Picking up a roll of developed film from my local shop, I was given a pleasant surprise.
There was a nice elderly lady that had come in to ask some questions about her camera. It was an old Nikon N2020 with a couple of very nice Nikkor zooms. She had been cleaning out her husband’s closet and found the camera, which he had been saying he wanted to find and use again.
Now my local shop has some great people working there. A solid combination of people who know film better than digital, both equally, and digital better than film. Build a relationship with the person who knows your interests the best, and they are a huge wealth of information and ideas.
The schedule had been unkind, though, and today was a digital day. The Nikon N2020, not being one of Nikon’s most well known models, was something of an enigma to most anyone who was looking at it.
Except me. But I’m a geek, and it’s kinda why I’m still single.
She wanted to know if it was a good camera. “Sure. There really isn’t anything it can’t do.”
She wanted to know if the lenses were good. “I have one of these lenses. It’s a constant companion.”
There was a problem, though. I couldn’t make the camera respond to any commands. No autofocus, no viewfinder functionality, no nothing. Opening the battery compartment led me to the reason why. Battery corrosion. Devastatingly huge amounts of battery corrosion. The AA batteries had popped some time ago, and now everything was covered in battery goo.
“Oh. That’s not good, is it?”
I shook my head. “No. I’m afraid not.”
“Can it be fixed?”
I thought about it. The N2020, while not well known, did sell a lot of units. Even if you couldn’t find new parts, it’s more than possible a shop could fix it up. “Sure. It can be fixed. But it won’t be cheap.” I had just paid a fair amount of money to have an older Nikon FE repaired. “It’ll probably be more than a hundred dollars to fix.”
She sighed. “Does anyone even use film anymore?”
I nodded. “A lot of people. Myself included. I love film.” I had my Nikon F4 with me, and I pulled it out of the bag and showed it to her.
“Why do you shoot film?
I thought about it. Why do I shoot film?
Heck, why do I even do photography? It certainly isn’t the cheapest hobby, and for a guy that’s trying to become a pilot and every penny counts, it doesn’t seem to make much sense.
I thought about it, and told her; “Film is timeless. I like the look, and I like the experience. Digital is nice too, I have a DSLR. I use it a lot, too. But film makes me happy. Film lets me… Cheat time, so to speak.”
And it’s true.
I don’t like the “Film v Digital” argument. Use what makes you happy and what delivers your artistic image. I use both mediums, but I like film more.
Film does allow us to cheat time a little bit. And little did I know, I had the proof in the roll I had just picked up.
2017? Or 1987?
There is nothing groundbreaking about the above photograph. It’s nice. A little boring, but nice. Colors are good, nothing’s over exposed. Two old houses in an old Ohio town, with a 1980’s Oldsmobile Cutlass sitting outside. Everything is nice.
And yet, it’s not that boring. Because at first glance, you have no idea how old this shot it. I mean, you do, because I’m telling you. If I didn’t tell you though, I could lie to you and say that my grandfather shot this in Northern California on July 16, 1988 with a Canon AE-1 and a roll of Kodak Ektachrome.
But I shot this. In Waynesville, Ohio. With a restored Nikon FE, a 35.. f/2.8 Nikkor, and roll of Portra 400.
This is why I love film. Film truly is timeless.
Even as film gets better. Films like Kodak Ektar 100 and Fuji Velvia 50; films with grain so fine it may as well not even be there, still deliver a slightly vintage tone. A warmth that digital misses.
Digital makes bold images. Even when you force it to look warm, it’s still bold. And that’s great sometimes. Bold, bright, vibrant. I like it.
But for myself, usually, I like softer. Warmer. Give me a vintage 80’s National Geographic look. That’s my favorite. That’s what I try to go for.
So use whatever you want. Use digital. Use film. But go out and shoot.
Oh. And the lady at my camera shop? Oddly enough, she decided to buy her husband a new camera.
Well, sort of.
A college student had come in and traded his first film camera for a different film camera. A Nikon F5 had come in and he wanted it.
His first camera?
A working Nikon N2020.