Film Was Never Dead – It’s More Alive Than Ever
In fact, the art of film photography was never dead. What made the present-day manufacturers ‘fix’ something that was never broken, we’d never know. But one thing for sure, in this age and time, film cameras that date back decades ago are still beyond capable of producing visuals of top-notch quality.
Thanks to the film gurus at ShopBack, we’ve curated a piece to ease you through the daunting first steps of this unsung artform!
Preface: before everything, there are different variations to film photography. Namely: 35mm, 120mm (or medium format), large formats and etcetera. But for the sake of an amateur’s guide to film photography, all cameras mentioned are of 35mm capabilities.
You might think, something that is of such antique value must be quite expensive, right? Well, you’re both right and wrong. Though it was a huge feat to put together these fine pieces of hardware together back in the 1900s, the value of film cameras has remained relatively affordable. And then there’s the other end of the spectrum, where a Leica camera (probably best described as the Gucci of cameras) could cost up to 10 grand, but I digress. If you’re considering about getting it on with the very core of film photography, you’ll be relieved to hear that even a disposable film camera is all it takes to get the job done.
1. The Disposable Camera
Simply unpackage it and shoot away. It’s almost like a film photography tease. Fuss-free, cheap, but it works.
Or if you’re looking to delve headfirst into analogue photography, then getting a legitimate film camera in its full glory is just the tool you need to truly bask in the very essence of film photography.
‘There are 2 types (in my opinion) to choose from when picking your first film camera – get a Point & Shoot (P&S) camera or Single-Lens Reflex (SLR) camera.’ Explains Simon, one of the many film enthusiasts we have in-house here at ShopBack.
‘There’s also the Rangefinder film camera but as far as beginner’s concern, SLR cameras, and P&S cameras are the quintessential tools to amateur film photography.’
2. Point & Shoot Camera
A P&S camera as the name suggests, literally dictates how this type of camera is used. You point the camera at the subject and fire the shutter. No rocket science here. Less the hassle, but the user still reap the quality of how a film photo should look like.
Simon’s personal favourite P&S camera is the Olympus Stylus Epic. ‘This bad boy is 3/4 the size of my palm! I can just slip it into my pocket wherever I go, and it has never failed to deliver ultra-sharp photos! Best part? Despite its size, the lens packs a punch with an inbuilt flash!’
3. Single-Lens Reflex Camera
An SLR camera, on the other hand, might require a tad bit of technical knowledge on how cameras work. In return? You get complete control of how you want your photos to look like. From how exposed your photo gets, to how much background you want to blur out in the photo – think iPhone 10’s portrait mode.
Oh, they’re also the ones with the ever timeless look of how a camera should look like.
Using an SLR camera is all about taking care of the nitty-gritty. There’s no auto-focus, so whether you capture the beautiful face of your subject or end up with just a cluster of pixels, it’s entirely up to you. ‘Thanks to my first SLR camera, I’ve really learned about each contributing factor to a good photo. You really learn from ground zero.’ Simon says. His personal recommendation of an entry-level SLR camera is the Olympus OM10.
Where to Find Them and the Cost
Compare it to an S$2000 DSLR, the cost of one of these artefact-worthy art pieces is almost negligible. Find out how you can save even more below!
Get It In-Store
Unfortunately, much of these camera manufacturers had stopped production of film cameras a long time ago, thus the only way is to acquire second-hand ones. Fret not, there are known-establishments in Singapore that do thorough cleanups of these cameras before re-retailing them.
Notable store: Black Market Camera
One of the most acknowledged retailers of film cameras in Singapore has got to be Black Market Camera. Glass walls of preloved cameras both digital and film perimeters the compound of the shop. If there was a film photographer starter pack, you’d be able to find everything in the starter pack right here at Black Market Camera.
Decked out with a selection of SLR cameras and P&S cameras from this century and the one before, this is the motherlode of all photographers’ dream. Now I hear you – so many lenses, camera bodies, how do I even get started? There really isn’t much to purchasing your first film camera, you just got to do it. Unsure of the condition of the camera? Approach the friendly staff at Black Market Camera, especially the owner, who is well-versed with cameras of all age.
With prices starting as low as S$79 for a film camera body, it only reiterates how affordable film cameras really are. Complete the setup with a basic lens and it won’t cost you more than S$250.
Black Market Camera
- Address: 3 Coleman Street #03-30/31/32 Peninsula Shopping Centre, Singapore 179804
- Contact Number: 6336 6349
- Operating Hours: 12:30PM – 8PM (Daily)
Get it on eBay
The behemoth of all marketplaces, eBay might just be your best bet if you’re looking to snag unbelievable cheap deals. Seen above, for example, is Simon’s favourite SLR camera and while he paid S$280 for his setup, the one listed is going for less than 50% of the retail price in Singapore. With all things old making a ‘comeback’, it is only usual that there is a surge in the price.
Point to note: remember to incur the delivery fee if you’re looking to purchase anything on eBay! You might win an auction at a really good price but if the eBay global shipping fee is S$50, it defeats the whole purpose innit.
And then there’s Carousell. If you’re all about that negotiation and checking of goods in person, then this is it. Though the platform might not have the widest selection, cult film cameras are still very widely sold at an affordable price point. Things to look out for/ask if you’re looking to purchase (especially) a film camera:
- Enquire if the lens is free of fungus and haze
- If there are any notable scratches that could potentially affect the camera’s ability to shoot.
- Does the film advance/rewind work?
- Anything that isn’t functional about the camera?
Due to the nature of aged cameras in general and scarcity of spare parts, repairing would more than likely burn a hole in your wallet and even so, few places in Singapore do upkeep for old cameras. But rest-assured, so long you treat your cameras with some TLC, these mechanical marvels are here to stay for a long time.
Film Types and Where to Find Them
Without dabbling too much with the technicalities, there are 2 types of film stock to choose from: Black & White and Color.
Every film stock is also labelled with its respective film speed (ISO), or simply how sensitive to light these films are. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive the film is of light. E.g. a dimly lit room has very subtle light sources, thus in order for a photo to be properly taken, the film stock has to be sensitive enough to pick up the subtle light in the room. Film stocks with a higher ISO rating also produce images with more ‘noise’ or grain as compared to film stocks of lower ISOs. You are the boss of your own picture; whether you’re into pictures with grains that are so fine that they look practically digital, or a picture with really defined grains, you decide for yourself.
Usually, each commercially purchased film roll has either 24 or 36 exposures (capacity to take either 24 or 36 photos).
The film stock that you choose for a shoot no matter whether black & white or colour film depends on the lighting condition of where you take your photos, as seen above.
Black & White Film
While some might argue that an image is boring when its portrayed with only 2 colours, Tsun from ShopBack is an avid black & white film shooter. ‘Shapes and contours are defined, I no longer have to think about the colours that’d usually distract me if I was shooting colour (film), and you are less likely to screw the photo up.’ It really boils down to personal preferences when choosing a film stock.
Some of Tsun’s favourite black & white film stocks are Kodak’s Tmax 400, Fujifilm’s Acros 100, and Ilford Photo’s Kentmere 400.
I, for one, is on team colour film’s side. Colour pops and catches the eye, you can insinuate a certain mood through the tonality of the colours, which could be replicated in black & white’s film but with colour film, the possibility is just endless.
The beauty about analogue photography is that you can switch up what you want to shoot with just a change in the film stock. Personal favourite film stocks include AgfaPhoto’s Agfa 400, Kodak’s Portra 400, and Kodak’s Ektar 100.
Where to Get The Film
Photo developing places across Singapore sell the film but for the slightly exotic film stocks like Agfa 400, Acros 100, your best bet is to get them online.
- B&H Photo Video
Based in the US, B&H Photo Video is the unrivalled giant of a catalogue for all your photography needs. Film stocks of all sorts are also available at a much lower than usual price point as compared to what they retail for in Singapore. If you don’t mind the slightly longer shipping duration, and for the uncommon film stocks you’ll rarely ever find in Singapore, B&H is the way to go.
2. Lazada & Shopee
Can’t find a photo develop store near you? Lazada delivers them right to your doorstep! Though variety might not be as extravagant as the previously mentioned, if you’re just getting into film, the variety on these major marketplaces does the job just fine!
Also on Shopee, you could buy from authorized private merchants on these marketplaces! Individual merchants often import film stocks that are usually uncommon locally, so keep your eyes peeled!
How Do I Convert These Photos into Digital Formats or for Instagram
Sending It to a Photo Developing Lab
After you’re done with either 24 or 36 exposures, unwind the film back into the canister according to your camera’s instruction and send it to a photo developing lab for processing!
Ever seen one of those translucent black strips that unveil what resembles an X-ray showing under the light? Well, those are the processed ‘negatives’ of your hard work and in order for those physical strips to be converted into digitalized copies, you’ll require these strips to be scanned. Thankfully, these photo developing labs provide scanning services as well – you kill two birds with one stone!
Notable photo developing labs to visit as mentioned below, personally vouched by film shooters here at ShopBack!
As you can see, prices may vary quite a bit from lab to lab, but not all photo developing labs offer same-day developing services. With the cost of film developing incurred and everything else aforementioned, it is not only an economical hobby but you also just earned your bragging right to announce how you’ve shot film.
Old is Gold
There is just an unpronounced whimsicality about shooting film. The click of satisfaction that one gets from firing the shutter, manually winding through the roll of film and taking every shot as though it’s your last (because each shot actually costs now). Capturing moments as they are instead of browsing through a library of spammed shots on digital devices, the experience of shooting on film is unparalleled (don’t get me started on Huji or Gudak).
From cutting-edge action cameras to photography accessories to pimp up your beloved gear, explore your options at the major marketplaces on ShopBack! Savings on savings on savings – check out time-gated promotions and earn Cashback while you’re at it!