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Saturday, 13 December 2014


I was trained in B&W, and could "see" the final image. (I later moved to colour as that was what clients wanted) I think the issue is not how the cameras capture, but how printers output. I have not seen an inkjet print that could compare to a good fibre based print.

Hey Mike- Please add a paragraph or a post about what technique you use to convert your digital files to BW both generally and for the Fuji files. There are many ways to do it and I know none are "correct", but I respect your eye/judgement for BW and I think that I, and your readers, would be interested in your process. Lately I have been playing around with Macphun Software's Tonality Pro (they also have a cheaper non-pro version) and it works remarkably well. I also use Silver Efex Pro. How about you?
Cheers! Steve Rosenblum

[Hi Steve, I've been converting the RAWs in ACR and converting to B&W using Silver Efex Pro 2. --Mike]

I wouldn't expect digital to look the same as film. It's a completely different technology. Different films (say, Tri-X and HP5) don't even look the same, so why should a digital sensor look like any of them?

I mean, I get what you're saying in that you like film and you wish digital would produce the same result. But that's a little like saying you really liked your horse-drawn carriage and it bothers you that the experience of riding in an automobile is very different.

I like film too. I like the way it forces me to think about my shot in advance and decide which contrast filter to use because once the shot is taken you're stuck with it. I don't like the way digital subtly discourages me from bothering with contrast filters because you can fix it later (which is only partly true -- if you would have used a red filter with film, but didn't because you were shooting digital, if your blue channel is blown out in the highlights there's no way to recover). But the difference in "look" between the two doesn't bother me because I just think of them as two different things. If I really want the look of film, I'll shoot film.

I do agree with you, though, that the X-Trans files look better than what other sensors deliver.

The latest Fuji digital cameras are a joy to use. For the past year I have been doing mostly B/W digital using Fuji equipment. My entire experience with B/W film was one roll shot in 1964 and processed in 1966.

I don't generally like comparing my work, such as it is, to that of other people. Might be good or bad. Making images like those linked below is satisfying to me.

Here are a few images shot using Fuji from 2014.


I also converted colour digital files to black and white, then I realised that my mirrorless camera, when set to Monochrome, shows a b&w image in the viewfinder. What a revelation, to me, now, not only can my brain see in b&w but my eye can too. With my mirrorless files, I convert b&w to colour.

Is native digital b&w any good ? For me yes. It certainly takes me back to my days of Tri-X, contrast, grain and oomph!

Season’s greetings,

How did things go with your Sigma Foveon B&W experiment? I heard that was the best hope for digital B&W.

I guess I should consider myself lucky never to have shot B&W film and, thus, not to have that frame of reference weighing me down. When I am out shooting, I see in color, but when I view the images on my computer monitor, I can see which ones have B&W potential. What has changed is the point at which I begin seeing in monochrome. Personally, I don't think it's that big a deal. The real beauty and strength of doing B&W conversions in this way is the ability to add color filters after the fact. It gives one huge latitude in creating tonal separation and contrast. Using color filters in the field is a bit of a crapshoot.

Now I have a question that you have probably answered before. When you were shooting black and white in film cameras, the view through the finder was, obviously, in color. Did just knowing that Tri-x was in there make you "see" in monochrom? Actually, I can understand that, but still am curious. I know that if you choose to shoot monochrome in a current camera the viewfinder will be monochrome. I don't like that, but you might. The part that intrigues me is that if you know that the camera will only return a monochrome result you can then think in monochrome, but if you know that you will have a convertible color file then you cannot think that way. Fascinating.

My second question is to ask how the Fuji files convert to black and white differently than other digital files. Thanks.

In the voice of Robin Williams: thank you jesus!!!

I've shot my share of B&W, and early on in the digital times I had my own issues coming to terms with shooting B&W with the new machines. My problem was that you could not put the camera into a mode where the preview would be B&W, so you would inevitably see the picture recorded in color at some point before the normal post-processing could begin, which would ruin it for me.

Newer cameras then had a mode where they would let you preview the picture in B&W and even capture a B&W JPEG to use as a thumbnail for the RAW image. This worked well enough for me. Later on I started to get the hang of seeing the B&W picture in my mind's eye even after capturing it and seeing it on my phone (say) in color.

Now I mange to pre-visualize pictures that I want to take based on my final goal for the image, not what the machine I'm using is programmed to capture. This works for me. I guess I can understand if it doesn't work for everyone.

If it's any consolation to you, digital cameras no more "capture" in color than color film captures in color directly. You don't get the color until a lot of processing occurs in the custom hardware deep in the bowels of the camera, the result of which is a color JPEG or whatever.

Of course, the sensor has the Bayer filter over it to facilitate color capture, but even B&W film has colored dyes in it to extend the spectral sensitivity of the emulsion into the green and red areas of the spectrum. The mechanisms here are of course completely different, and one should not draw false analogies. I just think it's interesting that it is not unprecedented to use color in a system designed to eventually generate a black and white image.

The Leica M8 did it for me. Just a fantastic sensor (and lack of an AA filter) completed the digital transformation in my photography. Even after trying the Monochrom, I still prefer the converted files from my (slightly upgraded) M8.2.

I used Tri-X for many years but mostly because B&W film was less expensive. Still, I always appreciated the beauty of a well made B&W print and yes, I made my own prints. However, choosing a frame from a contact sheet depended far more on aesthetic content rather than tonality, and those qualities could indeed be exclusive. When I learned of Robert Frank and Diane Arbus, the tonal aesthetics of their prints never entered my mind. Their prints were well made but it was the content that opened my eyes.

Of course, then there is Sally Mann. Oy, this could go on.

When I started this venture nearly a decade back—-digital's advent facilitating my entrance at age 40—-I had never shot a roll of B&W film. Consequently lacking any real preconceived notions or comparative expectations, I nevertheless found myself continually trying to emulate film.

Three years into the hobby, and following perhaps nearly a thousand digital color-to-BW conversions (since I only shot monochrome), I made the switch to film (lack of an affordable digital rangefinder was also another reason, among others). I still scan, so it’s not some type of purist pursuit, but I just like what film offers me in regards to my personal preferences.

If film vanished as an option, I might have to bail out altogether.

One of the very best things about "mirrorless" cameras is that the viewfinders can be set to show B&W (or even sepia).
My current digital cameras are Sony RX10 and RX100M2 with accessory EVF.
Just to be on the safe side (in case it turns out that I should have shot in color), I set it to record [RAW + JPEG], with the JPEG set for B&W. (Belt and suspenders.)

This is an interesting inflection point and a bit ironic that it happens to involve Fuji gear, as they are the great believer in digital simulation of film qualities.

From the beginning until now, digital has been about imitating film; obviously there was no other reference point to start from. After 20 years, has that changed, I wonder? Just the availability of insanely high ISOs changes what a photograph can look like. Where DO we go from here? Or is still image capture "done?"

I think I see this as you do, Mike, I've spent 100's of hours on digital black and white and haven't found the complete 'authenticity' (to me) of what I want. Yes, the creative latitude is huge for a raw file, but I haven't found the ideal 'recipe' for conversion. I have a programme I like called 'Black and White Styler' as it has an interface that uses film terminology and some options I haven't come across in other programmes, but I still have to tweak quite a few controls- the toning options are excellent. I want to like Silver Efex Pro, but I find it produces an overly digital black and white. I run out of means to express this and other people, including yourself might think it an odd thing to say, of course it's digital. I use widely different films and a couple of very different developers and papers, so I am not hung up on a particular look - I'm not feshitistic (?) about it and I can admire much digital black and white. I could work reasonably with Sony A900 files - there was a base noise level I liked about it, the Fuji X100 I liked a lot - foolish man sold it - and given the means I would plump for a Fuji X... and really get to know it.

I still see most of what I want as black and white and the colour files are a hurdle, I know I could just look at black and white files but that brings me round to the point of my general fidgity attitude because I wouldn't be any more satisfied with viewing the in camera version.

I think it is time I say 'vive la difference' and enjoy the merits of both without trying to match them together.
By the way I am very happy with the quality of a pigment ink print, no problem now, but I still love the noxious chemical way.

In the first decade of digital printing, color was so much easier than the darkroom, and B&W was so much harder to print digitally than in chemistry darkrooms.
Since say 2011 with the advent of printers with a range of B&W inks, digital printing of B&W is as easy as color. Not that great prints in either are ever truly easy.

That has allowed me to return to my B&W roots. With the exception of one image of Mirror Lake, the Beside Still Waters print sold on TOP, all my prints sold last year were B&W. Silverefx Pro gets much of the credit, and I think it requires a color file to achieve all that can be achieved.

With regard to having a camera that helps you visualize in B&W, remember that before digital, a film rangefinder of course had a color viewfinder. People seemed to do OK without a B&W image in the viewfinder then.

The irony, as noted above by psu, is that electronic sensors are inherently monochrome in their perception of light. A b&w rendition comes as naturally to them as to any b&w film. But color-creating components—filter arrays or layering schemes—are part of a modern camera's (Leica Monochrom excepted) surrounding/supporting hardware and are assumed to exist by its firmware…and thus can't be easily (if at all) removed.

Maybe as a result of the downturn in photo gear sales we'll see more specialized cameras, including the b&w variety, as makers look for niches to fill.

A little potassium ferricyanide and your digital prints will look fine. :)

I'll second Steve Rosenblum's Tonality Pro recommendation. Longtime Silver Efx user but switched a couple of months ago to Tonality Pro. The level of control is excellent.

I won't step into the digital vs. film fray but suffice it to say that Tonality Pro allows me to convert to B&W with great results (for my tastes). Give it a try if you get a chance, Mike.

This is another post I can't get my head around. My head. With two eyes. That see in colour. No matter what film is in the camera. No matter what sensor is in the camera.

Shooting effectively in black and white might well be aided by interpreting the world we see as a monochrome world. But it has little or nothing to do with the camera. The chroma can be ditched at any point in the process.

Remember when people thought the type of film was supposed to do ALL the work? Darkroom folk knew that was only a small part, the rest was in the printing itself, these days called "post-processing" in the digital medium. Hoping for a B&W digital camera sounds silly to me as we used to use various colour glass filters to change the monochrome film we used anyway, according to what we wanted. My old Fujifilm S2Pro made in 2004 still produces great monochrome prints when I process the files in Photoshop Elements, graduating from PSE 5 to my current Photoshop Elements 11. I go into Hue and Saturation and move the sliders on "lightness" per each individual colour until I get what I want. And just as in the Darkroom days, I may work on a single print for hours or weeks. Use the lasso tool to selectively change parts of the picture in terms of light and dark, and contrast. This is what Printers did in our darkroom days. Ansel Adams was very much looking forward to Digital control, and in my opinion, he would not be looking for the monochrome camera....

I was not going to make any comment because I agree with the generality of your entry - especially with the impossibility to get the black and white film look out of digital files -, but then I read your reply to Marcin Wuu's comment, where you mention Henry Wessel's pictures and their absence of contrast.
I had never seen Wessel's pictures before, but they have the kind of look I'm getting after having been taught to expose for the shadows when shooting black and white film. I can't say I don't like it; on the contrary, the midtones are so much more informative than what seems to be the current trend for black and white. (I mentioned that in a comment to a previous entry here on TOP, so I won't get into it here.)
With a digital camera you just can't expose for the shadows. That would result in severely blown highlights, which, in digital terms, equates to loss of information. I believe this is the greatest difficulty one has to overcome when converting digital files to black and white: you never get the shadows right. It would happen to me all the time: there were times when it bothered me so much I'd just turn the pictures into 'chiaroscuri', or lift the shadows to such extent I'd lose all contrast (which is nonetheless better than too much contrast).
I don't know if this happens to the rest of the photographic community, but I used to hit a lot of trouble getting the correct tonality due to the inclination of my laptop's lid. People kept telling me my black and white pictures (I mean the Raw files converted to black and white) were too dark. I came to the conclusion laptop monitors are not reliable.
There was a point when I gave up. My digital black and white pictures just didn't satisfy me. Only when I converted to film did I get everything right, but not before having been taught to expose for the shadows. Now I'm happy with the results: my tones look a lot like Henry Wessel's (though I wish I had just one tenth of his talent). That's the way I bypassed all digital conversion difficulties - but I guess most people won't share my enthusiasm about giving up on digital and embracing film.

I'm afraid I'm still stuck in the rut. I still long for the grainy look of black and white film, and I continue my struggle to get that look with my digital camera. I've started to realise the modern CMOS sensors are too perfect. Too sharp, too waxy and too much HDR. It's impossible to turn off this 'Disney look' these days. The images are like oil paintings on tracing paper and lack a grain/noise canvas for the image to sit on. Even with grain effects added the grain just floats in space and looks unreal.

I've started to realise the older sensors such as CCD produce much better conversions. I guess that's why the Leica Monocrom is so good!! But is it? I tried one and found similar problems as mentioned above. The images are again too sharp and the ultra fine grain of the Monochrome looks like fine sandpaper - nothing like film. Thank goodness I didn't have to sell the house to buy one.

My quest continues but so far the most perfect camera I have tried are early Canon EOS cameras. For example: the 6mp Canon 10d in black and white looks closest to film I have ever seen. It's apparently an early CMOS sensor (before live view) with lots of grainy noise etc. And, the camera cost virtually nothing.


As you probably have seen and know the Fuji with its X-Trans sensor delivers a very different image than a Bayer array sensor. Chalk this up to Fuji's long history of chemistry (in film making and other areas). Because of this I think it is important to experiment with new / different tools in order to get closer to your historical vision of a finely crafted fiber B&W print. From my own experience with the X-T1 I have found the Iridient raw developer to be head and shoulders above LR or ACR (as the gold standard bearers). I have also found Fuji's baseline B&W conversion offering a wonderful place to start. And lastly as others have mentioned Silver Efex Pro 2 allows you to fine tune to taste. But perhaps the biggest revelation for me was how I made B&W prints. I realized (after many A/B comparisons) that using color inks to make a B&W print was not satisfactory. And ultimately I ended up converting my printers to use Jon Cone's proprietary ink and "curves" (known as "piezography") along with Roy Harrington's superb QuadTone RIP and print tools. This system produces prints of astonishing resolution and fidelity matched perfectly with the chosen paper. And that the inks are greater than 90% carbon yields a usable print life far beyond anything color ink based prints offer.

I have thought several times about your idea on seeing and just can't find a trace of it in my own working. With my film cameras I was always seeing color in the finder or on the ground glass and making a mental conversion to black and white. I just had to remember which type of film was in the camera. It's the same for me with digital - if I'm shooting for color I'm aware of color, if I'm going for black and white I'm more aware of light and shadow.

I rarely, almost never, change my mind about which a photo should be after it is done. Usually if I try a change, either way, I wind up going back to the original. To be honest, most often when I feel an impulse to switch it is a sign the photograph has failed overall and I am grasping for a way to save it.

These days I rarely use black and white except for portrait and figure work. For the human face and form I prefer that slight bit of abstraction, but for almost everything else I have come to prefer color.

In the film days I thought of myself as committed to black and white, but in retrospect what I liked was the control of the black and white darkroom. Once Photoshop gave me equal control of color I was a pretty quick convert.

Film cameras were of course not b/w only; that only happened when the user decided to insert b/w film. And the viewfinder showed the world in color. While I almost always shot b/w, on rare occasions I put some color slide film in my M6, M7 or other camera.

I treat digital the same way, i.e., if I go out and decide that my camera is "loaded with a b/w sensor," then that's how I see, especially over a prolonged period. Different strokes…

As others also mention, the quality of inks, papers and printer/software these days yield very satisfying…for me…prints. Different than my silver prints, but less so when I'm done with my matting, framing and display.

In your discussion about the cost of Leica lenses, you neglected to mention the very fine and reasonably priced M-mount Cosina Voigtlander lenses. When I had my M2 and a 28mm, 40mm, and 75mm, and the great little shoe mount CV light meter, the total investment was about $2,000. Pretty reasonable.

You are a bit unfair to Leica. The similarly spec'd Lumix 1.7/20 sells for $350 and is quite plastic construction when compared with the Leica T lens. Sigma makes cheaper lenses but they are 2.8. So maybe not 1/10th but 1/5th or a quarter?
And nobody sells a full frame camera for $795. You are complaining that Ferrari is expensive while you can buy a perfectly good Toyota for $20 grand. Many people think like that about speakers for example. The price variation in them is even bigger than in cameras, but I don't hear you complaining...
It is a good question why nobody else makes a b/w only digital.

[I've written about speakers a number of times, for instance here: http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2009/09/what-does-expensive-mean.html

Mike, given your love of B&W photography and presumably your satisfaction with the (traditional) approach to B&W photography, why did the emergence of digital kill your enjoyment of the traditional process and the products of that process?

[Hi Chris, I guess because I'm not a photographer, I'm a writer. --Mike]

I still struggle with this because I haven’t printed in a darkroom for almost 20 years, and I don’t print digital (I only show my images on-screen). When I did traditional printing I was very much about tonality, although I always checked that my whitest white was actually white and my blackest black was actually black. The image of Butters you showed a few days ago had both a white point and a black point in his eyes, so that totally worked for me.

But I’ve grown accustomed to making on-screen images more snappy. Based on your praise for low contrast post from a few days ago, I’ve been thinking about this and tried processing some urban shots today, which I posted on Flickr. When I look at the thumbnails they look as dull and flat as dirt. But when I look at larger versions I’m quite pleased.

For example:

And a larger version: https://www.flickr.com/photos/blork/15827347560/

I can imaging that making a nice print.

I’m less pleased with this one https://www.flickr.com/photos/blork/15827196278/in/photostream/
...probably because it’s shot in full sunlight which is not a low contrast situation, so it seems unnatural. Maybe if I just upped the overall brightness?

We need some kind of famous print expert to suggest what kind of printer would give you the best B&W. Too bad we don't have one around.

I learned photography using B&W film. For me, as I see them, some images look better in B&W and some in color. But I had no choice, as I didn't have color film. It was nearly 15 years before I started shooting color. First I learned that different films recorded colors differently, both in gray scale and contrast. And I couldn't always change film to fit the image. So I corrected as well as possible in the darkroom. When I started using color, I ran into a problem. Some things I shot were better images in B&W. So for a while I tried carrying two cameras. Bad ides! Then I got smarter and shot it all in color, particularly using slide film. When I felt an image should be in B&W I did an internegative in the darkroom, and I learned to use filters to shape the gray scale and contrast in the interneg toward what I wanted. Now digital and software conversion permit me to do conversions much more easily and with very good control.Now I know I can record an scene/image and use whichever I think makes the best image. I don't want to go back.

I love the tones you're generating in those shots of Butters.

I have been using a hybrid system to create my black and white work for the past 10 years. I shoot with large format film, then scan and make digital images using photoshop, its taken me this long to work out the nuances of the system so I can rely on the work flow when taken into account as I visualize my proposed images in the field. At one point I brought along a DSLR camera and shot some of my work side by side, what I found is that ( like others here have discovered ) is that film and digital images are different, one is not better than the other, sometimes I found the conversion to be just awful in comparison to my film image and other times the digital image was better. For the time being I am sticking with shooting my hybrid system as I have gotten to know it well, plus I love shooting with my view camera, which I have found hard to give up. I guess if I win the lottery I would buy something like a Sony 7R with a lens adapter for a couple of Leica M lenses, something that would be relatively small to carry around in addition to my view camera.

If the Bard was a photographer and with us today: "There are more things in Lightroom and Photoshop, than are dreamt of in our philosophy. The fault, dear friends, is not in our cameras, but in ourselves..."

I see in whatever spectrum my minds eye happens to have loaded. I think the mistake, as someone else alluded to, is to think that certain films are the definition of what B&W should look like.

When my eye sees in what a film does, I use a film camera. Otherwise, I use a digital camera. I love the B&W I create now, from both film and digital capture.

The funny thing is that I can no longer work with color from film. Too limiting, too hard to get what I want out of it. I'm much happier with color from digital, and I like B&W from both.

I have a Leica M9 and a couple of lenses. I debate trading it for an M Monochrom. To each their own.... https://flic.kr/p/q7ML9w

A few times I've set a camera with an EVF to shoot black and white in raw (EVF shows B&W but the file retains colours) in order to try to make black and white pictures. Every time the pictures have looked better in colour. I must have stopped seeing in black and white.

As an aside, I believe Martin Parr used black and white proofs to make the selection of pictures for The Last Resort. In some cases, maybe a good picture is a good picture if it is in mono or colour, and no matter how it is printed?

I experienced a process very similar to that of Clayton Jones. When I started in digital, I was only trying to mimic B&W film and was quite unhappy with my results. After a couple of years I decided to abandon that road and concentrate in doing the best I can with digital. Today I like better what I'm achieving in digital BW that what I did in the past with film. Even worst to me was de selection of paper to print, I was always trying to mimic air dried fiber BW paper and the results were miserable. I tested many, many brands and was really unhappy with results. After a long time and a 4 digit number of dollars that I just don't want to remember (mainly the first digit) spent in paper and ink, I decided to try matte hot press rag and I just fell in love with the results. Today I print only with Crane Museo Portfolio Rag paper In BW and color and I'm very happy with the quality of prints. Very different to traditional film photography but very beautiful indeed.

Times change, technology changes, tools change but the passion is always there, it doesn't change! What we should do is to get used to the different look, not easy but than it works.

I am very glad to hear it. My Fuji XE-1 body arrived a few weeks ago, and as soon as my Super Ozeck 28mm 2.8 OM mount gets here (£5!) I'm starting the one camera/one lens one year exercise. I'm aiming to shoot only using the BW jpeg engine for the year (though I reserve the right to switch to RAW if its not up to snuff). I also reserve the right to move to the Fuji 27mm 2.8 if I get the money together to buy it.

Sounds like this sensor is going to leave me with naught but myself to blame when it all goes horribly wrong.

"Because that's what I like"
Thank you. This is gotta be the best, most honest answer concerning artistic choices there could be.

Perhaps of interest - James Conley's instructions for setting up the Fuji X100s as a "Fuji Monochrom":


The first part of his essay on seeing in monochrome is also worth a look:


Well, when a famous printer made digital prints of my Lincoln Memorial photo for the TOP sale, he printed them on an Epson. So it may not be the best possible, but it was deemed good-enough (also by me of course). (The 3880 I believe, but am not certain of that detail.)

I experimented with quadtone B&W inks in an Epson 1160 printer in the early digital days, when I found that third-party color pigment inks in an Epson 1200 made very nice color prints but did not satisfy me for B&W. I followed the news of Jon Cones Piezography products, but did not use them. And, eventually, I decided that things had progressed enough that for my purposes the Epson Ultrachrome inkset, with 4 black ink densities, and a driver which gives me good controls for small image toning changes, were good enough. (And, years later, actually acquired a printer that could do all that; my own Epson 3880.)

I think, for my kind of photographer / printer (non-densitometer owning), what really happens is that we try to print work we like with new tools we play with, and we either find them fun to work with or not, and the results good, or not. In this particular case I find working B&W images in Photoshop much more satisfactory than in the darkroom, and I like the results a lot. I have NOT taken the same image and done best darkroom prints and put them next to my best digital prints of those images; that would be very relevant for some kinds of comparison article, but really, who cares? (I'd care more if I had a backlog of photos with commercial sales ongoing, of course. While I sold one print Friday, that's the only sale since my TOP sale, and it wasn't so much art as a historical shot the family of one of the subjects wanted.) New work is done based on my recent experiences in digital printing, and what I could have done with film photos of those scenes in a darkroom is awfully theoretical.

My fairly laid-back attitude works less well if you're being a commercial printer, say. But I'm not, and it's unlikely I ever well be; I don't think I'm really obsessive enough, and perhaps not fast enough either, and quite possibly not flexible or broad enough (able to understand and print to different visions), and possibly plain old not good enough. I do okay on my own prints, which makes me happy, anyway.

(As a very rough guess, there's decent commercial employment for something like the top tenth of one percent in most artistic fields. My world is full of people who are solidly in the top 10%, 5%, I think a number even in the top 1% -- who are, by that estimate, still an order of magnitude away from being able to make the artistic pursuit their career, at least while maintaining a decent lifestyle. And yet they, and in some areas I, am quite outstandingly better than most people in our in-person circles at these various artistic endeavors. It's a long tail kind of thing.) (I do actually have a few friends making a decent living in artistic fields, the most numerous being writers.)

Mike, I've read in a few places the Ricoh GR files translate nicely to B&W. Have you tried any files from it?
I haven't noticed any difference from my D7000 but that could very well be my lack of subtlety.


I'm late to the party with this comment, but will venture it anyway. I have been doing a lot of black and white conversions, also from the Fuji X-trans sensor, to the point where I said, OK, good enough, and I packed up all my Hasselblad gear from shipment to KEH. But before I sent it, I unloaded a couple of rolls of TMAX from my magazines and eventually took them in for processing, not even remembering what was on the film.

So I picked these up the other day, ran them through my aging Nikon 8000 scanner, and was soon looking at the most satisfying images I have taken in months—maybe not because they are "better" but because they are different in a way that works with my brain, having learned to love photographs in the age of film.

That same night I got my estimate from KEH, along with their offer to return the camera and lenses if I preferred. I have a couple days to decide what to do. I'm afraid I know what it will be.

Bill Poole

What, no mention of the Phase One Achromatic Plus medium format back? When I was shooting film in the 70's, it was using 100 ft rolls of PlusX for me. Now that I am shooting digital it's Capture One or Lightfoot to the rescue. The only thing I need to know is what do I do with my filters (green, blue, yellow, orange and red(s))?

I guess most people won't share my enthusiasm about giving up on digital and embracing film.

Not most... but some.

That first photograph of Butters is excellent, Mike. I enjoyed the tonality – it’s much better than the high-contrast demo – but especially the composition, contrasting shapes, intersecting planes, use of lines, hard and soft textures, etc. You don’t see dog pictures like that every day!

Perhaps calling it a test shot and moving swiftly onto the technicalities prevented people from looking at it properly, because I expected many compliments in the comments and found just one (by Michael about the tones).

Well done.

Yes, coarse and crude compared to the first version. It reminds me of what happens when I post-process some shots through an HDR filter. Shadows don't just get blocked up; rather, the shadow areas start to show what I can only describe as staining in odd areas. It reminds me of what a forensic investigator might do to try to discover things hidden or not apparent in a normally-exposed photo.

"If a digital B&W-only camera were marketed by Canon or Fuji, it would cost $795. Leica charges $7,950 for the M Monochrom, thus making a liar out of me. I wouldn't buy one, turns out."

Canon would likely base it off a 5D and make it cost at least $3000. Fuji's latest hit costs a lot more than $795. While I'll agree Leica makes stuff too expensive, you keep repeating yourself about this with these exaggerations. Halve your post is about Leica without bringing anything new to the table or any value to the point the post is trying to make.
So... I don't expect you to put this on your site, but just take it as a bit of feedback that the Leica-velben message is becoming a bit like a broken record. It's probably true, but you could wonder if that's a bad thing, or something worth repeating so much.

"After over a month of shooting almost all digital black and white (seeing black and white in the viewfinder, importing with a black and white preset) it feels like my brain has changed."

Very well said.

BTW: IMHO, being frustrated by the fact that you can't make digital like your old days Tri-X is a bit like saying that you can't properly make a print made from Panatomic film looks like one made from Tri-x....

Wow. Samuel what a coincidence.

I came back to this thread specifically in order to compliment Mike on that photo of Butters.

Mike, what Samuel said.

Seems I'm late to the party on this thread. For many years after stepping into digital imaging I also essentially stopped shooting/making black and white photographs. And then 2 years ago, on a whim, I picked up a set of third party BW ink I loaded into my very old Epson 1400 and began converting a few files and making prints. After the learning curve I was hooked. I loved the prints and since then have been making digital files with the expressed intent to make black and white images. In the end the gear in my hands does not dictate how I see the subject I photograph. With film cameras I made the decision to make BW photos when I loaded the film. Using digital capture I simply make the decision later. And lately there has been no decision at all. I make black and white photographs. May I suggest having a look at the folks at Digital Silver Imaging http://www.digitalsilverimaging.com/

Brilliant prints.

and here I am:


"Mike, I've read in a few places the Ricoh GR files translate nicely to B&W. Have you tried any files from it?"

I'm not Mike, but I think the GR produces fantastic B&W pictures.

Here's a few of mine:

Kenny At String theory, August 21, 2014

Out Of His Pool, July 27, 2014

The Bar At The Star, Elko, NV, July 21, 2014

Scalping, Paul McCartney, July 14, 2014

Volcano Picnic, Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, February 15, 2013

Paul McKay Memorial, New Orleans, LA, November 16, 2013

Tadich Grill, September 16, 2013

I'm using Silver Efex Pro 2 to do my conversions, direct from the .DNG files.

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