If you only shoot digital, you may want to learn something new and try film photography for the first time. While it’s exciting (and nowadays kinda exotic) to shoot film, you might find it difficult to choose your first film camera. To make the decision easier and help you do it right, Casey Cavanaugh will show you the five most important things you should look for before you buy a film camera.
If you are buying an old, used film camera, there are a number of potential problems you could encounter. Here are the five things you should check before you make the purchase to make sure that your new toy works properly.
1. Check shutter speeds
If the camera hasn’t been cleaned and re-lubricated in a long time, slower shutter speeds might get clogged up. They tend to die before the faster shutter speeds, so before you buy the camera, make sure to check the 1 s shutter speed. Turn on the timer on your phone and test if one second is really one second. If this is working properly, then the faster shutter speeds are most likely good, too.
If you’re buying a camera with a leaf shutter, sometimes the leaves might get stuck due to oil that has accumulated on them. You can sometimes clean it with alcohol and make the leaves move again, but keep in mind that it doesn’t always work.
2. Check light seals
The only light you need when taking photos is the one coming through your lens. Light leaks could destroy your images, so make sure to watch for those. Look around the edges of the door of your potential new camera. It should have flocking that creates a seal once the door is closed. If this flocking is damaged, keep in mind that it could affect your shots. It’s possible to fix it, just make sure to do it before you start shooting.
Some cameras have cloth shutter curtains, which is another potential place for light leaks. Before buying the camera, check this curtain for holes by shining a very bright flashlight through it. Although, holes in the shutter curtain can sometimes create some interesting effects. But if you don’t want lil’ fairies in your images, you can fix holes in the shutter curtain with some liquid tape.
3. Check the lens
Other than checking the camera, you also need to check the quality of the lens. The first thing to check is if there’s any fungus or haze. Even if there are, it’s possible to clean them. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll have to take the lens apart.
Another thing to check is if there’s any oil on the aperture blades of the lens. It can cause the aperture blades to jam and not close properly. It’s also possible to clean it, but it’s not recommended if you’re new to film cameras.
4. Check focus
I guess you want your photos to be sharp, so be sure to check the focusing accuracy as well as you can. For example, if you’re buying a rangefinder camera, make sure that the patch is moving correctly and that it’s focusing at the roughly correct distance. Another thing to check with the rangefinder cameras is that the two patches are oriented correctly horizontally and vertically when they align.
5. Bring a battery and a flashlight
If the camera you want to buy uses batteries, you should have a fresh battery on you to check whether everything is really working properly. As for the flashlight, it’s useful to have it so you can check the inside of the lens and light seals.
I used to shoot with a point-and-shoot film camera, and I inherited an old Zenit SLR. Luckily, both the camera and the lens are in perfect condition because my dad used it and stored it properly, and I do so as well. But when I was buying a film camera for my cousin, I figured that there are a lot of flaws you can miss if you don’t pay attention. So, if you plan to buy a film camera either for yourself or for someone else, I’m sure that this video will be of help.