Film comeback, airport angst as more question security scanning
Film is making a big comeback, perhaps in reaction to the technological excess of the digital age. To have a camera with just two controls, aperture and shutter speed, is quite a tonic after wrestling with a modern digital camera, even a Leica digital which prides itself on minimal controls.
Sales of old film cameras are booming and one manufacturer in particular is benefiting. Leica is still making film cameras, with no fewer than three models on the shelves—the automatic M7, the semi-automatic MP and the back-to-basics MA without even a light meter to help you find your way. But the beauty of film is that almost any Leica, certainly any Leica since the M3 in 1954, will produce great results—depending on lens, of course. Even the older pre-1959 twin-viewfinder IIIs produce surprisingly good results despite the need to use the older screw-mount lenses which are less technically advanced than more modern M-mount optics.
So it isn’t necessary to spend a fortune on a film camera to ensure first-class results. A battered but serviceable M3 can be had from around £350-400 while even a modern M6 or M7 can be snapped up for not much more than twice that price.
When you buy one of these cameras you are looking at negligible depreciation, unlike the case with digitals. There’s even a prospect of appreciation rather than depreciation, thus paving the way for really cheap photography. In fact, the lack of depreciation more than compensates for the cost of film and developing.
With this new-found popularity, with many younger photographers encountering film for the first time, comes X-ray angst. What happens when your precious developed film is forcibly pushed through the scanner at the airport? In most cases it isn’t any use protesting. Security staff have their orders and, frankly, the incidence of film being carried in hand luggage is pretty rare so it isn’t something they probably spend much time thinking about, nor feeling inclined to hand search.
I was therefore interested to read Bellamy Hunt’s experiences in passing through London Heathrow. Bellamy is the man behind the successful Japanese photographic site, Japan Camera Hunter, and has a big following among photographers worldwide. He’s a big film man and his article, which you can find here, makes for fascinating reading.