Ever seen one of those Instagram posts and wonder exactly what is up with the recurring hashtags that say #35mm and #filmisnotdead?
The once declining art of film photography is now gradually making it’s coming back. Perhaps this loses its elusiveness, but in no way should it deter you from picking it up!
Nothing beats the graininess in a black and white film photo and the ‘oomph’ factor that DSLR users try to recreate by applying certain Lightroom presets. Oftentimes the naked eye can easily tell the difference between a darkroom print and a filtered DSLR-shot photo, so why not go with the OG and embrace the process while you’re at it?
Whether you’re an amateur looking to get into a new hobby or a photographer ready to launch yourself into new (or in this case, old) vistas, film photography should definitely be on your to-do list. It’s really much more affordable than you think, and here’s how you can do it too.
Actually Getting a Camera
Before you head out and buy your first film camera, you could even try asking your parents or relatives if they own an old camera; chances are one of them already do, and it’s just sitting at the back of their storage!
In many cases, the tedious part is actually taking the first step and getting a camera. Well, you may think that something that is vintage should cost a pretty hefty sum right? While it’s relatively hard to find first-hand, current and affordable film cameras, there are notable retailers out there that still carry well furbished secondhand ones!
Black Market Camera
Right away, the wide array of cameras are displayed around the shop. This should most definitely cater to most of your photography needs no matter the format. They even offer do-it-yourself film negatives scanning service for free! Definitely handy and cost-saving if you really decide to delve into the art of traditional photography.
As you can see, the prices of these film cameras vary accordingly to the condition of the camera. A Minolta SRT 101 (exceptional camera to start film photography too) in mint condition will only cost you $149. Alongside with a basic lens, the full setup will cost you no more than $200. Do ask for the boss if you’re there too. This is also where I got my first camera; having visited the shop 10 minutes before closing time, he carefully explained to us the options and didn’t even attempt to upsell his products like many others did. He even closed the shop 20 minutes after closing-hours because we were the last customers.
Address: Peninsula Shopping Centre 3 Coleman Street #03-30/31/32, Singapore 179804
Contact: 6336 6349
Opening Hours: 12.30 pm – 8 pm Daily
Located right beside Peninsula Shopping Centre is Excelsior Shopping Centre where Chiif Cameras is located; another renowned shop for photography in the local scene. Despite its dainty space, it carries almost the same variety as Black Market Camera and is also known to be a spot where people congregate and discuss their endeavors in photography.
Address: Excelsior Shopping Centre 5 Coleman Street #02-25, Singapore 179805
Contact: 6336 1956
Opening Hours: 12 pm – 7 pm (Tuesday – Friday) 1.30 pm – 7 pm (Saturday)
Another obvious solution is a third-party site such as eBay or Carousell.
Prices can be ridiculously low even though these are in US dollars. Usually a hit or miss due to the inability to check on the conditions of the camera; especially when some of these are almost half a century old, but hey, why not when they’re priced at a mere $23.95 USD. Always check out the seller’s product ratings and know what you’re looking for!
For starters, getting a camera that uses 35mm film will do its job for now before you delve into the vast range of formats.
The ‘Film’ in Film Camera
In case you didn’t know, unlike a conventional digital camera where you spray (and pray) your shots and hope for the best, a film camera uses a film roll and every shot takes up an exposure. In short, you only have a limited number of shots per roll of film.
Firstly, there are color films and black and white films, let’s get that out of the way.
Secondly, there are literally hundreds of films out there for you to choose from; ranging from the ‘drugstore’ films to professional grade films, the prices vary.
Since this is an amateur’s guide to shooting film, I shall not dwell too much on the latter. Below is a condensed list of cheap but decent quality film to set you on the pursuit of this forgotten art.
- AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200/400 Color Negative Film
- Lomography 100/400 Color Negative Film
- Kodak Gold GC/UltraMax 400 Color Negative Film
- Kodak Gold 200 Color Negative Film
- Fujifilm Fujicolor 200 Color Negative Film
Apart from Lomography 100/400 Color Negative Film, the rest are pretty accessible in Singapore and cost anywhere from $6-$8.
Developing Your Film
Post shooting comes the most exciting part – the painful yet exhilarating process of sending your film for developing.
This is where you see the true beauty of film photography – the wait. Sometimes accumulating up to 2-3 rolls before sending them in for developing brings about a sense of surprise when you receive your photos back. You might have already forgotten the details of how the photos were taken until you relive the moments again through the photos.
To get your negatives scanned into a digitalized copy, there’s also a fee; without the physical prints of the photos, you’re looking at around $9 for development AND a digital copy of the photos. Or you could always just develop your photos and visit Black Market Camera to scan your negatives for absolutely no cost.
Unfortunately, these photo developing places are no longer a norm these days and only a few of these places managed to survive the test of time. These are some places that I frequent that are handily situated around town.
Triple D Mini Lab Centre
This place locates in town and is perfect for immediate developing after your shoot; they offer same-day development if you send your film in before 2 pm.
Address: Burlington Square 175 Bencoolen Street #01-07, Singapore 189649
Contact: 6224 4006
Open Hours: 10.30 am – 7.30 pm (Monday – Saturday)
Whampoa Color Centre
Located on the city fringe, if you ever end up at Balestier road for the famous Boon Tong Kee chicken rice and want to develop your film, this is the place to go. It’s also conveniently located right beside Sing Hon Loong Bakery, one of the few traditional bakeries left in Singapore.
Address: 272 Balestier Road, Singapore 329723
Contact: 6250 6922
Opening Hours: 10 am – 8 pm (Monday – Sunday)
Source: ‘Wild We Roam’ YouTube channel
No Better Time To Start
Still fearful of the unknown? Fret not. Despite being in the age of all things electronic, this form of photography is slowly making its comeback and many others are already on it. Read here for why millennials are shooting film again. Online resources like YouTube is a great place to research and view others’ pursuit of this artistry. If all else fails, you could always just grab a disposable film camera to try things out!