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Old Technology and Great Photos

Though I’ve not contributed many of them, you’ve seen some amazing pictures posted on Climbinghouse over the past year. Most of these photos have been taken on very nice, very expensive Canon and Nikon cameras. Eli, Ron and Charlie, all aspiring photographers, have each taken stunning, professional quality shots.


I’m told that many years ago people took photos on a something known as “film.” This film would then be transported to a drugstore to be “developed.” The photographer would then come back on a later date and collect his pictures from the “employees.” Tyler recently purchased one of these relics and has been having fun (re)discovering the lost art of film. Since I know very little about cameras in general, I asked Tyler to contribute some pictures and explain the interesting details of his new old camera…

AE-1 Program. Yessir, old school.

How did you get the camera?

-Eli and I went to a camera shop in Denver to check out large format cameras, and I finally had the chance to see the AE-1 Program in person. It’s dead sexy, so I bought it. I’ve been interested in photography for a while – I enjoy seeing the images that Ron, Eli, and Charlie produce, and wanted in on the fun. Unfortunately, digital SLRs (single lens reflex) are a little too expensive for me right now, so I started researching film SLRs, and liked the AE-1 Program.

How old is the camera?

-This camera is about as old as I am. They started producing the AE-1 Program in 1981, and continued making it until the late 80’s. I’m not sure of the exact date of production of my camera, but it’s somewhere in that range.

Ron using a modern image capturing device

Give me a general statement of where photography technology stood when that camera hit the market and how it stacked up – was it top of the line in it’s day?

-The camera was a bit of a bridge between two generations of camera technology. It’s predecessor, the AE-1, had an analog light meter in the viewfinder. The photographer would tell the camera how sensitive the film (ISO) in the body was, and set the shutter speed. The camera would use those two inputs to determine how much light was necessary for a proper exposure, and a needle in the viewfinder would point to the aperture that would provide that amount of light. (The aperture of a lens is the diameter of the hole through which light travels onto the film.)

The AE-1 Program added an automatic mode – turn the lens aperture to “Automatic,” the shutter speed to “Program,” and the camera chooses shutter speed and aperture for the photographer. Ballin’.

The next generation of Canon cameras were the Rebel EOS’s, and they represented big steps up in technology. They added autofocusing lenses, and many more automatic functions.


How do you get film developed and digital images?

– I’m doing a little research into this right now. There are a number of places that will develop the film for you, which is great, as I have no facilities, or knowledge with which to develop the film myself. The shops will scan the developed film, and burn the images onto a disc. I’ve had two rolls developed and scanned so far, and the image quality is poor. The shops are scanning at a much lower resolution than should be possible, so I’m going to take the next roll to Photo Express, where they’ll scan at a much higher resolution.


A note about the black and white film you used for the bouldering pics.

-One of the nice things about black and white film photography is that film has better contrast ratio available than digital. That means that the blacks are blacker, the lights are lighter, and there’s an infinite spectrum of gray. Of course, if the film is getting scanned, then we’re back to digital shades of gray. This is where making prints comes in handy, but I’ll have to do some more research into enlarging photos myself.

Any more cool/useful info.

-I like the AE-1 Program, because it has a reputation as a solid, dependable camera with great image quality, and its simple. No menus to navigate, no lens correction, no in-camera contrast, brightness, saturation, no nothing. Just shutter, aperture, and ISO. No shot previews, no delete button. You decide your depth of field with aperture, compose your shot, focus, and shoot, if the shot’s worth taking. It’s great.

Getting rid of some calluses

Thanks to Tyler for some great photos and info!

Adayak - My dad used to have this same exact camera! He has it sitting up on a bookshelf like it’s an antique … nice to know it could still nice good shots if needed.June 15, 2010 – 2:28 pm

Kate - Great pics Tyler! I love the black and whiteJune 16, 2010 – 8:55 am

Tyler - Thanks, Kate! It’s the first roll of film that I shot, so hopefully there will be more keepers in the future.

Adayak, you should pull that camera off the shelf and give it a try, the camera’s pretty fun to use. You can find the manual here: and here:

You’ve got some cool shirts up on!June 25, 2010 – 2:49 pm

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