As a Biologist and PhD student in Poland, Poznań, Berika Beridze is unsurprisingly smitten with forests and natural habitats. He likes hiking, camping, and taking photographs, which was fueled by a Zenit film camera that his father gave him. Get to know more about his analogue journey, as well as his thoughts on film photography's evolving technologies in this feature.
I was always impressed with technologies. Digital technologies are fantastic and provide us with all kinds of benefits. But mostly, I wonder how people lived during a time when analog devices were widespread and mass-produced. I remember when my father gave me my first film camera, a famous and notorious Zenit. I did not know anything about Films or Film Cameras. But fortunately, I started exploring. From that point, it starts my journey through the fantastic world of film photography. Now I can’t imagine myself without shooting a film.
Zenit was a Soviet brand produced by KMZ. The brand was quite popular in the former soviet countries. It was found in almost every family, somehow related to photography. Cameras feature an M42 mount and are simple to use. Advanced and recent models also exist. Here are some results from my first camera.
People frequently ask me why film photography? Nowadays, you can take quite decent photos even with your smartphone. On the one hand, they are right. However, personally speaking, using film cameras (and other old technologies) is like giving life to ancient gods. What I mean is not just consuming technology but merely a spiritual experience. Once old devices (photo cameras, cassette or VHS players, CRT screens, and so on) were mass-produced and therefore had been worshipped. Now they are widely abandoned and only can be found in local markets, “cyberpunk landfills,” or on geeks’ blog posts. In the case of film photography, this picture is slightly different.
Film photography is getting more and more popular. This is evidenced by emerging film producing companies, Kickstarter projects, the popularity of instant and disposable cameras. The return of interest in the market of big companies can change the global picture. For example, Kodak increased its film price in 2020 and announced a second price increase in 2021. Ilford started producing its own cameras. Besides, one of the new models of Polaroid can connect with your smartphone via Bluetooth.
In my humble opinion, the abovementioned trend can become a threat to personal expression. Companies started to summon old gods, tame them again and put them back into conveyor tracks for a mass-production. This can be dangerous because the essence of individuality could be lost. An expression may become less important, and all that matters is to consume. The idea of analog technology, especially in our times, lies in exploring and experimenting, making mistakes, and succeeding. However, it is worth noting that serious projects can not be done without a guarantee of quality.
The excitement of a new camera
Optima 535 Sensor
Another joy comes into play when you come across a new camera. At first glance, it looks functional, but you can not be sure of it. So, you load an expired or new film, shoot and wait. I bought an Agfa Optima 535 camera in the Poznan flea market. It comes with a decent look, good build quality, and a fast lens (f/2.8). Once you get your scans, the feeling becomes irreplaceable. It worked, hooray! Here are some results.
Voigtlander Virtus 08 and Canon IXUS AF
One I bought in the Poznan flea market and the second one in the Tbilisi flea market, a.k.a. Dry Bridge (“Mshrali Khidi”). Both are APS cameras which means they use Advanced Photo System films. Films were first produced in 1996, and the technology was predicted to have a great future. The format was smaller than the full-frame, 24 mm. Basically, all APS cameras had 3 modes. The user was able to change between original size, Square, and Panorama mode. Although the proportion of the picture could be adjusted during the printing process. The film was stored in the original cartridge after development. Separate devices also were available, enhancing the function of the system. For instance, APS film slideshow devices, which could connect to a TV. The cartridge also carried more information than the usual 35 mm. For example, markings on the film could say that the film was either unused, used but not exposed fully, exposed fully, and developed.
APS technology was designed for mass production in means of affordability, availability, and simplicity. Everything was going well until the advent of digital technologies. Honestly, I am pretty fond of this technology. If it was still available in the market, I would not even buy a 35 mm film.
I bought this beautiful point-and-shoot camera from an old lady. We met at her house and talked a lot. She even gave me a magazine about photography for free. The camera features a glass lens, and as it seems, it takes decent photos. Searching for analog cameras may be full of surprises.
Pentax PC-330, Haking MB, and Wizen DX
Despite the mass production of films and related products, I think there will always be a person who prefers to buy expired films and cheap cameras in a flea market rather than ordering products from mega-companies or resellers. Personally, I am this kind of person. This may be a way of personal rebellion against consumerism. All you have to do is continue searching until you find something rare and incredible.