I love everything about shooting film. I love the feel of it, I love the cameras, I love the surprise of seeing the images, I love the community. I love it so much I set up my own film photography podcast called Matt Loves Cameras.
When you immerse yourself in film, it’s not long before you seek out others to share your joy of this incredible medium. The vast majority of my interactions with the community have been positive, but there are things I wish film photographers would stop saying. I recently published Five Things I Wish Film Photographers Would Stop Saying. Here is a follow-up article with five more things.
As I said last time, film photographers all over the world continue to delight and inspire me. So, even if you say any of the things on this list, I still love you, we can still be friends. Just keep shooting film.
‘Don’t Buy Expired Film, It Takes Business Away From Film Companies’
As we say here in Australia: yeah, nah. Yeah, I know what you’re saying, but nah, you’re wrong. This may have been an issue 10-15 years ago when people bought up dirt cheap piles of the expired film when the masses moved to digital. This was frowned on by some film shooters, as they desperately wanted people to buy fresh film and support the struggling industry.
These days, ads for expired film generate a lot of excitement in the community. Many newcomers are keen to try out emulsions they’ve never used before, and often, expired film is more expensive than fresh.
The only time I buy expired film is when it comes in a brick of 10 rolls or more. I always shoot the first roll as a test, bracketing exposures on the roll to see how it has held up in storage. I always have a project in mind for the expired film that I wouldn’t do with fresh film.
‘That Camera Is Only Worth $2!’
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen “hilarious” comments on sale ads for point and shoot cameras.
“That thing is only worth 50 cents,” one snob will say. “I got mine for $2 at a charity shop; that’s all it’s worth,” replies another. No one questions the current market value of an Xpan, Mamiya 7, or RB67, but all bets are off when it comes to an Olympus Stylus Epic.
Suggesting a camera is only worth $2 because that’s what you paid for it is absurd. If you really believe that, I’m happy to buy those 100 Bitcoin off you for what you paid five years ago.
The truth is that there is no set value for cameras, only market value. A camera is worth what a buyer is prepared to pay for it at any given moment of time. The price of commodities rises and falls with supply and demand: 10 years ago, many film cameras were in the bargain bin, these days, not so much.
Do some people pay more than market value for cameras? Sure, just like others do for cars, houses, stocks, cryptocurrency, jewelry, and a million other commodities. If you picked up an Olympus Stylus Epic for 50 cents, you were either very lucky, the seller didn’t know its true value, or you bought it when demand was low. If you manage to pick up any kind of film camera for next to nothing, regardless of what make and model it is, you got a pretty good deal.
‘Film Is Too Expensive’
Film is too expensive huh? Maybe you should think about another hobby, like learning to fly, scuba diving, or gambling. That may sound harsh, but film photography is a niche within a niche these days. Quite honestly, we’re lucky it’s still around after the swift and merciless move to digital in the early 21st century.
Film and processing cost money, that’s true, but there are budget-friendly ways to get into film. Many people bulk-load their own B&W film and home development to keep costs down.
If like me, you’d rather pay for a lab to do your developing and scanning, look on the bright side: you’re helping to keep a vital part of film infrastructure alive. There’s one more silver lining: if you invest in film cameras, in a few years, there’s a good chance they’ll be worth a lot more than you paid for them. That’s a scenario digital shooters can only dream of.
Film photography can be a little confusing for newcomers, especially when it comes to film formats and sizes. Try telling a newbie that 4×5 is bigger than 6×9.
One of the most common mistakes in the film is to call 120 film “120mm” film. I’ve seen people do it a couple of times this week already. Perhaps the confusion arises because, for many, an entry to the world of the film starts with 35mm film. So therefore, the bigger medium format is 120mm, right? Wrong.
So, if it doesn’t denote size, what’s with the name 120? The answer lies in Kodak’s numbering system. At the dawn of the 20th century, there were many types of roll film, each a slightly different size. Trying to work out which film went with which camera wasn’t straightforward, so Kodak numbered their films in order of when they were first launched.
The film that we all know and love has been with us since 1901 and was called “120.” For the record, it’s approximately 61mm wide. There are some anomalies with the Kodak system, though. As the 20th century wore on, they abandoned the way the numbering worked. In 1934, they skipped over a whole heap of numbers to give 35mm still photography film the logical number 135. They also started reusing numbers for entirely different types of film. Both 110 and 126 were originally types of roll film, but both numbers were reused in the 1960s and 1970s with the advent of 126 and 110 cartridge film. They abandoned numbers altogether with later formats such as Disc and APS.
‘The Best Camera for a Beginner Is a Pentax K1000’
Who the heck decided this? It’s one of the most quoted bits of advice I see. It seems to have its roots in the fact that many high school students in the old days began with the humble K1000. With this recommendation is an assumption: beginners must learn to shoot on manual and master the exposure triangle. Wrong. Although some love to start with the fundamentals of photography, it puts others off. Some people just want to shoot a film because they think it looks fun and they like the look. Shoving a camera like the K1000 in their hands could do more harm than good.
The truth is that if you want an absolute beginner to get into film, give them a point and shoot. They can take it everywhere, and they won’t need to worry about exposure or focus. This will free them up to concentrate on composing images and having fun. If they love it, they might even want to learn more about photography and master the exposure triangle shooting with a fully manual film camera.
That concludes part two of this series. What do you wish film photographers would stop saying? Tell us in the comments below.