Buying Your First Film Camera-Podcast Episode 003

Buying a film camera can be a great way to improve your photography. If you've listened to Episode 2 you heard several key reasons why I think that shooting with a film camera is a great way to improve your skill as a photographer, no matter what your experience. If you are considering purchasing your very own analog camera, congratulations, you're on a path that you probably will never want to get off of!

Suggested First Vintage Film Cameras

a vintage Rolleicord Va film camera

If I've convinced you to take a look a adding a film camera to your arsenal, congratulations, I think you're making a wise decision. Now, what to buy? Obviously, I can't force you to buy one camera over another. Purchasing a vintage/old film camera is a very personal thing. But, based on my experience and those of some friends who shoot film, here are my suggestions on what film camera(s) to purchase when you are first starting out:

  • If you want to try medium format film photography, check out the Rolleicord-A classic medium format TLR (twin lens reflex) camera that can be purchased for a fair price. I got my Rolleicord Va for just under $180. I'd recommend one of the later models like the Va or Vb. Another option that many people seem to like is the Yashica-Mat. For either of these I'd suggest going completely "old skool" and get the models without a built-in light meter. You can pick one of those up separately.
  • If  you want a 35mm camera, I'd suggest you start out with a well-built SLR that has a wide availability of accessories. My 1st two choices would be a Canon AE-1 or one of the Olympus OM series. Both the Canon and Olympus are solid and should last you a long, long time if you take care of them.
  • If you want a "newer" 35mm film camera, you can pick up one of the many Canon or Nikon film SLR's that were originally sold in the 1990's. These might be a great choice if you currently have a digital SLR because there is a good chance you will have some lens "transportability" depending on the brand and model. You can get a perfectly capable Canon EOS for well under $100, which is a great deal. Nikon has similar models in the same basic price range.
  • If you want a brand spanking new, out of the box, 35mm film SLR, the Nikon FM-10 is one of the few, maybe the only, film SLR that's still made.

Where To Purchase Your Film Camera

There are a lot of options when it comes to purchasing film cameras, many are good, some are very very bad. Before you purchase a camera make sure to do your research. The vintage/older camera market is definitely a "buyer beware" situation and you should do whatever you can to increase the odds that you are dealing with a reputable seller.

KEH Camera is based here in the Atlanta area but sells worldwide via the web. While I haven't purchased anything from them yet, I have a lot of friends who have. They have a good stock of all kinds of cameras in various price ranges. At the least they are a good place to check when you are doing your research.

There are quite a few film cameras on Amazon, believe or not. You can find both new and used cameras.

Ebay is probably the biggest film, vintage camera marketplace. While there are a lot of potential cameras on Ebay you really need to be in the know in order to reduce the chances that you'll not get taken. I've been on Ebay since 1996 or so and have never had a problem but that's probably because I do a ton of research before I get into a potential bidding war on something. Patience is often a virtue when using Ebay.

Fred Miranda is a very active forum site that has a good marketplace. Many of the cameras seem to be newer/digital but it pays to check here if you are in the market.

Goodwill is an unexpected source of used/vintage camera equipment. I was introduced to their online shopping site by a friend and it definitely looks interesting. I haven't purchased anything yet but I'm sure I probably will :-)

There are many more places you can look for and purchase vintage film cameras. Do a Google search for whatever camera you're looking for and you will find many possibilities. Just be sure to do your research before laying down your hard-earned money.

I hope this post/podcast has inspired you to consider the opportunities that are offered by adding a film camera to your toolbox. I know I've immensely enjoyed shooting with my film cameras and I bet you will too.

Stay tuned for future episodes where I will go into more detail on various film cameras, techniques, developing your own film, etc. Until then...

Happy Shooting!


Is The New Year The Perfect Time For An Old Film Camera - Episode 002

Welcome to a brand new year! Everything is shiny new and ready to experience. Is the new year the time to pick up an old film camera and improve your photography? I think the answer should be a resounding YES!

What Was Once Old Is Now New

I know that's a weird question but I think it's a valid one. The New Year always gets us thinking about doing things better and trying something new. I'm here to suggest that if you are passionate about photography and haven't ever (or in a vary long time) captured images with a film camera, then I want to suggesting that you seriously think about it. There are several reasons I make this recommendation. Not the least of which is:

Shooting A Vintage Film Camera Will Improve Your Photography

Sometimes nothing but film will do

Film cameras are a different beast than digital cameras. Those differences can help you improve your photographic skill-set. In the last year of shooting film cameras in addition to digital, I have become a better photographer in several ways. I feel pretty confident that if you make the investment in film photography you will experience these same key benefits:

  • You are forced to slow down: Shooting a film camera means that in almost any situation you will be forced to slow down and pay more attention to what you are doing
  • Cost is a factor every time you press the shutter: This is a very important benefit. Film cameras cost hard-earned dollars every time you press the shutter. There's no re-usable 128 gig SD cards with an "old skool" film camera, so every image matters.
  • You have to be adaptable and flexible. With a film camera, there's no switching ISO from 100 to 25,000 in the middle of a roll of film. This means that you have to plan ahead and learn how to deal with surprises.
  • You will have a greater appreciation for your images: Because of the extra effort involved in film photography, every image you capture will be more valuable.
  • You will be part of the "cool crowd" :-) This is an important point because if you take on the challenge of shooting with a film camera, especially an older vintage camera like the Rolleicord, you will attract some attention. This is a great opportunity to spread the word about photography i general and film photography in particular.

I hope this has inspired you to at least consider the benefits you will receive when you introduce a film camera into your photography. I have realized a lot of benefit and I bet you will as well.

Stay tuned for the next episodes where I will go into more detail on some suggested first film cameras and my tips for purchasing a film camera online. Until then...

Happy New Year and Happy Shooting!

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Photography Tip-Don't Wait To Take The Shot

Here's my photography tip of the day/week/month (heck, maybe of forever)-If you see something that you want to photograph, don't wait! Take the best shot you can as soon as you can, because it might not be there next time! I almost learned this lesson the hard way, but fortunately I didn't. Here's the back story:

There was a slowly crumbling house along one of the bike routes I ride. I had ridden by this house maybe 75 times over the previous 5 years and every-time I did I always wondered to myself "what's the story is behind this". Then, last Fall, after I got my vintage Rolleicord Va, I was inspired to drive out to the house on a Saturday morning just after sunrise to see what kind of photographs I could make. The day wasn't perfect. In fact, there was a slight mist in the air but I was compelled to go out there and photograph it.

I set up my Rolleicord, which was loaded with a roll of Delta 400, and made several photographs of the house.

Day 336-Needs Work

Good Intentions

Roof Detail

As you can see, the house was old and falling apart, which made it a great subject for the camera. I was very happy with the images I made that day, but I still wondered what stories this house had to tell....

Burnin' Down The House

Earlier this Summer I started thinking that it would be neat to visit the house again and see if I could document some additional decay. Well, imagine my surprise when I rode my bike by it one day in August and saw that it had decayed a little faster than I thought, it had burned to the ground!

I made it out to the house last week with my Rolleicord (loaded with Delta 400 again) and made a few images of the charred remains. Here's a pretty good representative shot of what was left:

At Least We Have The Memories In among the rubble and charred wood was a few of the metal shingles, which were a unique part of the house. I don't know what caused the house to burn, was it set intentionally to make it easier to clear out? Or perhaps it was arson? I'll probably never know. I'm just glad I was able to capture the house before all this happened. Now that it has burned I have a bit of a photographic story of the house that I never would've had if I had waited until "the perfect time" to make the initial photograph.

I hope my little experience with "almost waiting too long" has inspired you to have a sense of urgency about your photography. Sure, the perfect conditions might not exist on a particular day when you pass by something that you find interesting, but take a minute to stop and make that photograph because it might be your only chance!

Street Photography With The Rolleicord: City Cutz

Street photography is something I haven't done a lot of but I would like to get better at it. I like the idea of using my vintage Rolleicord to capture the scenes of the city. Yesterday was the 2nd anniversary Google Plus Photo Walk. Here in Atlanta, about 40 of us got together at Centennial Park and took a stroll through the Fairlie Poplar district. For this photowalk I brought my vintage Rolleicord Va as well as my T3i DSLR. I hoped that I could get some decent "street" photography using the Rolleicord.

I went through 2 twelve-exposure rolls of film during the walk. That yielded about 10 "keepers" that I am working through. Here is one of the first few that I managed to get scanned and processed:

Mark Sinderson: Rolleicord Va &emdash; City Cutz

This shot was a little hard for me to compose and shoot. The combination of the fixed focal length of the Rolleicord, the square format of the negative and a bunch of extraneous "stuff" to the right of the barber pole made placing the elements I wanted to include in the photograph a little challenging. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out the best position that would allow me to highlight the barber pole as well as get some of the entryway and reflections in the image.

In the end I chose the composition you see here. Unlike digital shooting film each exposure costs you real money (about 50 cents in this case), so I only took one exposure here. I think it came out pretty well.

Shooting film requires a different approach than shooting digital and that's one of the things I enjoy most about it.

Good Intentions

I'm still working my way through the roll of film I shot last weekend at an abandoned house. Here's another image that I think tells a story: The thing that caught my eye here was the way the ladder was just leaning up against the porch, as if someone was thinking of doing something but just got distracted and left. These old, abandoned buildings have a lot of stories to tell and I think photographs can help in the telling of those stories

On another, although related note, I'm finding that I am wanting to re-scan a fair number of images since I got the DigitaLiza scanning mask. It does a fantastic job of keeping the negative flat, which improves the scanning result considerably. I plan on doing a review of the DigitaLiza here pretty soon which will include how I set it up to work with my CanoScan 9000F .

Project 365 Day 336-Needs Work

After 5 years of riding by this slowly decaying/collapsing house, I finally made the drive out to it to photograph it: It is located in a rural/suburban area that is surrounded by subdivisions. There is a chicken coop behind the house that I didn't get to today, but maybe next time. I think what motivated me to get out and shoot this was the fact that I have the Rolleicord, which seemed like the perfect tool to document this piece of local history that is slowly fading away.

I took this about 30 minutes after sunrise this morning and developed the roll around lunchtime today. I used Ilford Delta 400 b&w film and developed it for 7 minutes in Ilford Ilfosol 3. By 5PM the negatives were dry and I was able to scan them in.

Tagged Manhole Cover

Last Friday we visited Piedmont park in Atlanta. I shot a roll of Ilford Delta 400 film as I wandered around the park. We were walking along the "wetlands trail" when I saw this: It looks like a regular, ordinary, manhole cover but I guess it must be really important because someone took the time to tag it with some graffiti.

I guess all "taggers" need to start somewhere :-)

  • Camera: Rolleicord Va
  • Film: Ilford Delta 400
  • Developer: Ilfosol 3 for 7 minutes

Architecture Photos-Rolleicord Film vs Canon Digital-Three Columns And Stairs

Our office building has some neat features that I figured would look pretty good in black and white. Back in early October, I took a photo of the space between two of the buildings with my Canon S95 and converted it to B&W using Silver Efex Pro. Here's that digital Image: When I got my Rolleicord I immediately knew that I wanted to re-take that photo using black and white film to see how it came out. I went out to the building on a Saturday and tried to replicate the shot from my digital camera as best as I could. I recently got back the negatives from the lab and here is the result:


As you can see, the perspective isn't quite the same as with the S95. That's because the Rolleicord shoots a square frame and as well uses a 75mm lens (about 49mm on a 35mm camera). I used Ilford HP5 Plus film (400 ISO) and mounted the camera on my tripod.

As far as "post-processing" goes, here's what I did:

I scanned the developed negative at 2400 dpi and at 16 bit gray using my CanoScan 9000f. The resulting file was 51 megs. I imported the image into Lightroom and tweaked the contrast, highlights and shadows a little to get the reflections in the building windows to come out a little better. I also had to clean up a few dust bunnies that somehow made it onto the negative.

Overall I'm very happy with the final result. I need to get better at using the scanner and at doing adjustments in Lightroom but that will come with time. I will pobably also go back and re-shoot this image again to see how it comes out with me doing the developing, instead of a commercial lab.

Which image do you like better, the digital image from my S95 or the scanned film image from the Rolleicord? Let me know, I'm interested to see what everyone thinks.

Happy Shooting!