Some years back I visited a friend and fella photographer, Nigel and found he had this fabulous collection of vintage cameras displayed on glass shelving, which made my jaw drop and and my mouth drool. It was truly an outstanding collection of beautiful classics and I have to admit it made me quite envious. By comparison, all I had at the time were three cameras, Agfa Box Camera, a Pentax Auto Compact and a Pentax ME SLR; it was hardly what you would call vintage.
It could have only been a couple of months later, browsing some Old Peoples’ Charity sale in Harare, where I spotted and bought a Balda Super Baldax vintage camera in excellent condition and still in its original leather cover for US$20.00.
“Oh, Nigel will love this.” was my kindly thought and intention and that he certainly was when I phoned to tell him about it. As it turned out I never got around to seeing him again before I left and quite pleased because I had grown very fond of this little gem.
March 2011 saw me arrive to live in the U.K. suit-cased up to the hilt, exhausted and bewildered. Physically, spiritually and mentally, I was in tatters after packing up to leave my old life behind and start a new one ahead.
Recovery for me has always been quick, so once I was settled and enjoying my new status, I was out and about, wide eyed and bushy-tailed keenly shooting hundreds of digital pictures of all things new to me in this beautiful countryside of West Sussex, with my Canon 450D, 18-55mm and 70-300 kit lenses. Naturally I travelled further afield around England but that is for another post. For a preview of what is to come have a peek at my collection of Landscapes
Time moved on and I started thinking about different ways to approach my photography and experiment with it. Looking at the Pentax 40mm lens on my Pentax ME, I wondered how it would fare on my Canon digital. Through research I ordered the correct adaptor and that started my journey into buying Vintage lenses. (See my blog on this subject)
Inevitably, I then began to wonder what it would be like to actually shoot with a film camera again, I was going through a phase of feeling generally uninspired with my photography so I was idly looking for some inspiration, anything to get my ‘mojo’ back.
Then by a casual glance on a stroll around the shops, I spotted a film camera with a vintage Pentax lens in a Charity shop window and bought it mostly for the lens which, when I tried it mounted on my Canon, I captured some very pleasing images indeed.
Hmmm wondered I… film camera + good lens + roll of film in my stock (have no idea when or where from) lead me deciding to try the camera.
They say when the pupil is ready the teacher appears and that’s precisely what occurred quite serendipitous scrolling through the web looking for tips on using film when I came across a small Film Photography Club Neg35 advertising for new members. I joined up and went along for a first meet-up at Bluebell Railway near Sheffield Park to shoot the wonderful old Steam Trains in action and took the Fujica Camera to try it out. To take using film cameras further to the next step, Neg35 organised we all met up again the following day in their studio to learn and practice how to develop the film then move on into the darkroom to process the film then develop and make prints.
The whole weekend experience of shooting black and white film only, developing it and having prints made was a completely new, incredible and wonderful experience for me. It was all about going back to the old but with new eyes. I just loved the how quite different the results were – simply said – it just looked and felt so authentic compared to digital.
I was hooked.
I wanted more, watched videos, did my research and was seduced into buying other makes of 35mm film cameras considered by the ‘enlightened’ as the best/excellent/must have out there. Film photography had suddenly made a huge comeback and I felt quite chuffed to be part of it.
My collection now sits at 13 cameras, which I am quite happy with because one by one I am using them and continually delighted and surprised at how good some have proven to be. Even the real oldies.
These 3 cameras below were lucky finds in the various Charity shops around where I live and were dirt cheap at the time before the film boom really got underway
Popularity for film cameras and photography have pushed up the demand and prices, however bargains can still be found for anyone on the lookout. As good as these cameras can be when bought, one has to remember they are old and in some cases, these cameras have been tucked away for years in a box or bag out of the way. This means light seals may have perished or fungus has developed inside the lenses. Sadly it is usually very difficult or near impossible to remove fungus so do avoid them when buying and look for a cleaner one.
Buying from the internet, I have found that sellers have generally been totally honest to say if there were any issues with the camera or lens. This proved to be extremely beneficial to me in the long run. Through research, I learnt how complex or simple the issues could be on a camera I was considering to buy and the best route to repair it. It inevitably proved a valuable guideline to being a worthwhile purchase or not.
Interestingly, the result from all the research became twofold; I learnt more about the various cameras but more importantly how to fix the simpler problems. This enabled me to repair them myself by watching all the step by step tutorials out there on how to service, clean, oil and replace light seals plus advice on the correct tools to use and how and where to buy them.
(Isn’t it great that there are so many guys out there only too happy to make a video tutorial on everything under the sun!! It’s free to watch!! So big thanks to you peeps for that).
More often than not, when I go out specifically to take photos I will take two cameras with me, my Canon 70D with a 18-135mm lens and one of my film cameras. Since I carry them on a Double Camera Harness, it has proved both extremely useful and very comfortable but can also be a little challenging at times; the harness when I need to go to the loo (I’ll leave you to work that one out) or using the two cameras concurrently on the same subject because the divide between digital and film is fairly wide, yet the film trains me to think before I shoot and the digital helps me with the settings.
The pictures above are examples of when I took the Canon A-1 and Canon 70D out on a field trip to Rye, East Sussex together using this harness. Interesting, though, to see how the ‘Grain’ is on the Black and White photos whereas the colour images have no grain which otherwise would be termed as ‘Noise’.
Nevertheless, lets get back to what this blog is all about, below is a little bit about some of the cameras I have and there are some samples of photographs, taken with them. Click on the images for a larger view:
My dear little Pentax ME has certainly travelled, seen life and captured some history – pardon my personification of this camera but she is my special one for many reasons and in fact I may even do a whole blog on her interesting life alongside images she’s captured. Why ‘She’ you may well ask – well because only a ’She’ could be as pretty as she is, do you not think?
But to keep this short, just to say she was given to me by a Scope Magazine journalist who had been up in Kariba, Zimbabwe covering the Viscounts that had been shot down by terrorists and once done, she decided she no longer wanted this camera.
The camera has been passed around the family over the years, forgotten for a while, then found and finally came back to me a little worse for wear but still working. The Pentax 200mm lens was full of fungus but I managed to find a same model replacement at a very good price. She will need new light seals and some servicing but the images above shows that in spite of all, the B&W photos still have punch and sharpness.
Initially I thought this camera was a write off when I tried to switch it on again not that long ago. The lens did not open and zoom out even though the LCD panel lit up. It had been tucked away in various drawers and boxes once I had gone digital but I’m pleased to say I kept it through all my moves and travels. I didn’t have the heart to chuck it.
Then, from sheer curiosity, I put a new battery in and she jumped back into life with a “Woo-hoo, I’m ready to rock and roll darlin’, film me up and let’s get shootin’!” I did this and what a pleasure to use it again, so easy and my word, I was not at all disappointed with the results, just as before, the pictures are sharp, bright and alive as can be seen in the images above.
This is my ‘Go-To’ and favourite camera when I just want to get out there and have fun capturing what I see. Easy to shoot with without having to worry about all the settings that come with cameras, film and digital, because all one has to do with the K1000 is apply the Sunny 16 Rule and the camera will do the rest, leaving only the focus to be adjusted.
It is such a lovely solid camera to handle, comfortable to hold and honestly feels good walking around taking photos. People often stop me out of curiosity to look at the camera and for street shots when I do ask people for permission to take their photo, they happily agree, some even with amusement.
The Canon A-1
Without doubt, the Canon A-1 is a beautiful camera and remains another of my favourite cameras to shoot with, as there is something very tactile about it and even though it’s built like a tank, it still feels great in my hands with very satisfying mechanical feedback and controls. When I first got it I found it had the dreaded “Canon shutter squeak” common to this series of Canon. However, I found several videos online suggesting ways to fix the issue, bought the oil and tools needed and had it up and running soundlessly very quickly.
It is not a straightforward camera to use like the Pentax K1000 but that’s the joy of it, lots to learn and experiment with and face the flops along with the magical-moments. It was primarily designed for the enthusiast not as a professional model like the Canon F-1 but due to its build, capabilities and dependability it became a favourite of many pros, especially as a back-up camera.
Chinon CE Memotron
This Chinon is what I consider a ‘funny little egg’ of a camera but once I had one, I found reviews very favourable giving it titles like ‘A hidden jewel’ and an ‘Under-rated classic’. The only reason I bought it, was that it has the M42 lens fitting which meant I could use all my Asahi Takuma M42 vintage classic lenses on it.
I have used it only once and did so before reading the instructions fully and later discovered that this camera has some very useful features, if not intriguing features. It is also built like a tank, quite heavy to hold and not that comfortable but nevertheless manageable.
These images above were taken on the same day at Wiston Steam Show and highlight the difference in texture between film and digital taken with a Canon A-1 and Canon EOS70D.
To round off, I have to admit that I totally love the journey of mine into film photography. From the start of loading film into the camera up to the final stage of holding a print in my hands is enormously exciting and satisfying. It’s that beaming grin we all share in a Neg35 group. Of course, there are disappointments along the way, thinking you’ve totally bagged a shot to find afterwards you totally missed the mark – it’s out of focus, under or over exposed or blurred – but these disappointments have made me far more careful and thoughtful with each shot I take as I go along.
My Black & White Photo Gallery shows a collection of photographs that I have scanned, printed, matt mounted and framed and are all for sale. All prints are of high quality having been printed on A4 Canson Infinty Baryta Prestige Fine Art and Photo paper.
Photographs can be purchased either framed or only matt-mounted.
Thank you and cheers to you all for reading my blog, hopefully an enjoyable read for you. I would love to see your comments and read your thoughts on this lovely genre in photography. For more information on purchasing please email me and I will get back to you immediately.