Why I Absolutely Adore Compact Film Cameras for My Photography

The alternative title for this pretty personal blog post was something along the lines of “Compact Film Cameras are the Absolute Best And I Don’t Care If You Call Me a Hipster You’re a Hipster” but after a few rounds of video games to clear my mind, I decided against this motion. But in all honesty, it would just the same for me. You see, lots of folks love their digital cameras and have major hangups about film cameras. Maybe they’ve tried them for a really long time and are sick of everything that was involved. The younger folks though may consider them a bit too cliche yet may try to emulate the look of film as best as they can. However when you’re shooting for pure pleasure and fun, there’s often nothing more rewarding than knowing that you gave it your all and a lot of thought to be gifted a number of great images at the end of it all. There’s an interpersonal and very self-fulfilling experience involved in all this that doesn’t at all remove you from the moment to chimp the LCD screen, let others around you see, etc.

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Six Film Emulsions to Travel With on Your Next Trip (and a Few Recommended Cameras)

Lots of photographers are wary of bringing film with them on their next airplane trip, but the experienced photographers have learned how to do it. Sure, your phone, a good point and shoot, or a small ILC camera will work great but there is something absolutely unique about what film will do for the experience. Typically, folks love to look at and fall in love with their travel photos as soon as possible. But when you delay that otherwise instant gratification just a bit, you’ll be much more thoroughly surprised later on. Even if you shoot instant film, there’s still a Je Ne Sais Quoi about that moment that enhances the experience.

Here are a few of our favorite film emulsions

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Useful Photography Tip #178: How to Get the Blade Runner Look In Your Photos

Want more Useful Photography Tips? Click here.

Lots of photographers everywhere tend to want what’s called the “Blade Runner” look in their images, and what they don’t realize is just how incredibly simple it is to do within the camera and not even worry about post-production at all. And guess what: it has everything to just do with white balance and the lights around you. The scenes that we’re specifically talking about happen in the cities–which are bathed in Daylight colored lighting. If you’re unaware, a flash is balanced to daylight. When you look at the lights around you too, they’ll tend to be whiter in color and output. To clarify just a bit more, think about your phone’s white light color display and how it becomes warmer at night.

Back to daylight lighting: you’ll need to find a whole lot of that. Now there are two ways that you can proceed here. With your digital camera, manually set the kelvin temperature of your camera to 3200K. That’s the color of tungsten film properly and will give off the blueish look when you’re in the presence of daylight. Alternatively, load your camera up with CineStill 800T and go shooting. For the best results, shoot at ISO 800 when you’re around really bright lights. Otherwise, feed the film more light by overexposing by around a stop or so.

Vintage Camera Review: Minolta Maxxum 7 (Minolta a7)

No, this isn’t the Sony a7, but the Minolta a7 is perhaps one of the best film Alpha mount cameras that you can still get your hands on used. While the Minolta a9 is considered the flagship, there are features built into the Minolta a7 that can make it much more appealing. For starters, it’s much lighter. And there is also a built in data back that lets you change a whole lot of parameters in a very simple way.

And to be honest, it’s one of the best autofocusing film SLR cameras I’ve ever used–completely putting a lot of what Canon and Nikon created to shame.

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These Are Photographic Film’s Worst Enemies (7 Common Film Issues)

This is a syndicated blog post from CineStill and the Brothers Wright. It and the images here are being used with permission.

“Here today, gone tomorrow…”

– a predominant theme in the modern digital world around us. The greatest appeal of photography is the ability to capture that fleeting moment. To lock it, in true permanence, with the swift and sure click of a shutter. But as with all things ones and zeros, digital photography is by nature immaterial. Film photography, on the other hand, is a physical process with immutable results.

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Levi Wedel’s Invisible City Envisions an Eerie Cinematic World Without People

All images by Levi Wedel. Used with a Creative Commons permission.

There are more than enough films out there that use and envision a near apocalyptic future, but perhaps none really capture it like Levi Wedel’s Invisible City. Levi hails from Alberta, Canada and the Invisible City project is a number of photos taken at night on medium format film. The scenes depicted are devoid of people–and when you look through the images it’s really easy to feel as if you’re completely alone in the scene. This sense of being alone leads to an eerie uneasiness that someone or something may pop out and get you; and that something is creeping in the darkness.

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Film Emulsions with a Look You Can’t Get in Digital Photography

Lead photo by Doctor Popular. Used with a Creative Commons License.

There are loads and loads of film emulations that have been more or less copied with presets for Lightroom. Everyone has their own interpretation, and for the most part if you ask any film photographer, they’ll tell you that they don’t look like film. At the same time though, there are film emulsions out there that really don’t look like anything that can possibly be replicated in digital.

Here are some of our favorite film emulsions that digital hasn’t yet copied.

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Using New Camera Lenses with Old School Film Emulsions

One of the cooler things about owning a camera with a legacy lens system is that you can use their lenses with old school film cameras loaded with fresh film. That typically goes for lots of new lens options on the market. To be clear, this means that Canon EF, Nikon F, Pentax K, Leica M, and Sony/Minolta A mount lenses can all work seamlessly on your film cameras and your digital cameras without the need for an adapter. In fact, for a really long time I’ve used the Canon EOS Elan 7 as a backup camera body of sorts.

So what happens when you use new lenses with film? Those of you who grew up with film may say nothing special. But for those of us who started in digital, we say differently.

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The Absolute Most Simple Key to Creating More Film-Like Digital Photos

Quite obviously, the best way to create an image that looks like film is to shoot film to start out with; but if you don’t have a film camera or aren’t ready to take that dip yet, there is a basic fundamental principle that you should know. Lots of photographers go out there and create images that they state and truly believe looks like film. But indeed, it really doesn’t. The reason for this is because most photographers don’t understand how film works when it comes to one of the biggest parameters out there: colors.

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Vintage Camera Review: Canon EOS Elan 7

If you’re a Canon EOS photographer then you’ve probably considered getting a Canon film body to use with your lenses at one point or another–and the Canon EOS Elan 7 was bound to come up in your choices of available cameras. For years, I’ve been using my Elan 7 as a backup body to my 5D Mk II and my 6D. Crazily enough, I’m also not alone–I know a number of photographers that do the same thing. These photographers shoot film at times and photograph subject matter ranging from portraits to campaigns on the American political trail.

If you’re a Canon EOS Lens mount owner, the Elan 7 will make a lot of sense to you.

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8 Motivational Facebook Groups for Portrait Photographers

Portrait photographers can sometimes feel like they’ve got no place for a spot just for them. Of course Instagram can be tough about this, but oddly enough Facebook isn’t. There are loads of groups dedicated to just portrait photographers that can mean all the difference for them when it comes to learning, inspiration, networking, etc.

Here are eight that we’re currently smitten by.

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How to Shoot Better Portraits With Film

Lead image by Joe Valtierra

Portraiture is a process–and in today’s digital photography world it’s always wonderful to embrace the slower and more methodical process of film photography. Yes, it’s difficult and it’s nowhere as forgiving as digital photography. But that’s what makes you a better photographer.

After years of screwing up with film over and over again, I learned a lot when it comes to shooting. There are a number of labs around the country that will develop film for you.

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Vintage Camera Review: Hexar AF

Few cameras will make a photographer’s mouth water like the Hexar AF. When it comes to some of the best point and shoot cameras that use 35mm film, it’s tough to get anything better (though there arguably are other options.) The Hexar AF is often said to be one of the best available for street photographers and has a fixed 35mm f2 lens stated to be a copy of a Leica Summicron. Everything about it is designed to be low profile.

The design of this camera is so good that it can be seen in many today–with it likeness most prominently compared to the Fujifilm x100 series of cameras. If you’re a street photographer, there’s a lot that you’ll like about this camera. In fact, even if you just want a fixed lens point and shoot, you’ll adore this camera. At the same time, there are things that could drive you a bit nuts if you crave more full control.

All film was generously processed by the Lomography Gallery store here in NYC. 

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5 Alternative Film Emulsions Very Worth Trying

The biggest users of film these days are millennials and people younger than 30. Why? It’s a different experience from seeing an image pop up immediately or being able to send it off to all your friends right then and there in that moment. While the tried and true standards like Portra, Tri-X and Velvia are popular, they’re not always capable of giving you a look in a photo that digital can’t easily do with some tweaking. So instead, we’re rounding up a number of films that we strongly recommend you try out.

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Review: Fujifilm Natura 1600 (35mm film)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm Natura 1600 film (27 of 28)

My buddy Simon Chetrit personally introduced me to a film that really only spoken about in legends here in America. It’s called Fujifilm Natura 1600: available only in Japan, you can ship it over here to the US–though it’s a tad expensive. But it’s quite a special film. Lots of photographers shoot Portra in 35mm, but very few have tried this.

Fujifilm Natura 1600 was designed to offer very life-like color and also give a fine grain for a 1600 35mm film. It’s one of my favorite color films in addition to much of the stuff that CineStill puts out. Getting a 1600 color ISO film is tough, but getting one with little grain is even tougher. Indeed, the grain looks like that of a couple of other lower ISO films.

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Review: Impossible Project Color 2.0 Film (Type 600)

The Impossible Project’s first major batch of color film had very interesting results; and by interesting I mean not very reliable, not saturated, and sometimes random. With Color 3.0 on the horizon, Color 2.0 has had a lot of time to marinate so to speak: and I’ve been busy testing it intermittently along the way.

For those of us that are labelled as millennials (and those who have probably turned 40 for the 20th year in a row), we probably remember the major excitement we had when our parents shot a Polaroid, it came out and we waited for the magic to appear. And quite honestly, that’s was it: magic! Indeed, whatever witch’s brew these covens were concocting had us giddy for a while–until the digital age.

Impossible has tried to keep that part of our culture and past alive; and for that effort they need to be commended. Considering how tough their project indeed is, it’s a miracle that they’ve created something this stable–but still not so simple to use.

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Letters to the Editor: A Question on Film

Cinestill photo

Letters to the Editor is a recurring series where Chris answers specific emails/letters that could benefit more than one photographer, interesting questions or questions that come in often. Have a question? Send it to chrisgampat[at]thephoblographer[dot]com with subject: Letter to the Editor: (Your name here).

Hey folks!

I’m back with another edition of Letters to the Editor. This week, Oriol asks about film choices in an annoying situation for him while Stuart is facing a crisis of whether to go with Sony or Fujifilm on top of problems with finding magic in photography.

Just remember, send your letters in and I’ll do my best to answer them every Friday.

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Review: Rokinon 135mm f2 ED UMC (Canon EF)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Rokinon 135mm f2 review product photos (6 of 6)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.5

Many years ago, Rokinon wasn’t as much of a household name amongst photographers as they are moreso today–and I would never have thought that they’d come out with a 135mm f2 lens. They were associated with the likes of Vivitar–and indeed it took a long time for them to erase that history. Today, they’re regarded amongst the photography community as being synonymous with a budget Zeiss option.

In fact, that’s kind of what the Rokinon 135mm f2 performs like.

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You Don’t Need the Golden Hour to Make The Best Photos

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Cinestill 800T sample photos (29 of 31)

For many years, photographers and instructors have always said that you need to go shoot during the golden hour. Lots of photographers still do whether it be street photography, portraits, landscapes, etc. The Golden Hour does something that can give your images a natural sunkissed look to them that yes, I’ll admit is beautiful when done just right.

But in all truthfulness, no one NEEDS the Golden Hour. Modern cameras, lenses and image editing software these days have such good technology that a great photo can be taken at any time.

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The Lessons that Shooting Film Has Taught Me

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm Instax Mini 70 scan meserole st (1 of 1)

Film photography not only has benefits as an education tool, but if you choose to shoot digital you’ll also see how it changes the way that you approach the image making process. This goes especially for working with different types of film. You learn about lighting, exposures, and many other things that eventually just go to make you a better digital photographer when it comes to the technical aspects.

Here are just a couple of ways that film has taught me to be a better photographer.

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Should Schools Totally Stop Teaching the Use of 35mm Film?

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer 4V Design Lusso Slim brown and cyan product images review (3 of 9)ISO 2001-125 sec at f - 2.0

Before you grab the pitchforks and scream at me to shut my trap because an idea like this could hurt the film community, bear with me,

For the past couple of years, I’ve been asking myself very personal questions when it comes to using film. You see, in general all my digital photography is commercial or for the Phoblographer (which then turns commercial) and all my personal project work is film-based. Granted, that’s not the case for everyone.

However, on the same train of thought, it can be very well argued that digital photography at both the APS-C and 35mm full frame level have both caught up and arguably surpassed their film counterparts in terms of versatility, detail rendition, etc.

But it hasn’t quite caught up with all that 120 can offer.

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