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Saturday, 07 April 2012


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Thanks for the link. That's a very good article.

I thought that looked familiar, it was on The Luminous Landscape 14th March :-)

"When I got back processed slides from a shoot, I kept a trashcan next to the table as I scrutinized them"...

"With digital, I have become sloppy. I can fix it"... "This has undoubtedly led to a lower quality of photographs."

Perhaps the same ruthlessness applied with a digital trashcan, might lead to a similar improvement in the quality of the surviving population? (grin)

The difficulty is that it can be hard to know straight away which digital images are going to prosper, and which may turn out too sickly to do so. On the other hand, apparent health is no guide to value - consider the disastrous life circumstances out of which some of the greatest human art and science has come.

So in the Darwinian struggle for digital fitness, we need that same hard-headed attitude - but it is maybe wiser to conceal your mistakes, rather than to destroy them altogether!

Penny for his thoughts.

Superb article which lead me to a fantastic photostream on flickr. Inspiring stuff.

"I thought that looked familiar, it was on The Luminous Landscape 14th March :-)"

That was probably around the time the writer sent out alerts--I found it yesterday while sifting through unopened email.

But it brings up an interesting point, which is that currently I make no effort at all to compare TOP to other sites or to try to keep our offerings unique. I just don't have time to keep up with what other sites are doing on a regular basis (although I try to visit periodically when I can).

I heard an interview with the producers of the Colbert Report recently, and they said they made no effort to try not to duplicate what the Daily Show is doing--they just do their own thing and let the sister show do its own thing. Sometimes that does indeed lead to similar topics, even similar treatments--great minds think alike and all that.

The same was true of Time and Newsweek back when they were among the biggest magazines in the U.S.--occasionally their cover choices would converge and each would have a similar cover in the same week (it happened with Bruce Springsteen when he first came on the scene, for instance). I think the editors of each made an effort to see that it didn't happen, but each also tried to be secretive about its cover choice so it wasn't always easy to do that.


Yes, I'm sure I've seen this piece recently...probably linked from LuLa. Honestly, I think it's a whiff of sentimental chaff. For example the notion that we pay more attention when using film, and the hovering suggestion that film makes a person a better photographer, is bovine byproduct. Film's inherent limitations might, indeed, encourage someone shoot with more deliberation. But many others will take fewer risks and shoot fewer alternatives with film, dreading that 37th frame coma. And even if you manage to grab a trophy with film good luck trying to learn from the EXIF data on that slide. That's a net loss in my book.

I, too, enjoy shooting film occasionally mainly for the quaint charm of the wonderful cameras of yore (of which I have more than a few of many ilks). But for images...not so much.

Yes, I acknowledge that the tsunami of digital imaging completely changed the photography's landscape. It repelled technophobes and attracted legions of technogeeks. But digital imaging has not changed the core value of the photographic proposition.

To quote one of Mr. Venkitachalam's closing observations: "But I do hope to remember and practise the one valuable lesson I learned from slide film – accept constraints and focus on essentials."


I made the switch from film to digital after ~55 years of film use, and I love it. Maybe because I'm lazy, but I can now do things in minutes that took hours in the wet darkroom, and do them better. I've never been one who refuses to crop negatives, and on occasion I have even found two or three good images in a single digital frame. Yes, there was a learning curve for Photoshop, and I don't claim to be an expert, and maybe because I work in a high tech world, the transition was easier - I live with computers many hours a day. But I haven't altogether given up film. I still occasionally drag out my Pentax 67, especially for macro and low viewpoint shots (waist level finers are great), and I do scan in the resulting film plus my large number of slides and negatives. I suspect that many far better images are resulting from availablility of digital than in the good(?) old days of film.

I had the chance to go and talk to the head of a photography department that I used to manage for a large retailer 15 years ago. I planned their change-over to digital, altho left before I could execute the change, but they've gone far beyond anything I was planning, and have over doubled in size and personnel since I was there last.

What impacted me immediately, is the amount of what can only be called "pre-press" involved in the professional studio/catalog photography business. A lot of the equipment in the studio was virtually unrecognizable, and one can only hope that one could figure out what they're doing if you got hired in "cold", in enough time to hold on to your job!

I can tell from reading TOP fairly often, that there are a lot of "pro-sumer" types on here at any given time, a fair amount of people that do not rely on imaging to make their income, and therefore, their view of digital vs. film photography is that they replaced their film camera with a digital one, and do some downloading and some correction and maybe even printing out on their home computers. Let me tell you, the way "real" studio level hard core, big ticket digital photography exists has nothing to do with this reality. You wouldn't even recognized half the stuff or programs.

And there we have it, I think. Twenty years ago, a guy sat in a studio with a 4X5 camera, some lighting equipment, and some film holders and a meter, maybe a Polaroid back. And s/he took professional pictures. Now that person is sitting in a space that has wires all over it like an exploded computer, tons of screens and stacks. They may be using some sort of back that slides on a miniature view camera frame so that they can shoot perspective control, they may even use some sort of DSLR, but most likely not. They all use Capture One, which is fairly common, but which I've never even owned. And it seems like lighting and composition is the smallest part of their day.

Many on here have an opinion about switching film with digital, but for the professional studio pro, the mayhem quadrupled, if not increased by a factor of ten. Their lives were much, much simpler in film days than it is today, and their lives today have so much less to do with the simple act of lighting and taking a picture.

I envy the p-journalist crowd, or magazine people, or any of those pros that just made a simple camera change with some minor additional moving files around, and that was the extent of their "change".

I am hesitant to say that the people who came to photography when it was digital are *worse* than those of us who came through film, but their attitude is without a doubt different. We tend to think that when you put more work in, the result simply has to be better, but that's just not true. Digital only people certainly view an image as "cheaper" than I do. Does that "cheapen" the result, in the other sense? I don't know.

What is true is that the democratization of photography has made it wildly more abundant. As with any abundance, there's an abundance of crap. I can't really speak for anyone but me, but I too find that the carefulness enforced by film has made me better. I wonder if I could but an 8 megabyte SD card..

That said, I think I've made more progress in the last couple of years, shooting mostly digital, than in any previous 5 years.

Obviously, this is something I have been chewing on for a while, and continue to chew on ;)

It sounds kind of funny, but my wife decided that digital was the way to go long before I got serious. I had a VGA quality P&S, and my wife was very impressed that there was no film and developing involved. She said then that she'd never buy another roll of film.

I've bought a couple rolls to play with old cameras, but I wouldn't be a serious photographer using film.

I'm a young photographer, under the 20s.
In 2008, I decided to buy an OM-1 to learn some photography. Didn't get a film SLR for the hip factor; it's because I like material stuff and lasting things. Had I bought a 4/3 SLR, it would have been obsolete now. I mistrust digital files.

In 2009, as a 15 yr old I was convinced by a fellow APUG'er to try Kodachrome. "Do it now, or never" I never shot slide, but really wanted to try it. So I bought 4 rolls.

I put so much effort to the first one, taking me about 8 months (Fall '09-Spring '10). IT WAS my very first roll of slide film ever, and I feel being the last kodachrome apprentice. I really learned on that single roll.

Most of them are nice photographs, well exposed, not all of them keepers; but I'm very proud of that roll. Also, I doubt there were many teens shooting their first roll of slide in Kodachrome.

My dad has lots of photographs he took on his travels with his trusty trip 35. Among them, there are Slides; he used Agfachrome until the mid 80s. Later on, negs and prints.

I always see/saw them as a great little snippet of life, lovely thing, that has some kind of "magic" prints and negs lack.

Digital beings me my speedy part, and shoot, shoot. But with film I am a very careful and slow (more of the latter) photographer; I can take months to end a roll. But I try to get the very best on each.

Sadly, I feel slide is kind of a dead end for output. No Ilfochrome, just scanning as an option for printing. I might have to print some of those slides I've shot and see how it is. But well, projecting is wonderful.

As of digital, I'd get a decent one (mirrorless/DSLR) but for the price and obsolescence I pass it. Too many economic uncertainities (I'm Spanish, and it's a bit caotic here) plus the obsolescence factor doesn't attract me to it. If I had one, I'd balance both film and digital. But perhaps I'd switch 35mm for medium format.

To Mike: I've been following your blog for quite a while, just now I took the initiative to post a comment. TOP is a very interesting place for reading and learning too.

I read this blog entry just as I was going out the door to my sisters for Easter dinner. All the way up and back I kinda thought about the blog and my reply.

To distill it all down only a scant few years ago I'd had had a Leica loaded with B&W film with me. I'd be ready to shoot some low light wide open Summilux shots on the edge of what should have been possible given light level and conditions. I'd be anxious to get home and process the film, excited about really squeezing all I could from Agfapan 100 and Rodinal. Then I'd check it on a light box and maybe do a scan (darkroom down, Minolta scanner now) or three.

Today? I took no camera at all. The Nikon D3 isn't challenged. I used to wonder "how will this come out" to some degree even after 40+ years of shooting and making my living that way for 25 of those years. I was still curious. Digital has for me taken away so much of what I liked about the whole process. That wonder is gone.

Now I get to wonder when one of my three redundant hard drives will just fail.


"I do wonder if shooting film would help me become better in some way...but it just seems so painfully slow and error prone."

@ David Bostedo...

It totally is those things, but that's why it helps you become a better photographer. There's no lesson I've learned more deeply than by getting some of those last precious Kodachrome slides back from Dyane's only to see that I rushed some part of the composition or exposure evaluation. It's so easy to bypass those when shooting digital that the lessons don't sit with you. When the answer to the ever present question "how did it turn out" is not to your liking, believe me, you won't let it happen again with whatever camera or medium you use.

Mahesh, I wonder if you shoot RAW or JPEG. I've argued here and on other forums that shooting JPEG is roughly the same as shooting slide film, in that you've got greater exposure limitations and less control on the final image. My goal in post is to do as little as possible. I too cut my photographic teeth on slide film.

Doug Reilly:

I shoot RAW. I can't bring myself to shoot JPEG because of the inherent loss of information (both resolution as well as dynamic range) in the compression. You are right that shooting JPEG will give you a working constraint, but provided you like the JPEG processing of your camera.

To make things simpler for myself, I rarely crop my images, and mostly am happy with a slight contrast adjustment. I use highlight recovery as well. But I still prefer to put most of my effort behind the camera, rather than in post-processing.

Film photography is a lot like shooting with black powder muskets -- it works (slowly and painfully) but is best reserved for those who enjoy the process more than they need reliable results.

I have never bought this idea that switching from film to digital somehow instantly turns a photographer into a mush-brained hedonist that replaces everything learned and felt over years of film photography practice with mindless trust in digital post-processing.

I've been using digital gear for most of the past five years. Before that, 30-plus years of negative and slide film. Without any hesitation, I can say that whenever I put a viewfinder up to my eye, I want to capture the light as completely and as lovingly as I ever did. I freely admit that I check the LCD screen's feedback to see if I missed the exposure, and I love modern digital cameras' ability to indicate if I missed the exposure, ending up with blown highlights or blocked up shadows.

I care just as much today as I ever did about how I must take care to set exposure. When I put that camera up to my eye, I have no thoughts of digital or film. I'm only thinking about how to set that f-stop and shutter speed to get what I want. Period.

I totally disagree with Oleg. For me shooting film is neither slow nor painful, and I care a great deal about the results, which are quite reliable.

I too totally disagree with Oleg. I shoot both film and digital, and care very much about the results from each. The film experience is simply different from the digital experience, at least for me. I also get a huge rush out of laying a roll of 120 transparency film, or a box of slides, on my light box. I guess it is more personal to me than scrolling through images on a screen. Perhaps it's because of the limitations of film (what ever they are) that the process of getting an image I'm willing to hang on my wall is more challenging. And I like the challenge.

Plus One for Earl, I felt I needed to write in too. Oleg should qualify whether he's a real professional or not. I shot film, all my life, and exclusively until about 2004 (from 1970!), and I neither found it slow nor painful, and can say from about 1978 to the end, never 'muffed' a transparency at all! Seems like maybe Oleg, by himself, is the one with the less than reliable results; it's not an end product of actually shooting film...in fact, I find the variance between the camera back, and PC's and Mac's to be far more unreliable than I ever did film.

Looking today photography, saturated with "styles" of HDR, sunsets, landscapes and of course seans with 10x density filter makes me wonder who actually took those photographs, since they look all same ...

In time of film, images have been pretty distinctive in style and final execution therefore looking at them was a joy. Name such a Helmut Newton or Francesco Scavullo etc., where almost instantly apparent not even reading who actual autor was ...

Shooting on film was a concept not a try since roll of film was only a 36 exposures not 32 Gig of space ...

Thanks to Hollywood, who is in demand of film FUJI today films are technologically on same probable better level then digital cameras. Processing today 135-36 FUJI and scanning it on high end scanner will give you 40 Megapixel pure image without any artifacts.

RE ::: 5,400 DPI is equal to 212 pixels per mm, or 0.045MP/mm^2. Thus a 35mm slide, scanned on that Minolta 5400 scanner, yielded 39MP images, without Bayer Interpolation. Open these in PhotoShop, and 39x3 = 120 MB files, again, sharper than the Bayer-interpolated images from digital cameras.

Sure enough I am sooting digital as well with my 5D MK II and Hassy H4D-40 however B&W film at this moment is difficult almost impossible to be replaced by digital. Period.

P>s. Count how many film you have to buy to justify $4,200.00 dollars in let's say 5D MK-III ... Till time you will exhaust your film investment there will be new Canon 5D MK-X for $5.000.00

Mahesh, great article. Found it an instructive read. You may already know this but there's a place in Calcutta called Bourne and Shepard which develops slide film reasonably well. They sometimes run out of chemicals but hey, if you're using film its because your in no hurry.

More generally, I decided to buy my first camera about three years ago and was torn between film and digital. I chose film and don't regret it for a second. Here's how I think about it: for most of us non-professionals photography is simply about having fun. Much like hiking up a mountain (my other hobby). Using film, to me, is like actually putting in the effort to nagivate with a compass and map, sleeping in a tent, eating dry bread and trying to make it to the top. In other words, my idea of fun. Using digital would be the equivalent of using an escalator to get to the top of a hill (they actually have one of these in Hong Kong!) or, to use a less extreme analogy, using a handheld GPS to get to the top. Same result, quicker result, more effecient, less expensive. But is it as much fun?

Of course not everyone may share my idea of fun or their livelihood may depend on getting to the top of a hill (staying with the analogy) by any means possible or they may not attempt the climb at all if its too inconvenient and I see that. My point though is, what often gets missed while discussing the benefits of shooting film and digital is that for some people its simply more fun to gamble on a result and for some people its more fun play around in photoshop.

I have followed the responses on both LL where this article, by Mahesh Venkitachalam first appeared and here on TOP, it was very thoughtful and well written. I think for myself , where I started out making my living as a newspaper photographer shooting black and white 35mm film some thirty years ago and then going through the digital transition about ten years ago when the paper I work for made the switch to digital, I can't honestly say that I was able to take a whole lot of the lessons from my film days and transfer them into digital shooting days, I think one tends to adapt as one goes along, one day I was shooting film with a limited number of exposures per roll, then one day I was shooting digital ( our first cameras were the Nikon D1H ) and could take a whole lot more images and no film to process, I thought that was just great. For my newspaper work I would have to say that digital has been a godsend in terms of the speed in which an image can be made ready for an editor whether it be for the print or the web. I must say though that I still like shooting film ( 4 x 5 view cameras ) for my personal work that I do on my time off, I don't see shooting digital or film as one or the other, I am comfortable shooting both, and quite enjoy the slowed down pace with film and the anticipation of seeing my negatives after they are freshly processed, each has it's benefits, after all its the final image that counts.

I will compromise between Oleg and Earl- I find shooting film slow but not painful. I love shooting film but even with reasonable access to a darkroom through local camera clubs I simply do not have the time to drive there, process the film, print contacts, make choices, print test strips, print, print with dodging and burning, and retouch. With digital, something of the magic is missing but I can do the whole processing thing at my desk and stop part way through if interrupted. As a result, I hardly ever shoot film anymore.

To continue my compromise, I have recently dug out my mother's old sx-70 Polaroid and bought a few (expensive) boxes of Impossible project film. But that's for next weekend.

To me slide film is about the output not necessarily the input- though today's tranny films are very good. Yes, making a nice print, film or digital, is very satisfying, but how many prints do you want and what size should they be? Big enough to show on the wall, in a portfolio, or just n-prints? Take a transparency and project it and it can be as big as you like. Full resolution and full colour- something you won't get from any computer monitor or digital projector. Every shot with slide film can be in a short time be presented in its full glory- you just have to get people to sit in a dark room with you!

Replied to the author of this article, no response to date.

Slide film is the way for me. Load the film and photograph to your heart's content regardless of the subject, remove the film, send for processing, the film is returned mounted ready to use.
As with many of my local contemporaries we still use slide film and still have monthly slide shows to view the latest by the group.

Other than myself,the group own no computers and feel at their age of sixty years or older computers and hence digital is just something different and for them useless.

Why change now? If it matters, we are all single, have lived in most cases the house where we were raised and are the only child of our parents, hence we live in their/our house.

We use slide film exclusively. I have a cheap digital point and shoot for those views which I really need to use on the internet. Otherwise, nothing/zilch.

To me digital recording imagery is but a substitute for colour or black & white print film.

I'll stay with slides thank you. For me and others, it works, every time.

Count how many film you have to buy to justify $4,200.00 dollars in let's say 5D MK-III ...

Actually I just did that - based on slide film and UK prices, it works out as 200 rolls of film. In my film days, I could easily shoot that and more over the summer.

As to the 'merits' of shooting film - I am reminded of a lecture I went to many years ago when a local well respected pro came to talk at our university camera club. After some discussion on equipment, one of our more pretentious members asked a long involved question which essentially boiled down to

"do you ever use a really basic camera to improve your artistic discipline?"

the response was a succinct "Why the f*** would I want to do that?!"

I learned photography using film, and yes, there are some things I still love about B&W. But for me digital was a liberating experience, and I'll never go back. I think comparing film to digital no longer has much value - its like comparing water colour painting to oil painting. They are different media, each with strengths and weaknesses. Just use the one that works for you - or both - but saying one is harder, or better than the other makes no sense.

I also think that some of the views on film from some older pros have more to do with dealing with competition from a new digital only generation than a genuine appreciation of film.

But I must admit I was lucky - having had a day job in IT, the transition from film to digital was like a duck to water for me.

I came to digital after 30 years of shooting film as a serious amateur and occasional semi-pro (lots of B&W, and I did my own darkroom work the whole time, and some slides; color neg mostly starting in the 80s). I like it a lot. Viewing images on screen has much of the magic that projected slides had, but I can do it much more easily. And my screen, these days, is bigger than I almost ever printed in the darkroom. And I can make far better prints from those images. And I can get usable images in a far wider range of conditions.

I think I work harder at digital images. I try more ideas, I often try different approaches to a subject. I also seem to have raised my standards -- the ability to verify exposure, focus, sharpness, and framing in the field removes a lot of excuses I used to use, and lets me push into chancier territory that I simply wouldn't have risked on film. The fact that it costs nothing to try extra shots helps to open up my creativity. (It costs *a little bit* -- disk space for the ones I keep, wear on the shutter.) And of course it's much easier to learn when the feedback loop from shooting to reviewing is shorter.

Apologies to those getting forced out of film due to supply and infrastructure issues -- I'm part of the problem of reduced film demand, obviously. We each choose what works for us as amateurs (professionals have additional constraints outside themselves).

Film photography is a lot like shooting with black powder muskets -- it works (slowly and painfully) but is best reserved for those who enjoy the process more than they need reliable results.

Posted by: Oleg Volk | Sunday, 08 April 2012 at 10:31 PM
Well I do know how to shoot a black powder musket, for re-enactment scenes and it is really quite interesting!

And the smoke and bang clear more wildlife than the front and back shutters of a
Hasselbald firing!

Neil Swanson made a positive comment:

"Today? I took no camera at all. The Nikon D3 isn't challenged. I used to wonder "how will this come out" to some degree." Digital has for me taken away so much of what I liked about the whole process. That wonder is gone."

Neil, photography used to be fun, a challenge and it was what we did; you in a more professional capacity than me.

Slide film does it for me, digital is
a puff of the will o' wisp, non-exsitent in reality until printed, and my few digital images are for on-line projects and never printed, by me.

Incidentally for Mike and others have recently sold all my digital gear to KEH;
the low activation number (less than 500 in nine months) of my D90 which was worth less than C$200.00 as a trade-in here in Canada. Knew that what ever I did photograph was in JPEG format, and for me not suitable for computerization. Have a cheap pawn shop purchased $50.00 point and shoot when I have to absolutely have to have digital.
If it dies it goes into the electronic
recycling bin.
My F100 and slide film is my photographic enjoyment, not that's there much these days.


Everybody talks like Kodakchrome is a holy and divine photographic media with all romanticism and worship. I really don't get it.

I still have a thousand or two Kodakchromes/Fujichromes from 1986-2002. Yes they still look wonderful especially projected on the wall using Leica Colorplan. Even if I scanned it on V600, it still creates a big wow from people who watch it for it's rich color which seem not to fade after 20 years time.

Frankly speaking my decision to use slide is mainly cost. It is cheaper than negatives+print, but it's a painstaking to work with slides. I have to buy additional light-meter to help my bloody center weighted meter from my F3. I had to throw in average at least 1/4 from each cartridge due to imperfect exposure and don't forget it was a manual focus, center weighted metering time (though nowadays we can fix the exposure easily using our holy photoshop)

For me I thought slides was a compromise for poor students having passion in photography. (Although most of students in fact shoot BW and do all wet works by themselves)

I really don't get it.

And I like to counterargument Mahesh why he stop film photography. I still do film but on 120 now and the output always give me more joy than a digital output. Why should he give up film photography?

I love slides. From Kodachrome 25.

I live Hawaii. There are two local labs which do E6 and scanning. Most film purchases are mail-order.

I work at a computer by day, so slides, albeit only 35mm, on a light table are tangible. The physicality of it all, is endearing. Or like fungus, philosophical.

But what slide film and manual exposure can teach about dynamic range is most enjoyable to me.

And then there's the human option, due to the film's sensitivity, it's fun to nuance emotion by choice of exposure.

As far as cost goes, one doesn't need a computer or the internet for an image. Just will and periodic good fortune.

Thanks for the topic. Made my day.

Just came back from 10 days holiday today to find this article on TOP. Whilst awaiting the arrival of my D800E (any day I hope) I decided on a film only holiday and went with an F6, a few Zeiss lenses, and 20 rolls of Provia as well as some B+W film too.

Had a great time using it and the anticipation of getting the slides back is deliciously agonising. Sure digital is great for a whole host of reasons but it's immediacy is both a benefit and a disappointment. And I certainly feel that I have to be much more on top of my game when using slide film then when blatting away on my DSLRs.

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