My first grownup camera was a Minolta SR-T 101 bought in a pawn shop with money saved doing college work-study jobs. That was 40 plus years ago. I loved that camera, and my affinity and affection for Minolta have never waned. So, when I decided to buy a camera, I went back to Minolta. So, you see, my initial choice to shoot film is very much tied to my desire to shoot vintage Minolta cameras.
The first camera arrived from eBay at the end of February 2019, a Maxxum 7000i with two lenses, two creative cards, and flash. I shot my first roll of film Fuji Superia X-TRA 400 that very day. Wanting to experiment, over the ensuing months,
I went through rolls of Kodak UltraMax, Ilford XP2, Tri-X, HP5+, Lomography 400 and 800, and Portra 160, 400, and 800. Seeing the scans blew me away. The different characteristics of each film stood out. Portra had a beautiful soft pastel glow, the Lomography was saturated and rich, the UltraMax was crisp and clear, and the XP2, razor-sharp with fine gradations of grays. Fuji has a greenish cast that sometimes I like, other times not so much. Each emulsion had a unique appearance. Those rolls cemented my love affair with film, especially after having seen only iPhone digital images for the last five years. Thirty years ago, I bought the cheapest film available for my SR-T 101 and had never seen images, colors, and detail like these emulsions offered. I was falling in love all over again!
I have nothing against digital, but film offers variables to explore and potential paths to trod that resonate with me.
Emulsions differ in grain, saturation, contrast, and latitude. Added to the unique traits of each emulsion is the ability to experiment with pulling, pushing, and darkroom printing techniques. Having spent decades in front of a computer screen writing and debugging code, developing expertise in PhotoShop or LightRoom does not carry anywhere near the same appeal—using either strikes me as just another job, another day at the office. Also, I like the fact that film is documentary. The negative captures a moment, and what is there cannot be changed.
In July 2019, I was fortunate to be able to take a four-week darkroom class and enter the world of analog prints. The ability to develop film and make prints sealed the deal–my heart belonged to film.
While I prefer film, in no way am I against or indifferent to digital. One plus/minus about buying camera equipment on eBay is that one never knows what will be in a lot. As it turns out, one large lot unexpectedly contained two kit lenses for an Olympus E-Volt camera from the early 2000s. The camera was broken; however, I found a replacement for 25.00 from Goodwill. Digital cameras from the early 2000s are just as cheap as film cameras, so I added a Minolta Maxxum 5D from Goodwill to my collection as well. Since I have digital cameras, and an iPhone is always with me,
digital-first images will appear on Earth, Sun, Film. In fact, since I’ve had a garden for five years,
garden images from the four years before my eBay binge will be iPhone shots.
iPhone images from the first four years were never intended to be seen by anyone but me. They were made for documentation and planning purposes— please keep this in mind when viewing them. All film shots from 2019 are equipment tests of cameras and lenses bought from eBay and Goodwill. These images are mostly me trying to figure out a camera well enough to snap a picture. Testing was the main objection—artistry was not a consideration. It is, however, an aspiration.
digital-first images will appear, and they will mainly consist of pictures of cameras, lenses, books, gardening gear, etc. Most digital photos will be from the Maxxum 5D, with some iPhone or Olympus mixed in. I don’t own Lightroom or Photoshop, so all digital images are straight from the camera.
When I sit amidst the flowers or wander around the city, the camera with me will always be a vintage Minolta loaded with film.