Here is a method I use for pretty much all my photographic purchases, be it film cameras, digital, cameras, lenses or film – it’s especially useful for choosing a film cameras though as you don’t really have many other resources available to give you the latest news and reviews (whereas every newsagent will have a dozen or more magazines with the latest digital equipment). Not that I’m addicted of course, oh, no, no, no – I like to refer to it as a ‘healthy interest’!
The first thing I would recommend is not to have any pre-conceptions about which camera you want straight away but concentrate your efforts on researching actual photographs – real images that move you, that grab your attention and lose you in their hidden depths. Through studying images and learning about how they were taken we can learn a great deal that will point us towards our dream camera.
What to do…
- Sit down with the beverage of your choice, have a note-pad and pen handy then open up flickr. Start by searching the term ‘ 35mm film’ or ’120 film’ and filter by ‘interestingness’.
- When you see a photo that has that certain ’je ne sais quoi’, that look that you love and dream of recreating yourself in your own, unique way – open it up and start perusing the description and tags for clues as to what camera was used – the information won’t always be there, but hey, at least you’ll be viewing a photo that you might never have got to see otherwise. When you do see the name of the camera, write it down.
- Keep making notes in this way until you see a pattern emerge, you can try a few different searches such as…
- the names of films ‘kodak ektar 35mm‘, ‘fuji sensia 120‘ etc,
- place names with the work film afterwards; ‘Paris 35mm film‘, ‘New York 120 film‘ etc
- camera brands with the word film; ‘pentax film‘, ‘canon film‘
- Take as long as you want with this exercise; minutes, hours, weeks – it’s up to you – after a while though you’ll spot a few camera names that keep cropping up. When this happens you can move over to google, type in the name of the camera then the word ‘vs’ and google will auto-fill the search box with the most common terms people have searched for to compare with this camera – you can then search for those cameras on flickr too, just to make sure you haven’t overlooked anything.
- When you’re searching for a specific camera model on flickr, try also filtering your search results by ‘recent’ – this will give you results in chronological order with no regard to how ‘good’ they or the photographer are – you can learn a lot about a camera by looking at how it performs when not in the hands of a superstar, uber-talented photographer.
- When you have your shortlist I would definitely recommend looking at the flickr groups – they are a valuable resource of knowledgeable, dedicated and friendly people who have saved my bacon with technical queries on many occasion. You’ll probably find there’s at least one group entirely dedicated to the camera you’re interested in – have a look through the pool of photos and more importantly look through the discussions – there are normally lots of questions from newbies who will probably have many of the questions you do – if not you can always ask yourself.
- Now there’s just the small matter of finding this dream camera and purchasing it. Some will be easy to find, lots will be quite expensive, others will be more of a treasure hunt, but as with so many things in life the hunt is often more exciting than the kill!
And the best thing is – it costs nothing to window shop in this way! What camera are you fancying? I rather want one of these.