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Digital to Analog

December 6, 2012 - Ben Klein
So this is what it feels like to load a musket.

Last Saturday I picked up a Minolta X-700 SLR camera from the Salvation Army in Jamestown for $4.99.

According to this commercial from Shutan Camera, Chicago, IL in the early 80's, it cost $250 brand new.

Computer says it was produced by Minolta from 1981 to 1999.

I didn't know if it worked or not but I figured if it didn't, which was a good chance, I'd only be out $5.

I wasn't able to learn much about the camera from this commercial with the Star Wars imperial ships in the background other than it maybe the greatest thing ever.

When I got home I realized the last time I held a film camera in my hands was in a high school photography class.

I didn't even know how to open it up.

The camera is heavy compared to our standard Cannon Powershot G12 and makes my iPhone feel like it's not even there.

Back in the newsroom I brought my new toy to the attention of Mr. Ferry and he showed me how to open the camera and breezed through the settings.

"I've held many a film camera in my hands," I believe he said.

I went and bought film and it cost more than the camera.

He loaded the film and I watched.


The film wouldn't pull tight.

We were advised to throw some new batteries in the near 30 year old camera.

Again the batteries cost more than the camera.

I put the new batteries in and the camera came to life and I could move the winder all the way back.

Over the past year I've shot somewhere between at least 2,000 - 3,000 photos on my iPhone. I've mastered the major photo apps that improve Apple's standard camera such as Camera+, Hipstamatic and editing apps such as Snapseed and Filterstorm.

I know what settings to use in the best situations, tried HD photography and over Thanksgiving experimented shooting in all black and white with my family and friends as the usual subjects.

Now imagine if I did that on film. 3,000 photos (most of them terrible) divided by 24 pictures on a roll of film at lets say $6 a pop is $750.

Digital and mobile photography affords me the luxury to shoot first and ask questions later.

Nothing new or groundbreaking here. Anyone with a point and shoot and 4 gig memory card knows this.

Now I have to stop and think.

Why is the camera beeping?

What is that red dot on the side mean?

Why is half of the small circle out of focus?

Is it too late to call Mr. Ferry and ask him a question about this?

I've made a serious effort this year to take my work camera off of auto and learn how to take advantage of the settings.

My progress has been slow and I still find myself using the auto setting as a crutch.

Last night I shot a roll of film and I found my self thinking "What setting should I be using in this light?"

There is something strange about searching for a 30 year old camera manual on an iPhone.


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