my digital camera every time.

  2. Ha! I'm the exact opposite. I gave up digital and went back to film. Now I think of digital as something I did when I wasn't thinking clearly. Want to buy a used D700?


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