I took the Optima 1a (built 1962) with me on a street walk on Saturday. Attempting street photography with this camera was always going to be a challenge. Street photography is always a challenge, but even more so with the limitations I imposed on myself.
I grew up with film and that is how I learnt my photography, and why I appreciate digital. Using film puts additional barriers between you viewing a subject and the finished result. The processing alone can present challenges. Although I am quite adept with the physical process there are decisions to be made about chemistry to be used, dilutions and processing times. And then there is the possibility of damaging the film – I know I have done so in the past.
I did most of my photography in my young days using an Olympus OM1 and a Mamyia C220 twin lens. Each had manual focus and manual exposure control and I learnt through experience how to use them both quite well, but that was 30 years ago and for 20 of those years I did virtually no photography at all. However I thought I could easily get back into the hang of using film. The Optima 1a is quite different though. It is automatic exposure. It also has manual focus, but not focus you can see, the distance needs to be pre-set, this is taking some getting used to.
Another factor to be considered when using this camera is the maximum ASA of 200. Most street photographers I know are using a minimum of 400ASA. With the automatic exposure control there is no indication of shutter speed, therefore there was no way of knowing if moving objects would have motion blur. I expected they would but did not know to what degree, but I found out.
Sometimes I look at photographs and ask - did the photographer mean to do that? We have probably all at some stage found elements in a picture we did not realise where there. Some images can be quite a surprise, like the one below. I would like to say I deliberately focused on the women in the background, but not so. I am pleased with the outcome though.
I bought 1 roll of FP4 24 exposure and set off. I decided to limit myself to 24. I have always said learning my photography with film has greatly influenced what I do digitally. Film is expensive so I was always careful to pick my subjects and not over shoot. This is exactly how I photograph with my digital camera. But what surprised me was how fast I flew through the 24 exposures. I think the change from digital to film and using the vintage camera freed me up physiologically, After all if I didn’t get any decent shots I could always blame the old camera!
The shots on this page are all from that 1 roll of FP4. I have learnt a lot and am now considering how next to challenge myself with this camera. If you have any suggestions for the next Optima 1a challenge I would love hear them. I have decided to stick to the 24 exposures for each challenge but may change films.