Revenge of the Analog: Film Cameras

For the discussion of cameras, of the “non-digital” variety.

My daughter got an Instax camera for Christmas - think “Polaroid,” if you’re of a certain age. Point-n-shoot, flash, and… well, yeah. Instant film.

As a result, I was motivated to get an old Canon AE-1 back operational - which, I’d note, still has film in it. I’m planning to run through [whatever] is on that, and then put some black and white film in for art photography purposes.

I know some other people here have been playing around with the film variety of cameras, so, discussion thread of such!


With digital, I certainly shoot “all the photos.” And sort later. Or, at least, tell myself I will. Last time I shot analog much, back in high school, I was a lot more careful with framing and the like.

I’m also considering doing a photo album of the last 20 years of my digital photos, at least the ones I think worth saving - get them printed on low acid archival print paper, and add some context. The Redneck Ricer, as a car, needs to exist in more than just the remaining digital form!

Happy to join in here. Was recently given a Miranda Sensomat 35mm camera and, after some hacking on the electronics for the light meter to allow it to use modern (read: actually available) batteries (it was originally designed for a mercury-based chemistry that is illegal to manufacture these days), it now has a roll of Ilford 400 B&W in there. We’ll see how it turns out! I started photography with a fairly inexpensive Nikon 35mm SLR in university, and took a great many photographs with which I am still fairly pleased. The process of seeing and shooting was definitely different then, and it was a pleasant sort of meditation, I found. Though it did mean that fast moving stuff like kids, sports, and sidewalk candids were more difficult to pull off without expensive gear, lots of light, and very fast (comparatively) films.

That said, I think going digital really did kill my enthusiasm for photography to a large extent as I became less focused on what was there and how to see it and more focused on trying to capture a lot - whether that was a lot of subjects or a lot of shots of the same one, rather than spend the time to really engage with a subject for a while and wait until I’d found a proper composition before pressing the shutter release.

I’m still shooting a little bit in film (though really need to get 3 or so developed), while I’ve a range of analog cameras the three that get the most use are:

  • Olympus XA compact rangefinder - Lovely little compact clam shell rangefinder from 79
  • Minolta X-300 - A fairly typical 1980’s SLR with working meter
  • Minolta SRT-101 - a 1960’s SLR, lovely camera incredible solid block of metal but the meter is iffy with modern batteries so mainly shoot full manual

They’re fun to use but the limited number of film processors locally and the fact they’re all manual focus means they’re mainly used for landscapes when traveling (not much of that in the last couple of years). Rather than the family and kid focused photos that tend to currently dominate my shooting.

Years of people doing that argues that you can do perfectly good kid photography when out and about.

In full sun, set your shutter at whatever puts your f-stop around 16, set your lens to be wide focus (hang infinity at the f-16 mark, and you’re probably good from about 4-5’ to infinity on a typical lens), and you should be fine!

I’m well aware of that, outside in good daylight can be okay. But indoors, or outdoors with fast movement that’s an entirely different story. It’s not a question of can it be done, it can, but it’s a question of what is the probability of getting a good shot for something you want to remember. Staged photos of the family or group work fine and you don’t need F16 for that, but candid shots from a distance with a 55-135mm lens for family/kid shots and F16 doesn’t really cut it, not to mention the limitations on shutter speed for the older manual film cameras 1/500 or 1/1000.

Even with digital the success rates for fast moving kids or toddlers who won’t sit still is low if you want a clean non-blurry shot requiring multiple shots. With film and especially typical ISO100-400 film you could end up blowing half a roll to hopefully get a good shot and then find out later you’ve missed it.

Film and manual focus cameras are great and a lot of fun to use, but they have there limitations and they’re not designed to do everything at once like a digital camera.

I suppose I view that as a “Understand the limits of your equipment and don’t try to make it do things it can’t do.” Though, I’ll certainly agree that the right device for fast moving toddler pictures seems to be an iPhone. Thar be magic. And that’s just on the 2020 SE, not even one of the “flagship camera” ones.

I’m aware there are things I’m in the process of giving up with a reduction in digital, but neither do I mind that. There are a lot of things I give up with digital, so I plan to blend things as appropriate. I’m certainly not using a film camera to capture random photos of stuff to post on eBay.

… also, what’s wrong with 1/500 or 1/1000? Are you shooting solar photos or something on ISO 1600? I’ve not found 1/1000 to be a serious limit on anything, despite years of shooting film back in the day.