Aliens Stole My Gear!

Well not really, but on a photography board someone asked if aliens stole your gear (all of it) and somehow digital photography was rendered out of existence or banned or whatever (no cell phone cameras either), would you shoot film or would you give up photography?  If you decided to shoot film, would you go back to your old gear (assuming you had any) or would you try something new.

My immediate answer was yes – I would shoot film. I did for 20 years and sometimes even now have the urge to go back to it, so I’m definitely a photographer at heart. So would I choose my old gear again? Probably. I think the ergos of other brands would do my head in.

My first “serious” camera was an OM1-n that I bought used together with an OM 135mm f2.8 lens. I already had an OM 24mm f2.8 that I bought new as well as a couple other lenses and an OM-G. Oh and a Sunpak flash –

My "serious photographer" rig

A couple decades later just about I bought an OM-3 and a 35mm f2 lens because I’ve always wanted them.  The winder I had back in the 80s, too, but I don’t know why.  Just to have it I suspect.  It made the camera a bit more convenient to hold sometimes, and balanced it with a long lens, but sort of defeated the purpose of the slim, compactness of the OM bodies.

Hard core

Yeah, I’d probably go back to my old gear.  But I could be tempted by some of its contemporaries.  Back when I was choosing which brand have a long-term relationship with, I had a fling with the FA.  I mean look at it.  Isn’t it purty?  It’s no Olympus, which to me are the most beautiful cameras from that era, but it is one serious looking piece of kit.

A technical marvel

And much like the OM-3 it was a very advanced camera in terms of flash control, metering and shutter technology.  It was also quirky like the OM-3 which eats batteries like crazy.  The FA had some shutter problems and there were some recalls, but overall it was a tempting thing.  I’d still kind of like to have one.  Just to have it.  I used to play with the one in the store I worked at just to hear the shutter fire.  I do the same thing with my OM-3 now.  Digital SLR shutters just don’t have the same sound.  Or a film lever which is a tactile pleasure that has no equivalent in digital.

And how about this sweet baby?

Oh how I wanted one.  But I found that Olympus made a world-class macro lens, too, and like 15 years later, I bought one –

OM 90mm f2 macro & T10 controller & ring flash

I’d also be tempted by medium format, but as I don’t have a good enough scanner for those sized negatives, I’d probably just stick with 35mm film.  Even now I’m tempted by the idea of processing my own B&W film again.  All you need is a black bag, some chemicals and a developing tank…all stuff I used to have, but that got lost along the way.  The need for instantaneous feedback could still be approached with doing the film myself and I could still use my old favorites the OM-3 and OM-1n.  Plus there’s that chemical smell.

Yes, photography was a little more involved back then.  A little more work.  But I think that had its advantages.  Shooting film was expensive and limiting.  If you only had a couple rolls of 24 or 36 frames on you, you had to be discriminating in what you shot.  Back then I took more care with each of my images, walking around and around getting the feel for the area or subject, then choosing a shooting position.  After that, meticulously framing, composing and deciding on exposure.  Now I find myself more carelessly shooting, taking 100 images in my front yard just because I can.  Even though I have tried to be a more methodical photographer, the digital medium just makes things so easy and disposable.  If you don’t like it, delete it.  Don’t like that angle or depth of field, just take another shot. With film there were no do-overs.  What you shot was what you shot and if you didn’t like it you’d have to burn another frame.

Film also has its downside; it’s confining.  Digital has freed me.  Freed me to experiment.  To take chances.  Lots of images means lots of ways to learn what works and what doesn’t.  I’m not tied to a single film speed per camera.  I’m not tied to a 36-frame roll.  I’m not tied to the time of day.  I don’t have to wait to see my images.  Memory cards are way more reliable than film which could jam or not thread right if you weren’t paying attention.  I don’t have to write down exposure settings for each image anymore to understand what I did right or wrong.  I instantly know what my images look like and how I can improve them.  I can take hundreds of photos and not spend another dime to see them (aside from my initial investments of computer, software and  hard drive).

I guess it’s up to  me to find the balance between the discipline of film and the freedom of digital.

So what would you do if aliens stole your gear and outlawed digital photography?  Jump into the film pool or take up basket weaving instead?

2 thoughts on “Aliens Stole My Gear!

Add yours

  1. Film for sure! I still shoot film (along with digital) just because I like the equipment better. Film camera mechanics, especially ergonomics, had over 100 years to evolve, and it evolved pretty well. Digital equipment is getting better, but isn’t perfected yet. Cameras like my Canon G11 (and presumably it’s new Nikon counterpart) are almost as pleasant to use as ’70s 35mm film gear, but they are not quite there yet.

    Until Christmas, when I got a 10-20mm Sigma ultra-wide angle, I could only do ultra-wide shots on film. Now, I can do practically everything digitally I used to do on film, and that is kind of a bummer. One less excuse to load up a film body.

    Back in the day I went with a Pentax system. I remember thinking Nikon, Canon, and Pentax were the future back in those days. I wasn’t so confident in Olympus, Minolta, and the others. When I decided to get a SLR after having a Canonet GIII-17 rangefinder my dad gave me, I remember agonizing over the ME Super, the AE-1, and a Nikon FE -something. I ended up going with the Pentax because I wanted Aperature priority (the AE-1 is shutter priority like the Canonet), and I couldn’t justify the higher cost of the Nikon. Now that used film stuff is so cheap, I have aquired all of the former contenders, and I almost bought into an Olympus system this past fall as well.

    Anyway, sorry for the ramble. Bottom line: nice post!

  2. I guess I would have to iniciate in film. I started shooting with digital, so I guess I would have to practice a bit more those shots that I get right at the 2nd or 3rd shot or I would loose a lot of money in film.
    I think the few times I shot film I had 5 years, and can’t remember what photos I took, but it must have been in auto, so… and later with a disposable waterproof and I had the film revealed I changed house and I don’t Know in which case it is, so I don’t know the results, but again.. full auto (it’s a disposable… underwater)


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