First Experiences with a 35mm Camera

As I’ve mentioned in other recent posts, I’ve recently acquired a 35mm camera. Actually, I’ve acquired three of them – all the same model. One of them is a Minolta XG-M (and so are the other two).

Here one is, in all her glory.

Although this photo was taken on a mobile phone in bad light.

The cameras were gifted to me in a camera bag. In there, were three identical cameras, a load of lenses (most in cases), a flash unit, several well-used camera cases, what I think is a shutter release cable, and a load of other stuff I didn’t recognise.

After a quick Google search found me the manual and original advertising brochure (incredibly easily, considering the age of this model), I managed to work out that I also have the optional “auto-winder” mechanism – although it requires 4 batteries and adds a surprising amount of additional weight, so I’m not sure I’ll be using that often. The high-speed action you can expect from using it though, is a whopping 3.5 frames-per-second. Though, because it’s film, 10 seconds of that has used an entire reel of film.

The manual states this old camera has touch-sensitive buttons. Well, actually it states that it has ONE touch-sensitive button. Even still, I was absolutely amazed.

The push-half-way-down-to-do-something, thing.

So far, I’ve researched the maze of what the hell sort of film to use (Fuji seems to be generally favoured, although Kodak is good for skin tones apparently). I’ve bought two different types – one consumer, one professional – that require different processing methods. I’ve discovered that you can get a roll of film processed and put on CD for £2.97 at Asda – which is great while I’m learning.
Although this camera has a manual winder, I was quite surprised to find out it requires batteries. Two tiny flat ones (like you put in watches) to be slightly more specific, which thankfully I found cheap online (because Maplin/Tesco/etc. were incredibly expensive for them).

Today I went out with the camera, to a rare-plant fair. What sort of lense do you take for that? I’ve no idea. I took the one that I had left on the camera (I had been trying on different ones and looking through, to see what the difference was), and one that I think is a macro lense (it has the word “macro” written on it).

When I arrived, I realised there wasn’t going to be much to take pictures of at the plant fair. Not because the plants were ugly, but because they were closing in 20 minutes. Mr Internet deserves a kicking for telling me otherwise. My girlfriend and I had a quick look around, bought some plants, and went off for a walk of the grounds nearby.

Now I’ve read some of the manual, and a couple of days ago I thought I half understood what you were meant to set the aperture to (roughly) for some common conditions, what the “automatic exposure control” would do in response, and what that would likely do to the photo. As soon as I got my camera out today though, could I remember anything I’d read in the manual? Could I, bollocks.

I sort-of half-remembered something about a metered level above 60 perhaps leading to blurry images if not used with a tripod, so I started fiddling with the aperture ring to try and make the automatic exposure set itself close to 60. 60 must be important somehow, because it’s highlighted in red on the dial at the top (all the other numbers are black). I took some pictures. Are they all shit? Under/over-exposed? Totally out-of-focus? I’ve no idea. It’ll be weeks before I finish the film and find out, and by that point I won’t remember what settings I used anyway.
Perhaps I should start writing some notes? They’re going to have to be pretty detailed though, because I’m not going to know which photo is on which frame number, when I get them developed.

Assuming they were correct for exactly the picture I wanted, I then saw 3 ducks running along behind each other. I thought this might make a nice photo, so tried to take it. They seemed a hell of a long way away though, so I got closer. And a bit closer. And closer still. Weirdly, although I was only about 2 metres from them, they still seemed a lot further away, when I looked through the viewfinder. I ended up getting so close, that they all ran off.  At this point I wish I’d bought the longer lense. There is one of these in the aforementioned camera bag:

Camera again, just so you can see how massive that lense is

It’s enormous though, and very heavy. I’m going to have to really plan to be taking long-range photos, in advance.

We were informed that the venue was closing, but on our way out, I thought I’d try for a few photos of some flowers. Maybe I’ll take the photo from flower-height?
With a digital camera of course, you get a nice big LCD screen, so you can squat and do it easily from an angle. Without this, I had to get down on the floor, in the dirt. Hmnph. And I still don’t know what the resulting image will look like. Maybe I need to get a book from the library.

  • All I wanted to say was – this was all ‘gifted’ to you?! You lucky, lucky boy! I’d kill for one of these. Well, ok, I wouldn’t kill, but I would rather like one!

    • Ben

      You should definitely look on eBay. 35mm photography is so unpopular these days, that film SLRs go for insane prices. I saw a Canon EOS 35mm SLR (Google’d reviews say it was quite a good camera) a couple of weeks ago, with a buy-it-now price of £6.99, including postage.

      I know the expensive part is the lenses (and the £6.99 camera didn’t include one), but some of those are also cheaper than I would have imagined (although as you’ve discovered from reading this post, I know nothing about which lens is good or bad).

      Part of the reason I was given all this, is because they had spoken to a camera shop and decided it wasn’t worth the hassle of selling it, for the low return. They decided they’d rather give it to someone who wanted to use it (although they have said I can sell it if/when I get frustrated with it, or can afford to go digital).