Another Five Things I Wish Film Photographers Would Stop Saying

I love everything about shooting film. I love the feel of it, I love the cameras, I love the surprise of seeing the images, I love the community. I love it so much I set up my own film photography podcast called Matt Loves Cameras.

When you immerse yourself in film, it's not long before you seek out others to share your joy of this incredible medium. The vast majority of my interactions with the community have been positive, but there are things I wish film photographers would stop saying. I recently published Five Things I Wish Film Photographers Would Stop Saying. Here is a follow-up article with five more things. 

As I said last time, film photographers all over the world continue to delight and inspire me. So, even if you say any of the things on this list, I still love you, we can still be friends. Just keep shooting film. 

'Don't Buy Expired Film, It Takes Business Away From Film Companies'

As we say here in Australia: yeah, nah. Yeah, I know what you're saying, but nah, you're wrong. This may have been an issue 10-15 years ago when people bought up dirt cheap piles of the expired film when the masses moved to digital. This was frowned on by some film shooters, as they desperately wanted people to buy fresh film and support the struggling industry.  

Expired film? Yes, please. Image Copyright © Matt Murray 

These days, ads for expired film generate a lot of excitement in the community. Many newcomers are keen to try out emulsions they've never used before, and often, expired film is more expensive than fresh. 

The only time I buy expired film is when it comes in a brick of 10 rolls or more. I always shoot the first roll as a test, bracketing exposures on the roll to see how it has held up in storage. I always have a project in mind for the expired film that I wouldn't do with fresh film. 

'That Camera Is Only Worth $2!'

I've lost count of how many times I've seen "hilarious" comments on sale ads for point and shoot cameras. 

"That thing is only worth 50 cents," one snob will say. "I got mine for $2 at a charity shop; that's all it's worth," replies another. No one questions the current market value of an Xpan, Mamiya 7, or RB67, but all bets are off when it comes to an Olympus Stylus Epic. 

Suggesting a camera is only worth $2 because that's what you paid for it is absurd. If you really believe that, I'm happy to buy those 100 Bitcoin off you for what you paid five years ago. 

The truth is that there is no set value for cameras, only market value. A camera is worth what a buyer is prepared to pay for it at any given moment of time. The price of commodities rises and falls with supply and demand: 10 years ago, many film cameras were in the bargain bin, these days, not so much. 

Point and shoot? I'll give you $2 for it. Image Copyright © Matt Murray. 

Do some people pay more than market value for cameras? Sure, just like others do for cars, houses, stocks, cryptocurrency, jewelry, and a million other commodities. If you picked up an Olympus Stylus Epic for 50 cents, you were either very lucky, the seller didn't know its true value, or you bought it when demand was low. If you manage to pick up any kind of film camera for next to nothing, regardless of what make and model it is, you got a pretty good deal. 

'Film Is Too Expensive'

Film is too expensive huh? Maybe you should think about another hobby, like learning to fly, scuba diving, or gambling. That may sound harsh, but film photography is a niche within a niche these days. Quite honestly, we're lucky it's still around after the swift and merciless move to digital in the early 21st century. 

Film and processing cost money, that's true, but there are budget-friendly ways to get into film. Many people bulk-load their own B&W film and home development to keep costs down. 

If like me, you'd rather pay for a lab to do your developing and scanning, look on the bright side: you're helping to keep a vital part of film infrastructure alive. There's one more silver lining: if you invest in film cameras, in a few years, there’s a good chance they’ll be worth a lot more than you paid for them. That’s a scenario digital shooters can only dream of. 

120mm

Film photography can be a little confusing for newcomers, especially when it comes to film formats and sizes. Try telling a newbie that 4x5 is bigger than 6x9. 

One of the most common mistakes in the film is to call 120 film "120mm" film.  I've seen people do it a couple of times this week already. Perhaps the confusion arises because, for many, an entry to the world of the film starts with 35mm film. So therefore, the bigger medium format is 120mm, right? Wrong. 

120 film, not 120mm film. Image Copyright © Matt Murray 

So, if it doesn't denote size, what's with the name 120? The answer lies in Kodak's numbering system. At the dawn of the 20th century, there were many types of roll film, each a slightly different size. Trying to work out which film went with which camera wasn't straightforward, so Kodak numbered their films in order of when they were first launched. 

The film that we all know and love has been with us since 1901 and was called "120." For the record, it's approximately 61mm wide. There are some anomalies with the Kodak system, though. As the 20th century wore on, they abandoned the way the numbering worked. In 1934, they skipped over a whole heap of numbers to give 35mm still photography film the logical number 135. They also started reusing numbers for entirely different types of film. Both 110 and 126 were originally types of roll film, but both numbers were reused in the 1960s and 1970s with the advent of 126 and 110 cartridge film. They abandoned numbers altogether with later formats such as Disc and APS. 

'The Best Camera for a Beginner Is a Pentax K1000'

Who the heck decided this? It's one of the most quoted bits of advice I see. It seems to have its roots in the fact that many high school students in the old days began with the humble K1000. With this recommendation is an assumption: beginners must learn to shoot on manual and master the exposure triangle. Wrong. Although some love to start with the fundamentals of photography, it puts others off. Some people just want to shoot a film because they think it looks fun and they like the look. Shoving a camera like the K1000 in their hands could do more harm than good. 

The truth is that if you want an absolute beginner to get into film, give them a point and shoot. They can take it everywhere, and they won't need to worry about exposure or focus. This will free them up to concentrate on composing images and having fun. If they love it, they might even want to learn more about photography and master the exposure triangle shooting with a fully manual film camera.    

That concludes part two of this series. What do you wish film photographers would stop saying? Tell us in the comments below.  

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26 Comments

Ken Flanagan's picture

Another good one. Thanks for the read and thoughts.
Your next article should be “five things I wish film photographers would start saying about film photography”

Matt Murray's picture

Thanks so much Ken, and great idea!

Swede Johnson's picture

Or, how about things an older guy, I'm 64, who shot film professionally for a few decades, would say about people going back in time to shot film? Things like, I dunno, "did your house come with that there fancy indoor plumbing or are you sticking with the outhouse"? Don't get me wrong, I loved it. Photography meant film, and I loved photography, but I used an Apple QuickTake back around the early 90's, and after my head reassembled I did have to wait a while, but after I took my brand new Nikon D70 along with my D4's to a wedding shoot I have not looked back. I do remember that feeling that I got when my dad came home with the camping trip pictures from when I was around 7 years old and pointed out the ones I took with that long forgotten big black film camera. I do hope that magical feeling still resonates with your fellow film aficionados. But im going to stick with digital. Oh, and by the way I used to hear some of those same statements you used in your article said before digital was even a thought! Thank you for a thought provoking set of articles.

Steven Weston's picture

One comment I dislike is, "That SLR isn't manual enough." It's true that a Nikon F3 requires a battery to shoot anything other than a 60th, but it can be used fully manual. I don't know why you'd really want to, but it can. The F3 has a great off-the-film meter that can reliably handle longish exposures. And it's fairly light and compact for an SLR. So no, I don't want a K1000.

Matt Murray's picture

Same! I have a Spotmatic which I enjoy using, but there's 50 other film cameras I'd rather use.

Jan Holler's picture

I still have my Nikon FA, bought in 1985. Before that I had the opportunity to use an F3 in the summer of 84. Between 86 and 90 I did several weddings for relatives and friends. Mode: manual or A mode, focus: manual, flash: manual, metering: centre-weighted with heavy use of exposure compensation. Not manual enough? I suggest to use this then:
Adox Sport (w/o RF) from 1950 and a Zeiss Icon / Ica light meter from around 1920.

Marc F's picture

- Try telling a newbie that 4x5 is bigger than 6x9.
Lol… and that both are even bigger than 24x36…

East Village's picture

Here's one: someone making up holier than thou rules for people enjoying a hobby. You're making pictures and nothing more than that. Give the holier than thou stuff a rest.

Matt Murray's picture

Many of the things I've listed in this article and the last were a reaction to holier than thou people in the community. Examples include don't bother with 645, point and shoots are only worth $2, film soup? just don't, don't buy expired film, and beginners must learn on a manual camera like the K1000. As I said in the intro, film photographers continue to delight and inspire me and I've made many friends all over the world. And it's not just a hobby, for many people like myself it's a passion.

John DeBoever's picture

I bought my granddaughter (11) a few of those disposable waterproof cameras, she loved them and was thrilled when she seen the prints. She lit up like a Christmas tree. That is pure photography for me. I had to get her more as she just loves using them with her friends at the pool.

Matt Murray's picture

Fantastic, that's so lovely to hear John! There's a certain magic to the process of shooting film and the surprise you get when you see the images.

Marcelo Rojas's picture

Louder please. Here in South Africa everyone says "You need a K1000/spotmatic for film its the best film camera especially for uni students" like stfu please. The M42 mount is the WORST mount I have EVER used in my life. Holy shit. I cannot stress enough I literally had to sell my Fujica ST705W because it was so unusable to change lenses. And the build quality of even native lenses for M42 is so damn questionable.

Its not like the Micro 4/3rds mount today Screw mount is the worst mount ever made and anyone who tells you to start with a K1000 is unintelligent. Straight. You will not get a single piece of sound advice from someone who recommends such a bad camera with such a bad mount to beginners. Even if they have 30 years in photography they are the type of photographer to put zebra boarders with a massive water mark and 1900k white balance on $1000 real-estate photos for a paying commercial company (This is a true story..)

Like I can literally get a Rolleiflex 622 from 1940 for less money than a K1000. Hell my full kit OM-1 cost less than a body only K1000.

Marc F's picture

My first camera was a Zenith E with a M42 mount Helios 44/2 lens. I was about 10 years old and was instructed how to use it, in about 5 minutes I learned how to superimpose the needles of it’s light meter and report the chosen aperture speed / aperture to the lens and shutter speed dial. I just understood the advantage of a faster shutter speed and greater depth of field of smaller aperture. My first film was a roll of Ektachrome and the images were almost all perfect (the people at the lab didn’t believe the photos were taken by a kid). After the Zenith died (shutter curtains jammed) I was given a Mamiya MSX 1000 body chosen because of the same M42 lens mount. I later bought a second hand 135mm lens that could be screwed on my camera. I was very happy with the cameras and never complained because it took 15 more seconds to unscrew and screw the lens, compared to those who owned a bayonet mount Nikkormat. I also never complained to have to screw and unscrew filters and tripods. And I would never complain about Leica M39.

Mike Dochterman's picture

K1000 is not M42..it's..uh.. K mount bayo / SP1000 is screwmount

Sam Sims's picture

The worst thing I've heard people say is film photography is real and digital photography is artificial and fake because you have to edit the photos on a computer. I bet they are unaware that back in the film photography heyday, people would have a box of paints and brushes to artificially enhance portraits destined for magazines. Prints made from negatives are no more 'real' than digital photos if any sort of enhancement work like dodging and burning was done in the darkroom. It's also very possible to take digital photographs without then going near a computer. Shocking, I know.

Marc F's picture

I agree. This is not even true. I shoot film but often then scan the film and make the same adjustments a digital photographer would make. Instead of real vs artificial, I like the signature I have seen on a film photographer comments:
“Films are made from silver, digital from sand”

Kirk Darling's picture

They both start with light.

Noah Stephens's picture

The film industry is struggling because film is obsolete technology.

Mike Dochterman's picture

where's your pix? where will your pix be in 20 years? I have negs and glass plates 100+ years old I can still print (or skan even).. where will your stuff be in 100 years?

Steven Weston's picture

I agree. Film and photo paper prints will become an aficionado hobby like vinyl records and tube amplifiers.

Skai Hues's picture

I have 22 years of pro experience shooting film followed by 20 years of pro experience shooting digital. I've never said any of those things.

Matt Murray's picture

If you haven’t heard any of the ten things I wrote about then you can’t have spent much time in film photography circles lately.

James Wells's picture

Lots of people say the K1000 is a brilliant beginners camera, but I think what they mean is that it's a great camera to learn about photography - these are two very different things!

My dad had a K1000 and with his help I learned the basics of setting exposure, apertures, focusing, etc. and it's set me up very well for the future. My first camera if my own as a child was a point and shoot Fuji compact and I loved it! It didn't need any real setting up for a photograph but it got me taking pictures. As I grew and saw my dad taking pictures I took more of an interest he showed me how to do things. I think the combination of his help and the K1000 was just right for me.

Matt Murray's picture

Agree 100% with your first sentence James! :)