It’s not just about nostalgia. The majority of people using film have only started to in the last five years.
There should be some kind of law that states that for every advance in technology, there is an opposite — if not equal — reaction; for every digital step forward, there’s an analogue step back. So, as music is streamed, sales of vinyl records reach all-time highs, for example; as smartwatches come into view, the mechanical watch remains as desirable as ever; as home lighting moves towards eco and LED bulbs, so people start hoarding the old, incandescent variety, preferring the warmth of the light. Maybe it could be called ‘Grandpa’s Law’, on the basis that it’s a grandparent’s duty to inform their grandchildren of just how much better things were in the good old days.
So it’s not altogether surprising, now so many of us have a gadget in our pockets capable of taking endless high-quality shots — that’s the quality of the resolution, not typically the image, sadly — people are developing a love of film photography again. That’s the kind many professional photographers said they’d never leave behind. Until, that is, they find just how more convenient digital is. Of course, there is a craft to shooting with and developing film — one that might be said to outclass the does- everything-for-you-except-push-the-button cleverness of modern digital cameras. And it’s not all about nostalgia. While sales of film in all formats are rising, some 60 per cent of the people buying it now, have only started to within the last five years.
But, beyond that, there is the appeal of the cameras themselves, as design objects. Indeed, it’s these, seemingly redundant cameras that have become collectable, and with their chunkiness, their often steampunk-ish looks, their levers and knobs and calibrations, it’s easy to understand why. They look good just sat on a shelf. Surely this is why even makers of digital cameras, the likes of Panasonic, Leica and the pioneering Fujifilm, have pursued the same aesthetic — wrapping cutting-edge tech inside decidedly old school cases; and why even Polaroid-style, instant print cameras have made a hipster comeback too.
Retro Cameras (written by John Wade, published by Thames & Hudson) is the guide to not only taking better pictures using film but to the coolest vintage cameras on the second-hand market. It focuses on the top 100 cameras in detail — from SLRs to 35mm viewfinder models, from twin lens reflexes to Instamatics. And if you’re not sure what any of that means, just ask grandpa.