Analog Days


For many years I’ve been trying to track down my father’s old Voigtlander Vitoret and had almost given up on finding it, presuming it lost forever in the sands of time. But in October last year, during a brief visit to my parents, we struck gold when Dad in one of his more lucid moments disappeared upstairs and returned triumphantly with an old shoebox filled with old cameras, of which the Voigtlander was by far the most interesting one.

As a child I remember my father recording every family holiday on slides using the camera. This involved much fiddling with a light meter (one that remains lost) and tentative turning of dials, which used to exasperate my mother, brother and me, as we all didn’t want to stand still that long for the obligatory happy family shot and just wanted him to get on with it. I feel a bit more sympathetic for what he had to do with that camera having recently handled it and am amazed he actually got reasonable photos out of it. Probably better ones than he is managing now with a digital camera!

Back in the days of my first steps into photography, my father let me use an old Agfa Clack, which was a boxy and bulky thing to carry around; the Voigtlander being so much sleeker in comparison. I’m sure the memory of the Voigtlander played a signicant part in my decision to buy the Fuji X100, which has that old look and feel, but is packed full of new technology.

After taking the Voigtlander home, I gave it a good clean, found a PDF scan of the manual on the Internet (not that there is much to figure out, it really is a very simple camera) and put some black and white film into it. I have so far been on one outing with it and am planning another one this weekend with the aim of filling up the film with images, so I can get it developed. Handling an old fashioned camera like this, makes you aware of how much we have grown used to new technology and how much we rely on it. Having no light meter I have to rely on my manual settings experience for deciding on which settings to use, with fairly limited options available, particularly in terms of shutter speed. And of course, no way of seeing how the photos have turned out until I get it developed. It is going to be a real surprise when the film comes back and I’m not sure whether it will be a good one, but certainly an interesting one!

One thing is certain, feeling the old camera in my hands and shooting with it, makes me really appreciate new technology. I will not deny my nostalgia for my father’s old camera, and it will probably find a place of pride on a bookshelf, but I prefer my new cameras and all they offer to me.

I’m sure there must be others in the CPS who occasionally shoot with film or an old camera. I would love to hear more about your experiences.

6 comments on “Analog Days

  1. Brian Rope says:

    Thanks for your story. I have a lot of my old cameras (some were stolen during a home robbery), including my very first camera (a Baby Brownie). I never put film through any of them these days, but I enjoy looking at images they took and am now scanning some of them to reprint or publish in a book.


    • Thanks Brian, the film thing is definitely an experiment, but probably won’t be repeated much, depending on what the roll of film turns out to be. I am keen to have a closer look at the slides my father took with the camera, but that is going to be a big project involving stacks and stacks of boxes of slides…


  2. Murray Foote says:

    Can you get the film developed in Canberra? Of course in the old days it seemed that no-one got B&W film developed but then that was for more than the odd roll.

    I have to admit I’ve only shot film a couple of times since I got a Nikon D3 in 2010 and even though I have a 16×9 system. However, I was recently given what turned out to be a 1930 Voigtlander Bessar. It has a larger film size than 120 but I’ve worked out how to use it with 120 film, I’ve just got to find the time.


    • Hi Murray, I have no idea about whether the film development can be done in Canberra. I will need to get it done here in Sao Paulo and I’m hoping there is some lab in this city with the required skills. That will be the next research.


  3. Helen McF says:

    I have an old canon film camera – it’s in the garage. I put it in a box to sell but never did. I am not sure that I will ever use it – it seems like so much trouble – but I did take some great pictures with it which I printed at the ANU School of Art colour printing facility. I had to sign up for a course to get access, but it was worth it. There seems to be quite a bit of nostalgia for film these days – the latest Members’ Show at PhotoAccess is called “On Film” and challenged members to reference film in an image. However, I agree that contemplating film processing and printing does make you appreciate our current technology!


  4. Helen McF says:

    Comment in response to a share of this post on my personal Facebook page: “I loved my Dad’s old Voigtländer! He allowed me to take it to UCT, so all my photos from that era were taken on it. I still have it, alongside his even older Brownie box camera!” (UCT = University of Cape Town).


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