I should have done this post long time ago. I know I am late, by at least a couple of weeks! And I am not going to give any excuses. What am I talking about? Well, if you remember, when I introduced C to the world, I had promised to explain the rationale behind the decision. Wait! You do not remember C now, do you?

Well, let me introduce C to you once again. See below!

C final

Who is C:

C is a made in Japan 1974 Canon FTb QL all manual film SLR with a Canon 50mm f1.8 FD lens. I got her from the US after lot of searching and researching. And it took extra shipping charges, customs duty, tweets to India Post and 30 days for C and me to unite. (For those of you who are interested in vintage cameras in great working condition, I got C from an online portal called F Stop Cameras. They ship international. You can find out more here.)

I don’t find it weird to name the inanimate objects I own. I have named my Scorpio as “Pearl”, my Pulsar 200NS as “V”, and my DSLR as “N”. I also talk to them sometimes. No, it is not weird. It is just that I find these inanimate objects much more trustworthy than some humans who I have come in contact with. Of course, I am kidding! Which part you ask? The “talking” part.

Now you have been properly introduced, again!

Why C – an all manual film SLR:

When the world around me is moving at a breakneck speed, what is the need for me to slow down? Going back in the cycle of evolution by going from digital to film was only going to slow me down, correct? And what purpose would it serve other than being cumbersome and making photography costlier?

Flash back to Hampi in Karnataka, India, beginning of last year. I had just got my new DSLR and the lenses. The moment I got down from my car in Hampi, I went click click click. For the next three days, all I did was click click click. By the end of it, the counter read 950. And when I took those photos to my computer, there were about only 80 frames which I could proudly show to the world. That is a dismal c8% hit rate.

Confession time! I admit, that was the problem with my style of photography when I had just started taking this art seriously. I took hundreds of photographs and hoped that I will get few worthy frames. And in the frenzy of pressing the shutter button, I was being oblivious to the events around me. If Henri Cartier-Bresson would have been around me during that madness, he would have slapped me for missing The Decisive Moment. So, when I was just pressing the shutter button instead of making a photograph, where was the art in that, I thought! Hence, I decided to slow down.

Since that trip to Hampi I have been out on numerous tours, and I thought I had slowed down considerably. Had I? Though the hit rate had improved considerably, I was still taking a lot of bad photographs – for example the subject was not in focus, or I forgot to change the settings (I always shoot manual), or the framing was not done properly, or all of the above.

I was getting worried about how I was making photographs. I had hit a plateau as far as improving the quality of my frames were considered. I considered myself a 10/10 as far as theory of photography was concerned. But when it came to practical application, I was being a mediocre at best. And they say photography is all about practical application. There was one important ingredient missing from my recipe. After a lot of contemplation, I found it!

Attention! That was the missing ingredient. I was not paying enough attention. I was not being attentive enough, while making photographs. The only way to bring attention to the forefront was to attach some kind of a cost for each bad photograph, I thought. And the only way I could have done it was by relearning photography on film. Also, I felt the less automatic controls the better, and hence an all manual film SLR.

Also, if you are serious about making it big in your chosen field, the best way to learn is by learning the same way as the greats in your field did. In photography, invariably all of the greats learned the trade on film cameras.

Also, film SLRs make you appear much cooler in the field! And who doesn’t want to appear cooler than the crowd?

The first roll and what I learned:

To start with, C had developed some snags, owing to few lose screws on the lens. I had factored these snags in my expectations. I mean, who won’t, especially when the camera you are shooting with is 43 years old! A camera repair shop in Hyderabad repaired it for me and for free. You can find more about the repair shop here.

I had ordered a couple of Ilford HPS 400 B&W 35mm rolls to start with. I intend to shoot B&W till I get bored with them. I have successfully finished the first roll, and as I write, I am in the process of shipping it to Mumbai to get it developed. I just hope that I didn’t expose few frames while rewinding the film. This was the first time I was rewinding the film manually, you see!

The first thing I noticed was the weight of the camera body. And the heavy shutter click. So much so that camera shake will be evident at shutter speeds of anything less than 1/60th of a second. Looking at the brighter side of it, my hands will tend to become steadier. They call it muscle memory!

There is no auto mode in the camera, so I understand the exposure triangle better. Also, because there is no auto focus, I have sharpened my manual focusing skills and learned about zone focusing.

And I saved the best one for the last! When I visited the vanishing beach of Chandipur, in coastal Odisha, India, in my recently concluded trip, I actually waited for my subjects to walk into my frame. The waits lasted between 2-5 minutes, and on one occasion it lasted close to 10 minutes. I realised that I have become more patient and much more attentive about my surroundings.

To tell you more about C and my recently concluded trip, as a challenge to myself I deliberately did not pack my DLSR for this one. I photographed with C on the beach, on the street at night and in an event. I just hope that the frames turn out alright. And even if most of the 36 frames do not turn out alright, the learning experiences alone will make the effort worthwhile. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, please keep an eye on the Project 35 page in the menu at top for the photos.

In frame: C, my made in Japan 1974 Canon FTb QL all manual film SLR with a Canon 50mm f1.8 FD lens.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.

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Written by Amrit Panigrahy

Amrit is a freelance photographer and a storyteller.

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