I'm new to film photography and need help

sciamwow

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Hey guys. I recently got into photography and I have a Pentax K-50 and like it a lot. I've been interested in getting an old 35mm film camera, so I recently got a Pentax P30t off of eBay for about $20 total ( http://www.ebay.com/itm/Pentax-P30-35mm-SLR-Film-Camera-Kit-/252294208211?nma=true&si=lCMeWu4jyOaXct6H2ASerf9p7Tk%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557 )
I'm looking forward to getting it, but need some advice.

- What film sould I buy? I was thinking ISO 400 since that seems like a good middle ground between lower and higher ISOs.
- I've read around that the P30t only works with "DX coded film." What does this mean and will it impact which film I can buy?
- Will this film work in the camera? http://www.amazon.com/Kodak-UltraMax-Speed-35mm-Exposures/dp/B003ZH40QU/ref=sr_1_3?s=photo&ie=UTF8&qid=1456784256&sr=1-3&keywords=35mm+film
- Any tips on how to know what shutter speed/aperture to set? I'm used to a DSLR and quickly seeing if the picture was too dark or bright and being able to adjust it quickly.
- Any more general advice?

Thanks in advance!
 

As someone who learned photography using film, if you're just starting out please please please buy a digital camera. The immediate feedback you get from seeing the picture means you can just tweak some settings and take the picture again. Repeat until you get the picture "just right". With film, you have to wait several days or weeks before seeing the picture. When I was learning, I used to keep a notebook of my film settings for each shot. And if I blew the shot I could only guess what I could've done to correct it, since I was usually several hundred miles away or the lighting conditions were different. It's a huge pain, and drastically slows down the rate at which you can learn. You learn so much quicker with digital.

- What film sould I buy? I was thinking ISO 400 since that seems like a good middle ground between lower and higher ISOs.
400 ISO is a good, safe all-around film speed. The grain is not too horrible, but it's fast enough it can be used indoors and outdoors at dusk.

100 ISO or even 64 ISO is best if you know you're going to be shooting outdoors with little motion. The grain is much smaller.

800 or even 1600 ISO is necessary for action shots like sports. The exact requirements will depend on the aperture of your lenses though. The bigger, more expensive lenses with f/2.0 and f/2.8 apertures will let you get away with slower film.

Negatives are very forgiving of overexposure, but any underexposed parts are lost. Slides are the opposite - forgiving of underexposure, but overexposed parts are lost. Digital sensors behave more like slides in that respect.

You also need to pick film for its dynamic range. High-contrast films are for evenly lit subjects or overcast days. Slight over- or under-exposure can ruin the picture. Low-contrast films are for things like weddings, where you have a bride in white standing next to a groom in black. It's the only way to retain detail in both the white dress and black suit. (The digital equivalent is HDR, except HDR is better since it's taking two pictures at different exposures.)

- I've read around that the P30t only works with "DX coded film." What does this mean and will it impact which film I can buy?
As you've probably learned, proper exposure comes from a combination of film speed (ISO), shutter speed, and aperture. Well, in the old days people would forget to set the film speed when they changed rolls. So they'd load a roll of 100 ISO film, but leave the camera setting at 400 ISO. And the entire roll would end up being underexposed.

DX coding was an attempt to solve this problem. The DX code is a set of black and white/silver markings on the body of the film roll. Newer cameras could read this and would "know" the speed of the film you're using and handle that setting automatically. All you had to worry about was the shutter speed and aperture.

I'm not familiar with your camera body. If it has a wheel for setting film speed, then you don't need to worry about this. Setting it to A (usually) will enable it to use the DX markings. Otherwise you can manually set it to 100, 400, 1600, whatever ISO. As long as you remember to set this right when you change rolls, you are good to go. Only if the camera doesn't have the manual ISO settings are you required to buy DX film. (Though to be honest I think all film still being made has the DX markings.)

Note: Even if you do under- or over-expose a roll due to this error, all is not lost. You can tell the person who's developing it to push or pull the development by the number of stops of your error. It's not ideal - the end result is worse than if you'd done everything correctly. But it's better than developing the incorrectly-shot film with the normal developing process. This used to be a mainstay of astrophotography. Buy 1600 ISO film, shoot it as if it were 3200 or 6400 ISO film, then correct for it when developing.

- Will this film work in the camera? http://www.amazon.com/Kodak-UltraMax-Speed-35mm-Exposures/dp/B003ZH40QU/ref=sr_1_3?s=photo&ie=UTF8&qid=1456784256&sr=1-3&keywords=35mm+film
Um, any 35mm film will work. There's no compatibility issues to worry about. All it is is a box that lets light strike the film. Just set the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture right and it'll work.

- Any tips on how to know what shutter speed/aperture to set? I'm used to a DSLR and quickly seeing if the picture was too dark or bright and being able to adjust it quickly.
Again, this depends on the body. Most of them have a light meter in the viewfinder. If you half-press the shutter, there should be a needle on one side of the viewfinder which rises or falls, telling you how under or overexposed it thinks the picture is.

Newer bodies could use more sophisticated algorithms for judging exposure. But most of it is up to the skill and experience of the photographer. There was even a subgroup of photographers who sneered at anyone who used built-in light sensors and insisted a hand-held light meter was the only way to go. Come to think of it, they still think that even with digital where you can immediately re-shoot the photo if you got the exposure wrong.

- Any more general advice?
For your own sanity, please learn photography with digital. I learned more in my first year shooting digital than I did in the previous 7 years on film. The instant feedback is that much more helpful.

Once you're got some skill, you can switch to film if you like. The dynamic response of film is different than for digital sensors, so it'll be more forgiving in some situations, more limiting in others. The color response is also very different (speaking mostly of slides since slide film is WYSIWYG; negatives have a second printing step where you can tweak the colors again).

It is an expensive hobby on film though. I probably blew through several hundred dollars worth of film every vacation I took. That was my main reason to switch to digital as soon as I could - to save money even though a basic DSLR back in those days cost nearly $2000.
 

sciamwow

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Sorry, it automatically set that for me because I wrote it in the box to the right of people's threads. I did remove the "Video Game" tag, though. Sorry!
 

atheus

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Just curious... I used to study photography as my major in college back around 1999 when digital was still a bit too young to be mainstream; at that point 90% of the program was focused on film photography. Since then digital seems to have progressed to the point where film just has nothing to offer — at least that's my take on it. What's your reasoning for taking interest in film? Are you just being eccentric, or investigating origins, or is there something you feel can't be reproduced with digital that's worth the order of magnitude of effort required?
 

sciamwow

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That's a perfectly reasonable question and, to be completely honest, I'm not 100% sure haha
I have a curious mind. I like knowing how things work. I guess film is just something that interests me because of how it works. Also, for $20, I figured it couldn't hurt to try it out. I just have a feeling it'll be a cool experience and if I end up disliking it, I can give/sell it to a friend. Worst case scenario is I lose ~$35 for a camera and film. You brought up a good point, though, and I really don't know the exact reason haha. It just seems cool I guess :p

Edit: If I'm being completely honest, it was sort of an impulse buy. I bid on it on eBay and made my max bid to where it would come out at $30 max including shipping and wasn't going to allow myself to bid past that. And, well, I got it for like $21 haha
 

Wisecracker

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It depends on what you want to shoot - the lower the ISO, the finer the 'grain'

With ISO 100, you can crop and zoom to a higher degree before you 'wash-out' or pixelate. I used ISO 400 for sports and racing --- it helps eliminate blurring due to movement BUT you lose a bit of your ability to zoom and crop as opposed to using ISO 100.

For low-light you need a really high ISO: 1000 and up.

 

sciamwow

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I think 400 should probably be fine then. I'm not planning on shooting in a very dark place (the camera also came with a flash) and it seems like a good middle ground. Also, do you go somewhere to get your film processed or do you do it on your own? Any places in particular that you would suggest?

And do you know the answer to my question about DX coded film? That's my main concern
 

USAFRet

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For film, it is way more $$ than the $20 for a camera and a roll of film.
You have to add in developing costs for the thousands of pics you will need to take to get comfortable with that camera...:)
 

sciamwow

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In that case, I hope I get used to it real quick haha. I'm not planning on using it every other day like my DSLR. In my mind, it'll just be something fun to have. Maybe go out somewhere with my girlfriend and take some pictures with it just for the experience. It'll definitely be a once-in-a-while thing as opposed to how often I use my DSLR.
 

atheus

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Sorry I was so curious I plum forgot to answer the questions you asked too, lol.

First, are you planning to shoot color or B&W?
If you do color, there's pretty much no chance that you'll be able to process your own film or do prints. You'd have to depend on photo labs (which I suspect are pretty rare these days)
I'd also have to look and see what films are still available, as I'd guess the pickings have become a bit slimmer in the last decade or so given the demand.

ISO 400 is a reasonable choice, but you'll see some substantial film grain if you enlarge to 8x10 or so. Shooting ISO 100 takes bright daylight unless you're taking measures to cope with the limited sensitivity.

Yes, that film you linked would work, but that's come crap consumer grade film. Maybe that's fine, though.
DX coded film just means it has some contacts on the side of the film canister that tells the camera body what the ISO of the film is. I doubt you'll be able to find film that isn't DX coded.

Digital cameras have light sensitivity values that are expressed in ISO just like film. You would use the exact same aperture/shutter speed on a film camera set to ISO 400 as you would with a digital camera set to ISO 400. Just use your light meter and set the values accordingly. The P30t also has modes that automatically set aperture/shutter speed, just like a digital camera (though with a bit less tech behind the calculations).

My general advice is shoot a few rolls of film until you're satisfied, and then put it in a closet, or sell it again ;)
 

Wisecracker

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Good luck finding a place to develop your film!

You should check in your local area for the closest and best 'mail order' lab that has a quick turn-around and good rep.

 

As someone who learned photography using film, if you're just starting out please please please buy a digital camera. The immediate feedback you get from seeing the picture means you can just tweak some settings and take the picture again. Repeat until you get the picture "just right". With film, you have to wait several days or weeks before seeing the picture. When I was learning, I used to keep a notebook of my film settings for each shot. And if I blew the shot I could only guess what I could've done to correct it, since I was usually several hundred miles away or the lighting conditions were different. It's a huge pain, and drastically slows down the rate at which you can learn. You learn so much quicker with digital.

- What film sould I buy? I was thinking ISO 400 since that seems like a good middle ground between lower and higher ISOs.
400 ISO is a good, safe all-around film speed. The grain is not too horrible, but it's fast enough it can be used indoors and outdoors at dusk.

100 ISO or even 64 ISO is best if you know you're going to be shooting outdoors with little motion. The grain is much smaller.

800 or even 1600 ISO is necessary for action shots like sports. The exact requirements will depend on the aperture of your lenses though. The bigger, more expensive lenses with f/2.0 and f/2.8 apertures will let you get away with slower film.

Negatives are very forgiving of overexposure, but any underexposed parts are lost. Slides are the opposite - forgiving of underexposure, but overexposed parts are lost. Digital sensors behave more like slides in that respect.

You also need to pick film for its dynamic range. High-contrast films are for evenly lit subjects or overcast days. Slight over- or under-exposure can ruin the picture. Low-contrast films are for things like weddings, where you have a bride in white standing next to a groom in black. It's the only way to retain detail in both the white dress and black suit. (The digital equivalent is HDR, except HDR is better since it's taking two pictures at different exposures.)

- I've read around that the P30t only works with "DX coded film." What does this mean and will it impact which film I can buy?
As you've probably learned, proper exposure comes from a combination of film speed (ISO), shutter speed, and aperture. Well, in the old days people would forget to set the film speed when they changed rolls. So they'd load a roll of 100 ISO film, but leave the camera setting at 400 ISO. And the entire roll would end up being underexposed.

DX coding was an attempt to solve this problem. The DX code is a set of black and white/silver markings on the body of the film roll. Newer cameras could read this and would "know" the speed of the film you're using and handle that setting automatically. All you had to worry about was the shutter speed and aperture.

I'm not familiar with your camera body. If it has a wheel for setting film speed, then you don't need to worry about this. Setting it to A (usually) will enable it to use the DX markings. Otherwise you can manually set it to 100, 400, 1600, whatever ISO. As long as you remember to set this right when you change rolls, you are good to go. Only if the camera doesn't have the manual ISO settings are you required to buy DX film. (Though to be honest I think all film still being made has the DX markings.)

Note: Even if you do under- or over-expose a roll due to this error, all is not lost. You can tell the person who's developing it to push or pull the development by the number of stops of your error. It's not ideal - the end result is worse than if you'd done everything correctly. But it's better than developing the incorrectly-shot film with the normal developing process. This used to be a mainstay of astrophotography. Buy 1600 ISO film, shoot it as if it were 3200 or 6400 ISO film, then correct for it when developing.

- Will this film work in the camera? http://www.amazon.com/Kodak-UltraMax-Speed-35mm-Exposures/dp/B003ZH40QU/ref=sr_1_3?s=photo&ie=UTF8&qid=1456784256&sr=1-3&keywords=35mm+film
Um, any 35mm film will work. There's no compatibility issues to worry about. All it is is a box that lets light strike the film. Just set the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture right and it'll work.

- Any tips on how to know what shutter speed/aperture to set? I'm used to a DSLR and quickly seeing if the picture was too dark or bright and being able to adjust it quickly.
Again, this depends on the body. Most of them have a light meter in the viewfinder. If you half-press the shutter, there should be a needle on one side of the viewfinder which rises or falls, telling you how under or overexposed it thinks the picture is.

Newer bodies could use more sophisticated algorithms for judging exposure. But most of it is up to the skill and experience of the photographer. There was even a subgroup of photographers who sneered at anyone who used built-in light sensors and insisted a hand-held light meter was the only way to go. Come to think of it, they still think that even with digital where you can immediately re-shoot the photo if you got the exposure wrong.

- Any more general advice?
For your own sanity, please learn photography with digital. I learned more in my first year shooting digital than I did in the previous 7 years on film. The instant feedback is that much more helpful.

Once you're got some skill, you can switch to film if you like. The dynamic response of film is different than for digital sensors, so it'll be more forgiving in some situations, more limiting in others. The color response is also very different (speaking mostly of slides since slide film is WYSIWYG; negatives have a second printing step where you can tweak the colors again).

It is an expensive hobby on film though. I probably blew through several hundred dollars worth of film every vacation I took. That was my main reason to switch to digital as soon as I could - to save money even though a basic DSLR back in those days cost nearly $2000.
 

sciamwow

Estimable
Jan 9, 2015
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Alright, so 400 film would work but something like 200 or 100 would be cleaner when blown up. I figured that would be the case, but I didn't know how grainy 400 would be since on my camera it's pretty clean at 400

Do you know any film that you would consider good if that film doesn't look that great? I'm sure for my purposes it would work, but I'm open to suggestions

What do you mean by light meter? Does the camera test the light and recommend certain settings?

I'll probably toss it in my closet after a while. Thanks!
 

sciamwow

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@Solandri Wow, thank you! That was a long response, but had a lot of information. I really appreciate it. I have learned a lot about photography since getting my DSLR a few months back and am getting pretty comfortable with it. Like I said to someone else on here, I'm not moving completely to film. It's more of something that seems cool that I'd like to experience. And I'm only planning on using it here and there just for fun. Maybe take some portraits or something similar. I definitely know it'll make me appreciate my fancy DSLR a lot more, though! :p
Again, thank you. Any other tips or advice on where/how to develop the film, both color and B&W, would be much appreciated.
 

sciamwow

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Well now I feel guilty... Heh. Luckily I was probably a toddler when that was taking place, so I can't take any of that blame haha
 

sciamwow

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I'm sure this is going to get shot down fairly quickly, but what do you guys think about Walgreens for photo development? From what I understand after talking to a customer service rep, I can get a photo CD "from film processing" (I'm guessing that means they process the film and put it on a CD?) for $10.48. I don't know if that's 24 exposures or 36 or what, though. I might call them soon and ask. And I suppose they'll give back the negatives, right?
 

USAFRet

Illustrious
Moderator


At a beginner level, sure.
 
Hmm, I thought Walgreens had stopped developing, but based on a web search looks like they still do. I know Costco stopped last year. Maybe Walmart still does? If you can't find a place, you can buy a mailer from B&H. Put the film in the envelop, drop it in the mail, and they'll send you back the developed slides/negatives and prints. It may be cheaper.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=film+processing+mailer&N=0&InitialSearch=yes&sts=ma&Top+Nav-Search=

The photo CDs from "film processing" are just scans of the negatives. See, they don't actually print the negatives using a projector like in the old days. They just scan it, and print it on their digital photo printer. So all they're doing is saving a copy of this interim scan to CD for you, instead of immediately expunging it from RAM to scan the next picture.

You may want to check with Costco and Walmart. They may still do reprints of film (scan and print). They were the two places with the best prices while still using quality machines.
 
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