I recently read Ebay’s “Common Mistakes When Buying a Film Camera”.
After reading, I was scratching my head wondering, “Did the author ever buy a used camera?”. I’ve purchased at least 15 (and sold many as well). So I figured I would write my own list.
1) Trusting that that old light meter works.
The Canonet is a cute lil bugger. It’s a small rangefinder with a fixed 40mm F1.7 lens (depending on the model). Even the name is nice; Canon with a feminine suffix. Apparently over two million were sold. Other manufacturers produced very similar cameras. Ebay is filled to the brim with them and they are less than $100. What’s not to love?
The fatal flaw! It’s aperture-priority only*. This means that for the camera to work and take photos, the light meter must work. No light meter, no camera. And guess what? These old light meters simply don’t last. I bought one with glee… only to find… a brick.
Just buy a fully manual camera! My recommendation is the Nikon FM with 50mm lens.
2) Not expecting a learning curve.
This isn’t so much an issue with a camera as it is with a person. Everyone should just understand that each camera will have a different learning curve. Medium Format cameras will be a different experience than 35mm ones (as will large format). If you’re a novice, start with a simple and inexpensive 35mm SLR. Then work your way up (if you want to).
3) Purchasing from a seller with questionable feedback.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Most of the transactions I’ve had have been smooth. But trust the feedback and stick to someone who has good feedback to avoid hassles.
4) Buying a Holga.
I’ve no inherent problem with the Holgas. I mean, I’m glad they are bringing back so much interest in film. But for the same price of that plastic thing, you can get a real engineering marvel along with some seriously nice glass. The Japanese made some great cameras from the 70s that can go for a song. Why not get serious with these before the Holga?
5) Buying Wide Wide Wide.
It used to be a look that I went for. Wide angle and shooting close up. There’s something about that look… Well, nowadays, that “look” is everywhere. Wide angle lenses are everywhere. It’s getting boring! Why is everyone shooting so much wide angle?
How about a change? I shot a whole trip on a 135mm lens from Nikon along with my Nikon FM and I loved how the photos came out.
I suppose the real mistake is just copying the look everyone else has.
6) Not shooting Black and White. Not Developing yourself.
One of the advantages of film is the tonality and dynamic range of black and white film. Also, it’s cheap. Film is expensive in general so you should start with cheap black and white film (I recommend the cheapest film – Arista from Freestyle Photo). Developing yourself is also easy and makes the experience more intimate and cheaper. Highly recommended.
Let me know if there are mistakes you’ve had that others should know about.