My first experience with 35mm film photography

18 02 2009
Nothing quite says "film" like monochrome

Nothing quite says "film" like monochrome

The days are long and boring, and so are the nights. With nothing much to do at home, extreme ennui forced me to look for more interesting diversions beyond my usual netsurfing and cooking.

Maybe it’s the ego – being able to take decent shots with a camera that lacks any auto mode and that can run without batteries is a statement to one’s 1337ness, but I felt oddly drawn to the quaint Nikon FM2 that has been sitting in my father’s cupboard since forever. Not to mention the edge that film has over digital in terms of dynamic range (ratio between the maximum and minimum measurable light intensities) and resolution.

So last week when we were out, I pestered my father to pick up a couple of rolls of 35mm film for me to play with. The rest is history šŸ™‚

Getting used to the Nikon FM2 is no joke though, for someone who is reliant on the immediate feedback via LCD that a digital camera offers. The FM2 is bereft of any mode besides manual, which means no aperture/shutter priority, or worse still, auto/programmed modes for those used to them. While I shoot mostly in manual mode with my Nikon D90 DSLR, I have by no means memorised any exposure table and thus depend on checking my shots right after taking them to see if they are properly exposed.

For film, there is no such convenience. Complete trust in the camera and one’s own skills is required. Fortunately though, the FM2 has a nifty light meter which doesn’t show much except for 3 symbols – +, O, -. + would mean overexposure, whilst – is the exact opposite. It helped me a lot in keeping my shots properly exposed.

Here’s a rough diagram of how the viewfinder looks like:

viewfinder

Rear size, front size....any air weapon shooters here? šŸ˜›

On the other hand, the complete lack of autofocus support meant that I had to focus each and every single shot manually >.< I’ll never ever take autofocus for granted again.Ā  Please be nice to your autofocus systems folks, they make life a heckload easier.

This is an underwater-capable camera. It's from the same era as the FM2 I think.

This is an underwater-capable camera. It's from the same era as the FM2 I think.

Also, scanning films at home is A PAIN. My dad and I spent more than an hour just scanning a few photos with our photoscanner, at some low resolution of 1200DPI (dots per inch) And considering that there are 36 exposures in one roll of film….

Well here are the results of my blood, sweat and tears:

When life gives you lemons...take pictures of them!

When life gives you lemons...take pictures of them!

And do the same with bananas :)

And do the same with bananas šŸ™‚

Fruits are good for health.

Fruits are good for health.

At least this one's older than the camera.

At least this one's older than the camera.

My hand.

My hand.

While I won’t be ditching my shiny new D90 for a prosumer film camera anytime soon, it has been love at first sight for me and the wonderfully vivid tones and highlights that are possible with film. There’s another roll of 35mm film sitting on the table and I intend to use it fully.

Film cameras, especially functionless ones like the FM2, while reliable and all in cold temperatures yadda yadda, cannot replace the speed and convenience of autofocus and digital photography. Exposure bracketing for HDR would be a pain if not impossible with the FM2, and so would sport or wildlife photography. Though the light meter has proven to be accurate so far, I wouldn’t dare to waste a whole roll of film on light-meter-cheaters such as snowscape shots. In such cases, I’ll go with the security of instant feedback.

And how could I forget camwhoring! It’s practically impractical to camwhore with a film SLR considering the high ratio of botched shots XD A rusty shutter button doesn’t help to make one-handed photography easier either..

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