“I’ve never shot with film” That statement caused the salesclerk at B&H Photo in Manhattan to almost fall out of his chair. Especially since I had a Nikon D3 slung across my shoulder.
It’s half-true though. I remember using a few film cameras growing up, but nothing significant. When I became serious about taking photos I purchased my D80. From there I went to the D300, then the D3…obviously the logical next step was a used Nikon F4 from the late 80′s.
I purchased the camera and a few rolls of black & white film and set off to the streets of New York to learn. The Nikon F4 features dials for every setting (ISO, Aperture, Shutterspeed, etc) there are no LCD screens. The camera is build like a rock and heavy, but that’s good in my book.
I wanted to see if shooting on film would make me a better photographer. Of course there is no preview or LCD to review your photo. There is also no cropping on processing you can do in Lightroom. What you shoot is what you get.
Suddenly I found myself thinking much more about composition and the settings. To cheat a bit I would shoot something with my digital camera and look at the final settings, then attempt to dial in something similar on the F4. But once again with no way to look at the photos I didn’t know if any of them were turning out.
The F4 has the same lens mount as the D3, so I am able to use all my lenses. I primarily shot with the 50mm f/1.4 but did shoot a soccer game with my 70-200mm f/2.8. The F4s has the extra battery grip mounted and the speed at which I was able to shoot was just fine.
Over the next few weeks I shot two rolls of 36-exposure black & white film. With the instant gratification of the LCD preview gone I constantly wondered if I had gotten the shots I wanted. Now it was time to develop the film, which was an adventure in itself.
In my neck of the woods there are very few film labs left. Calling around to a few friends one suggested Sam’s Club or Costco since they still developed film on-site. Heading to Sam’s I was told they don’t process black & white film on site, it’s sent to Tennessee and has a turnaround of 3-4 weeks. Ouch.
Luckily there is a great camera store in Orlando called Colonial Film & Hobby which has a lab on site and can develop black & white film. I had the rolls developed and the negatives scanned to CD.
Looking over the photos I was actually quite surprised that I was able to get some good shots. Yes the exposure was off a bit in some, but overall I liked what I shot. The black & white is a bit of a crutch since it will mask many of the off-tone color if I had shot normal film.
I’ve uploaded all the shots to a group and will continue to play with the film camera. The only bad thing is now I’m carrying a number of cameras with me.