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When I first picked up a camera and started shooting (ok, more like playing), it was with film…and i have to admit that at the time, i didn’t know what I was doing. When my interest in photography grew, I got my very first digital compact (a lousy Ricoh something-or-other), but it was a sorry excuse for a camera. Ever since I picked up my first digital SLR (a D70) in 2004, I have not really looked back at film…until now…

The reason I got a DSLR was the more “gradual” learning curve. The start-up cost was definitely higher compared to a film SLR. However, in the long run, it was to be more forgiving (especially when one was learning about exposure, apertures, shutter speeds, ISO, focal lengths, etc).

Having watched as a silent spectator as the Digital vs Film battled raged on in various forums, I came to the conclusion that each had it’s own merits. I also learnt that the quality of one’s photos was usually inversely proportionate to the amount of hot-air (and number of posts) one had on the forums…but I digress.

Whatever format (or camera) you use, the end-result is dependent on what is behind the camera. While I am happy with the DSLR I am using now, I can’t help but feel that I have become too dependent on the camera itself, especially the LCD screen and the fact that I can take many photos in one go (thanks to ever increasing CF card sizes), and select the ones I wanted later. So much so that I found myself slipping ever so often into the “spray and pray” mentality (coined by Ken Rockwell). I found myself seeing less, putting less thought into the shot, and pressing the shutter trigger too hastily before moving on to the next shot.

I felt that I had to regain the confidence in a shot without having to keep referring to the LCD screen to see if I got it right. Also, I wanted to force myself to look at a subject, really watch the composition and all, and capture it the way I visualize it. Ultimately, I wanted to see if I had really learnt anything in the past six years, or whether my photography was down to an over reliance on equipment.

So, I decided to get a film camera.

With a film camera, there is no LCD screen to check if you got the exposure right. With a film camera, you have a maximum of 36 shots in a roll, so there is no such thing as “spray and pray”. With a film camera, any mistake is punished…

Being the masochist, I embarked on a search for a suitable film camera, and it had to be as basic as possible (and preferably fully manual). Being a cheapskate, it had to be cheap, if not free. I tried searching for my uncle’s old Yashica SLR (circa 1970-something) which got me interested in photography, but to no avail. A friend wanted to give me a Nikon F55, but I felt it would be too advanced (afterall, it had autofocus). I found the perfect camera in the Leica MP (ooohhh! be still my beating heart!), but it was a little too expensive.

Having almost given up hope, I stumbled upon a branch of photography that I had seen before, but never took much notice of. It involved a cheap, plastic toy camera, with a plastic lens, and no other functions to speak of (except the shutter trigger). I was fascinated…afterall, if you could take great photos with a plastic camera (and plastic lens), what more a DSLR with all its bells and whistles? After reading more about it, I found myself slowly growing in love…the camera had it’s flaws (vignetting, blurred images, light leaks), but love is blind…and after reading up about medium format and 120 film (totally foreign territory!), I took the plunge and got me one of those cheap, plastic objects of desire (and a couple of rolls of Fuji Neopan 400).

I finished a roll of 12 exposures and sent it for developing. It was strange not being able to get instant results, but it was nice having to wait and anticipate and see how the shots turned out. Well, I just went to pick it up earlier this evening, and while it was not 100%, six out of 12 for a first try isn’t too bad (I would think).

Here are a few of the shots (taken at home):

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and lastly…

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For the rest, visit my Flickr or Facebook pages.

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