I have a P30n manual focus camera. It's rather old, so much so that I've forgotten how to use it! I would like to bring it back to life but I now don't know what to do. I rather fancy taking it round churches to snap their interiors which would mean setting it up for low light photography.
So, what lens and film stock, and whatever, would I need? Any advice would be appreciated.
Well, I was rather hoping to not to have to use a tripod. I have to use a walking stick, which can be a nuisance in itself. I have found, long ago, that there is usually a pew or two I can balance my camera, with reasonable results.
But if I can't afford a fast enough lens, so be it.
I do think you are going to be heading into fairly longish exposures, so camera support will be a prime concern. I don't think a wide aperture lens will really help too much here.... For reasonable DOF and quality reproduction of a church interior I think you're looking at a maximum aperture of 5.6, or smaller. ISO 1600 film is fairly gritty, and not really suited to the subject IMO. You might get away with ISO 800 film and try the push processing approach if you have that option for the developing... You could get an extra stop that way.
If you can use a camera support of some kind it will open up more exposure choices and better quality through slower film, smaller apertures and allow a wider dynamic range to record.
We do like to help around here ! But let's face it, film camera use is rather a specialised area now, although unless you have the latest very high ISO performing camera the same techniques do apply to digital capture generally.
Tell us the kind of film you use and your planned development process (eg a shop, mail order firm or home processing). Do you already have a lens or two you could use, and what are the focal lengths of those?
There are a few film experts around here who are still working with the medium, and many others who could probably remember a few things ... If they tried really hard!
Right. I've got a Pentax A zoom 3.4 to 4.5, 28 to 80mm. Also I have a SMC Pentax-M 1.7 50mm prime. I remember that the zoom was pretty heavy which led me to buy the prime. This was just before I got a digital 4 thirds Panasonic zoom with a 3.5 to 5.6 14-42 kit lens which, I confess to say, I've used on intelligent auto for 99% of the time. When I first thought of the interior of churches idea, I looked up the price of Panasonic lenses and reeled in horror. And there didn't seem to be many secondhand either. So I then remembered my old Pentax P30n. I would take any developed films to Boots which have a pretty good service. I don't really understand why low light shooting would need apertures around 5.6. I assumed that a fast lens, wide open, would let in more light and give a better shot. Sorry if I'm a bit dopey.
Well, I don't want to lay down any fixed rules, there are different ways of doing it. Yes, you're right, the widest aperture let's in the most light, that's a plus. But there may be negatives as well, namely a small 'depth of field' (how much into the scene is in focus), and optical quality loss.
In the case of your 50mm lens then the depth of field will be small, probably giving a soft look to parts of your images. In the case of your zoom then the widest apertures will likely give lower optical quality and perhaps loss of sharpness around the edges. For those reasons I was saying that F5.6 or smaller (eg F8, F11) were going to be better.
But of course the price to pay will be longer exposures and the need for stability, plus ideally a way to trip the shutter without touching the camera, like a cable release. Of course how long an exposure you need depends on the actual amount of light and the ISO of the film you choose. Again, It's all a balancing act of different aspects, and slower film (eg 200) gives higher quality but needs longer exposures.
Of course, you may feel that you don't need the best quality or such depth of field, and you may need to handhold the camera, in which case the widest apertures and high ISO film might serve the purpose. Let's see what some others think also .....
Hello again, I've been reading and googling for quite a bit now. I'm slowly getting the idea that depth of field and luminosity isn't necessarily the preserve of the very fast lens. So, I think a period of practice is called for. This leads me to a lens question or two. I now have the idea that a good general purpose prime lens would have a 35mm focal length and could also give a fair depth of field in dimmish conditions. My P30n takes K mount lens and, I think, Ka and Kaf lens as well. Is this correct? I'll google around for a second hand lens, so are there any other Pentax lens mount numbers I should avoid? Now here's a dumbo question: I don't have to think about 'equivalent' focal lengths, do I? I really appreciate your posts, by the way.
No, equivalent focal lengths were trying to familiarise 35mm film camera users with the field of view difference for the smaller sensors in many digital cameras. It's irrelevant to you so I won't confuse further.
A 28 or 35mm would probably be a useful focal length for a church interior and as common a lens size as you are likely to find.
Just in case you are confused by the Pentax lens designations you are looking for Pentax denoted as K, M or A (with A having the ability for the camera to control aperture)
For other manufacturers the lens mount for your camera is usually designated as PK or PKA (P for Pentax and K for the bayonet mount we use, A means the Aperture can be controlled by the camera) KAF was the autofocus mount.
btw, prices have gone up recently. Bargains are not as common as they once were.
Back in the film days (1984) I did some in a aircraft museum and the setup was Pentax ME Super with 24mm F2 lens, ISO 400 film. I had good results with that. The 24mm wide angle pulls in the light and most of the time I was using F2.8 to F8. I would recommend a good tripod and cable release, plus the good old sock filled with split peas to brace the hand held camera against a column. Also try with a 50mm F1.7 if you have one.