My first steps into Film Photography (part 1)


For quite a while, since I began to feel more comfortable with using my DSLR on manual mode,  I had the desire to get into film photography of a while, being pinhole photography the first milestone.

However, for me to deal with film photography, the only practical choices  were 35mm film or 120 film, in regards to availability. My main choice was 120mm due to the fact that the negatives are larger, making it more practical to handle and to make contact prints in the future. The unfortunate side effect is that it is harder to load into the film spiral during film development preparation. And, of course, way less exposures per roll than 35mm film. Another point to consider is camera price. A 120 film camera is, in general, more expensive that a 35mm camera.

Camera Choice

My budget for the camera was set to 120€. In one hand I could get a Holga 120N pretty cheap and call it a day. Lets just say I quickly changed my mind.
The other choice was to get a Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) camera. But due to most if the cameras on my price range being used cameras (and 100% mechanical), I was wary of getting then on ebay, therefore I’ve decided to source the camera locally, at a store that could sell me a clean and tested camera. Unfortunately such stores are 50Km away, in a neighboring town.

Flexaret VII Automat TLR
Flexaret VII Automat TLR

The camera that fulfilled my criteria without looking like a dug up, rusty fossil, or a plastic toy was the flexaret VII automat.
On paper, 1/500 sec maximum shutter speed sounds quite nice, but it also means that the camera uses a more complex leaf shutter design.

Film Development

I was taught film development (Black and White) at a workshop held by Maquinas de Outros Tempos store, with the lomography embassy store porto. All participants brought their own roll of film for development.

Me in the lower corner of the picture, loading film into a spiral using a lightproof changing bag. 120 Film is slightly harder to load than 35mm, since the film is larger and the paper backing must also be removed inside the changing bag.


First developed Roll of Film
First developed Roll of Film

In one hand, it is quite satisfying to hold the developed negative, although it is not as satisfying than developing paper on a darkroom under a safety light. But the overlapped exposures and the the last 2 exposures being totally overexposed did diminish part of the fun.

The overlapped exposures may be related to the fact that the film winding knob was only turned until the shutter was cooked, when it must the turned until the knob locks.
Regarding the overexposed last frames however….

2nd set of shutter blades stuck
2nd set of shutter blades stuck

Sometimes, when cocking the shutter the 2nd pair of shutter blades gets stuck open, overexposing the film. The unfortunate side effect is the rolls of film wasted, at a cost of 5€ each, not taking into account film development costs.

The issue goes away if one puts the shutter cooking lever all the way down before winding the film (needs more testing though, I do not wish to return a working camera….).
These cameras are quite unforgiving in regards to proper operation. At least this camera is very noob unfriendly and the user manual does not really help.

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