My Grande Film Experiment

Canon A-1So some time ago I picked up an old Canon A-1 film camera at a thrift store for my antique camera collection which I intend to display on a shelf in my office someday. Well the camera looked like it was in good working order so I began to wonder if the thing would actually work. I went across the street to Walgreen’s and it just so happened that they had a battery for the thing so I installed it and by golly the little internal LED meter came to life!

I acquired some film and soon my film experiment was off and running! I was surprised to discover that a couple of the local camera stores still maintain functioning film labs and eventually I turned in a roll of film. After a couple long weeks I received the call… my negatives and prints were back and by golly the camera works and the prints looked good 🙂

Mule Deer Doe

So does film compare in quality to my 32mp Canon 90D? Of course not, not even close. But I did find the entire process enjoyable and discovered that I still like the whole process of loading film, shooting the pictures, running the advance lever and physically going to the lab and talking with real people. I also discovered that digital photography has made me a bit lazy. It costs nothing to rattle off a few test shots with the wrong exposure to get the camera set up for a shoot with perfect settings. With film it costs a dollar every time you click the button so it isn’t feasible to just fire off some shots. It also won’t do you any good because there obviously isn’t any immediate feedback on a screen to tell you what to do!

South Face of Pikes Peak

I had to relearn how to read a scene and run my old incident meter. The reflective meters in cameras can’t always be trusted to return an exact exposure so sometimes it’s better to use the old style incident meter to read the light actually falling on a scene to get an accurate exposure.

The old camera with it’s old manual focus lenses is quite small and light, and a very easy thing to carry along on a hike where there is no pressure to capture a lot of images for a YouTube movie or Instagram. Any shooting I was doing with my film camera was just for me, a simple exercise in enjoying my hobby. I found the entire process relaxing and intend to continue shooting with film once in a while.

Climbers in Garden of the Gods

But if I’m going on a vacation or a shoot where I am serious about getting images there is no way that I’m going to be shooting film. No film camera will ever come close to replacing 10 frames a second at 32 megapixels. Also with digital I can change my ISO with the changing conditions which I am constantly encountering in my photo trips that often begin in predawn light and finish in bright midday sunshine.

But I have to admit, I am a bit nostalgic for the old days when you would take your roll of film to the camera store and talk with other people about their recent experiences with our beloved hobby. I enjoyed the experience of laying your strip of film on the lamp and carefully examining the frames with a loupe, looking for just the right with which to create an enlargement. Other photographers would gather around and take a look through the glass for themselves and the whole experience had a special feel that has been lost in the digital era.

Downtown Victor Colorado

I still recommend film and the entire photographic process for anyone starting out in photography. I think there is great value in understanding each step of the process, from selecting the correct ISO value for your roll of film, to metering the light for a correct exposure, to learning the patience to wait for your results. So even though I won’t be shooting with my A-1 all the time, I have acquired a backpack for the camera and manual focus lenses and I intend to continue putting it to use once in a while! Not too much use though, with these fuel prices the trip to the lab in Colorado Springs costs about $40, Add that to the $25 for the film, processing and the high res scans and it’s a pretty expensive proposition to turn in a roll of film!

I have included a few scans of my negatives with this post, I hope you enjoy the results! If you enjoy the content and would like to contribute to the cause, please click the donate button and select an amount!


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Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

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