The Story Behind My Broken 35mm Film Camera

Take a quick glance at the photo below and you'll be able to see that something is amiss. Nikon F601 cameras rarely come with Duct tape, Sellotape and surgical tape as standard. Mine does, though, and here's the story behind the bodge.

The story starts in Kent

After I finished my A-Levels, I was mentally stranded. I had a vague inkling that I wanted to go to university, but I didn't know what to study or where to go. While I made up my mind, I started working full time in an office.

A close up of the repair.

A close up of the repair.

I had worked there on and off for a few years, spending my summers in stuffy shirts and pointy shoes, tied to a computer all day. It was unfulfilling but it paid well.

As much as I loathed it, the time I spent there was invaluable. It motivated me to do something else. Anything else. My creativity and wanderlust were sparked in that dusty room, so I resolved to do The Gap Year Thing: travel.

After 9 months of working, I had saved enough pennies to go Interrailing around Europe for a month, solo. I packed my cameras (a D-SLR as well as the camera in question) and set off for Split, Croatia. An eye-wateringly early flight meant that I arrived in the sunny coastal town mid-morning. The owner of the hostel I was staying with picked me up from the airport and drove me to his warm, welcoming abode.

It continues in Croatia

There were no other guests in the hostel when I arrived. They were either exploring or working. As I settled, a young Russian called Phillip entered with a timid "Hello". He had been interning with a multi-national organisation for 3 months and was a long-term resident of the hostel.

We exchanged awkward pleasantries and I went to my room to unpack. When I say "my room", I mean a four-person dorm.

Taken during a trip to see the Mosor mountains with Phillip.

Taken during a trip to see the Mosor mountains with Phillip.

It breaks on a bunk bed

I plonked my bag on the top bunk in a bright corner of the room, arranging my day bag for an afternoon of exploration. I unpack my camera gear, deciding to take both cameras with me for my first solo taste of the continent.

It is at this point that it breaks. Nonchalantly, I tossed the 35mm camera onto the soft, springy mattress. The landing wasn't quite the cushioned one I had in mind. The camera bounced on a wayward spring, the back compartment flinging open and revealing the open roll of film within.

A couple relax in the shade near Split's swanky marina.

A couple relax in the shade near Split's swanky marina.

My partially successful rescue attempt

A piece of plastic the size of a pencil tip had broken off, rendering the latch useless. With no hope of repairing it, I resolved to tape the back up as a temporary measure. Using plasters and surgical tape, I managed to keep it under wraps until finishing the roll of film. When I changed film, off came the makeshift stitches and on went a more secure bandage: Duct tape. Lots of Duct tape.

I shot two rolls of film on my trip and both came out almost unspoilt. To my delight, I only lost a couple of frames. Both casualties occurred at the point of impact on the bunk bed.

I've since put a few more rolls through the camera, to varying degrees of success. I lost a complete roll to light-leakage, whilst others have come through the ordeal unimpeded. 

The bodge remains to this day.

The bodge remains to this day.

Four years later, the tape solution is a mainstay. A common sense approach would be to get the latch fixed, but I quite like it as it is. I'm not a prolific film shooter, but that may be about to change. I've been hooked on the Negative Feedback Youtube channel for a few weeks, and it's inspired me to get shooting in the old school way again. On the presenter's recommendation, I even picked up a couple of rolls of Poundland's Agfa Vista 200 film, which I'm eager to try out.

So maybe the tape is on borrowed time. Even if that is the case, I'll always look back fondly on my Duct tape memories.