I was recently gifted a 1982 Nikon FG film camera by a friend of a friend’s parents. They no longer had a need for it--in fact it hadn’t been out of its camera bag in 15 years and weren’t even sure it would work.
I’ve tossed around the idea of a film camera for ages, but never actually took the plunge to buy one. I learned on digital, and shoot on digital, and know how to work with the digital both in shooting and in the post- editing phase. But I’ve always had an idea of wanting to try film.
So I got it home and did some research on the internet, which was interesting because the word internet was first used in 1982, the same year the Nikon FG came out and it would be a good few years before people were using it in their homes. The only youtube tutorial I could find about the camera, featured a guy accidentally blocking the view in the most important parts of the tutorial.So I tracked down a user manual and printed it out.
The camera came with a 50 mm 1.8 lens and two ancient roles of black and white film. It wasn’t until I had the camera in my hands that I realised I had no idea how to actually change film. At all.
So I popped open the first of the two rolls of film that came with the camera and with much excitement I began inserting it. I followed the manual carefully...Or at least I thought I did. On my first try, I accidentally rotated the film the wrong way and broke the film. Not that anyone’s counting, but that’s one roll out the window. Since I’m not one to be discouraged, I gave it another go and managed to not break anything in the process.
I love the camera. Everything from working with such small and light camera to the feel of the film advance lever as I prepare to take the next photo. I’ll even admit to having a romantic notion of heading out with that camera to seek out the greatest shots the world has ever seen--life-changing, earth shattering images of faraway lands...because with a film camera it’s suddenly all the more real, and somehow the dream is bigger.
I’m not sure I shot quite to my dream of what it could have been. I will say that I actually managed to get the film developed, which in our modern day and my instant-gratification personality is no small feat. I’d literally never developed film before.
And if only 16 of the 36 exposures even turned out at all, well… everyone starts somewhere, and that is almost half after all.
I don’t think any of these shots will stop the presses, but I’ve got to say I’m pretty pleased. Not necessarily with the photos themselves (although a couple aren’t too shabby), but I’m mostly excited about the depth and feel of the images. The way film naturally deals with shades and tones is something that I have always admired and rarely seen even in a beautiful digital image. There’s something special about film, and about having a small camera paired with the mindset that each frame is precious, and each shot is something to consider seriously.
I have a lot to learn still. The camera has some limitations that will push my abilities and I hope will push me forward in both skill and patience in both the film realm and in my digital work.
So I guess from time to time I’ll be heading around town with my new/old silver Nikon film camera along for the ride. We’ll see where that takes us!