I picked up a film camera for the first time since high school, back in 2010. I’d been bitten by the photography bug and was well and truly immersed in lighting, sensors, Lightroom, Photoshop and lots frames per second. A photographer I respect dearly challenged me one day during a late night editing session while travelling for Tracks Magazine. I showed him a shot I’d heavily edited after underexposing having shot it in shutter priority mode. “It’s a great shot, but if it weren’t for that sensor, you wouldn’t have it,” he responded.

I was a little taken back at first, but he had a point. It wasn’t that long ago he was having to shoot 36-frame rolls of slide film with little to no room for exposure error. He challenged me to pick up a film camera – a tool with nowhere to hide, just a mechanical exposure triangle and light.

I like where film got me and what it changed in how and what I shot, but over the past seven years, I have had varying degrees of love and hate with film. Most of the hate stemmed from lack of support for the medium in Australia. Film has not been readily available at any kind of realistic price through retailers and labs especially, are particularly hard to find – especially labs that actually know what they’re doing.

It’s not all doom and gloom though because the use of film in Australia is on the incline and so to are the options to purchase, develop and scan it.

Online retailers of film have become a saviour of the medium in Australia and Ikigai Camera (based in Melbourne) has become my “go to” supplier of Kodak emulsions like Tri X 400 and Kodak Portra 400 as well as Fuji Acros 100 in 120 and a range of Japanese films that, until recently have not been readily available in Australia.

The beauty of online retailers like Ikigai Camera, is that they’re also generally photographers who shoot film and, although they’re a business, they’re not looking for 200 percent mark ups to cover brick and mortar store overheads like at Camera House for example.

Samples are also another hard one to come by. If you’re not familiar with a film stock, it’s always great to have a rough idea of what to expect from your scans or prints before you commit to a shoot with it. Sure you could purchase it and shoot some test rolls, but Peter at Ikigai has gone to the effort of doing that for you, so that as you browse the store for emulsions you’re not familiar with, you will find samples and have a good understanding of how they perform.

Labs are another story. There are a number of options throughout the country with varying degrees of price for develop and scan services. I’d say 90 percent of these labs can’t be trusted with serious and/or professional work. For the most part, they’ll do a fine job with general images you make. But for anything serious, I use Atkins Photo Lab in South Australia and trust their dip and dunk developing services and consider their film scans to be the best in Australia, rivalling the scans you’d see out of Richards, Find and Indie Film Lab in the United States.

Just remember though with film labs, there is no such thing as “cheap AND good” you can’t have them both. If the work is important, trust professionals, if it’s not then by all means, support your local lab with automatic processor.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive list of film suppliers, labs and repairers, I’ve created one HERE.

Ikigai Camera: http://www.ikigaicamera.com/​

Atkins Photo Lab: http://atkins.com.au/​

Australian Film Supplier List: VIEW

See my review of Ikigai Camera's Fuji Industrial 100 HERE