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Monday, 06 September 2010


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"The funny bit of the story is that B&W film negatives are being created from the digital camera and then printed in a more traditional way—enlarger an so forth—for museums and collectors because that is what those people want, by his own candid admission."

I'd like to know about this, how it's done and so on. I had fun on a forum once that was discussing the archiving difficulties of digital photos; I suggested making film negs or slide dupes and storing the negative strips in film drawers.

Diego Ortiz Mugica does the same thing (B&W negatives from digital camera and then printed in a traditional way) and he even did some sort of workshop involving Kodak on his technique...

Robert, You need a copy of Dan Burkholder's "Making Digital Negatives for Contact Printing" from 1999. Basically you reverse the image in Photoshop and print it on transparency material.

You know, if it was a really good emulation of Tri-X...

The promise of a camera with open-source, programmable firmware would allow a thousand Mike Johnston modes to bloom. CHDK anyone?

The world need variety in terms of camera bodies. It is not digital vs film/slide. It is the constraint of digital body which limit it for different kind of use. At least in a reasonable costs.

For film, you can use from 8x10 to miniature / loom with about us$2k. Not cheap but reasonable and affordable. I build 4x5, 8x10, hassey, pentax 6x7, cv ... All still own now and all cost this amount. They can fit different purposes and have different character to enjoy with.

For digital, for us$2k, I can only have my current d300 and an iPhone,
The above 2 comment reflects this aspects. If camera body matters, this affect any argument that one can use digital for color and film for black and white. Except for hassey 500/200 series, the switch to digital entail too much switch to a different body. That is the not very user- or hobby- friendly.


Any other issue is about the film. Whilst we have lots. The majority settle down to a few. If we can have velvia 50 equivalent 16bit jpeg2010 standard so that one can film to it, our visualization with the process would be much "improved". It is no longer capture. It is photography.

Look at Pentax 645d ad and that is one of the camera point.

Film in the old day is mass market and support a slide market for the serious/pro or large format as a by-product. Both slide and b/w has it's characteristics. That is the media that define ansel Adams message.

Free the body design but fix the sensor character (velvia is fixed and trix is largely fixed). That might call photography again.

But might be only historical interest. We do only digital capture and manipulation. Put a robot takes 64 bit pano pics. Our own role is to put the camera there (and they can just do it waiting for the light). The customer can sit remotely and just adjust it. If we allow airborne one. ...

End of p.

I think the Mike Johnston mode is a top idea, but you don't need a new camera to for it. I have a well-used Nikon D40, a pretty basic but decent camera, and a few lenses it won't AF with. So you have to work a bit harder but it's a change from just shooting at everything interesting. Digital has made it all too easy, Mike. I agree.
The Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 is one of the best primes money can buy, and it costs very little. The Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8, which you once described as a killer lens, won't AF on the D40 either. It didn't cost much either.
It loses the wide angle on the crop sensor of the D40, so I use it on my F80 with B%W film. You can't get the same look with digital. I agree again.
My late father had a Leica M3 or M4, and he always shot Ilford B&W film. He said colour just wasn't ready yet.
So it looks like you get my vote on all your recent ramblings, Mike. Then again, I'm probably as old as you are.
Thanks for the interesting debates.

Kodak made the LVT laser film recorders in the 90s to do just that, write digital to film for the slow-to-catch-on print and ad industry. They were wonderfully expensive and used SGI Workstations to edit the photos and drive everything. I felt like kindergartener taking my lowly SyQuest cart over for a $300 pc of film because the printer was too stupid to handle a file directly.

But we used to get $400 per hour for retouching then too. It wasn't all bad.

I feel the micro four thirds cameras already come with a Mike Johnston mode:

1. Small and ubiquitous, like a Leica, especially with a pancake prime.
2. You can set it to shoot RAW while showing you a B&W preview. Just setup lightroom to apply a B&W filter upon importing and you're set.
3. You can set it to manual if you want to practice manual exposure.
4. With enough dedicated dials and buttons, you can easily set the most used settings without menu diving.

Yes, there are differences. There will always be a bit of a lag compared to a mechanic camera even with prefocusing. Still, perhaps the Leica year experience can be replicated with say an E-P1 and a 20mm. You still get to practice exposure and "seeing" in black and white, and replace the dark-room with experience with light-room. As for printing, your average Inkjet might not be up to task, but mpix.com has what they call true B&W printing, which should do fine.

At least that's what I'm planning to do. Now if only I can find a Tri-X preset for lightroom...

But all self-respecting cameras already HAVE a Mike Johnston mode built in - appropriately marked "M".

I have my DSLR on M with center weighting all the time, and since my 35mm Zeiss lens is stuck to the camera 80% of the time, I use manual focus almost exclusively. I don't even have a microprism or split prism, I focus just by eye. It's so liberating to be able to frame and focus simultaneously, I even started to use MF with the 70-200.

And a bit surprisingly (to me, at first), the ratio of hits (well-exposed, in-focus) to misses is not worse than when I had everything on Auto. But as an added bonus, when I do get it all right, it feels a lot more like "my" image, my accomplishment, which adds substantially to the joy of photographing.

Mike Johnston mode is simply about taking control, and I would never buy a camera that doesn't let me do that.

«Basically you reverse the image in Photoshop and print it on transparency material.»
I think transparency material is not compulsory: You could print negatives in the final format and contact-print them. Or not?!

Robert, I'll post more details tonight, but don't hold your breath as there aren't many.

Mike, surely you meant to write "Duetting".

HP have produced a printer profile for creating digital negatives on the Z3200. It's free: http://bit.ly/aQSNbt


There will be no Tri-X preset for lightroom, not anytime soon. Digital just looks different because it *does* color photography ... (see bayer filter). It would be great if someone made a real BW sensor - but this is not going to happen - sorry.

Getting back to the MJ-mode: one thing is missing - they should be selling a darkroom construction kit with the camera ;-)

I suppose if enough photographers follow Salgado and his "fears" we will all be relegated to digital capture and fake negatives.. . because there will be no more film.

I would much rather see photographers use film and scan and print digitally because that keeps film available for those of us who prefer it.

I wonder if Salgado might have dealt with his fears in a different way than resort to computational photography!

Lukasz Kubica: «It would be great if someone made a real BW sensor - but this is not going to happen - sorry.»

Amen to that. [tears]


Hmzzzz, a 4,5 x 6 is a 3 x 4. My humble GF1 can shoot in 1 x 1, 16 x 9, 2 x 3 and 3 x 4. I wonder when the next high end Nikon or Canon can do that trick, until then I go as EVIL as possible! Maybe a tip for Salgado?

Greetings, Ed

The Kodak DCS-460M was a B&W sensor. I haven't heard of one since then. That one was a stop faster (base ISO) than the color version (160 instead of 80).

I also suspect it didn't sell well enough to encourage Kodak or others to continue with monochrome sensor cameras.

Robert, here is some technical nitty-gritty regarding the Salgado negatives and sorry in advance for the brand name dropping.

The negatives are printed on Ilford delta 100 iso using an "imageur" (imager?) such as the Kodak LVT Rhino at roughly 4x5 inches format. Prior to that, there is some work done on the computer designed to imitate Tri-X "look" with a piece of software called DXO Film Pack. They even add grain artificially: that's attention to (lost) detail.

It's all done by a specialised lab in Paris (Dupon) whose address and tariffs are given at the end of the article, thereby making this neat protocol accessible to civilians.

About the Salgado comment. A friend of mine has bought an Olympus E600. The very annoying thing about it is that the LCD lights up before and after you take a photo. The easy solution to this annoying problem is to turn the LCD around (the E600 has a swivel screen) and close it, with the plastic back of the LCD facing outside. This way is more like an analogue camera, you wouldn't get distracted.

Looks like Salgado (and some of you) can now buy a Phase One Achromatic back...

Salgado has gone digital for some time. There's a video of him speaking at the Hammer Museum in 2009 (on youtube) sharing his digital conversion experiences - he has tried out the high end Phase One stuff and found them unsuitable for field use.

And it's not true that he NEVER chimps. In fact, on his own Amazonas website, there are several videos of him working on the Genesis project, using the Canon 1Ds Mk3 with what appears to be a 24-70L zoom. He used the LCD to check exposure as well as to share with the natives their pictures, which helped built relationships.

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