The 7YO was looking through the closet the other day and found my old camera bag. Inside it: the old film SLR camera that my grandfather gave me when I was around 12. It’s older than I am, a Sears camera that appears to be a rebranded Ricoh Singlex TLS from 1967. It’s completely manual except for the light meter.

And I expect it will work perfectly once I put some film in it.

As a teen I used it take photos of family, landscapes, spaceship models, stars, photo essays, monuments, even a space shuttle landing. He showed me how to develop film and slides, and make prints in his home darkroom.

It was my main camera for several years, until I got tired of carrying it around and went back to using a point-and-shoot camera. But I still miss having such effortless control over the focus, exposure and aperture. I keep telling myself I’ll eventually get a DSLR and recapture that.


Anyway, I showed him how to handle it, how to focus and set the F-stop and shutter speed, how to open it, load (imaginary) film, remove the lens, and see the iris as he opened and closed the aperture. We set it for a long exposure so he could watch the shutter open and close. He also found the tripod I’d given up looking for a while back, and once he was done inspecting this one, he hooked it up to a newer camera.

The problem is, he really wanted to try out the camera, but we don’t have any film. I don’t think I’ve bought film in almost 15 years, since I bought my first digital camera. You could buy film in any grocery store when I was younger, but it’s been relegated to specialty shops and online stores over the past decade. I figured I could find it online easily enough. But whose film is worth getting these days? And where to get it developed?

Tracking Down Supplies

Some of the more serious photographers on Photog.Social (a Mastodon instance focused on photography) shoot film, so I asked for suggestions there. I’m going to have to explore Film Photography Project,, which looks fascinating!

Film was easy to find, but then there was the battery for the light meter. You can’t get the same kind of battery anymore. It turns out that old cameras like this one used mercury batteries because they produce a very consistent voltage instead of starting high and trending downward over their lifetime. But, you know, mercury. Not something you want seeping into groundwater from trash. They haven’t sold them in the US since 1996.

I could use the camera without a light meter. I’d just have to figure out the exposure on my own!

As it turns out, Zinc-air batteries have a similar discharge curve (but a much shorter life), and there’s a size that’s designed as a replacement for this one. OK, there’s that problem solved.

So, film and battery have been ordered, and are in the mail!

This should be interesting…

I brought my point-and-shoot Canon Powershot to Long Beach Comic Con on Saturday, using it for most of the indoor shots, without the flash. This may have been a mistake, as those photos were all blurrier than the ones I took with my phone. So on Sunday I brought the bigger FujiFilm camera…and had the same problem.

I think we’ve reached the point that, aside from optical zoom, the sensors on phones are good enough and the software is able to overcome the limitation of the optics when compared to point-and-shoot cameras, even the bigger ones. If I want better photos, I’m going to have to step up and buy a better class of camera.

One of these days I’ll get that DSLR…

Flowers with moon and jupiter

I spotted this view of the moon and Jupiter bordered by flowers while at the Orange County Fair last week. While I love the look of the shot, it’s terribly grainy and full of compression artifacts. My phone isn’t great at things like zoom or low light conditions. I’ve been using it as my main camera for the past year, since it’s great in bright daylight, and my old camera is riddled with dust I can’t get rid of. But this, plus plans for a vacation where I knew I’d really want a working zoom, combined to be the last straw.

Major criteria:

  • Serious optical zoom
  • Low light
  • Long exposure
  • Wi-Fi would be nice, but not critical

I checked out a bunch of cameras and settled on a Canon PowerShot SX710 with 30x(!) optical zoom. They’ve automated a lot of the mode settings the older models used to have, but there are still a few specific modes you can use and you can still take photos with manual settings. And yes, you can transfer photos over Wi-Fi, to a device, a computer, or a cloud service.

One of the first things I did after charging the battery was go outside to see how it handled night shooting. Then I looked up and saw the moon.


So far, so good!

Amusingly, this happened the last time I bought a camera too.

I finally bought a new camera yesterday. I picked it up on a clear, beautiful March afternoon, and my first impulse was to drive up into the hills to Vista del Norte and start taking scenic photos of the entire Los Angeles Basin. I could get a great panorama from Santa Monica in the west, across the San Gabriel Mountains to the north, a glimpse of the next range over, all the way to Long Beach in the east with Saddleback behind it. Then I could go up to Del Cerro Park and get some shots of the coastline, the ocean, and Catalina Island in the late afternoon light.

Of course, they don’t ship the batteries charged, which put a quick end to that plan. And today, it’s overcast and smoggy.

I did, however, get this shot of the moon when I left a few hours later on a trip to the grocery store.

It was right around sunset, so the sky looking east was actually a medium blue, but with the short exposure needed to get details on the moon, it ended up looking black. This is the first photo I have taken of the moon that shows texture. I think this will do!

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*sigh* I’m mostly happy with my G1, but I just read about the upcoming Samsung Memoir, which is the first phone I’ve seen that really takes the approach I’ve been looking for in terms of photo capability: instead of a phone that’s also a camera, it’s a camera that’s also a phone. Even the press release describes it as “designed to look and feel like a customer’s current point-and-shoot digital camera.”

Memoir cameraphone

Key specs:

  • 8 Megapixel camera
  • Flash
  • 16x Digital Zoom
  • Touch screen
  • 5 shooting modes
  • 3G connection
  • Connects to Flickr and other photo sharing sites
  • GPS navigation

It quotes Samsung’s Bill Ogle as saying, “This is the camera phone that will make people want to leave their digital camera at home” — which is exactly what I want from a camera phone.  It’s what I’ve wanted in a camera phone for years, and now that I finally bought a new phone, now someone’s actually selling one.

On top of that, it’s being offered by T-Mobile, so I’d be able to get it at an upgrade price — or could have if I hadn’t just upgraded to a G1 three months ago!

Of course, the press release leaves out a couple of critical items:

  • No mention of optical zoom
  • No mention of mobile web browsing capabilities
  • No mention of extensibility
  • No specs on how much memory it has, or what kind of card it takes (probably the usual micro-SD)
  • No Wifi

I’ve come to really appreciate the G1’s fully-capable web browser and the Android market for third-party apps, and I’d be reluctant to give that up. If the Memoir is a camera first and a phone second, the G1 is a handheld computer first. As for zoom, I have yet to see a digital zoom that was any better than just cropping an image in Photoshop.  And even with a 3G network, I’ve found it does take time to upload the G1’s 2-megapixel images. For 8 megapixels, I’d really want wi-fi.

Ah, well.  With phones, as with many things, you have to take the plunge sometime, or you’ll keep waiting for the next model, and the next, and the next, never actually make any change at all.