So, what do you need to get going?
It's a minefield, for sure, and a lot of good and bad advice can and will still be had by giving the forums a good search on the interweb. You can just as well get lost into the ocean of details as getting the last bit of good info you will ever need around those places, as you just as well might do in here as well for what I know.
But I will try to give you all my best hints and advice inside here, and only here, in what could become a tiny small series of posts looking at this as seen from my point of view, starting here and now with the most obvious gadgets; the camera and the lens.
If you have been taking a look at some of my latest posts I think I mentioned the end of the film at some point. This is the usual content of one of the film ends. Something more or less totally wasted. Anyway, there's a camera in there, and that's what we will be talking about today.
I would think there's just as many opinions about this as there are photographers around, but here's a few of my own thoughts about it. And yes, I am talking about the bare essentials here, like what do you really need to make a snap stick on film, and how to bring it up to a point where you can actually hold that film strip in your hand and see negatives embedded on that foil.
Loads of you will probably have deep knowledge of what I'm talking about, and I don't have a plan on teaching you guys anything. You know all of this, and probably a whole lot more as well. You may skip the entire post and wait for something completely else to appear some other day :)
Nope! This series is for my son, if he will ever read or listen to a single word of it, and to all of you others out there either too young to have tried this fun stuff before, or the ones of you having grown up with film but lost track of it at some point and now want to give it a go for whatever reason. Look at it as a guide, just like the ones you can find anywhere else around the internet. Some are good, some suck. I don't know which general direction this one's taking yet.
First of all you will need a camera, obviously. With some sort of lens attached that will somewhat fit the way your mind tends to see things. I know it might sound a bit vague, but I will try to explain what I mean a bit later on.
The camera itself can be just about anything you either find hidden away in the attics of your old grandmother, or it can be something you bought from someone via the internet or wherever.
My own experience tells me to stay away from the expensive ones in the beginning unless you are absolutely positively sure that you really want one of them slick machines. They tend to cost a lot of money, and you don't need them to get a good snap to stick on film.
Find something that is more or less light tight, check that the shutter seems to work quite well on the majority of settings (if settings exists, that is), put a film inside and you should be ready to go. It's as easy as that. I kid you not.
Not light tight? Well, you will come a long way with some black or gray tape of some kind. Be creative. You will probably not find out if it's light tight until you have developed your first film anyway, but light tightness usually is not a big problem on any camera.
And it sure is. Another end of another film, and believe it or not another camera in there. With a lens attached and everything.
A point and shoot camera would be the absolutely simplest way to get started, and normally it's also the cheapest way. You should be able to easily find a handsome and still working camera for just a few quid either at a flee market or somewhere inside your own, or some relatives house. Then, after a while if you decide you want to develop either your skills or widen your horizon a bit, you can move to a bigger camera. I am not telling you to stay away from e.g. SLR cameras from the start, if you allready got one available. I am just saying that you don't absolutely need one of those to get the job done.
People ask me questions about cameras from time to time. You know, like what to buy, what's the best brand, how to get the best one for the money, is this one better than that, and so on. Maybe they think I know the answer because I appear to be a bit above averagely interrested in cameras and the mechanics inside them. Truth, however, is that I know very little about the things. Just because you got plenty of something does not automatically make you an expert in the given thing. I think you have to find out what suits you, your needs, your way of taking pictures, and how much gear you want to carry around.
Then it's the fact that the previous use of the thing has a bit to say in how many years it has left to go. It's like any other mechanical device, they get worn out on an individual basis over time.
A totally different type of thing. I like this boxy camera a lot, but I would not exactly recomend this thing to a beginner. Medium format, as it happens. 6x6 cm negs on 120 type film.
You have to find out by using the time as your friend as you go along what suits you and your style the best, and at some point get a camera that most easily fall into your hands and become the right tool for the job you want done. But that's for later. First you simply just need any camera to make you feel the fun.
One thing I'm absolutely sure of though, that the old saying that the camera itself normally has very little influence in the end result, seems to be very close to the truth.
I mean, have a look at the facts stated below around what's actually inside of that black box, and give them a quick thought:
- Light tight black box
- Shutter with standard timings 1s, 1/2s, 1/4s, 1/8s, 1/15s, 1/30s and so on...
- On fancy cameras there's also some way to adjust the aperture on the lens, which also got standard openings e.g: 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6....
And that's more or less it, to be honest. And this goes from the cheapest of the cheap plastic boxes up to the most expensive german rangefinder ever made. They all do the same thing. They do them things more or less complicated, with a different level of repeateable results, at different noise levels for sure. And some are flimpsy and others can be run over by tanks and still be good to go, but they all do the same kind of work if you look at it in the simplest of ways.
That's why I say and believe that any camera should normally be able to make a decent photograph if the box itself holds the light out, and the curtain in front of the film does not let light through when in closed position. And if the timings are more or less good, of course. They don't have to be very good either, but goodish helps a bit.
Then you got mojo, or feel... the things you can't explain. But that, as well, is for later. You will not understand what I'm talking about anyway until some day into the future, and then I can't help you anyway. You have come to a point where you know what you want, and why. For now, let's just be fair and say that a camera is a camera. Period.
There is always a way out, even from Scrabster. There's always a way out of the question on what camera to buy as well.
Following the camera would naturally be some kind of thing to keep everything in focus and help you get the right perspective on things. The lens, as we call it in our daily spoken language, at least over here in Norway. Others might call it something else, and that's fine.
When I talk to my fellow hobby photographers, or even real photographers, I sometimes refer to it as the "objective". Objective is concidered among us to be a bit more correct than just the lens. Both terms will do just fine though, as most people will understand what you mean no matter which of the ones you prefere to use.
The objective will normally have been made of either metal and glass, plastic and glass, or even pure plastic all the way through. And yes, there's a bit of difference in the price between them.
A good lens is worth a lot for a photographer, and will be something he (I say he, but the truth is that we can just as well be talking about a she here!) cares a lot about. A good lens could cost a conciderable lump of money, and is nothing you throw around like any other piece of garbage. A very good and valuable lens could also cost a lot less or next to nothing these days, but don't fall into the temptation of throwing it around like any piece of garbage anyway. They are kind of fragile. Glass, you know...
On some cameras you can change the lens to give your camera different "eyes" to see through, while on other cameras you are stuck with one single perspective only. Typically small P&S cameras got a non removable lens attached, while on the various SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras you can change the way the film will eventually see the scene you point it towards, usually with the press of a button and a following twist of the lens.
Most of the camera manufacturers have changed their standard couplings between cameras and lenses up through the years, making old lenses useless on todays equipment. These would be the ones to look out for in todays market if you want to do things the cheaper way.
The lenses back then were usually built to last, at a high standard both optically and mechanically.
These days we see a bit of difference to that mentality in the production lines, at least for anything but the high-end stuff. More use of plastic, less metal. Some of them are good though, but they got a different feel to them than they used to have. No doubt about that fact.
And what's the point about showing you this then, you might ask. I got absolutely no idea, to be honest. It's something I found deep down in the archives just now... It was kind of cool at the time I snapped it though. Can't see the big fuzz right here and now, to be honest.
Some of us like wide lenses, some prefere normal lenses, and others want them to be long. Most of you know the differences between a tele lens and a wide angle one, but I just want to point out the fact that you will not need them all to start snapping away. You can easily get away with just one, at least if that one lens fit your style of photography, or the situations you most likely will use your camera in.
As a quick guide and attemt in giving a good advice I would say, first of all, don't go extreme if you have no particular idea what your preference is. You will absolutely not need a 600mm lens with a 2x teleconverter to take snaps of your family and friends, or to do street photography or whatever. Neither will a 15mm extreme wide angle lens do you any good if you got no bright idea of why you want that particular lens. There comes a day, usually, when a bell is ringing and you realize that you are a "normal lens snapper" or a moderate wide angle one, or even a moderate tele user. Usually photographers tend to land somewhere inside the "moderate" area of the scale. That said, playing with extreme stuff is fun for most of us for a little or a longer while, and maybe we even need to do just that every now and then to understand what it's all about? Usually though, we end up feeling most comfortable and taking our very best snaps somewhere around that "boring" normal end of things.
As you might have noticed by now there's not to much talk about the different brands around in this particular post. The ones of you having read more of my blog would know that when it comes to SLRs I use Nikons most of the time. Why, you might ask? Well... for no particular reason would probably be one of the best answers I can possibly give you.
I originally started out with a Nikon completely by coinsidence as my first SLR back in the early 80's, and gradually changed to different (but older) nikons a bit later. Just because I already owned a Nikon system, and the fact that more or less all Nikon lenses fit whatever Nikon camera you attach them to just happened to make it the ideal system for me to build on, instead of maybe having cameras and lenses from a variety of manufacturers spread around the house.
What I try to say is that any brand will do the job, and that you can have all the same fun no matter what camera brand you like to go for. Just remember what I pointed out above; all cameras are doing the same thing. They keep the film hidden away from light until you press the trigger to let a few rays of light hit the film. That's basically it.
Seems to have been snapped using a wideish lens. I got no idea on which camera though, but probably one of those Nikon FM2 things I got spread around.
You might draw out of this the conclusion that I am thinking the lens would be more a driving factor than the camera itself, and I think I will have to answer that with a yes. As for now, anyway. There still is a couple of things to say about the camera, and why I personally am a bit picky about what I use.
Batteries. For my own hearts well being I can't stand batteries for this and batteries for that. Power me up here, and power me up there. Wind this film on or off, wind it to the next frame, drive my motorized fancy automatically focusing lens please. Make this camera work... or not. Drives me crazy at times, both the issues and the sound and noise of all that winding. Sometimes I like it though, but most of the time not.
At one point back in time I just threw it all in, turned completely around and got myself a fully manual camera. The only thing inside the box using a battery was this totally stupid light meter disconnected from all camera functions, and the camera itself works just as well without that metering thing and also if the batteries drops stone dead, as they do. That's a good thing for me, and my heart, and my mental health.
But that's just me, and does not have to be valid for anyone else. My view on these things leave me with a bit more thinking and a bit more time used on focusing and winding film forwards and aft. It also excludes me from the world of automatic exposure and aperture priority cameras, more or less.
But for the good sake of things, and just to have it mentioned; I own a couple of battery driven cameras as well. I am a stubborn man, but not to that degree... I like to think.
And what more would there be to say? Nothing much, actually. Go find your grannys old Minolta, Pentax, Olympus, Kodak or whatever camera, and start having some good old fun.
Open google and find someone still dealing with film, buy a roll of the right size and start snapping away.
In the next section of this series you will most likely find out what basics you will need to get the roll developed more or less inside your own kitchen. At least if you remembered to buy a black and white film and leaving the fancy colored C-41 marked stuff be, that is.
There's nothing much you will need, but there's a few essentials I'm afraid. Stay tuned, and I will do my very best to give you a simple guided tour through most of it.