What can be used from my old film camera bag?

In my camera classes I sometimes get a number of questions concerning the Days of Films and how to relate to our current state of Digital. Some started with film and have a camera bags full of lenses and other interesting stuff and are wondering if any of this can be used with digital. Well unless you want to go back to the wet plates a lot of this stuff can’t be used on digital cameras but some can. Here is a short list of a few of them.

Can’t be used;

Many of the lenses will not work (or worst can get stuck) on newer digital cameras. This is often the most painful truth. The digital computers in the camera will not communicate with that expensive and high quality glass. All those little gold plated contact points on both the camera body and the lens are there for better F stops and auto focus. There are some high end camera bodies that can take some of the lenses from the last few years of film but in general both film bodies and lenses only will work as a team.

May be used but…

Flashes: For many models the flash attach at the hot shoe or that little bracket at the top of the camera. While the camera will cause the flash to go off it will not communicate with the flash as to power settings. Many pros will use these older flashes as extra flashes with a radio or flash control attached to them. Then when the main flash goes off these extra flashes go off too adding more light to the image.

Filters: A filter can be a round screw on type or a flat square that needs a special holder. Both go on the front of the lens adding color or are dark which can control the F stop or increase the shutter speed. Many digital photographers use what is called a graduated filter when doing landscapes. Graduated filters look like a half dark/half clear glass, which when the dark part is placed over the sky part of the image darkens it down to balance the exposure with the ground area. This is because the sky is always brighter than the ground sometimes by 2 stops. Some filters are all dark which are called Neutral Density Filters. These come in ratings of 1, 2, 3, or 4 which relate to the stops of exposure they are affecting. Very helpful in bright shots like in the desert or if you want to be creative with waterfall and get that angle hair look. Another useful filter is the Polarizer that filters the light rays making the blue in the sky darker or helping to take out glare.

Colored Filters: These I tend to stay away from for a couple of reasons. Most of the color filters were used in Black and White photography or color corrections. Digital cameras tend to White Balance the image and a color filter on the lens can really throw that off. And second I am a strong believer in shooting in RAW and it is so much easier to adjust the color there.

Not a problem to use;

Light meters: These are the hand held meters that measure the light falling on the white domes so that you set the camera for a good exposure. Walking around and taking light readings can tell you if you may have problems with hot spots or too dark areas. If you are Jpeg shooter keep in mind that Jpegs only have about an exposure range of 1/3 of stop over or about ½ stop under before you start to lose image highlights or shadow details. For still life or even landscape work you might want that detail. It is better to think about that while you setting up the shot than at the computer later. Also some of these meters can also measure flash exposure which is helpful when you have more than one light set up. In any case when you are using a meter you should be shooting in Manual or at least an A or AV Priority mode to take advantage of these readings.

Outside of that all camera bags, straps, and left over candy found in the bags is fair game.


Bill G.

The Digital Fieldguild to Photography and Photoshop

10+ hours
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