Modern day digital cameras are wonderful tools which not only can produce amazing results but also are really convenient to use. Compared to the days of film, we are simply spoilt! No longer do we need to choose a film for an occasion, and then be restricted by that choice of film for the entire duration of the roll. And let’s not forget the time spent waiting for your film to be processed.
I am not even go to mention the costs involved with shooting film.
So, why on earth am I writing an article about shooting film photography with a 55 year old camera? Well, this is going to be extremely hard to quantify as there is absolutely no rational reason why anyone would want to use a 35mm film camera that was manufactured in the mid sixties. Apart from the reasons why you should use a digital camera are the same as to why you should use a vintage camera. Or to put it another way – shooting film will make you a better photographer.
Confused? Well, photography can be confusing at times… and it sometimes feels like digital photography has made it all even more confusing. So, lets simplify things by introducing to you the latest camera to join the Friend household…
The Canon Canonet QL25 was released in 1965, which makes it a staggering 55 years old. Now, considering the age and the fact that it shoots film, it shouldn’t come to much of a surprise that there are no real electronics within this camera and it definitely doesn’t have the confusing menu structure of modern day digital cameras – simply because it doesn’t have a menu of any description! It also doesn’t have a screen or any means to review your images and check your histogram – which is just one of the reasons why I recommend that everyone shoots at least one roll of film at some point.
Digital camera screens are something of a double edged sword. Of course they allow you to check all of the above but they can also distract from the actual shooting experience. This is probably why when the modern day Fujifilm X-PRO 3 was released, without a rear screen, that it received a very mixed reception with some reviewers shaking their fists in disbelief whilst others, who remember the joys of using film, doffed their hats.
Of course, if there is no way to check your histogram, how do you know if you have set the correct exposure? Well here is the simple answer – you don’t! But it is suprising how quickly you will learn to determine the correct exposure when shooting film. The unfortunate truth of using digital equipment is that it can make you lazy. I know a number of photographers (myself included at times) who will let their cameras make the majority of decisions regarding exposure and simply adjust the settings after checking the histogram. When shooting film, it is essential to determine exposure before taking a shot – this just has to improve your photography.
Being limited to only a certain number of photos (a.k.a exposures) on a roll is also a very real downside of using film – or is it actually an advantage? The truth is that when you are learning photography, it is actually beneficial to only being able to capture a certain amount of images – especially if every single shot is costing you money. These restraints make you consider the merits of every single shot carefully before you even press the shutter trigger. Think of it as image culling before you actually take the image. Again this process is guaranteed to make you a better photographer.
But film is expensive I hear you all cry! Well, there is no denying that the running costs of using film are definitely higher than using digital. However, the initial cost of equipment can actually be quite modest. The following images were scanned from the first roll of film which I exposed through my new (old) camera.
The camera itself cost me £30 to buy from eBay, and the roll of film cost another £5. The actual cost or processing and scanning of the film was £15 meaning that it cost me exactly £50 to produce these 11 images – Thats a per image cost of approximately £4.50.
However, if I were to continue using film, the cost per image (if I am careful about every exposure and composition) drops down to £0.55 per image, although I would be amazed if I could achieve 100% success rate.
So, of course digital is cheaper but the limitations of film will make you consider every shot far more and will ultimately improve your photography. You could even consider buying a cheap film camera with a view of just helping you to learn photography. If nothing else, I guarantee that shooting film will help you realise that photography doesn’t always need to be complicated and confusing.
Based in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in England’s North-East, Jason Friend is an award-winning professional photographer that specialises in commercial, stock and travel photography.
Jason’s photography career has spanned almost two decades with many incredible highlights including publishing a best-selling book, working for iconic brands such as Microsoft and National Geographic, exhibiting at the renowned Joe Cornish Gallery, and being personally invited to photograph a member of the royal family.