cafe mama

entering the mind of the married mom

about my old media camera . march 24 . 2006

People often ask me, when they see my photos, "what kind of camera do you use?" And I know most of those who ask expect me to rattle off the name of some fancy piece of digital equipment. Those questioners, as well as those friends and colleagues who hear my shutter click-click-clicking away, are shocked when they discover that my camera is firmly lodged in old media.

Yep. It's a film camera.

I shoot with a Pentax ZX-50, a work-a-day model that serves me well. I bought it in 2000, at CBOP in Philadelphia, and it's been worth the $300-some I spent. Update: My ZX-50 broke and my husband bought me a new P-Z-1p for Christmas, 2006 -- so if you're looking at photos uploaded after mid-December 2006, they're taken with the new camera. But far more importantly, I own fabulous lenses. Chief among my lovelies is the Vivitar Series I 90MM macro lens (purchased on eBay - twice - the second time, after I lost the first one). Oh, how I love this lens! It's entirely manual and requires an adaptor to work with my newer-model, everything's-automatic camera. But it takes portraits that drip with lickable beauty and closeups that shimmer with sharpness. You can see many such photos at my "vivitarseries1" tag at flickr.

My next most favorite lens and the one I use for shooting kitchens and coffeeshops and groups of mamas is an SMC Pentax-F Fisheye 17-28MM (it's a 1:3.5-4.5, if you're counting). I bought it used at Blue Moon Camera, a photo shop in St. John's I'm sure to plug one week soon. Photos I take with the fisheye glow with color and sing with the fabulosity of that 170-degree perspective. The light always seems richer, more luminous, when I shoot with the fisheye. Messiness becomes detail and clutter turns into pattern. I love the way interiors look with the fisheye, and it's the best way to capture the mood of a meeting or play date. You can see hundreds of these photos at my "fisheye" tag at flickr.

I also have a 75-300 telephoto lens which shoots macro and portraits well, and can be really excellent for travel photography and surreptitious pics of people or things. I use it far less frequently now that I've got my amazing duo of lens perfection, but I've never been disappointed with it (although it requires a lot of light). It was also purchased on eBay and I haven't been tagging those photos on flickr yet.

Yes, shooting with film is expensive. I probably spend $50-$200 a month in developing, printing and scanning costs. I ask for my photos to be scanned to a CD when I drop them off, and the price of this service has gone down - I get 6MB, high-res images for $5.95 per roll. I tend to use Fuji Superia film, though I've been experimenting lately and have been wowed by Kodak's Portra 400/nC.

I firmly believe that film is superior to digital, and I doubt I'll ever give it up - even though managing the negatives, prints and CDs has become a huge task. Someday soon I intend to buy a Pentax *ist, a digital SLR that will allow me to use all my favorite lenses. I'll use it to capture images I don't want to spend a lot on - mostly blogging fodder I'm sure.

I predicted today that, in five years, consumers will begin to re-embrace film and that digital cameras will level off in popularity. There's something sensual and meaningful about film photos that I just can't imagine digital ever replicating. Film has a connectedness with light, chemistry, earth, history, tangibility... it's a medium I can't imagine letting fade away, and one that will live on in my own life no matter what the rest of the world does.