Monday, 6 August 2012

The Great Old Film Cameras - Beirette & Vilia

Old film cameras! Wow! Now, this is a challenge. How about shooting with a Russian film camera that's over a quarter of a century old?
A friend of mine wrote to me on Skype asking if I wanted his old Vilia that he found after cleaning up some old stuff around the house. I cheered! I said yes right away and the following day it was in my hands. Holding the camera, it struck me how sturdy and simple it was. I bought film the same day and started shooting. All the settings were on the lens and, as it appeared, I had to pay attention to so many things that I took for granted on my DIGITAL SLR. One of those things was the autofocus. Another was the light meter... Oh, and how about the preset ISO that came with the film?! It's been a while since I shot on film and this time holding this old camera with not a single chip in it made me feel a bit unsafe in the beginning but the overall experience was really exciting.
Not two weeks later another friend of mine who was leaving for Norway gave me an old DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik - that was east of the Berlin wall aka East Germany) camera branded Beirette. The built-in lens allowing me to open the aperture as wide as F2.8 looked amazing and in great shape. 
The two cameras are in great shape and work perfectly. All it takes is practice and even more practice.
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Here's what I learnt from shooting with these 2 old cameras:
  • Digital cameras have so many advantages that they will make you lazy at times.
  • Shooting on film with an old camera will make you think more about (before) the shot. It will really help you understand how important framing, setting the camera for the conditions and taking the shot are.
  • Not being able to see what you've done right away will make you anxious especially when you (think you) have all the settings right. I was imagining what the photos will look like on paper.
  • Having only 36 frames will leave those unnecessary shots that we take of silly things out of what we want to have on film. I started thinking what's really worthwhile but then I felt in a really artsy mood and before I knew it I had only 2 frames left!
  • When you see the photos on paper you will feel nostalgic. The images have the color of your memories even though they were taken 2-3 days ago. Maybe you'll waste most of the first film but the few shots you have you will keep.
Final words:
I love my Vilia and Beirette. These were the cameras that our parents used some time ago and they were rather happy. They could do the settings, take nice photos and put them in albums for us to look at. So, why can't we? Are we too stuck with digital? Have we forgotten analog to the extent that we can't really use it properly?

All the best,

Kamen Kunchev