Getting Started: Cameras


Quick Start to Film Photography


Lesson Info

Getting Started: Cameras

So, we're gonna start just talking about the photo gear. So when I taught my big class, I spend a lot of time talking about how really to be a good film photographer, you have to really understand your film stocks, you have to understand your light, and you have to understand what a lab does, which is all really important. But, for a quick-start class, I wanna start with just talking about gear, because really that's kinda where you're gonna have to start. So what we're going to do is we're just gonna quickly talk about the different formats of cameras that are out there. And then which film goes with which format. Alright? So, there are a lot of options still out on the table for film photographers. There's different formats. And, there's small format, medium format, large format. And for this class, we're gonna focus on small format and medium format, because those are more of the kind of, like, beginner places to start. If you're interested in learning about large format, then I rea...

lly encourage you to check out my friend, Daniel Gregory's class here on the CreativeLive in the catalog. He does an entire class, all day class on large format photography, which is amazing. But for today, we're gonna talk about small format, and we're gonna talk about medium format. Okay, small format. So, small format cameras are often referred to as 35 millimeter cameras. And they're called 35 millimeter cameras because that's the size of their negative, which is, are you ready for it? Around 35 millimeters. And this is what it looks like, it's a little tiny negative right there. Right? 35 millimeter camera. And what's great about 35 mm's, here's mine, is that these are gonna look and feel a lot like the digital SLRs that we're probably all used to working with, especially if you get what's considered a newer model, like this one's a newer model. So, I think I bought this in like, 2003? 2004? And, okay, so they look and feel like what we know, so that's kind of a nice crossover. The shape of the negative, that 4x6 is also going to be a similar shape to what you get with the digital files. So, again that's gonna be a nice crossover. And, if you have a newer model and you're shooting the same family that you shoot your digital gear with, you can use the lenses that you already have with crossover So, that's awesome, because then you don't have to invest in a whole new system, or anything like that. So, because of all those things, I always say that I think a 35 mm is a great place to start if you are first starting in film, or wanting to give that a try. It's just gonna feel comfortable, it's gonna feel a lot easier than maybe a medium format camera. So, 35 mm cameras take 35 mm film, and 35 mm film is that round film canister that we're probably all used to seeing, or we've seen in the past. What's great about 35 mm film, is depending on the kind that you buy, you're either going to have 24 or 36 exposures on a roll, which I know that doesn't sound like a lot of frames when you're used to shooting on a digital sensor, but in the film world, that's kind of a big deal. Like, to shoot 36 exposures now for me, is like, "This is never going to end." It just takes forever. So that's what that takes. Now, the only real drawback to small format is, there's my kids again, is that because of the size of the negative, because it is so small, you're gonna notice a lot more grain on a 35 mm negative than you will on a medium format negative. And this can sometimes be, I don't know, hard for people who are coming from the digital world. Because we're used to those really nice, sharp digital images we get. The grain doesn't bother me, I think it's beautiful. And honestly, because of the size, and convenience, and everything of the 35 mm camera, this is really what I take now when I'm going on vacation, like, when I'm wanting just to photograph my own kids, I just grab my 35 mm camera, super easy, throw the film in, grab a lens, and I'm good to go. The other really great thing about 35 mm cameras, you guys, is that they're pretty inexpensive to buy. I think this body that I bought for a lot of money back in 2002 (laughs) you can get now for like, under $100 on eBay. So, they're really affordable, they're easy, it's a really great entry-level kind of place. So that's 35 mm. Now, if I'm shooting in studio for my clients, or if I'm wanting to do some like, serious portraits of my kids, then I go for my medium format cameras. And, so let's talk a little bit about medium format cameras. So, depending on the system that you're using with medium format, you're going to get a different amount of exposures on a roll of film. So we'll talk about that for a second. The film that goes in medium format cameras is 120. So all medium format cameras are designed to take either 220 or 120 film, but as of a couple years ago, they no longer make 220. So, you're gonna want to buy 120 film, and the 120 film is the long, thin film, which is very different looking than the 35 mm film. And this is important because just about every film photographer I've ever met at some point, has bought 120 film for their 35 mm camera. (laughs) You don't want to do that, because it's really disappointing. So, you're gonna get 120 film for your medium format cameras and then again, the type of medium format camera you have is going to determine how many frames you're gonna get per roll. So let's talk about that for a second. So the most popular medium format system is the 645 systems, and the 645 systems are these. So what's great about these cameras is that they also kind of look and feel like a 35 mm, or like a digital SLR. They have the same kind of, you know, the way you hold them, the way you shoot through them, all of that is very similar. So it's kind of a nice transition from 35 mm or from a digital SLR, into medium format. Which is great. They're called 645, because that is the actual shape of their negative. So, it's a 645 shape, which is very similar to that rectangle that we're used to getting shooting with a digital SLR, or shooting with a 35 mm camera. Which is another reason why it's kind of a nice transition camera into the larger formats, because it's gonna feel the same and it's gonna give you a similar look that you're used to getting. Which will be nice if you shoot professionally, it's nice for your clients, too, to have that kind of continuity. And, on a 645 system, here's my Contax 645, you'll get 16 frames per roll of 120. So, that's the most frames you're gonna get out of a medium format system, is the 645. They're great. So, the next system are the 6 by 6 systems that are similar to like, the Roloflex, which is really fun, or the Hasselblads, the older Hasselblads, like the 501s or the 503s. And this is that classic square negative. It was funny, earlier today in the critiques, we're looking at the images and I kept saying, "Oh, I would love to see this image, you know, cropped square." (laughs) And then, Ben was like, "I don't want to see it cropped square." But it's 'cause I shoot on this all the time. I've kind of trained my eye to see things in a squared crop, which is fun, but these are really fun cameras to try, because of the square. It forces you to kind of compose differently, to look at things differently. Most of the 6x6 systems have the, you know, the waist view finder, so again it's a different kind of way of seeing. My Hasselblad, I have a Prism, so that I can hold it, similar, up to my eye, sort of like I do with the 645 systems. But that 6x6 negative, I just like the way it looks, and like I said, it's a really interesting way of composing. It'll kind of change your eye a little bit and change the way you see a scene, which is fun. On a roll of 120, when you're shooting a 6x6 camera, you're gonna get 12 frames per roll, which now you're starting to see why I was like, "You get 36 frames on this." (laughs) It's a big deal. Because the bigger systems, you get less. And then the last are the 67 systems. Like my Pentax 67, there's the Mamiya 67, which is a beautiful camera. And these will give you the 6x7 negative shape. So with this one, the aspect ratio is similar to an 8x10. So, not quite a rectangle, not quite a square. They're beautiful. And these are the biggest negatives out of the medium format systems. And because of that, you're gonna get 10 frames per roll with a roll of 120 on a 6x6 system.

Class Description

Have you always wanted to shoot film but are just unsure how to begin? Join film photographer Sandra Coan for a quick start to film photography. In this class you will learn:

  • The difference between film and a digital sensor
  • How to choose the perfect camera and film for you and your style
  • Where to find and buy professional grade film stocks
  • How to meter so that you get perfect exposures every time
  • How to find and choose a photo lab so that you can get the most out of your film images

By the end of this class you’ll be ready to pick up your film camera and shoot with confidence!


a Creativelive Student

As all of her other classes, this class is amazing and very informative too.