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December 8, 2007


I recently found my old 35mm camera that I bought in high school to take a photography class. It is completely manual. I loved that camera and fought the push for digital for years because of it.

Then one fateful day I dropped it on the beach. It got sand in all of it’s delicate bits. It never worked the same again. Though I tried to will it to. I kept using it in spite of the crappy photos it was taking.

There is something about the sound the shutter made when you pushed the button that is lost on digital. And the way you had to use your thumb to push the lever and advance the film. I think it probably is a lot like the sound of typing on a manual typewriter. Or the ring of a telephone that sounded like a bell, and like the phone in everyone else’s house. Or associating the smell of coconut oil to a day at the beach. All things that won’t be a part of our children’s collective memories.

Though when I take 150 photos and end up with only 5 good ones, I am really thankful that I am not paying for film and developing anymore.

Posted by Chris @ 9:39 pm  

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  1. BetteJo says:

    I know what you mean about all of it. You miss it - but there are reasons they are not used as much anymore. Ah the smell of that suntan oil - concentrating all those rays right on you - the ones we try to block now. Still - the memories … sweet.

  2. Anna says:

    So cute! What a little lovebug…following in his talented Mom’s shoes!

  3. Heather's Garden says:

    So true. Did we used to take that many bad photographs and just don’t remember or do we click away more freely now that we know we aren’t wasting film? I had access to an early digital camera through work and I remember the camera’s memory would hold less than 10 photos. We used to review each one and delete as we went. And it took a good 8-10 minutes to download each photo. And that’s less than 10 years ago!

    Do you think kids wonder why we say dial the phone when they’ve only ever pushed buttons to make a call?

  4. Lilly says:

    A few days ago I found two old film cameras that I’d stopped using years ago and they still had rolls of film in them. There was one photo left on one roll so I took a photo of my 11 yr old son. I had the film developed and when I got the photos back today, the two last photos are of my kid at 3yrs old and at 11 with the same expression on his face and standing just about in the same place in the kitchen… Kinda eerie.

  5. Karen Vogel says:

    At least now we can hand the kids the camera and let them “click” away without worrying about wasting film. But I miss the old sounds, also.

  6. Victoria says:

    I totally, completely, fully understand what you mean! : )

  7. MammaLoves says:

    Oh I love the sound of old phones and the smell of coconut oil. And I agree re: the feel of the shutter of a manual camera, but darn the cost saving of a digital.

  8. CaliforniaGrammy says:

    “And the times . . . they are a’changing.”

    I hated digital cameras when they first came out. I hated the way you couldn’t get good action pictures of kids at play because by the time the camera caught the picture the composition was totally different than you had originally focused on . . . but NOW I love them. They have so improved in speed, memory, and quality of picture.

    Love this picture, though. . . as I do all of your pictures of your kids. Your pictures
    rock, Chris.

  9. Angella says:

    When digitals first came out, I fought it. Because my 35mm Canon Rebel took way better photos.

    But now? With the quality of digital cameras?

    I get the creativity of manual with the ease (and delete-a-bility) of digital.

    It’s a win-win.


  10. All Adither says:

    They’ll have new childhood associations.

    Love the chubby fingers.

  11. Suebob says:

    I have just been going through my old photos. My parents were frugal and didn’t waste film, so there is ONE shot of most major occasions. If you blinked, if you looked away, oh well, no re-dos. That’s just the way it was back then.

  12. Chris says:


    yes, exactly. I don’t think there are any unposed photos of my childhood. Or random photos of our dinner, or my mother’s shoes, or the grocery store.

  13. Andi says:

    “When digitals first came out, I fought it. Because my 35mm Canon Rebel took way better photos”

    A-freaking-men! Sometimes I’ll still load a roll of film in my Rebel and take it out for a spin, just to hear that beautiful, rich “cli-chick” sound of the shutter (and of course the quality of the photos it takes is phenomenal).

    Much to my delight, however, evidently some of the higher-end digital SLRs have adopted that same shutter sound that I miss in my Rebel; maybe someday I will be able to have the best of both worlds! I’m working with a Powershot A640 atm, and its shutter makes a very wimpy little click indeed! And really, while I love some of its more automatic features, I sorely miss the flexibility of a higher-end model. The really beautiful models are going to be out of my price range for a while yet (the EOS 1D Mark III is seriously going on my bridal registry if I haven’t gotten it by then) but I am so thrilled to see the technology is finally catching up with the art, so to speak. Plus, the money I save on developing . . !

  14. t in h says:

    My kids actually have asked me why we say “dial” and they brought me one of their FP baby toys, a phone with a rotary dial and asked me just how a person was meant to use one of those things!

    Yes, I miss ringing phones and find it quite funny that some people now have that ringing sound on their mobiles. ;-) But I do not miss my old manual typewriter, where my fingers would slip down through the keys and correcting a mistake required f*rting around with that stupid white correction tape, trying to line everything up…..grrrr.

  15. OMSH says:


    I would never give up my digital, but I agree with the sounds and smells of my childhood that are lost on my kiddos.

    That officially makes us “old” - just so you know.

  16. Antique Mommy says:

    What I really like about digital is - of course the instant gratification - but I can just hand the camera to my 4YO and tell to go take some pictures. It keeps him busy, doesn’t cost me anything and he actually is learning to compose a decent picture. Yes, even a 4YO can do it! I like that things like taking pictures and making LD calls are not so precious anymore.

  17. Brigitte says:

    I want to get a rotary phone for our garage or something, I miss the feel of bringing the dial around and then letting it slip away from my finger, over and over again.

  18. ollka says:

    Totally cute picture.
    I still have a (rather cool) film camera and use it for those special times when I really want to f e e l I’m taking pictures. Like when it’s something really beautiful I’ll want to remember - I develop those pictures and hang them up. But there’s always a little digital point-n-shoot in my pocket. *Sigh*

  19. elizabeth says:

    Love this post, as it makes me realize NOW is the time to throw out (donate) my old 35mm cameras I cling to but never use. Or, just give to the kids to play with, as Miles is doing so adoarably in the picture!

    I found three rolls of undeveloped film the other day and got them developed as cheaply as possible. ALL three sets were pictures taken by my then 8yo son. Pictures of Star Wars on a friends television, pictures of nostrils and who knows what! Funny for him, not so much for me - it was only $10.00 to develop (gulp) - but I know it won’t be happening again! I also recall getting doubles when requesting processing of 35mm pictures, and almost always regretting that…

  20. Lori says:

    I’ve always wanted to learn how to use a manual camera. My mom has one with a lens and you set it by hand. I should probably learn soon before something unfortunate happens.

  21. Kal says:

    My nephew was watching me take pictures of him when he laughed at my D-SLR.
    “Why does it make that noise?”
    “What noise?”
    “That clicky noise.”
    “That’s the noise a camera makes.”
    He laughed harder.
    “No it isn’t.”

    And you know?

    He’s right.

    They don’t, not any more.

  22. Gift of Green says:

    Or listening for the sound of the film slipping off the sprockets as you rewound it and hoping that you listened accurately or at least three or four photos were ruined when you popped open the film door. Thanks for the memories!

  23. Ashley says:

    Isn’t that the truth

  24. reen says:

    It hadn’t really occurred to me that that is why my office today is SO QUIET all the time compared to the offices I worked in 15 years ago. I miss the “busy” sounds of typewriters, faxes, old-school phones ringing, people actually TALKING on the phone or in person instead of e-mailing. I can’t work when it’s this quiet!

    Oh, and I was the worst about tanning myself with suntan oil. Hope it will not come back to haunt me…fingers are crossed. But it did smell good!

  25. another Elizabeth says:

    I dropped a 35mm camera in a sand dune several years ago. It wasn’t fully manual–it had auto focus and a zoom lens on it. The sand prevented the cover over the lens from fully closing and ran down the battery. About a year or so later, I took it to a camera shop and had it fixed. It worked just fine after that.

    So if you really want to use your older one sometimes, it might be worth having it repaired.

  26. Kim says:

    I agree whole-heartedly about all the sounds and smells that bring me back to my childhood. I, personally, hate the rings on our cordless phones…so much so, that when we needed new ones, I grabbed an old avocado-green table-top phone from my mom’s basement. It’s push button but still has the old familiar ring. I put it in my kitchen and it’s added a lot of charm…and made for a great conversation piece! I have to admit, I felt really old when my 6 and 8 yr olds had to ASK me what that thing on the counter was! C’mon! Really???

  27. lotus07 says:

    One of the recurring themes in my blogs is that ‘newer’ isn’t always better. I have digital, and it is good for ‘documenting’ things. But I also have about 6 film cameras, and they get used. Several 35mm, a 35mm Stereo Realist, a Yashicamat 120 View Camera, and Olympus 35mm half frame, and two Crown Graphic Speed-Graphics (one with a 120 back and one with a 4X5 inch back) two Polaroid Spectras and a Polaroid 600.

    When it comes to doing ‘art’, I will chose film over digital every day. Especially the larger format mediums. They don’t compare to digital in their depth of field and quality.

    Something that no one will ever recall who is under 40 years old these days, is Christmas morning when we brought out the old Polaroid ‘Swinger’ Black and White instant camera. The smell of burning flash bulbs and the oder from the sealant that you had to put on each print are an integral part of my childhood.

  28. Redneck Mommy says:

    Amen. While I love and still cherish my old manual, I’m rubbing my hands with glee over the amount of dough I’m saving using my fancy new digital.

  29. maliavale says:

    I really love the sound of the film advancer. I heard it on a show last week and got all wistful. But not driving to Target to develop film (and pay for it) while wasting an hour in Einstein’s Bagels every day or so … that I don’t miss.

  30. prescott says:

    I can relate — I went on ebay and snagged a good old-fashioned phone with actual godd*mn bells in it for my home office. I sometimes call myself from the cell just to hear it ring.

    lotus07 — yes, medium format film trounces most digital cameras, but it does against 35mm film cameras as well. I would imagine that the Mamiya ZD might hold its own against film (oh, but to have the deep pockets to own one…).

  31. another Lori says:

    So you DO understand why I burst into tears when the camera repair guy said that there was nothing he could do to save my old Nikon… I’ll never forget lining up the little focusing guides, adjusting the f-stop for different light and depth of field conditions, verifying the light meter, etc. And the incredible joy of walking out of the store with actual photographs! Even though sometimes only half of them were any good, it was still worth every penny. Looking at pictures on the computer just doesn’t compare. Thanks for the memories.