Old School Photography - 100 Things You Must Know to Take Fantastic Film Photos by Kai Wong. Chronicle Books, 2021, ISBN-978-1-7972-0944-9. $19.95.
To be honest, I did not expect to like this book, seeing there are so many “how-to” film and photography books out there. However, Kai Wong has done a great job of separating out 100 topics at one page apiece, and providing a breezy, yet coherent approach to shooting with film. I have seen a few of his YouTube videos, and after seeing this book on several Instagram feeds, I ordered a copy. While the book is aimed at the novice, I think there are sections that would be useful for many photographers to read. People are used to reading short items in today’s media, so this book achieves several objectives - teaching how to shoot your film cameras, choosing a camera, choosing a lens, choosing a format, and then, using the camera and how to achieve good results. All in single-page bites, which can be easily found in the table of contents. His approach to the subjects is a fun read, and I found myself in agreement with pretty much all that he said.
I do think he focused on “glam” cameras such as the Contax series -- overpriced electronic point and shoots that would quickly blow a beginner’s budget, and might also die an electronic death. Instead, I’d suggest a Minolta Hi-Matic AF2, Olympus Infinity, or a Nikon One-Touch 35 AF. Likewise, While I agree that the Nikon F and F2 are great SLRs -- I’d recommend a Nikon FM2N over either one as a great SLR for someone coming to film.
Each section is also accompanied by a photo on the opposing page, which adds to the reader’s enrichment, and serves to accentuate each instructional page. Many, but not all, were taken by the author.
My only real criticism is on Item 33 - Sunny 16. It provides a table of three film ISOs, 100, 200, and 400, and as shown is entirely wrong. The shutter speed stays the same for a given ISO - yet this table would have you vastly underexposing your images were you to follow it. I don’t know if it was just something missed in editing, but it’s flat-out wrong. Wong is wrong on this one.
|Something very wrong with this Sunny-16 table.|
Kai repeatedly makes the case about not getting caught up in a never-ending upgrade process, and that’s a fair point. Get to use a camera well, and then you'll find out out what if any, limitations it has. My view is always that the most important component is the person holding the camera, not the camera itself. He sticks to what the average new enthusiast might want to explore, so 35 mm gets a major part of the discussion, and I agree with that. The three lenses in your bag is a good philosophy, and while I don’t always practice it myself, I agree with it. The creative process is not ignored, either, and Kai covers it well, within the confines of the book’s format. Overall, Kai Wong has put together an easily digestible manual for beginning photographers wanting to explore using film. The resources in the back with web links, etc, are also a great addition.
This book would make a good gift for the aspiring film user, but you might want to include a proper sunny-16 chart or the Black Cat Exposure Guide along with the book.