Going analog with a 1970 Ricoh TLS 401 film camera

My first camera was a basic 35mm film point-and-shoot that had no settings whatsoever. I loaded the film that I bought (having no idea what film speed (ASA) meant) and shot away, winding the film each time with the thumb wheel. My camera had no settings to adjust aperture, shutter speed, or even focus. It was a true point-and-shoot. I remember the thrill of finishing up a roll of 24 exposures, going to the store, filling out those envelopes and dropping my film off to be developed and turned into prints. I think I typically had to wait 3 days to get an envelope back containing the images that I shot.

Of course many of them were over or underexposed and nearly nothing was anything worth looking at except to see my friends or family. Composition was an idea that I had never heard of and it showed in my photos. There was something to those days though. A certain magic to shooting with film and having no proof that the exposure I captured turned out until I got the film developed. There were happy mistakes when I got my prints back too and I still have many of them and still flip through my old prints.

Since going digital, my skill as a photographer is light years ahead of my film years, but recently I’ve had the itch to dust off an old film camera and try my hand at it again. I’m by no means going back to film exclusively, but rather it’s an artistic experiment. I intend to shoot a few exposures with my film camera when I’m out shooting with my DSLR and then see how the photos look compared to each other. I want to see how the old “Sunny 16” rule holds up compared to the advanced in-camera light meter in my Nikon. I want to see how a 40+ year old, manual-focus lens looks compared to my multi-point autofocus system. I enjoy how much thought goes into each shutter release with film, compared to burst mode on my DSLR.

As the project goes forward, I’ll record each exposure and shoot a photo with my smartphone to show the scene that will be captured on my DSLR and film. When my roll of 36 exposures is all used up, I’ll post the final results in a side-by-side comparison.

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