Through the Viewfinder
And What Alice Found There
I remember years and years ago when my dad bought me my very first camera - a gold Nikon OneTouch Zoom90. I thought it was the best thing ever and took it everywhere with me! After a few years, digital cameras came into fashion and I soon owned a tiny pink one the size of a credit card. Film was quickly forgotten about and when my pink digital camera failed me, instead of going back to my trusty Nikon, I ventured further into the field of digital photography. Now, at least 10 years later, I have rediscovered my beloved Nikon film camera and have decided to get back into analogue photography.
Although I do love my digital Canon EOS camera, and have to admit the things you can do with them now are pretty amazing, I am still amazed at how good images from film cameras are! It shows that fancy settings aren't always necessary to get a pleasing result.
I now own 5 film cameras - my Nikon OneTouch Zoom90, a Polaroid 600 Extreme, an Agfa Super Silette, a Canon EOS 300v, and a Polaroid PZ2001.
I love them all but for different reasons, and they all capture very different results.
Nikon OneTouch Zoom90
My original film camera that began my love for photography. I love it - it's my "go to" film camera if I need some quick shots. It's so easy to use and produces sharp, detailed images. With a choice of settings between Auto Flash, Infinity, No flash, and Slow Sync Flash you can get the effect desired without having to worry about changing too many settings. You can also choose Macro mode for close up shots, but it can sometimes be difficult to frame properly in this mode if you get too close, because the lens sits below the viewfinder so you have to remember to tilt the camera slightly to get the subject in the middle of the frame. The camera also has self timer so group shots are easy to take as well.
The other main thing I love about this camera apart from the ease of use, is how small and light it is. It can easily fit into a coat pocket and weighs next to nothing which makes it perfect for carrying around wherever you go. It takes 35mm film which is the most common type of film - it can be about £5 - £7 a roll in places like Boots but you can find it cheaper in discount shops or online. Here's some examples of images taken with it:
Polaroid 600 Extreme
This camera is another beauty! It's such a classic, and now that polaroids are coming back into fashion I feel lucky to already own this. It's a beautiful camera, with a fold out flash which fires all the time, meaning its easy to get pictures indoors as well as outdoors. The whole design of the camera looks and feels very retro which I love, and the images themselves have an original effect.
I love how easy the camera is to use - just fold up the flash, wait for the green light, look through the viewfinder and shoot! There is also a slider control on the front which lets you choose your focal distance, and another slider which can either brighten or darken your images so these give you some control. It's a big chunky camera so doesn't easily fit into a bag like the Nikon camera does, and it is fairly heavy to carry around all day. However, it's fun to use and has a strap on the side to slip your hand into to make it more comfortable to hold.
The film is quite expensive which is a downside to shooting polaroid (about £17 for 8 shots) but once you have it, it's easy to install into the loading tray and it means each of your 8 shots is special and must be thought about very carefully - don't want to waste any at that price!
After releasing the shutter, you need to be quick to get the image out of the camera and straight into a dark place to avoid getting too much light onto it. The images usually become visible after about 20 mins in the darkness but develop fully after about 40 mins. I have struggled to get the exposures perfect on my polaroids - mostly they are too bright - but as I expected, it will take some practice. So far I have only used one set of film with this camera (because of how expensive it is) but hopefully I'll be able to get my hands on some more soon and give it another try as it's quite a lot of fun!
Agfa Super Silette
When I first got this camera as a Christmas present, I was so excited! It's a proper retro camera where everything has to be done manually - it also already had a roll of film in it which I decided to use up to test it out. I found it quite difficult at first - unlike the other film cameras I have, this one has to be loaded and wound manually. Loading isn't usually a problem but sometimes the rewind knob doesn't engage with the film reel properly - a few times I have only noticed this after taking a few shots and then hearing the film getting eaten up inside, which unfortunately means opening the back of the camera to sort it out but sacrificing that first bit of film! Rewinding at the end of a film can also be tricky as you have to pull the knob out slightly - but not too far - then just keep turning until you think you've reached the end. Sometimes you can hear a slight noise as the end of the film comes off the reel but you have to listen carefully - otherwise it's a case of taking a guess and sneaking a peek inside the back to see how far you still have left to wind!
Actually taking the photos is fairly easy though. You have rotating rings around the lens which control aperture and focus, and a shutter which you have to pull out a lever then press down a button to take the photo. I prefer to use this camera just for landscapes, for which it produces very good results! The images from the roll included with the camera were a bit foggy and faded, but I think this was down to the camera coming from a charity shop and the film inside being pretty old! When I put a new roll in, the results were a lot better.
Canon EOS 300v
This was another camera bought for me as a present from a charity shop, and I'm very happy with it! I think it is one of the easiest cameras to use as it's not too much different from digital Canon cameras. You get a lot of control over the settings and modes - there's a choice from Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program, Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports, Night Time, and No Flash. Once you are confident with your camera settings after practising with digital, you will find this camera pretty easy to get to grips with. You can also buy different lenses for it unlike any of my other film cameras - it has a lot of potential to produce some amazing images!
I use this camera for anything from landscapes, to portraits, to macro nature shots - the results are brilliant and sharp, just as good as digital, if not better in some cases! Its a small camera and also very light - it came with a case so it's easy to carry around. I often take it out as a second camera to my digital Canon EOS when shooting landscapes. I have also used black and white film with this camera and again, the results were very pleasing! It's an all round easy, cheap camera that I would recommend to anybody who is new to film photography and wants to give it a go. The control you have over the settings means you can get a lot more creative than with some of the other cameras I have mentioned. It's a lot of fun to use!
This is the camera I have least experience with - I recently found it up on the loft and seeing as it already had a film in it, I decided to try it out. There were only a few shots left (most of the film had already been used on images of me and my family from about 10 years ago!) and the few shots I took weren't great. I don't know if the camera just isn't as good as it used to be after sitting in a box for over a decade, or if I just haven't figured it out yet. There's not much control over settings, it's pretty much all auto. The landscapes I took with it weren't very sharp, however, the few pictures I took of my dad were alright with the flash on. Maybe I will just use it for portrait shots if I ever use it again - or maybe just a new film might work better!
Overall, it's hard for me to pick an all-time favourite from these cameras. As I have explained, they are all good in their own ways, each providing different results. If I had to recommend one for someone just starting out in film photography that is looking for an easy way to get started, I would choose the Nikon. While it mostly has Auto features, you do get a small choice and can begin experimenting, once you have got the hang of shooting on film. However, for someone wanting a bit more of a challenge I would recommend the Canon. It offers full control over modes and settings, but is still easy to use and isn't as complicated as the Polaroid or the Agfa, which require a bit more skill and a background knowledge of photography in order to get the best results.
I highly recommend trying to shoot in film again if you can, or at least print out your digital photos - as good as digital photography is, what happens in the future when computers eventually shut down? All your files will be lost forever and future generations won't be able to look at your photographs the way we can still enjoy the works of artists such as Ansel Adams, nearly 100 years after his photographs were taken!
Do you shoot on film? If so, what camera/s do you use? Share your experiences in the comments below!