I was discussing film cameras with a photography friend this weekend, and the conversation of Point n’ Shoot cameras came up. While I love Point & Shoot Cameras, I think there is some serious hype going on that should be avoided, or that film photographers (especially new ones) need to be aware of.
The Hype Bubble
I won’t go into the details of Kendall Jenner’s Contax T2 and her effect on film photography, but I’ll start this post with a nod to it.
I harbor no resentment. In fact, I think it’s great when more people get into film because demand keeps production going and anything that keeps film alive is OK in my book.
My problem isn’t even with the prices of PnS cameras skyrocketing either. Because the Contax T2 is in fact, an excellent camera. My issue is with the overall value of the tool versus what people are now willing to pay for it.
A Camera By Any Other Name
Contax’s and Olympus MJU’s are excellent cameras. No doubt.
However, I came across a Youtube “influencer” yesterday who was using a Contax G-series in a video for FILM BEGINNERS. That is a problem in my mind.
I think beginners shouldn’t be given the impression that they need a $900 camera from the early 1990’s, or that those are the only option. It seems more and more people are grabbing them as status symbols. And that’s fine, if that is all you are looking for.
For someone who is just starting out with 35mm film and wants the simplicity of a Point and Shoot (though I’d argue an SLR like a Pentax or Minolta will teach you more) there are so many inexpensive alternatives that will produce nearly-as-good photos as something like a Contax. They might not look as cool, but they will work.
I still firmly believe mechanical is the way to go with old cameras. They are sturdy and can be repaired in many cases.
Point and Shoot Cameras are often electronic, and if something malfunctions on them, you’ll have a hell of a time trying to find parts and a repair/service shop. This makes investing in an high-priced PnS camera a risky proposition.
The other thing to consider is that Point and Shoots are by their nature limited. Their convenience comes with trade offs. You can stuff them in your pocket, but they’ll never give you the control and flexibility of an SLR or even a rangefinder. Often that’s fine, but I think there is a kind of intangible “value cap” on what they are capable of. I personally go digital when it comes to PnS. I stick with SLR and Rangefinder for film.
If you want to get into film photography, $1000 could buy you multiple SLR’s, lenses, a rangefinder, and a couple of decent point and shoots. Plus lots of film!
It is What It is
This post may sound a bit rant-ish, and perhaps it is, but I’m not complaining for the sake of it. I feel the same way about beginners being exposed to Leica’s on the internet as teh defacto rangefinder.
To round things out, Here’s a quick list of questions to mull over before you purchase ANY camera:
- What functions do I need it to perform?
- Can it be easily repaired?
- Is it within my budget?
- Are there comparable cameras that provide the same quality at a lower cost?
- Do a lot of people on Youtube and Instagram hype this camera up?
Those questions along with twenty minutes of research should set up anyone looking for a 35mm Point and Shoot Camera for success. Honestly, there are probably quite a few well-loved ones waiting at your local thrift store for $15 right now.