What do you need to get started with analog photography?

Analog photography has been experiencing a renaissance for years. The feel and value of mechanical cameras appeals to many. But one thing must be clear: Film is not forgiving of sloppiness!

Analog cameras continued to be perfected until the early 1990s. Then it was over, because the digital camera came. But 35mm film photography still has many fans – and is also finding new followers. And there are reasons for this.

What makes analog photography special?

Julian Melzer is a photographer from Berlin. He knows both analog and digital photography. He describes the feeling as follows: “Analog photography has a lot to do with anticipation, because you can’t just scroll through and upload after you’ve released the shutter. Instead, it’s waiting patiently and full of excitement until the images come out of development.”

Daniel Wollstein sees it similarly. He is a photographer from Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, just outside Munich. He takes digital photographs professionally and analog privately. “Analog photography decelerates. It also appeals to me that the physical image is given a high value.”

35mm film usually allows only 36 shots and costs money, as does developing and printing photos on paper later. “With any photograph, the viewer must engage intensely with the photograph. The image is created when the picture is taken, not when it is post-processed,” says Wollstein.

Which camera for analog photography?

Wollstein recommends the OM series from Olympus as a camera because it is small and compact, offers good quality, has a wide range of lenses available and is inexpensive. Analog cameras from Nikon and Canon are just as good, but more expensive, he says. “If analog, then really analog, without autofocus and program automatic. Only a light meter should be integrated in the camera.”

Marwan El-Mozayen is also attracted by the purist, high-quality aspect. “Many photographers love the tactile experience of a classic camera with its metal housing. It has a certain value,” says the editor of the international photography magazine “Silvergrain Classic.”

El-Mozayen counts Hasselblad, Rolleiflex, Canon, Nikon, Minolta and Leica among the classic analog camera manufacturers. Such cameras can be found on online marketplaces and auction houses as well as in photo specialty stores. These are then also the addresses when it comes to possible repairs and spare parts. The “Camerarescue.org” portal can also be a good place to start.

Two lenses are enough to get started

For the camera body, Daniel Wollstein recommends a fast standard lens (50 mm) and a wide-angle lens with a 28 mm fixed focal length. “With a 50-millimeter lens, you get the least distortion and learn to appreciate perspectives,” Wollstein says. Photographing instead of snapping, that is.

Wollstein buys his films from photo wholesalers or online marketplaces. But drugstores also still carry analog film and offer developing and photo services. “The quality is usually okay,” says the photographer. “However, if you want top scans or prints, you should look for a profile lab.”

Angelika Görner is a photographer and runs a photo lab service in Dresden. She has noticed that analog photography is being rediscovered by young people: “They are trying out analog cameras and discovering the advantages,” she says. She also cites deceleration as well as the production of unique pieces and a generally manageable number of images, where otherwise people are snapping away at digital images in an inflationary manner.

When it comes to black-and-white films, Görner sees the Ilford HP5 in front with a good price-performance ratio. But Kodak 400T-Max or Kodak 400TX are also a good choice, even if they are more expensive. For color films, some like to use the inexpensive Kodak Gold, others the somewhat more expensive Kodak Portra with ISO 400.

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Films are still being produced

Color films are also still available from Fuji. But the offer of black and white films is altogether larger. Here also Adox, Agfa, Forma and Orwo still or again produce. For self-development, for example, there are special lab boxes to buy that make a darkroom for film development superfluous.

When it comes to ISO, the higher the ISO number, the more light-sensitive the film. And the more sensitive a film is, the more latitude the photographer gets with aperture and time. Most photographers choose a 400 film, says Görner.

Last but not least, to take analog photographs, you have to know the basics of photography. “The photographer is challenged with every picture, always has to make a decision, because he can only take the picture once,” Marwan El-Mozayen explains the challenge. The result is either good or useless, he says: “It’s a different philosophy of working. Photographers have to be more focused and precise. Film doesn’t forgive sloppiness.”

With material from dpa