Out with the new, in with the old. Moment's going analog. From polaroid cameras to instant film and printers, there’s everything you need to start shooting and sharing instantly. Brush up on your analog skills by reading our beginner's master guide to film photography.
Learn More About Film
Slow down and give each picture significance and intent. Continuously pressing the shutter without entirely reeling in the composition or framing is much simpler. When it comes to film photography, each roll of film, on the other hand, forces you to reconsider the photograph you're trying to make.
Want to get started on film? Let's talk about what kind of cameras are good for beginner photographers and each's functions or features.
Let's dive into everything you need to know to get started with film cameras!
Why Shoot Film?
- It teaches you to “feel” your exposure. Modern cameras have a lot of advanced equipment that is designed to assist photographers in properly exposing their images, and this technology is extremely useful. In comparison to this high-tech equipment, film cameras are antiquated. They necessitate a much deeper understanding of how light works and how to set a camera to capture a scene in the way you want it to be portrayed. Shooting with a film camera forces you to develop this understanding and feeling of light, as well as develop your own technique and style for shooting a scene. This ability is directly transferable to digital photography.
- Less post-processing flexibility strengthens the ability to expose correctly during shooting and decreases dependency on software. When using a digital camera, it is very common to capture an image that is under or overexposed. It's all too quick to chuckle and say, "I'll take care of that in post." You not only can't review your video images until much later, but you also don't have nearly as much post-processing control as you do with the film. A RAW digital file's exposure can be adjusted by about 14 stops in either direction, while a film picture can only be adjusted by around 2 stops in either direction. When shooting a video, it's much more important to get the shot right the first time.
- It introduces intention into your shots. The cheaper price range on average for a roll of film costs about $12.99 on Moment. It takes more time and money to get that created, and then you have to digitize and organize it afterward, which takes more time and supplies. When most people think of photography, they think of clicking the shutter button, but that action is literally the tiniest part of the entire operation! It's difficult not to consider how much time and money went into it before and after you pressed the button. Instead of mashing the shutter button on a digital camera, you'll be more aware of this when shooting film and can frame your images more purposefully, taking fewer pictures but catching more context with each take. (Don't get me wrong: pressing the shutter button can always be entertaining!)
- Shooting with older tech helps you to learn about the history of photography. When you buy your first film camera, you'll undoubtedly want to learn about its origins, which will lead you to learn about the history of photography in general. When you incorporate film photography into your work, you'll find yourself studying popular photographers, old photography methods and equipment, and the history of photography in general. Understanding the similarities and discrepancies between analogue and digital photography, as well as the techniques of the legends, can help you become a better photographer.
- Professional quality at discount prices. Film images are remarkably high quality for old-school technology. A film camera's level of detail and picture sharpness is comparable to that of digital cameras today and is a significant improvement over most mobile phones and point-and-shoot cameras. Due to this supposed obsolescence, high-quality film cameras can be had for a pittance. When my F100 was released in 1999, it cost $1500; I was able to get one for about $150. Comparing the quality of digital and film photographs is a little like comparing apples and oranges, but in general, film photographs may compete with high-quality digital photographs.
Film Cameras Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the Difference Between 35mm and 120 Film Formats?
There are two types of cameras that use different film stocks: medium format 35mm cameras and wide format 120mm cameras. 35mm films are much smaller and usually have lower prices than 120 films, making them more compact but with fewer details and resolution. Due to the wider format of 120 film, each roll only contains 16 shots or less, as opposed to the normal 36 shots on 35mm film canisters. Adding 120 films to your camera bag is certainly more cumbersome, but the results can be well worth it.
If you're just getting started with film, I'd suggest starting with a 35mm camera; they're less advanced but can produce beautiful images if you shoot the roll properly.
What types of film camera are there?
There are a variety of film formats to choose from, including 35mm (the most popular), medium format, and large format. Each format produces a negative of a different dimension, which corresponds to a different camera size. The amount of detail produced by each size varies, with 35mm producing the least and large format producing the most. Due to their small size and portability, as well as their fair sharpness and overall affordability, 35mm SLRs are the most common film cameras. In the 1970s, professional portrait photographers discovered the medium format camera as a way to achieve higher quality and a shallower depth of field while maintaining relative portability. It's also popular with high-end customers and for magazine editorial shoots. Because of its ability to capture an immense amount of detail, large format photography became common in portrait and landscape photography. It was famously used by Ansel Adams to capture some of the most iconic landscape portraits of all time. Wide-format photography is still used for portrait and landscape photography today.
35mm medium format film cameras can be used for a number of purposes for beginners. With 36 pictures per roll of film, they are, first and foremost, the most cost-effective. They're also the smallest, making them easy to carry or cram into backpacks. They're the perfect video camera to carry around with you everywhere you go. Most importantly, they are the easiest to learn and use because they have the most basic designs. They still have the most room for growth. While larger formats are only available to high-end buyers and professionals, 35mm cameras come in a variety of price points, from entry-level to advanced.
How should I select a film stock?
You've just bought a camera and can't wait to take the first pictures with it. The next move is to purchase a roll of film from Moment. There are a plethora of film options available, just as there are a plethora of camera options. With the increased demand for film, camera companies such as Kodak are ramping up production and also bringing back old films such as Kodachrome.
When buying a new roll of film, three primary considerations should be made: cost, ISO, and the film's color profile. As a beginner, we strongly advise you to begin with the cheapest film available. The first few rolls will be spent getting to know your camera, figuring out which color profiles you want, and figuring out how film varies from digital photography.
What is ISO (Film Speed)?
If you already shoot with a digital camera, you might be familiar with ISO. ISO is basically the film’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO, the faster the image gets recorded to the film.
With a higher ISO, you also introduce grain (noise) to the photograph. When shooting film, this isn’t as much of a concern as when shooting digital. It’s still something to consider, but film grain has a much more pleasing look than digital noise. That’s why they built in a grain setting to photo editing software!
If you are shooting outdoors, you can go with a lower ISO like 100 or 200. ISO 400 is a nice middle-ground for indoor and outdoor shooting, as is 800. Anything above that would generally only be used indoors or in other poorly lit situations.
Another factor to consider is the color profile of the film you're shooting with. Some films, such as Fujifilm Superia, have a slight green tint and are faded; others, such as Kodak Ektachrome, produce clear, vibrant images. If you're curious about a profile, you can look up examples of photographs taken with that film on Google.
How do you clean a film camera?
Tools You’ll Need
1) Pincer with fine ends. Sharpened or dull doesn’t matter
3) Dust blower
4) Cotton pads or balls
5) Lighter fluid or Isopropyl cleaning alcohol. Both commonly available in hardware stores and pharmacies, respectively
7) Screwdriver (optional)
8) Magnifying glass (optional)
Clean the surface you'll be working on. We wipe it down with a damp cloth, let it dry, and then vacuum up any residual debris with a handheld vacuum. Ascertain that the workstation has enough lighting.
Examine your camera for any missing or loose bits. Take care in these areas. Remove any lens that is mounted to the camera, which is obviously only for interchangeable lens cameras.
Open the film chamber and use the dust blower to blast as many areas as possible when keeping the camera upside down (film chamber facing downward). This is done to clear the chamber of any dust particles.
If the light seal has dried up, don't touch it or you'll make a bigger mess. If you need to replace the light seal, do so after you've cleaned the entire camera. Remove any remaining dirt from the camera's surface with the dust blower.
Tear or shred the cotton pad/ball, then roll the loose cotton onto the toothpick's one end. Make sure you don't end up with a wide ball. Only thick enough, as seen in the illustration at the right. Using lighter fluid or cleaning alcohol, soak the cotton end of the toothpick.
Proceed to clean any noticeable tarnishes on the camera with the soaked cotton end of the toothpick. Take care not to soak the cotton too much.
The fluid should evaporate completely, leaving no residue or marks behind. If this happens, toss the cotton out and try again.
Using an eraser to gently wipe stubborn stains and/or tarnish off the paper. The Faber Castell Eraser Pen with Brush is one of our favorites because the fine tips (after sharpening) enable you to clean the grooves on dials that are otherwise difficult to reach. However, keep in mind that using an eraser will leave crumbs. Wash them away with a brush.
Let's take a look inside the camera now that we've finished with the outside. Ground glass was used on most SLRs in the past, and dust may have accumulated on it. Gently raise the latch, which is normally positioned just behind the lens mount, with a pincer. It should be simple to remove.
Wipe the ground glass with a damp cotton pad in one direction to disinfect it. If there is some lint left on it, remove it with a microfibre cloth or a dust blower.
Remove the prism from your camera if it can be removed (usually with a screwdriver) and clean the surfaces.
Only the mirror (for SLRs) and the viewfinder remain to be cleaned. Using a toothpick with shredded cotton on one end and cleaning alcohol or lighter fluid on the other, dampen the toothpick. Brush it over the mirror and/or the viewfinder gently. Using a dust blower, remove any lint.
If your camera has a battery bay, open it and make sure the contacts haven't been corroded by past battery leaks. Remove any dust with a dust blower, and clean the contacts with lighter fluid or cleaning alcohol if desired. Before replacing the battery, make sure it's completely dry.
Choosing the Best Film Cameras
If you need help deciding which film camera would leverage your creative eye, contact one of our Gear Guides. We’ll match you to the right guide based on your experience and style, and help to find the right film camera for you.