Film Photography

So as explained previously I’ve taken the plunge back into old mechanical cameras, I hope going back to the basics of older mechanical cameras will add an extra dimension to my photography. As well as giving me the original vintage film look I strive to emulate in my digital photography.

I picked up a used Praktica LTL3 from eBay with a 50mm 2.8 Carl Zeiss DDR Jenna lens, a pretty good combination for under £15. The camera and the lens are absolutely solid. I also picked up a few rolls of Kodak Portra 400 35mm film, which is one of my favourite colour films (next to Fuji Superia and Kodak Portra 800).

The camera is in pretty good condition seeing as it’s over 50 years old. Unfortunately the TTL light meter doesn’t work, so getting the right exposure means going right back to basics by using some maths coupled with the Sunny 16 rule. The Praktica light seals are fairly worn, so I’m hoping this will give some nice light leaks in the processing.



Using The Film Camera

Luckily the weather was very sunny, so the Sunny 16 rule came in very handy, along with some great tips from a few film photography communities. The Praktica itself is great to use, it’s a very solid camera which feels very robust (and loud), the TTL focus rings really help with manual focusing and make it a lot easier to get your subject sharp. I took a number if different test shots to see how the camera and film react, and to see if I was able to get the right exposure.

For the test shots Me and Charlie went on a summer walk, I was very happy that out of all 36 shots in the film, I got 36 developed photographs back!

Cleeve hill in the sunshine - kodak portra 400

Cleeve Hill Cheltenham (f16, 1/500, Kodak Portra 400)

Charlie on an adventure

Charlie on an adventure (f16,1/125, Kodak Portra 400)

Charlie opening the gate

Charlie trying to open the gate (f16,1/250, Kodak Portra 400)

Charlie mowing the grass on Kodk Portra 400

Charlie doing the gardening (f16, 1/250, Kodak Portra 400)

Charlie in Kodak Portra 400

Charlie in Kodak Portra 400 (f16, 1/250, Kodak Portra 400 – image cleaned in Photoshop)

My Conclusion

Film definitely isn’t dead, using a 50 year old camera and some high quality 35mm film stock has yielded some great results. Even those these are quick and simple test shots, I love the dynamic range, tones and colours that film gives you. If these shots had been scanned in at 4000DPI the image quality would be far beyond my Nikon digital SLR (the equivalent to 20+ Million Megapixels). The fine grain this 400ASA film gives you really adds depth to the images, the skin tones and bright exposures really excel beyond digial photographs. The light leaks from the old light seals are a great look too, they add to the vintage feel.

I will defiantly be using film a lot more in my photography, buoyed by the confidence of getting the right exposures on all my photographs (and the focus right on about 90%), I will be trying a lot more experimental shots and trying out different film to see how far I can push this German tank style camera. The only down side to this current camera set up is the speed of the photography, even though it makes you slow down and compose one shot, if someone blinks or the child runs away – that shot is over.

I have also taken a number of different shots with my Nikon and my Praktica to compare how the digital film emulation looks against the real film.

All images copyright of Mark Buckley.