I picked up my copy on eBay from Light Burn Photo’s store last year – a great selection of re-skinned film cameras. The brown leather wrap is right up my alley.
Get this: You have four focusing zones. Close, near, far, and very far. That’s it. You have 1-6 meters to focus, or infinity.
And you can set the aperture, but the camera only has two shutter speeds: 1/200 and 1/40. The ISO dial goes from 25-400. Talk about constraints.
The results are pretty great, though, from what I’ve seen. I loaded a roll of Lomography 400 color film and picked away at it since the fall.
One niggle: the zone focusing is tricky to master. Quite a few of my shots had the wrong zone picked. I almost prefer full manual focus to this system.
It’s super small and light, and almost fully automatic, meaning I can take it anywhere and shoot. And boy, have I.
(Side note: film photography is saving my butt lately. It’s the one experiment that I can mess around with when I feel like it and not feel any pressure to post recent photos. It’s no-pressure photography, and I’m really digging it.)
Think about it: there used to be a photo developing station in every grocery store. You could (and in some cases, still can) pick up film in a gas station. People would print photos and bind them together into books that became family heirlooms. Then it all went away.
But the good news is all on the film side. The other side of the equation – new film cameras – isn’t returning at the same speed as film stock. Why is that?
Leica is doing their thing, but that’s out of the reach of most photographers. Nikon has the F6, still in production, and Lomo does a good business. But from there, medium- and large-format film cameras are the only ones still in production. Where are the new 35mm cameras to meet this growing film demand? Is the demand still not at a level for camera manufacturers to supply new gear?
Not that there’s any reason to worry; there are tons of used film cameras out there waiting to be rediscovered and refurbished (it’s coming up on yard sale season, after all). For the most part, buying a decent film camera is way more affordable than buying a new digital camera.
Maybe that’s when we’ll know film is back in a big way: Pentax, Canon, Fuji, and the rest fire up their film camera production machines again.
So it goes. You push yourself a bit beyond the comfortable, but sometimes it’s a bit too far.
That was the case with my Yashica Electro 35 GS rangefinder, an eBay pickup that I thought would be a fun dip into the camera repair pool. I got it for a great price, not knowing what was wrong with it. But the idea of a fixer-upper appeals to me, after all the work I did repairing and upgrading my Macs and Newtons over the years.
So I bought a Yashica thinking it would be DIY project, like the old days.
None of those resources, however, helped me with the basic problem: fear. Or at least nervousness.
You see, digging into one of these rangefinders feels like taking apart a mechanical watch. These are delicate instruments, with tiny screws and interlocking parts that are engineered within a millimeter of precision.
It’s different that opening up a PowerPC-era Mac and swapping out the RAM. With those, there was plenty of room to work in.
The problems with these older Yashicas, though, are often solved with a soldering gun and precision screwdrivers. The old batteries leak, the wires become corroded, the shutter doesn’t fire. All that information is out there.
Mine? It seemed to be an electrical issue, because the battery check light didn’t come on, even after a fresh battery. There was a bit of leakage from an old expired battery, but nothing too messy. I cleaned the battery compartment, cleaned the contacts, took the bottom plate off to make sure everything looked fine. Nothing.
Then I moved into the top plate, to see what the wiring situation looked like. Sure enough, there were two white wires, one connected to the battery compartment and another from who knows where, hanging loose. To get to the battery wire, I’d have to take a lot of the view finder apart. The other? Who knows.
Eventually, I got to feel like one wrong move and I’ve ruined the darned thing.
So after buying a specialty screwdriver, ordering the custom battery thingy, and taking a look inside, I can reasonably say I have no interest in pursuing this repair further. My comfort level only goes so far.
The good news is that the camera shutter still fires at 1/500, so with a bit of math and some 400 speed film, I can get a good exposure using the Sunny 16 Rule. I loaded a roll of Lomo 400 just for testing, to see what the limits are.
My limits? I think I just found them, thanks to this little Yashica.
The fun part about a hobby is that you can take risks and trying things out with little to no consequence (if you don’t count time or effort).
And so, while I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, this year I’m going to try to do a bit more 35mm film photography.
I just posted my first batch of photos developed from a roll of Fuji Superia film. My local photo shop actually developed them for me last year, but it’s taken me this long to get them scanned and uploaded. I’m also working on a roll of Ilford black and white film that I’m excited about.
All of this film stuff has me thinking about experimenting with film more. Specifically, I want to play with my Tomyko LT002 plastic toy camera. I just loaded it with some Lomography 400 speed color film (if you’re going to go toy/plastic, go all the way, right?). While poking around, doing some research on the camera, I came across some sample images – the type of dreamy photos I’ve wanted to make, just for fun.
(An aside: it’s super hard to find info on these Tomyko – or Lavec – cameras. But you can grab your own for $15 on eBay, or for $5 at a local thrift store.)
Also, I have collected rolls of Kodak Portra and Ektar to try out with my Pentax K1000.
To do all this, there’s a little bit of an investment involved. It takes money to develop and scan the film (though not much), but that’s to be expected with any hobby. And lord knows I know how to spend money on a hobby.
Taking photos with film is different almost automatically. You need some patience, and some selectivity, to make film photos.
That’s my goal for 2014: explore this measured pace. Make thoughtful images. And learn a bit about how people used to make photos.