My Life On 35mm || Roll One.
Back in march, I wrote a blog post about what (and who) was inspiring me at the time and in the post I talked a lot about how Lizzy Hadfield had made me want to start shooting film again. A few weeks afterwards, and what feels like a million and one nights scouring buy and sell groups on Facebook, I finally bit the bullet and purchased my very first film camera. At the recommendation of my friend and film photography expert Solomon Chiniquay, I ended up buying a Olympus mju-ii and I couldn't be happier with it! I bought my first set of Fujifilm's Superia Xtra 400 from London Drugs and brought it up to my cabin with me to test it out. So I thought today I could share with you guys my thoughts on shooting film whilst I show you the photos from this first roll!
As a photographer, switching over to a point and shoot camera that was fully automatic scared me a little bit. After spending years learning on how to control a camera to do what I want, giving up that control was not easy. I had absolutely no idea how the camera would expose my film, but I just had to sit back and let it do the work. When I received the images back from the shop I got to develop them, I was honestly shocked at how well the exposures came out. There was not a single photo that was under or over exposed, so hats off to Olympus and the light meter built in to the camera. At a fixed aperture of 2.8 mixed with iso 400 film, I was super impressed at this camera + film combo's ability to shoot in different lighting situations. I tried to play with a mixture of direct sunlight, cloudy days, in a dark forest, and indoors, and everything turned out fine.
The second thing that shocked me when I got the camera back was how sharp the photos were! The Olympus mju-ii has a central focus point, so sometimes it would miss focus. I think part of that is me still learning how the camera works but in general when the camera nailed it, it nailed it. With that fixed aperture of 2.8 you've got a pretty shallow depth of field, which is why in the few shots I did miss focus the subject is so blurry. I kind of like it though, as I think it brings a bit of character to the shot and plays with the imperfection aspect of shooting film. I think sometimes in photography there are a set of "rules" that dictate what should and shouldn't be in focus, but I like when photos break the rules in a way that still tells a story. I will say though, I'm not sure if it's just my particular camera I bought or if it's a common issue with the mju-ii's, but my viewfinder on the camera is quite blurry and hard to see out of which does make it hard to tell if the photo is in focus or not. I also find the autofocus to be a tad slow. Nothing crazy, but enough that I can notice it. With that being said though, most shots I have taken did come out alright so it's not the end of the world.
Now let’s talk about my film choice. The idea of choosing the “right” film was daunting. I built up this major pressure in my head worrying that I was going to waste my money on something I wouldn’t like once it was developed. I scoured the internet looking at film comparisons and reviews… and I got pretty overwhelmed that I didn’t end up ordering anything. The more research I did the more I realized I needed to just try different films out for myself, so I decided I would go to my local London Drugs and choose the first one I could find. That ended up being Fuji Superia X-TRA 400, so I bought myself a pack of 36 exposures and started shooting. I didn’t think I was going to like it, but I ended up being so pleasantly surprised. The tones were rich with a dynamic contrast. Whilst it did live up to Fuji's reputation of having a strong green tone to it, it wasn't in a way that would put you off the images, instead just giving it a unique and distinct character.
Now as I was saying before with that fixed aperture of 2.8 you get with the Olympus mju-ii, you have the opportunity to use the really beautiful shallow depth of field to your advantage. I wanted to put it to the test with a few macro-esque shots. Obviously with a focusing distance of 0.35m (1.15ft) to infinity you aren't able to get right up close for macro shots, but you can still get close enough to achieve this beautiful soft bokeh. I particularly like how the flower shot I took came out. It's not as creamy as I may have wanted for bokeh, but for a 2.8 point and shoot I can't really complain.
I only had one singular instance of the camera fudging up a bit, and that was on this shot right here. It didn't fully rewind the film enough - so I ended up with this short shot that wasn't an entire frame. It was the last shot of the roll, so I am not entirely sure if it was the roll of film or the camera's fault in this case. No matter the case the photo still came out great. I will say that I have now shot over a dozen rolls through this camera and it hasn't happened again so it is very plausible that this was a one off fluke.
Overall though, I think this camera is amazing and I am so happy that I purchased it as my first introduction back into film. It's a perfect place to start for someone who is new in film and is still not comfortable in the idea of manually exposing, but also perfect for the photographer that just wants to have something they can pick up and go without having to think. It's by no means a perfect camera: it misses focus sometimes, it's autofocus is a tad slow, you have no control over your settings, you only have one autofocus point, and you're stuck at that 2.8 aperture. But for the price that it is and how bloody sharp the photos are, I would buy this camera again and again. I'm also incredibly happy with my first choice of film I shot with. If you are new to colour film and are looking for a good "first roll" to shoot, I highly recommend the Fuji Superia X-TRA 400. The colours are vibrant and contrasty, and that 400 iso has got you covered in almost all environments. I loved it so much, I actually just ordered 12 rolls of it off of B+H.
I will say though, I think my favourite part of this entire process is just how carefree shooting film actually is. In this new digital age where it seems as though memory space is unlimited, it's easy to take 100+ photos of the same thing in search of that "perfect shot". The obsession becomes so overwhelming that you get to a point where you spend more time looking at a screen than you do in the moment. But with each photo costing you 60¢ (minimum) and not getting to see them instantly after you take them, it becomes easier to distance yourself from the obsession. With only 36 exposures, you choose your photos wisely, are more conscious of each shot, and try and maximize what little shots you have. I just get to pick up my camera, take the photo, and then continue on and be present in the moment. I'm creating real memories, not living them through a screen.
And there you guys have it! My first roll of coloured film.
Do any of you guys shoot film? If so why? And what do you shoot with? Leave a comment down below as I would love to hear.