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Thursday, 11 October 2012


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This is all total balooney, the only real photographic medium is glass plates.

Looks like movie makers are going through the same process of adapting to digital.

Hi Mike,

I don't have any issue at all with people using whatever suits them. I used to like old cars and bikes and keeping them running but when I left home and lost the facilities it was simply not feasible. I have never had the space for a darkroom so digital simply freed me from photolab tyranny, but I still see people developing their own film and preserving the old crafts as a necessary act of preservation. I'm grateful that they are doing it, because (a) someone should and (b) it won't be me.

But I am interested to see what's happening with digital in terms of it's impact on the art scene. Who is using it? What are they doing with it? The only commentary I seem to find online is the rather flat and trivial democracy of Flickr and groups like 1x.com which are overly concerned with a rather fixed and narrow definition of aesthetics.

It's your blog and maybe not your thing but if you have any pointers I'd like to know. Who are the new pioneers? What are they doing? In short, who are the digital Shores and Egglestons? It may be just me, but I don't see this getting a lot of serious web attention.

Film is good, digital is good :-)

Absolutely,,,film reigns !! You should finish your chores and get to the windy city and find a "big" screen to see PT Anderson's"The Master",,,shot on 65mm Kodak Vision3 color negative 5203 ,, printed at 70mm!!,,, a pure 'cinematic look',, cheers

No you're not!!
I can tell.

I've noticed on other sites, notably DPReview, which can be particularly nasty, that anytime someone talks, asks about or shows film, a group of people begin a diatribe not only dissing film but people who use it.

I've never seen derogatory comments about people (or the craft of) building houses, boats or cars by hand. In fact, I believe those people are generally admired for the characteristics that contribute to their craft. No one insults them because they are wasting their time when buying a commercial boat, house or car is going to technically superior.

Of course, film is better! It's a question of the format.

I look at film the same way I look at my vinyl record collection. Sure I love and enjoy the instant convenience of my MP# player (and/or clout storage) and it's fantastic. But when convenience is not the primary purpose, I just instinctively love the deliberateness of physically choosing the album and putting the disk to the platter. Same way I love handling film and actually waiting to see the "analog" results.

Of course I also prefer 40 year old motorcycles (again when convenience is not an issue) and slow cooked meals. Are they "better"? Who knows! but I certainly think there is room for both.


The main reason I like 35mm Tri-X is because I admire the legends of street/documentary photography and that's what they used to make iconic photos. Sure I like my digital too but when (attempting)to shoot street a film camera in hand makes me feel better.

I also enjoy developing my film at home. Make me feel a bit more a part of the process. For what it's worth.

Now you tell me, after I spent the last few days weeping and bashing myself on the head with an empty film canister!

(FWIW, I started on film, had a long hiatus. Went digital, remembered how much I loved photography. Went BACK to film, remembered what a pain film is and now happily shoot almost entirely digital. I shoot film know strictly because I sometimes enjoy the process of processing.)

The trouble with film is the cameras. Either it's the swoosh of the Hasselblad's shutter (that delayed it hitting ebay by at least 6 months) or it's the way the LF gear feels like an extension of one's arms, twiddling the movements from under the jacket^Wdarkcloth... :)

I started using film around 1968, and digital about 2003. I'm just now reluctantly giving up my 6x7 film gear because I just can't afford it any more. If work picks up, that might change, but it doesn't look like that'll happen any time soon.

Personally I feel that the healthiest atmosphere is is one of just photography. All that counts is the image, however it was created: is it worth looking at or just another picture? Continuance with this silly dichotomy of film -vs- digital is not at all productive in my opinion.

In that spirit, I commented that film was just fine for night photography as well. Why the bias, Mike? :>)

I'm seriously thinking about pulling out an old film camera I have, no batteries required. Seems every time I take a flight, I want to take pictures when the airplane is coming in to land...There may be times when film is better ;)

Yes, film is better... for me. I apprreciate your small book recommendation icon choice. Now that the film vs digital debate is closed on TOP, how about color vs BW.

As long as Elliot Erwitt continues to use film I will doubt my switch to digital. Mr. Erwitt does indeed have a sense of humor.

I use both film and digital on ongoing basis mainly because I enjoy using old 35mm, MF cameras, as well as digital cameras. I like to explore the differences between prints from film and digital. It is not a competition between the two but rather two different mediums with different challenges and results for making pictures. As far as I am concerned, the more photographic mediums the better.

The question is, why would you use film? Is there anything in particular that film can do that digital can't? I think there are now apps that will let you emulate almost any film "look." It strikes me that the only reason to use film is because it produces some kind of psychological pleasure in the photographer, knowing that he's handicapped himself -- like cutting timber with a hand saw, rather than with a chainsaw. In earlier times, people using highly mechanized late-form film cameras like the Nikon F5, which are not ergonomically that much different than the successor digital cameras, would look somewhat askance at large format photographers with their various rituals involving film holders, dark cloths, etc., but whatever the ritual, the LF photographers could always claim to be producing images of superior resolution. So there was a technical reason to use the big cameras. Is there a technical reason to use film? In the featured comment by Dave, he suggests that there is a practical reason to use film -- art market people (he says, and it may be true) prefer it, so beginning photographers may use it simply as another wedge to get into a gallery. But again, that has nothing to do with imaging. That always seems to be what is lost in these discussions -- what will produce the best image (whatever your definition of best) and unless you rely on accident for your images, it doesn't seem to me that there is an argument for film.

If, on the other hand, you just use it because you're practicing an impractical, old-timey craft for its own sake, well, god bless you. That's a reason.

The extent of the vitriol exhibited by "pro" digital photographers (and by "pro", I mean "for"), when anything at all like this is mentioned, always amazes me! You are, of course, correct; in that basically, at least for professional consumption, no client wants you to shoot film for professional uses, and you can't even convince someone to let you do it at your expense, even if you offer to pay for the scans. It IS for all intents and purposes: over. Kodak killing my favorite transparency film E-100, (and Fuji killing Astia), means that I don't even have a professional grade transparency film I would want to shoot, if I wanted to even try to talk someone into it.

I can only assume that this vitriol is a reaction from people that are really emotionally invested in the digital work space, and maybe were not all that good with film anyway. Maybe they didn't have the ability to nail those transparencies, and couldn't function in that chemical/optical workspace that well to begin with. The digital realm has allowed them to function at a level they would not have controlled in the old photo world. Their greatest fear might be that film might actually make a resurgence, and someone might look in askance at them if they say they can't do it, or can't accomplish it. So they want to slam it as much as they can. It falls under the category of "I think thou protests too much".

Hey, we all understand that no matter what anyone does, real shining stars in any endeavor have the ability to work hard at it and accomplish it's intricacies, but more than that, they have a certain unexplainable knack for just "getting it". There are fields of study that you might love, and you can work at it for years, and never get close to being a professional at it. There are people that have recorded and mastered fabulous records in the past, that just can't function with a computer and ProTools, and so they are out of the business, and there are people that moved over from those machines to the computer with not so much as a "by your leave". There are also those that couldn't have figured out how to plug a balanced microphone into a pre-amp, but can mix 24 tracks on a computer in their sleep.

Most multi-year old pro photographers, of which I am one, don't necessarily think digital is the cat pj's. They miss the quality of film, especially transparencies in the larger formats. But most of all, they miss the streamlined work structure. Go to an assignment, light, shoot a polaroid test, shoot the film based on your knowledge and experience in testing your cameras and film emulsions, develop the film, and have it delivered to the client. End of job. It was a finite thing. No shooting raw, and then messing around with it endlessly in PhotoShop, for which you are not getting paid, and finally after hours or days, delivering something. Most pros I know also know that the film era is over, no matter what. Even if they can get the stuff, they can't get the ancillary processing services.

So it is what it is. It's not better than film, it can be worse, but probably won't be within the next few years. It certainly can be better for people that just shot 35mm and needed high-speed or available light. It's worse for the afford-ability of upgrading equipment every few years, and that alone has put many a photographer out of business in the last few years.

When I question those who I know that are the most vitriolic about this stuff, on deep discussion, it basically boils down to the fact that they've invested deeply in time and expense in digital, and expect to be compensated for it, and anything that promotes the "old way" rubs against them. Sorry, but I don't think photographers in general, enmasse, are getting compensated the way they were 25 years ago in the business, doing anything. Period. A recent story on Petapixel saying that 4 year photo grads are only projected to make a few grand more a year than high-school drop-outs kind of sets the pace. It seems that computerization of anything especially photography, makes the buying and hiring public think you should be working for cheap, because now it's "easy"...

Well, there you go...

No, we're certainly not past the era of film photographers acting superior; if I hear about $EMULSION's "creamy skin tones" once more this week I'll go puke my guts out. All while digital photographers are as insecure as ever, both with the validity of digital itself as well as within each brand and/or format size.

No, the problem rather is that people in general are insecure, and personally I think it's because when the dialogue is 1-to-1 it's easy to dismiss a contrarian opinion as, well, nothing but an opinion, but when they band together an "opinion" begins to take the shape of a "statement", and once you're there people instinctively look for ways to either refute them or at least meet with others who could.

The same thing happens in other fields, as well; the Microsoft vs UNIX debates were already quite nasty before MacOS came into the picture (and became incorrectly known as "Mac vs PC" among the non-techies), and the so-called Console Wars, which evolved from a fight between Nintendo and Sega into a three-way war between owners of Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony is as nasty as it's old. Which disregards the existence of people who play videogames on their PCs, a segment itself divided between the "hardcore" who buys graphically-intensive videogames and the "casual" who prefer something like Facebook's infamous Farmville. I think you get the point: your attempt at brokering peace might be well-intentioned, but people will be people so I'm afraid your quest was doomed from the start.

Better to just smile and nod, smile and nod no matter what people say. Easier to keep your head attached to your neck, that way.

Well, I'll admit to thinking that 35mm and medium format film is pretty much dead, dead, dead. I like the look of certain films when printed on certain papers (TMX on Multigrade Warmtone, for example, or HIE on that old Bergger Warm paper that solarized well), but I don't see what I can't get with digital if need be, except for genuine sabattier effects.

Large format film, however, is not quite dead, because it offers contact prints and, via scanning, really big prints without interpolation.

I am fascinated that MFA students are using film, though. I'd guess it must be part cost of entry for systems that can do big prints, part art market, but still, fascinating.

"...(some)film photographers acting reflexively superior."

Why yes, I'm well past that time. Now I have to really work hard to act superior.

Seriously I get what you are saying. Sometime I start to fear the digital/film war will never end completely. Each side getting little digs in. Now, if anyone wants to know why I still shoot film I just tell them I've never been much of a film photographer so why upgrade just to take more technically perfect but dull and insipid pictures faster.

PS: I only spend about $200~300 on B&W film and paper per year so even the economics of saving film costs with digital would take a long payback time. Secretly though I covet the OM-D and if I had $1500 disposable income for body w/kit lens and a few legacy lens adapters I'd buy one in a heartbeat.

I'd guess the majority here, including our fearless leader, are making comments with one hand behind their back, fingers crossed.

I started digital and switched to film. Shooting with a film camera is, for me, more fun, and as a hobbyist, the process of photography---the psychology and tactility of it---is not a trivial matter. Moreover, here's one thing that digital can't do that film can; offer me a full frame rangefinder camera for under US$1,000.

Also, I really don't have any philosophical opposition to film emulating software (I enjoy much of the stuff coming out of Instagram), but for me personally, using software to emulate grain is akin to buying expensive jeans with holes in them already.

In any event, use what you need, use what you want. What is important is the availability of choice.

It seems people think digital is less expensive than film, when I have film cameras that rarely need to be replaced, and digital photographers are spending thousands of dollars every year or two on upgrades.

I shoot film because I think it's less expensive. I can't afford the latest and greatest digital gear which changes monthly, and film cameras just work and are cheap! My Leica M6 with several lenses and a Rolleiflex--I have no desire for anything else.

Digital works, too, if you can afford it! I also shoot an M8--which I bought to have a top camera so I wouldn't wish for better ones. I feel, with it, I don't need to keep up on what Sony or Canon brings out next. 'Cuz I'm sticking with what I have. All my old Leica glass works perfectly with it.

Now I'm concentrating on making photos, not buying gear. Both film and digital are tools that work. Use whichever inspires you. No one ever asked Hemingway which typewriter he used. Content is king. Now, show us your work!

Perhaps you should do a poll on the "numbers unknown." I'm curious how many of us digital-only folks are out here.


The reason why film fetches more than digital when images in either medium reach the market is simple, IMO. Scarcity.

Film photographers take less photos and edit more, especially if they develop their own film. This is inherent in the medium. To paraphrase Ctein: This ain't good or bad. That's just the way it is. Film imaging, being more artisanal, means there are less of them.

However, this doesn't mean that the supply of images is scarce relative to the demand, even if differentiation by format whittles down the supply further.

What is scarce are images that do reach the art market. The bottleneck is not on the supply side. Rather, it is the "market" itself at its "distribution" end that erects barriers to entry. What these barriers are and who decides to put them there, are beyond my ken. I think the bias towards film is one of them barriers.

Unless of course you make your own market (like Jack McDonough does), in which case you don't have to deal with the "gatekeepers."

Mike's good news in the previous post is good indeed. I like it when a "guerilla" operation runs rings around the "De Beers" of the art photography market. I also like a lot the "rationing" mode of TOP print sales. It is transparent and "democratizes" access, albeit to a "small" but global self-selected "market." (Probably the most informed market photography-wise)

Mike, please don't "flood the market" just because it will be easier to do so now. (I don't think you're susceptible to negative psychology.) {g}

I can't afford a digital back for 4x5. I can't afford a digital Leica, and am not sure about the X-1 Pro. And I don't care to spend the time learning how to make digital monochrome look like I want it.

For those who can achieve the look they want (and I admire many of those results), good on them and good for them.

The phrase "All that matters is the image; whether you use film or digital doesn't matter" is usually just a long way of saying "I've gone all digital." You won't meet many film photographers who feel that way.

I miss advancing the film on my Spotmatic by flicking that beautifully sculpted lever. But I'm not going back.

What, pray tell is all this talk about film? It is well known that the only acceptable medium for the mechanical recording of an image is a wet glass plate.

The insubstantial nature of the film will condemn it to rapid oblivion.

I'm aware of no evidence that galleries and collectors have a strong preference for images made with film or pay more for images made on film (except of course that collectors tend to collect older photographs which of necessity were made on film).

@Stobblehouse: Glass plates are for hipsters.

Silvered polished copper plates is where it's really at. The original raw :-)

On a serious note I really don't feel inferior to film shooters.

I'm amused by the ones I bump into and classify them into three categories:

  1. Students: I live close to Cornish and SCCC and see the flocks of new 35mm film SLR with 50mm lenses each fall all enrolled in Photography 101. I like to photograph them!
  2. Hipsters: we have some of those too. LOMOing about on their fixies. I have little time for them but they seem to be having fun.
  3. Serious folks: Older (than the students) often with Leicas though sometimes with the odd other interesting camera at my local coffee place -- random 1980s SLRs and the odd Leica M6 or CLE and the occasional 1950s Canon VT rangefinder. Always have time to stop and talk to the interesting folks behind the interesting cameras.
I still have two hiding in the closet: an agricultural Praktika TL1000 (now meterless) and a Minolta 7000i. But films just costs too much for too little pay back. But they sit in the closet waiting for a fresh roll and I keep shooting with my digital cameras. They seem like they're from another era now.

My husband's been shooting weddings for 14 years and he says he still gets nervous right before the big day.

It's funny, I switched over to digital without much nostalgia and I still don't get nostalgia now. For *film*, that is. But I do get nostalgia for the feel of film *cameras*. I always shot manual focus, no motor drive, until 2004. Last thing I had was Contax S2b with CZ lenses. I deplore that digital cameras, the competent ones at least, are fat pigs compared to what film cameras used to be. The more competent, the fatter. The lenses too.

A film camera could be at the top of competence viz its peers and still be nimble. Finally we now get slimmed down digital competence in m4/3 and Fuji X and Nex but you're still not at the real top level of competence here, you're not equalling a D800. Not in the same way as tiny film cameras were exact equals to massive pro film cameras in image quality, given the right lens. I use m4/3 in a sort-of-happy way ("it's good enough") because the size-price compromise I made still nags me at times. It nags. And nags. And nags.

Maybe the RX1 is a candidate? That's what makes it interesting to me at least.

My old Nikon D200 is sitting next to my ancient F3 and they seem to be quite happy with each other. Sometimes they even go out together and have not complaints. But I do hope I could take an up-dated gut of D200 and stuff it into F3, then I would be in the heaven. Many of the joy of shooting film comes from using the camera. Do we have a digital equivalence of F3 from whatever brand?

I've learned different things from 35mm film and 35mm digital. Now I'm about to start shooting and developing my own LF film - I'll probably learn something there too! I think it is silly to arbitrarily restrict yourself to A, B or C just because it is A, B or C.

The problem is that the film processing infrastructure has collapsed, and what used to be convenient, affordable and high quality options for film use have collapsed with it. This is the inconvenient truth.

In fact, the author is just warming up the discussion no matter what.

In terms of insecurity, I think these days you can pay not that much and you have huge amount of choice.

I guess each time you go out thinking that you can take photo (as a hobby) you have to choose in the order : kind of systems, lens, film/back/sensor then the body.

Kind of systems you decide first. Over the year, I accumulate 8x10, 4x5, 6x6/7 (Hasselband, Pentax 67, Yashica 124, Fuji 645 ...), 35mm (Sony A77/Nex5N/Nikon D600/N75), rangefinder (Voig not leica). I have decided to what to bring.

For travel you cannot easily bring your 4x5 ... even try medium format before (like Hassey/Fuji 645 only) for 1 month holiday in UK but it hardly work.

Obviously not all the above allow digital sensor (as I can afford it). But the choice of the systems went first as it affect the look much more than anything else, subject to the condition, the subject you want to take etc.

35mm next trip as it is a trip.

Then one may wonder is the next choice is sensor or film choice (e.g. my Nikon). It is a hard one but then I think the lens choice to bring is more important. Just got a 85mm 1.8G. The last week's trip to Japan found the 28-300 is essential if you have to get some photos back but not important if you want to look at photo only yourselves. Hence, should I instead buy the 180 F2.8 for the tele or just ignore for my Dubai trip this Saturday... Or get the 20mm (or bring the Nex5n). (28/35/50/85 a<=f2 is all covered). No need to bring any family photo and hence all up to me.

For the film/sensor choice, I just bring the Nikon N75 with the D600. I suspect as I have not taken one N75 photo in the Japan trip ... still would try to get some light to it.

I have no insecurity issue but facing too many choice ... low end I know but still too many choice in this mix era where film is still viable (I got 1 hour development film/scan down my office) and sensor is so good

Golden era of hobby photography.

What insecure is all about? Enjoy both but that probably the highest issue facing a hobby who like to take picture.

P.S. The thing I missed most for the film camera is the Auto-ISO which I use a lot especially these days you can have good ISO up to 3200. Use Manual fix it f8/125 the let the AutoISO to do its job.

Of course then "Auto-ISO" is done by fixing f8/125 as one (or the most) famous street photographer has done using his Leica in 1950s+. May be not an issue ...

Its all about the image, doesn't matter if you shoot film or digital.

Genuinely with all respect, I think that John Camp's position is as much a statement of a photographic philosophy as the reasons that I still prefer film much of the time. It's not about being a romantic or wishing to preserve an old time crafty process, it's about an underlying philosphy in my image making.

There again, I don't agree that 'it's all about the image'. In photographic terms that strikes me as a complete falsehood. Photography is about subject, not just image. When the subject can be honestly presented in a way that illuminates or delights, that makes a succesful picture in my mind. Bizarrely, given the history of the medium, I think many of the 'all about the image' protagonists would be better painting, because having found its voice, photography is in danger of losing it.

I use film and digital and feel far more insecure about my film use as I'm always afraid of the next negative judgement coming my way:)


going to keep using film, only.
Nikon F2 Photomic and a couple of beautiful Non-Ai lenses dirt cheap, loaded with Tri-X and Portra 400/160; ETRSi (really cheap too) loaded with same. Just feels right , feel at home, know what I do.
Very much my personal choice. Same with digital shooters, should be their choice. Question now is, do they even know about alternatives? The massmarket is NOT what I am talking about.
Oh, amateur, shooting for my own pleasure, only.
Reading articles on the is site is a pleasure and enlarging my knowledge. Keep on!

While on vacation in one of the US national parks a few years ago (there is a nice roadside overlook near where Ansel Adams took his Snake River photograph in the Grand Tetons so a fan of AA needn't trespass) I had a lady approach me saying she was surprised to see someone shooting with an old film camera and that I should try one of the new digital cameras. I replied that I own four digital cameras and waited for her next comment but she just turned and walked away. I think that is a pretty telling exchange regarding this topic. I think the majority of folks who have a strong opinion about the gear others use for photography are simply those who aren't really that involved in photography in the first place. The accomplished professional and the true hobbyist can both see the value in just letting others use the gear and format they pick as best suited for them. Why indeed would someone advise a complete stranger to change to digital capture if not for some personal insecurity?

As for digital vs. film, the bittersweet reality is that film capture has never been better with the remaining available films being perhaps the best ever produced. Were it not for digital capture we would be in the midst of a technological revolution for photographic film. The advancements are there but few take notice, and it's fine with me. I guess the horseless carriage analogy is indeed best - we didn't all start driving cars because our horses all died but because cars offered more advantages. And today I'd look pretty silly riding up to the entrance gate at the Grand Tetons on my horse.

Photographers feel superior or insecure not because they shoot film or digital, but because they use a particular brand of camera.

The argument often seems to be one of process vs. outcome. There is at least a 2X2X2 matrix of people who use and process film and digital:

Capture: Analogue vs. Digital
Control: Self vs. Lab
Editing: Analogue vs. Digital

So that's eight possible classes of photographer, though you can eliminate some and combine others. If you outsource everything to a lab, you probably don't care about how they finish or print. Similarly if you capture digitally, you are not likely to use a darkroom, so that leaves 5 classes:

1. ASA
2. ASD
3. AL*
4. DSD
5. DL*

If you identify which of these you are it makes the debate far more interesting.

The out-sourcers (*L*):

Most pros and amateurs in film days were AL*. They sent the roll to the lab, got the sheets back and ordered the prints. They really did not get heavily involved in the back end process. In fact their whole MO was predicated on this workflow. No wonder they are finding digital a struggle....

However a lot of pros who went digital simply invested the time to set their camera up to make nice JPEGs, proof them in LR with minor tweaks, and send the selected ones to a lab for finishing and printing. For some though, it was a lot easier just to pick the right film and lab and get predicable results.

The Self Control Freaks (*S*)

ASA (Film, self-edited in a darkroom) were the hard-core Ansell Adams types. Even in film days, they were not common. A few amateur enthusiasts and artists. The complexity of colour processing also meant this was mainly confined to B&W.

But most have morphed interestingly into two camps (some people are in both). Those who shoot film, but edit on a computer (ASD) and those who everything digital (DSD).

In the ASD camp (shoot film, edit at home on a computer) the means of digitisation can be all home based (develop/scan) or at a lab, or a mix, but the main issue here is where the editing is done, which is on a computer.

What is perhaps amazing is just how many more people have now decided to take control. A lot more pros now invest the extra time in controlling their own output, and many many more amateurs are shooting RAW and doing the same. Of course, colour is now no barrier to editing.

But if I were to go out on a looooong limb here, I would say vast the majority of film users either do no major editing themselves at all, or do it all digitally.

Of the latter set, I would also guess that a lot make a deliberate choice to use larger formats and/or B&W film. Limitations in cost and B&W reproduction mean there are still some advantages here over digital capture.

And of course, there are those that love their film cameras and like to keep using them, also entirely understandable (just like my old Norton).

But the real argument is really nothing to do with film at all, but whether you actually like to take control of the editing process. Reading between the lines this seems to be the true dividing line. The film/digital capture debate is truly and utterly moribund.

@ crabbyumbo: "...shooting raw, and then messing around with it endlessly in PhotoShop, for which you are not getting paid, and finally after hours or days..."

why in the world do you not either line-item that post-production time or build it into your fee? In pre-digital times did you not charge clients for film/polaroid/processing and mark it up, to boot? Did you not pass the charge for assistants, rentals, props, stylists etc along to the client?
I suggest re-thinking how you are regarding that digital processing time. It is part of your expertise and your service and, possibly, another income generating part of your business. Alternatively, hire a photoshop jockey and charge for his/her time. Then you can go shoot something else.

Mike Nelson raises an important point. Longevity.
What is needed is a genuinely archival digital print method.

Today's family pictures (as files) will be almost all gone in 20-30 years. The fibre based B/W prints from the 1960s and before will still be in the album. 1970s and 80s colour prints are fading fast.

A local photo equipment supplier offers digital to film transfer (if thinking about getting key images printed and selenium toned). I don't know how good it is though.

I started with digital (well, not really, but by the time I got into "photography" versus taking snapshots digital was starting to take over). I "decided" to move to film when I saw all these wonderful large color landscape prints in galleries that were taken with 4x5s and 8x10s. I still use digital cameras, but for things like action (my d700 is basically the family snapshot cam). I'll decide to go digital again when I can get a large print from it that I think is comparable to 4x5 with the compositional ease of ground glass (4x5 touchscreen?) for under $5k.

How about some more comments on the hybrid approach, ie shooting b/w film, then scanning and printing the digital file with printer? That's what I'm doing with many years of b/w negatives under my belt, and even now occasionally shooting a roll of b/w 120 and developing it at home.

Beating the dead horse dep't:

- Art students are often quite experimental and will try out different equipment. They also often have access to a lot of types of cameras through school and their friends. It should not be assumed that they choose film blindly.

- In serious art photography the choice is generally between medium format or larger film vs 35mm digital; here is very little use of 35mm film now. One of the reasons aside from quality is probably the aspect ratio, with square and the classic 4:5 ratio generally preferred. This choice can be a very important one to some photographers. One can crop, but the viewfinder needs to show the correct aspect ratio too.

- Some of the biggest differences between film and digital are in the cameras themselves. For example, a truly first class integrated window finder is so far still found only on the Leica Ms among digital cameras, as far as I know (haven't tried the very latest Fujis, I admit). But for film, there are a number of medium format cameras with superb window finders such as the Mamiya 7, the large Fujis, or even more so the Fuji/Voigtlander 667W (I have extensive experience with several of these). The Mamiya and Voigtlander are almost silent in operation. And some specific image styles, such as wide angle with shallow depth of field, are well suited to larger format equipment and harder to do in smaller formats.

- With respect to media, color negative film does generally have a softer highlight rolloff (albeit with a lesser shadow tolerance) than digital. For images with light sources inside the frame, this can make a big difference in the look (though not so much in typical outdoor work).

- Color negative film has a less precise color rendering than digital and the relationship between the negative and the print is only loosely defined. As a result, the rendition is what you make it into, and can tend to have a less literal appearance than digital. It can look like memory instead of like documentation. For some kinds of work this is beneficial and for others it's a handicap.

- Though a double edged sword, it definitely focuses the mind to know that each film shot is $3 before any scanning, and that postprocessing each image will take much longer. I take way more digital pictures but I keep more film pictures. I mean actual quantities, not percentages.

My bottom line: having used both formats side by side for years, I personally use medium format color negative film when I can, and 35mm digital when there is too little light or I feel I need a preview.

I love digital for its cheapness. Though saying that you used to get a top of the range film camera for £1500, that won't get you a top of the range digital camera! Also I think digital will severely wound a lot of markets for pro photographers. People seem happy to just have pics taken on cameras/ phones and posted to social sites.

I know this seems a bit doom and gloom, but forget what I just said and embrace digital as it will probably open new markets. I loved my canon t90 I also love my Fuji x100 and may soon get an ex-1. It's exciting times. Great digital cameras and very cheap second hand film cameras. Film will get more niche, but that's not a bad thing. In fact that niche film market could be a saviour for pros!

Keanu Reeves documentary "Side by Side", basically deals with the film vs. digital controversy from the motion picture side, so it makes good watching for everyone. For myself, I like what my old Washington DC pal, and academy award winner, Walter Pfister has to say for film: "...why should I work with crayons when I'm already working with oils...".

But to Crabby Umbo's point, at least in still photography in the commercial market, you just can't sell film, so it's driven most of us to shoot digital whether we want to or not. And again, as he stated, it's the work flow that's goofy. I also used to shoot transparencies and drop them off at the client. Now, not only can I NOT do that, I don't get paid for the post processing either.

No one ever delivered a digital camera to me, that was as finite as film. I've owned no digital camera, where at some preset setting, I can be guarentee'd the same result as a picture I shot on 120 transparency film. There are multi-layers of contrast, saturation, sharpening, etc., and no setting that says: "Set it like this, and it will be the same result as Kodachrome 64." No one knows what that setting is, and people spend hours messing with images in PhotoShop trying to figure out if the result they are getting would be comparable to just shooting something on Ektachrome, or Fuji. You cannot tell from the screen.

I heard from a buddy who's been in the business for as long as I have, and he had to judge a photo contest. He mentioned the amount of post-processing, saturation adjustment, and sharpening, was just not to be believed. It doesn't look like an image anymore, when someone just slides all the controls over to max!

I love film for it's "archivalness" too. Sure your house could burn down or flood, but that's going to be rare. But you can corrupt an image file with all sorts of weird things, from an electric motor magnet being near, to sparking a shock when you're plugging a memory stick in. No matter how many times you back up, you could just lose this stuff for no reason. This point is also made in the documentary. Some labs used to offer film recorder services, where you could print your digital images out on film, but it's rapidly disappearing....

"But most of all, they miss the streamlined work structure. Go to an assignment, light, shoot a polaroid test, shoot the film based on your knowledge and experience in testing your cameras and film emulsions, develop the film, and have it delivered to the client. End of job. It was a finite thing."


@ Nicholas Condon: "It almost seems like it's possible to be interested in learning about something that others have done (and do) well, even if one is not interested in doing it oneself...."

Not only is it possible but it's the norm. Of course one might apply this observation to sports fans. But closer to the context of your observation it applies to nearly all art lovers. Yes, perhaps most have studied art at some time. But nearly none have ever practiced it earnestly and fewer still at the devoted levels that draw works to top galleries and museums. There are far more devoted and knowledgeable art lovers than there are artists on the planet.

Even more to the point, the overwhelming majority of collectors and museum curators in my own photographic circle have never been photographers at any level higher than point-and-pray. But they've long followed photography passionately and know many of its spaces at a far greater depth than nearly any photo hobbyist I've ever met.

I deeply enjoy the practice of photography. But I equally enjoy the (relatively) tech-blind act of actively looking, as painters and illustrators would call it. And that's why I so monotonously intone that all that really matters is the final image.

Yes, some of them are, in the same way that some people are (and always have been) insecure about their choice of camera brand, film emulsion, black and white vs color, prime vs zoom, "purism" vs "Photoshop ALL the things", Ford vs Chevrolet, political parties, sports teams, operating systems, phones, dietary choices, preferred type of pizza, religion, opinions on the Internet, nationality, which way to place the roll of toilet paper in the holder...

You think film and digital photographers can be contentious? Try digital and mobile-phone photographers.

Digital Photography Review just started an offshoot web site http://connect.dpreview.com/ for mobile-phone photography, and the response from most digital photographers has ranged from (approximately) "good riddance, now maybe DPReview can get back to real photography" to "the new site gives those losers an undeserved air of legitimacy and wastes DPReview resources that should be spent on reviewing real cameras".

I don't want to know what the Lomography crowd thinks of mobile-phone photography. :-)

Can someone point me to the rule that says that if someone likes something different than you do, they're somehow inferior?

This great little "filmConvert" plugin says alot!! for where we are today!!! We want both! and are lucky to be able to have it! cheers...


It's frustrating that it has to be "either/or." Most people who shoot a lot of film these days also shoot a lot of digital. They may prefer film for some things, but virtually no one is 100% film.

I'm traveling right now, and shooting heavily with my iPhone, Canon 35mm SLR, digital SLR, Polaroid and 4x5. We're lucky enough to live in a time when you can shoot in an incredibly variety of formats. Take advantage of it while you can!

To me it isn't about digital or film. I think the key reason why people prefer one or the other is down to the way the cameras operate.

I like film cameras because they keep the operation 'pure' - you set the essentials (aperture, shutter speed and focusing) without the distraction of WB, sharpness, colour, pixel count, etc., and the multitude of menus.

I was reading Mike's post about the Sony RX1, which does look like a stupendous camera, his reflections on that 35mm lens of RX1, and then the post about his only 'issue' with film being ISO or ASA restrictive.

Now I can put all those posts in a film like motion and see them as his mind working on the film like scenario (sounds like pun, right?) to present him all good, and well justified reasons to plunge in, and get himself one RX1.

Sony RX1: with its film frame sized sensor, his favourite lens, and absolutely not ISO / ASA restrictive but quite the contrary; remarkably liberating experience. And the RX1 being such a camera that it seems it brought freedom from many restrictions of digital constrains too, which is amazing in itself: it's so small yet has film size frame, so powerful, that lens with smooth operation, aperture ring, macro mode, so snappy — it has everything even Fuji hasn't touched yet in their digital endeavours. It is an amazing camera.

Maybe I'm wrong. But more often than not, our talk is not what it appears to be. I can read from many posts Mike and lots of readers here love film. They also love digital. But they also, and above all, love interaction with the subject of their work and it's that desire to experience even more precious connection with the subject that tries to find all kinds of approaches, that build up in our minds into film like scenarios, only to get them there, closer and closer.

Perhaps that's the hidden meaning of Robert Capa's words, "If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough ...". And that word 'close' meaning or measuring NOT just the distance of the subject from the lens ...

I hope I'll get to TRY an RX1, but I doubt very much I'll BUY an RX1. Too rich for the likes o' me.

But I might be sorely tempted by the NEX-6, though.


Why has nobody said anything about dynamic range? John Camp says there is no possible reason to shoot in film anymore, but there is DYNAMIC RANGE! Film has always won there. There's also latitude. I guarantee that you could overexpose a scene far more on film and still pull out detail. Digital just clips to white and is hideous. Film also captures more colors - especially the subtle ones. About the only area where digital wins is in resolution; it has surpassed probably many 35mm films by now. But since most people look at nothing larger than 8x10s or their computer screens, then who cares really?

I'm not a hipster or a student. I'm not old either (late 20's). It's just a hobby for me. While it is getting difficult and frustrating to get film processed these days, that's no excuse to quit. Have we become so lazy? At least we don't have to breathe mercury vapors to get a picture.

I go into photo labs/galleries these days and see ridiculous digital enlargements on canvass hanging on the walls, and they all LOOK DIGITAL. There's gross digital artifacting and the image looks flat. Not to mention blown highlights. I can't stand it! I'm convinced that canvass prints were invented to cover up the nastiness of digital enlargements.

Nothing against people that use digital cameras. If you can work with the limitations, then good. However, don't claim technological superiority when it just does not exist. Can we please not cheapen the art?

It's all good to me. I'm very happy with both my film and digital cameras.

I know I'm weighing in late on this one (it's been a rough week), but I still felt compelled to raise a question concerning this discussion. Personally, I tired of the film vs. digital debate years ago, but I'm still fascinated about why so many photographers feel they have to defend or justify their choice to a bunch of people on the internet that they don't know and will probably never meet. Who cares, and why? This includes the diplomat who "shoots with both" (sorry, Mike) and tries to suggest common ground on which the combatants can resolve their differences. We do the same thing with camera brands, camera type, and everything else that there's more than one to choose from.

Now for Mike, it's a sure fire way to generate feedback and discussion on an article. Apparently, on the internet, defending one's position on such topics has been raised to a point of honor for many people. However, for the rest of us, why do we care so much what someone in Dallas or Boise thinks about what we shoot with? I think I like the advice from Daniel S best, "just smile and nod, smile and nod".

I’m not surprised that many photographers use both film and digital these days. Photographers have always been flexible, willing to take the best of this and that, to cobble together solutions to the problems that beset our art form. The technical nature of photography has always necessitated adaptation, improvisation, change.

I just wish today’s camera manufacturers were as flexible and combined the best of film cameras (responsiveness, always on) with the best of digital (high ISO).

I know there are a couple of (expensive) cameras that arguably achieve this, Fuji’s X100 and Sony’s RX100 come to mind, but why can’t they make something like my old Pen EE? I wish I had the ken to slap a digital sensor in that body. It’s half-frame so an APS-C sensor would fit without having to re-work the lens, a tiny 40mm-e f/3.5 fixed-focus – no autofocus lag there! Leave the viewfinder, leaf shutter and selenium meter too so that the sensor need only be powered during exposure – now we’re talking battery life and no power-up lag!

I think most point-and-shoot camera users have no idea how unresponsive their cameras really are never having used a film camera, and that they’d appreciate a fast, simple shooter akin to the pocket cameras of yore. Close focus? Zoom? Let the marketers chew on something new for a change.

P.S. Your P.S. made me laugh out loud.

I am not insecure about anything related to photography except the notion that I'm any good at it. I also don't personally really care how any particular person likes to work. I might not understand it but I would not look down on it. What would be the point?

That said, I have ruminated on the film/digital transition several times on my humble web site:

On how fast film went away: http://tleaves.com/2007/04/18/requiem-for-the-latent-image/index.html

On how the world has really moved on for the most part:

On how old film cameras really weren't all that great:

The real reason I use digital is because it facilitates how I deliver the pictures to my "customers" as it were. All the people who look at my stuff expect files, web sites, and jpegs on their iPad. That's the real reality and the real reason film (and printing) are relatively rare now.

Maybe if all the stuff is still around in 10 years when the kid is grown I'll get back into it. But probably not. The chemicals always gave me a skin rash anyway.

It's disappointing to read that some people can't understand why art photographers would still shoot film, or that we shoot film because it's what the market wants. Every art photographer I know shoots film because they like it more than digital. I shoot digital as well, but it's not a coincidence that a majority of my favorite images have been shot on film, not digital.

I prefer film's more gentle appearance vs. digital's relentless sharpness. I value its organic nature. I appreciate its imperfections. I also appreciate what digital can do, and I certainly take advantage of it on a regular basis. Yet I know what I love, and what I prefer using when possible, and that's film.

The person who observed that the real question for many art photographers is what film format to use was right on, at least in my experience. There isn't much 35mm use amongst upper level photo students, but there is a lot of medium and large format use, delving into alternative and/or mixed processes for many MFA students.

For all the arguments one side and the other, I had a very different reason to abandon film: I don't have the room for 2 SLRs. That may sound like a poor excuse, but at one point between me and the girlfriend we had 2 DSLRs, 4 compacts (2 of those "premium"), 1 35mm SLR, 1 60s Voigtlander and a total of 8 lenses - and we live in a flat as large as a postal stamp! Mike's famous comment about consigning old cameras to the closet applies here. Something had to give.

I'm happy to report we're down to 2 DSLRs, the premium compacts and the DSLR lenses. When the time came to make decisions based on the space constraints, the 35mm SLR was always going to be outshone by the DSLR. And eBay is my friend.

Taking a lesson form the book "Everything bad is good for you" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everything_Bad_Is_Good_for_You) ask yourself if you would use film if digital had come first. Imagine if all you had ever known was digital capture when someone showed up with a film camera.....

OK, its a camera, big deal. Click. Hey, why cant I see it?

You have to develop it first.

Oh like in Lightroom. Ok, lets do that.

You need to shot the rest of the roll.

Oh. OK, how many pictures on a roll? 16GB? 32GB?



no 36 pictures

Thats it? Must be BIG pictures.

about 200MP so yes, big.

Ok...click click click. How do I develop it?

First you need a special room or a really big machine with no light. Then some harmful chemicals and then you need about an hour.

OK, I got them all processed and I printed the 4x6s. How do I modify them?

Well you have to go back to the special room and reprocess them using different mixtures of chemicals, different exposure times to those chemicals and you will need to make adjustments using the enlarger.

Hmmm...seems hard. OK, how do I share these with my friends? Its been hours and they want to see how the pics came out.

Invite them over or you can mail them.

Seems slow and some of my friends live really far away. How do I get them on my website to show to clients?

You will have to scan them.

You mean turn them into digitals?


So pretty much unless I am just going to look at them myself, show them to people close by or mail them somewhere, I have to make them digital.


And how much does a "roll" cost?

About $5

And I can only use it once?


What about chemicals? Do I have to buy them every time?

Pretty much.

How about that enlarger? Is it expensive?

About what a laptop cost. But it needs a lot more space. And you will need running water in your dark room. Plus a good lock on the door.

And the only way to modify them, reprint them or even crop them is to go back to that dark room and mess with chemicals and the enlarger.

True, unless you scan them and then you can use digital tools.

So why didnt I just use my digital camera?

" Imagine if all you had ever known was digital capture when someone showed up with a film camera..... OK, its a camera, big deal. Click. Hey, why cant I see it? You have to develop it first. [and on and on....]"

See what I mean? Insecure. Very insecure. [s]


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