Let me preface what I am about to say by defining what I mean by analog photography. Because analog cameras comes in many shapes and forms. Everything from point and shoot, to very advanced SLR models to the ones that might have one but don’t require a battery.
What I am talking about here is:
A system camera: you can change the lenses and set settings like shutter speed and aperture manually.
It is mechanical. This means that the only thing that require a battery (if there is one) is the light meter. Everything else works fine without a battery.
There are no “auto” modes.
There are many reasons to why I love analog photography: focus, simplicity and relatively cheap gear. I think digital SLR or digital range finders are the best place to start learning because you can shoot so much, without costing you that much money. You are set if you get a crop sensor camera, a 35mm lens, some batteries and SD cards. And the only cost moving forward after that and a Lightroom license is electricity and external hard drives if you fill up your computer. While analog have a real cost connected to it. Around $10 USD per roll of film, and usually 2-3x the cost of a roll to develop it; if you dont do so yourself.
My current camera is a silver Nikon FM that I inherited, it came with a 50mm f/1.8, and I also bought a used 24mm f/2.8. I mostly use the 50 because it is <em>my</em> focal length, and it is so much lighter.
If I go out with my FM to shoot, I usually just bring a few spare rolls of films. And that’s it. I have used it for around a year, and the battery is still going strong. What would be the result if the battery died while traveling or being a place I could not get a replacement? Well, I’d just use the f/16 Sunny method (Sunny day, 1/100, f/16, ISO 100) .
My X-Pro 2 is a little bit more of a drag to get it all sorted. I usually havet o check how much room I have left on my cards. Then I usually bring at least one spare battery.
You can probably get set up with a excellent analog SLR + a really good lens for less than the price of a entry level DSLR kit. And if you are willing to pay a couple of thousands of USD, you could get the camera I really want: a Leica M6.
The most important thing I have gotten from shooting film for around a year now is a much better understanding of focusing, exposure and speed / ISO.
When you shoot digital, you are used to being able to change the ISO as you please. This is not the case for analog. Instead of having a sensor, you have a roll of film. This means that you need to figure out what is the best compromise for the kind of shooting your are doing the next X. In other words: until you have shot 24 or 36 shots.
You can push or pull (shoot at a higher or lower ISO than it is rated as) but you need to do so for the whole roll.
My personal preference is to shoot 400 films. I prefer Fuji Superia for colour and Ilford HP5 for black and white. Sunny day: ISO 400, and I usually push to 800 in general or 1600 if it is really dark.
Again. You can’t switch it up in the middle of a roll.
The first thing you learn when you start shooting analog, with the kind of cameras I like is how focusing really work. I kind of knew how it worked. The basic idea is that you twist the focus ring until what you want to have in focus are in focus. You can also do so by using a distance scale on many older lenses (and Leica lenses). The F-number shows you what will be a focus in terms of meters / feet with your current focus point.
The second thing I got into my fingers is how different exposure settings impact each other. For example: with this film I can’t shoot here, because it is too dark. Or I can’t go down to F2 here, because my camera don’t go above 1/1000th of a second, and I use a ISO 100 film. Or I either have to go for a very slow shutter speed (potential shake / blur) or I need to go for really shallow depth of field).
You have all the same problems wit ha DSLR, but you almost always have extreme shutter speed and ISO options that you can get a compromised version of what you thought you wanted.
If you think it is a hassle to adjust all of it yourself, you are kind of right. But it is much easier when you have physical dials for everything. You usually just pick “I want this shutter speed” or “I want this f-stop” and adjust accordingly. And it is much easier to focus manually on cameras that are made for it. SLR’s often have a micro prism and range finders are rangefinders. Both are based around the principle where you only need to make sure that the stuff in the “focus area” line up.