My goodness, there's a lot of stuff up in my attic! Yesterday I came across some photo equipment from the film era. I hadn't touched any of it since I went digital in May 2000.
Now this was something I couldn't throw away! Or at least not my three favourite cameras from film days. These were: a Konica Auto S3 compact, bought in 1973; and two cameras from 1993 - a sub-compact Minox 35 GT-E, and a secondhand Olympus OM-1N SLR. Here they are, brought down from the attic and set up on the table in my study:
It was lovely to handle them again!
The Konica was my first 'proper' camera. It cost me £75 in August 1973. I used it right through to 1990, when I switched to a secondhand Olympus OM-10 SLR. The Konica wasn't all that pocketable, but it was small enough to carry around all day and never miss a shot. Its 38mm f/1.8 lens could cope with a wide range of subjects and lighting conditions. Manual focussing was accomplished with a rangefinder. It still felt impressively solid and well-built - all-metal, naturally.
No screen on the back of the camera! (Doesn't it look strange?)
The only snag with the Konica was its viewfinder, which was fine while I had young eyes, but once I began to wear glasses from 1986 it was a nuisance to squint through it.
The Minox was truly pocketable, and of course you paid for both the famous name and the miniaturisation. It cost me £199 in February 1993. But what a handy little camera it was. Its forte was being there in your jeans pocket. Its mainly-plastic construction made it very lightweight, and because the lens folded completely away, it was very slim. That said, I gradually fell out of love with it, because focussing was by guesswork (which led to too many slightly-less-than-crisp shots) and creatively it had severe limitations - you couldn't use filters, for example. Nor was it good in poor light - its 35mm f/2.8 lens was strictly for daylight shooting. But nevertheless it was and remains a design icon:
The best of the bunch is of course the Olympus. The original OM-1 was launched way back in 1972, but stayed in production for a very long time virtually unaltered. My secondhand OM-1N was a late model, probably made in the mid-1980s. I'd already been shooting with the 'amateur' OM-10 for some while, and was ready to upgrade to the 'professional' OM-1N, although by then 'real pros' would have been using the OM-4. Intending to explore low-light photography, I bought it with a secondhand 50mm f/1.4 lens. The combo cost me £220 in August 1993. Other lenses followed, but the standard 50mm lens always seemed to give me the very best results, and I generally stuck with it. I used the Olympus heavily until May 2000. It was a very pretty camera. It gave me great pleasure throughout, and great shots, and I was sorry to relegate it to the attic.
Here are some side-by-side shots which show how these cameras each compare in size with my current Leica D-Lux 4 digital zoom compact, bought for £550 in June 2009:
That Minox really was very small!
I was an early convert to digital photography, getting into it before before the main rush began. I recall many an article in photo magazines about whether digital was 'better' than film. The answer was, and still is, that the two media produce distinctively different results, and it's a matter of taste as to whether you prefer one to the other. But there's no denying that digital surpassed film for clean resolution of sharp detail years ago. And digital can secure usable images in extreme lighting conditions well beyond the capability of film. Once uploaded (or in the case of film, scanned) onto a computer, both can be tweaked as much as desired, of course. But it's hard nowadays to do anything serious with film, because film manufacture has almost stopped. Even that giant of film, Kodak, has gone.
Talking of Kodak film, guess what I discovered in the front pocket of the Olympus carrying-case?
Two Kodak Gold 100 film packets, one of them opened - meaning that there must be a partially-used film in the Olympus. And an unused film waiting to be loaded up and exposed after that.
Isn't this tempting? Both films must be fifteen years old, and well past their best, but I'd love to see those undeveloped shots from early 2000, and how I would look now if captured on 35mm film. And also what would be the outcome of a grand digital Leica/film Olympus head-to-head comparison test. Time to get out the tripod, methinks, and experiment! I asked in Boots today whether they still processed films (Yes) and what it would cost to to have prints off a 36-exposure film (£4.99 quoted to me).
It looks like a tenner's-worth of fun is looming!