My First SLR

My first serious camera was the Canon T50 film SLR. It was circa 1990, and I was in my early teens. This was long before digital camera era, and a time when most people didn’t know squat about prosumer photography.

The T50 can be operated in Program mode as well as aperture priority.  I’m proud to say that this camera was instrumental to whatever lame photography skills I have today.

Stock photo of the Canon T50 from the web. Mine looked exactly like this one.

The good old T50 taught me several disciplines that are definitely taken for granted today:

1. Shoot Like a Sniper – Film is an expensive and limited commodity. As a broke teenager, I was only able to buy one 24-exposure roll at a time. Maybe a 36-exp. if I can spare a few more pesos. This means that I had a “one-shot-one-kill” mentality when shooting. Being trigger happy, or taking extra “insurance” shots is simply not an option. Each shot must be taken carefully and deliberately, making sure that it’s properly focused, composed and exposed.

2. Focus on Focusing – The T50’s 50mm f=1.8 lens had no Ultrasonic auto focus. This meant that I had to have quick left fingers and a sharp eye. Interestingly, while today’s auto focus lens occasionally mis-focus, manual focusing on the other hand is almost always spot on.

3. A Steady Hand – What Image Stabilizer? Hundreds of shots with the T50 gave me rock solid fists. With pride, I say that I can still successfully shoot at 1/8 or even slower at 50mm equivalent without IS.

4. Patience and Foresight- A film camera is the antithesis of instant gratification. It has no LCD screen. And reviewing a shot only occurs in the mind. A person who is used to film photography knows if the shot is good or not the moment he presses the shutter. Want to enjoy your pictures? Patience, my friend: expose the entire roll first, then drive to the mall and wait 1 hour for printing.

5. Fixed ISO – Back in the day, there’s no such thing as swinging from ISO 100 to ISO 1600. Film is only available in ASA (ISO) 100, 200 or 400. And if one buys, say, a roll of ISO 100 film, he’s stuck with that ISO until the roll is spent. You’re lucky if you can source out 800’s and even if you do, it’ll be grainy as sand on a 3-star beach resort. I also remember the Kodak Ektar 25, a rare and elusive ISO 25 film that’s smooth as silk.

Looking back, I’m thankful of having used the T50, alongside some shooting time with the Minolta X-300 and even the fully manual Nikon FM10. These cameras, combined with some dark room black and white film developing and printing experience, were truly helpful in my formative years as an amateur photographer. I’d like to think that my analog days were the equivalent of Ninja training for a photo buff.


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