A couple of weeks ago I bought my first film camera on a whim in an eBay auction. The story of my progression with photography is not unlike many newer photographers’ in that I’d only ever shot a digital camera. I’m not sure exactly what prompted my purchase (probably an image I saw on /r/itookapicture), but I’d always felt regret in that I didn’t take photography in high school, where I could have learned to shoot and develop film. When I learned that Canon made film cameras with the EOS mount, meaning I could use all of my lenses on one, it was pretty easy to narrow down the selection. Note: all of the photographs in this post were taken with the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art, with the exception of the one below, which was taken with the 6D and 85mm f1.8.
The Elan 7e debuted in 2000 for $800. I picked one up 16 years later for $45 in like-new condition. I’m calling that a steal. The Elan 7e has auto-focus, aperture/shutter priority and many of the other modern features you’d find on any new DSLR, other than an LCD. This made for a relatively seamless adjustment in shooting-familiarity. It’s a modern trend to emulate the look of classic films [read: Instagram]. I emulate the look of Kodak Ektar 100 in nearly all my portrait photography having never actually shot a roll of Ektar 100. My other favorite films that I’ve never actually used include Agfa Vista 100, Kodak Gold 200, Kodak Portra 400 and Fujifilm Velvia 50. My knowledge of film-emulations made the shopping experience a lot easier. I picked up a 4-pack of Fujifilm Superia 400 (because it is cheap — $10.40) and started shooting.
If you’re doing the math, we’re about $55 invested. Shooting film becomes expensive as things develop (see what I did there?). It doesn’t have to be, however. You can develop B&W and C-41 color film at home pretty affordably, but I’m not at that point yet. Remember 1-hour photo development? Yeah, that doesn’t exist anymore. I paid $16 and it took eight days. Eight days…for 24 exposures. I could shorten the turnaround time to 3-4 days by shipping out my rolls to online-based film labs for web-upload. I figure on a 24-exposure roll of film, it costs me about $1.10 per exposure.
The truth is, there is nothing* that a film camera can do that a modern full frame DSLR can’t. With film emulators like VSCO, you could emulate Superia 400 to near perfection. There is still something special about shooting film, however. There is something magical that happens in the moment after you click the shutter and know that magic just happened — at least that’s how I feel about it. *It forces you to slow down. With modern technology, you could shoot a portrait session at 14 frames per second if you wanted to. You can take several shots of a landscape before you get the exposure just right. You can delete a frame when it doesn’t come out exactly the way you want. When you’re shooting film, “you’ve only got one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted.” – Eminem 2002
Sorry about the Eminem reference. My hope is that shooting film will make me a better photographer and to be honest — I feel it already has. Earlier this week I went out in downtown Glens Falls with my Canon 6D + 17-40mm f4L and took this photo in exactly one total exposure. I can’t remember the last time I went out and took one photo. Granted, my battery was about to die, but the practice of slowing down is present.
In fact, if I’m counting, I would call 20/24 of my exposures a keeper. As in, the focus is sharp, the exposure is right and the subject or content is interesting. That is an exceptionally high keeper-rate for me. Especially if you consider the older auto-focus technology and my obsession with wide apertures. On digital, my keeper rate is much lower.
I won’t be using my Elan 7e for any professional work, but for personal use and for the therapeutic process. If you’d like to see more of my photography, be sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook. Also, if you’d like to see some more modern day film photography, I recommend checking out /r/analog.
Thanks for reading,