On the first of this year, I started My Film Beginnings Project. I am attempting to shoot at least two rolls of film each month and to make at least one shutter click on a film camera each day of the year.
The Boring Details
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: www.instagram.com/dspaedt.
Session six of my film beginnings project brought a lot of new items and a few surprises into my film photography world. The new items included being able to shoot two new film cameras, use Kodak Tri-X 400 for the first time since starting my film project and the beginning of a future film comparison between Kodak Tri-X 400 and Ilford HP5 Plus 400. The surprises included a cheap longer lens that performed better than I expected and a neat trick to make a dull rangefinder window of a rangefinder camera more usable.
The cameras brought excitement because they included the Canon AE-1 Program and the Olympus XA. The Canon AE-1 Program was the first camera I ever owned nearly thirty-one years ago and I was thrilled when I received one along with five lenses through my Camera Donation Page. On my second shutter click, I realized I had left the AE-1 in manual mode when I intended to shoot in shutter priority mode making the same mistake I made countless times before when I first owned the camera. I was in love all over again. Shooting with the camera brought back a lot of great memories and I wish it was possible to go back in time and see how many rolls of film I pushed through my original Canon AE-1 Program during my high school and college years. My excitement for the Olympus XA was because I had never used one before and it has a reputation for being an excellent classic film camera. The Olympus XA brought with it a dull rangefinder but I was surprised to discover a great trick that worked well to improve the contrast for a fading rangefinder window. I guess this means two more camera review posts will be coming. Stay tuned.
All of the images for this session were processed at home in D76 1:1 for 10:40 @ 68F with an initial thirty seconds of agitation and then four inversions every minute and using my scanning method. The two rolls of Kodak Tri-X 400 I shot marks the beginning of a future comparison I plan to make with Ilford HP5 Plus 400. I enjoy shooting black and white film and I have decided I should try to establish a go to black and white film. I picked the two most readily available 400-speed films and I plan to select whichever one pleases my eyes the most using my development and scanning methods. No surprise, I was happy with the results Tri-X provided. It is probably the most popular black and white film ever made. Personally, I found that the grain was fairly reserved and where I did notice it I really liked the “look” of the grain. The film did tend to curl along its horizontal axis which added to the difficulties of scanning but not so much that it was unmanageable. After I’ve processed the images, I mentally mark the ones I believe I’ll include in this post. At the completion of this review is where the next surprise occurred.
Using the Canon camera I was fortunate enough to have five lenses to choose from and I made sure to give each an equal amount of time on the camera. I was surprised to find that all three images I had selected from the AE-1 were taken with the Vivitar 70-210mm f4.5-5.6 lens. I don’t necessarily pick images that I believe were my “best” shots. I choose them for various reasons and for this post that method held true. I knew the image of the horse, unless it was a complete failure, would be a selected image as I was pressing the shutter button. Initially, my plan was to post it and most likely write “See! These old cheap lenses will only give you soft horrible results.” I knew it was just a snapshot, but I took it with the intentions of demonstrating what the lens couldn’t do. To my shock, I loved it. No, I’m not naive, it didn’t produce the same sharpness as my Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II, but I’m not exactly shooting for national geographic. It created a very usable and printable image.
The picture below of the clock on the tower was an easy choice, I simply liked it. Again, it contains a subtle softness but if something you capture catches your eye after its processed, who cares! Finally, I selected the image of the house on the lake not even realizing it had been taken with the long lens. It was my favorite image from both 24 exposure rolls. The blurred reflection on the lake and the beam of morning light hitting the middle house made it for me. In Lightroom, when I zoomed in, my first thought was “Oh no, I bet I used that 35-70mm f4 and it’s soft for some reason?” I checked my notes and discovered it was taken using the Vivitar. However, this fool shot the image at 1/60 ~ 180mm and I was seeing handheld blur from a slow shutter speed. Happy accidents do happen! Most importantly, film photography once again teaches me the lesson that enjoyment in photography can come from very simple, outdated and inexpensive tools.
Using the Olympus XA was special but I’ve written too much already and I’ll save my experiences with the camera and a review for future posts. Using it for the first time I know that the camera will see many more rolls of film in its future. The portability of the camera and ease of use is something that I really enjoyed. I already look forward to shooting with it again. Up next for the 24 roll challenge is Ilford HP Plus 400. Until then, thanks for reading!
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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.