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My First Film Camera

A Life-Changing Thrift Store Find

By Oliver DahlPublished 3 years ago 3 min read
Top Story - April 2021
The Canon TX was my first film camera

Spring had come to stay in Boise, Idaho. The bright, April afternoon light filtered through the windows and around the bookcases and clothing racks that lined them. Whether as a result of the sunshine or thanks to the warmth of my own nostalgia, I remember a corner of the thrift store being bathed in orange light, with dust and the smell of old books sparkling in the air.

I'd been casually exploring the antique-laden shelves, craning my neck to read old book titles and fidgeting with old typewriters and the like. I turned a corner, and there she was. It was love at first sight.

She sat on an upper shelf of a bookcase, looking pretty and sure. She positively gleamed in the sunlight. Clad in black leather, she had all the right knobs in the right places. (And a pretty nice-looking lens, too, I might add.) She said her name was the Canon TX. I knew right away I had to take her home with me.

The Canon TX is an entry-level all mechanical SLR film camera. First introduced in 1975, it features a built-in battery-powered light meter and is built like a tank. It's solid. For anyone looking for an inexpensive first film camera, (or an unassuming bludgeon) I'd highly recommend it. It's a little more basic than its more popular cousin, the Canon AE-1, but for a trustworthy camera at a much cheaper price, you can't go wrong.

I've heard stories of people finding high-value film cameras for dirt cheap at thrift stores before. And it happens! The Canon TX is not one of those--you can pick one up on eBay for less than $50. But I think it cost me less than $15 at the thrift store back in 2017. And for a first film camera to introduce me to the basics, it was perfect--and honestly life-changing.

I had never shot film before, so at first I was intimidated. I couldn't figure out how to get her to open up to me. Then I found a knob that opened the back so I could put some film in. Without really knowing if things would work out, we went on a few adventures. I came to love seeing the world through her eyes. (Or, her viewfinder, I mean.)

After things started to "develop" between us, I was amazed at how similarly we saw things. She opened my eyes to new possibilities and new ways of looking at the world around me.

Before long, we went on our first cruise together. We were moving pretty fast--still on our first roll of film. It was the adventure of a lifetime.

This image from our first roll of film is still one of my all-time favorites.

We had a blast exploring the cruise ship together and watching the shore from the sea. We came to realize that neither of us were perfect, and we both make mistakes sometimes. But we decided to stick together and make the most out of it. Maybe even our mistakes and accidents could become something beautiful if we let them.

(When you try to fit 37 photos on a 36-frame roll of film)

(When you accidentally put the same roll of film through the camera twice)

Even when we weren't on a cruise, she had this magical way of making every day exciting. Even the mundane things became fun. Our ordinary hometown became a source of inspiration and wonder.

Life was always an adventure with her. We were inseparable. Whether along the Oregon Coast or in the deserts of Arizona, we were sure to go together--taking in the sights, making and preserving memories, and creating something special.

She and I made a pretty good team. And the world was more beautiful with her around. Some people may say she's nothing special, but she's special to me. Even though I'd been into photography before meeting her, she's really the one who taught me about f-stops and shutter speeds, ISO settings and film stocks.

She opened my eyes to a new world of photography--one that requires time, commitment, patience, and dedication. She helped me learn to slow down. To do things right the first time. To learn from my mistakes.

We're now in something of an... uh... f1.8 relationship. (That is to say, "wide open." What can I say? I like to shoot around.) but we spend time together whenever we can. It feels like a lifetime ago, but I'm still so glad that we met in that thrift shop on that beautiful spring day. Call it fate, destiny, or divine intervention, we were meant to find each other. I truly don't know where my life would be without her. Film has become a part of my identity as a photographer and maybe even as a person. I've scored at the thrift store before, but no other find has been so life-changing and rewarding as my trusty Canon TX.

More film photos from Oliver:

Instagram: @OliverWDahl



About the Creator

Oliver Dahl

Oliver Dahl is a published author and photographer from Boise, Idaho.

He currently studies marketing at Brigham Young University.


Instagram: @OliverWDahl

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