Day 61: Film Gear

It was just over two years ago and I finally decided to play with film. There was no doubt, the colors and texture… I was in love and I needed to know how to create the images I was seeing from my favorite photographers. The problem was: it’s damn expensive. You guys, the price tag of a Contax with that Zeiss lens is around $3,500. THEN, you had to pay for film and development. Each roll of film is around $8, and to develop it is $19. So each roll of 15 exposures cost me about $1.80 per image, regardless of if I used the image or not. So let’s say I take 75 images total per shoot, that means in film and development alone I was going to spend $135 for the overhead. That’s a big jump from digital where I would take 300 images with no added cost of film and processing. Yikes.

So I started saving for that Contax and my right-hand man instead bought me a Pentax 645 and a Canon 1V for a grand total of $900.

He opened the boxes with all the enthusiasm of a high school cheerleader trying to make captain and explained to me what I was curling my lip at. “I know it’s not a Contax but…” That was pretty much all I needed to hear. “Just try them!” he urged but I would hear nothing of it.

He made some really fantastic key points that I didn’t hear such as:

• A Pentax is a medium format camera just like a Contax is.

• The Contax actually is a very temperamental camera and people only put up with it because of the Zeiss lens. It’s the lens that creates those images you love.

• The 1v is a 35mm camera which means you can use your digital lenses!!

• By shooting 35mm, you can get 36 images per roll instead of the 15 you get with medium format.

• 35mm film is STILL THAT FUJI 400 YOU WANT TO USE, IT’S JUST CUT SMALLER!

He stopped just short of pulling his hair out. Over the next few weeks I did try the whole film thing out but I hit some roadblocks. First, on one shoot, I somehow missed the manual focus ring and changed the aperture to F14 for three entire rolls.

Second, I had no idea how to practice. With digital, you could check the back of your camera for immediate feedback. With film, you shot, prayed, and when your film came back from the lab two weeks later, you had no idea what you did right or wrong or how to fix it OR replicate it going into the next shoot. Hell, you didn’t even know what your settings were, let alone how to improve.

And third, I felt like I was starting over. I was eight years into photography. I knew my digital gear like the back of my hand… how hard was film supposed to be? I mean, switch between an electric and acoustic guitar, a keyboard or piano, the notes were still all there… with a camera, it was AV, ISO and Shutter + good lighting. What was I missing?

My right-hand man and I broke up (TMI?) and I set my film cameras aside for nearly a year. In fact, as part of our “returning boxes of each others’ stuff,” I asked if he would sell the film gear for me. “Sure,” he said, and four months later I reached back out asking if he had sold them yet. He hadn’t gotten around to it and I asked for them back for another round of very expensive trial and error.

And thank God I did.

The next week will be all about film shooting, gear, terminology and film stock. So to start, my gear for film is as follows:
• Pentax 645
• Canon 1V
• Hoya filters
• 105 mm lens with adapter
• 75 mm Pentax lens
• Tons of Portra film

Day 98 is currently reserved for any questions you have throughout the 100 days. To submit a question, please click here! If you’re interested in supporting this project, please share, PIN and comment! Any other questions, comments or ideas, please feel free to email me at denise(at)denisekaris(dot)com

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris

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