A Beach Trip With the Kodak Ektar H35 Half Frame Film Camera
Don't knock it until you try it, this half frame camera made me fall in love with 35mm form again.
Ever since I discovered medium format film a few years ago, I’ve all but abandoned shooting on 35mm cameras. There are so many benefits to shooting 35mm. My favorite perk is that you have 36 shots a roll (sometimes more!) whereas medium format is usually 12 or 10 shots a roll. But the quality of those medium format negatives is hard to resist. And there are (in my opinion) better medium format cameras available than 35mm cameras. So, I’ve had all my eggs in the medium format basket for a while now. Until quite recently.
I was in my local camera store Don’s Photo Equipment to pick up some film in preparation for a beach trip with my family. I had been looking online at the new half frame 35mm camera by Kodak for a week or so. With Todd’s help (Todd co-owns Don’s with his dad, Don), I spotted a large stack of very tempting looking Kodak Ektar H35 Half Frame Film Cameras.
EKTAR H35 Half Frame Film Camera
Wanna maximize your film roll? The EKTAR H35 Half Frame Film Camera doubles your images per roll using half of each frame per shot. Reduce cost, shoot more!Buy for $49.99
For those unfamiliar with the half frame concept, I can explain. I was unfamiliar with it until a roll of it came through the film lab I work at – my mind was blown by how small those negatives are. A half frame film camera is exactly what it sounds like – it shoots photos half the size of typical 35mm photos. When the camera is horizontal, you’ll see a vertical image as you look through the viewfinder. Flip the camera vertical and you’ll see a horizontal image.
With a half frame negative, the resolution is compromised. The image will not be as clear as a regular 35mm image and certainly not as clear as a medium format image. But – if the camera is crafted properly – this doesn’t have to be a “bad” thing.
I had been considering purchasing one of these cameras because they’re affordable, the sample images I had seen online looked promising, and perhaps most important of all – you get 72 shots in just one roll! That has to make this one of the most cost effective film products on the market.
I bought one of these cameras (in sage!) that day at Don’s along with two rolls of Portra 160. I was so excited to load my new little camera up that I could barely stop myself from doing so before I got to the airport. I patiently waited until we arrived in Massachusetts (and I had safely had my film hand-checked at the TSA checkpoint!) and then I loaded up my new little sage camera.
This was the first shot of the first roll. Yes, I loaded my camera in the car leaving the airport. I actually have no patience.
After shooting around 144 photos over the course of a week at the beach in Plum Island, MA, I hurried to the darkroom the night we landed back in Texas. Honestly, the results this camera produced greatly exceeded my expectations. I’m a 35mm girl again!
The camera, like many point and shoot cameras, is very dependent on access to light. The camera does have a flash which works quite effectively, but it only travels so far. You won’t be able to use this camera to make landscapes in the evening or to shoot wide shot at-home scenes. But you can certainly make portraits at night or shoot close-ups inside if the flash is on.
Something I found to be so interesting about the way some of the photos came out is the blurred edges that work as a vignette for the photograph. It almost reminds me of a tilt-shift lens. Not all of the photographs come out this way, but it is evident in some. The photographs also take on a nice painterly quality in some of the scans. Those wider shots in bright light seem to be more likely to have that “painted” look.
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Carrying around this half frame camera was such a breath of fresh air for me. I am so used to lugging around a massive chunk of a camera that I forgot what it was like to not feel physically encumbered by my camera. This little guy is so unbelievably light and small that I just wrapped him around my wrist and strolled up and down the beach and neighborhoods for hours.
There’s something so aesthetically pleasing about beachgoers amidst the beach landscape that I can’t help but want to photograph them. With this little camera, I could do so without being noticed. Not only is the camera barely noticeable but because of the point and shoot’s nature, it truly was a “point and shoot” moment every time. I’m used to metering for the light, getting the focus set, hoping the moment wasn’t lost in the time it took for me to do that, and then inevitably being noticed by the stranger because I’ve been pointing my camera at them for minutes at that point. With this half frame camera, that wasn’t a problem, and I felt confident that my shot would come out the way I hoped.
One of the days, I took the camera out when there was a thunderstorm headed our way. I knew it wasn’t due for a bit (it ended up moving away from us) so I wanted to see how the camera did in less light. I’m so surprised by how nicely these images came out considering the fact that it was pretty dim at the time I was shooting.
Not to sound too much like a Kodak fanatic, but I do think this camera really is a testament to the craftsmanship and longevity behind Kodak as a company. When the people at Kodak create, they do so with the photographer at heart. Before I shot medium format, I went through many point and shoot 35mm cameras. They were all full frame, and I never found one that achieved this level of quality and receptivity to light like this one. The quality is better than the point and shoots I have previously shot with, and these negatives are half the size of normal 35mm negatives! I find that quite remarkable.
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Okay, so, a couple of times something like this came out on the roll. For some photographers, this may be a disappointment. For me, I was so excited. I love weird, happy accidents that result from too much light or some weird something I probably did while shooting. Shooting film is never going to be perfect, but that’s part of what makes it so worthwhile.
Go get yourself a Kodak Ektar H35 Half Frame Film Camera – you will not regret it. Happy shooting!