Nov 25

Building an Affordable Camera Collection for the Analog Enthusiast.

The truth is, I’m part of the generation that grew up with film cameras in the family but never really used one personally; I didn’t even know how to load film into a camera until this year. For a long time in my teenage years, I recorded memories on digital and cellphone cameras. I had fun. You can even say I was into photography but I didn’t fall in love with it. It wasn’t until I developed my first roll of film that I truly felt what taking pictures mean to me.

What I’m trying to say is, these are funny times when people (including myself) are taking up analog photography like it’s the newest thing invented. I think there is a reason why film, at some point, was believed to becoming obsolete but has made such a grand comeback instead. I think there is a reason why we are drawn to the older way pictures are made.

If you find yourself toying with the idea of shooting film and not sure which camera to start with, I hope this guide helps. This is by no means a professional guide. I am an analog enthusiast, I do it for fun. However, the facts and opinions you will read below have been very much researched and based on actual user-experience.

Like the title implies, this is a guide to building a film camera collection because, trust me, once you’re hooked, you’re not going to stop at one (or two or three or seven… you get the idea). I have a few of my own rules when it comes to buying film cameras:

1. Do not spend more than USD100 on one camera (including shipping, batteries, the works).
This is, obviously, the most important point when you’re trying to keep your collection affordable. I live in a country where there are hardly any thrift stores or yard sales but if you do, go to those and you’ll probably be able to get your hands on a working camera for 5 dollars. I do my searching online and it’s a jungle out there – the key is to look long and hard enough. Eventually you will find something that’s not going to burn a hole in your pocket. The money you save on this camera purchase will easily justify the next.

2. If it is a vintage camera, it must be older than me.
This rule is a pretty personal one, I just tend to be more attracted to the aesthetics of things that were made before I was born. However, the fact is that most cameras made before the 90s were built like tanks and will last very, very long in proper care.

3. Do not buy two cameras with the same lens specification, no matter how cute they are.
I’m always on the brink of breaking this rule because I turn into a shopaholic when I spot cheap film cameras. Very affordable, yes, but if you already own one with the same lens specification, chances are you’ll only use one of them most of the time because the pictures are going to look pretty much the same. To justify owning several cameras, I make sure that each camera does its own unique thing and that’s the basis I work on while building the collection: no duplicates!

My cameras, in chronological order of purchase:

Name: Superheadz Ultra Wide & Slim
Type: 35mm plastic toy camera
Lens specifications: Fixed focus 22mm plastic lens with fixed aperture of f/11
How much I paid: USD5.00 including shipping (local online auction I stumbled upon – lucky!)
How much you might pay: USD25.00 to 35.00

Technically, the first film camera I owned was a TakeOne Ultra Wide & Slim which, like the Superheadz UWS, is a clone of the Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim. Unfortunately, I think the shutter release broke at some point and I retired it after my last roll of film in it turned out super fogged. I immediately set out to replace it because I have so much fun with this simple and straightforward camera.

What I like: 
  • No batteries required.
  • It is the lightest camera I own and at 75g, it hardly adds any weight to your bag so it’s definitely a camera to carry with you all the time.
  • The f/11 aperture ensures that pretty much everything from 2 feet to infinity will be in clear focus.
  • The wide angle lens is awesome for landscape photography in a fun way.
  • I think it has the most beautiful lens flare among plastic cameras.
What I don’t like: 
  • With a fixed shutter speed of 1/125 and no bulb features, the UWS is at its best only when there’s lots and lots of (natural) light.
  • The shutter release button is very shallow and more often than not, you don’t even feel like you’ve pressed the shutter.
  • The plastic construction of the camera can be vulnerable when not handled properly, especially the film winder.

Tip: Don’t use film that is slower than ISO400, pictures will turn out underexposed very easily.

Alternative cameras to consider: Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim, TakeOne Ultra Wide & Slim, Eximus Wide & Slim, Rainbow V

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Name: Golden Half
Type: 35mm plastic half-frame toy camera
Lens Specifications: Fixed focus 22mm plastic lens with apertures f/8.5 and f/11
How much I paid: USD40.00 including shipping (local website)
How much you might pay: USD40.00 to 60.00

goldenhalf2

To be honest, I never even knew a half-frame camera existed until I saw the Golden Half on Tracey’s blog. Although I wasn’t particularly into lomography at that point of time, I was immensely intrigued by the idea of having two photographs on one frame – the possibilities of pairing pictures together was so exciting! I have to admit, though, that my Golden Half pictures haven’t exactly lived up to my own expectations but I’ve learned new things about the camera every time I finish up a roll of film.

What I like
  • No batteries required.
  • For a plastic camera, the Golden Half is amazingly sturdy and feels great in your hands.
  • It takes 2 individual standard vertical format photos on one frame, thus doubling the number of pictures your roll will take and maximizing creative possibilities.
  • The wide lens captures a lot for such a small camera.
  • Although the shutter speed is just a tad slower than the UWS at 1/100, you can definitely use film as slow as ISO100 in bright daylight or adequate light source and still get well-exposed pictures.
  • Equipped with a hot shoe that allows for nighttime photography with a separate flash.
What I don’t like
  • If you don’t own a flash or don’t like working with one, it is very easy to underexpose your pictures once it gets cloudy, even with ISO400 film.
  • 72 snaps on a 36-exposure roll is very, very difficult to finish up.
  • Although the frame counter goes all the way to 72 (in multiples of 6), it’s easy to lose track of the number of pictures you’ve taken and any pairing up of pictures is a guessing game unless you’ve kept count right from the start.

Tip: The Golden Half winds film from the right to the left, this essentially means that it takes the right-hand image before the left-hand one (or the bottom image before the top one in landscape).

Alternative cameras to consider: Olympus Pen series, Canon Demi series, Diana Mini, Yashica Samurai Z, Agfa Optima-Parat

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Name: Yashica Electro 35 GSN
Type: 35mm aperture-priority rangefinder camera
Lens Specifications: Yashinon DX 45mm f/1.7
How much I paid: USD90.00 including shipping (local website)
How much you might pay: USD65.00 to 200.00

The Yashica Electro was my first “real” camera and it was a decision made after doing lots of online reading. I definitely paid more than I am willing to now but since it was my first time purchasing a vintage camera, I wanted to make sure that it was a working camera shipping locally, already cleaned and came with batteries. I was ready to venture outside my comfort zone for a more serious camera (but at the same time intimidated by the idea of shooting with an SLR – it just seemed really advanced at that point of time) and the rangefinder is definitely easy enough for any enthusiast to pick up. Rangefinders focus using a dual-image rangefinding device and as you turn the focusing ring, two superimposed images line up to form perfect focus.

What I like
  • The Yashinon lens that the camera comes with is widely acclaimed for being super sharp.
  • It is very, very well-made and just so beautiful to look at.
  • The metering is excellent, I’ve never had a picture inaccurately exposed.
  • Yashica sold millions of this camera in various versions over 15 years and that makes them very easy to find in thrift stores, garage sales or online auctions.
What I don’t like
  • The minimum focus distance is a sad 80cm so before I had my SLR it was always disappointing not to be able to do more close-up shots.
  • Being aperture-priority, you set the aperture manually and the Yashica Electro will decide the appropriate shutter speed. This means that in low-light conditions it’s very common for the Yashica to go 1/30 or slower and often results in blurred pictures if you, like me, don’t use a tripod.
  • I’m fine with the weight (750g) but it is a large camera and I took a while to find the best way to be able to hold it steadily.
  • The idea of how a rangefinder focuses is very easy to understand but personally, I’ve found it to be quite time-consuming. The center focusing area is super tiny and quite often, yellow with age. This makes focusing in low-light conditions very tedious.
  • The camera needs batteries to be able to fire at all available shutter speeds (only 1/500 without batteries). It was designed to take the now-obsolete mercury batteries but there are modern alkaline replacements, just a tad troublesome.

Tip: Always wind the film just before you’re going to take a picture. Leaving the shutter uncocked will deactivate the meter and prolong battery life.

Alternative cameras to consider: Canon Canonet QL 19, Minolta Hi-Matic, Konica Auto S2

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Name: Konica C35MF
Type: 35mm auto-focus and auto-exposure compact camera
Lens Specifications: Hexanon 38mm f/2.8
How much I paid: USD16.00 including shipping (local website)
How much you might pay: USD20.00 to 45.00

I wasn’t planning to buy a camera at all when I stumbled on this little gem. The low price (again, I must point out that it’s almost next to impossible to buy a vintage camera at thrift store prices in this country as the market is dominated by dealers) is reflective of one flaw which the seller pointed out right from the start: the film speed dial is stuck at ISO100. Interestingly, this is actually one of the things that I love most about this camera. I like the fact that I’m “forced” to shoot slow speed films exclusively and am really enjoying the outcomes so far.

What I like
  • It might be a point-and-shoot, but the lens this camera comes with is super awesome. I adore how shallow the depth of field can get.
  • The large aperture also allows for well-exposed pictures in low-light conditions with slow speed films and you don’t have to adjust a single thing to achieve that.
  • It runs on AA batteries that are available everywhere.
What I don’t like
  • This being the 1982 version of the C35 automatic series, the film rewind is also automatic. Earlier versions like the C35AF still come with the manual lever-wind, a feature I really love about vintage cameras.
  • There’s probably nothing you can actually learn about photography while using a fully-automated camera.
  • The automatic film winder is very noisy.

Tip: Try to avoid rechargeable batteries for these cameras, they tend to spoil the flash.

Alternative cameras to consider:  Canon Sure Shot, Ricoh AF, Minolta Hi-Matic AF2

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Name: Korean waterproof toy camera
Type: 35mm plastic toy camera
Lens Specifications: Fixed focus 28mm plastic lens with fixed aperture of f/9
How much I paid: USD5.00 including shipping (local website)
How much you might pay: USD10.00 to 15.00

waterproofcam2

I got this toy camera for my birthday this year and was really excited to have a camera to bring to the beach that I didn’t have to protect with my life. I broke the damn thing with my impatience but these four pictures that did turn out from the roll convinced me to have it replaced as soon as I got home.

What I like
  • Obviously, the fact that it’s waterproof.
  • It’s super cheap and takes decent pictures.
  • No batteries required.
What I don’t like
  • The thing that keeps the otherwise random camera waterproof is a plastic case that has extra outer mechanisms to push the shutter button and wind the film. It is not a fun thing to maneuver.
  • The shutter release button is very shallow.
  • As with most plastic cameras, it needs lots of natural light and higher speed films. I’ve seen very good pictures taken with ISO800 and ISO1600 films.

Tip: It might be waterproof but definitely not shockproof, the plastic case cracks pretty easily.

Alternative cameras to consider: Minolta Weathermatic, Canon Sure Shot WP-1, Super Sport Suprema

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Name: Canon FTb QL
Type: 35mm SLR
Lens Specifications: Canon FD 50mm f/1.8
How much I paid: USD75.00 including shipping (Etsy)
How much you might pay: USD50.00 to 150.00

I have been planning to purchase a vintage SLR for a few months now but never actually saw one that has been proven to work still within my budget. I came across this camera on Etsy while doing my routine surfing (look long and look hard!). While the seller couldn’t vouch that it would definitely work, I took faith in the fact that it belonged to her family (reasonable care) and well, I do consider myself quite lucky when it comes to cameras.

What I like
  • I’m no expert but from what I’ve read online, the standard 50mm f/1.8 lens is pretty much everything a casual photographer needs. I love the fact that I can take close-ups (about 40cm).
  • The Canon FTb is completely mechanical, which means that you can shoot at all apertures and all shutter speeds without batteries. I’ve been taking the opportunity to work without metering and learn more about the relationships between apertures and shutter speeds. After a while, you’ll realize it’s not as difficult as you imagined. I highly recommend it!
  • Contrary to what I used to assume about SLRs, the Canon FTb has been a breeze to use. There’s really nothing complicated about it.
What I don’t like
  • This thing is built like a tank and lugging it around might be too much for some people. Personally, most times I’m grateful for the weight because it makes the camera feel sturdy in your hands.
  • The shutter is pretty loud, as with many vintage cameras.

Tip: When buying a vintage SLR, it’s quite important to note which lens they come with. You might find a camera for less than usual but then realize it’s because they don’t come with their original lens.

Alternative cameras to consider: Canon AE-1, Nikon EM, Olympus OM-1

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Name: Recesky TLR
Type: 35mm DIY plastic toy camera
Lens Specifications: Plastic meniscus lens with fixed aperture of f/11
How much I paid: USD8.00 including shipping (local website)
How much you might pay: USD10.00 to 20.00

The Recesky TLR is basically a cheap clone of the Gakkenflex TLR, a plastic kit camera that was included in issue #25 of Otona no kagaku magazine. I bought it on a whim after seeing them sell so cheaply on local websites. I’ve seen beautiful pictures taken with these toy cameras and thought it would be pretty cool to make one myself.

What I like
  • Many online reviews rave about how much fun it is to build a camera from scratch but honestly, I don’t think DIY is everyone’s cup of tea. However, the sense of satisfaction when it’s completed is pretty awesome.
  • The effect that comes from the lens is unique to say the least. It’s super sharp in the middle (when focused accurately) and a dreamy blur around it.
  • This is the only camera I own that does double exposures on the go. I love that option and I might even use this camera exclusively for double exposures – fun!
What I don’t like
  • I’m not going to lie, this camera is a pain to focus. The focus rings are rough around the edges and my fingers become sore from turning them. I’ve heard that it’s the same with the Gakkenflex. I ended up fixing the focus at about 1m and just snapped away.
  • The camera is so light that I feel it jerk every time I pull the trigger. It doesn’t really show in the pictures but feels really unsteady in your hands.

Tip: We referred to this guide most of the time while putting the camera together, great pictures and directions.

Alternative cameras to consider: Gakkenflex TLR, Blackbird Fly TLR

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Name: Zenit TTL
Type: 35mm SLR
Lens Specifications: Helios 44-M 58mm f/2
How much I paid: USD60.00 including shipping (Ebay)
How much you might pay: USD60.00 to 150.00

The Zenit TTL was an upgraded version of the very popular Zenit EM with an addition of stop-down TTL metering, hence the name. I was looking particularly for a black body SLR on Ebay when I chanced upon this Russian camera – did a little research, got blown away by the Helios lens, placed my bid and crossed my fingers that no one was going to bid against me.

What I like: 

  • The Zenit TTL is completely mechanical, which means that you can shoot at all apertures and all shutter speeds without batteries.  This is the main thing I look for in vintage SLRs as I don’t enjoy using metering and I do not like to have to meddle with battery issues. The TTL, however, comes with a meter that is not voltage sensitive and is said to perform fine with modern non-mercury batteries.
  • The standard 58mm Helios lens that comes with the camera has the craziest swirly bokeh EVER and it’s a dream come true for lovers of close-up shots and shallow depth of field like myself.
  • For some reason, fully functional Zenit cameras cost very little to acquire – mine came with a beautiful worn-out original leather case for USD30.00 (shipping costs exactly the same). This is definitely a very affordable addition to any analog camera collection.

What I don’t like: 

  • One crazy thing about this camera is that instead of a film rewind button to press before you turn the rewind crank, you “unlock” the film to be rewound by pressing the shutter and turning the Rewind Release Ring on the shutter button fully anti-clockwise. I did not find out about it soon enough and tore my very first test roll while trying to rewind. And even though I never forget about it now, it’s still something you have to be pretty careful about.
  • This thing is built like a tank and lugging it around might be too much for some people. However, unlike the Canon FTb, it does not feel as steady and I end up with a few blurred shots in every roll.

Tip: If you do use metering on the TTL, make sure your eye is very close to the eyepiece as the Zenit TTL meters are very sensitive to light and have been known to underexpose pictures due to extra light entering from the eyepiece.

Alternative cameras to consider: Zenit-E, Zenit-EM, Zenit-ET

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Name: Konica Auto S
Type: 35mm shutter-priority, auto or manual exposure rangefinder camera
Lens Specifications: Hexanon 47mm f/1.9
How much I paid: USD14.00 including shipping (local website)
How much you might pay: USD25.00 to 50.00

Around the time that we were preparing for the opening of the hostel and café, I bidded on a bulk listing of 5 vintage cameras on a local auction website with the idea of using them as display items. I didn’t really mind if they worked or not but it was still quite exciting to find a couple of them in working condition. I shot two rolls on this camera and as far as rangefinders go, it produces excellent image quality when you get the focusing right. However, like I mentioned earlier, as with the Yashica Electro 35 GSN rangefinders are too much work for me to carry around.

What I like: 

  • The optical quality of Hexanon lens is very much celebrated and I’ve had awesome experience with it even on my auto-focus Konica C35MF. Even if it’s not going to be used much I’m just really happy to have this camera + lens in my collection.
  • The adorable built-in pull-out lens hood, although I’m never really sure when I need it.
  • The large viewfinder is a luxury to look into (still doesn’t take time off focusing for me, though).

What I don’t like: 

  • The minimum focus distance is 90cm, which is not the most ideal for my passion for food and plant photography.
  • The winding lever is the thinnest I’ve encountered and always feels like it’s going to break in two every time I advance the film.

Tip: The plastic battery cover could be welded shut if your batteries leak so either make a habit of emptying the camera of batteries when not in use or use it in manual mode, since the camera is fully functional without batteries.

Alternative cameras to consider: Canon Canonet QL 19, Minolta Hi-Matic, Yashica Electro 35 GSN

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Name: Lomo LC-A+
Type: 35mm Lomography camera
Lens Specifications: Minitar 1 32mm f/2.8
How much I paid: USD60.00 including shipping (Lomography website with piggies discount)
How much you might pay: USD80.00 to 270.00

I began my relationship with film photography with a couple of toy cameras and while they are a lot of fun, they never really gave me satisfaction as a photographer (in the same way digital photography fails to really excite me). I did, however, always wanted a Lomo LC-A+ for the high-quality lomo images it produces.

What I like: 

  • The weight! Unlike most toy/lomo cameras in the market, the Lomo LC-A+ has a great presence in your hands.
  • Obviously, the thing that makes this camera stand out is the outstanding lens it comes with. The depth of field has the potential of being amazing.
  • Under the right light, the Lomo LC-A+ produces beautiful swirly bokeh in good, old Russian fashion.
  • The multiple-exposure function is probably what makes this camera so much fun!

What I don’t like: 

  • I have shot 4 rolls on the Lomo LC-A+ so far and I must admit that I’m still finding the zone focusing difficult and unpredictable.
  • The auto-shutter speed also has a tendency to go way slower than I would have set myself.
  • The price. It’s not a toy camera per se but it is not really a serious camera either – which I love! – so it is hard to justify paying full price for it. I definitely suggest that you buy them second-hand or write articles for the Lomography website to save up piggies for a discount off the camera.

Tip: From what I’ve seen, the Lomo LC-A+ works best with slide film; I’ve never tried slide film before but it’s tempting to see what I can get out of the camera with slide film.

Alternative cameras to consider: LOMO LC-A,  Cosina CX-2

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Name: Pentax K1000
Type: 35mm SLR
Lens Specifications: SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7
How much I paid: USD80.00 including shipping (eBay)
How much you might pay: USD30.00 to 100.00

pentax

After about 18 months with my well-used Canon FTb, I had reached a point where I needed a change of perspective – to look through a different lens, so much so that I didn’t really care which camera I was going to buy next. It could be a Pentax, a Minolta, an Olympus or a Nikon, I just really needed a new camera to work with. The Pentax K1000 I found on eBay came with a slightly different lens specifications than my Canon but it has made all the difference.

What I like: 

  • Basically, this camera works identically to the Canon FTb (as with most SLRs produced in the 70s) so here it is again:  I love that it is completely mechanical, which means that you can shoot at all apertures and all shutter speeds without batteries. Great beginner/amateur camera!
  • Most K1000s come with a 50mm f/2 lens but I managed to find an f/1.7, which actually allows me to go a little closer to subjects than my FTb allowed.
  • Like I mentioned earlier, shooting with a different camera/lens has made all the difference and the Pentax-M prime lens captures such deep, muted tones (with a staggering amount of contrast) that I’ve always wanted.
  • A very important point: the camera sits so firmly in my hands that I can let the shutter speed go as slow as 1/15 and still get a perfectly focused shot – I cannot say the same for my other SLRs.

What I don’t like: 

  • I didn’t think anything could be noisier than my Canon FTb but obviously this camera had different ideas. The shutter is so loud  it’s hard to avoid heads turning.

Tip: Since the Pentax lens produces deeper, more muted tones (less likely to overexpose), I highly suggest that you pair it more often with slower speed films for smooth, grainless images.

Alternative cameras to consider: Pentax Spotmatic, Pentax ME

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Name: Vivitar 220/SL
Type: 35mm SLR
Lens Specifications: Mamiya/Sekor SX 28mm f/2.8
How much I paid: USD80.00 including shipping (Etsy)
How much you might pay: USD80.00 onwards (for this particular camera + lens combination)

vivitar

It has always been on my mind to add a wide lens to my collection of SLR cameras. After a while of being “restricted” by 50-something prime lenses and being unsatisfied with the quality of wide-lens toy cameras, the next sound move is to put the wide lens on an SLR. I actually chanced upon this camera while looking for vintage camera straps and was delighted to find that it comes with the widely acclaimed Mamiya/Sekor SX 28mm.

What I like: 

  • Once again, I made sure to purchase a camera that is completely mechanical, which means that you can shoot at all apertures and all shutter speeds without batteries. Great beginner/amateur camera!
  • The latch to open the rear cover is at the bottom of the camera (usually you fold out the rewind crank and pull it sharply until the rear cover snaps open), which means you will never accidentally open the camera up and expose unprocessed film.
  • This only applies if you managed to find a similar camera/lens combination as I did but wide lens is perfect not only for landscape photography but surprisingly also food photography. It is a dream not to have to pull your chair far away to have a good focus on whatever’s on the table!

What I don’t like: 

  • The Vivitar 220/SL has large squarish sides, making this part-plastic, part-metal camera rather big in size – not the easiest to hold in your hands. The wide lens also adds length to the front which means that the camera takes up a lot of space in my bag.
  • The camera is clunky but empty inside, causing the shutter to develop a long, loud echo. It is definitely the noisiest of all my cameras.
  • One downside of the wide lens is that it needs a lot of light to work well and f/2.8 is hardly fast enough in certain circumstances. I find myself going as slow as 1/8 on the shutter speed but the emptiness of the body does not hold slow speed well when you’re without a tripod.

Tip: The Vivitar SL series are very cheap camera bodies so do note that you should not be paying more than USD25 if it comes with a standard 50mm lens.

Alternative cameras to consider: Vivitar 250 SL, Vivitar 420 SL, Vivitar 450 SL

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Name: Olympus Mju II (also known as the Stylus Epic in the United States)
Type: 35mm compact camera (automatic point and shoot)
Lens Specifications: Olympus fixed lens 35mm f/2.8
How much I paid: USD110 including shipping (local website)
How much you might pay: Anything from USD5 to USD350.00, depending on condition, color, version and luck!

mjuii

Well, I am a little embarrassed to admit that this tiny camera costs a whole fat ten dollars more than I proclaimed I would ever spend on one but it is a birthday present and that means I didn’t take one cent out of my own pocket, so that doesn’t count right? In any case, many – and I mean many – lucky owners of the Mju II managed to purchase it for a lot less than USD10 at flea markets or thrift stores so go look at those places! I wanted one in black, with fixed lens, without date-imprinting and guaranteed functionality so a local website was my best – and most expensive – bet.

What I like: 

  • It is very, very small – so small that it lives in my purse and never goes into the dry box because I cannot stop using it!
  • The excellent lens makes for high-quality photographs for a camera this small; the large aperture also means that I can shoot up close for details and bokeh.
  • Being an automatic point and shoot camera, the metering is extremely accurate and the focus always spot on (mishaps are so far always my own fault)!
  • The camera starts up immediately after sliding the clamshell cover and the shutter fires very quickly (especially in bright sunlight) – although one may be delayed if you need to switch off the flash (which will fire automatically in low light situations) but I’ve gotten so used to pressing the flash button twice to switch it off that it hardly bothers me at all.
  • It uses CR123 batteries, which are not cheap but very easy to find.

What I don’t like: 

  • The shutter button for this camera is surprisingly shallow and you need to be careful when you’re trying to pre-focus (which is done by half pressing shutter button) before taking a picture. I’ve ended up with three identical photographs because I accidentally fired the shutter instead of pre-focusing like I intended.
  • The camera reads the DX code off your film canister, which means that you cannot overexpose or underexpose intentionally – something I believe affects negatively when I use higher speed films. I prefer my photographs slightly overexposed and brighter in general but that can be fixed in post-processing.
  • Like I mentioned earlier, the metering has been very accurate so far and that means in low light situations the camera likes to go very, very slow to allow enough light into the photographs. It is not easy to hold down a tiny camera like the Mju II to not get any blurred shots (which, granted, are perfectly exposed) but I’ve been trying to anticipate the slow speeds and not move for at least two or three seconds before it does its job.

Tip: Get the fixed lens version – they are much better quality than the zoom lens. Also, a (tedious) way of going around the DX code issue is to reload (or pay someone to reload) film into a canister that reads the speed that you want to push or pull to.

Alternative cameras to consider: Olympus XA, Yashica T4, Ricoh GR1, Contax T2, Nikon 35TI

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I hope this guide helped! It will continue to be updated as I add more cameras to my little collection. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or email me if I’ve made any factual mistake or if you have any further questions. Shoot film!

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79
comments

79 comments

  1. I love this guide! It’s so helpful. I’ve been toying with the idea of having a bunch of film cameras for a while now. I’ll have to try out some of your suggestions.

  2. Man, this is AMAZING. I just found your blog and I love it. I love this guide. I’m currently getting into film cameras and trying my best to learn about it all before taking it for a spin.
    Keep up the great blog! :)

    • Katie says:

      Thank you, Steven Andrew! I’m really glad you enjoyed it. I think putting in time to read up about them is a pretty important step in really knowing what your cameras can do!

  3. arvee says:

    hey!!! I just found your blog! I’m also getting into film cameras and I think I’ll be buying my first superheadz this month. Thank you so much!

    • Katie says:

      Hi arvee! :) I’m always excited to hear someone is getting into film, are you going for the ultra wide and slim? You’re going to have so much fun!

      • arvee says:

        Yes, I’m definitely going for the pink ultra wide and slim (It took me so long to decide which color) :D I would try superheadz first before buying my own “real” film camera. I can’t wait either!!! ♥

  4. Magali says:

    Beautiful post Katie. I’m new to your blog (came from hellocotton, following you there).
    This is really well written & has awesome photos. I got into analog photography in a big way in 2011, sometimes I wish I didn’t go crazy buying cameras (I have a little too many) but I don’t completely regret it.
    We share so many same/similar cameras. I have the Superheadz in Olive San as well, the Golden Half in a different color, the Yashica Electro (I completely agree with the cons, don’t use it much. :( )

    I also have the Canon A-1 which is in some ways similar to yours.
    I will definitely be visiting your blog more, I have added it to my bloglovin’ :)

  5. gekmui says:

    Hi! Your blog is interesting. Can you explain the difference between Kodak Ultraxmax 400 and Lomography Colour negative 400 films? Which one films takes better image with Superheadz UWS?

    • Katie says:

      Hi!

      From my experience, Kodak Ultramax produces more muted tones and the Lomography CN 400 produces very true to life colors. As to which one is better, that is a completely objective opinion – everyone has different preferences when it comes to film choice. However, I would say go for the Lomography film as they are meant for toy cameras. You could probably avoid frequent underexposures with that film. I recently use a roll of Kodak Ultramax 800 on my UWS and am quite pleased with the results. I will share them on the blog later today! :)

      • gekmui says:

        I see. =) Thanks for the quick reply. I am planning to get UWS, still thinking what film should i choose.

  6. Alice says:

    I loved this guide! i was searching in the internet for such a long time, and i couldn’t find anything useful. Thanks!!

  7. Michelle says:

    I love your blog; your camera collection is enviable and I adore your photographs!

    • Katie says:

      Hi Michelle,

      Thank you for the lovely comment – I’m really glad you like the blog! I hopped over to yours and really enjoyed your Diana Mini photographs. :)

  8. antonella says:

    Love reading about your cameras! I should do something similar with the ones I own and not taking for granted that people know what I’m talking about when I mention one of them!

    • Katie says:

      Hi antonella!

      Thank you for your comment, I would love to see more similar posts on others’ camera collections and it would be great if you could share yours. :) Thanks for coming by the blog!

      Katie

  9. Lovely blog you’ve got here katie! Am a film camera enthusiast myself but yours is way more interesting. You take wonderful photgraphs too!

    Maverick.

  10. Teaghan says:

    Hi! love the blog. so much. just starting to shoot in film and wondering where you purchase most of your film? not sure if you’ve done a post on this but would love to know…. love your pictures. =) thanks!!

    Teaghan

    • Katie says:

      Hi Teaghan,

      Thank you for your comment! I purchase mine locally here in Taipei, Taiwan at the photo lab I develop my film at. The only place I shop online would be the Lomography website; it could get really expensive but I must say I enjoy using their film quite a bit!

  11. Irina says:

    I love you for this amazingly amazing article.
    !!!!!!!!!!!!

    It makes me feel so much more ”enlightened” and inspired.

    Also, your photos are really, really beautiful.

    • Katie says:

      Hi Irina,

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment – I am really glad to hear that you enjoyed the article and the pictures. I checked out your Lomography home and am really jealous of the tones you get with the Superheadz; I really wish I could achieve that dreamy look with mine. Keep shooting film!

  12. Jase says:

    I’m going to buy my first film camera. And I’m not pretty sure about it because I don’t even know how to use it or how can it work. But then, I saw your blog. I just love your blog so much. Your pictures and cameras are A+. I’m really inspired. I’m going to buy Superheadz really soon! Going to try it out. Thankss!!

    • Katie says:

      Hi Jase,

      Thank you for your comment! :) It’s a really neat thing to be able to inspire someone to give film photography a chance, I really hope you enjoy it! Remember to come back with a link to your pictures when you’re done with your very first roll. :)

  13. Jassiee says:

    Hi! Wanted to tell you that this post really help me a lot in understanding film photography.
    I wonder if you answer this before, How do you put your film photography into your pc? Develop and scan? or using a negative scanner for film?

    Again, Love your blog!

    • Katie says:

      Hi Jassiee!

      Thank you for the love! :) The lab that I develop my negatives at scan and digitize the images onto a CD for me and that’s a service most photo labs around the world offers. I’m glad the guide helped, keep shooting film! :)

  14. Candy says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m looking into buying my first film camera for fun and I originally liked Holga 120N but then the film is too hard to find and expensive to develop so my other option is the Superheadz which is also great. This post just made my decision final. Thanks :)

    • Katie says:

      Hi Candy,

      I’m really glad the guide helped! The Superheadz is pretty much the perfect starter for anyone who’s just getting into film photography for fun, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

  15. ahomira says:

    loved this guide! really helps a lot! thank you!
    my friend and i ordered the recesky tlr last week but it haven’t arrived yet. this is a very helpful post. i’ve been warned with the tlr. i hope i can have fun with it somehow.. ^^;

    • Katie says:

      Good luck with the TLR! It was tough for me and my friend but it’s quite the experience! Looking through the viewfinder is absolutely amazing, I’m sure you’ll have fun!

  16. afeeqah says:

    I love this guide! It’s so helpful and I’m your silence reader :)
    I want your opinion, I had dilemma whether I should choose Canon FTb or Canon A-1 for my first SLR camera. ( I’m still beginner with film camera)
    I hope you can help me :)

    • Katie says:

      Hi Afeeqah!

      Thanks for your lovely comment! One of my dear friends ( http://thepresentis.wordpress.com) uses the A-1 and I’ve tried my hands on it – I’ve got to say that it took a while to get used to as I’m a huge fan of how easy it is to maneuver the FTb. The focusing prisms are much more direct to understand and master for the SLR beginner. Although if you could find either for a really good deal (about USD60 to 80) you’ll find yourself with a lasting camera. :)

  17. Augusto Galveias says:

    Very simply fotos bat beautiful ,

  18. mikayla says:

    i happened to stumble upon your film camera guide & i have to say, i am in love with your blog! the colors & composition of your photos are absolutely lovely. :-) ♡

    mikayla

  19. Trixia says:

    I’m definitely bookmarking this great guide for future reference, it’s so comprehensive! Makes me wish I’d done the same thing with my cameras.

    Thanks for the tip about not winding on the film for the Yashica Electro 35 GSN. Mine suddenly died & refused to work – perhaps it’s because of this.

    • Katie says:

      I wish more people would do this for their cameras so I can drool over their camera collections! :D

      I’m glad the information helped!

  20. Matty says:

    What a great post! You’ve been my contact on flickr for ages but i didn’t know you had a blog – it’s great! :)

    Cheers

    Kitschiguy

    • Katie says:

      Hi Matty!

      Thank you for your kind words about the blog and this post! I hopped over to your blog and enjoy seeing Hong Kong through your eyes very much. Congrats on being new married! :D

  21. shufi says:

    Nice! I also want to buy SLR camera but still had no idea which camera should I buy haha.. So far I have 4 toy cameras, which I had since 3-4 years ago. You make me want to blog more about analog film, I’m such a lazy blogger :D

    • Katie says:

      I was excited when I went over to your blog and saw film photographs! As a reader I would definitely love if you blogged more :D

      Do you have access to purchase any kind of SLR you want? I think different cameras/lens render film differently and each of them is special in their own way so it doesn’t really matter which one you buy as long as it suits your needs.

  22. Aia says:

    Now I want to buy more film cameras than ever! But I try to stick with obe. I tend to bring it all at once and it is very unconvenient. Btw, try to get your hands with a Lomo Colorsplash, I think it has one of the best lens in the toy camera world. Although the advance lever and the shutter button are not quite, hmm, sturdy, it is still quite enjoyable, especially that it has a build in flash on the side with different, interchangeable color gels. Thought you might like it.:)

    • Katie says:

      Thanks for the introduction, Aia! :) That is exactly the reason I bought the LC-A+ – I was looking for a more capable “toy”. Will definitely check it out when I have the chance. P.S. Been really enjoying your film photographs on your blog and thank you for the kind feature on this blog! ♥

  23. Arvee says:

    hello katie! What lens do you use with your cameras? Do you mostly use 50mm lens in your photos?

    • Katie says:

      Hello Arvee! :) My Canon and Pentax both come with 50mm lens so yes, I would say that a majority of my photographs are taken with a 50mm lens, probably about 75 to 80%?

  24. Jooley says:

    Interesting break-down! I’m looking into film photography and this post of yours got me all excited like I’m going to find a true-love camera tomorrow!

  25. Peter says:

    Hi Katie

    I think your blog is a fantastic initiative. I am so glad to have found it! It’s decided: I am getting back into film! In fact, since I found this site a few days ago, I have shot 6 rolls of film (different types) that have been left in my fridge for years. I grew up at a time where there were no digital cameras, so I started my collection of film cameras back when they were still in production. I mainly have Canon cameras for the FD lens mount. I also have an FTb which I bought second-hand just a few years ago :-)

    A few questions and comments:

    1) What’s your take on digitising the negatives/slides? Do you scan yourself or do you take them to a lab? And if so, do you get different quality scans from different labs? Are all labs generally good in your opinion or is scanning really critical/difficult?

    2) I agree with you that many excellent, sturdy, old cameras can be purchased for much less than 100$ and that it is not necessary to spend more. But how about spending a little on giving the camera a good checkup? Admitted, it is going to cost some money and there aren’t that many good camera repairers around. However, if you want 100% pleasure from the camera you bought dirt-cheap, it might be worth it. For example, I know that the fastest speeds on my FTb are too slow. I also suspect that the light-proof foam might leak a little. A little cleaning of the viewfinder wouldn’t hurt either. Oh, and correcting the meter for the newer 1.5V batteries should be easy… Therefore, I finally decided to have my local camera store send it to a specialist who still can service this kind of camera. I know I might be looking at a bill of 80-100$. With that money, I could easily buy another used camera instead, but who says that the next camera wouldn’t need service too? What I am trying to say is, there is a cost of buying a camera and there could be a cost of getting flawless operation from it.

    3) I love buying cameras too :-) But you can also get plenty of good lenses for less than 100$, I imagine. And the good news is, a used lens probably needs no repair. If you can see no scratches in the glass, or dust or fungus inside the lens, you’re fine. If you can, don’t buy the lens. Do you consider adding lenses of different focal lengths to one of the systems you already own? If your camera came with a 50mm, what do you reckon you’d have to pay to get a little collection, for example a wide angle of 24mm and a short telephoto, say 135mm? I bought lenses many years ago when they still cost a fortune, but I bet some of them are a bargain today ;-)

    4) I am very impressed with your reviews of 35mm films. It is extremely useful! I am a bit of a nostalgic myself, so it really hurt to discover that Kodachrome slide film has been discontinued years ago! The choice of films is smaller today, no doubt. On the other hand, from what I see on your blog, the ones you can buy seem to be first class. I’ll try some of the films you recommend, starting with the Ektar 100 I think, and see how I like it!

    Many, many thanks for having created this community!

    • Katie says:

      Hello Peter! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave your thoughts. I’ve been meaning to address the same questions you have brought up for a while but as you can probably tell, my camera/film guides are more targeted at beginners of film photography, many of whom have probably never used a film camera before so there was always a lack of need to talk about these – in my opinion, a level above beginner – topics on the blog. Anyway, I am very excited to hear that you are getting back into film fast and hard! :D

      1. We have a reasonably flourishing market here for film photography here in Taiwan and it is possible to send your slides/negatives to be developed and scanned for a relatively small fee. I’m not going to go into how affordable it is because it might make a lot of people jealous (haha) but let’s just say slides can be developed and scanned well for under USD10 and that’s the most expensive it’s going to get. I myself use a very, very affordable service and to be honest I’m always quite happy with the scanning. I have never scanned any negatives myself although I am constantly interested in purchasing a scanner. However, at this point of time I feel that scanning them myself will take too much time and it’s definitely not worth it cost or time wise.

      2. I’ve been debating over this in my head for the longest time and I’m so glad you brought it up! Every vintage camera I’ve bought could do with some TLC at the repair shop – that I must admit. Most of all my Yashica GSN which is BEAUTY but has a focusing problem that has deterred me from using it frequently. You’re right, of course, there is a cost to getting flawless operation and I’ve just been trying to delay it by being distracted by other cameras. One day when I don’t feel so cheap I might bring all of them to the camera doctor and get them all cleaned up.

      3. It has always been a personal preference of mine to hunt for bargain cameras that come with good lenses (many vintage sellers who don’t specialize in cameras don’t bother to split them up). I agree with you that it is probably a sound decision to build up a collection of lenses for one camera system but I am not particular about having “excellent” lenses nor am I able to make the effort to carry three lenses for the same camera out on the same day just so I can use the perfect one for each circumstance, haha!

      4. Even though I started using film less than three years ago, I’ve found and discovered so many films that I would have loved to try but no longer exist – they are certainly disappearing big time. I actually steer away from the realm of professional film (mainly because I don’t take “professional” pictures and I honestly cannot justify paying those prices to take a picture of my cup of coffee….). However, a lot of consumer grade films out there work well enough for an enthusiast like myself and I’ve had so much fun trying them out. Ektar 100 is beautiful, I think you will enjoy it. :)

      • Peter says:

        Keeping it simple is exactly what I like the most about your blog and I fully share and sympathise with your philosophy. I cannot emphasise enough how much I have enjoyed shooting since I took up using my film cameras again 5 days ago. Anyone who is just remotely tempted to get started should absolutely just go and get *any* film camera, load a film and get started. It is very simple and it is *great* fun! Even better, the day you decide that you want to take your hobby to the next level, there are endless things you can do and learn to improve your technique and composition skills.

        I live in Brussels, Belgium, where I found a lab advertising the fact that they scan at many different resolutions and can output different formats. The results are very good as far as I can judge from the photos I saw on the wall in the lab. Interestingly, their prices are not necessarily that much more expensive than the 10USD per roll of film which you mention for Taipei, but the cost does depend on the resolution you require. I was actually surprised to find out how cheap it is – even if I shoot hundreds of rolls, I couldn’t justify buying a Nikon Coolscan 9000 which is the scanner they use at this lab.

        I actually sent another camera to CLA today: my Rollei 35 S, a beautiful but tiny camera, a true miniature for 35mm film. Through a web forum I found a Rollei specialist in The Netherlands who apparently started his career as a watchmaker, which I think is a good background to have for someone servicing a camera this small! :-) The speeds are probably a bit off on this camera too, not much though, but I consider that some maintenance work now is cheaper than getting the camera fixed the day it really breaks down.

        If you can manage to get different cameras with lenses of different focal lengths (which you have actually done, I think) you don’t need to shop for more lenses of course. But many vintage SLRs come with a 50mm lens. Now, 50mm is very valuable, but it is also interesting to have the option of changing your field of view a bit. Just for the fun of it, I searched eBay for Canon FD lenses today and found both a 28mm and a 100mm, both of which are light and compact (can easily fit in a pocket or small bag) and, more importantly, cost less than 100USD each :-D

  26. amiam says:

    Hi Katie,

    I really fall in love with your photos, they inspire me alot. Now I own a Pentax K1000 and I just love it. Your sharing is really helpful…..Thanks a lot! :D

  27. Amir Hamzah says:

    Nice camera, im quite love the “Yashica Electro 35 GSN”.

    Anyway, what website is your local website and can do shipping outside?
    Some camera i wanna own but local very hard to find.

    • Katie says:

      Most Taiwanese auction sites are only in Chinese so unfortunately, no, they don’t ship international unless you can also speak Chinese! I recommend Ebay and Etsy, if you look hard enough there are always good deals to be had! :)

  28. Gen says:

    Thank you for this really informative post! I just got myself a Superheadz and can’t wait to try it out :)

    • Katie says:

      Hi Gen! I’m really excited for you and please do come back and share your photographs when you have them developed! Glad you find the blog useful! :)

  29. amiam says:

    Dear Katie!

    I have a little problem with my Konica C35 AF2 (one that is similar to your C35 MF), I don’t know how to shoot with the open aperture 2.8 (or others large aperture ). It seems that the aperture stuck at f 22, cause when I press the shutter button in low light condition, the lens seems not to change the aperture (as from the front of the lens, I always see the aperture close at the smallest). Can you give me advice as I don’t have any idea how this type of auto focus camera works!

    Your advice is really appreciated! :)

    Thanks a lot!

    • Katie says:

      Hi amiam! Actually, the ISO setting on my Konica C35MF is stuck too (at ISO 50) so I only run 100 speed filn through that camera in general. THe problem with these auto cameras is that there’s really no way you can fix each individual problem because they’re all linked together. If you can, it’s best to send it to the camera shop to get them to fix it for you (if they are able to at all) but if not, you will unfortunately have to treat it like a toy camera, only use it on super bright days out!

      • amiam says:

        Thanks a lot Katie, I’ll have the camera fixed, actually the Konica 35 produce such good images , and the most interesting part is that all people can take good photos for the first time they use a vintage film camera . :)

  30. Artume says:

    Awesome guide! I currently have a nikon d5200 and started to use an old Minolta x300, i’m having so much fun with it i was looking for more analog cameras and your list is just great, it’s really nice to be able to see the results of each camera!

    I have a question for you: have you ever had any other camera that looks like your Recesky TLR, but not made with plastic but a more complex camera, an SLR… I’m really curious about that kind of cameras, but every one i found was bloody expensive, and i’m not really into the pics that the toy camera make.

    • Katie says:

      Thank you so much, Artume!

      I believe the cameras you are referring to are Twin-lens reflex cameras (TLRs). Unfortunately, like you have mentioned, they are incredibly expensive! I would LOVE a Rolleiflex or Yashica Mat but they are just way above my budget right now.

      You could check out the Chinese brand Seagull. It is well-known but less expensive than the its German and Japanese counterparts.

  31. Aamna says:

    I recently bought a Canon AE-1. Can’t wait to get my hands on it. Your blog has REALLY inspired me! Thank you so much!

  32. An says:

    I have a Yashica GSN 35 which I got from ebay a few months ago for only 25 bucks :P. It was working okay back then. Today I took it out to clean some dust : P and to finish the roll in it so that I could take my film to the lab but I found out my camera might have the “pad of death” problem: the yellow light keeps blinking regardless of light condition and iso setting. Have you encountered this problem before? I’m bring it to the repairman tomorrow but I hope it’ll be okay : (

    Yes, even though I quite like the idea of the rangefinder focus, it’s so hard to focus in low light condition! And the focus distance is something bothered me in the beginning too, but I just get used to it and just need to move so that my object is in focus, it’s kinda fun haha :D

    • Katie says:

      I am fortunate enough that I never had the pad of death problem, no light leaks, perfect exposure. However, it does not focus well though, my two images are not able to coincide perfectly – this affects close-up shots rather badly. I am planning to bring it for repair one day but I just keep on choosing other cameras to use!

      I hope your repairman has good news for you. It is a beautiful camera that produces beautiful images!

      • An says:

        The problem was fixed! :D

        I’m near-sighted and wear glasses so it’s kinda difficult for me to get focus right with this camera but it’s indeed a beautiful camera! : )

        • Katie says:

          Good to hear! I hope I will make the effort to send my own GSN for repair so that I can fall in love with taking pictures with it again ♥

  33. Farra says:

    I’d like to ask if you got your disposable cameras in Taipei because I am trying to look for some.

  34. Meallyn says:

    I have the same Zenit TTL, but I guess its broken. Your exemplary photos are bright and colorful, and my photos are lifeless and sad :( And everyone photo has ugly blue line in the center :(

    • Katie says:

      Hey Meallyn, if you think your photographs are not the best they can be you should definitely send it to a camera doctor to see if anything can be done about it! The blue line is probably the scanning though, I can’t be completely sure. I just wanted to say that I still think your photographs have a great mood to them! :)

  35. Maya says:

    Hi there Katie your blog is really inspiring! So I have been shooting with toycams for quite a while now and I’m really interested in getting an slr because you can control the shutter speed, focus etc unlike in toycams. Anyway I have one question though, a friend of mine said you have to take extra care of film cameras, especially the lenses because they can get broken or get dirty pretty easily. Is there a specific way to take care of these camera? Like e.g you have to put them on dry boxes or separate the body from the lens etc? Thanks so much!

    • Katie says:

      Hello Maya! Thank you for stopping by! To be completely honest, all of my cameras go into one large dry box (otherwise dust settles on them very quickly) with no other special efforts to “take care” of them. There are many camera lovers out there who are super careful with how they handle the cameras and lenses but I am not one of them, haha! Most of my cameras do not even have lens caps and nothing bad has happened to them so far!

      I even wipe the lenses with tissue paper or my shirt (which many people might disapprove of) but what I want to say is that you don’t have to pay extra attention to taking care of them unless you mind very much how they look. Generally how well they work is not affected by any of those things I’ve mentioned above. Moreover, many of these vintage SLRs were built like tanks and were meant to withstand harsh conditions like extreme heat or cold!

      Cameras with less than pristine appearances cost a lot less to buy, too, and as long as they work fine, you’re good to go! Let me know when you get your first serious camera!! :) :) :)

      • Maya says:

        Gosh that’s really good to hear since I’m a bit careless and forgetful sometimes haha! I just found out that my family had this old olympus mju ii camera so I think I’m gonna try that one out first before buying a real slr.

        Oh one more thing, on slrs you can choose the iso/asa youre shooting with right? But when you buy a film isnt the iso/asa already umm decided? If I’m using the fujifilm superia 200 on an slr can I use a higher iso? I’m sorry if this is a stupid question haha I tried googling it but I got nothing. Thanks a lot! :-D

        • Katie says:

          Oh, I just bought an Olympus Mju II myself and totally love it! I am sure you’re going to have fun with it.

          Well, your question can go two ways, it depends on whether you are using metering on your SLR. Most SLRs have in-built metering which will run with batteries and after you set the ISO/ASA of the roll of film you’re using, the meter will tell you what shutter speed/aperture to use based on your film speed. You can tell your camera that it is a higher or lower film speed to “alter” your results (over or underexposing on purpose). The same “altering” can be done by the photo lab during the processing of your film even if you set the ISO/ASA at box speed – it is called pushing or pulling (http://valeriehayken.com/photo-blog/exposure/pushing-and-pulling/).

          Personally, I don’t use any metering on my SLRs, which means I don’t even set the ISO/ASA on my cameras (the only reason I do is so that I can remember what roll of film I have loaded). I decide on the settings based on weather and type of light available manually, which is definitely not hard at all and has worked great for me so far. Hope this helps! :)

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