10 Tools for the Luddite Photographer


In today’s fast-paced, constantly evolving world, it's tough to keep up with the latest photographic trends and gear options available. Many find it too overwhelming to do so and, instead, simply choose to relax in the comforts of tested, proven designs for photographic equipment. While they are not the latest and greatest by any means, here are ten tools or processes that hardly require any introduction due to their reputations as classics, or by how they defy consistently transforming technology.

Wista 810DX Cherry Wood Field Camera


The archetypal camera for the traditionalists out there, the wooden 8 x 10" field camera is about as lo-fi as you can get while still incorporating a high degree of precision, control and, of course—the image quality afforded by being able to use a huge 8 x 10" negative. Reminiscent of the cameras used by the original masters of photography, the Wista 810DX is not only a beautiful object, thanks to its cherry wood construction and brass hardware; it is a capable, lightweight tool, as well. The double-extension design facilitates working with a broad range of lens focal lengths, while both front and rear movements allow for great control over focus and perspective correction. For those looking to avoid complicated printing processes, the 8 x 10" format is perfectly suited for contact printing to produce finished photographs.

Leica M-A (Typ 127) Rangefinder Camera


More technologically advanced, yet still emphasizing full mechanical functionality, the M-A (Typ 127) is Leica's most recent film camera, but you'd be hard pressed to find too many distinguishing traits compared to its predecessor of nearly 60 years ago—the M2. Ever since Leica defined its niche in the ’50s with the advent of the now-classic M-mount 35mm rangefinder camera, the company has felt little need to improve upon what many feel is a perfect camera. Updates to the way film is wound or advanced, some changes in the viewfinder, and even the inclusion of a meter, have graced certain M cameras throughout the years, but the M-A harks back to a simpler era. It lacks a light meter, it eschews all automatic modes, and it does not even take a battery. It does, however, have a fine-tuned design, classic ergonomics, and impressive physical construction.

Sekonic L-398A Studio Deluxe III Meter


Perhaps considered the Leica of meters, the Sekonic L-398A Studio Deluxe III is a classic mechanical ambient light meter that relies on an amorphous silicon photocell to produce accurate incident and reflected light readings, sans battery, electronics, or menu systems. All controls on this meter are manually operable and allow you to measure from EV 4 to 17 within a display range of f/0.7 to f/128. Most commonly associated with filmmaking and cine applications, this meter is also ideal for available-light still photography, and is a perfect complement to a meter-less, mechanical camera.

LEE Filters 4 x 4" Black-and-White Polyester Filter Set


Before the ability to control contrast using presets was built into your digital camera, black-and-white film photographers relied on the use of various colored filters to affect contrast and how specific colors in the scene translated into gray tones. This completely analog system of adjusting the transmission values of colors is essential when working with black-and-white film, and allows you to produce creative and dramatic effects more easily. Contained within the LEE Filters 4 x 4" Black & White Polyester Filter Set is a yellow 8 filter, which is the standard contrast filter to slightly darken blue skies; an orange 21 filter to provide a more noticeable darkening of skies; a red 23A filter, which can be used to produce nearly pitch-black skies for an ominous effect; and a yellow-green 11 filter, which lightens foliage and darkens skin tones subtly for more striking portraits.

Marshall Retouching Spot-All Liquid Retouching Dye


Let's call this the “Photoshop before Photoshop”—prior to the introduction of digital manipulation and editing of photographs on a computer, photographers had to retouch photographs and negatives by hand, using a fine-tip brush to eliminate dust spots, scratches, or defects from the final print. Spot-All Liquid Retouching Dye is a quick-drying liquid that you could think of as an analog Clone Stamp tool or Healing Brush, except with the dye, you don't have the opportunity to fix your mistakes with a History panel.


The Luddite's energy drink, coffee is a surprisingly versatile tool in the world of film-based photography, too. More than just something to be brewed to wake you or keep you awake for late-night printing sessions, coffee itself can be used to develop film and can also be used as a stain/toner for finished prints. For developing film, the common name of “caffenol” is given for a mixture of instant or robusta coffee, washing soda, and vitamin C, which produces a fine working developer for black-and-white films. For toning prints, you can simply use brewed coffee as a bath for soaking your prints until they acquire a brownish sepia-like hue.

Lensless 4 x 5" Pinhole Camera


If the aforementioned cameras are still a little too tech-y for you, then you cannot get much simpler than a basic pinhole camera. Harking back to the origins of photography and the camera obscura, a pinhole camera is a simple light-tight box with an aperture on one end and room on the other to hold light-sensitive film or paper. Lensless produces a series of pinhole cameras made from various wood types, are available in 4 x 5, 5 x 7, 8 x 10, and 11 x 14" formats, and sport a range of focal lengths up to 2 to 27", depending on format.

Domke F-2 Original Shoulder Bag


Standing tall despite the range of synthetic, lightweight, waterproof, and other high-tech materials being featured in most camera-bag designs, the Domke F-2 is the classic, soft, no-frills camera bag that many packs, pouches, and cases still aspire to be. Designed in 1976, this water-resistant canvas shoulder bag is among the simplest and most straightforward options available to port your gear. Even with its Luddite appeal, this bag is no slouch when it comes to protection, functionality, and durability.

Bulk Film Loading


For those with an aversion to manufacturer-loaded film cartridges, or just those with a penchant for saving some cash while shooting 35mm film, bulk loading is a euonymous process where you take 100'-long rolls of bulk film and manually load individual cartridges using a dedicated machine. Besides the savings associated with this practice, you also have the freedom to spool lengths of film for nearly however many exposures you wish to suit specific projects or to quickly change up film stocks while shooting.

Polaroid SX-70 Instant Film Camera


Long before we had digital cameras with LCD screens to review imagery, or social media sites to instantly upload photos with friends, there were instant film cameras to automatically produce a finished print on the spot for sharing or checking your light, exposure, and composition. Seeing a renaissance in popularity once again, Impossible has taken on the task of restoring original Polaroid SX-70 cameras for use, along with maintaining production of SX-70 film. While certainly technologically advanced for its time, nowadays the use of SX-70 film is mostly nostalgic, due to its antiquated analog process.


It is in simplicity that I love photography. None of my cameras are under 30 years old, therefore I only have to contend with 3 controls: aperture, shutter speed and ASA or ISO (for you younger crowd). At 67, I’m just the old dog who won’t learn new tricks, not that I can’t but I don’t want to. For me, there are too many controls on a digital camera to distract me while I’m doing street photography or any other type. If it were just learning all the controls of the camera, I could handle it but post production is just as involved if not more. I love the smell of opening a new roll of film, opening the lid on a developing tank and seeing my images go from film to negatives and watching an image appear before me in a tray. Whenever I view the work of the great photographers from the past century, I realize their equipment was simple. Their images might not be as razor sharp as today’s lenses but their images go straight to my heart. Art isn’t about technology or state of the art equipment that obsolete in a few months, it comes from within. Do you think Michelangelo might have been a better artist if he used a digital paintbrush? 


I agree with you and I'm just 5 years younger than you.. The combined controls on my Canon A-1 and New F-1 are fewer than the controls on my Canon 5D Mk III. But I enjoy shooting both film and digital.

Thanks, Ralph.

I'm not trying to put digital down, it's just not what I'm comfortable working with. Someday I may get a DSLR, but for now, my love is with my Hasselblads, Nikons, Leicas, etc. I just took out 4 books from the library on Vivian Maier. If you haven't seen her work or seen the video "Finding Vivian Maier", I urge you too.



Just like vinyl is making a return in audio, many of us feel that film has a quality that cannot be duplicated digitally.

Sure it's labor-intensive as well as messy if you also do your own processing - and the results are not immediately available - but there is still a place for analog in my bag of tricks. Even when shooting digitally, I find that the more I'm involved in setting a camera manually - and thereby slowing down the whole process - the better my results become. I'd rather end the day with a dozen 'keepers' than a thousand mediocre files.

Then there's the feel of analog v. digital. Just like in music, analog images are less sterile, less fatiguing and much more pleasing to my eye when viewed as a print. I have several digital photo prints that I love, but if I view them for an extended period I find myself with a headache.

Would I shoot film at a birthday party? No. Digilal photography is a wonderful innovation that I embrace fully and love. But it doesn't replace film and fully manual cameras in all situations. If you're a digital-only-on-auto-settings photographer who wants to go deeper into the art - you owe it to yourself to do some exploring down the analog road.

Hello i was using some of these materials the Sekoni loght miter filters 4xa4  6x6 and more and EICA CAMERAS till comes out tha digitals that many equitments are not valide