I started photography back in the 1990's as a teenager. My parents bought me a Canon Rebel XS film SLR.. a few lenses.. and I was off.
I really had no idea what I was doing and left the camera mostly in auto. I remember taking the rolls to the grocery store where I bagged groceries and dropping it in slot on the photo centre kiosk. A day or two later I would pick it up.
When I first wanted to get back into film photography last year I had to go to a couple of photo stores before I would one that had film. It was one roll of Kodak Gold 200 hanging alone with a layer of dust. It had expired the year before. The kid working there said to me "Can I show you what kinds of digital cameras we have? They are much easier to use." If I wanted easy I would use my iPhone for everything.
What that first roll back into the film game taught me was that even when a photo is technically bad.. to me it was still pretty good. Despite being grossly underexposed I still like this photo of my Dad.
Having used 35mm film in the past as well as a full frame digital sensor I wanted to try something that I had not. Medium Format.
I lusted for a Hasselblad. I would go onto keh.com and put one into my shopping cart but never hit submit. Earlier this year I found a good deal on a Rolleiflex 3.5F Twin Lens Reflex camera. Circa 1961 it was a classic in function and looks. No batteries, no mirror, waist level viewfinder. The good price on the surface turned out to be more expensive than I thought. Upgrading the focusing screen.. new leather strap from Italy, lens hood.
During my inaugural roll of Kodak Portra the shutter stuck open.. how much money was I going to sink into this endeavour?? I sent the camera out east to have it CLA'd by CamTech Photo. It came back as good as new.
It is very lucky that I follow several great film photographers (Johnny Patience, Sandy Phimester, Matt Day, Ray Larose). I drew from their collective wisdom during my first 6 rolls I have put through the Rolleiflex. And I must say I am beyond pleased with the outcome.
Why film? I felt it was important to be a part of history. To use something that may not be around in my life time. Also, it is truly the only way to get that "film look".
My Rolleiflex does have a built in meter but I never use it. I use my iPhone with a Lumu light meter. It works exceptionally well. I always have my iPhone with me so the only extra item I am packing is very small. I found that I don't meter every photo if I am taking a few around the same time. I go off my first reading and adjust as I see fit. Not very scientific at all. When starting out I was worried about having to be very exact in my exposures. But as Johnny Patience assured me medium format film can really go 4+ stops in their direction. After receiving my scans back I can confirm that.
Locally here in Calgary, Alberta there isn't really a lab to send my medium format rolls to. Vistek will process & scan but they are so terrible at everything they do I don't trust them to handle any of my photographic needs.
I send my rolls to the good people at Caribou Film Lab in Toronto, Ontario. They are very knowledgable and I have been happy with how my scans look. Shipping is cheaper and the price is on par with Richard Photo Lab in California except I am not getting jammed by the US/Canada exchange rate.
For more of my recent film photographs go and check out my photo story:
Oh.. I don't think the Rolleiflex 3.5F is widely known to be a stunning wildlife camera.. but I think it does alright...