The cheap bastard guide to (film) photography – Part III: Large format

Linhof Technica III second version

The large format options are more limited.

In reality there are dozens of possibility, but the larger the format the more difficult to find a good camera for a cheap price.

And the admission ticket starts to skyrocket too…


UP TO 150€

  • Graflex Speed Graphic (various models) with one lens
  • MPP (various models) without lens
  • An old Arca / Linhof / Plaubel 4×5 studio camera (non folding)


UP TO 300€

  • Bush Pressman model D with one lens
  • A Toyo / Horseman folding, without lens
  • Linhof Technika III (4×5 or 5×7) with one lens


UP TO 500€

  • Shen-Hao / Tachihara 4×5 without lens
  • A Toyo / Horseman folding, with one lens

A few notes

When you buy a large format camera you have to be sure that the bellows is light tight. If there are just a couple of holes, however, you may use them to get a discount, and then fix the leaks with a bit of black heavy tape or liquid rubber.

The Speed Graphic are a bit limited with regards to the movements, but are still capable of great results.

The Linhof are on the heavy side, being all metal, but tough as rocks and beautifully engineered. Various MPP models are essentially Linhof copies.

An old – but good – non folding, studio camera is difficult to carry, being heavy and large; however many great masters do just fine this way, and it is the ultimate solution for the ones who want every possible movement. Besides, if you often shoot near your car and do not hike long stretches, it is not a bid deal.

Shen-Hao and Tachihara are a beauty to behold, but are a tad pricey and, being made of wood, more delicate – but also more light.

Next time we’ll talk about films, developers and scanners.

Stay tuned.


The cheap bastard guide to (film) photography – Part II: Medium format

Hasselblad 500c/m

With medium format cameras the price of the admission ticket used to be pretty steep. Thankfully to the explosion of the digital craziness now you may buy cameras that costed thousand of euro for a few bucks. Keep in mind that the quality will be correlated to the original price, not the one you will pay now!

I will not include in the “up to 50€” section cheap cameras like the Holga, the Diana or the Agfa Clack; if you like the specific look they deliver they are really good, but for a first-timer in the medium format world probably not the best choice.

All the same, in the “up to 150 / 200€” section I decided to not include the Pentacon Six and the various russian cameras, because at this price point I think you may buy cameras much more reliables nowadays.

Keep in mind that more often than not you will need an external exposure meter (not with the Fuji GS645, the Pentax 645 or if you’ll buy an exposure finder). You may also use the meter of another camera, obviously, but this would mean taking more weight with you; your choice.


UP TO 50€

  • Rolleicord IIb / IIc with Zeiss Triotar 75/3,5


UP TO 150 / 200€

  • every Rolleicord with a Schneider Xenar 75/3,5
  • Fuji GS645*
  • Fuji GW690*
  • Mamiya M645 with 80/2,8
  • Mamiya RB67 with 90/3,5
  • Zenza Bronica ETR / ETRs / ETRsi with 75/2,8

* rangefinder cameras

Rolleiflex Rolleicord Vb

UP TO 400 / 500€

  • Fuji GX680 with a couple lenses and an AA battery adapter
  • Hasselblad 500c/m with Zeiss Planar 80/2,8
  • Hasselblad 500EL with Zeiss Planar 80/2,8
  • Mamiya RZ67 with 110/2,8
  • Pentax 645 with 75/2,8
  • Pentax 67 with 105/2,5 and TTL finder
  • Rolleiflex with Zeiss Planar 3,5 and meter

Rolleicord, Rolleiflex and the two Fuji rangefinder are all fixed, non-interchangeable lens cameras.

For the others you can pick a wide angle and a tele for under 300€ total, often for much less.

See you next time, with the large format options.


The cheap bastard guide to (film) photography – Part I: Shooting in 35mm

Olympus XA

35mm is the film format with the more choices.

Pretty much every reflex made in the past 60 years is capable of delivering great results, assuming that is working within specs – i.e. it’s not broken. The prices are pretty close grouped too, at least at the same level of sophistication.

So in this case the differences are in ease of use and number of functions. Why buy a no-name camera when now for pretty much the same money you can have, for example, a Nikon?


UP TO 50€

At this price point you can already find fully professional, manual cameras, like:


  • Canon EFM
  • Contax 139 Quartz / 159 with a 50/1,7 or 50/2 Yashica ML
  • Minolta X700 with a 50/1,7 Rokkor
  • Nikon FG / FG20 / FM with a 50/1,8 Nikkor
  • Olympus OM1 / OM1md / OM2 with a 50/1,8mm OM Zuiko lens
  • Pentax ME Super / MX with a 50/1,7 Pentax M
  • Yashica FR-I with 50/2 or 50/1,7 Yashica ML


A few autofocus, motorized cameras like:


  • Canon Eos 650 / 620 / RT / 1000 / 500


Or the rangefinders from Russia:


  • Kiev 4AM with 50/2 Jupiter-8 (a beautiful Sonnar copy)
  • Zorki 4k with a 50mm


In a class on its own is the:


  • Olympus XA

It is an extremely small rangefinder camera with an exceptionally good 35/2,8 and aperture priority exposure. Its price varies quite a bit; you can often find one for 30€, but sometime it sells for over 150€!


Your choice will be determined more from what you like esthetically than anything else, even though if you have a digital camera with interchangeable lenses you may well check if the lenses of the film camera system you are going to buy are compatible; in this case with a simple and cheap adapter you can use them with both.

 Pentax ME Super

UP TO 150€ / 200€

Here we are entering in the realm of the admirals, autofocus and with fast motors.


  • Canon Eos 1 / 1n with 50/1,8 EF
  • Nikon F4 / F4s with 50/1,8 Nikon AF
  • Pentax Z1 with 50/1,7 AF


Or the amazing – but with a s****y finder:


  • Contax G1 with 45/2 Zeiss Planar



UP TO 500€

And now come the queens.

First the rangefinders:


  • Minolta CLE with 40/2 M-Rokkor or Leica Summicron-C
  • Leica M2 / M3 with 50/3,5 Elmar


And then the fastest reflex:


  • Canon Eos 1V
  • Canon Eos 3
  • Nikon F5


 Nikon Lenses


If you happen to have a camera and want just a suggestion for a few cheap – but extremely good – lenses here we are.

Please keep in mind that with an adapter you can use Nikon, Olympus and Pentax lenses on Canon EF bodies, even if with a bit of discomfort (you will have to manually close the aperture before each shot and / or focus with the aperture closed at the working value).


ALL UNDER 50€ (in italics) / 100€, for SLRs

  • 20/3,5 Nikkor UD pre-Ai
  • 24/2,8 Nikkor pre-Ai or Ai
  • 24/2,8 Olympus OM Zuiko
  • 28/2,5 Minolta MC W-Rokkor SI
  • 28/2,8 Tokina RMC (various mounts)
  • 28/3,5 or 28/2,8 Nikkor Ai
  • 28/3,5 Olympus OM Zuiko
  • 28/2,8 Yashica ML
  • 28-85/3,5-4,5 Yashica ML
  • 35/2 Nikkor O pre-Ai
  • 35/2,8 Olympus OM Zuiko
  • 35/2,8 Yashica ML
  • every 50/1,7, 50/1,8 or 50/2 Minolta / Nikkor / Olympus OM Zuiko / Pentax
  • 50/1,8 Canon EF
  • 50/3,5 Nikkor Micro Nikkor pre-Ai
  • 50/1,4 Pentax S-M-C Takumar
  • 50/4 Pentax M Macro
  • 50/1,7 or 50/2 Yashica ML
  • 85/2 Nikkor Ai
  • 135/3,5 Minolta MD
  • 135/3,5 Olympus OM Zuiko
  • 100-300/5,6 Nikon Ai
  • 80-200/4 Yashica ML


ALL UNDER 50€ (in italics) / 100€ for Rangefinders (Leica screw M39 or Kiev 4 mount)

  • 35/2,8 Jupiter-12
  • 50/3,5 Industar-22
  • 50/2 Jupiter-8
  • 55/2,8 Industar-61 L/D
  • 85/2 Jupiter-9

And if you have a Contax G series camera each and every Contax G lens:

  • 21/2,8
  • 28/28
  • 35/2
  • 45/2
  • 90/2

For one of these you can expect to pay from 150€ (for the 90) up to under 350€ (for the 21).


See you next time with the medium format options.


The cheap bastard guide to (film) photography: introduction

The cheap bastard guide to film photography

If you’re a beginner that never touched a camera before or a digital shooter that wants to dip his toe in the vast pond of film photography you may feel overwhelmed with the amount of choices you face.

After all film cameras have been around quite a bit, so you may find them in all shapes, formats and prices. Where to start? This guide is for you!

I will treat each film format separately, and recommend when possible at least three alternatives: under 50€, under 100/200€ and under 500€. Like I said the choices are many, so I will exclusively talk about cameras and lenses I personally used, or of which I’ve seen examples first hand.

By the way, while 500€ is not by any mean cheap, you have to put things in context: it is still the average price of a good quality compact camera, and less than the price of a decent smartphone.

Especially if you are a complete beginner, you may have trouble just choosing with which format to shoot. There are no rules set in stone, meaning that you can use a large format camera for street photography or shoot landscapes with a 35mm. But below are the most common choices:

Street photography & Reportage

This is the realm of 35mm film. You may also consider “fast” medium format rangefinders like the Fuji GS645.



In this case medium format is your best bet.



From 35mm to large format, mostly depending on the style you want to pursue and if you prefer dynamic or more static, posed shots.

 Pentax 67


At least medium format, if not large format. That said, a master like Galen Rowell used 35mm cameras for portability.



You will need probably lots of movements, so shooting large format is recommended.


When it comes to choosing what kind of lenses you want to buy you should look at a critical selection of your pictures – the ones you like the most – and compile a small “statistic” of the focal lenght you used the most.

If you are a total beginner you better do the same, but using pictures shot from photography masters or, at the very least, you’ve selected from sites like Flickr, 500px etc. and dividing the results for wide-angles, normal lenses and tele – just check the EXIF datas.

And now a preview of how this series will develop – the links will become active once the corresponding post is online:


Part I: 35mm
Part II: Medium format
Part III: Large format
Part IV: Films and developers
Part V: Digitizing the pictures


Next time we’ll start with the 35mm.


How many megapixels do you need?

How many megapixels do you need to print on a specific paper size

I made this simple table for personal use, than I thought it may came in handy to others too, so here we are.

It sums up how many megapixels do you need to print on each of the more common paper sizes available.

Given that the level of quality requested varies according to the kind of image – a portrait will be more enlargeable without artifacts or softness than a detailed landscape, for example – I’ve set three thresholds at 200, 260 and 300 dpi.

Please note that here we are talking about PRINT resolution, not PRINTER one.

If you don’t have this point clear please read one of the basic introductions available online. Let’s suffice to say that normally you will have to “stretch” the megapixel of your picture onto the area you intend to print; to have a quality result you don’t want to stretch them too much, and that’s what I’m talking about.

Printer resolution, on the other end, refers to the way printers manage to actually create an image putting thousand of ink dots one after the other on a piece of paper.

While print resolution – how many megapixels you need to cover the area of a piece of paper – it is alway the same regardless of the device used to create the image on paper, printer resolution varies wildly between models, makers and technologies used.

Panorama multishot Olympus shift 35mm f/2,8 OM Zuiko

And now let’s look at the table. In the first column you find the paper format; in the seconds its size; in the third, fourth and fifth how many megapixels do you need for each print resolution, from the worst (200 dpi, in red) to the best (300 dpi, in green). You may pull it off with 200 dpi if the viewing distance for your print is not very close, especially if there is an actual physical impediment for the people to getting closer; otherwise everyone usually tends to stuck its nose to the print searching for more detail – and at 200 dpi this detail it will simply not be there.

In the last column I’ve listed how many shots you will need to use if you decide to join multiple frames in a matrix fashion to achieve a resolution of 300dpi with a 21-24 Megapixels camera* (first number is the total of shots needed, then how many shots rows x columns).


*With a 20% margin of juxtaposition to join the frames flawlessly


Paper format

Paper size
(mm / in)

200dpi260dpi300dpiN° of shots
[rows x columns]
A01189 x 841mm
46.8 x 33.1″
628914015 [ 5 x 3 ]
800 x 800mm
31.4 x 31.4″ 
3957899 [ 3 x 3 ]
A1841 x 594mm
33.1 x 23.4″ 
3145706 [ 3 x 2 ]
700 x 700mm
27.5 x 27.5″ 
304468 6 [ 3 x 2 ]
600 x 600mm
23.6 x 23.6″ 
223250 4 [ 2 x 2 ] 
A2594 x 420mm
23.4 x 16.5″ 
2235 2 [ 2 x 1 ]
500 x 500mm
19.6 x 19.6″ 
2235 2 [ 2 x 1 ]
A3420 x 297mm
16.5 x 11.7″
 11 17