Jumping into Film PhotographyFriday, October 22, 2010 By Kevin Tomczak
Are you interested in photography but cannot afford a digital SLR camera? Another optional upgrade to a point-and-shoot style camera actually lies in the past: a film SLR, or Single-Lens-Reflex, camera. These antique cameras can be found for extremely cheap, and still deliver high quality images. Film SLRs were made in a handful of formats for different sizes of film, the most common being 35mm. A search for “35mm SLR” on craigslist.org or ebay.com will yield a plethora of results. They are highly mechanical, however, and like all machines they eventually fall apart. Following are some key factors to look out for when buying a film camera to help insure its working condition. Cameras are often sold “body only” with no lens. Before buying a camera, confirm in the photo and description that the sale includes a functioning lens. Common lens problems to ask about include sticky aperture blades, and mold and fungus on the glass elements. Though a matter of personal preference, 50mm lenses are often considered the best general-use lenses, offering a “normal” field of view similar to human eyesight. A jammed film advance lever is arguably the most common problem with old film cameras, and repairs for this would cost more than another camera in most cases. If the seller does not make it clear, ask them if the film advances and if the film advance lever moves freely. The inside of every film camera is sealed from intruding light by foam strips, which disintegrate over time. A seller’s mention of resealing the camera is not necessary, but is a definite plus. In any case, it is wise to ask if the light seals still work. Finding a pristine film camera is a hit or miss situation that requires careful observance and patience. To minimize on buying stress, never purchase a camera being sold “as is.” These sellers are generally not knowledgeable about the camera’s condition, and will not accept returns. It is also wise to ask the seller if they have recently tested the camera themselves.