The 50 Dollar Film Camera Project

Click here to go directly to the roll of film.

Scroll down for my review of the Minolta XG-M w/50mm f/2 lens.

The short story is that I shot one roll of Mitsubishi MX-III 100 ISO film on a Minolta XG-M w/50mm f/2 lens that was purchased 8 years ago for 25 dollars as a gift for my girlfriend. She has since become my wife.

Now, the long story, and the review. I found a post about The 50 Dollar Film Camera Project, and immediately thought to myself, "Self, this is the perfect opportunity to pull out my old screw mount Pentax." The camera was given to me as a gift from a co-worker. He used it for 'real work' for more than a decade before giving it to me. He told me that it was the ultimate back up camera for portrait photography. Considering that it is built like a tank, does not need batteries of any kind, has a 135mm f/2.8 lens, and has a pc port that I can use with my flashes in manual mode, it does happen to be much more reliable than most modern cameras. That is, if you can shoot based on guide numbers and math. It was given to me 5 years ago, but I had not used it in 2 years. But tragedy struck. I pulled it out, and started running it through its paces, and noticed that there was oil around the retractable metal lens hood. Upon closer inspection, it turns out that one of the seals in the aperture rings had become brittle and let the lubricating oil leak. There was oil on all the aperture blades, causing the blades to stick, and making it so that I couldn't set the aperture on the camera. I briefly considered the idea of making a bokeh to place on the front of the lens so that I could shoot with that, but the aperture blade problem was even messing with that idea. So, at this moment, the camera itself is in perfect working order, but the only repair options on the lens I've found leave much to be desired.

So, back to the drawing board. Rummaging through the shelf of cameras, I found other possiblities. Namely, a Minolta Hi-matic E and a Olympus 35 ED. Both of these rangefinder cameras were given to my wife as gifts. Both had the same problem. No batteries, no manual, and I couldn't figure out how to work them with enough time to get everything together for this contest. So, I went back into my wife's office for more likely victims.

I ended up pulling out her Minolta XG-M, pictured at the top of the page. She had told me that her father used to shoot with a Minolta XG series camera, so when I found one for 25 bucks, I purchased it as a gift for her. Eventually, the XG got overlooked in favor of newer cameras. So, at the time of the contest, the XG-M had not been used in about a decade, and I had purchased it for less that 50 bucks, so I had a camera that qualified. I ended up having to purchase batteries, and they came out to about nine bucks. I got a roll of Mitsubishi MX-III for less than a dollar, so total cost of the project had come to around 35 bucks.

Now to shoot a roll of film.

I have a two month old son, and as can be guessed, I have taken quite a few pictures of him. So, naturally, he became the subject of my roll of film.

Again, the gallery can be found here.

About the camera.

The lens is top notch. I don't have any 'real' lenses that open up to f/2, or that are as light and compact as the one on the XG-M. In general, as compared to modern cameras, it surprises me how slowly, but surely I got used to larger and larger bodies and lenses. As time went on, I went from shooting with an Olympus OM-F with a f/1.8 that fit in the side pocket of my backpack to a modern camera with a f/5.6 that required its own backpack. Something that the XG-M made very clear. One thing is for sure, this project has made me decide to get a 50mm prime lens to get back to some shooting with a smaller, faster lens.

So, the XG-M has a PC-sync port, so using off camera flash is easy as pie. Just set the shutter speed to the only red colored speed, aka the sync speed, and plug the cord into the pc-sync port of the flash of my choice. Below is a picture that I took with a SB-26 held out on the right side of the camera. If you look on the roll of film, the picture before that one is no flash in manual mode.

Of course, good things have to come to an end, and I started having trouble with the camera jamming. It was not advancing the film correctly, and several shots got chewed up. And towards the end of the roll, the camera started developing a consistent film advance problem. All in all, I'm happy with several of the shots that I got of me, my wife, and my son, and some of them are going to end up on my wall, but ultimately, this experience has put the camera through its paces, and revealed that it is no longer a reliable body to take pictures with, so I am retiring it. Likely, I'm going to find another lens for my pentax and start using that again.

For those interested in the process that I use, I have a friend that develops C41, and I develop my E6. Once developed, I don't cut the negs, but rather run all of them through a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000ED with SA-30 roll film adapter. I just have it process all the negatives in batch mode, I accept all defaults and come back when it is done. I import all of those images into Adobe Lightroom, and make any color adjustments and edits there. If I want to make prints, I use Lightroom to print to a Mitsubishi dye-sub printer. That set up, along with a picture of the XG-M is pictured below.