'Have you taken any good shots?'
Anyone who roams around with a camera is probably used to this question. It was a young chap that asked me, spectacle wearing, a bit nervous looking. He'd been passing across the narrow footbridge over a weir in the park whilst I'd been struggling with the less-than-ideal combination of heavy camera and monopod.
My reply was perhaps surprising, at least in this digital and camera phone age: 'I don't know.'
Seeing his puzzlement I explained a bit more.
'I'm shooting film.'
I showed him the heavy camera - a Bronica ETRS Medium-format camera taking 120 roll film.
'Ah,' he said. 'Film is the best, isn't it?'
'Yes,' I said. 'It is.'
But, after he'd gone, I had to ask myself, is it?
I was at the end of first my 'film-only-except-for-work-photos' week.
So what had I taken from this week?
Well, quite a lot. Firstly an explanation; I was going to use one camera and one lens, that was the idea, inspired from the digital one lens, one camera exercise I did at the start of lockdown.
So, those who are paying attention might have noticed that there are three cameras in the photo above. These are the Bronica which produces 6 x 4.5 negatives, the Pentax MZ-50 with the modern 35mm DA lens (the camera I said I'd use) and a Pentax MV1 with a 28mm f2.8 Pentax-A manual lens.
So how did this happen?
Well the Bronica was a deliberate choice to break the rule straight away. I acquired it in the first place because I wanted to try MF film but to do it on a budget. The trouble is, with lockdown, the opportunities to use it have been limited. The few rolls I have put through it have amazed me. The system is very forgiving and the IQ step up over 35mm film is amazing. So, if I was shooting film only, how could I not use the Bronica? Particularly as my partner kept querying when we were going to eat the rolls of film for it I insist on storing in the freezer...
So that was a deliberate action. The MV1 was an accident. I had happened to put a roll of ADOX Silvermax in it a few weeks ago then forgotten about it. If I had not used it up then I would have been in the illogical position of not using one of my film cameras because I was shooting film only!
So the simple MV1 came with me.
So, one of the things I have quite unexpectedly gained from this first week is how contrasting the experience can be from shooting film.
With the Bronica everything is slow and careful. You only have 15 shots to work with from the 120 roll (and I only have one back for it), that in itself makes you shoot more sparingly but, in any case, the process is slower than 35mm shooting. I don't have a light meter in mine, as with many MF format cameras, the ETRS is modular and you can get a meter in the viewfinder but I haven't felt the need to get one as using a light meter app on my phone works just fine. This does slow you up though, you find a scene, remove the dark screen, advance the film so the mirror resets and you can see through the viewfinder, check the framing, then the light, then set the camera, check the light again, then press the shutter button. The mirror swings up with a huge, and hugely satisfying CLUNK and that's it. Job done.
A mere 4 or 5 minutes to take the shot.
It is slow. It is deliberate. Suddenly I feel like I am a 1970s or 80s wedding or studio photographer. Really I could do with a heavy tripod too but the Bronica is a hefty enough thing to wield around as it is.
At the other end of the speed scale is the MZ-50. It feels more modern because it is more modern, the Bronica dates from 1978, the MZ-50 from 1997 and I have equipped it with a lens built in the last decade. Yes, I am still shooting film, yes I still have the be-more-sparing than the try-and-try-again digital bad habits/convenience that digital allows but it gives an experience that is much more digital like - half press, beep - focused, press fully - click, whirr, ready again. The only thing that is different from my digital bodies is, of course, you can't review the result straight away...so it's just like a Leica 262 experience!
The MV1 is somewhere in between in its in-use experience, which is appropriate as, in age, it falls between the two other cameras I'm using, being built in 1980-81.
For those unfamiliar with the MV1 it's a quite simple aperture priority only SLR with manual focusing. This suits me down to the ground as I invariably shoot AP anyway with whatever I am using. Although it is very simple I really like the MV basically for that reason; it's very simple. It's got a great bright viewfinder and split screen which makes focusing a doddle, even with my eyesight and just an LED showing green, orange (danger of camera shake) and red (too dark or too small an aperture). It's no frills and better for it, especially as it's a very small SLR.
So that's my unexpected lesson from the first week: How different the experience can be shooting the same medium - film - but using different cameras.
I will give some examples of the output from these differing bodies over the next few blogs. And the result of different films - Silvermax, Rollei Retro 80 and Ilford Delta 100 (the 120 roll film). I have also shot some colour Lomography 100 in the last week too.
Another variation in the varied experience that is film photography.
And is it the best?
That's another question.