Partridges, Sloane Square. Lomography 400ISO, Pentax ME Super
Film photography has been one of my greatest passions since I got my first camera at the age of six. My parents bought me a cheap-as-chips Fuji camera (which I still have actually!) to use when I went to Serbia to visit family by myself for the first time. It was the simplest camera - it cost a tenner and it was an easy shoot-and-go type, in no ways fully manual like the camera I use now. I loved this little gem of a camera - yes, my images were often a tad unfocused or badly aligned, and my nine year old selfies were somewhat horrendous, but it was my first little photography companion and I treasured my experiments.
My cousin Jelena, Serbia, 2003, Fujifilm
As a teenager, I rediscovered film photography when rummaging through my parents attic looking for old photographs for my Art GCSE project. I was so intrigued by the spontaneity of the 'moment' in every photograph, that it inspired me to purchase myself a new film camera, and something a little bit different. So, when I was sixteen, I bought the Lomography Fisheye 2 for £40 and a bunch of vivid 400 IS0 and 800 ISO films. I loved my fisheye. It was so experimental and kooky and made me much more aware of living life 'in the moment'. Yes, all my pictures ended up being round, but I didn't care - I have such a vast collection of my own photographs now from my teenage and sixth form years, and that's something that really matters to me.
Another one of my favourite ways of snapping pictures when I was a teen was with disposable cameras. They're easy, cheap and a great way of capturing events if you don't want to risk bringing a more expensive camera. I started out with the cheap versions from Boots that are easily accessible, but as I experimented more with this easy form of 35mm photography, I started purchasing Kodak 39 exposure cameras in bulk on Amazon, and occasionally the Ilford black and white disposables.
As I became more and more interested in experimenting with film photography, I started researching other cameras I could use that were cheap and relatively easy to find. I tried out the Holga (but a new version that Lomography had started producing), which was a cheaply manufactured type of 35mm camera known for it's light leaks and general irregularity. My first roll that I produced on this camera is to this day one of the most interesting rolls of film I have ever shot, as I accidentally rewound the film halfway through shooting, along with a few other interesting accidents by yours truly. I ended up with an eclectic collection of photographs, all unique, vivid and interesting. After that roll, however, my Holga never really worked, so that camera was definitely a one-hit-wonder for sure.
Then I decided to try out one of the most famous compact cameras ever produced, which was easily available, and relatively cheap, on eBay: the Olympus Trip 35. A camera first produced in 1967, and later discontinued in 1984, the trip 35 was an immensely popular 'vintage' camera due to its simplicity and compact nature. It was famous for being light and easily portable and for its selenium cell. After listening to people rave about this camera for months, I purchased mine for twenty-five quid on eBay. Similarly to my Holga, I noticed that the Trip worked relatively well for it's first roll, and then subsequently started to merge multiple shots into one (do you like double exposures? This was more like an exposure of TEN!) and frankly it wasn't worth using expensive rolls of film in this camera. Poundland stocked AGFA 24 exposures at the time, but even then I wasn't happy spending my hard-earned cash on developing almost pointless rolls of film, so before too long I stopped using this camera. It probably didn't help that mine was produced before 1971 due to it's chrome shutter (models produced after 1971 had a black shutter), but never-the-less, I don't really recommend this camera at all.
After experimenting to the point where I was bored of dealing with half-working cameras, I decided to properly research into buying a fully manual camera that I could use for my own pleasure as well as fashion photography and potentially blog content. After a long time of weighing up the pros and cons of different cameras, I decided to settle on buying a manual vintage Pentax. I had never owned a Pentax camera before, and as much as I would've loved a Canon, they were just simply out of my price range. I settled on the Pentax ME Super, and managed to find one on eBay with a 50mm lens and a flash, all for the grand total of... thirty-two quid! And guess what? This camera works perfectly! It is honestly my baby, I have been using it now since Spring 2016 and I am yet to find another camera that produces photos quite like this one, and for this price. It is fully manual, so I do have to work the focus, aperture and everything in-between by myself, but as tricky as that may sound, the ME Super is a surprisingly easy camera to use. And the results speak for themselves, which I love - I am hoping that we have many more years and rolls of film together.
The best thing about the ME Super is that it adapts itself so well depending on it's surroundings. The light meter may be showing that there isn't enough light to produce a coherent image, but it will still capture something vivid and intense almost every time. If you want more realistic images, then AGFA 200 ISO Film is the way to go. If, like me, you love daring splashes of colour, brightness and something a little more retro looking, then Lomography 400 ISO is your best bet. Both of these films are by far the two best I have used in this camera as they are the most easily adaptable to the surroundings. If you prefer black and white photography, then Ilford is the safest and most accessible option. However, if you want to go for something with an even more satisfying grain, texture and clarity, then I would strongly recommend hunting down some Fomapan profi-line classic in 100 ISO. This film is harder to find - I was introduced to it by my former driving instructor who gave me a few rolls as a parting gift once I'd gained my license. Apparently eBay is the best way of finding it for a reasonable price.
The ME Super is great for fashion photography, too. It's unexpected outcomes make styling so much more fun, and the photographs that are produced are always eye-catching. Down below are a few of my favourite style pictures that I have shot, and a few of myself shot by my friends.
And finally, in my opinion the ME Supers best trait: how amazing it is for portraiture. So here are a few of my favourite portraits taken on this camera:
where to look, what to find:
I have found that eBay is always my best bet with finding cameras and lenses. There are thousands of sellers available, and it's relatively easy to find the camera you may be looking for, and for a good price. I do recommend looking predominantly at Olympus and Pentax as there are more of them available and they often tend to be a lot cheaper than Canon or Contax. If you don't have a price budget I recommend looking at: Canon AE-1 (program) for quality and reliability, the Nikon FM Series if you want a new and unused 35mm camera, or the Minolta X-700 for an all-around positive experience (and it can be found for under £100).
If you're looking for something inexpensive that gives brilliant results consistently, then the Pentax K-1000 or ME Super are both brilliant in my opinion.
You can also search Amazon and the Lomography website for vintage cameras, lenses and films as well as eBay as they're both reliable with sellers.
the best films to search for:
35mm film is still pretty accessible, especially online or in local camera shops. My top choices are:
1. Lomography 400 ISO - perfect if you want a film that adapts well to any lighting, and if you want unexpected, vivid colours. Relatively easy to find, including in most bigger Boots branches, and on amazon.
2. Fomapan 100 ISO - if you're looking for beautiful, tonal qualities in you black and white photography, then this is the film for you. It's a little harder to find (I'd check eBay) so if you can't be bothered to look for it, I'd stick to Ilford.
3. AGFA 200 ISO - cheap and cheerful, this film is great for natural looking photography without too much grain. This is one of my favourite films to shoot with. Unfortunately, it is no longer stocked in Poundland, so your best bet is Amazon.
I hope you guys have enjoyed this litle shpiel about 35mm, and sorry if it rambles on for too long - I evidently just cannot contain my adoration for film photography! Comment below if you've got any good tips or tricks you want to share! x