Today I am going to interview the self proclaimed Old Camera Guy himself, David Mihaly. You may already know him from his YouTube channel where he talks about affordable film cameras, and experiments with quirky film stocks.
Hey David, thanks for joining me. Why don’t you tell my readers and I a little bit about yourself outside of film photography.
DM: Well, I’m a very visually oriented person and this is reflected in both my vocation and my other hobbies. By trade I’m an optometrist, so I deal with lenses and optics on a daily basis. My other main hobby outside of film photography is painting, mostly in acrylic and some mixed media. With a full time job and raising two teenagers with my wife, the challenge is finding time for pursuing these passions. I think that’s a challenge most people can relate to.
What similarities do you find in optical equipment and camera equipment besides the obvious lens?
DM: It’s amazing how much the eyes and cameras have in common. The pupil is just an aperture, the retina is the film, etc. Although these days, I may have to use the word “sensor” instead of film when discussing the retina, so people actually know what I’m talking about.
So true. It’s amazing the way a lens is designed after an eye.
DM: For sure!
How and when did you get into shooting film?
DM: I was born in 1969, back when “film photography” was just “photography” – Digital wasn’t an option, so I took pictures on film all the way back in the 70s. We had mostly cheap little cartridge cameras growing up (110, 126). Although we did have a Polaroid we’d haul out on special occasions. In my college years I drifted away from photography for the most part. In 1999, I stumbled across the whole Lomography movement and wound up with a Lomo LC-A. I was hooked. The small size meant you could take it everywhere, and I did. The LC-A was my main rig until 2009. That’s when my boss gave me his wife’s old Olympus OM-2, my first SLR. Of course that opened up a whole new world to me. I needed to learn a little more about aperture, shutter, exposure triangle. Around that same time I started scouring thrift stores and acquiring way too many film cameras, mostly point and shoots that I still use to this day.
That’s awesome. So is it safe to say you’ve never really touched a digital camera?
DM: I have a Canon SL-1, a small DSLR that I use occasionally and a Canon G5X that I record my YouTube videos on. The main reason I chose the SL-1 is that I can use all the Canon EOS lenses I already had for my Canon film cameras. Honestly, the only digital camera I use for stills these days is my iPhone XR.
Besides all of our equipment being in used condition now, what would you say has changed the most in the world of film photography compared to its heyday back when we were younger?
DM: The biggest change I’ve noticed is the demise of the once ubiquitous one hour photo lab. We still have a local place, McAlister’s in Dublin, OH that can turn around C-41 in a couple hours, but that’s about it. Growing up, in addition to camera stores, every drugstore also offered quick C-41 processing. I used to get my film developed at Costco – $4 for developing and 4×6 prints, and another $3 if you wanted your images scanned to CD – Good times.
Yup I remember going to Walmart back when it was just a small town store and picking up prints from my disposables.
DM: Yep – and way back we had Fotomat – those little huts in random parking lots.
Someone needs to bring those back haha.
How did you get started making YouTube videos?
DM: My son started a channel and that got me intrigued. With all my cameras sitting on shelves, and not getting much use, I thought making videos would be a great way to force me to actually use these cameras to put out new content. It’s a great way to share your work with the world, and each video is like its own little self-contained project. Committing to a weekly upload schedule (every Sunday 11AM Eastern) helps hold me accountable to get out there and shoot every week, too.
I agree. Same for me. It keeps me going.
I like how you always include your lovely family in your videos and photoshoots. Are any of them interested in film photography?
DM: Thanks, my younger son who is 13 does have some interest. He’s accompanied me on several walking workshops with the FPP gang (Mike Raso, Mat Marrash, Leslie Lazenby and all those folks). Leslie even gave my son a shiny silver Olympus Stylus that he loves. That’s just another example of how generous the film photography community is. As for including my family in a lot of my shoots, well, they’re always around and their modeling rates are pretty reasonable. All kidding aside, I can’t think of anybody I’d rather photograph than my family. The older I get, the more I realize how important it is, to paraphrase fellow Ohioan Matt Day, to “Document Your Life”.
I know how you like to try out all of the quirky films. What is the strangest film stock you have shot with?
DM: All film stocks are strange if you give them enough time, haha. I’ve had some wild results with 30-40 year old film, for sure. As far as fresh film is concerned, there’s a lot of weird stuff on the market these days. The little green orbs on Revolog VolVox stands out as one of the more bizarre films I’ve shot. For the most part, I find that the effects in the Revolog stocks I’ve shot (Texture, Volvox, Plexus) are a little monotonous for my taste. I’ve been more pleased with the Psych Blues series from Dustin Adams – I find them to have a little more variety and unpredictability, which I like. Yodica Atlas is another trippy stock.
What is the best budget camera you have reviewed?
DM: There’s a few that I really like that aren’t going for sky high prices… yet. The Nikon LiteTouch AF (AKA AF600) is an undersung gem. Another one is the Olympus Stylus. The Stylus Epic gets all the hype because it’s got a faster lens (f2.8 versus the f3.5 on the Stylus), but I actually prefer the cheaper Stylus over the Stylus Epic. For me, the autofocus is better on the Stylus (at least on my thrift store copies) and I definitely like the ergonomics of the Stylus better, too.
If budget wasn’t an option what camera would you love to shoot with?
DM: I wouldn’t turn down the chance to shoot with a fancy panoramic camera like the Hasselblad XPAN or maybe a Widelux like Jeff Bridges shoots. For now, though, I guess I’ll stick with my Lomography Sprocket Rocket.
I asked the community if anyone had any questions for you and Alex Luyckx asked “Why the nickname Old Camera Guy?” Is there a story behind the name?
DM: First off, let me take the chance to say on the record that Alex is an awesome ambassador for the film photography community, and I’m glad to see he’s revived his YouTube channel. So, The Old Camera Guy name is a little bit of a play on words. It begs the question, Is the camera old? Is the guy old? The answer of coure is all of the above! In an early trailer for my YT channel, the introduction stated it flat out. “This is an old camera. This is an old guy. And this is The Old Camera Guy”.
Yes he is awesome.
I love the name.
DM: Thanks – Luckily, I’ve been able to claim it on every platform – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, even TikTok
Matt Evans asked “What is your desert island film, focal length, and camera?”
DM: Matt’s another good dude – I actually won a giveaway from Matt a while back. He sent me all kinds of gear from Splendid in New Zealand. So, on a desert island, I’m going to want to keep it light. I’m picking a Canon Rebel T2 with the 40mm f2.8 pancake lens, loaded with Eastman Kodak XX – I absolutely love that stock.
I love that lens. I have it as well on my Rebel G.
DM: I’ve got a bunch of Rebel series cameras, including the Rebel G – It was my first AF SLR, another thrift store find years ago.
It was my first film camera back when I was 13. Mike Novak was nice enough to gift it to me since I no longer have mine. Like you said, this community is so generous.
DM: That’s a nice gift! After I uploaded my latest video, I got a comment offering me an old medium format (620) camera. It’s being sent to me (FREE!) after Thanksgiving. Now I’ll have to brush up my skills re-rolling 120 onto 620 spools (it’s been awhile).
I look forward to seeing that on your videos soon.
Well, thank you so much for sitting down and talking to me David. This was fun. Before we go, are there any projects, or anything special you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?
DM: The next big thing I have coming up is taking the plunge into medium format film photography. I’m only two rolls in and I’ve already learned two things: 1)There’s going to be a learning curve and 2)I’m going to love it. Thanks again for reaching out to different voices in the film photography community. We are definitely not a homogenized group and I appreciate you shedding light on the diversity that exists in this family which we are lucky to be a part of.
I look forward to that, and thank you! I try to give back to this community in my own little way.
DM: I for one appreciate all your efforts – Thanks again, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Until next time, stay motivated and keep shooting.