The $50 film camera project

Minolta SR-T Super
[View on Flickr]

Minolta SR-T Super
[View on Flickr]

I wasn’t going to participate in Epic Edits $50 film camera photo project. But, when I went photowalking a few weeks ago at Balboa Island with Brian Auer and another friend, Brian offered to let me borrow his Minolta SR-T Super, 135mm f/2.8 lens[1. He also had a 50mm f/1.4, but I wanted telephoto because I was using my nifty fifty on my Canon EOS 40D.], and eight rolls of film. He’d even get them developed and scanned for me – what a great friend! I didn’t want to make it hard on him, so I only used two rolls. The roll I’m using here is Ilford Delta-100 Professional 135-36 Black & White Print Film (ISO-100).

Brian loaded the film, set the ISO speed for me[2. I think it underexposured two stops.], and I was ready to go.

Technical specs

The following is what what mattered to me most:

  • built-in light meter, coupled with the shutter speed and aperture
  • shutter speeds: Bulb, 1-1/1000
  • aperture and shutter speed displayed in viewfinder
  • a quick return mirror

Experience with the film SLR camera

I’ve never photographed in full manual. I was scared of needing to adjust aperture, shutter speed and focus before pressing the shutter. Fortunately, there was a light meter. Phew!

Brian told me that he sets his shutter speed at 1/1000 (max) then adjusts the aperture accordingly. So, it’s kind of like aperture priority. Once I got into a groove, it wasn’t bad at all.


The only film I’ve ever loaded was in those inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras. Align the film behind the shutter, snap the roll in place, then close the back. No need to wind because the camera did the rest. Here, it was a bit more involved, so I asked Brian for help. With the Minolta SR-T Super, you have to wind once, press the shutter, then repeat, until it was all the way around the spool.

Manual focusing was my other minor annoyance. I missed quite a few photos because I wasn’t focused and ready to press the shutter.


I felt less conspicuous because I was taking photos one exposure at a time – no continuous bursts. Also, it wasn’t as big as my Canon EOS 40D[3. At the same time, a minor annoyance considering that the 40D fits my hands pretty well.].

The lack of instant gratification is exhilarating. I framed a photo, pressed the shutter, and that was all I could do. No chimping possible.

At times, digital feels too clean. Since I’m in a street photography mode, the slightly gritty “feel” of the film photos appealed to me.

Like I said earlier, that light meter was clutch.


These are my three favorite photos:

In search for treats
[View on Flickr]

Third wheel boredom
[View on Flickr]

[View on Flickr]

You can view the rest of the roll at Flickr. I hope you like them!

P.S. Thanks to Brian Auer for lending me the camera, developing and scanning the photos, FTP-ing them to his server for me to download, and taking photos of the camera itself. He rocks. 🙂

I’m writing a short follow up which didn’t need to be crammed into this post. It’ll be up by next Monday, at the latest. If you don’t want to miss it, please subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks!

Update 9/23/08: I just realized I never posted my follow up. Blast! I promise it’s in draft right now and almost ready to publish.

Published by

Bryan Villarin

Bryan works at Automattic. Cat whisperer. Sometimes, a photographer and card magician.

6 thoughts on “The $50 film camera project”

  1. dude… that’s a sweet background on the pics of the camera!

    Seriously though — great “down to earth” review of the camera. I’m glad you didn’t totally hate it. And you’re welcome to borrow any of my film cameras when we go on photowalks.


  2. Yeah loving that Zebra print – good vintage feel to the camera using that!

    Great job on the photos too. Looks like on the ones you posted here you managed to nail the focus pretty well.

    You mentioned that you felt less conspicuous using film as you took less photos, but I’m curious as to whether you actually passed any photo opportunities up because you had a limited number of shots?


  3. @Brian Auer – Haha, you and your crazy bedspread. I’m glad you liked the review, and I’m so stoked you’ll let me borrow your film cameras in our future photowalks.

    Did you ever know that you’re my hero? You’re everything I wish I could be…

    Haha! 🙂


  4. I have seen this “chimping” reference several times now, so I had to look it up…and laughed.

    Good entry and attractive photos. Lucky you to have Brian by your side.

    Good luck in the $50 Film Project. 🙂


  5. @Rockelita – Haha! I’m totally stoked to have a friend like Brian.

    Thanks for reading my entry and enjoying my photos. While I’m probably not gonna win, I’m so happy there was a ton of participation.

    Don’t be a stranger! 😉


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