SLR Camera That Uses Film
March 9, 2009 5:47 AM   Subscribe

What should I do with a SLR camera that uses film?

I have a perfectly good film camera I never use anymore. I assume I could still buy and process film but since I haven't done so in about 5 years I'm wondering if I could even sell such a camera these days. Do people still take pictures with film or has digital completely replaced the film paradigm? Should I expect to have to donate it? It's a Canon EOS Rebel S and it has a couple of lens.

Also, if I bought a Canon digital SLR could I use the old lenses from my film-based EOS Rebel?
posted by birdwatcher to Technology (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Someone more knowledgeable will probably crop-up, but yes people do still shoot with film. My impression is that it's dying, but some don't like change or want to use film for artistic reasons, so you might get something for it.

I have a Canon EOS Rebel XTi DSLR. From what I know, lenses from non-digital SLR's should work. I think I had one actually, but sold it.

Not very helpful but just in case nobody else chimes in. You might want to post it in the Flickr forum.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 5:58 AM on March 9, 2009

speaking as someone who takes pictures 95% with film cameras, yes people do. you could sell it on ebay, and people would be interested in the couple of extra lenses, though it may not necssarily get a high price. i got a pretty decent nikon slr with lens for about A$70 last year on ebay myself.

or even better, if you know a budding photographer who would like a film slr, i'd say donate it to them!
posted by sardonicsmile at 6:04 AM on March 9, 2009

I am not a Canon user, but I understand that not all older lenses will work on DSLRs - depends on what changes the camera maker has made to the mount design since your lenses were designed. In addition, even if it will fit, it may lose some functionality, eg no autofocus, no power zoom etc.

Best place I know is the site, look for the Canon forums, and do a search or ask the question. Better know exactly what the designation of your lens(es) is/are, and I am sure you will get your answer. Good luck.
posted by GeeEmm at 6:10 AM on March 9, 2009

You could probably sell it. A lot of people seem to be getting into shooting film, perhaps as a backlash to how commonplace digital has become - do a group search on Flickr for film for some examples.
posted by chez shoes at 6:17 AM on March 9, 2009

You should send the camera and lenses to me, I woud love them and take good care of them as if they were my own. My wife would probably send death threats to you if she found out.

Film ain't dead yet! Hell, I don't think it's even dying like some people say. Yes, folks aren't using film for the day to day snapshots that used to employ thousands of teenagers at minilabs, but film technology is better than ever, and really well suited for the digital age, believe it or not.

For example: bring your film camera on your next short vacation instead of the digital. Buy 4 or 5 rolls of 36 exposure FRESH color film (I like Fuji's line) -- go to a place where there's turnover (local camera shop, perhaps?) and check the date. If it's expired a little bit (6 months) bargain the price down. Load the film, and shoot! When you're home again, bring the film to your local costco,. walgreens, or whatever you've got up there, and tell them to just develop and scan, no prints. Shoot for 4.5MB scans, at least. You will be amazed at the quality you get on your CD!

I shoot film as a hobby, so I may not be an impartial source.

I'm not so sure about Canons, but I would assume that the lenses would fit onto Canon's DSLR range, but if you don't buy a dslr with a full frame sensor, you would notice a change in the effective focal length of the film-based lens. This is not a big deal, think of the lens 'zooming in' a bit. Also, some metering modes may or may not work, that really depends on the camera. This may be more of a big deal, so you want ot make sure your lenses play nicely together.

But yeah, there are people like me who would jump at the opportunity to get a well-taken-care of film camera. The resale value isn't much, and the price continues to drop, especially for an older body like yours.

Good luck, and have fun!
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 6:18 AM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

Prices for film cameras have plunged, making the market quite interesting for those of us who still use them. eBay is your best bet. A local camera shop will give you less than half of what you could get on eBay. Yes, the lenses will work on new Canon DSLRs, although there may be some fancy features in a new camera not supported by older lenses.
posted by caddis at 6:19 AM on March 9, 2009

Sorry to Hijack - but what is the cost to Develop and Scan a roll of film usually? (ie no prints).

I also have an old SLR somewhere that has not been used in probably 10 years (or more)

Maybe I shoudl drag it out of retirement.
posted by mary8nne at 6:34 AM on March 9, 2009

I'm going to rant a bit if you don't mind. Film should be used to archive life's more important moments. Family portraits, weddings, births, first communion or batmitzva. Why? Ask Grandma for her photo album. She'll whip it out in a second. No worries about file type compatibility, no gathering around the computer, or gods forbid an iPod. Fifty years from now, when your grandchildren ask, how will you be able to show them your pictures? Hand them a CD, DVD, Hard drive? yes I know some people will argue that digital images can be transferred to a multitude of media, or even stored online. Really? In the past two years MY images have been erased from Ofoto and Sony sites because, guess what, they are FOR PROFIT sites, and if you don't buy their services... Poof! Oh and transferring to a multitude of media won't work either. Those Iomega Jazz discs will surely be viable in 2050...not.

The fact that you can get film developed, printed AND scanned should give you the flexibility to use both film and digital even side by side.
posted by Gungho at 6:42 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Lenses that work on an EOS Rebel film camera will work on an EOS digital camera, including autofocus, metering etc.

But your camera is essentially a doorstop now.

What were high-end film cameras (with much better autofocus systems than your camera probably has) can be bought for very little, so for those romantics who still like film better options abound (unless they like landscape photography, in which your camera is just as good as any other one).

The cheapest digital SLRs are capable of taking photos every bit as good as any film camera has taken, and whilst the initial outlay is higher, the ongoing costs are essentially zero.

Because the cost per click is essentially zero you can afford to be a lot more experimental with your photography - you're more inclined to try different compositions, framing, exposures, panning, styles of photography, etc. With a screen on the back you get near-instantaneous feedback, and when you get to your computer you have instant access to aperture, shutterspeed and ISO settings, so you can learn from your mistakes and your successes. In short digital allows you to become a better photographer much more quickly than you ever could with film.

I don't miss film one little bit. Buy the cheapest Canon DSLR body, go have fun, and be careful not to trip over your old camera when you walk back into your study.
posted by puffmoike at 6:50 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Modern, EF-mount lenses from a film camera will work on a DSLR. Older FD (non-autofocus) lenses will not, unless you use an adapter.

On most DSLRs, there is an effective "multiplier" on the lens focal length due to the use of sensors that are smaller than a piece of 35mm film, so you would notice a different view from your lenses.

Most lenses designed in the past few years will perform better than their older counterparts due to improved coatings technology. Film isn't nearly as reflective as a sensor, so there's now more light bouncing around in the light box, which modern lens coatings (on the back of the rear lens element) try to eliminate.
posted by notsnot at 6:50 AM on March 9, 2009

Film is beautiful, but expensive and tricky. You should be able to get some cash for it on ebay, people are still always looking for solid SLRs, but you could also try giving film a second chance.
Most colleges with a photography program still require at least one class of film photography to get started; if you would like it to be of use to people you should call up your local schools and ask the photo department if they would like to have it.
posted by Mizu at 6:53 AM on March 9, 2009

I shoot film once in a while, and I take the roll to Costco, who develops it and puts 5 MP files on a CD for $5.

I have several film cameras, and I don't think I would sell any of them.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:05 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

And I'll take issue with Gungho's statement regarding archiving.

Archiving photos digitally will much, much more reliable than using film, if done sensibly.

If anybody asks me in fifty years to whip out my photos, not only will I be able to do so instantaneously, but I'll be able to locate every photo I have taken of person X, in location Y, in the year Z (and I'll probably them - or at least access to them - in my pocket). Try asking Gungho's grandma to do that.

Buy two external hardrives (don't bother with CDs or DVDs - you want everything in one place). Back up all your photos to both of them. Take one offsite (your work, your parents' house, etc - somewhere that you go regularly that isn't likely to be destroyed in an event that could destroy your own home). Continue backing up regularly to one of them. And then every week, or month, or whatever period you're relatively comfortable with losing your most recent photos in the event that your house is ransacked or burnt down, take HDD A to the offsite location, and bring HDD B back. Repeat every week, month, etc.

When your HDDs get full buy new ones. For half the price you paid last time you'll probably get one that's physically half the size with four times the capacity. Transfer the old files across and start filling the new drives.

Yes, the Iomega Jazz disc is already useless. But the JPEG file on it that you transferred to your new media when the Jazz got filled can still be read now, and will still be able to be rendered by a computer for a far longer period than that which anybody who is going to be interested in your photos will still be alive.

Getting Gungho's grandmother's negatives printed might be just a little more difficult though ...
posted by puffmoike at 7:15 AM on March 9, 2009

If you're into culture hacking, you could build yourself an Image Fulgurator for extra awesome points.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:24 AM on March 9, 2009

I still shoot film still. It costs $3 at Shoppers Drugmart here in Toronto to develop and scan a roll of film, no prints. If you shoot B&W and have a film scanner, you can probably do it for much less, though the start up costs are higher.

If you don't want to start shooting film, just sell the SLR on craigslist. You can keep the lenses if you want to buy a Canon DSLR.

Archiving photos digitally will much, much more reliable than using film, if done sensibly.

I take shit loads of digital photos. This is a far trickier problem than you make it out to be. I mean, your description of a back up process is convoluted and probably one people would get lazy about. I know WAY more people who have lost photographs due to computer crashes and the like, than I know people who have had negatives ruined.

Getting Gungho's grandmother's negatives printed might be just a little more difficult though ...

That's really not true. And as Gungho points out, you can still print photographs taken 50 years back today. The process is unchanged for the most part. B&W photography is unchanged for an even longer period of time. There are no shortage of labs that can process and print from film.
posted by chunking express at 7:39 AM on March 9, 2009

The weak link in photography today (film or digital) is going to be the printing process. With film, you might get lucky, if you take it to an actual competent camera shop, and get traditional continuous-tone prints. Most cheap places, though, have turned to glorified ink-jet prints for both digital and the occasional film print job.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:20 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thorzdad, really? I was under the assumption that all the minilabs still out there (at costco, walmart, etc) are using lightjet style printing, on regular photographic paper, using RA-4 process. When you send your pictures to Walgreens' website, they send it to their printer, which exposes the paper with an LED or laser, and then it goes on for its bath in delicious photochems. I recently used Adorama's printing service which also sent prints on real-live photopaper.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 8:46 AM on March 9, 2009

The use of photopaper doesn't mean much. Look closely at the print. You can see the dot pattern. Some are better than others, of course. The prints tend to be much more fugitive, too. At least that's been my experience.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:55 AM on March 9, 2009

I think it's hit or miss. Those Kiosk machines are ink jet for sure. And most mini-labs do low-res scans of your film, and then use those to make their prints. So that's kind of a wash as well.
posted by chunking express at 10:27 AM on March 9, 2009

Gungho wrote "Film should be used to archive life's more important moments."

I take many, many digital photos. The best ones - the ones worth keeping and cherishing - get sent to a photo printing service. Some are cheap, but there are very good printing services out there (Mpix is one, I'm sure there are others). My wife loves making picture books with our digital shots, placing photos full-page. It's more fun for her than a photo album full of 3"x5" images, and less messy than a scrapbook. It's true that, properly cared for, film negatives can last a long, long time, but... the 600+ photos I have inherited of my family - quite literally my grandparent's pictures - I only have because they were digitized, and many of them are in rotten shape due to years of storing the negatives in poor conditions. I have boxes of family photos taken of myself and my siblings when we were young, and of my wife and her brother, but they are all in disarray and in various states of neglect depending on who had them, how old they are and how good the photo paper was to begin with. Whether or not negatives were kept is a crapshoot.

I agree with you in theory, but in reality the digital shots I have are indexed and sorted, better cared for and more easily shared or reproduced than the vast majority of the film-based photos we have. Think about it. 35mm is pretty standard still, but there were a wide variety of film and camera types used by my family over the years, and there are at least 9 film formats that have been discontinued in my lifetime. I'm sure there are some old Kodak Disc negatives in there. Are the images worth the effort and expense to print? Who knows.

The other thing to consider here is that unless you are already pretty good with your camera, using film is much more expensive than digital. If I have my DSLR and you have your film camera, you get ~30 chances to get the perfect shot. I get something like 340 chances before my memory card is full, shooting RAW. I have nothing against film, and I don't see it disappearing any time soon, if ever, but even a person trying to become a pro photographer can learn an awful lot about photography using a DSLR, then move to film for specific reasons once he or she has the basics down.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:28 AM on March 9, 2009

To get real photo printing with an enlarger and chemical processing you really do need to go to a dedicated lab, not Costco etc. The prints from Costco etc. are not really that bad, it's just that you can get much better with a dedicated lab. For snapshots convenience and price are probably more important but if you want to enlarge something to put on a wall or enter in a photography contest then go with a pro lab.
posted by caddis at 10:31 AM on March 9, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I like the idea of keeping the Canon EF lenses and using them with a DSLR body. Can't say that I was convinced enough on the film/paper photo/archive argument to keep the old SLR body but I am sentimental enough about old family photos that I will use multiple back-up methods for my digital pix. I think I'll try to sell the body on eBay or Craigslist.
posted by birdwatcher at 10:35 AM on March 9, 2009

I use my old Canon EOS-1 film SLR as a burglary deterrent (of a sort).

I live in a high-crime area; have done so for 16 years and never had my home broken into, but you never know. I keep the EOS-1 with a 50mm lens on it in a camera bag that has become too small for me to use anymore, and I keep it in a logical place, my home office.

I am hoping that the hypothetical burglar, upon finding that and my computer and television, will escape the house (the alarm will be blaring), instead of further searching the house for my well-hidden "real" camera bag, with my digital SLRs and lenses.

A further benefit of doing this means that when I want to, I can still enjoy actual film photography.
posted by dwbrant at 1:06 PM on March 18, 2009

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