Toy Cameras!

When I started down the analog photography path, I kept seeing articles and listening to podcasts talking about “Lomo this” and “Holga that” and wondered, “What is so special about these cheap plastic cameras?” I figured if you wanted light leaks and distorted photos, you whip out your iPhone, shoot some photos, and run them through VSCO! Why bother with film and these defective plastic cameras if you wanted to take imperfect, “retro-looking” photos? I had to know what the buzz was about, so I bought one!

The FPP Debonair

Enter the Film Photography Project’s PlasticFilmtastic Debonair 120. A mass produced Chinese all-plastic camera (lens included) with a fixed f8 aperture, 1/100s (sunny) or 1/60s (cloudy/flash) shutter speeds, a hotshoe for a flash, and 3 focus settings (one guy, two guys, mountain). A bare-bones, no-nonsense camera whose sole purpose was to provide Chinese families with simple tool to capture treasured moments on film.

Lomo Color Negative 100 ISO

Simplicity. That’s the best thing about this camera. No need to adjust much, if anything related to exposure. Simply compose, focus (debatable on whether or not the focus ring does anything substantial enough to notice) and fire. I’ve put three rolls of Lomography’s 100 ISO color film through my camera and I love the results so far. Lomo’s color film is pretty great in the harsh Florida light, and did an excellent job giving me a kind of retro/expired film looking vibe, which fits perfectly with this camera. This film, coupled with the camera’s penchant for subtle, unpredictable light leaks makes this a perfect blunt-force photographic tool for capturing a lo-fi lomographic look that I happen to like. This camera is also a great way to dip your toes into the multiple exposure pool!

Light leaks and lens flares galore!

If you are a perfectionist and must have precision tools to do precision photographic work, this camera is not for you. However, if you’re looking for a fun camera to throw in your bag before heading to the beach or an outing with friends, I cannot recommend the FPP Debonair enough. It makes photography fun! When I’m shooting with it, I don’t worry about nailing my focus or exposure, I simply focus on the moment and the scene I’m trying to capture. It brings me back to why I started photographing in the first place, the sheer joy of taking a picture! If you don’t own a toy camera, do yourself a favor and grab one, whether it’s from the kind folks at the FPP or wherever you purchase your camera gear. You won’t regret it, and with any luck, you’ll have as much fun with yours as I do with mine!



Newsflash: I’m Cheap.

Well, maybe not cheap, but I don’t have a ton of disposable income, which is why I have to browse the bargains for gear to help me achieve what I want out of my photography. Here are three extremely inexpensive things I find indispensible:

1. A notebook

$0.69 at Wal-Mart. I like to use mine to record exposure data and notes about photos I’ve made or possible locations for photos I have yet to make. A flexible, yet durable, plastic cover helps it not get soggy taking it in and out of the camera bag on wet days, and it stays on the notebook (unlike some other composition-type notebooks). Oh, I forgot to mention it’s also narrow-ruled. Cancel your Field Notes subscription, those folks played you like a chump.

2. L-Plate Bracket

The ball head on my also-cheap tripod is fantastic for what I paid for it, but trying to orient it to shoot portraits is an absolute pain-in-the-neck. My penny-pinching solution? This L-plate bracket I bought from Amazon. Made from “aluminum alloy” (whatever that means), it’s lightweight, sturdy enough to support my Mamiya m645, and at $6.41 (no, that is not a typo) you’d be insane to not pick one up. I can buy 10 of these for one “high end” model, and I highly doubt those are worth 10x as much as this baby. For the hobbyist on a budget, this is a no-brainer.

3. Circular Polarizer

I live in Florida and glare is a harsh reality. If you don’t own polarized sunglasses in the Sunshine State, you might as well stare at the sun, it’s that bad. So then, why wouldn’t I have a pair of sunglasses in my kit to help my camera see better during those sunny days? This circular polarizer is another one of those tools that I could break or lose a few times before I’ve spent as much as a brand name polarizer.  While I haven’t done the pixel-peeping research to truly compare images, at normal viewing the image quality is on par if not better with a more expensive polarizer I owned and dropped. It’s definitely worth the $12 I paid for it, and then some.

So there you have it! Three budget solutions for pieces of gear we all need. If you’re like me and just love to get out and shoot, you really can’t go wrong with any of these. Now, I know that certain things like filter and tripods, you truly do get a better product when you pay a little bit more, but for someone like myself who is new to shooting film and is still getting a handle on exposure, composition, and the other nuts and bolts of photography, it makes more sense for me to spend less money to make the same rookie mistakes. If you have any comments or suggestions for other cheap, but useful gear, hit me up on Twitter at @AnalogHobbyist!



Why I Shoot Digital Too

The first camera I bought was a Canon AE-1 Program. I chose it because I was always fascinated by the AE-1 my dad had, and the black and white photos it captured that hung in our house. Photography was always a thing that interested me, but was never something I thought about delving into until I was in my late 20s.

When I received my AE-1P, I put a few rolls of film through it and immediately fell in love. The look of the photos, the feel of the camera in my hands, the satifying CLACK it makes when I press the shutter! The whole process of taking photos with a film camera is so sensorially fulfilling and addicting to me! I can be having a terrible day, but after I fire off a couple of frames on that clunky Canon, I instantly feel better.

So why, if I love film so much, did I buy a digital camera a few months later? Short answer? I didn’t want to travel with film. My girlfriend and I had planned a 10 day trip to Europe in April of this year, and we were planning on travelling light. I had no experience travelling with film before and all of the articles and how-tos I read on the subject didn’t make it seem all that appealing. I debated about what I wanted to do photographically on this trip and decided digital was the way to go. I started looking at what I wanted in a digital camera and ended up choosing the Sony a6000. It had all of the features I wanted (electronic viewfinder, interchangeable lenses, articulating screen, compact size, 24.5 MP sensor) and nothing I didn’t need (4k video, full frame, hefty price tag, etc). In my opinion, it’s the perfect digital camera for me at the moment.

Another unintended benefit of buying a digital camera is how much I’ve learned about photography while using it. I use my Canon FD lenses on it with an adapter (the kit lens is pretty bad for photography), and the muscle memory training of manually focusing and adjust the aperture, while seeing immediate results in the viewfinder is awesome! Seeing each variable and its effect on the photo in real time has helped me to understand exposure a lot better. Shooting digital has also freed me up to be more creative and adventurous with my photography, which has made me a lot more confident when I shoot film. I can experiment on digital as proof of concept, then if I like what I see, I’ll shoot a few frames on film. In-camera black and white JPEG treatment also helps me understand what to look for when shooting black and white film. The black and white JPEG helps me to see the contrast and geometry of a scene better than I can see the same scene in color.

This isn’t post isn’t “digital vs. analog” or anything like that. I love shooting photos on both formats and I derive different things from both formats. I like digital for the immediacy of results and because it shortens my learning curve in certain areas of photography. I like film because of the look and feel of the product as well as the sensation shooting brings me.

What the digital vs. analog debate boils down to is a debate over formats, which is silly. Cameras are tools to accomplish a task. I’m not going to take an 8×10 camera to shoot candid photos at a friend’s birthday party, the same way I’m not going to shoot photos I intend to blow up to large prints on a smaller format like 35 or 110. Digital has taught me much about photography, and film reminds me of the importance of slowing down and enjoying the moment.

In short, digital helps me learn and film helps me grow, so there will always room for both formats in my camera bag!

Resisting Temptation

I’ll be honest, I’ve had quite a bad case of GAS lately. Wait, no, that’s not what I mean! Gear Acquistion Syndrome, not the other kind! Sheesh! I’ve been browsing eBay ready to pounce on a new compact or medium format (I’ve had my eye on a Ricoh GR or a Fuji GA645zi), but I haven’t pulled the trigger because of a lack of funds. Delaying gratification is not one of my strong suits, which makes me wonder how I fell into film photography in the first place!

Anyhow, wanting a new camera has made me think about why I want a new camera and what I would do if I got one. Ultimately, a camera is a tool, and like any tool, some are better suited for certain situations. At my skill level, I need something simple, forgiving, and easy to operate and maintain. The Canon AE-1 Program and Olympus XA2 I already own fit this description perfectly. Both are very affordable, both have decent image quality for the price, and both are simple and effective tools for taking pictures. I want a new camera because I think it will jump start my creativity and compel me to shoot more often. I know this is not the case! Both of these cameras are perfect for me (a beginner) to get my feet wet and learn about exposure, composition, and film stocks. Buying a new, fancier camera won’t help me learn about any of those things faster or better. Ultimately, I would be shooting the same things and making the same mistakes, but those mistakes would carry a bit more cost with them! Real motivation to shoot needs to come from within and not from an eBay purchase.

Why am I writing this? Mostly as way to talk mysef out of buying something I don’t need, but also to let you know a bit about my thought process and reason for starting this blog. It’s not about camera porn or finding some crazy cult cameras to write about, but rather it’s about a beginner wanting to get better at film photography and documenting that journey. Being honest about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it must come first in order to have this blog become the product I want it to be. Hopefully, some awesome shots are a happy by-product of that process, but until those happen, I’ll be content to waste a few rolls of film to learn the craft!