Following on from the G20 protests in London that our little photo collective covered as our contribution to alternative media, certain “incidents” occurred that led to a conversation between one of my photojourno mates and I.
To the effect that, ideally, when covering events of that nature (“full on” protests etc where there’s a likelihood of somewhat less than friendly encounters with the cops) it’d be a good idea to have a backup camera in reserve.
Specifically, a camera absent some particular features that seem to be fitted as standard on most digital cameras.
Now there were very good reasons for this discussion, about which I intend to say absolutely nothing at all. And there are good reasons for that too! Heh heh.
Well, after a lot of back and forth with this conversation we concluded that a distinct possibility would be a good old-fashioned film camera.
“Just my luck” thinks I, memories still painful of my previous experiments with film cameras many years ago now, which I’m sure I must have related elsewhere.
The long and the short of it being, I’d pretty much concluded that I’m absolutely useless with a film camera… dunno how they work; don’t understand ’em; don’t want to understand them; can’t use them.
Digital photography’s definitely my thing. If I tried using film I’d prob’ly manage to expose the film on shoving it in or pulling it out of the camera (if I ever sussed out how to get it in the camera without jamming the damn thing in the first place of course. Yep! Been there, done that, got the tee-shirt).
Or I’d end up with a load of out-of-focus shots; overexposed; underexposed; or any one of a multitude of other mishaps that’d render them totally useless.
Well, mate Darren (ever helpful little sod that he is, damn his hide) reminds me that some time ago he acquired an old 35mm SLR. A Minolta X300 in fact.
He also reminded me that on the only occasion he ever used it he completely screwed things up and out of a roll of film he ended up with… er… no useable pics whatsoever. Not even remotely so. Readily admitted it could have been his fault; though equally it could have been that the camera’s majorly defective in some way.
So, as I say, being the helpful little sod he is he now trys to palm this can of worms off onto me. And mug that I am I fall for it of course.
Well, I’d already agreed with other mate that a film camera is a definite possibility in fitting the requirements we’d specified. The fact that I can’t actually use such a bit of kit is entirely irrelevant of course.
Last week then I end up with this strange contraption (complete with three lenses and a flash gun would you believe) that I haven’t a clue how to use, and decide the first task must be to see if the damn thing actually works.
(Having brushed some of the dust off first. Ye gods! Its even more dusty than most of my stuff. And that’s saying something!)
But the first task before the first task sorta thing is to collar me a manual. Which, after some searching of the ‘net, I manage to find.
Also do a bit of reading up about this strange beast.
Apparently in its day it was hailed as a fairly good, solid, reliable bit of kit. An entry-level SLR. Replaced sometime later by the X370… identical camera but with a plastic body. However, the one I appear to have my grubby little mits on is the X300 with the original metal casing.
Hmm. Good for clouting someone over the head if nothing else!
And the lenses… well, none of them seem to be particularly spectacular in terms of manufacturer. But there’s a 28mm f/2.8, a 50mm f/1.8 (well, that’ll be handy, if its ok), and a 70-210mm f/5.6
Last week then saw me out and about for a quick test session with the 50mm and a roll of 200ISO film.
Couldn’t get the pics developed until this week, which I’ve now done.
(In the good old days, as a consequence of my graphics career, I used to have a fully kitted out darkroom. Curiously, although I couldn’t take pics to save me life I was a dab hand at darkroom work. Bizarre really. Can’t see me getting back into that again however… hmm.)
Checking over the results of my little endeavour, oddly enough I’m quite pleasantly surprised. The first bonus is that I’ve actually ended up with some images rather than just a load of fogged film, which is what I was actually expecting. Ok, the content of the images is a bit boring (basically just wandered up the lane a bit and fired shots off at random), but their appearance… well.
Not brilliant, I have to admit. The actual prints look a bit contrasty and the colours aren’t quite right. Nothing that a bit of tweaking couldn’t sort out though.
I also asked the processing lab to digitise the images onto a CD for me, which means that if needs be I could do at least some tweaking (albeit rather limited) in Lightroom.
The digitised versions aren’t quite as impressive as the prints. Again there’s a slight issue with colour balance. More worryingly though is that they all appear overly sharp and… um… “grainy” (can’t use the word “noise” with film can you?).
Now this may be something to do with the way they were originally processed, or the way they were digitised. Equally it could have been something to do with the film and settings I was using (told ya I couldn’t shoot film!), or possibly a fault with the camera/lens.
Dunno really, and I’ll probably only find out by having a few more practise sessions changing all the variables in turn.
However, the whole point is, even given their somewhat less than satisfactory appearance, they’re still just about acceptable for the sort of usage I anticipate (which is principally intended to be news/documentary type stuff under “trying” circumstances rather than all that arty crap).
Only question now remains is why the hell did I get rid of that super-duper Pentax SLR and all the accessories that I had all those years ago?
Here we are then, some typical examples of the test shots I did. And whilst they may, on first appearance, look just like my normal “let’s go for a photo jaunt in the country” type of thing, in actual fact they’re nothing of the sort.
They are, in their own way, a huge milestone. Cos they’re shot with yer actual film!!!
Bloody hell. Whatever next I wonder?