Film photography is one of the uprising things in todays photography. Especially here in Berlin, you can see a lot of young people with a Canon A1 or a Lomo around their neck.
The reasons for that are quiet different. Some are looking out for that "retro coolness factor", others just love the unique look of the results and others really want to go back to the roots of photography, understanding it as the creative, handcrafted art that it once was...
I´m a permanent guest in our local antique shop here in Berlin, Friedrichshain due to it´s great selection of old cameras. I have some preferred cameras I work with, like my Leica R8 for small frame but I also have a changing stock of cameras because I like to try something new and learn by that.
The owner told me, he´s often selling analog cameras to young students here in Berlin but very often it´s the first time they have a camera in their hands and really don´t know how to handle it.
So, before starting in the analog adventure you should think about some things...
The first question might be: Where should I buy the camera?
Especially in cities like Berlin you have a lot of different possibilities to get your analog camera.
The cheapest way is getting a used one by this famous online shop with the four letters. I did it by myself and I made good and bad experiences... If you decide to go that way, I recommend to buy it from a registrated shop on E... Private persons won`t give you returning or guarantee rights.
Sure, sometimes you´re very lucky and a private person sells a really reat camera for a unbeatable price because he doesn´t know what he´s selling there.
But most of the private persons can´t give you any information about the working condition of the camera, so it´s like gambling when buying online without returning rights.
Flea markets have the advantage that you can take the camera in your hands and have a look at its condition. Here in Berlin I can absolutely recommend the market at Mauerpark... There are some dealers with used cameras out of house dissolutions, selling crap in 99% but you also find really professional vintage camera dealers. Sure, the prices are higher but you get a good consultation and most of them have a registrated shop with returning rights.
The other options are professional shops where you have some in Berlin. You pay the highest prices of all the named options here, but the consultation is great, you get a checked camera, returning rights and most of them offer a repair service.
If you now decided for the way how to get your camera, the next question is: Which kind of camera is the right one?
Like in digital photography there are various models of analog cameras and your decision should depend on the need for your camera.
One of the current trends is lomography, depending on the old russian Lomo cameras. On todays market you can find various brands like Lomo LC, Diana but you can get same results even with old, used rangefinder cameras like the Ricoh 35 S. From the different brand you can choose various modells, panorama cameras, fisheye or instant cameras. The construction of the cameras is really simple, no unnecessary technology, just the camera. Results are often unpredictable, especially when it´s about the colors.
If you´re looking for something with a higher image quality you should have a look for reflex camera or a rangefinder out of the 1980´s. The Nikon F-versions or the Canon A1 and AE1 are good choices, solid built, good quality and easy to handle. Also recommended and in most cases cheaper models are Minolta, Exa, Asahi Pentax or Pentacon. All of these are manual focussed, the Canon and the Nikon need batteries for the lightmeter. So when you´re looking for good quality in your images, a not so heavy camera for a god price, this might be your choice.
One level higher when it´s about image quality Leica should be named or medium format. Leica has a great stock of amazing film cameras, starting from the early rangefinder models like the M3 to the legendary M6 or the reflex cameras of the R-series where I can absolutely recommend the R6 and above.
The price for camera and lenses is still high, because for most of the models Leica still offers service. This might be a choice for someone really working with film and using the images not just for private pleasure or for real film fanatics.
Medium frame is the absolute favourite when it´s about image quality. When you don´t mind of carrying a real heavy camera like the Mamiya RB67 around, you will be amazed by the results medium format is able to deliver. The cheapest, good modells are the Pentacon Six or the Mamiya 645 with changeable viewfinders or the russian Hasselblad copies.
It´s not only the camera, that´s responsible for the quality of the results. In contrast to digital photography you have to work with only one ISO value and decide if color or monochrome before.
When it´s about the film, I would always recommend the Bergger Pancro 400. Sure, I used to take some of the cheap drug store film rolls when I used to test a new vintage camera where I didn´t know if it works. But when you´re out for useable quality that´s nothing I woud recommend.
I prefer working in b/w, because I like to work with hard contrasts, lines and geometrics, light and shadow, so a viewer can concentrate on the composition of my photography without being distracted by colors.
The Pancro400 by Bergger is a panchromatic film with a so called double emulsion. Panchromatic means the film is able to work with complete visible color spectrum, from 350nm up to 800nm. The film has a double emulsion out of silver bromide and silver iodide, which are both different in its grain sizes. So the film offers a amazing dynamic range and shows a great image quality with fine details. I develop my rolls with Kodak XTOL and like to push it with factor 1 for harder contrast. Due to its dynamic range it is possible to treat the Pancro400 like a ISO1600 film...