Basic 35mm Photo Guide

Basic 35mm Photo Guide for beginning photographers by Craig Alesse was first written, judging by the photo subjects and the cameras featured, in the late 1970s. This version here is the fifth version which was released in 2001. I am reviewing it in 2013. So first, yes I know in many cases it will have some "outdated" information. However, the basics of aperture, shutter speed, and so on should be the same. I wanted to get a grounding in these important topic areas.

It's amazing how much the world has changed in a scant decade. I imagine if someone wrote a book on cameras in 1960 and then looked at it in 1970 that most of the basics would be the same. However, the preface here starts with: "The 35mm camera is very popular - millions are in use today and millions will be sold in the future." Could he have conceived that in 2012 Nikon would no longer allow film entries into their photo contest? In 2000, in the US alone almost a billion rolls of film were sold. In 2011 that was down to 20 million - and dropping fast. In 2000 there were nearly 20 million film cameras sold. In 2011 this was about 100,000 - and dropping. Kodak went bankrupt.

It would have been hard for someone in the late 70s to realize just how radically the world would change. So I did not mind the various comments about the longevity of film, and focused on the concrete training information.

The book is an odd mix. On one hand it's a beginner's reference book. But it has no page numbers. No easy way to hop between areas. You have to page until you find a chapter heading. Often a large page will have just two photos on it with brief descriptions. There was oodles of room available for more details, to help a beginner learn the material. But it's left out.

There's brief information on slow and fast speed, how it can change your lighting requirements or the graininess of an enlargement. More details would have been great, but it's just not there. Readers are warned to avoid "fogging" the film, but not told what that is. Yes, I happen to know, but the book was intended for beginners who were starting from scratch.

The basics of aperture and depth of field are explained well, and have visual examples. That's great, and what I would be hoping to see. However, this doesn't carry through to all areas of the book. We hear about telephoto lenses and macro lenses, but the accompanying images are of a person holding a camera. That's not quite helpful. I'd want to see the *photos* they are taking, to see what a macro photo looks like in comparison with a non-macro photo.

There's helpful information about avoiding glare in a photo by shooting at an angle to a person's glasses or a reflective surface. These types of details are good for all cameras, not just film cameras. The explanation of dealing with back light is also useful, giving visual examples of a well done and not-so-great shot of the same scene. This is exactly what I'd like to see more of, to help show visually just what the text is describing.

For a book in its fifth edition, there are still typographical issues such as using "it's" instead of "its". One would think those would all be worked out by now.

So I want to be clear that my relatively low rating isn't just because the book is "old". I can accept the fact that it's written in a specific time period. It's that, even for a book in 2001, that it should have been better. There should have been more examples of good and not-so-good photos of the same location. More dense text descriptions of what was going on. Better book design. Better editing, especially for a book in its fifth edition. Much of the book is fascinating from a historical / history of film point of view, but in terms of learning the basics, it just doesn't do its job well.

Rating: 3/5

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