I think I've just experienced a modest philosophy shift.
I've been shooting film for the past several days, and all of a sudden yesterday it hit me: I like almost everything about film...except its speed.
You just get really used to ISO 800, 1600, 3200—and dialing back to ISO 200 and then adding a filter just does "narrow the day"—it collapses photographic opportunities into a narrower window of more plentiful light, and trims back the edges of darkness that digital has extended photography into.
Of course this only impacts certain types of photography—including my type (handheld cameras, available light). It wouldn't necessarily affect you if you photograph using flash, or a tripod.
Personally, I could do without almost everything that digital requires or offers (color, permutability, convenience, cost savings)...except the speed.
I think this might even affect how I buy cameras in the future. I actually don't need super-high pixel counts, exotic lenses, esoteric electronic features, and so forth on down the list of saleability features...I could do with a camera of modest spec in most respects as long as it has robust high ISO capabilities.
P.S. I've decided I'm okay with the mutation of "impact" into a verb. The reason is that there is no traditional verb with quite the same meaning.
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A book of interest today:
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Steve Rosenblum: "I agree with you about the speed. Last month I shot only film on a trip out west. I loaded B&W film into a Contax T, and C-41 color film into a Yashica T4 Super. These are both easily carried along, so that I had a choice of B&W or color at approximately the same focal length. I really enjoyed forgetting about all the tech stuff and just concentrating on being in the moment and shooting. It really felt quite liberating. Also, The Contax T is so small that it was essentially invisible to those around me which made me much bolder in my street shooting. I did not miss the 'chimping' aspect at all.
"I didn't like two things: 1. (like you) the inability to ramp up ISO as needed for candid photography indoors without a flash. I could get around this partially by shooting Ilford XP-2 Super because it has such a broad exposure range, but, there is a real limit to how much underexposure it will tolerate once you get above ISO 400. 2. Ann Arbor no longer has a decent film lab, and I no longer soup my own film. Also, I am not in love with scanning whole rolls of film. This means I must send it out to a lab that does an excellent job of development and scanning—so there is a week or so delay in the process. I don't feel the need to see the results 'right now!' but a couple of days would be better. If I could have a couple of day turnaround on development and great scans I would be very happy shooting film until it disappears."
D.C. Wells: "For the past few months I've been shooting Tri-X with my M3 again for a change of pace. It reminds me how restrictive the ISO speed governor is for indoor, available light shots. The other speed factor—loss of immediate gratification—also bothers me a little. I generally accumulate several rolls and send them out for scanning. It's often several weeks between shooting and seeing the shots. But there's an upside. I don't keep close records of my exposures, so with my weak memory, getting the negatives and scans back and seeing my shots for the first time is almost like opening presents on Christmas morning."
Ned: "Now into my 50s, I have waited since I was 13 to develop my first roll of film. I remember that day in Junior High School when I had to drop my photography class. You see, my parents didn’t have enough money to buy me a camera. Yesterday was a big day for me. I went down to the local photo shop, purchased a basic B&W developing kit and finally did what I wanted to do for so long. I almost forgot to put in the fixer, the images were lacking in contrast, and there were a few dust and water spots. It was wonderful. Film is everything that is right with photography."
Mike responds: You might get a bit tired of it after the first 1,000 rolls or so. Just a WTTW.
Greg Wostrel responds: "Ned: how poignant, but what a wonderful thing to have done. You just gave something very important back to your 13-year-old self. Love it."
Yoram Nevo: "Yes, exactly. Where is that six megapixel DSLR for the rest of us? Think what ISO heights it could reach. Give us slow guys a fast camera! Who needs all those pixels anyway? And as one using the aging Nikon D70 I would suggest Nikon to name this new DX camera (yes, we don't need FX—the 50mm ƒ/1.8 is a great portrait lens on the D70) the...'Nikon D6MP' :-) "
Del Kimbler: "One of the things I liked about sheet film in my Century Graphic was that I could select by ASA one or two shots at a time. And one of my frustrations with roll film was how to deal with partial rolls. I was never really comfortable with doing it, even with cameras that allowed it. So, when digital allowed shot-by-shot creative control of ISO, I wanted one. I was not one of the earliest adopters, but early enough, and I was willing to put up with limitations in other respects to get ISO control. Now that digital sensors and features of their packaging (bodies) are much advanced, I can't think of a reason for me to shoot film other than sentiment."
V.I. Voltz: "The somewhat illogical end result of the speed limitation of film was superspeed lenses. I miss how Plus-X with a yellow filter looks, but I don't miss shooting it."
Mike replies: You've put it better than I did, Voltz. I miss the look, but I don't miss the limitations.
Hugh Crawford: "I had an impacted tooth once, and neither 'effect' nor 'affect' came close to being the right verb. 'Afflict' perhaps...."
Dfriedman3: "What I miss about shooting film is the look of Tri-X shot on an overcast day, but also the cameras. My Canon F-1's were brass, glass and steel, no plastic. The lenses were brass and glass. Plastic digicams and plastic-barreled lenses make me nervous."
Michel Hardy-Vallée: "Embrace blur."
Paul Glover: "This is definitely a YMMV situation. My best results turn out to be when I'm shooting slowly and carefully on a tripod. I do tend to shoot things that don't move much, though.
"I'm also, unexpectedly, finding that the delayed gratification aspect is helping me be better at editing. There's usually a delay between my finishing a roll and getting it developed. Typically I'll make my 'contact' scans of the whole roll as soon as I'm able, but it may be days before I get time to make selects from those, and more days before I go back to scan the selects. I usually post one per day online, so the finished scans will end up in queue for that. Right now, I'm posting stuff I shot a good two months ago.
"During each step of that long process, there's an opportunity to look at something I previously thought was great, only to realize that it just isn't sticking for me. On the other hand, I'll look at other shots and still be insanely happy with them after a week or a month.
"I guess I've stumbled into my version of the editing wall.
"When I still shot digital, I'd have already rushed to post the photos before I had a chance to reflect on them and realize that maybe they weren't all quite as awesome as I thought they were."