Moving from digital to film photography. How is this film camera package on Craigslist?
November 19, 2008 3:28 AM   Subscribe

Moving from digital to film photography. How is this film camera package on Craigslist?

Nikkormat FT2
Nikon 55mm f1.2
Nikon 55mm f2
Nikon 24mm f2.8
Nikkor 135mm f2.8
several filters
close-up attachment
extra focusing screen
Vivitar closeup rings
Vivitar tele converter

Whole package for $425

I plan to shoot mostly portraits and weddings.
posted by willy_dilly to Media & Arts (11 answers total)
I just asked the husband, who is a heavy film user with a Nikon preference. He suggests that if you'll be shooting weddings, you probably want an auto focus body, not this manual focus one.
Ask for detailed photos of the lenses showing any wear & scratches.
posted by nprigoda at 4:00 AM on November 19, 2008

If you're shooting film, and you're shooting portraits and weddings, you may want to consider medium format (or larger!) rather than 35mm.
posted by mcwetboy at 4:15 AM on November 19, 2008

Response by poster: I'm just starting out on film so I want a decently cheap 35mm + a couple primes to learn how the film photography workflow first. My budget is $600 for the total. I'm planning on picking up the Contax 645 once I am more familiar with comfortable with film.

I actually just received an old Canon EOS 500 from a friend. It looks to be quite a basic SLR but could probably be good enough to use as a learning tool. What Canon primes would you guys recommend? Something that will fit within my budget.
posted by willy_dilly at 5:15 AM on November 19, 2008

I'd go for it, those primes are worth the $400 themselves if they're in good condition.

That said, if you're shooting weddings and are set on film, consider a rangefinder. Wedding photography is the land low light, which means handholding low shutter times. Mirror shake sets the limit for handholding a normal lens on a 35mm body at about 1/30, you can easily swing 2 stops less light (1/8) with a rangefinder.
posted by jedrek at 5:37 AM on November 19, 2008

Sounds like a decent deal. You might be able to piece the same thing together from eBay for a little less, but you'd be dealing with multiple auctions, more time, and more hassle.

The medium format idea is a good one, and I loved shooting medium format, but the reality is 35mm film has become so good and so fine-grained that you don't need to apologize for using 35mm. Yes, medium format makes noticeably better enlargements, past a certain point, but getting your feet wet with 35mm is a good way to go.

Getting an autofocus body is a good idea, but not absolutely essential. In some instances, manual focusing can be faster and more reliable. Like anything else, manual focusing is a skill that gets better with practice.

Good luck!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 6:00 AM on November 19, 2008

It's kinda hard to tell how experienced you are from your post, but I'm going to assume you're not already shooting weddings and portraits with a DSLR.

I'd _seriously_ reconsider shooting film. Even the cheapest DSLRs will allow you to do things that no film camera can do. Most wedding ceremonies are flash-free events in poorly lit places, and digital SLRs give you an extra 2-4 stops of usable light with their lower noise sensors. Sure, film has 'that film look' but I can't imagine wanting to switch back. On my DSLR I can use a 30mm f1.4 with ISO 3200 and take totally usable images in candlelight....which still isn't enough at some weddings and events.

I'd get a decent medium format camera and one or two lenses for portraits if I were dead set on film, but stick to a DSLR system for anything that had me in an uncontrolled environment. A used 20D or D70 is a good start for under $500, though if you're getting paid for weddings you ABSOLUTELY need two bodies. You don't want your gear failure to be responsible for someone losing all their wedding pictures.
posted by paanta at 6:37 AM on November 19, 2008

I have done both, and I am going to second paanta on this one. There is a reason why most wedding photographers now shoot digital. Film is a pain to deal with when shooting weddings.

There are lots of things to consider. Like hitting your last frame in the middle of the ceremony and having the rewind go off and having everyone look at you. Then having to fumble to pull the roll and load a new one.

ISO: Being locked into one film speed can be tough when going from a poorly lit interior to a full on midday sunlight exterior, say after the ceremony.

If you want to shoot film then offer the MF portraits. It would be a nice way to seperate yourself from the crowd of other photographers without having to go completely film. Nothing really beats some well done portraits on a 645. But aside from that, use a dslr when shooting on the fly. It will save you lots of headaches.

Just my two cents.
posted by WickedPissah at 7:10 AM on November 19, 2008

I'm just seconding what paanta said: unless you really know what you are doing, and are a total from-my-cold-dead-hands film photographer, I would say it's probably not a good idea to try and do weddings with one. At least not as your main set of cameras (and note "cameras" not "camera," you need two identical or at least lens-compatible bodies for a wedding at minimum, probably more if you're using film, since you'll want them loaded with various speeds.)

Unless the people hiring you are themselves photographers, they probably won't really care about film vs digital in their wedding photos: they'll just want good photos of the event. That purpose is much more easily, and inexpensively, served with a DSLR, some good strobes, and several GB of memory cards.

Also, if you are considering doing this commercially or as a sideline, your profit margins will be immensely higher with digital than with film. Processing costs at a decent dip-and-dunk processor (you're not going to send your film to a minilab where it could get scratched going through a linear machine, I hope) will quickly outstrip your up-front equipment costs. There is a reason why people doing photography that depends heavily on shot volume (weddings, newspaper/journalism, etc.) have transitioned almost entirely to digital. Film is expensive.

All that said: there's still room for a film camera at a wedding, it's just not as a primary camera. A good MF, like the Contax you're considering, would be great for doing the stand-around-and-smile formal shots where you can take your time setting everything up. Film still has a serious quality advantage once you get up into MF or 4x5, at least if you're not in a studio.

However -- and this is admittedly subjective -- while clients will expect good-looking formal shots, what they will be impressed by (and what will differentiate you as a wedding photographer from every other idiot with a camera and a listing in the Yellow Pages) are the candids and ceremony shots, which are easier on a digital.

So if your goal is really to do weddings, I would probably pass up spending a lot of coin on a 35mm film system, and save up for a MF or even 4x5 system (assuming you already have lots of digital gear; if not, buy that first).

But all this is predicated on the goal being wedding photography. If you're just looking to do film photography as a hobby, or for more artistic purposes, by all means go for 35mm film. It's inexpensive and home-processing equipment is easily available (in many cases, free) these days. It's cheaper to do today than virtually ever before. But it's cheap because people, especially commercial photographers, are moving away from it, and they're doing it for fairly solid reasons. (And I say this as a fairly diehard film guy.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:50 AM on November 19, 2008

It's not a bad deal if the gear is in good shape. We're talking about stuff that could be 30+ years old. I'd check for light leaks (the sealing foam in the back door is probably perished if it's never been replaced). The shutter may need adjustment and calibration. Check the wind-on for an gritty feeling that suggests a worn mechanism. Old Nikon gear has a reputation for being robust, but it's not indestructible. The FT2 has a weird shutter setting dial placement that was a bit experimental for Nikon.

For weddings and portraits, a 24mm is a bit too wide (unflattering wide-angle distortion and requires you to get closer than some subjects might be comfortable with). A 135mm is a bit long if you want to do portraits in any kind of enclosed space (usable for outdoors, though). A 35mm (for groups and maybe full-length couple shots), a fast 50mm (for low light), and an 85mm or 105mm for individual and head-and-shoulders shots used to be the standard standard people photography kit, but tastes vary, of course.

Seconding the sentiment that for unrepeatable situations in poor light, digital has an edge, nowadays.
posted by normy at 7:52 AM on November 19, 2008

I'll try not to repeat a lot of the good info you've received so far.

I'm assuming all of the pieces are of roughly the same vintage.

There's a good chance that lubricants used in both the camera and the lenses has congealed or dried out somewhat over time. This can translate into lens diaphragms failing to open or close as they should, and the gear trains in the body working roughly (ultimately eating some teeth).

Even when the camera was in current production, there was no repair for that particular shutter if it failed. Replacement was and is the only option. My guess is that if the shutter fails you'll need to replace the camera body.

While it was innovative in its day, that 55/f1.2 lens is a dog wide open and not one of Nikon's better lenses anywhere across the aperture range, especially compared to more modern ones. It's a better conversation piece than a usable tool if you want the best in image quality.

To my knowledge, there is no Nikkor 55/f2 lens; it would be a 50/f2, and it's not bad optically.

That Vivitar tele-converter will look good on your desk as a paperweight.

The other lenses are OK, while not stellar performers.

If I were in your shoes, I'd buy something more modern like an FM2, F100, or even an N90, even if your budget necessitates fewer lenses and accessories.

If you're currently shooting weddings now digitally, I'm sure you know that you'll need a complete set of backup equipment too; especially if you'll be using tools that are 30 years old.
posted by imjustsaying at 9:01 AM on November 19, 2008

I actually just received an old Canon EOS 500 from a friend. It looks to be quite a basic SLR but could probably be good enough to use as a learning tool.

Speaking as a former college photography prof, if you're learning how to use a manual camera, have a basic model is a good thing. I used to recommend to my beginning students the Pentax K1000 for that very reason.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:14 AM on November 19, 2008

« Older I want to Climb Europes Highest Mountain how do I...   |   The fear of fearful things Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.