A Film Shooter’s Intro To Film Part One: Buy A Film Camera

Posted on by Bellamy


A Film Shooter’s Intro To Film Part One: Buy A Film Camera by Cosh
JCH has a new guest writer. Cosh is a photographer and a writer and he has very kindly agreed to share some of his musings with us on JCH. I hope to have regular features from Cosh. So let’s get to it, over to you Cosh.

Buy a film camera. Buy ten. Then sell those ten and buy ten others.

I work with a lot of people outside of the photographic industry – and some who work in it – who ask me “Why buy a film camera?” They don’t come up with the same boring platitudes espoused by the dilettantes of the world such as “film is dead”: they express genuine bewilderment as to why I would prefer a camera that shoots digital over a camera that shoots film.

The answer is simple: nobody takes risks anymore.

Film was King during a time of great experimentation. There is no digital equivalent to many of the uniquely interesting film cameras which emerged during the 20th century. There really isn’t a proper competitor to a camera such as the Ricoh GR1 series. There isn’t a digital Technorama, nor is there a Rolleiflex. There is a digital Pentax 645, but it isn’t actually a 645. There’s also a digital M6 but it costs more than a car. In 2012 the avant garde of digital technological evolution isn’t even scratching at what film was doing in the 90s; it’s really just designing new sensors to put into DSLRs.

Film is still evolving in 2012. It’s actually doing more interesting things than digital seems to be. While Sony is putting out a small ‘full frame’ digital fixed lens point and shoot for ten times what my small ‘full frame’ fixed lens point and shoot cost, Lomo put out the 6*12 Bel Air. Digital is still being reactive, while film is still being proactive. Digital is all about mimicry; film is innovative. Regardless of any advantage in image quality it makes sense to invest in film companies in 2012: they’re more likely to bring you cameras that take risks.

So my mindset is that you should just be done with digital and invest in interesting film cameras. These days I still keep my 5DII for some work, but my go to camera is my Konica Hexar. It’s small and quiet and beautiful and infuriating to use due to its awful ergonomics but it’s unique. It’s quieter than any other camera I’ve ever used, and it even has a pop-out hood. It’s a simple camera and it cost me about $350. There is no digital equivalent to this camera and the only thing which has come close in recent years – Fuji’s X100 – is a poor copycat.

I’ve got medium format covered with my Pentax 67. It’s got a few unique design features including a gorgeous wood handle that allows me to fight off robbers. There’s no digital competitor for this camera. There is a camera with a significantly smaller frame that sells for about $10k that I could buy, but it’s really not much chop. Then there’s the Rolleiflex TLR, the Mamiya 6, or the Fuji GWS690, whose designs are all boundary pushing and which lack any sort of peer in the digital realm.

I’ve got an SLR that will stop an AK-47 round and has a waist-level finder for shooting on the street. The F3 is, in my extremely valuable but also humble opinion, the only Nikon worth buying. It might not be as innovative as other cameras out there, but it’s solid and absolutely gorgeous. Its ergonomics and aesthetics are rarely encountered in today’s digital camera market.

As I expressed earlier, the most exciting and innovative cameras available to us today are either digital versions of classic film cameras (such as the new M Leicas), bubblegum-machine imitations of excellent film cameras (Olympus OM-D, Fuji X100), or just heavily styled upon cameras that actually had more to offer than style (Fuji X-Pro 1). At the end of the day, regardless of where you sit in the film vs digital debate, there really isn’t any competition when it comes to finding interesting cameras. As a street photographer I know that the most important thing is for a photograph to be interesting and engaging. It needs to communicate a story or evoke an emotion. Why settle for a camera that can’t do the same?

Of course, you might be apprehensive about buying a forty year old camera to do serious work with. I wouldn’t buy a forty year old car to drive cross country with unless I know the providence and knew it worked.

___________

I’m Cosh and I’m an enthusiast street photographer. I am also a writer and a critic. I am always looking for interesting subjects, collections, exhibitions, and fellow photographers to write about. Feel free to keep in touch with me at the following places:

Tumblr: blog.cosh.net.au
Facebook: www.facebook.com/therealcosh

Thanks for your thoughts Cosh. I am looking forward to the coming articles. Please feel free to come and comment. Chip in with your thoughts, we would love to hear them.
Thanks
Japancamerahunter

26 Responses to A Film Shooter’s Intro To Film Part One: Buy A Film Camera

Terence November 5, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Great article and to be quite honest I getting sick and tired of shelling out so much cash to update raw software every time I buy a new digital camera, aka RX100 which took a long time coming. Well just last week I bought myself a Leica M6 and some TriX. Looks like I’m moving back to film…………….

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Justin November 5, 2012 at 5:40 pm

As someone that dabbles in both film and digital I couldn’t agree more that film bodies are more intriguing. My favorite camera to use is a Canon FTb built in 1971. The thing is older than I am and will probably outlast me given the right circumstances. I’m gonna have to try a Rollei TLR one of these days, but just can’t manage to tear myself away from my Mamiya C33.

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    Cosh November 5, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    My Pentax will definitely outlast myself with its rugged build quality. My Olympus OM-10 probably won’t as I’ll end up dropping it off a cliff.

    Reply
Warren November 5, 2012 at 7:39 pm

I’m 52 and a couple of years ago I got myself a nice Canon 30D and took up photography again after some 25 years away from it.
Just this year I decided I needed a nice Nikon F2 photomic. Now I have two of them and am madly kitting myself out with some fantastic old nikon gear through eBay.
I’m also getting my old dark room gear back in action. I’m loving the whole film Renaissance but my poor old 30D isn’t seeing much light these days.
Welcome back film.

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Jeff November 6, 2012 at 12:30 am

I recently picked up a well cared for RZ67 with the 110, 180 and 4 backs from a local ex-pro for a song. Poor guy didn’t have time to shoot any more and wanted to see it get some good use. I know the camera is universally reviled for its weight but I have to admit to really loving the whole slowed down, manually metered shooting process and gorgeous results that the camera gives. I’ll always have digital but film remains interesting, relevant and beautiful. Great article.

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martin gomez November 6, 2012 at 6:38 am

Hi, completely agree whit your thoughts about analog improvements. I follow buying film cameras & looking for films scanners to merge both universe. The feeling I have inspecting an image scanned from a negative is always exquisite… this kind of experiences, crossing the boundaries between analog and digital, give us some data to think about the nature of an image, but also about the photography as a practice or search… thank to write about!! BEST. Martín

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gidion November 6, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Interesting article. Bit difficult to read but that is probably just me being foreign:)

I liked everything but the last paragraph. JCH is doing a great job but by adding the last paragraph the article became more of an adverticement.,

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Colin Corneau November 7, 2012 at 12:29 am

To me, this sums up the entire idea of the article (and it’s very well said) -

” As a street photographer I know that the most important thing is for a photograph to be interesting and engaging. It needs to communicate a story or evoke an emotion. Why settle for a camera that can’t do the same? ”

Bullseye.

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Mike November 7, 2012 at 4:47 am

I love film as much as anyone, but to say that “There is no digital equivalent to [the Hexar] and the only thing which has come close in recent years – Fuji’s X100 – is a poor copycat” is a bit ignorant. The X100, while not perfect, is a terrific camera, and is capable of truly magnificent output.

In the same vein, the X-Pro1 could perhaps be considered the “digital M6″. While it’s not full frame (or a true rangefinder), it certainly has a similar gestalt.

So while I agree that one can tap the rich resources of older film cameras, and achieve some excellent results, there IS development going on in digital-land.

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    Cosh November 7, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    I’ll have to respectfully disagree. I don’t think it’s ignorant to look at a camera, such as the X100, and decide that it’s of poor quality when compared to the 35mm cameras it’s designed to imitate.

    It might be something you disagree with, but it’s certainly not ignorance.

    Also I don’t know what the difference could be between a ‘true rangefinder’ and a rangefinder. To my mind it’s either a rangefinder camera or it’s not: styling does not come in to play.

    The only camera I see coming onto the market which could really compete with a compact 35mm film camera (such as the Hexar) is the new Sony RX1. Last I heard it could be more than $3000 (Australian) though, not sure if I’m that keen.

    Reply
      Mike December 5, 2012 at 5:25 am

      Late reply, but here goes:

      We disagree about the X100. Let’s leave it at that.

      The X-Pro1 is not a rangefinder. Fine. But it’s clearly able to operate with a similar spirit as a traditional rangefinder (i.e. stealthy, able to handhold at slow speeds, optical viewfinder, etc). That makes it a comparable, irrespective of its sensor size.

      The RX1 is a great start, but the lack of a viewfinder is a fatal flaw. I’d take the X-Pro1 over the RX1 any day.

      Reply
Joe S. November 7, 2012 at 11:58 am

Intersting writing up! I started to shoot films about 5 months ago. I’m getting the hang of it. My shooting time is for 50% film and the other 50% for digital. Both can coexist well for me. Even though I’m still a fledgling, it’s not atypical at all for me to now say…I buy films!

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nipon November 7, 2012 at 3:12 pm

After using since 2 years a Minox 35,
I just got a Yashica Electro 35 GSN from around 1975, in perfect shape!
This is a aperture priority rangefinder, I’m going to use for my “back to film street photo project”
No risk to see ans digital camera still working in 40 years :-)

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Steve November 8, 2012 at 5:25 pm

one of the best articles Ive read in ages l LOL’ed about the F3′s AK47stopping power. But I think my Mamiya C330 is more bullet proof :-P

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Andrew Mac December 24, 2012 at 11:16 am

I’ll second those comments about the F3. It just gets out of the way and lets you do your work. That’s the best kind of tool.

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Larry January 9, 2013 at 11:46 am

While i DO like film, and am looking to get either the Ricoh GR1/s, or the Konica Hexar AF, i also LOVE the X100 and X-Pro1. I really don’t think the X100 is trying to be anything but the digital camera it is. It may be styled on the Rangefinder aesthetic, but to look at it as a poor copy cat is a bit short sighted. It’s a wonderful camera, plain and simple. Easy to use, small, and doesn’t get in the way. It’s a perfect street camera. Much like the Ricoh and Hexar. The XP-1 is a killer camera as well, and my current shooter. The current Fuji X cameras are taking what is fun about shooting film, and throwing them into a digital system. Not sure what is so bad about that.

Film is also getting pricey to develop as time goes. But that isn’t much a detractor really. Film is great, digital is great. We are in an awesome time to be a photographer. Not to be looking down our noses at digital cameras.

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Tom H March 3, 2013 at 2:17 am

Finding your web site has made my day. I will be 78 years old in June, and have been doing B & W in my own darkroom on and off ever since I was 13 years old. Two years ago I decided my eyes were not the same and sold off my darkroom. Kept my Rolleiflex and my Nikon F3HP and a few old rangefinders. After reading your thoughts here, I am getting out my cameras and ordering B & W film, and I feel like a kid again. I thank you for that ! You, and Japan Camera Hunter have snatched me from being an old man.

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William Kazak December 23, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I enjoyed this story. I am trying to make sense of my “new attitude” I recently bought some B&W film and I have already processed a few rolls with two rolls currently “in the can” awaiting development. Photography used to be all about film to me. I don’t know why I got so far away from film in the last six years. I had achieved a certain attainment with film over many years. I had to learn digital photography and post processing. Now, I want to stop digital and go back to B&W film but it is not possible for me to do that. I should be happier, and just shoot both. I had an idea, with a camera like the new Nikon Df, a person could use a Nikon F100 or F6 for B&W film and a Nikon Df (chrome) for color (or any other digital body). I could use my AF NIkon lenses for both and if my digital Nikon is full frame, my lenses will do what they are supposed to do on both camera bodies. Success. Now, I have to drag out my enlarger with my beautiful APO Rodagon lens.

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