35mm Film Cameras for use during a Zombie Apocalypse in 2016

I said smile dude...! 

The Zombie Apocalypse is upon us! If you are going to go out to document the last days of mankind, what would you use? Let's be fair, the Internet would die, and unless someone had access to your digital camera raw files, they would never be able to see how the world really ended. So your best bet would be to get a film camera to document everything before a Zombie gets you and eats your brain. So what are your choices? Read on. 

Nikon F6

Yup, still selling after all these years, be prepared to pay up to US$2600 to own one. This is like driving an all auto car, nothing to worry about, just point and shoot. The intelligent system will take care of backlighting and is weather sealed to prevent dust and water. So if you are running away from zombies through mud and grime, you'd be pretty sure the camera would work so long as you have these AA batteries handy. That's right, for all the metering and shutter to work, it needs to be powered up. This is what a professional photographer from the film age would buy. Lenses are autofocus too so no worries. Think of this as the Porsche of the analog camera world. 

Nikon FM10

It is like riding a five speed bicycle. Not the fastest camera, all manual...think of it as driving a stick shift, and the intelligence has to be from you and not the camera. It needs a battery to power up the light metering but aside from this, the camera will work without one if you know the Sunny 16 rule for film exposure. Selling for less than US$600, it is as dependable as an ice cream truck when you are getting away from brain eating zombies. 

Leica MP and M7

The M Professional or the M7 are both very similar, in that it cost a bomb to own. The M7 is the cheaper brother which cost in the ballpark of US$4,400 while the MP is up there at US$7,000. The exquisite Leica glass often cost more than the camera but that's another story. The Leica MP is for the Pro who prefers to have weather sealing. The MP uses SR44 cells to power the metering but beyond that, you don't have to worry much if you don't have it on your person. It still fires mechanically...but a word of warning... the M7 can't do the same. 

One of the problems with Rangefinders is that the viewfinder is a little off and without the proper frame lines within the viewfinder, you have to be psychic to shoot one. 

The M7 on the other hand is just another tool. I can't say much about these Ferraris of the analog camera world. Even though these German made machines are dependable enough to use as a weapon should a Zombie get you, it just doesn't quite fit the scenario if you had to pawn your left kidney to buy one. Then you have the split image focusing, which is quite a drag to use during low light. If money is no object to you then by all means ante up, and it uses 2L76 cell batteries if you want to have it shooting up to 60 rolls. 

Horizon Perfekt

A 35mm camera that shoots super wide images that encompasses two frames instead of one. This one is sold through the Lomo site and cost about US$350. Not bad if you want super wide panos on ordinary 135 film and with a selectable shutter speed, it probably is quite fun too. If you are looking to shoot wide open Zombie landscapes, this would be the perfect camera to use. As a wide angle camera, you could put yourself in a selfie the moment you are cornered by man eating zombies as a last documented proof that you have been assimilated. 

Lomo LCA+ and LCA Wide

Not one of my favs for reasons obvious, these are zone focusing cameras and what you see isn't what you get if you turn the focus dial wrongly. Some might like the blurry images as an art form but I beg to differ. However if you are not interested in pin sharp pictures of Zombies, hey....knock yourself. The LCA+ cost US$250 while the LCA Wide is US$390. Both are available for online purchase on the lomo site. 

Originally copied by the Russians and made famous as a point and shoot. The LCA was notorious when it came to reliability. So they sold out and gave the opportunity to the Chinese to make them but the camera's Mintar lens that made those gorgeous pictures famous are still Russian made. The color saturation difference between the normal 32mm focal length and 17mm focal length of the LCA Wide isn't much but the aperture on the LCA Wide isn't very useful in low light thanks to its f/4 aperture. 

So Here is the Deal...

Buy what you can afford. Each has its own quirks. Some require batteries, others don't. But if you want metering to be functioning, you need batteries, period. These could be the LR44 varieties for the Lomo LCA or AA batteries for the Nikon F6 with the battery grip or two CR123A without the grip. 

Lenses are another thing. For SLRs, having a zoom is great, and easier to shoot with. The Rangerfinders on the other hand requires you to have more than one lens at hand. Those with fixed focus lenses like the Lomo and Horizon will require you to run up close to your subject which can prove dangerous during a Zombie outbreak. 

Digital isn't going to cut it. Especially if you upload everything to the cloud, no one will ever see it. What's more, if your iPhone dies, your photos will die with it. That is why film is the way to go. Even if the exposed roll doesn't get developed immediately, your photos will remain intact as proven by people who bought used cameras from the last country and were still able to develop the unfinished roll of film within it. 

So if you want some semblance of legacy....shoot film. 


How Art became a victim of the Digital Age


Every artist secretly wants to continue doing what they love doing, and in doing so, they also hope to have the funds to continue this endeavor. 
I find it difficult to call myself an artist these days. Though never poor of talent but never rich enough to conquer the inevitable challenges of a chosen path. Everywhere I go these days, people talk of art for art sake, and how they have been robbed of their creation thanks to the digital world we live in. Take for example, Prince, who died recently and absolutely refuse to let people use his music unless it was paid for in some way. Or for that matter, artist photographers who are routinely called photoshop hacks because nothing they do is ever good enough for an audience fed on a steady stream of fake digital photos. 

What about the aging artist continue to struggle to get their work noticed, not that they are not any good but have yet to be discovered by social media. Then there are the craftsmen, who do what they do because of skill and technique and will never attain the merits of being an artist. 

Photography is no different. Photographic art sells, but for that you need to be a desktop artist and not one operating a digital camera. 

It's hard to justify the worth of a picture these days if it is shot in digital. I remember a time when being a photographer was a hardskill that had to be applied creatively. You need to know about the various types of film, how to develop it in a darkroom and how to print and dodge it with a enlarger. The chemicals were different, color negs, positive film, b/w and let's not forget about the type of paper used in the darkroom printing process. If a client want to blow up a picture to poster wall size, they come back to you and you have to find a good lab to do that. This was craftsmanship at its finest. 

Photographers were artist in the time of analogue film. They were admired and respected. The craftsmen of the photo trade also existed of course but they were not in high demand. These were the journeymen of the industry. Photographers who mastered the art of analog photography only developed those one of a kind prints. It wasn't something you'd find off a line printer because developing it on print also took a certain kind of skill. 
Today, the darkroom is a computer and the art is the digital filters you can dial in through Instagram or a camera app that works on your iPhone. 

Then the Internet came Along....

Digital is the way to go. There is nothing more to learn beyond processing it on a computer, which you must own of course, and with the right software...available free online if you know where to find it. What's more mobile apps offer you the chance to dial in those enhancements to photos with minimum skill. Want a sepia effect? Just ante up on that in-app purchase if you don't already have it. Digital has leveled the playing field so anyone with a smartphone can be a photographer. Even Steve McCurry, an ambassador of sorts for photojournalism declared he is no longer a photojournalist but a visual story teller. He switched places and got a whole lot of flak for this

Digital Photography is a non skill judging from the low expectations of both clients and photographers. If you try to explain the complex digital procedures during a shoot, they will laugh at you. Got a problem? The use Photoshop to solve it. For this, you need to be skilled in Photoshop....and talent hasn't got anything to do with it. It is a matter of skill on how you brush in or brush out a subject. You need to illuminate a certain area of a picture, you just dial in the overexposed in photoshop. You become a keyboard jockey once you learn all the hot keys needed to perform this on the fly. 

Lighting is very easy to learn these days with the instant results you get from digital filters and enhancements. Got a studio with strobes? Even simpler! Shoot each frame and compare the lighting exposure. It takes a fraction of a second for a frame to be shot and if you can't get it right after 3 shots, you got to be autistic. It was different in the days of analog. Even after taking exposure readings, you had to bracket the frame (three shots) to be safe. There is no fall back if exposure is wrong.

For years, Kodak and Fujifilm had to teach people how to use their film, and even held seminars for professional photographers. I attended them in my time and that's when the manual cameras were going out of fashion. People switched to all automatic film cameras but thanks to the film stocks, you could never be sure you have a hit or miss because Kodachrome behaved differently than negative film. So it was back to manual controls. I started to appreciate photography because it was complicated and knew that if I picked it up, it would go well with my writing. Yes, I started writing for newspapers and magazines using a manual typewriter....you know the sort that had actual physical keys which hammered a thin film of ink ribbon to paper. With a film camera in my bag, I was a photojournalist as well. How times have changed now that everything you want to do can be performed from the comfort of a Starbucks cafe with free WIFI and your smartphone. Everything you write or photograph can be up in social media in a matter of minutes. 

How Digital Killed the Analog Star

Did I shoot using Kodachrome? Yes I did. It was a bitch to learn to use but I picked it up after countless failures. Each time I got a package in the mail (you had to send it overseas for developing), my fingers could not contain the excitement as the postman rung the door bell to tell me I had mail.

Kodachrome was a hidden art that few photographers would learn to use in their lifetime. Casual photographers would never turn to Kodachrome as learning it was a trial by fire. You see, there are no sample shots you can look at or metadata to refer to. Each time you took a shot, you jot down the exposure data. The scene had to be remembered in your head as when your Kodachrome slides came back, you had to remember why it didn't turn out the way you remembered it. That was how difficult it was but you could pick that up if you spent time learning about film stocks and its nuances.

These days everything in photography has to do with economics and there is nothing Nikon and Canon can do to change that. First, I have been shooting for over 20 years, on film, instant and now digital, worked with some of the best photographers in the world and now seen how photography has taken on new meaning with digital thrown in.

Economics is what determines the success of any type of technology and for digital, the same is true for users who buy into those thousand dollar equipment in the hope of making it professionally.

It ain't easy making a living with digital equipment. Think of the investment, then think of the returns and you know why digital has been a difficult value point. Nikon and Canon want you to spend more money on equipment, buy more lenses, upgrade to new camera bodies every 12 to 18 months. 

Rapid Growth before a Decline

Digital DSLRs saw rapid growth from 2006 onwards, before tapering off in 2011, the trend now is to headed south, thanks largely to mobile smartphones.

I must say that I don't use a DSLR to shoot anymore. There is no reason to as I don't shoot professionally for anyone. Even when I do, I try to capture everything on a mobile device. Why? Coz it's a hobby. I turn down request to shoot because the pay is far too little and I am not in the mood to compete with people who flash around hefty DSLRs. Besides, taking a good photo is not difficult. If you know how to position your camera in view of the scene before you, you'd get a picture. It is not rocket science. Digital makes it real easy for you to get an idiot proof instant result that you can share with the world on Instagram.

DSLRs are great to have. Good to use if you find paying clients but these days, the only paying clients are those in wedding, commercial events or products and news. Even photojournalism doesn't pay enough to warrant you to take up a hefty insurance tab from Lloyds of London and going out to a war zone to make money shooting images. It's much cheaper for the news agencies to hire the locals from the war zone. Pay them peanuts too.

Does the world remember the last conflict photojournalist who fell in the line of duty? No. The world at large doesn't much give two hoots about who died photographing a war because digital images are apparently worthless beyond a use by date. Those who have died in Syria, Iraq, Libya....will be forgotten.

Digital pictures are passed around like a cheap hooker and after constant use as memes, would you even pay to enter an art gallery to see the real picture from the one you find on the web?

Would I have given two hoots about a photographer who gets beheaded on a YouTube video? Nope. I really have no business to care. People die all the time and I hope it was worth your entertainment because the real pictures from a war zone isn't worth much these days.

Pictures are Sold as Royalty Free

Yes, I have sold my pictures online. All of them are royalty free. Rights managed photos don't sell well because, well, they are expensive. 

These days, people rarely buy photos which are rights managed for print advertising. And I have pointed this out before when competing brands sometimes stumble on the same image and these gets used in a newspaper advert....both at the same time. 

Turn to the internet, and you would be inundated with offers to royalty free stock image libraries that sell loads of photos for one flat price. 

Crowd sourcing single use photos are now popular. A brand name yogurt company can now do away with a dedicated photo shoot with a commercial photography when they dangle an offer to the crowd sourcing community to produce a picture they can use online and in print. The cost? maybe in the region of 300 to 500 USD. WTF? A commercial photographer would charge 4 times as much to produce that same photo. Now you see the difference?

And if you have good skills on photoshop, you can make those royalty free images even better by removing the background brand names on the city streets and replacing them with less obvious signs. This is what you need to do to sell a five dollar royalty free stock photo. 

The Future is in Limited Prints

Digital photos are retouched, it's like a model whose had a ton of plastic surgery done on her. Film photos can be digitally scanned and enhanced, but you can still buy the real thing, a print from an analog negative. That's the real deal. No hocus pocus with Photoshop.

Iconic photo prints from analog film are going to be collectables one day. Just like the ones that was used to shoot Steve Jobs for the book. Both pictures featured in the book were taken on analog film. So who gets the last laugh? Certainly not the digital photographer.

Today, people keep photo albums on Flickr and Google Photos. No one even prints photos anymore. I have a family album which I pieced together and this is for those who wish to remember me when I am gone. But for the rest of you on digital, your digital account dies with you. Forgotten as though cobwebs had obscured your digital account. I don't even have digital photos of my best friend who died seven years ago, just a memory of his email address. And if a friend had a Facebook account, his profile will be put in cold storage if left inactive for more than a year. The memory of the dead will not stay alive on Facebook.

An iconic analog print photo signed and autographed will be an investment. That is art. It increases in value over time. The other stuff shot on digital, not so. 

Photography has evolved into the fast food business—and anyone can learn to make a burger from scratch at McDonalds. Make of that what you will....


My Life in the Fast Lane, a photographic journey


In another life, I was a championship winning team manager and with it, I carried two cameras with me on my many trips. Most of the time, I would shoot with a 5 megapixel Nikon 5700, and as a back up, I had a Lomo LCA film camera. For me, the cameras were tools to help with the communications aspects of the vocation.

The two are indistinguishable as a tool. I felt right at home shooting on both mediums, though I did find the zone focus system on the Lomo a bit limiting. Digital was useful. It gave me pictures of the car and driver whenever someone from the press wanted them.

First, I must tell you how I came about as a team manager. I was head hunted for the job during my stint as an ad-hoc PR consultant for Johor Circuit. My involvement in motor racing at that point had been editorial and communications, and previously to this, I was the Media Officer for the Rally of Asia. For that role, I took a whole load of pictures which were later used as the main content for newspapers as the official photographer appointed for that event actually fucked it up badly by just taking pictures of cars on the dirt road. 

My reputation as a race savvy manager was unknown to me but people within the industry saw that I did good work so why not double down on the position of team manager. This came about in 2003.... for the inaugural Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Championship. 

Charles Kwan, 2003 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Champion

The role offered to me was simple enough, I could learn on the job and do the motorsports communications for Novellus Infineon Racing based out of Switzerland. Infineon was run by a bunch of Porsche fanatics and they had decided to compete in all the Carrera Cup Championships all over the world. The communications part was very small, I wrote press releases for the races and had that emailed to Switzerland. 

I didn't have to submit photos but I did take them on the side. Charles Kwan, the team driver with five asia pacific touring car championships under his belt was very accommodating. He would tell when when he's free for some pictures and I would take them for use should the sponsors asked. This happened like clock work. Sponsors are your patrons, you must always live up to that expectation with the necessary photos in hand.

Damaged fender was replaced with spares, hence the white colored parts. Sepang Circuit 2003

I loved doing photography but the opportunity to shoot were rare. most of the time you were far too busy with team affairs to worry about a photo opportunity. Regardless of what you think, there isn't time to do justice when it comes to your job. Once you get to the circuit, a whole routine had to be run to ensure the car and driver is at optimum for the race. There are no short cuts because if any irresponsibility can cause someone his life. Then there was the press, who badgered for time to talk to the driver. A photo op maybe? Yea, sure once we are finished doing what we are suppose to do, that is to win races.

This meant that I never had the time to shoot the car when its out on qualifying trials or at free practise. It would be irresponsible to do this for the sake of fun.

During the quiet moments, sure you had the time to photograph the models, and models here don't mean cars. These are girls who don sponsored labels on their attire for photographers who work within the paddock area. Everyone else will have to use a long telephoto lens to get a closer look. As a team manager, you look like everyone else who worked in the pits. Not a very attractive proposition but you have to get your hands dirty all the time. I had to wheel in the racing slicks (tyres for racing use) which had to be checked and verified as we were limited to one new set per event.

Why Motorsports is Dangerous for Photographers

Getting paddock access is very difficult for safety reasons. Photographers or spectators usually get a pit walk at some point on Saturday events but that's not a given opportunity. Some tracks prefer to keep spectators where they can control them best....at the grandstands. 

Press photographers have photog nests around the circuit where they can hide out until the cars come racing round. They get to stand in the hot sun, have their skins toasted to a golden brown in the process. But this was fun to them. It was also highly dangerous as cars do go sideways and with it, take any standing photographer nearby up to meet their maker. Thankfully, none of the accidents we had during the Cup races were fatal. Egos were bruised naturally but never a death. 

But that's not to say it didn't happen in other racing events. I know a few who were involved in such unfortunate events. A fellow driver in the Porsche Carrera Cup had one bad experience where his Ferrari caught fire and the Marshals came to help put the fire out. A speeding car took three of them down. All of them died. This was in Macau. A place famous for its unforgiving street circuits and was the last event for the Porsche race. 

Photographers who want to shoot at the starting grid have to get grid access. There are a limited number of passes and it's always the national press photographers that get the first lot. The grid access only allows you to shoot what you see on the grid and paddock area. 

Photographers normally don't get both track and grid access. Those who stay on the grid are a different kind of photographer and those shooting on track are strictly for circuit action. The races are far too short for photographers to get both track side and grid access. A sprint race like the Porsche Carrera cup last only about 30 mins at most. In accident prone tracks, this could stretch longer but it depends on the circuit length. There is no time for a photographer to run around a circuit to take scenic shots. It is possible in Formula One, where the races stretch over an hour and a half at times.

Chandra, our car mechanic has a last word with Charles before he goes out to race

 Keeping the Cars Clean and Shiny

You have no idea on the extremes we have to keep the cars clean. After all, the sponsors want their brands to stand out so every time the car goes out, the scratches on the logos and damages to the car must be inspected and if possible, changed at a moment's notice. 

We had a box full of decals on standby and once there was a altercation on track, we had to change the front bumper and replace all the stickers. In Beijing, where we had a race at Goldenport motor park and had to clean the car every few hours because a thin layer of desert sand had deposited on the car. It was such a nuisance that we eventually covered the car up in a Porsche issued custom cover before we left for the day to avoid cleaning it again the following day. 

Keeping the cars clean and beautiful is really about that photo moment. People would snap pictures and post it around and that's what we want. It's all part of the sponsorship package. 

Charles Kwan and Benard Quek
To be frank on matters of responsibility, the only time you can have fun with the camera is when the race is over. During that time, you take pictures of the paddock area, fellow drivers and even friends working with competing teams. 

I didn't find much use for the Lomo but it was a useful off track camera. For me, the idea of shooting your journey through every event was a challenge to say the least. There were gaps as you were far too busy to shoot or when it rained like the monsoon during our race in Johor, Malaysia. None of the cameras would have held up to the rain so no point taking them out. To properly document the journey throughout the season, you would need to have a dedicated photographer, which we didn't have a budget for. 

I didn't even have the time to fully appreciate Macau, our last race of the season. But we won and that's what mattered. We won the championship by just two points. It was a hard fought battle from Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, China and finally to Macau.This was a beautiful place, charming to a fault, and with a lovely mix of cultures. The pictures I took that time left an impression on me but those are my private memories. Korea was nice but the circuit was located too far from civilization...at the Taebeak mountains. Going back to Seoul, we had a few days to enjoy the wonderful city. Charles met up with a Korean actor, Jung Woo Sung, and I whipped out my Lomo for that moment. 

Actor Jung Woo Sung with Charles Kwan, captured with a Lomo LCA

Using the Lomo was a hit or miss affair. The film I used suited the moment but there were times when the Lomo let me down. I did carry both cameras with me but somehow, it's always the film cameras that leave an impression on your because they are so darn hard to use when you are in a hurry. 

Lomo moment in Beijing Goldenport Circuit

At the end of the race in Macau, I did the right thing which shocked a lot of people.  I announced my retirement from motor sports. I always felt that you should retire when you are up there with the best and I am glad I did. Those memories that I have are still around in my photo album, and boy that was one helluva ride.