7 Days living with…film photography

7 Days living with...film photographyAlmost everyone on Team Pocket-lint is a camera nut of some description but out of all of us with our various bits of high tech snapping kit, I’ve also got quite a strong collection of¬†Lomo cameras. The question is though, is film still relevant beyond retro style photography? Does it still have a place in society and how much of a pain in the bum is to use now that we’re mollycoddled by the happy snapping ways of digital? I decided to find out in¬†7 days.

The challenge here was to go for an entire week without using any digital cameras whatsoever, including¬†the one on my iPhone. My day-to-day camera, which was housed safely on my bookcase for the entire 7¬†days, is a¬†Panasonic DMC-LX3¬†– the brand’s top-of-the-range compact from a couple of years ago which is nice¬†and portable while also offering excellent picture quality, largely thanks to its fancy Leica lens. I also use a¬†lot of film cameras, but they’re all lo-fi models (mostly Lomo) so the first step was to track down a decent¬†film snapper to use for all the Pocket-lint reviews and hands-on work that I do. As it turns out, not an easy task.

After a lot of back and fourth with various brands, Nikon agreed to lend me an alarmingly expensive F6 SLR (around £1,500)  for the duration, along with a rather large AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm zoom lens worth something like the same again. I was also sent a Kodak Ultra Compact single-use camera, along with some film, while Polaroid loaned me one of its Polaroid 300 instant cameras. The film-based lineup was completed by my Lomography La Sardina.

Obviously, this isn’t a review of any of the cameras involved – it’s an account of life without a digital camera. My 7 days begins on¬†Thursday – simply because the Nikon camera turned up at my door halfway through the week. Read on to¬†find out what happened.

Thursday

Thanks to a week of very late nights staying up to follow the London riots on Sky News and Twitter (and¬†praying that they wouldn’t come any closer to my home or those of my friends), the tail-end of the week¬†was something of a struggle. On the agenda for Thursday was a review of the¬†Philips Fidelio DS7700 iPad¬†dock. Usually I would breeze through my review shots on my digital camera, checking them on the¬†screen as I go, before transferring them to my computer and resizing them – all within about half an hour¬†of setting up the kit. Not this time.

Naturally, all of the pictures needed to be snapped using the Nikon F6 and things took a bit longer when¬†film was brought into the equation. After finally managing to load up a Kodak Gold ISO 200 colour film after several failed attempts and a substantial amount of swearing, I was finally ready to get stuck in.¬†The F6 is a heavy camera at the best of times and even more so when you’re trying to balance an iPad¬†dock in one hand and use the camera one-handed.

Philips DS7700 iPad dock

I’m not really a SLR aficionado, so I was at the mercy of the hastily Googled manual when it came to setting the camera’s controls. The fact that I couldn’t take a couple of test shots and look at them to check that the settings were correct before I got started was a major hassle.¬†Having to finish the film off was also something of a pain. Using a well-practiced review routine, I can usually¬†get the 10-15 shots that I need by taking around 20-25 of them on my digital camera. As this iPad dock was¬†a relatively simple piece of kit with only a couple of buttons, there were only a certain amount of shots that¬†I needed, but I had to keep going after that to finish off the film – taking up precious time and also making¬†by arm ache from holding the F6.

Once finished, instead of just popping an SD card into my computer,¬†I had to make the 10-minute saunter down to the local Boots to put my film in for one-hour processing, at a cost of ¬£7.49 (I initially went into the nearby Snappy Snaps, who said that they’d be able to take care of my photos in an hour, but then backtracked when I presented them with a film and said that it would take three). Then I went back¬†home for lunch before returning to pickup my disc of images, all the time praying that they were ok so that¬†I wouldn’t have to repeat the entire process.

Thankfully, the pictures were mostly usable, although¬†the review lacks a close-up shot of the Bluetooth and volume controls as none of my shots of these were¬†sharp enough and I didn’t think that it was worth the cost of another film and more processing to put right¬†this tiny detail (not to mention the time involved).

Polaroid from the LomoHub

After work, I moseyed on down to the Lomography store in Soho for a largely beer-based “tea party” to¬†celebrate the new B&W Earl Grey & Lady Grey films. Being without a digital camera in the Lomo store is¬†hardly unusual so I didn’t miss not being able to use one, and I took along the La Sardina and a Polaroid 300. I took a few shots, including this¬†Poloroid snap (above) of myself, and fellow journos and Lomo users Kat and Laura.

You can read the rest of the article here on Pocket-lint.com (originally published 29/08/11).

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