As you may remember, three months ago I made the decision of switching to film as my main photography medium. I purchased a Bronica SQ-Ai on Ebay and I've been using it since then. 90 days and 44 rolls of 120 film later, I think I'm ready to write down some thoughts about this process.
First of all, I want to reiterate that this is my main camera right now. I bring it with me on hard hikes, I take personal photos with it, and I even photographed the total solar eclipse using this camera.
Does this mean I like it though? And most importantly, was the switch worth it?
Let's talk about the bad parts first
- The camera is heavy, the lenses even more. I shoot a lot in low light (sunrise and sunset) so I have to carry my tripod with me as well. Not fun!
- You have to buy film. This isn't only about money but also about the fact that you actually have to buy film every once in a while. I usually get 10-15 rolls from B&H, which last me around a month. If you run out of film, you simply can't shoot any photos.
- I develop my film at home, so I'm in charge of the whole process. Meaning, I can mess it up at anytime. I have (I and II), actually.
Now the good things
- Sadly, sometimes we only realize about how good some things are when we don't have them with us. This has always been the case with my Bronica, I severely miss it when I don't bring it with me. It has only happened on two really hard hikes where I wasn't willing to carry so much weight, so not too often.
- The viewfinder is reversed, and although a disadvantage at first, I've grown fond of it and I think it has made my photos better. Why? Because it's not a 1:1 representation of what you just saw and wanted to photograph: every time you turn your head down and look through it, you are seeing something different. It forces you to rethink the image, it makes you aware of all the elements you are including in your frame. I can't tell you how many times I came back home with digital photos and saw I had included things (like big things) in my photos that I didn't see when I was taking them.
- Fixes my possible desire for new photography equipment. The Bronica camera and its system is already out, and there will not be a Bronica SQ-Ai mark II or anything like that. This is it. There are around 8 lenses for this camera, and you have to settle. Once you do, you can focus on creating.
- I'm more inspired. Every camera makes you feel different when you shoot with it, and I strongly believe that a camera can make a huge difference. This is not about film: my A7ii feels just right, much better than my a6000 or my new a6500 (yes, I'll talk about this on another post). But the Bronica is in a different league. It makes me a better photographer because I want to shoot it. And shoot it again.
- But above all, this was an attempt at regaining control over my photography. Black and white film photographs are not the most popular nowadays, if you hadn't noticed. I believe it's pretty easy to take (literally) any camera, shoot (literally) anything at sunrise or sunset or with a beautiful artificial golden light, apply a Portra preset and call it a day. Getting rid of the color in my photos was a challenge at first, now it has become part of my photography.
Yes. I'd do it again, and again. I'm still glad I started my "photographic journey" with digital so I was able to make many mistakes without costing me a fortune, but film was the next logical step for me even if I didn't realize until just 3 months ago.
Shooting film is not for everyone and I'm very aware about the limitations of the medium. But I like creating with it, I love working with those limitations. I think it boosts your creativity, and I have definitely noticed I'm a better photographer when I pick up a digital camera.
Thumbs up, totally recommended.