An old-school discovery

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My old Pentax camera, a recent rediscovery and a far cry from today’s models. Photos by Steve Daly.

A recent trip into my basement led to the rediscovery of a forgotten camera bag and the old Pentax camera I had purchased for my undergraduate photojournalism class at Northeastern University back in the late 1980s. It was in pretty good shape, save for the AA battery frozen in place by the acid that had leaked out over the years.

I was surprised to discover that Pentax cameras are still being manufactured. The company has indeed entered the digital age with a pretty decent selection of DSLR cameras, albeit lagging well behind the likes of more recognizable names like Canon and Nikon.

My old Pentax model went a long way toward helping me understand the intricacies of capturing an image. Though there was an autofocus feature on the camera, I tried to stray from that safety net as much as possible, tending to play around with the film speed and aperture controls to get different versions of the subjects I shot.

Unfortunately, that type of approach could be costly. It was a film camera, after all, and once you’ve taken a shot, whether it was on a 12-, 24- or 36-exposure roll, that frame on the film strip was gone. If you were on a budget, you couldn’t take 10 or 12 images of the same subject – film was pretty expensive, especially for a college student.

You also didn’t know if the shots you took were completely in focus until you had the film developed. You just hoped what you thought you saw in the viewfinder would be exactly what came out on the print and negative.

Many times, this just didn’t happen. The lack of suitable lighting or a much too slow shutter speed would make even the slightest movement blurry mess. Too much light and your subject was washed out. With no benefit of a preview pane on the back of the camera, it was a total crap shoot. As a photographer, there’s nothing quite like opening the envelope of prints and discovering the failures.

The Nikon Coolpix P530 camera I use now is a fairly simple point-and-shoot. It does, however, take fantastic shots. One of these days, I’ll invest in a much more complex model, but I can’t complain about the results I’m getting with the P530.

And I haven’t had to think about buying a roll of film in a long time.

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