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Recently I thrifted a cool little rangefinder camera: a Ricoh 35 FM. I am new to photography, and am planning on shooting in the night. However, the camera does not have as many settings to change as on a regular film camera. I can only change the range (in meters) and the ISO.

Any recommendations for how I would produce good shots?

I read on a website that I should shoot on the lowest settings, so in my case that would just be the lowest ISO which is 25.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you elaborate on why you are doing this? With film, it is easiest to get good results in good light. What do you mean by "shooting in the night"? What kind of scenes exactly? \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Mar 25, 2023 at 14:47

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You are shooting with a film camera. The ISO dial only tells the camera the speed of the film you have loaded so the camera meter can set the aperture. You will need to use a fast ISO 400 film but even at that, the information available online says that the Ricoh 35 FM has a fixed shutter speed (of 1/125s) and varies the aperture to set the correct exposure. This means that in all likelihood you won't be able to take any kind of useable photographs in dim light... ISO 400 at 1/125s at f2.8 (the fastest the lens can go) gives an EV level of 8. This might give you a useable image of a downtown cityscape, Times Square, or a brightly lit stadium, but not anything with less lighting..

A thought is to use film -faster- than ISO 400 (there are some faster color and B&W films available- some going up to ISO 3200). You'd need to experiment, but that's when the fun begins! You would set your camera at ISO 400 for these faster films. *Note that if you expose a film that is rated faster than ISO 400 in a well-lit environment, it will likely be overexposed...

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Remember that on a digital camera, you adjust the ISO setting to adjust the sensitivity of the sensor to light. (Crude explanation, but that's basically it.) On a film camera, the ISO is a fixed characteristic of the film. If you intend to shoot in low-light conditions, then you should be using a high-ISO film from the get-go.

Twirling some ISO dial on the camera is not going to make your film more sensitive to light. What that dial is there for is simply to tell the camera what film is loaded so that the camera can try to set correct exposure settings for that film. If you set the ISO dial to a high setting, when you don't actually have high-ISO film in the camera, what the camera will do is select exposure settings suitable for high-ISO film, and so your low-ISO film that's actually loaded will end up not receiving enough light and just be way underexposed.

I'm a big fan of film photography, but I have to say that film does not perform great under low-light conditions. For low light, I'd usually suggest a film with ISO of 800, but the resultant images can be quite grainy. If you are willing to shoot black & white, you can get film that theoretically can be exposed at EI 3200. The results will also be grainy, but sometimes this is less obtrusive with black & white.

However, according to your camera's manual, the meter in this camera only works in quite bright light (EV 10-16 @ ISO 100), and the ISO dial maxes out at 400. Also, the camera/meter is supposed to run off a 1.35 volt mercury battery, which I believe are no longer available. So basically, I've no idea how the meter/camera will behave/perform in low light. Let's assume that the camera selects "maximum" exposure - that's f/2.8 @ 1/125 seconds. With ISO 800 film loaded, that's an exposure that should be enough for a scene metered at EV 7 - something like brightly-lit nighttime streets, indoor sports or stage shows.

Don't expect to be massively impressed by your results. If you really want to have good results, get yourself a more modern camera with greater exposure control, a more sensitive meter, and combine that with a tripod.

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