I’ve received the scans from my first roll of film yesterday so now is a good time to debrief and share my first experience of shooting film with a “proper” camera.
As I’ve mentioned before, with a modern camera, even when you shoot in manual mode, the camera tells you what it thinks of the exposure settings you’ve chosen, thanks to an integrated light meter. It helps you get your exposure settings in the right ball park. There is no such thing on the Canon P, at least not a built-in one. I’m left with two options: guessing the exposure or using an external light metre.
I was considering going for the former option to teach myself estimating exposures, but considering the price of the roll and of the processing, I wasn’t super keen on potentially ruining an entire roll. So I went and downloaded a light metre app called LightMeter. It’s free, easy to use, and the measurements are rather accurate. At least they match the X-T1’s metering. It does slow me down a lot and makes me a bit more conspicuous in a street photography situation.
But it also teaches a valuable lesson: Provided you’re not shooting at sunrise or sunset and unless clouds are whizzing past in front of the sun, exposure doesn’t change that much. So rather than get a reading for every single shot, I got one in a sunlit area, one in the shade and used my judgement to make the necessary exposure compensation. Worked rather well in my opinion, but will benefit from more practice.
Rangefinders are rather fun to shoot with, mainly thanks to its focusing system. If you’re not familiar with these, rather than trying to explain with words take a look at the following video from Dave Dunne.
It works remarkably well. Almost too well, I should say. It’s difficult to put it in words, but as you turn the focus ring, you just know when something is in focus. It’s so uncanny that I often second guessed myself. No other manual focusing method feels that way.
The X-T1 has a similar split image manual focus assist. It works, but not as well as the optical version. On the downside, I find it rather difficult to focus on moving subjects, a potentially frequent scenario in street photography (which is probably one of the reasons why somebody invented the auto focus). At that point, the solution is would be to stop the aperture down, use zone focusing and be good at guessing distances between you and your subject. An art in itself.
Rangefinders are also terrifying in a way, especially when you’re not using a digital one, and doubly so when you’re using a lens for the first time. By design, you are not looking through the lens, which means you have absolutely no idea of what you’re capturing actually looks like. In particular, depth of field is kind of an unknown. It adds a lot to the mystery of not immediately knowing what your pictures are going to be like.
Fortunately, everything turned out to be OK. Focusing works great, and my method of evaluating exposure is about right. The gear is in working order (minus a potential issue I’ll talk about another time).
With that first roll, I learnt to be patient, carefully considering every aspect of the image before releasing the shutter. Not that you need to shoot film to do that, but it strongly encourages you to do so.
As for the Kodak Ektar, I like it a lot. The colours are more saturated than the RAW Fuji files without going as far as the radioactive vegetation you tend to get on some Canon profiles. It’s a shame in only comes in ISO 100, as it’s very difficult to properly expose indoors, but I will definitely get some more of it. Next up is a roll of Kodak Tri-X 400, though I’m not even halfway through it yet.