Photo: Andrej Dyck

Since a while I wanted to blog about my trip into analog photography. Finally here it is!

Last year I came across a post on the web about a photo lab (in Germany) that offers recently priced film development and scans: Mein Film Lab. All other labs I checked out before where to expensive for me. It was clear for me that I want the photos scanned to be able to blog and work on them on my computer.

Why shooting film if the result is digital anyway?

Reasons

Cameras

I like old and pretty mechanical devices. When I was a teenager my first SLR was a Canon AE-1 and I still remember the sound of the mirror and shutter, how it felt to push the trigger, the noise when I advance the film to the next frame. Like with the first own car: who doesn’t have nostalgic feelings about it, although in most cases – like mine – it was used, worn and not really sexy.

Slowing Down

Shoot less images. Better framing of the scene. Select shutter speed and aperture wisely. Not just snapping. Not re-do, re-do and re-do another time if the image is not the way you want it to be (easily controlled by checking on the LCD of the digital camera). Not come home with 100, 200, 500 photos from one shoot. Develop craftmanshift.

Filmlook

On the web I regularly stumbled about articles on film photography and soon realised that I often like the look of the images (color rendition, grain etc.). Film photography is having a kind of revival currently. Since many films have disappeard in the last decades, more and more new film stock appears nowadays on the market.

Medium Format

Wow, you can catch lots of information on a frame of a 6 x 6 film, compared to an APS-C Sensor. Medium format film is also appealing due to the shallow DOF you can achieve. The larger the frame/sensor, the more shallow is the DOF and subject separation becomes more easy when shooting wide open.

When shooting with a wide aperture, it’s crucial to focus on the important parts of the image, e.g. the eyes when shooting a portraits. When for example using a lens with 150 mm focal length and f/2.8 on a 6×6 camera (comparable to 90 mm on  35 mm film) you’ll have a DOF of around 2 Inches, if the subject is at a distance of 7 feet.

Setting the right focus can be challenging, depending on what camera you use. The split screen and microprism ring of the 6×6 Zenza Bronica is in the centre of the screen. But this is not where I want to have the eyes when shooting a portrait. To focus and then reframe is not advisable.

Change

Readers of my blog know that I often try new things with photography. Not more to write about it.

My new (old) Cameras

Before bying new equipment, I wanted to try shooting film. Bernd, friend of mine and professional photographer, has lent me his Zenza Bronica SQ-A, a 6 x 6 medium format camera. One Sunday afternoon I head out to downtown Stuttgart with the camera and a tripod. I returned home with 2 films exposed (24 images). It’s still no bargain to shoot film and I didn’t if the camera works. No light meter at hand, I used my digital cam to meter the scene and set aperture and speed on the Zenza, which worked pretty well. When the lab send an email: “here’s your download link”, I was excited. Like in the past when you went to the shop to pick up the prints. Sometimes disappointed, often happy. Experimental stuff has always been difficult with the film camera though, without feedback trough playback.

Step-by-step I bought a couple of vintage cameras, most of them pretty cheap.
[must admit that the image below doesn’t show all of my analog cams 😳]

Zenza Bronica SQ-Ai, 6×6

Olympus 35 RD and Canonet 28 are small rangefinder cameras for 35 mm film. The ones who shot SLR in the past probably remembers the Canon A-1, once one of the flagships in Canons line-up. Also used with 35 mm film.

After my trials with Bernd’s camera I bought a Zenza Bronica SQ-Ai, which features an internal light meter (which I don’t use because I now have a handheld meter, which is also capable to measure flash) and mirror lock-up. This helps to avoid camera shake because the mirror is large and heavy.

Zensa Bronica & Fujica GL690

After a while I’ve discover the Fujica GL 690, which I ordered from eBay Japan. THis model is quite interesting because it exposes 6 x 9 cm frames on a 120 film. The camera is a beast, large and heavy. See how it compares in size to the Zenza, which is not small at all. I shot two films with it when I figured that 2/3 of the frame where not exposed. Luckily I found a shop for vintage cameras here in Stuttgart and very helpul Mr. Hoffmann could fix is.

The Films

As mentioned above every once in a while new films hit the market. Creative stuff like Cinestill 800 Tungsten (converted cinema film) or Rollei Color Implosion (you don’t now how the colors turn out to look). But also some of the well known and classic films can still be found, like from Ilford (FP4, HP5,…) Fuji (Fujicolor, Pro, Neopan Acros), Kodak (Tri-X, T-Max, Portra, Ektar, Gold). Kodak’s Porta is currently my favourite colour film.

My local stores have only a small range of film stock. These webshops in Germany have a good assortment: FOTOIMPEX and macodirect. Around 60 different 120 films can be found at macodirect.

First Results

Shooting film (again) needs practice, so some of my images turned out to be out-of-focus, are blury from camera shake, frames are over- or underexposed. However overall I’m happy with the results.

Zenza Bronica, Kodak Tri-X 400 and Fuji Acros, Stuttgart

Olympus 35 RD, Cinestill, Venice

Portraits with  Zenza Bronica, Fuji Acros, Bergger Pancro400, Kodak Tri-X and Portra
available light and studio flash

Canon A-1 und Fujica GL 690, Cinestill 800T
Workshop with Thomas Böttcher

Wie geht es weiter?

Es geht weiter: analog und digital! Sicher werde ich auch weiterhin öfter meine digitale Kamera verwenden. Speziell bei experimentellen Projekten ist das Display eine wichtig Hilfe. Aber die analogen Kameras bereichern meine Fotografie und ich freue mich schon wieder auf den Blick von oben, in meine Bronica, die Spannung, sobald die Bilder nach der Entwicklung zum Download bereitstehen und das Ausprobieren von kuriosen, neuen analogen Filmen. Ich werde berichten…

Header photo: Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

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