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Giving Film a Go

Considering shooting with film? Then you should have a little read and I shall try to give you some compelling reasons as to why I think it is a good idea.

My name is Bellamy Hunt and I run the Japancamerahunter website, and I am an avid film shooter. Now, before we get started, this is not an argument about digital vs. film. Both have their merits and both have their flaws, and I shoot with both. This is primarily a piece for people who are considering shooting film for the first time, or perhaps getting back into film after a long absence.

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Shooting film is not some deep dark mystery and it is not an outdated form either. It is still a perfectly valid form, which is actually not dying, contrary to popular belief. In fact film shooting is actually going through a renaissance at the moment with the resurgence of Polaroid through the impossible project and groups like Lomo.

This has bought film to the attention of people who may not be familiar with the medium and I hear about more and more people who would like to give it a try. But why? Why would you give film a try? Isn’t it terribly expensive?

Well, it doesn’t have to be.

Make it cheap

There are a few ways to make it a cheap experience. You can buy generic non-branded films from bigger stores. The secret is that these films are actually reloaded film, minus the brand name. They are Kodak or Fuji in a different box. And they are often a lot cheaper. If you are feeling adventurous you can re-load film yourself. Kodak and Ilford still make bulk rolls of film, which you can put into a film loader and re-load your old cartridges. Doing this brings the price down massively, it is also a very relaxing way to spend an evening.

Developing also doesn’t have to be a killer. Doing it yourself is obviously the cheapest way, working out to be pennies per roll. It is also a lovely learning experience that can yield some really exciting results. But if you don’t have the space or time then you can still get the big supermarkets and drugstores to develop on the cheap.

Shooting film is not as expensive as you might think, and the rewards make the outlay worth it.

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Take your time

Shooting film makes you take your time, unless you are the reincarnation of Garry Winogrand. You have 36 shots to a roll and you want to make them count so you become much more aware of what is going on around you.

In my opinion it makes you a better photographer too. You will not be able to fire off a burst of 10 shots, just to get one image. You will have to be careful about your settings, your composition and content, it is a disciplined approach to photography.

It will also give you patience. Unless you are developing when you get home you are going to have to wait for a couple of days for your shots, and that gives you time to think about what you shot and how you might be able to do it better.

There is also the magic of getting those negatives back and seeing your pictures sealed on film, there is nothing like that feeling, especially when you see a picture that you are really proud of.

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But film cameras are so hard to use!

No they are not. There are many many different types of film camera out there, so I guarantee there is something for everyone. You want a rangefinder? No problem. An automatic compact? Got it. A 360 spinning camera? Yup.

On my site I have written extensively about different types of cameras and the cameras that are available for all different budgets. You don’t have to spend the earth to get into shooting film. Budget rangefinders and compact cameras can be bought for as little as $50. Compare that to your new Nikanontax D3600X4 and you are looking at a camera that can give you a lot of fun for the price of a nice meal.

Obviously you can spend a lot more, but that is up to you. Remember though, many of your modern DSLR and rangefinder cameras use the same lenses as your film camera, so you will be able to crossover with the minimum of fuss.

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The magic

I mentioned before about the magic feeling of looking at your negatives. Well, this is real. There is something different about film and you can tell the difference between a film image and a digital image immediately. Film has a glow and tone that still cannot be obtained by digital. Digital images are almost too clean, too real. You never know quite what you are going to get with film. Each roll is different, each emulsion is different and that is the fun of it. Changes in temperature or the age of the film can have an effect on the way things turn out.

There are so many different types that you can endlessly experiment. I shoot digital for work and it is stable and fast. But it is the same, the same for each and every sensor. Which is why I shoot film for my personal work.

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One last thing

Film cameras are gorgeous. Really. I have a passion for film cameras and I love they way they look. Nowadays all of the cameras that come out are generic machines, they don’t have any flair or quirks, they are designed to be good at what they do, which is fine. But film cameras are quirky and different. Some of them are brilliant at what they do, some of them have little eccentricities that make them all the more interesting. But all of them come from a time when they really cared about making cameras not just a practical object, but a thing of beauty too.

So, why not give film a go, you might be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Do you need some more help? Need to find a camera? Then let me help you.

Many thanks

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