We have a collection of old cameras living with us. Most of them are from the 1950’s – 1960’s, most are usable. There was never an intent on my part to start a collection; rather I aimed to find a few examples of old cameras that I could use. It was the novelty that attracted me to them initially; the thought that this simple old technology would still work after 50 or more years, and produce interesting results. After purchasing my first folder (folding camera), someone on the Photo.net forum commented that it was addictive. He was right.
This post will introduce a series on some of the individuals in the collection. I’ll aim to photograph each one, give some info about it, and show some examples of photos I have taken with it.
I’m mostly using B&W film, developing it myself in our camera club darkroom, then scanning it on an Epson V700.
In a way these cameras are very ‘simple’ or should I say ‘basic’, yet they are a challenge to use – because the controls are all manual, you have to think about what you are doing rather than just press a button and let the camera do the rest. There is no auto-focus or auto-exposure.
Each camera has its unique features and idiosyncrasies, but the process usually goes something like this; not necessarily in this order…
Consider what ISO film to use and load it into the camera if not already done. Check exposure (use a light meter or my digital SLR). Set aperture. Set shutter speed. Check focus – set distance manually by guesswork (I’m not very good at this) or use a rangefinder; or use a smaller aperture and hyperfocal focusing to give greater depth of field. Cock the shutter (in some cases). Compose the shot. Fire shutter. Wind on to the next shot. In some instances there is a shutter lock if you haven’t done this, in others you can easily make double-exposures – that’s fine if it’s intentional!
See? – simple!
I learnt photography with a fully-manual Pentax K-1000, but have been using a digital SLR almost exclusively for several years now, so going back to the old manual film cameras really makes me slow down and think. I also really like B&W.
And on the subject of film, because its relatively expensive and there are only a limited number of frames per film (worst-case scenario is eight frames), you need to think about appropriate subjects for colour vs B&W and composition. You can’t check the image until the film is developed. There isn’t the opportunity to delete the image and take another that’s better.
The magic is in developing the film and waiting to see what you have captured. 🙂
Following are some images taken with the K-1000 way back when…
Rocks in River
I will aim to post something on an old camera each week, so watch this space… 🙂