On a bit of a whim, I recently bought an old (circa 2000) Nikon F80 film camera, in order to force myself into some better habits when it came to taking picture. It’s all too easy to shoot off loads of pictures and adjust or fix later, when if the picture was captured correctly in the first place it wouldn’t need such follow-up!
So a film camera is ideal, as you don’t know what you’ve got until the film has been developed. I chose the F80, as most of my existing Nikon gear is compatible, about half of my lenses, and one of my flash units work with no issues at all (you may see some pictures of it in my Instagram feed.)
So far, so good. Film is available fairly readily via Amazon, ebay and in-store at places like Snappy-Snaps. So I’ve stocked up on various black and white films that I used to use in my youth (Ilford HP5+ and Delta 400) and I’ve also got some Kodak Portra, a colour film that’s perfect for portraits. Taking the pictures has been a real pleasure, with a really satisfying sound coming from the camera (the shutter followed by the film advance) and it really has made me slow down and think about taking a picture. I’ve found that when taking pictures of my daughters at Hartsholme Park, I made sure they were exactly where I wanted them, and looking in the right direction before taking the shot!
As for developing the film, I’ve so far gone back to Snappy Snaps in Lincoln – they can do a 1-hr process and scan service with the colour film, but have to send the black and white away, which can take a week and a half! I may investigate sending black and white away directly to Ilford, to save time. I doubt I’ll gear myself up with developing tanks and chemicals – I just won’t be doing enough to make it worthwhile.
The next problem is how to get the pictures into the computer for further processing, and of course sharing. The obvious answer is to get the negatives scanned when they’re developed. The only issue is that the pictures are relatively low-resolution, and are quite compresses JPEG images – which doesn’t leave a lot of room for further tweaking. But I think I may have hit upon a solution: using a digital camera! Yes, it may seem odd to take a picture with a film camera, and then take a picture of that picture with a digital camera, but I’m finding that this really is the best way.
Here’s the kit I use:
- One of my DSLRs (crop-frame),
- A 20mm extension tube (moves the lens further away from the camera to allow close-up pictures),
- 35mm lens
- Nikon ES-1 slide copying device (which I think dates from the '70s!)
It all goes together like this:
The basic idea is that the film negative is held in the ES-1, and I then take a picture of it at 24 megapixels in full quality. I can then import this into the Mac as usual and edit as required. Clearly, there’s some tweaking to do – turning it from a negative to positive for a start – but it’s actually kind of fun. The ‘look’ you achieve with film is certainly different from digital, so it’s been great to explore a different way of taking and making photographs.
To end, here are a couple of shots from a recent engagement photoshoot – let me know what you think. Would anyone be brave enough to have their entire photoshoot taken on film?