A couple of months ago I picked up a very used & abused Minolta XG9 35mm Film SLR Camera from ebay. It was only $15 and even with shipping etc, it was a very affordable purchase.
The minolta range of cameras (now bought out by Sony) offered some of the most advanced ‘affordable’ SLR cameras in the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s. As such, some of their MC and MD mount lenses often find their way into the camera bags of even the most professional photographers. There is, now, a huge range of fixed, fast lenses on the market. Many people overlook the manual aspect of the lens in favor of the very affordable, and sort after, depth of field bokeh these lenses offer.
To put that into perspective; a standard fast f1.7 of f1.8 prime lens from Canon or Sigma might cost about $400 dollars. This would be for the cheap option with some heading up into the thousands of dollars. A 50mm f1.7 Rokkor manual lens made with an MD Minolta mount, however, can be found on ebay for as low as $25. Add to this an interchangeable mount adapter and you have yourself a very affordable method for creating some very nice portrait shots, complete with that gorgeous bokeh.
This isn’t exactly what I started out talking about today, but it leads into the meat of my subject which is whether, or not, film photography is a dead art form. Or is the fact that it’s analog and a little archaic part of the fun. Something I am still answering. What I do know, however, is it’s all pretty fun finding out.
I wasn’t one of those kids who got into photography when I was younger. I did a standard photography unit at college though it wasn’t enough to force me out into hobby of photography. Probably a good thing coz I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to afford this hobby back then. lol. During that simple course at college, however, I did learn the basics of film photography and, if forced, I might even remember how to develop my own film. Back when I was travelling the world I was more concerned with girls, listening to music and playing up than trying to capture the new and amazing things around me. It’s funny how your priorities change as you get older. No, I didn’t really get into photography, as a hobby, till much more recently.
It wasn’t until I picked up Canon’s entry level 500d a couple of years ago that I realised all the fun I could have with taking pictures of random stuff. Social media sites like Flickr and Facebook etc, meant that I could take my images and broadcast them to friends and family back home too. These same media outlets also offered me easy access to other people’s work and an entire community of like minded people.
Ummm, er… Where was I going with this? Oh, so I picked up a very battered XG9 body to use with one of the MD lenses I already had. You can see my XG in the image above. What seemed to be a great looking step back into memorabilia, however, ended up being a bit of a let down. I bought the camera very cheaply knowing the battery terminal wasn’t working. I assumed this was only important for the light meter As it was only a trial purchase I was fine with shooting without an active light meter. I thought I’d be able to wing it and, if all else fails, use the light meter on my digital SLR to check against. Unbeknown to me, however, the shutter release on the XG9 is power assisted and a none working power source meant I couldn’t even fire the shutter. So it was useless. Looks nice on the shelf though.
After this I did a bit more research and discovered that the slightly older SRT range of Minoltas was the more versatile model. I found a young chap on a local photography forum who was selling one. He was demanding the princely sum of THB 1,500 (AU$45.00) baht for a mint condition 1959 Minolta SRT101 body. Of course I rang him up, transferred some money across and had him courier it to me immediately. It is beautiful. Everything works as it should, there are no body scratches or abrasions. It looks very new and operates nice and smoothly. On top of all that, if I ever got stuck in a Zombie apocalypse I could use it to cave in the skulls of the undead masses. The thing is a tank.
After acquiring such a nice 35mm camera I was then faced with the off putting realisation that I hadn’t seen a shop selling film, or a local chemist that developed it, for years. Back onto the internet for a bit of searching. I ended up coming across a few local Flickr groups and discovered there is quite an established gathering of people who still shoot film; Thais and farangs alike. It seems the section of Lad Prao Road, directly opposite the Central Department store, has a dozen, or so, shops that still cater to film. I swung passed on a weekend and picked myself up some black and white film. I figured if you are going to go ‘old skool’ then you may as well go the whole hog and use monochrome film.
Here’s a small gallery of pictures taken from my first roll of film. I’m not going to lie, they were tidied up a little using Lightroom before uploaded. The scanner picks up everything and I’ve had to drop down the clarity and increase the contrast to remove some of the film texture and asa noise. I must admit I quite enjoyed taking these pictures. There’s something very satisfying about the ‘clunk’ of a 50 year old mirror and the physical action of winding on to the next frame.