19 Apr The Analog Line – Part Five – Howchester
How you do anything has a great deal to do with the supplies you have available. Analog photography is no exception – and these days unfortunately the machinery and raw materials are getting scarcer.
At this point I’d like to point out that at one time there was no such thing as analog photography – prior to 1826. Between that and 1975 there was only photography. Subsequently there has been digital as well. Which gives you pause…what type comes next?
Well, back to working with film, developers, and paper prints. The start of it all will be the film – it is still made by Kodak, Fujifilm, Ilford, Sakura, and a number of smaller, odder, firms in Europe. There is black and white negative film, colour negative film, and colour transparency film generally available ( look in the refrigerated cabinets at Camera Electronic ). The variety is not as wide as it once was, but no reasonable worker could claim to be stinted for choice. They’ve just gotta be satisfied with fewer choices.
Note that the sizes that film comes in has also taken a hit. You’ll be able to get 35mm, 120, and some 4 x 5 sheet material in regular amounts but odder sizes like 5 x 7 and 8 x 10 are done only on an annual order. Abandon hope for 70mm, 828, 616, 126 Kodapak, and that lovely crispy bacon we got before the war.
You’ll be able to get black and white developer, stop bath, fixer, and wash aids, so no excuse for avoiding B/W darkroom work. Colour with the E-6 or similar transparency process, colour neg with C-41, and the RA-4 print process might still be possible with specialist packs. Those of you who have decided to shoot Kodachrome A or Kodachrome II are requested to gather in the chapel for a message from Kodak.
Cameras to expose these films will largely be a second or thirdhand purchase. With the notable exception of the Leica company and their MP camera, few other makers produce new film cameras. Oh, you can get some Chinese cameras that are largely rebadged budget devices from the last years of film, but serious work will need some judicious market buying.
Secondhand camera sales at markets is sometimes good – I’ve sold all my old film gear at these and I hope that the cameras have been kept in service with their new owners. Other cameras seen at flea markets or on eBay have been less trustworthy. Bear in mind the fact that as things age they break down, and if you are searching for a good film camera you need to find one with a seller who can back up that sale with a warranty.
The breakdown inside an older camera may be dramatic – parted shutter curtains or stripped gears are pretty evident. Less obvious is the fact that the electronic cells that measure light within the cameras may lose all sensitivity with age. The shutters might fire and the apertures close down but no message from the light meter means no control of the exposure. And the cells that did the measuring may be long, long out of production – that means a repair is impossible. I lost the use of a Nikon F2 because of this.
The answer for most of these exposure woes is the use of a separate light meter – and these are still available from our shop. Ask for a Sekonic.
The business of downstream processing at home used to be simple – all you needed to do was endanger your marriage by kicking the family out of the bathroom for several nights per week while you set up a darkroom in there. Hours spent sloshing through the chemistry while people hammered on the door. Good times.
Now, if you still want to do this, you’ll have to pick up a secondhand enlarger and other processing accessories. You can still get new developing tanks and other small goods from our shop and if all you need to do is process B/W negatives, you may not suffer the wrath of the relatives. Of course the water bill will become alarming, but that would be the case with any analog procedure.
Alternately, you can select a good professional lab like Fitzgeralds to process and print your work. They can also scan and digitize your images for reasonable prices. It is the more elegant and professional version of dropping your films into the chemist.
The goods you need to answer that” how ” question can still be assembled – but you need the instructions on how to use them. This is where membership in a camera club may help, as would enrollment in the various TAFE courses that deal with analog work. At the very least an old amateur photographer instruction book from the 70′ or 80’s is not that hard to come by, and as long as you stick to the B/W sections, things today are remarkably as they were then. Do not expect to encounter automatic printing machines or film processors as much today as once you might have. They do exist, but largely in pieces.