Film is Dumb.

Shane Paul Neil
5 min readMar 10, 2023

There I said it.

In 2023 there is virtually no reason to shoot film. It’s expensive. It’s inconvenient. The process is slowwwww (especially if you don’t develop yourself). People who shoot film love the word artisanal and beanies.

So why do I want to master it?

Currently have two film cameras. A Canon T80 and a Pentax Honeywell. When I got them, I wasn’t sure that they even worked. I got the Canon from a camera shop in town. The owners were retiring. It was literally their last day when I stopped in. All that was left was a small cardboard box of odds and ends, including the T80.

Buying these old film cameras is always a roll of the dice. Sometimes they work perfectly. Sometimes they are complete trash. The Canon fell somewhere in the middle. The camera was clean, with no fungus in the lens. The motors worked perfectly, advancing the film with no issue. The clunky whirring and the shutter sound amazing. The aperture ring, however. That’s a different story. It’s stuck wide open, knocking a leg out of my exposure triangle.

I haven’t shot film since I was a child playing with my father’s Minolta. I don’t remember the model, but it was fully manual. No auto-advancing of film. No automatic rewind. It was all metal, so it had a coolness and a heft that became one of those tactile memories we all have. For some, it’s the smell of mama’s biscuits. For others, it’s a painting in the living room. For me, it is that camera.

I had no expectations for this camera. I shot a roll of Ilford HP5 black and white that I had lying around from when I first thought of shooting film. I bought a Pentax Honeywell last year (I’m shooting a roll on in it now; stay tuned). I wanted to run through a roll and see if the T80 was viable. The good news is that it is, though the aperture issue on this lens is killing me.

The photos, for the most part, did not come out well. I think I have maybe four keepers. To be fair, my lack of care had a lot to do with these pretty shitty results. I powered through the roll because I didn’t know if the camera worked. I didn’t want to put care into photos that might never exist.

Lack of care aside, the biggest lesson from shooting my first roll of film is that film will expose (no pun intended) what you don’t know about photography. How good are you when all the latitude of digital photography is gone? How good are you when you can’t pop into Lightroom and crank on a bunch of sliders or slap on a preset?

I imagine Gordon Parks looking down at me and laughing at my unearned swag brought to me by my fancy digital camera.

“Do you know how to manage light when you only have one shot at managing light?“ What happens when ISO can’t save you? Did you even check your shutter speed?”

“You fucking suck, my guy.”

Film is dumb. It’s dumb and expensive. But it exposed my shortcomings as a photographer. So film will continue to be a part of my photography journey. If nothing else, I can be the kid playing with his dad’s Minolta on a Sunday afternoon. That’s reason enough.

Here are all the hits and misses.

I just updated my photos available for sale. Use code SPN10 to get 10% off your next order.



Shane Paul Neil

Writer (duh) and photographer. Bylines @levelmag @complex @ebony @huffpo