Why Carry a Simple 35mm Film SLR everywhere?
May 22, 2015
A little while back I picked up a near mint condition Nikon FM, the legendary small 35mm camera from Nikon that started the design philosophy that led to the FM2, FE, FE2, FA and FM3A. This production of cameras spanned 29 years. Since using the FM it has encouraged me to carry a simple 35mm film slr everywhere I go. Shooting on the go with my iPhone is great but often the images are never quite as I want them and I will forget to bring them into a photo-editing app to apply post production that I like. Additionally, it’s very seldom I will print any of these images.
I find the FM is a pleasure to use, only needing to set shutter speed and aperture with ISO already taken care of by the film speed. All I have to do is focus and shoot. The metering is centre weighted with a simple LED light scale and focussing is easy with the split prism viewfinder. I enjoy the fact that it is small and light so no hassle to carry round all day. With the 50mm 1.8 AIS practically a pancake lens it is so unobtrusive and can be worn around the neck for long periods or tucked away in the smallest of bags.
The biggest advantage though has to be that with the wide exposure latitude of 35mm film there is room for under or overexposure and is a lot more forgiving. Worrying about blowing highlights isn’t really a thing. This really frees me up when opportunities for shots present themselves where I would be faced with so many more settings to adjust shooting digital. The lack of an LCD to check means I can shoot and move on without examining histograms and other settings. Don’t get me wrong, all the features of a modern digital slr are integral to a lot of the work I do but for personal work and specific clients who like film, shooting with the Nikon FM is simple, simple, simple.
In a way each roll becomes a visual journal, a time capsule with this eager unveiling when the roll is complete. Depending on how long I take to shoot a roll it can be a nice surprise to have forgotten about certain frames. These can often turn out to be my favourite images. The length of time I have a roll in the camera can vary but it can be a while. Given the limited frames on a roll I don’t like to burn through film. This makes me really think before I capture which requires patience and discipline. This is a good thing as it often results in stronger images but also translates to when I shoot digital. Nobody needs to be shooting hundreds or thousands of frames per shoot. Often with careful thought about light, positioning and composition a shoot can be nailed in camera in a handful of shots. This is so much more rewarding and energising.
Also, grain. I love the delicate subtle tonalities and how this gives images a rich texture you can almost feel.
I have included a selection of images from my last few rolls from the Nikon FM…