ADVENTURES IN FILM: VOL 1
TLDR: If you wanna pass on the details and get right on it, scroll down to see the scans.
With some encouragement from my mentor, Don, and the young hipster folks on YouTube have put my toes in the water on the task of using film again. Has been at least 30 years since I have shot a film camera. —Those disposable cameras at Jessie’s wedding back in the late 00’s don’t count—haha. Today, I (on purpose) woke up at Zero Dark Stupid hour, grabbed my 64oz travel mug of coffee, camera bag loaded out with film set up and jumped in the car. Drove to Northern Arizona with intention to hit several spots along the famed highway AZ 89A. My main goal was to get film through the cameras. Task was to get used to handling and using these pieces of gorgeous retro-tech and make sure no mechanical issues are present in function or, as yet to be developed, any light leaks. I currently have 3 film cameras, each one is unique in its own way. Here’s how it went…..
CAMERA 1 - ‘The Gateway Drug’ - Holga-120Pan - 120 Panoramic Camera
Gateway Drug for sure. ‘Hey, ya’ll got any more of that Holga?’ Super cool pinhole type camera images on a 6 x 12 negative…what? I love panorama shots almost as much as I love morning coffee, two creamers two sugar please. Camera is 100% plastic, yes, even the lens. Check it out, you most likely will begin to feel the film-based junky itch.
My first outing with the Holga shot two rolls, 1 roll Portra 400 and 1 roll HP5. My overthinking took the printed specifications as ‘facts’ with a blind eye to the reality this thing is all plastic and engineered almost as fine as a dollar store flip-flop. The right flip-flop, not the left one, the right one always breaks first. Allegedly the camera has a f/8 or f/11 setting. So, knowing would be outdoors in the blazing relentless Arizona sunshine I used my Z7 to mock-up same specs. ISO 400 film, f/8 vs f/11 and Holga has a fixed shutter of 1/100. The Z7 on my patio during a blazing Arizona afternoon read 6 stops to balance exposure. So, my overclocked thought process I figured out how to strap couple ND filters onto Holga to balance exposure.
Well, that was stupid….roll of HP5 was barely exposed at all. And, brilliance in action over here….drove to a new location so put the lens cap back on the Holga—gahawd forbid get that high-end plastic lens scratched. Holgas use a plastic viewfinder to roughly frame up a shot, are not looking through the lens. So, for a full roll of 120 film I shot with the lens cap on. My friend Wendy would say, ‘Sugar, is a good thing you are pretty…’
CAMERA 2 - ‘The Old Man’ - Yashica Electro35 GSN
This camera belonged to a family friend. When he passed away the camera made its way along to me. This thing is kinda cool looking in that old-ass camera kind of way and has been sitting on shelf in my living room for 4 or 5 years. Yashica made about a zillion copies of this camera back in the 1960’s into the early 1970’s. It was among the first (almost) fully automatic or point and shoot cameras available to the masses. Is an Aperture priority Rangefinder camera.
‘A’ priority means the camera’s automation tells you if have too much or too little light for a given scene, you adjust the aperture ring, then it figures out the rest of the exposure. Rangefinders are a way of focusing prior to 'Through The Lens' SLR cameras, it uses a prism to align a point in the viewfinder to yield focus….and also a large amount of guesswork by the photographer. This, ‘I dunno, looks about right I guess’ focusing system can be somewhat overridden by cranking the focus dial to 11 at the infinity mark and not getting very close at all to any particular subject. Is certainly an odd system for sure by today’s standards, kind of like the modern day use of a fax machine, but evidently it was the real deal back in the day. Finally decided to find a battery for the thing and loaded up a roll of 35mm HP5.
CAMERA 3 - ‘The 90’s Rock Star’ - Pentax 645N
After getting bit by the film bug and smelling that the sweet, sweet aroma of a freshly opened film canister I knew I had a problem on the horizon because once I commit to something, I’m Ride or Die for sure mos def to the max. Like an ex-smoker taking a first drag in years, what better way to feed an oncoming addiction than to overdose, right?
The hipster photographer peeps on YouTube can’t all be wrong, running around using up expired and hard to find old film stocks shooting abandoned places neon signage gas stations and basic random scenes from everyday life, could they? I wonder who was the first hipster vlogger to post an, ‘I shot this with film’ as the Genesis Seed first video? Kind of like that band Green River back in 90’s Seattle was one the first Grunge bands on SUB POP before the sound made it out of the PNW to rest of the world. Just waiting there under the surface ready to break on through.
The cool thing about this camera is in the name, 645. Refers to the size of the negative which is 6 x 4.5 cm. What the eff is a centimeter? I dunno, about 0.39 inches but who is keeping track of the math. It's a Medium Format camera which means it is round about-ish almost 3x the size of a 35mm frame. So ya, that's cool as Fonzie waterski jumping sharks, Honey Bunny. It's an SLR from the late 90's so has all the bells and whistles would expect from a semi-pro camera of its day. Its days were numbered however, as the 'Digital Revolution' had already begun.
HERE IS WHAT DEVELOPED
-- We ever going to get to any actual photographs or what?--
For sure, here you go, can you smell the developer yet?
First, forgot the film advance needs to go two frames for the panoramic image size so the first half this roll of film were double exposed. Not sure if a tripod would help but the high-end plastic lens is super soft. Shot on HP5.
For a 50 year old camera this thing worked surprisingly well. Shot 1 roll of HP5 and a second roll of expired Kodak Gold 200. The 200 was a bit slow for this camera and the HP5 is a 400 box speed, possibly a bit fast in the blazing Arizona sun.
The look from this camera is back to the 90's for sure. It is heavy. It is loud. Makes real nice medium format negatives. Shot on Portra 400.
The overall experience using these cameras over a couple of weekends was undoubtedly a fun time. Shooting photos without the instant reward of the digital image is both a bit frustrating as well as it makes you stop and think about what are doing because cannot take an infinite number of shots and pick through the pile for the best ones. Am I going to continue to shoot film? I dunno, am feeling partly cloudy on that question. Most likely, yes, however when it comes to film what became abundantly clear not only from the resulting images but the physical act of handling the cameras in creating these photos is the gear does in-fact matter.
The sheer weight and bulkiness of the 645 means it will most likely end up back on an eBay listing in a short period of time. I really enjoyed using the 35mil, is compact, lightweight and simply fun to shoot. Being the Electro is 50 years old and its history with my family, most likely it is going back on the shelf in the living room as it would be heartbreaking to damage or lose the thing during an adventure wandering around outside. The Holga? Is going in the recycle bin immediately. That being said and after trying these different cameras out, I do like the allure of using film. An aside from its digital descendants, using film presents a unique puzzle and in ways keeps you grounded a bit by being forced to think about what it is are doing.
Perhaps is a good time to look up a very old friend of mine, the Pentax K1000.