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Tuesday, 09 October 2012


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Yep, there are things to love about film, but speed isn't one of them. I've been happily snapping away with my X100 and VSCO film presets, and it's about the best fake "film" setup tha I've used. I don't miss film much, anymore.

Rather than impact, how about affect? Impact comes across as melodramatic.

One awkward thing film photography, that bothered me, is being stuck with a particular film speed until you can change rolls. Less of an issue, perhaps, if you shoot sheet film.

Incidentally, I've recently bought a Sigma DP2 Merrill. Crazy camera. Poor high ISO performance, slowish auto-focus but capable of fantastic image quality. It's a compact that demands to be used on a tripod. More like a Linhof than a point and shoot. Worth investigating...

Just shoot with the Leica M8, then you don't get used to that speed and it's less of a comedown to shoot film.

Pretty much - low-light performance sticks out in my mind as the best advantage that digital has over film. However, from what I remember shooting digital two to three years ago, when digital cameras failed at high-ISO shots, they failed pretty spectacularly - chroma and luminance noise are pretty offensive to my eyes. Don't know what the new generation of digital cams bring in this regard.

I am reminded of Michael Mann's Collateral, shot (mostly) on digital video cameras, which is an absolutely gorgeous movie from a cinematographic perspective; how one of the motivating forces for filming in the first place was the superior low-light performance of digital. Mann's Miami Vice is another cinematically gorgeous movie that relied heavily on digital superiority in low light situations.

Speed is indeed the limitation of film, but it's not as bad as you make it out to be. I get quite nice results at 1600 or 3200 with T-Max 3200P (now being discontinued) or Ilford Delta 3200. I've even pushed them to 6400 on occasion, though that's about as far as I'd care to go.

Up until a year or two ago, digital cameras were pretty much limited to 3200 as well unless you were willing to put up with tons of ugly noise. At this point, digital is definitely pulling ahead on pure speed. How much that matters is for each of us to decide for himself. I also shoot hand-held in available light nearly all the time, but I find 3200 to be adequate for just about all the circumstances I actually want to shoot in. The inability to change ISO from frame to frame is, I think, actually a more significant advantage for digital than sheer speed.

When I bought my 5D Mark II, I thought ISO 1600 would be as high as I'd ever need. Silly me. These days I'm hoping for good ISO 25,000 and would love ISO 800,000.


Yes, but "affects" has no power--it's a neutral, weak-dishwater word. It has no (if you'll pardon the expression) impact.

"Impact" as a verb has a meaning more like "affects strongly." In fact it's almost an elision...reduced from "affects with great impact."

Anyway, I've just decided that for me, as an editor, I'm going to try not to cringe when I see this one. (Many other neologisms, especially ones born of error, still do make me cringe.)


Yeah, but that's looking at a camera as a single-use device for making art. What about when you want top take graduation photos or party photos for your kid?

A digital camera of "modest spec" wouldn't have to have all that stuff you see in the menu, and I think it'd still be better. Suppose you had a digital camera that offered the same ISO as film, and roughly the same resolution as film, but also offered previews (chimping) and the ability to erase mistakes and 16mb memory cards and Adobe offered Lightroom? So that when you took pictures of your kids, you could check to see that nobody had his/her eyes closed and that you didn't cut anybody's head off, and there are no phone poles growing out of a subjects head, etc. And you have no chemicals to dispose of and store, and you don't need a dedicated darkroom...

I think you need to reboot.

I'd prefer the "simple" digital with matching ISOs over film...

Whatever happened to rewinding the film mid-roll and leaving the leader out? Then you can swap film all day.

"Just shoot with the Leica M8, then you don't get used to that speed and it's less of a comedown to shoot film."

Me-yow! Hssssssss....



Funny, my biggest hurdle when I started getting serious about digital photography was that after using slow b&w film for most of my life it was the first time that I ever had to worry about overexposure.

The digital equivalent of verichrome pan where overexposure just gives you creamy low contrast skin tones and open shadows, that's what I want. And gigapixel resolution would be fine too.

"The digital equivalent of verichrome pan where overexposure just gives you creamy low contrast skin tones and open shadows, that's what I want."

Amen, brother Hugh.


I use film A LOT, in fact I have in my shoulder bag two cameras, a Nikon F3 and a N80, and I also tend to take pictures at night. Having a digital camera with good high ISO performance is great. I have also a D800 myself and I love to be able to shot at whatever ISO I want... however in real life and for all practical purposes, I had never needed to use more than 800 ISO with an f/1.4 lens. The 50mm f/1.4 lens is the one I'm going to use 95% of the time, and coupled with a 400 ISO roll of film it's nothing you can't really do... of course, I'm not talking about astronomy photography, or portraits with candles, stuff like that... but those are very specific situations.

Yup, no doubt. If available light is your thing, then for that aspect alone, digital is king. But if you shoot mostly outside, film is still very much relevant- not to mention the more tactile and purposeful shooting style film affords.

Perhaps the one subject digital has influenced most is sports photography. Many available light, sports photos from the analogue days looked like granular blobs or in your face flash snap shots. I'm simply amazed at the available light, medium format quality, sports photography of this digital age!

YES! Great high ISO, good autofocus and frame rates. Leave all the other stuff out. We could call it the small newspaper high school football camera. This is what you were thinking, yes?

What film? Kodak Portra 400 looks great at 800 without push processing, 1600 with 1 stop push is still really good.

"What film?"

I was shooting Tri-X at EI 200 with a yellow filter, my former standard.


Mike! Say it ain't so. Instead of "to impact" (shudders), how about "to affect?" Unless it is a flippin' asteroid we're talking about, I'm begging you: don't leave the lifeboat.


For those who use film and obsess over wanting to photograph in open shade / wanting to avoid the harsh contrasts of direct sunlight, the constraints are even more severe. Especially when filters are used as well.

"You just get really used to ISO 800, 1600, 3200"

You can, of course, shoot at those speeds with film if you really want to. Ilford still offers Delta 3200. (sadly, Fuji's Neopan 1600 went away a while ago; that was a nice high-speed film). Or you can push Delta 400 or Tri-X. You pay a bit in grain, but so what? Grain is good.

Mostly these days, though, I use Acros, FP4+, and occasionally Pan F. Handheld, normally. I guess I don't feel the need to shoot in the dark.

(Also, looking at the prices of some cameras that get discussed here, I'm still pretty dubious of the cost savings of digital)

You can pretty much expose Portra 400 anywhere from ISO 50-1600 without modifying development, and get something useable. Trust in that Vision3 technology and it won't let you down.

Nice to hear you have been shooting film, Mike. Would love to see some of them.

I can get a similar experience with a 400 speed film and a fast f2.0 or f1.4 aperture. Add Leica glass, and I feel like I have a winning combination for sharp images in low light.

My Rolleiflex 3.5F is not nearly as fast, but it still works for some tough lighting situations at night (where there are streetlights, anyway). Because of its leaf shutter, I can handhold for very slow exposures.

The tradeoff in the look is worth the trouble--to me. At the end of the day, it's all about the look. Film feels different. Period.

"Impact" is (possibly) a verb when used to describe one body striking another, though I don't see what is wrong with something like "hit" or "collide with".

Folks who don't want to wait for film to be developed, I understand that. I'm not very good at waiting, either, especially since the good lab in town is 20 minutes away and about a two-day turnaround. (Factor in gas price and developing charge...)

But it's not a good reason to give up film for digital. Since I started stocking HC110 and a developing tank for both 120 and 35mm, black and white film has taken on an 'instant" quality since I can process a roll in about 20 minutes and start scanning as soon as it's dry. It's liberating how quick it has become.

Aargh, no kidding. I am waiting for a negative to dry, Portra 400. Great film but it was so dark that I was forced to shoot at 1/2 second at f11. That's as slow and wide open as a #10 Cirkut camera gets. Not sure if I will have enough d-o-f and whether the people in the photo will have held still.
But I do have a back-up shot with my D700, 1/40th, f8 at ISO 800. It's no contact print, but it's great to have a back-up and a test is printing right now as the film dries.

I notice that you didn't mention how much time you spent developing and printing your film, and how very much you really enjoyed doing it.

Yes, the limited light sensitivity of film is a significant issue, but the biggest drawback to using film is the tedium and the time spent scanning it. This assumes that one wants to utilize the power and ease of digital editing, which most of us do. When I recall the hours spent scanning dozens of frames from any given project, I see it as the equivalent of washing a hotel's linen by hand.

ISO800/1600/3200 in color I think is what was being referred to. In B/W those are perfectly easy to do and arguably get better results on film. I've never liked color negative at those speeds, but based on the comments to this post, I will look into Portra.

I feel like the trend toward good high ISO capability is making manufacturers lazy with their lenses. Where are the f/2 designs? Instead we get a proliferation of f/1.4 "halo" products and then f/2.8 (if we're lucky) to f/4-ish primes, and finally the inevitable 3.5-6.3 convenience zooms. If you're aching for more DOF that's fine, but usually I want less.


That is almost exclusively how I work with my 10MP camera. My export preset for Lightroom is called "Quartersize" or something like that. 2.5MP shots are fine for anything I'm doing on the web and make great 4x6 or 5x7 prints. I agree that I wouldn't mind not having to have as big memory cards and as beefy a computer to deal with the original file sizes, though.

Hmm, is it possible to downsample "RAW" data in camera and still get a "RAW" file? If so, would that be the same as having full color information per pixel if you do 4-to-1 conversion and use a standard bayer matrix?

You've raised my last remaining issue with staying on film. And it's not just a film v. digital thing. It forces unwelcome choices within film usage.

Many B&W films, as noted in prior comments, allow for some pretty high ISO. Color shooting indoors can be had with Portra 400 at 400/800 which is usually manageable with the right glass and technique. Poor E6 fans, however, are left at a lowly 100 (minus any filter factor), or at best 400X at $13/roll+. And then there are the tight latitude requirements of E6.

I love Provia 100F but feel it would not be useable as daily film unless I throw a flash on my Leica. (It's heresy to some but I am not bothered by the dogma, only the results.). If we can put a man on the moon and a machine on Mars then can we not make E6 at 3200??

I used to use view cameras up to 11x14 with good Zeiss and Goerz lenses. I even studied with Minor White at MIT for a while after he did the New Zone System Manual. I greatly prefer digital - it's far more flexible and controllable, and doesn't constrain one 1/100th as much as film did. Although film or digital is certainly a matter of personal preference (and existing comfort level and knowledge base), there's a darn good reason why film is becoming a legacy process. I have little doubt that the same debate ensued when the guys coating their glass plates with explosive ether and nitrocelluose (Collodion process) in a hot mule-drawn "portable" darkroom also expressed similar sentiments toward that new-fangled dry plate and roll film. Photography, more than any other art form, is highly dependent upon technology and advances primarily when new technologies mature. So, we should probably embrace the notion of digital recordation as Ansel Adams did in the 1970s when updating his classic set of film and camera books.

I think some of the commenters missed your point, or I interpreted it differently. It is not how fast (ISO-wise) digital sensors are, not how fast film could be, but how quickly you can change ISO from one frame to the next.

Strange I'm quite happy shooting the majority of my digital stuff at iso 50 and only when there's no other choice do I dial in iso 400. That's because I've spent most of my photographic life working with Fuji Velvia.

Just the other day I was thinking along the same lines as Del Kimbler above. I was wandering my neighborhood just shooting the 4x5 because I hadn't done so in a while. I loved the fact the I could choose from the ISO 100 - 320 I had with me at any given time. The oposite was true of the roll back I was carrying loaded with Adox CHX 50. Though I could change size mid roll I was stuck with at least 8 shots at ISO 50.

I'm not selling anything...actually I'm not sure there is ever a good reason to sell a camera...but I think I'm finally done with 35mm film. The X100 fakes the handling of my favorite rangefinder cameras well enough to have won me over and that tactile experience was really the last thing I couldn't get out of digital.

Medium format is a different matter. It's breathtakingly expensive if you are using a good lab (like $3.50 a shot and up) and there is no high ISO performance, but for the right subjects the results are still better than anything I've ever seen from digital. You can get lost discovering all there is within a 48MB scanned MF frame.

And here I am wishing I could shoot a couple of rolls of Kodachrome with my Contax G1 while walking the streets of L.A.

Speed? I no need no stinking speed!

Um. Irony alert? A film-bashing post just above an ad for Kertesz's book?

Okay. Cue the "Kertesz would have used a digi-cam the minute they came out" talking points.

Artists use the limits of their medium as creative juice. I know you weren't talking art, but happy snapping. Maybe a different ad would have made more sense!

Btw, I know some of you folks poo poo it, but Tri-X can easily be pushed to ISO 1600. Then there's Delta 3200. This is not equivalent to digital, but it is the only REAL disadvantage film has, against the immeasurable advantage of superior tonality and GRAIN!

No, I can't think of other words to mean "affect" (even though you don't like this one), "change," "influence," "transform," "alter," or "modify" either. Maybe I should consult a thesaurus.

There was an ad a while ago, I think for Kia, that showed the car during crash tests to tout the car's safetey features; the ad had the tag line, "Pretty impactful, isn't it?" The first time I heard that, I screamed.

P.S. I recently had an epiphany about the speed thing. I seldom need fast film or high sensitivities, except when I do the occasional shoot in low light for a local dance troupe; then I use my digital, and I bounce between ISO 3200 and ISO 6400. It always bothered me that I couldn't use film for this. Until very recently, when it struck me: T-Max P3200. (Except it's not color, which I hope isn't a problem.) So I ordered some (which should ship when Sukkot is over...) and will shoot the next performance using that. And as soon as I ordered the film, Kodak promptly discontinued it. Figures.

I agree with Craig that digital's advantage is not so much it performance at higher sensitivities but the ability to change sensitivities from one frame to the next. It's much more convenient than my other solution: Carry a bunch of cheap film cameras loaded with different speeds of film.

P.P.S. And since I'm a grammatical Luddite: "trims back the edges of darkness into which digital has extended photography."


I too, set my Contax AX to leave the leader protruding so that I can exchange rolls. Works just fine. Luckily, my film shooting is almost all landscapes, so I don't need to worry about speed. But, I can certainly see the limitations for the type of shooting you do, Mike. I'm afraid I'm STILL smitten with film, especially medium format film. Yes, there's a waiting time for processing, scanning, etc., but that just adds a little bit of fun suspense to the whole thing.

Digital is better in almost every way, and yet...film is just...more fun.

How are you getting along with the OM-D, Mike?

This must be why you liked image stabilization from the start. Combine that with good high ISO and you can get that black-cat-in-the-coal-bin-at-midnight shot.

"P.P.S. And since I'm a grammatical Luddite: 'trims back the edges of darkness into which digital has extended photography.'"

I tried it that way, but it seemed too fussy, as "to which" sometimes does. Sometimes you do have to choose idiomatic vs. grammatical...never automatic, this stuff.


APS had a feature "mid-roll change" that would rewind the film into the cannister, let you use another roll, and then replace the first cannister, which would auto-magically wind to the next frame to be shot.

APS did have some nice features!

Also, I wonder if you could take a raw image and average it down to a lower resolution but better noise performance, much like the "Candle" mode on my S-90.

[Yoram Nevo: "Yes, exactly. Where is that six megapixel DSLR for the rest of us? Think what ISO heights it could reach. Give us slow guys a fast camera! Who needs all those pixels anyway? And as one using the aging Nikon D70 I would suggest Nikon to name this new DX camera (yes, we don't need FX—the 50mm ƒ/1.8 is a great portrait lens on the D70) the...'Nikon D6MP' :-) "]

Right, I've always wondered what the images from a 6MP or 8MP current tech FX body (if someone made one) might look like at high isos....

BTW: As someone who was very fond of a 6MP DX Nikon body, I was greatly surprised when I upgraded to a D90. It actually looked better to me at 1600 than my D50, and I really thought my D50 was pretty good at 1600. So if you're really looking for something to replace your D70 you could try a D90, I would expect since it's an older model it should be budget friendly.
* - Except I just checked, and the current price for a new D90 US body is only about $50 less than I paid for mine three years ago.

(Although, a 6MP FX image might not really look that much different from the current 12,16,18+ MP bodies. I've seen a number of comments written by hands on p/review people that have been to the effect that the D700 isn't better than the D600 at high-isos. I don't know myself, I can't afford either.)

And now to ramble on further- from what I've read about the Fujifilm X-series, it's supposed to be pretty nifty at High-ISO settings. Would love to be able to afford one.

Shooting film is starting to feel like driving a carbureted vehicle for me. It's something I might do on a weekend for fun and nostalgia, but there are way too many hassles to use it as a daily "grocery getter."

Long live fuel injection and digital sensors.

Ah, the delicate art of rewinding a roll with the camera near your face and listening for the film to slip the sprocket so you could do a mid-roll film roll/ISO change. Say leader retriever to a camera store employee and they'll ask you if it looks like a spaniel.

I'll shoot the occasional roll of 120 these days, but the last 36 exposure roll of 35mm seemed to last an eternity.

One more thing. Having always been smitten with fast film and fast lenses and pictures taken in dark places I wasn't really supposed to be, I shot a lot of 3200 and 6400 speed film. And high ISO digital kicks the living crap out of it. The ISO 6400 noise on my Xpro maybe, maybe, is worse that the finest grained 800 film used to be. I showed an image to a photographer acquaintance a couple of years ago, done with Ilford Delta 3200, and he said 'You went a little heavy on the grain effect, don't you think?'

Oh, and language pedants will love this.

I still shoot film from time to time simply because it makes me happy. I also still have a darkroom which I cannot justify on any practical level. I don't care.
For 95% of what I do digital is wonderful but it took me decades to learn how to wet print and I'm just ornery enough not to want to jettison that skill yet.

It's like owning a Stanley #55. Just knowing how to make a stick with the thing is an trip but if you have to trim out a room then break out the router table pronto.

Rather than force yourself to choose between digital and film why not use both. If you need high ISO pull out the digicam. For just about everything else a film camera would more than likely suffice. Personally I have found digital to have way to much overhead when it comes to all the hoops you have to jump through. Hours in front of a computer screen, complicated and expensive backup systems (the more you shoot the worse it gets)and the vagaries of electronic devices all contribute to a very negative experience for me. For personal stuff I have gone back to film. I love the look that film gives me and cherish the relaxed post exposure process. For personal stuff I don't need to see the results within an hour of shooting. A couple of days are just fine for me.

Mike Said ~ "Personally, I could do without almost everything that digital requires or offers (color, permutability, convenience, cost savings)..."

You can do without the cost savings? I can only guess that film must be much cheaper where you live (or this photoblog business is a lot better than I thought ;~)

The 35mm, 36 exp, colour, E6 film that I liked cost me more than $20.00/roll (film price + processing, but not printing) the last time I used it. It would be even more now, because there are no processing labs left in my area.

I just noticed the other day that I have shot nearly 41,000 images with the little, pocket digi-cam that I carry everywhere I go. To use the tired old argument ~ the cost of those exposures on 35mm, E6 would be nearly $23,000.00 ~ that's about equal to (100) X (the cost of my digi-cam)!

Of course, I would not have made anywhere near 41,000 images, over the same period of time, with film. I see that as a BAD thing!

One could accurately point-out that most of those 41,000 pocket digi-cam images went straight from my digi-cam to digi-oblivion.

While this certainly would be true in my case...I did (and do) experimental stuff with that digi-cam that I would not try with a film camera today due to COST.

As an added bonus, I also managed to get some GREAT stuff with that little, digital shooter, workded some things out that I used later with my DSLR kit, the garbage shots were at no real cost to me...AND...It-Was-All-Fun!

So, I don't understand how anyone could ignore the cost of shooting film today!

Cheers! Jay

Your use of 'impact' as you do has a negative effect in the article.

"Then there's Delta 3200. This is not equivalent to digital, but it is the only REAL disadvantage film has, against the immeasurable advantage of superior tonality and GRAIN!"

One: Delta 3200 has enormous base fog, which makes it trouble to use on dichroic enlargers: you can end up with paper reciprocity failure.

Two: Back to Mike's original point, I just printed some recent pictures I made on HIE. It's an irreplaceable film, yeah, but the excruciating pain of wet printing (mix D-72, align enlarger, dust everything, test strip, proof print, work print to judge dodging/burning, first "good" print) made me consider converting a DSLR to infrared: no pain in the darkroom and much higher exposure speeds in-camera.

The only recompense was that I showed my 4-year old how to make a "magic" picture and she got to see it come up in the developer. Now she wants to make a "magic" picture of herself.

I'll probably be branded as a heretic but you could carry two cameras. Granted my two digital SLRs don't have the speed of the latest models, but I often carry one digital and one film body. I also carry an adapter if I want to use the film body's lenses on the digital body. When I can justify the cost of a digital body with good high ISO, I'll pull the body out of the camera bag that suits the job,or my mood.

'Impact" and "affect" are interesting but not central words when discussing this subject. The key one: tripod. :-)

Just shoot Diafine + Tri-X for B/W or Portra 400 for colour. They both have enough latitude to shoot between 400-1600 on the same roll.

Funny that you juxtapose the Kertesz book with a post on the speed limitations of film. He essentially taught Brassai night photography (without much subsequent credit), and showed that film speed could be quite adequate for the task.

High ASA was never a big concern with my film work; nor is super high ISO a major consideration for my digital camera purchases. Different strokes, as they say.

I was all nostalgic for Neopan 1600 and Tri-x...until I developed the rolls and realized what a pain it was to scan, spot, , etc....35mm just isn;t worth the effort, if I didn;t love the cameras. Medium format and larger still feel worth it to me, but golly, it's hard to ignore the ease of digital.

There's a similar effect down at the other end of the ISO ladder: I miss being able to get long shutter speeds without ND filters, etc. by shooting Ilford Pan-F, Kodak Gold 25, heck, even Velvia at EI 40.

Still, like everyone else, I'll take the trade-off for the other benefits of digital.

Speed kills,
Higher ISO speed kills even faster.

I still use film and even when I use my old Canon Point and shoot digital the ASA/ISO is rarely above 200.

If "we" were meant to have the ability to capture images
using ulterior methods as digital, we would have had such designs in front of us a long long time ago...

And while we are at it. Why not wet plates?

while i like digital sensors, i'm still not enthused about digital cameras. we're almost there, but not quite.

I love what digital has done for ISO, but I also love the happy accidents you get when you force film far beyond reasonable limits in low light.

*Impact* is fine. You're in good company, Mike.

"...[T]he world did not impact upon me until I got to the post office." Christopher Morley

"...[P]uns that can impact the scabrous with the sublime in a word." Eleanor Clark

Given the context, I suggest *impinge* (encroach, infringe). And I hasten to quote Ezra Pound:

"...[N]ot that I want to impinge on any one's recreation." {g}

The quotes are exemplars of usage cited in Websters Third New International Dictionary (unabridged) © 1993

I shoot mostly Tri-X, HP5 Plus and sometimes Efke 25. I do not believe I have used more than ISO 3200 even on a digital camera. However, I ordered few rolls of P3200 Tmax just for fun.

I just love shooting film ...scanning is what I hate. I am pretty bad at scanning so I don't bother :)

I love prints from my MF cameras.

Esoteric info...Tri-x in Microphen. 1600 is ok. God's favorite combo.

Yeah I like my digital stuff as well but the Tri-x still looks cool.

your #1 problem with film is your #1 solution to get one kind of theme at time. This was the way in the old times. You select your film accord what you will shoot. Consistency. That's the name.

I don't miss film that much. I used to carry 30 rolls of various slide films, b&w films etc. And had to store them in special bags to get through airport x-rays. Film had to be kept cool, so I had to bring a cooler in hot seasons. It was a royal pain shooting film.

Interesting thoughts Mike, but they haven't borne out for me. Take as an example a recent photo walk I took with a friend. She carried a Pentax Kr (rightly considered a very good low light camera) and I had a Fuji GS645S (medium format rangefinder with leaf shutter) loaded with Portra 800. Our walk was through open fields and deep woods near dusk. With the latitude of Portra, I rated shots on the same roll at ISO 400, 800 and 1600. All came out perfectly, no colour shift or grain. Any grain in the Portra 800 disappears once you get to medium format, even in the 645 format. My shutter speeds were normally 1/4 of those on the Pentax, but the leaf shutter let me continue handholding right into the dark. We both gave up shooting at the same time -- both saying it had gotten too dark to continue. I had not expected that, I know how good the Kr is (I shoot a K5 myself.) But it turned out my film camera didn't run out of useable light any faster than the digi.

Regarding speed and convenience of film vs. digital, I have largely abandoned scanning myself as too slow. But for $11 my local lab processes C41 and gives me a CD with 6 megapixel scans that are as good or better than a 6mp DSLR - and still look like film. I dropped my film off the day after shooting, on my lunch break. I went and had lunch, and the film and CD were ready for me after I had eaten. That's nearly as convenient to me as downloading from an SDHC card, my photos look great, and I automatically have backups -- on negative, on CD, and once I import to Aperture, on hard drive.

I love digital for certain jobs and certain looks but really enjoy analog cameras, processes and aesthetics. I have found a way to shoot film that to me, has no drawbacks compared to digital.

Fools! You got it all wrong, wrong, wrong!

Film, slow? Not a chance!
I see it as the PERFECT opportunity to explore, investigate and purchase lenses of wide aperture and cost-justify them to the IMF (aka SWMBO).

Got it now?
(duck&run, veryveryfast)

I like the way your inline ads allow you to Inject some subtle irony into your posts......

Speed is not one of my concerns, when shooting film. I carry two bodies loaded with 400 and 1600 asa film and shoot with fast glass. I make the limitations of shooting at f1.4 @ 1/30th part of the look of the media. This may manifest itself as motionblur, shallow depth of field or poor shadow detail. But to me it is all part of what gives film it's unique look, just like oils look different than watercolors.

I main problem with film is dealing with large quantities of it.

There are few things more painful than shooting 10-20 rolls on a single day and then having to sort through them with a film scanner. It is an incredibly time consuming process that can literally eat up days of your life. Real contact sheets simplify this process enormously, but how many of us still keep a darkroom at the ready?

Running a close second would have to be traveling with film, but that's another story.

"I like the way your inline ads allow you to Inject some subtle irony into your posts...."

Glad you liked that. I wanted to use Brassai's "Paris By Night," but there isn't a recommendable printing available right now. [g]


With using "old" sensors (E-P1) and their limited high-ISO I ditched those slow zoom-lenses and went back to what was my preferred choice with Tri-X and HP-5: good, fast lenses, used wide open.

Honestly, I do not "need" more than the old Fuji Neopan 1600 provided me with, as long as I get a good range of contrast.

Congratulations! Finally you got the deepest philosophy between film and digital.

My #2 is nobody helps you if you have hand shake, no VR, no in body stabilisation :))

The paradox is that long time ago people are trying to use the lowest ISO for quality. (I bought many ISO64 and some ISO25.)
This habit leaves a specific trauma, I always leave my DSLR setting under ISO400.

A lot of interesting responses posted here, personally I like using film for my personal work. For me I enjoy shooting with a number of film cameras, one of those is my 4 x 5 view camera . Although I shoot digital on a daily basis for my job and enjoy the benefits of digital image making, especially being able change the ISO on the fly, I have found that with the view camera there are very few options in regards to the digital equivalent, ( I know there are scanning backs ) So for the time being I enjoy shooting film with my view camera, knowing that one day the camera may end up as an interesting museum piece.

WTTW as in 'Word to the Wise' or 'Window to the World?' Both seem to apply.

[Word to the wise —MJ.]

I generally shoot film several times each year. Sometimes under the flimsy excuse of trying to achieve a particular result, but usually simply to use one of the wonderful film cameras in my arsenal.

But the PGR* of film photography is at least 2.0 and often approaches 3.0. To each his own...but geez.

* PGR: Pain/Gain Ratio

Back in the 80s I wanted the best quality and so I used Kodachrome 25 sometimes. That was character building. I learnt to brace arms against chest, stop breathing, then exhale and press the shutter, taking advantage of anything to brace against and so on.

One of my favourite shots was taken on K25 with a Sigma 50-200 f4.5 APO zoom as they were called. No AF then, and this had a large rotation angle so I used to find it slow and hard to focus.

In Malaysia one day, two young Muslim girls suddenly came from shade into sun down a pathway toward me carrying a large rainbow umbrella. I struggled to find the focus, steady the camera at about 1/15s and 200mm. I only got time for one shot and there's a bit of motion blur, but the smiles and the colour of K25 mean I've been struggling whether to show it or not ever since. In this case, aesthetics override the flaw.

Amazingly, new technology means I may be able to fix it, 30 years later. This new software may be able to remove the motion blur. I haven't been able to try it yet.

But the overall lesson is, wow, we've got it made these days - lightning fast AF, instant ISO uprating, image stabilisation and RAW post processing ... it's too easy! Just add creativity sauce.

Hi Mike,
Wouldn't your problem be resolved by using a film camera that has interchangeable backs? Say a Hasselblad 500C/M, with two different backs holding films of different speeds?
But, Hassys are heavy!

Decent color at ISO 2500. I'd miss it if I didn't have it.

I'm of the contrary opinion (as usual!). On the rare occasions that I use digital, I try to keep it around ISO 100.

I don't understand the obsession with ISOs in the 1000s. Are people taking portraits of black cats in coal cellars?

Wildly different exposures, so therefore widely separated film speeds, can be accomodated on one roll of film if you use a Pyro tanning developer. Put crudely it develops until done, then stops. So 125 ISO films can be processed in the same tank as 400 ISO films for the same development time, or you can take great big punts on exposure on one roll and get similar results whether you shot at low or high ISO (some experimentation may be required).

Developers like 510 Pyro are vitually grain free acutance developers, so the 'look' is always going to be similar at whatever the speed used. The dynamic range will be the same (within reason) but the density of the negatives will be higher or lower depending on the exposure given, so different grades of paper are needed rather than lots of dodging and burning. For scanning the high dynamic range possible with Pyro is ideal.

Similar proprietary developers like Barry Thornton's DiXactol and Exactol do a similar thing, one development time more or less fits all films and film speeds.

This isn't the perfect solution to changing light conditions as changing ISO on a digital camera, and 510 Pyro is far better used as a craftsmans tool rather than a 'get out of gaol free card'. But for a lot of us who have film cameras sitting around with half a film in and waiting until the sun comes out(or goes in)to match the film speed, then it is an option.

Go figure.
I'm exactly on the other bank of the river - even in digital, I shoot mostly 400 or 200 ISO.
I'm mainly interested in outside photography and never bother about indoor, shots, tough...

V.I.Voltz's featured comment makes an interesting point:

The notion that digital has suddenly made everyone a photographer is somewhat incomplete, because instant film cameras were around for a while.

However, the speed restrictions of film discussed here is what either (a) required significant technique or (b) budgets for high speed lenses that could compensate for lack of speed. Both were barriers to entry that curtailed easy shooting at available light indoors, but not the family vacation in Spain. And since most people spend way more time indoors than on vacation, that had a statistical impact.

Today's digital cameras don't make it easier to shoot in general, but they do make it easier to shoot at low budget under non sunny-16 conditions.

Never abandoned film. I for one can't think of a reason to shoot digital other than imagined inability to master photography.

I think costs are more a concern. I bought a Minolta 7 to accompanied my A77 and I found that the film and scan costs to test what it looks like actually equal to the Minolta 7 plus the 28-85 Lens. Have to let it goes.

If you do 5 rolls per week (with film, develop and scan - 1 hour services though in HK), I think you can get a D600+24-85 kit lens within 36 weeks! Then the D600+24-85 lens is free.

Obviously if one roll one's own film and do development and own scanning/printing, it might be ok but then the costs of yourselves are not free as well.

I think only for large format you can do film. (You develop much less.)

"has an impact on".

Yes it takes longer to say, but I'm a L.F. film shooter - I like to take my time!

(I also sort of miss my D700, for the reasons you state)

I agree with your speed problem, Mike. And I haven't even put a yellow filter on yet but I am shooting Tri-X at 200. There are 2 very big reasons I like film. The first reason is that I bought a CLA'd Pentax MX with 50mm f1.7 lens for $150. If I bought a digital Pentax and the 35mm macro lens it would run me $1500 (guessing at that). That leaves me $1350 dollars to spend on film and development, which is huge. So it's either $1500 up front or $1500 spread WAY out.

The second reason is that I am a very mechanically inclined person so I really like mechanical cameras and manual focus. So if I want an inexpensive, mechanical camera with a viewfinder intended for manual focus, then film it is. Speaking of which, Mike, I have an idea for an article on older cameras: Film cameras with great focus "snap". I remember you saying the Contax Aria had good snap but trying to do internet searches for focus snap leads nowhere.

I shoot both, digital and film. Sometimes I have as main camera my film camera with a 100 iso film in it and a 35mm lens coupled in the bag with my x1 (36 equivalent) for when I use 800/1600 iso. I know purist will be horrified for this mix, but once printed nobody could tell me which one was which.
PS: anyway just back from a "film only" holiday, you can see here: http://thequietphotographer.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/austrian-story/ and here : http://thequietphotographer.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/the-sacred-and-the-profane-my-austrian-photographs/

Heh, all you Tri-X shooters moaning about how hard you had it.... I was a Kodacrome 64 shooter, in the canyons of NYC yet (though once it came out I did use Kodachrome 200 on really overcast days).

The funny thing about film is that the photographers that excelled in the film era still inspire us today despite it's limitations.

Do we have many from the digital age that speak to us in the same way?

It's amazing: you can't type the word "film" in this blog that an avalanche of comments begins!

Interesting post. I finally bought a decent digital for myself last Christmas and was 99% digital since then. I found that with my E-PL1 & a couple of Nikkors to supplement the kit lens, I was very happy doing most of what I enjoyed about photography. My Leica IIIf & Nikon F2 sat unused.

But there was an aspect that wasn't fulfilled by my little Olympus. I had a hard time putting a finger on the problem until I was looking at a friends 12x10 work. I don't always want fast and easy. And I love composing for the square.

So recently I picked up a nice old Rolliecord III, a pile of ISO100 Arista.Edu Ultra film & mixed some D76. I'm still getting into the process again and my scans stink but the complex set of compromises using that kind of camera with that format are pleasing to me. still have my digital for those things it is so good at but when it comes together for me


there are moments I just don't even think to try without having a film camera along.

As some one who started with a folding camera shooting Verichrome Pan in 120, the thing that rings home with me is talking about all the films that are already, or soon to be gone. Makes me feel like I'm eavesdropping on the small talk in the lobby at a funeral . . . .

Like so many, I did my own B+W. But I've always wondered if the difficulty of doing your own C41 is another reason film is dying so fast, apart from all the technology that enabled digital to come to the forefront so quickly. . .

The notion that digital has suddenly made everyone a photographer is somewhat incomplete

Agreed. You missed out some words:

"The notion that digital has suddenly made everyone think they are a photographer".

So what's number 2? I got to 35, took a breath and was well on the way to 100.

I have sympathy for LF shooters though. No cheap digital alternatives there. I also get that some people just like using film.

I also like a lot of images taken on film, but not because it's film, but because I like the image. As a primarily colour photographer, who uses a recent pair of latest generation digital devices (D600 and Xpro1) and does everything at home, I simply have nothing to gain from actually using it.

I also baulk at any implication that film is intrinsically superior in an aesthetic or artistic sense. Tony Nyberg's comment about not being inspired by digital photographers is hardly fair, it simply was not available when most of the body of "documentary" or "art photography" was created.

If anything it is brilliantly suited to the documentary style, especially in colour. Many of those still working have switched to digital for some or even all of their work, including Martin Parr and Paul Graham (who is even experimenting with phone cameras). I'm sure a quick internet trawl would reveal many others. I'm also sure that Ken Tanaka and John Camp would know a lot more about this than me.

The body of digital work filtering through to art galleries and exhibitions is still small but it is growing rapidly. In the same way black and white film dominated galleries till the '70s, colour only starting to get a look-in in the mid sixties despite the fact it had been around for 30 years or more. It takes a while for trends to become mainstream and digital is barely a decade old.

Wind forward 50 years and I believe most of the work that will have defined the new century will not only be digital but, freed from the restrictions of film, will redefine photography altogether.

I am equally sure there will be a wailing and gnashing of teeth from those who like to set boundaries, but what's new? Some people still can't accept colour. However I think we are still feeling our way into a new "golden age" of the captured image, but it probably won't be our generation that makes it happen. We're too chained to the past and "coloured" by our experience to see the possibilities.

I also miss the look. And the feel -- I like shooting 6x6 with a Hasselblad, the somewhat limiting DOF and square format are nice. but I hate the post-processing; with digital I upload to the computer and I'm in control. With film, I develop, then scan -- both are detracting me from the essence of creating images.

Oh Mike, I SO very strongly agree with you on this one.

I bought a Nikon D90 in June 2009. The ISO 3200 on it gives me great photos that I would never have gotten otherwise.

My daughters and I went to a night / outdoor concert by Tears For Fears a couple of years ago in Orlando. One of my favorite groups that I had never seen in concert (they were awesome). I took a lot of photos at 3200 and with just the most simple and quick tweaks in Photoshop Elements I was able to dial back what little noise was there so that the photos look great, even filling my computer screen, much less in normal print sizes. I didn't really much need to do that, but hey, I'm a geek who loves tweaking photos when the mood strikes.

That's why I'm not yet even tempted to upgrade to a newer D7000 aps sensor camera, much less a full frame size. The 3200 gets me more that I would have dreamt of a few years ago, much less the 6400 and 12,800 ISOs on newer cameras.

I have a box of old Canon, Kodak, Focal, Zorki, and other 35mm cameras I use a couple of times a year each, and pull them out between uses to work the controls to ensure all is working well inside them. I absolutely love the look and feel and heft of these old beauties, but just knowing I can get really nice low-light shots with that D90 and it's insane ISO performance keeps me grabbing it even if I wish it had more of the "handling vibe" of older SLRs.

Anyway, just wanted to add my thumbs-up to your thought in this post. As someone who started out in the mid-70s with my parent's old Kodak Pony IV camera, I still get a thrill realizing that I can shoot great photos at ISO 3200, and even the 6400 equivalent the D90 offers when I it need to.

The high ISO performance on digital cameras still seems like some kind of magic to me, and is my favorite difference from the cameras of the olden days.

Curt Smith, Tears for Fears, ISO 3200

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