Beginning Mistakes in Film Photography!

As a long time digital photographer, I recently started a project that involves shooting 35mm film. You can find a few of my Street Photography digital images here: If you’ve read my previous blog post Where do you begin? you’ll know that I’m now at the point where I own a 35mm film camera (Minolta SRT-101). Before purchasing the camera I made some assumptions. And you know what they say about assumptions. Hopefully, by reading about my troubles I can save you a little heartache if you choose to shoot film.

Ilford XP2 Super 400, Film Beginnings, Black & White, Film
Ilford XP2 Super 400, Film Beginnings, Black & White, Film

Next, I purchased a couple rolls of Ilford XP2 Super 400 film. I picked this particular film for two reasons.

1. I enjoy creating images in black and white.
2. This particular film uses the C-41 development process that is the most widely used processing system for color films. However, Ilford XP2 Super 400 is a black and white film that can be developed using this chemistry.

I thought I was so smart. I assumed I’d probably get my first roll developed at Costco or worst case the local specialty camera store and they would post high-quality scans of the images. I thought I would then download the images I picked for a small fee. We all make mistakes. While shooting the first roll I discovered that no one locally, not even my local camera store, would develop film. My only option was to send it out. I was shocked to find that if I wanted quality scanned images plus development that this would cost me $10 – $17 per roll. I had no idea the prices would be so high. This cost makes me wonder if film will be able to survive. I’ve been shooting digital for over a decade and the thought of paying $15 for 24-36 exposures about stopped my heart. However, I was determined and I pressed on. Fortunately, I was able to find a lower cost workaround. But for someone starting out with no equipment, the path from film to images can be quite costly.

This mistake on my part led me to two discoveries.

1. mpix will still develop C-41 film (only) for about $5 per roll; returning the developed film to you included.
2. Scanning of negatives using a quality DSLR is possible and at least equal in quality if not superior to using a consumer scanner such as the common Epson V700.

I already own a DSLR and I started considering if I could utilize it to scan my own negatives. But more about that in a future blog post. That’s enough for now and I’ll leave you with another one of the first film images I created. Again, my disclaimer “The image is nothing special, but because the Minolta SRT-101 was produced at least 40 years ago, I decided to shoot a test roll using most of the camera’s shutter speeds and confirming the camera’s light meter against a handheld reliable light meter.”

In the futur, I plan to write about my Minolta SRT-101 and my “budget” hodge-podge DSLR negative scanning system.

Riley, Film Beginnings, First Film Image, Minolta SRT-101, 50mm f1.4, Ilford XP2 Super 400
Riley, Film Beginnings, First Film Image, Minolta SRT-101, 50mm f1.4, Ilford XP2 Super 400

Camera Donation Page

My Film Beginnings Project has also intrigued me to try using other 35mm film cameras along the way. If you have a working 35mm film camera that you no longer use please take a look here to see what I’m thinking. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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  1. I’m old enough to remember when “digital” (with a small “d”) was a company making PDP11 microcomputers, so I grew up with film, chemicals, and a darkroom. My initial re-entry into film was to have my old film cameras serviced, buy a used enlarger, and set up a darkroom. The time-, space-, and money-consuming part of film photography is the darkroom…. but if you’re scanning your negatives you’ve avoided all that. Making the negatives is really easy and inexpensive. Take a few moments and investigate developing your own negatives.
    Total equipment layout will be $50 or less…..for a lightproof “muff” in which to load the developing tank – assuming you don’t have a lightproof room in your dwelling – and a tank….tanks don’t wear out and I saw a Paterson two-reel tank at the local flea market for $5 last weekend, so your potential equipment costs are little more than a Starbucks coffee.
    Chemical costs aren’t quite so cheap, but $30 of chemicals will develop 20-30 rolls of B/W, or if you go color 8-12 rolls with the easy-to-use Unicolor kit.
    For a little more money in equipment layout, “roll your own.” 100 feet will give you 20-30 camera loads….for TriX ($100 for a 100 ft roll) the savings aren’t huge, but it adds up. If you like the negatives made on Kentmere (I do), you can save a lot (<$40/100ft roll).
    Time? 30-40 minutes for a roll of B/W (excluding drying time), 14 minutes for a roll of C41 color film (excluding drying time). With the exception of loading the film into the developing tank (requires absolute darkness), the rest can be done at the kitchen or bathroom sink.
    good luck!

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