Film camera days
Remember a time before digital cameras and smartphones made everyone an instant photographer? Image Credit: Seyyed de Llata/Gulf News

Handwritten letters, fountain pens, rotary phones, typewriters, Walkman, film cameras, VHS tapes -- are these the stuff of the yesteryears? An essential yesterday, forgotten today? Have they lost their charm and utility with the passage of time, leaving just lingering memories?

An era before digital and mobile phone cameras made film cameras redundant when memories were stored in each precious frame - obsolete gadgets and their impact in bygone eras make for a fascinating recall. Check them out – with a piece of history and some quirky facts.

Here is the fourth in a six-part series of stories. Part three: The days of cassette player, Betamax and VHS

My first camera and memories of another day

Image Credit: Seyyed de Llata/Gulf News

By Shyam A. Krishna, Senior Associate Editor

The routine is fresh in my memory. I turn my back to the sun, and in the shade of my body, the leader is extended and the sprockets placed into the grooves. Wind it a bit to ensure the film moves smoothly. Voila, the film is loaded. Time to start shooting.

Wait. Not so soon. You got to be careful because you have only 36 frames. Every frame is precious, and each exposure requires planning. The right composition, the correct aperture to define the depth of field, and the optimal shutter speed have to be considered before squeezing the camera shutter button.

That was the era of film cameras. Now I own a DSLR, a Canon D60. But a Minolta X-700 occupies a special place in my heart. That was the first camera I bought. I pampered it with additional lenses: two telephoto lenses and a zoom and Hoya filters.

I learned photography late in my teens with a borrowed camera. First, it was a Brownie 127mm film camera; then an Agfa Isoly 120mm. Later I relied on the gratitude of a friend who lent his Minolta SRT Super. It gave total control over exposure and even had a light meter that helped eliminate exposure calculations. Much of my shooting skills were honed on this 35mm camera.

Ten years after my first job, I owned my first camera: a Minolta X-700. Unused today, it is stashed away in a box in the cupboard. I miss it: the feel of thumb on the rewind lever while peering through the viewfinder and squeezing the exposure button, followed by the sound of shutter and mirror.

It helped capture some memorable moments in my life. My son’s childhood and my daughter’s mischief are all there in film — in negatives and prints. In between, there have been shots of still life and landscape.

When digital arrived, my interest in photography had waned. I still shoot, but very rarely. But the passion is alive in my daughter. My Canon D60 is safe in her hands.

The gone days of film photography stored in my mind

Image Credit: Seyyed de Llata/Gulf News

By Faisal Masudi, Assistant Editor

Smartphones have made everyone an instant photographer today. Back when I was a teen, in the mid-1990s, photography was an occasion in itself; something I planned for and looked forwarded to – and pictures meant “real” photographs I held in my hands, like a memory I could literary keep close to myself.

I’m talking about the gone days of film photography, deleted by point-and-shoot digital cameras.

The film was special; it was limited (and still is today). When you looked through the viewfinder of the film camera, you knew it had to be for something worthwhile, as you only had a limited number of exposures in the camera. I had to be selective about what I would like to look at again, like a photograph.

We all had to create that moment with friends and family, inside the frame, fiddling with the settings.

Once the film roll inside the camera hit its limit (usually 24 or 36 shots), I used to guard my dad’s Olympus film camera (and even those plastic disposable ones) lest all those memories inside the chamber are lost forever if the camera back inadvertently opened before it made it to the darkroom for development.

After the trip to the photo studio, I would impatiently wait a day or two to collect the envelope of processed photos to see how they had turned out; to relive those captured scenes again. Those occasional imperfections of “red-eye” and “light leaks” added a touch of surreal effects to the people or scenes in the photographs, which seemed a step closer to my dreams, the memories inside my head and heart. The technically-perfect, ultra-sharp endless images on our smart screens these days only get a fleeting glance as we swipe over to the next one, then the next one, then the next one…

A ruined photograph was a ruined memory, and no one wanted to lose that forever.

Image Credit: Seyyed de Llata/Gulf News

Tomorrow: Walking with the Walkman, which brings music to the ears