Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Like Going Back In Time

Today, for the first time in years, I used a film camera. Also, for the first time in years, I used a 50mm prime lens. Which was attached to the camera.

The thing was smaller than my Sony SLR, but even heavier (and my Sony is heavy in a satisfying way). It felt like I could stove someone's skull in with it. it was partly metal, so I believe I could have anyway. The camera was a Phenix (a brand I've not heard of for years), although I can't remember the actual model number off the top of my head. It took 35mm film, and had a maximum of 35 exposures. I shoot in full-manual all the time, which is just as well because the thing has absolutely nothing automatic on it. You even have to manually advance the film. Holding it created a grip that I can only describe as 'the claw' - my index finger on the shutter, my thumb on the advance lever which is right behind the shutter, two fingers on the grip, and my little finger resting uncomfortably under the body. It didn't fit well in my hand, and it's small size meant my left hand couldn't wrap comfortably around the prime lens. The dial to adjust the shutter speed was also directly next to the shutter, and rested in an incredibly small space, and I could only adjust it with my index finger.

Sounds like a camera from hell? Well, it also smelt of mothballs. Despite all that, the simplicity of it's fully manual nature left me having a soft spot for it.

The lens on the other hand... Lord only knows how old it was. A prime lens is basically a lens at a fixed focal length: you can't zoom. It's been years since I've used one, and I always use a standard zoom and a telephoto. You might ask why you should ever use one then?

"Why should I ever use a prime lens?"

Well, I'm glad you asked, Sonny-Jim! You should use one because of the aperture range. My standard zoom has a range from (off the top of my head) f32 to f5.6. The Prime lens went from f22 to f1.6. They make lovely portrait lenses due to the wonderful focusing they can do, and are also easy to use. They're also usually cheap (by lens standards).

The thing I used though... Stiff as anything, and dusty as hell, even after I cleaned it. Because of this, it was bloody hard to tell if I was correctly focused. Furthermore, using the camera required me to take a best guess at the settings I'd need (shutter speed and aperture) before framing. I'd invariably underexpose (that's one thing the camera did tell me, before I took a photo. So I needed to break my composition to look at the top of the camera to adjust my settings, then re-frame. It was, frankly, awkward. But I do still hold a soft-spot for the thing.

I've no idea how my photographs turned out as I've not yet developed them. But rest assured, you'll all the the first to know.

Until next time!


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