Tag Archives: Manual SLR

Depth of Field: Real and Simulated

Four versions of the same photo.

  • One taken with my phone, which has a deep depth of field.
  • One automatically “enhanced” by Google from that phone photo.
  • One taken with my phone in portrait mode, which simulates a shallow depth of field.
  • One taken with my ancient film SLR camera, with a low F-stop to have an actual shallow depth of field.

First Try With The Old Film Camera

We got the negatives and scans back from the two rolls of film we shot with the old manual film camera. Despite the damage to the case, it seems to still be light-proof, as the second roll of film came out about as well as the first.

It was an interesting experiment. We mostly took night/indoor photos with the tripod and handheld photos outdoors in daylight. He’s not used to focusing, so a lot of his photos are blurry. The light meter app on my phone seems a little off in sunlight, so our outdoor photos are all either over– or under-exposed. (The zinc-air batter has since shown up, so with luck we’ll be able to get more accurate light readings with the next roll.) But it gave some of the photos a retro feel.

Here are a few of the better shots, plus one of the light-polluted, smoke-filled skies of Los Angeles with enough stars to recognize Cassiopeia.

Bringing Back the Old Camera

A couple of weeks ago, the almost-8YO found my old manual SLR camera – the 1967 model my grandfather gave me. I bought some film, and picked up a light meter app while waiting for the battery to arrive (the light meter is the only powered part of the camera), and I showed him how to load the camera, focus, choose the shutter speed and aperture, etc., and the two of us shot a roll of film, trading off between us.

As I showed him how to unload the camera, I managed to knock it off the table, where the open camera crashed to the floor.

I couldn’t believe it! This camera is older than I am, and I was fairly certain it still worked…until we shot one roll of film!

Amazingly the lens didn’t break, and nothing seems to have damaged the shutter mechanism either. The only thing that I’ve noticed is that the door in the back of the case is bent slightly. I can still close it, but I have to shift it about 1/8″ to do it. I hope it’s still light-proof…

We shot another roll of film, again taking turns, and tomorrow I’m taking it into a photography store to get them developed. I really thought the slow turnaround would be frustrating to him, but he’s finding it fascinating.

The Old Camera

The 7YO was looking through the closet the other day and found my old camera bag. Inside it: the old film SLR camera that my grandfather gave me when I was around 12. It’s older than I am, a Sears camera that appears to be a rebranded Ricoh Singlex TLS from 1967. It’s completely manual except for the light meter.

And I expect it will work perfectly once I put some film in it.

As a teen I used it take photos of family, landscapes, spaceship models, stars, photo essays, monuments, even a space shuttle landing. He showed me how to develop film and slides, and make prints in his home darkroom.

It was my main camera for several years, until I got tired of carrying it around and went back to using a point-and-shoot camera. But I still miss having such effortless control over the focus, exposure and aperture. I keep telling myself I’ll eventually get a DSLR and recapture that.

Exam

Anyway, I showed him how to handle it, how to focus and set the F-stop and shutter speed, how to open it, load (imaginary) film, remove the lens, and see the iris as he opened and closed the aperture. We set it for a long exposure so he could watch the shutter open and close. He also found the tripod I’d given up looking for a while back, and once he was done inspecting this one, he hooked it up to a newer camera.

The problem is, he really wanted to try out the camera, but we don’t have any film. I don’t think I’ve bought film in almost 15 years, since I bought my first digital camera. You could buy film in any grocery store when I was younger, but it’s been relegated to specialty shops and online stores over the past decade. I figured I could find it online easily enough. But whose film is worth getting these days? And where to get it developed?

Tracking Down Supplies

Some of the more serious photographers on Photog.Social (a Mastodon instance focused on photography) shoot film, so I asked for suggestions there. I’m going to have to explore Film Photography Project,, which looks fascinating!

Film was easy to find, but then there was the battery for the light meter. You can’t get the same kind of battery anymore. It turns out that old cameras like this one used mercury batteries because they produce a very consistent voltage instead of starting high and trending downward over their lifetime. But, you know, mercury. Not something you want seeping into groundwater from trash. They haven’t sold them in the US since 1996.

I could use the camera without a light meter. I’d just have to figure out the exposure on my own!

As it turns out, Zinc-air batteries have a similar discharge curve (but a much shorter life), and there’s a size that’s designed as a replacement for this one. OK, there’s that problem solved.

So, film and battery have been ordered, and are in the mail!

This should be interesting…