Beginner First film camera ever (or for many years)

ChrisR

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ChrisR submitted a new resource:

First film camera ever (or for many years) - First film camera ever (or for many years)

If you've just acquired your first film camera ever, or perhaps for many years, this thread is for you. We suggest you have a read here, and look at a couple of other threads "stickied"; on this forum (there will be pointers below).

The first thing to say is, don't be afraid to ask, if you don't see what you need here, or don't understand it, or it conflicts with something some else told you. The F&C forum is a pretty friendly bunch in most cases:), and we really like to help people get enjoyment out of film cameras and film. The only thing that gets our goat (and prods our normally friendly semi-resident mod @TheBigYin ; into action) is when digital folk come and tell us how daft we are!(n)

Most of what follows assumes you have an "older camera"; rather than fancy new plastic Holga or Lomo camera. If you've got one of those, read the manual;

Wherever you got this camera from, whether your parents' attic, a charity shop, a boot sale, or a proper second hand camera shop, the first thing is to test it, right?

Wrong! The first thing is to check if there's a film in it. Depending on the camera, you may be able to tell by winding on and watching the rewind knob; for SLR cameras, anyway. At worst you'll find out when you open the back. If there is a film (and you haven't exposed it by opening the back). Then rewind/wind back (perhaps finishing the film first), and get it processed. More on this later;

BTW it might be worth reading the camera's manual (RTFM, as they used to say in the computer world)! If one didn't come with the camera, many are available at this site; (please leave him a donation from time to time).:help:

Most (but not all) film cameras have batteries, so an early check is whether it still has a battery, whether the battery terminals look clean or corroded, and whether the battery still has some charge. Turn it on, aim at the window, half press the shutter looking through the viewfinder (or look at any LCD displays for more modern cameras), and see if anything springs into life. A bit of juice will let you get on with the rest of the tests, but it may be worth getting new ones (see below for battery issues). Many older cameras will work fine with no battery; for most of these, any metering will not work (surprisingly, some cameras don't even need a battery for the meter). Some cameras
[list or pointer?] will not work at all without a battery.

Next, open up the camera, point it at the window, and look for any leaks [is this just for bellows cameras? Someone help out with some words, please!]. While you've got the back open, look at the various light seals around the door and various other bits. They tend to go gooey after some years, and often need to be replaced, a job you can do at home (see below). But even if the seals look crud, carry on testing.

Next, if possible test the full range of film speeds, eg from the fastest to the slowest. Not all cameras will let you do this, depending on how automatic they are. Some members here have a test film, eg a roll of Poundland film, that they use to check the film advance in cameras that haven't been used for a while. Shoot the whole roll checking all the speeds (just by listening) then test the rewind function. If it's a (previously used) test roll, try not to rewind it all the way and open the back to wind the last few frames. If you have one of these, write TEST FILM - DO NOT PROCESS in big black letters just in case you're tempted to grab a roll when heading out the door in a hurry!

Now it's time for the real fun. Get yourself a cheap test film, and go out and shoot it. For 35mm film, many of us go to Poundland and buy whatever they have (the Agfa Vista 200 ISO is surprisingly good, and they also sometimes have a Kodak colour film ; guess the price). Then get it processed at a local cheap'n'cheerful place (some bigger Asda stores will do it while you shop for £2 per film and £1 to put a low resolution scan on a CD; some Tescos also do while you wait processing, as will Snappy Snaps and Max Spielmann, the latter for about £5 for process and scan to CD). Note, there is a sticky on film processing [here].

Take your CD home, load onto your computer and have a look. And enjoy it! But let us enjoy it too, please, by adding a shot or two in the "Show us yer film shots, then!" thread. Oh, and you could pop a picture of your new love on the "Official I have a new (Film-related) toy Thread".

[Any special advice for medium format cameras would go here.]

Any special advice for exotic and large format cameras would go here (but these are probably sufficiently varied that you're better off just asking).

Batteries: many film cameras use batteries that are still easily available, but some use a 1.35V mercury cell which is no longer available. There are various workarounds, including expensive specialist 1.35V zinc-air cells called "Wein-Cell"s and whilst they are an excellent replacement they are somewhat more costly (~ £5). Because of the zinc air design they only last for about 12 months maximum; fine if you're continuing to use the camera, but expensive if you only use it occasionally. The cheapest place to get them is the 'Small Battery Company' and they also have a good section on potential replacement options as well as the zinc-air batteries, including an expensive adapter for about £25 which allows you to use 1.5V batteries fine as it drops the voltage (and they last much much longer). See here: http://www.smallbattery.company.org.uk/sbc_mrb675.htm.

There are also various kludges with hearing-aid batteries and adapters, see for example http://www.paulbg.com/Nikon_F_meter_batteries.htm, selling 4 adapters for a little over $25 including postage. They're great value and use the widely available hearing aid batteries that are ridiculously cheap (particularly if you raid your mother's stockpile). The hearing aid batteries can last very well and certainly longer than 2 months.

If your new (old) camera does display some problems, it may be worth getting it Cleaned, Lubricated and Adjusted (or CLAed). There are several places that will do this; a name that often pops up here is Miles Whitehead, a very skilled and experienced technician who has fixed many of our cameras, and who will give a quote if necessary.

If you suspect the seals are bad (either by inspection, or by seeing some surprising light areas in your test images), but the camera is other wise OK, you can try changing the seals yourself. A guy from Texas called Jon Goodman (email JGood21967@aol.com) is very popular for this and has a wide range with good instructions for a few pounds. You don't have to be super clever to do this (trust me, cack-handed and I've managed it).

We've mentioned the film processing sticky, but if you get into this in a big way, you'll probably want a scanner. There are various types, and it very much depends on what formats you are shooting, but many here with 35mm and 120 (medium format) are very happy with the flatbed Epson V500, available second hand for around £100. Plustek and Reflecta do decent 35mm dedicated scanners for somewhere between £200-£300. These should produce higher quality in both resolution, sharpness and density than a flatbed for 35mm, and that's why they are more. Don't buy the cheap (£50-£80) stand-alone scanners, that usually advertise 5mp; they are just a cheap camera in a light box, and produce rather poor images, particularly colour negatives.

Large format users need something that will go bigger than the V500, and some have reported good results with the V750. Don't get this wrong: there are other scanners out there, some better and no doubt some worse than the ones mentioned, just some hints to get you started!

Read more about this resource...
 
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Steve

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Great idea Chris.. I have noticed a few recent posts asking for help so seems good to have a sticky.
 

TheBigYin

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I've stickied the thread, and added a few direct links where appropriate.

If anyone has any additional contributions to "roll back" into the original post, if it's a replacement for a "placeholder" in Chris's post, quote the line where it's to go, then below the quote add your two-pennorth, and if Chris isn't around I can always edit it in after a few days or so... If it's an addition, then ideally give some idea where it would fit :)

Oh - and I'm only semi-resident... we don't have specific nominated moderators for each section, but most of the "staff" have their areas of preference where they tend to hang out more often... ;)
 
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Batteries: many film cameras use batteries that are still easily available, but some use a 1.35V mercury cell which is no longer available. There are various workarounds, including the expensive Wein battery [?]. These are the right size and voltage, but don&#8217;t last particularly long once opened up for use; fine if you&#8217;re continuing to use the camera, but expensive if you only use it occasionally. There are also various kludges with hearing-aid batteries and padding [pointer and better words please!].
he specialist 1.35V ones are zinc-air cells called "Wein-Cell"s and whilst they are an excellent replacement they are somewhat more costly (~ £5) and because of the zinc air design they only last for about 12 months maximum but its better than the hearing aid batteries as they last for only a couple of months. The cheapest place to get them is the 'Small Battery Company' and they also have a good section on potential replacement options as well as the zinc-air batteries, including an expensive adapter for about £25 which allows you to use 1.5V batteries fine as it drops the voltage (and they last much much longer). See here: http://www.smallbattery.company.org.uk/sbc_mrb675.htm

We&#8217;ve mentioned the film processing sticky, but if you get into this in a big way, you&#8217;ll probably want a scanner. There are various types, and it very much depends on what formats you are shooting, but many here with 35mm and 120 (medium format) are very happy with the Epson V500, available second hand for around £100. Plustek and [?] do decent 35mm dedicated scanners for somewhere between £100-£200.
BTW, the other dedicated 35mm scanner manufacturer your looking for is Reflecta and you need to double your prices for them and the Plustek (£200 - £300). Point out that they will produce higher quality in both resolution, sharpness and density than a flatbed for 35mm and thats why they are more.

Hope this stuff is useful. Sam.
 
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ChrisR

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Thanks Mark and Sam; draft updated a bit. I think it maybe needs a bit of structure, but I haven't worked out how to do that yet...

Anyone else with ideas for corrections or additions, please suggest. If we get into controversial areas, best bet is probably to take a neutral line and refer elsewhere, I think.
 
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Superb effort Chris. I probably have a few things to add when time permits, in a few weeks time hopefully. Covered the main stuff superbly.
 

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As far as 625 battery replacement I favour this guy's adapters http://www.paulbg.com/Nikon_F_meter_batteries.htm

You can now buy 4 adapters for a little over $25 including postage, which I think is pretty good.

They're great value and use the widely available hearing aid batteries that are ridiculously cheap, particularly if you help yourself to your mother's stockpile :D

Contrary to popular belief I have always found them to last very well and certainly longer than 2 months, but that's just my experience.
 
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ChrisR

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Thanks Nick, paraphrase added. Hope your mother doesn't read this!
 

RaglanSurf

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Thanks Nick, paraphrase added. Hope your mother doesn't read this!
No, I had to steal her glasses to stop her looking for her hearing aid batteries :LOL:
 

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No, I had to steal her glasses to stop her looking for her hearing aid batteries :LOL:
But you get hearing aid batteries free when you are a senior citizen, so get old and you can use old cameras a bit cheaper. :LOL:
 

RaglanSurf

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If you suspect the seals are bad (either by inspection, or by seeing some surprising light areas in your test images), but the camera is other wise OK, you can try changing the seals yourself. A guy from Texas called Jon Goodman (email JGood21967@aol.com) is very popular for this and has a wide range with good instructions for a few pounds. You don’t have to be super clever to do this (trust me, cack-handed and I’ve managed it).!
Or if you don't mind cutting it to shape yourself, send me a PM and I will post some 1mm thick, black, self adhesive foam to you.


Steve.
 

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Good read thank you!... Maybe a mod @TheBigYin could sort the $<%>>~ out at some point.. Though I think I got the gist (y)
 

wontolla

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Good read thank you!... Maybe a mod @TheBigYin could sort the $<%>>~ out at some point.. Though I think I got the gist (y)
Think it is something the OP has to sort by editing. I have noticed this on some of my old threads and edited them and they are all (or most) ok now. Seems to be a little glitch with the changeover. No big deal though. (y)
 

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Ah ok I wasn't sure who had to fix, I'd seen a few since the change but like you said its minor stuff :D
 
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Went in to fix it, but I see it was "last edited by a moderator 2 minutes ago". Thanks Mark!
 

TheBigYin

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it's something to do with using proper open and close quotes - usually when things have been pre-written in something like a word processor, then cut and pasted into here - Xen is a little more "rigorous" about character sets (and also proper "nesting" of effects like colour/size tags)

Anyway, i've sorted it :)
 

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Went in to fix it, but I see it was "last edited by a moderator 2 minutes ago". Thanks Mark!
I wasn't sure if "edit permissions" had an expiry date within XenForo like they had in the old forum - so just got on with it ;)

ETA - apparently they don't seem to have an expiry date at the moment...
 
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wontolla

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Went in to fix it, but I see it was "last edited by a moderator 2 minutes ago". Thanks Mark!
He's a nice man, he's a very, very nice man. ;)
 

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He's not, he's a grumpy old barsteward





what, dim, distant and only really fit to view after dark ?


edit: changes subject... anyone seen the new "Gunpowder Treason and Plot" TP Logo ^^^

I'm not that silly to agree, I may need your help and advice sometimes:LOL:

Logo= cute!
 
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He's not, he's a grumpy old barsteward





what, dim, distant and only really fit to view after dark ?


edit: changes subject... anyone seen the new "Gunpowder Treason and Plot" TP Logo ^^^
Lol.... I've only just seen the logo...it beats the pumpkin that's for sure!

Edit to add.... it would be even better if, when I clicked on it it exploded.
 
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RaglanSurf

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Lol.... I've only just seen the logo...it beats the pumpkin that's for sure!

Edit to add.... it would be even better if, when I clicked on it it exploded.
^^^WSS^^^
 
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Cg_Girl

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I take it any stickies have been removed? doesn't matter i was just searching for them, unless i am having another thick moment and missing them:D
 
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Just picked up a Contax RTS as my first film slr, thanks in no small part to the clarity of the info on this thread, without it I probably would have backed out of buying it. Thanks to Chris and all of you who contributed, it's an invaluable resource to anyone fascinated by, but unsure of where to start with, film cameras.

Cheers!
 

RaglanSurf

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Just picked up a Contax RTS as my first film slr, thanks in no small part to the clarity of the info on this thread, without it I probably would have backed out of buying it. Thanks to Chris and all of you who contributed, it's an invaluable resource to anyone fascinated by, but unsure of where to start with, film cameras.

Cheers!
Nice camera choice and don't forget to post up some of your results when you get your first film back.
 
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Just picked up a Contax RTS as my first film slr, thanks in no small part to the clarity of the info on this thread, without it I probably would have backed out of buying it. Thanks to Chris and all of you who contributed, it's an invaluable resource to anyone fascinated by, but unsure of where to start with, film cameras.

Cheers!
And those Contax lenses are superb. My favourite 35 mm system is the Contax G system.
 
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ChrisR

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Bit of a thread revival, but this is on the sticky resources thread. I'm thinking it probably needs updating to remove Poundland, Asda and Tesco, and I thought it might also be worth adding a paragraph about lenses:

"Check the lenses by looking through them, particularly for signs of fungus (avoid, it can be catching!), and by checking the aperture is “snappy”: set at f/16 or so, and find the lever on the mount that opens the aperture, let it go and note how quickly the aperture closes."

Any other comments on the resource?
 
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