I became further interested in photography a few years ago, and got myself a Sony RX100. Not completely satisfied with the ergonomics and control (though a great pocket snapper), I bought a cheapish Nikon D5100. This black plastic beauty became a much used companion on our 2013 trip to Singapore and Hong Kong, where it was splashed, banged, bumped, and endured both the chilly air-conditioned environment of hotel rooms and the stifling humidity of equatorial geography.
I started to think about my past experiences with cameras and, given my age, inevitably remembered having to load film into cheap cameras. Back then I couldn’t even afford mid-priced 35mm SLRs, and had to make do with hand-me-downs and cheap plastic things, including the rectangular Agfamatic, a cheap Advantix APS camera (easy but nasty), and a Chinon auto camera my Dad had originally bought in Singapore. This last happened to be the best film camera I owned back then, until the motor drive gave up halfway through rewinding a roll.
So, yesterday I popped open a few fresh rolls of Kodak 400 Ultramax (cheap and still widely available) and tried loading it into both an Olympus OM10 and a Praktica MTL5. I can now say one important thing to you: if you haven’t loaded film in a while, please read the instructions first !
In my haste to load the film for an impending trip, I failed to load either camera properly. I only realised this after winding on several times, exposing some frames, and then finally glancing at the pictorial instructions. I then realised that I’d either pushed the film leader over the wrong side of the spool, or had simply overextended the film leader and it was getting tangled up. So, I rewound both rolls and popped them out.
I’d guess that most of the new digital generation would find this little struggle amusing. They’d likely suggest that I buy myself a digital camera and leave behind the aged world of chemical emulsion. Of course, I already have a few excellent digital cameras and need no convicing of the benefits of this technology. I suspect that my interest in film and old film cameras is largely driven by nostalgia. And yet, I can’t help thinking that Nikon’s current flawed campaign to move everyone to their full frame FX cameras can easily be answered by a $10 35mm film camera and a fresh roll of film! After all, it’s still the cheapest way to go full frame, right?
Apart from the obvious merits of digital cameras, I think that film cameras respresent a slower world; one where there was no internet and no social media; a world where you had to think carefully about your composition because every frame cost you money; where the journey was often more important than the developed photo; and where we still passed around photographs with excitement after receiving the much anticipated envelope from the local One Hour Photo.
The above points are, perhaps, a better fit for a more involved post, but in this age of instant gratification and photos on a screen, it’s still refreshing to pick up an old camera and load it with a roll of film. Even if it’s not loaded right the first time!