Get into film! (part 1)

Starting out can be rough. Read on for a primer on how to get gear and start shooting.

Vivitar 450pz; Kodak Tri-X expired 2005 @ box speed; hc 110(b) @ ISO 800

Get into film! Up first, the camera. You will likely buy used or steal a relative’s camera. As we can see in the shot above, even a $20 point and shoot can get good results. Don’t think that you need a Leica or something. Your first film camera will likely be an SLR or a Rangefinder.

  • Rangefinders (Canonet, Hi-matic, etc.) focus using a viewfinder in the corner of the body. What you see is a slightly different angle from what the lens sees (parallax). This is only a thing up close though. They usually let you see a bit of the area around the frame, so you can see if something is about to enter your photo.
  • SLRs (AE-1, x-700, etc.) let you see what the lens sees. Good because you don’t need to worry about parallax, bad because you can’t see if something is about to pop in your frame.

When buying used from auction sites or local sellers, pay attention to the descriptions. Avoid ‘as is’ and ‘untested’. Unless you are willing to re-do light seals or pay for a CLA (clean, lube, adjust) service, it’s a gamble. 2-3 business days later you may end up with a paperweight.

The Mr. Reasonable spend tally:

📷: $140 Canon AE-1 Program + 50mm 1.8

Minolta X-570; Fuji Superia 400 @ box speed; c41

Once you’ve got your camera, the first thing to do is run a test roll through it. Get something cheap, like Fuji Superia or Kodak Gold. These are still available in many local drug stores. Buy a multi-pack if you can.

As you test your camera, try various settings and take some notes (frame #, mode, shutterspeed, aperture, etc.). Try fast and slow shutterspeeds, metering off of different things, various lighted situations, various apertures, different modes (if applicable), but do NOT change the ISO from the box speed of the film. Also, do not get emotionally attached to anything you shoot with this roll. It is a test roll. If your camera is not functioning properly, the roll and everything on it may be garbage.

Finished your test roll? Cool, let’s check in on the wallet.

The Mr. Reasonable spend tally:

📷: $140 Canon AE-1 Program + 50mm 1.8

🎞: $16 Fuji Superia X-tra 400 (36 exp) 3-pack

💸: $156 all in

Minolta 650si; Cinestill 800t @ box speed; c41

Up next is developing. More specifically, having your test roll developed. There are a few options for those in the states. Many drug stores and Walmart will develop and give you digitized scans with your prints. Unfortunately, they will also toss your negatives in the garbage because they’re jerks.

If you have a local camera shop with a lab, that is likely your best bet. You can also mail your film away. The Darkroom is great for that, but there are others you can find on the web.

Something to understand is that when you receive your scans/prints, they have been altered from the original ‘flat’ state. Meaning that in addition to a crop, many labs will adjust contrast, exposure, and saturation during/after scanning. You can avoid that by asking them no to, or by scanning the negatives yourself (more on this in the next post).

The Mr. Reasonable spend tally:

📷: $140 Canon AE-1 Program + 50mm 1.8

🎞: $16 Fuji Superia X-tra 400 (36 exp) 3-pack

🧪: $18 Develop and scan 1 roll via snail mail (low quality scans)

💸: $174 all in

Thanks for reading! Check out part 2

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