Originally uploaded by CarusoPhoto
A couple of weeks ago I picked up a new low tech toy, a Vivitar 3800 film with a Pentax K-Mount 50mm f/1.7 lens. Now I realize that in the grand scheme of things, the 3800 isn’t in the same league as some of my other film cameras such as my Canon EOS 1, EOS 5, or my Nikon F100. But that’s the point. Like my love of toy cameras, I am enamored with this all mechanical machine. There are no batteries to buy, no battery packs to charge. (Alright, there are a couple of watch batteries for the light meter, but the light meter isn’t essential.) It has a satisfying, mechanical shutter sound. It’s an all manual throwback: manual focus, manual aperture setting, manual shutter speed setting, manual loading….
I have been intrigued in the 3800 for some time now, but never was able to commit to picking one up. Finally, with a gift certificate, I decided to just go ahead and buy it. If i really hated it, I’d only be out $150, and at least I’d have a lens to show for it. But the wonderful thing is that I do like it. The appeal lies in the bare-bones, stripped down, man-and-machine-against-the-world feeling. Like the classic “student” cameras of days gone by (think Pentax K1000), making photographs with this camera compels me to use–and expand–my photographic knowledge and experience.
When I’m in the mood to shoot film, I have many choices. I can run the gamut from high tech SLRs to the lowest of tech toy cameras…and have many stops in between. This camera fits nicely in the niche occupied by the older SLRs I own (pre-auto focus). Sure, I have an old Canon A1which is manual focus, but this baby just has an entirely different vibe, feel, and tone. I have grabbed this camera when my A1 just didn’t feel right. Similarly, there will be situations when this one won’t be my tool of choice. However, like so many aspects of photography, the creative process is all about feel, instinct, and choice. By adding this admittedly less-than-glamorous body to my camera bag, I have given myself the opportunity to expand just a little bit more. And, of course, I have a new toy to play with.