Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Tale of Two Canon's

I'm not schizophrenic. Really, I'm not.

But I am beginning to wonder if I'm losing the plot a bit with the back-and-forth conversations I have with myself over photography.

One minute I convince myself that if I'm going to shoot film, then I should embrace the whole 'retro-ness' of it all, and go completely old-school manual. So I bought a Ricoh KR-5 Super II and played with that for a while. Really enjoyed it too. So much so, that I seriously considered only shooting film again, and ditching all my digital gear.

Then I purchased a Minolta 700si and got excited about building up a Minolta film kit, with several bodies and lenses. But then I had second thoughts, since I had previously convinced myself that 'old-school' full manual was still where I needed to be, and the Minolta's were far too 'new' (yes, even I can see the irony in that statement).

But then, I decided to start shooting weddings again (maybe), so convinced myself (very persuasively) that I needed a decent digital kit if I was going to turn up at a wedding - so ended up getting a Canon 1D Mk3 DSLR, and must say that I LOVE it! :-)

So that's it then. The end of film - right? Having convinced myself 6 months ago that I was going to go all film (and old-school manual retro film at that), I've done a complete 180 and am shooting now with a big pro digital rig. And really enjoying it.

Fear not though faithful readers, because film is not dead! (See, I told you I'm beginning to lose the plot). It just so happens that there are a solid core of professional wedding photographers who are going back to shooting film at weddings, and some never stopped. Jose Villa springs immediately to mind, but there are more. A quick search on Google will bring up dozens of photographers making a name for themselves shooting film again at weddings. So, of course, this got me thinking....

Canon A2e (EOS 5)
Recently, at my local camera club meeting, a member was chatting to me during a break and happened to mention that he had a film camera that he couldn't get rid of. My interest was instantly peaked and I asked him what the camera was. Turns out it was a sweet Canon EOS A2e (EOS 5 outside of America), complete with Canon 420EZ flash and 60TS remote switch - all for $50NZ. Of course I couldn't help myself, and snapped it up immediately - much to his joy and surprise (no one shoots film anymore - right?).

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I worked as a graphic designer for a major clothing company here in New Zealand, and part of that job included organising (and occasionally shooting) photo-shoots for catalogues. This was just pre-digital, so everything was shot on film. The main camera was a Mamiya RZ67 for studio and location work, with a Canon EOS 5 as the 'back-up' 35mm camera. In fact, the Canon 5 was purchased by the company on my recommendation. I recommended the Canon largely because I desperately wanted to own one myself but couldn't afford it :-) So there's an emotional, historical tie-in again with my own photographic past that, upon reflection, I think is largely behind my whole film fascination. It's about owning cameras again that I used to own (or at least shot with) in the past, together with now being able to own cameras that I lusted after but could never have afforded. Of course, it is also about the aesthetics of film. But if I'm being brutally honest with myself, it is probably 80% gear-driven.

Canon Elan 7e (EOS 30)
Since I have now settled on Canon (again) as my photographic 'brand' of choice (another nostalgic decision), I'm seriously considering shooting both digital and film during a wedding. I probably won't make it a selling point, but then again, I might? I may not even tell my couples that I'm shooting a few rolls of film, since the cameras look so 'digital' anyway.

I have the A2e now, which can take all my Canon EF lenses, and I've started having a look at what else is available on Trademe in the 'modern' slr camera line. I used to own the EOS 50e (Elan II) and enjoyed its 'retro' silver/black finish with its mix of modern technology - so I could go for one of those as well? But on Trademe at the moment, for an absolute song, is a fantastic condition Elan 7e (EOS 30) and I'm seriously considering putting in a last minute bid on that. It could go for as low as $30.00NZ for the body, which is crazy stupid money. The 7e with the A2e would be a great film camera kit, if I'm committed to going down the 35mm Canon route.

But here's where the back-and-forth conversation starts doing my head in a bit. Because most wedding shooters using film are doing it on a medium format system - namely the Contax 645. And I've told myself in the past that if I'm going to be shooting film, I may as well 'go big or go home' (as they say). I love the great big negative you get from a 6x7 film camera, but not the bulk of the camera itself (another irony that's not lost on me when my main DSLR is a Canon 1D series body). So as much as it would be great to shoot a wedding with a Contax/Mamiya/Pentax 645 medium format camera, I just don't think it's going to happen any time soon. I may need to 'ease' into it a bit more with a digital-like SLR body a-la the A2e or Elan 7e.

So as it stands, the Canon 1D MkIII will be my main wedding body, backed up with a Canon 50D - all digital. But for a few rolls - probably when I'm doing some of the bride and groom portraits and we are off on our own - I'll get out the A2e or 7e, use the same lenses, and shoot some Portra 400 or Ektar 100. I think I'll stick to colour negative film, which will give me the option to scan and convert to black and white later if I have to. A hybrid workflow, for a hybrid wedding. Could be interesting to see which images the couples choose afterwards, especially if they don't know some of them are film. Very interesting indeed.

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