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Wednesday, 19 February 2020


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I am not sure that going back to film will fix your ennui but I think you should print more. It seems from many of your comments that printing is what you did a lot of and enjoyed it, so why not go on a print making spree.

Why are you letting your computer accept automatic updates of Apple software?

That alleged feature can be turned off.

Film is a marked state these days; so changing to shooting film is an action that will echo loudly to lots of people.

TOP at its best is not about technique or equipment; it's about photographs. And the choice to go back to the non-default choice of photographing on film is making a big commitment, in fact a statement, to a particular equipment choice. I doubt that it will serve to make TOP spend more of its time being its best thing. (It has seemed to me that TOP has not been at its best for a while.)

Mind you, it's possible there's a better living for you in a very film-focused photography blog. Lots of people are trying it new with no background these days. But that's a big mid-stream change, high risk. If you decided to try for that, I wouldn't say you were wrong, though.

I was in a somewhat similar place a while back, but had no desire to set up another (5th) darkroom, which had always been a part of my b/w film workflow prior to a full digital transition. So I instead bought a used Leica Monochrom (first version), at 40% of original cost, and used that to reinvigorate my b/w spirit and mindset. It did just that until life intervened - family caregiving duties and such - but I’m looking forward to getting back to more frequent b/w shooting, and printing. The print’s the thing for me. (I only wish that we’d get at least one snowfall this year; another unfortunate side effect of climate change.) Do whatever moves you.

I’d say that shooting some film would be a good idea. There is the intrinsic creating a physical artifact part, but also there is the having skin in the game ( what’s that actually mean anyway ?) aspect.

I’m sort of inclined to get into whatever is the most unwieldy slow-me-down-and-make-me-think process, like full plate ambrotype portraits of chickens or the like. No 35mm for me. I figure 7500 watt seconds of strobe packs would work for wet collodion plate chicken photography.

I sympathize with you...but please pardon me for being frank. You are lacking inspiration in your life, and you know that the simplest way to get it is to take your camera out and shoot. But why this excuse about shooting film again? It will make things so much difficult nowadays! If you like black and white, shoot black and white on digital! Don't even look at your camera screen. Shoot raw and set up your lightroom to convert your images straight to bw. And you can play with it as much as you like later and pretend you are doing it in your darkroom

I love B&W film. I am old enough to be an old film guy but actually started shooting film around 2005 or so. I was fascinated with the alchemical conversations regarding developers and other aspects of mastering B&W film.

If one decides to go that route there is still many personal decisions on what camera, film, developer, format and lens to be used.

If I had access to a properly set-up darkroom I would probably shoot film from time-to-time. It's the only thing about film photography that I truly miss. Dodging and burning with Photoshop just isn't the same (although easier and yielding better results) and - to be sure - that 'magic moment' when you place the paper in the developer tray and the image begins to appear ... no substitute for that feeling in the digital work flow IMO. Having said that ... the new technology is truly AMAZING and my 'hit rate' (getting what I wanted to get, making the image I intended to make) is much higher now than when I shot with film. The amount of useful information in an EVF - helping me to make good choices and decisions 'before' I press the shutter button - is simply not available to me when shooting film (or for that matter when using a digital camera with an optical finder). Hurrah for digital and its trappings I say ... especially EVF's and in-body stabilization and shooting at 12,800 ISO and 10 frames per second or more and 400-600 shots before I have 'to change the roll' and SD cards that hold 2500 RAW images and and and and ...

Mike, Film remains at the historic and aesthetic centre of our collective passion. I would not only enjoy the prospect of your forthcoming pleasure shooting film but would welcome your reflections on the experience. Go for it!

Ed Hundert
Vancouver, Canada

PS (I tend to jump topic a bit.) I cannot speak for the masses but am confident I will be as interested in your film posts as any other.

Perhaps try writing in Google Docs. It backs up to the cloud almost continuously. You can't lose anything. I've used it since before Google bought it in 2006 (it used to be called Writely). Then just copy/paste the document into wherever you need it to be.

I suggest you photograph what you want, the way you want, using whatever gear you want, then keep that last bit strictly to yourself ... problem solved! 8^)

The short answer is "No". Do what makes you happy. My cousin's daughter is a photographer and all of her "personal" work is film. Just do it and have fun. I'll happily read about your adventures and rediscovery.


Dude. Go For It! You are no longer primarily a sales affiliate, I understand—your product is your (exceptionally wide) perspective, your personability, and your enthusiasm—and without your enthusiasm, that ain’t much (I love ya, man, right back to 37th Frame). I’ve only been shooting digital for three years now and I too think of backsliding. And hell, film is trendier than ‘the latest thing’ anyhow. Shit, who needs/can afford ‘the latest thing’ anyhow? Photography dies when it brings no joy, and good riddance. But you should follow the joy.

Mike, I think you should take a class. My friend George and I are both professional cinematographers and have been photographing for over twenty years. We are both currently enrolled in a Fine Art Photography Class with Aline Smithson. Having to present assignments every week to another 15 students really motivates me to put in the work and the nature of the assignments helps me think outside my own box. This is really getting me out of my slump, and the community aspect is wonderful. I highly recommend it.

Mike I’ve been finding myself looking for a larger format film camera more and more frequently missing the look and feel of real B&W so you’re not alone. It got strong enough that I started looking for web content and blogs about shooting film by film photographers. Not much to be found (read nothing.) I think if you were to start writing about film photography especially B&W you might find yourself ahead of the next trend.
That said, and I’m hoping you bring analog photography back to the digital world. I think digital was a huge advance in color photography, but an impediment to good B&W.

I just sold off any remaining film equipment. Film is great but takes real commitment of both time and energy. Digital does too but not to the same extent at least for me. I'd rather put my time and energy in the field and into printing the few selects that result. I think you answered your question in your post.

The Internet does not lack for people who write about gear and digital cameras. I come here for the discussions and ideas about photography.

If you shoot film -- a little, a lot, or exclusively -- and then write about what you're doing, I'll still be coming here for the photography.

Over the years of writing computer code and documentation and then later editing documents, I learned to do intermediate saves while I work. I don't mean every 10 min or 15 min, I mean every few keystrokes. You get to the end of a thought, hit CTRL S (or the equiv), get to the end of a sentence, do a SAVE. Taking a break to sip some tea, do a SAVE. Stuck on a word, do a SAVE. It's zero cost, the computer is just sitting there anyway. :)

My 25 year old daughter shoots film daily (on a little Olympus EE that does half frames). Her photography when she shoots film is inspired. I'd rate her duds-to-gems ratio of 1 to 5. Yet her phone photography is just selfies and bland snapshots.

I've taken a different tack that may/may not be your cup of tea. I only shoot manual focus, single frame mode and develop the raws. Knowing I've got to do it the hard way forces me to be deliberate in my approach to each shot. And yep, my duds-to-gems ratio is close as darn to my daughters. If I let the camera (OMD Mark II with fancy glass) do it's slick magic, I just don't get the same quality output.

Do what you have to do...but why make it so absolute? I have a Leica Q and an M6; I shoot film when I feel like it, and don't when I don't. It's all photography in the end, no matter how you get there.

To quote myself, "Great minds run in the same gutter."

I posted a comment recently that my displayed photos are all from the film days and only one was color.

I went to the Getty last week to view their exhibit of "Unseen" photos from their collection and decided I was bored with photography as practiced today. B&W film has so much more character.

I came home, did some research. Ordered a mint Nikon FM-2 and a nice 35mm F2 lens. Tracked down sources of film (all you want on Amazon) and processing (thanks to TOP recently and my experiences with the 4X5 Speed Graphic a few years ago.

I do not plan to give up picture-taking with my iPhone or digital camera, but I want to go back to photography where "I" control what happens, not some computer chip.

So, Mike, it's OK to do some film photography.

Go for it, Mike. Your timing is right. I think you’ll find many of your readers have returned to film after a spell in the digital doldrums. More will follow if I’m reading the trend right:


Last weekend I had brunch at a cool café beside the Bassin de la Villette in Paris. Not my usual hang-out. Sort of place where you can eat in a bathtub on the first floor or share a long table with strangers.

I was amazed to see maybe eight film cameras in the space of two hours. That compares to zero digital cameras (excluding phones, which is hardly fair).

There’s more. At our table was a new guy, a graphic designer. Turns out his workplace still keeps a Heidelberg drum scanner running on an old G5 computer. And he’s attending evening classes to learn darkroom work.

I felt like a fraud pulling out my FM2 in this company. At least I chose black 20 years ago. I think silver is the new black among this crowd that has doubled Kodak’s film sales in the last five years. It’s an upside-down world and I’m loving it.

Bring back The 37th Frame!

1. Don’t ask for advice on the internet.

2. Shooting film sounds fine. However, don’t take this wrong but it sounds like a goal that will wind up somewhere near the museum dozen project. However, I would enjoy seeing you do it if you do. You underestimate your reader loyalty.

I'm going to presume that your writing is best when your own photo mojo is in "the zone", and if that's film for you then that's where you should be! I think the blog will be the better for it. I've always appreciated that this blog is about photography, and not cameras, lenses, or any specific equipment per se. So you do you!

By the way, how's that "In the Museum" baker's dozen coming along? :)

Mike, if you want to shoot film, shoot film! Lots of us are still interested in film photography, even though we may no longer practice it. I love film and miss it, even though I can no longer afford to shoot it. Film photography is much more interesting, challenging, and enjoyable than digital photography.

On the other hand -- I calculated that if I had shot film for my last book, it would have cost over $2000. That's just too big a bite out of an advance that also has to cover travel costs, etc.

Returning to film photography sounds like something that could be energizing (do you want to buy an enlarger?) -- although I go a different direction during the gray winter months.

As dull as it is reputed to be, I refresh my enthusiasm with still life/table-top photography. Many artists have produced time-honored still life works and, as a photographer, I find it challenges me to improve my understanding of lighting, color, and composition.

I will admit the results are probably for no one but me. But, to be honest, that characterizes most of my efforts.

Mike, shoot all the film you want. But the trick to success will be to use your film camera (whichever one) for one subject, and only that one subject.
That way you can stay current with the digital world (and use your Fujis) while keeping the analog flame alive (like many of us).
Remember the words of the late Bill Jay, "The Subject Matters".

Firstly, and importantly, I write my documents in Google docs (free, part of the Gmail/Google account). Is always saving and storing, a save button not even provided as it does it for you. Could you draft in there and paste into type pad when needed?

Re shooting film: do whatever makes you happy. I suspect a lot of people read your blog to see photographs and read about print making. They might not mind what type of camera was used.

As long as I've been interested in photography I've struggled with ebbs and flows of interest/passion. I find I'm happiest when the camera and workflow are so intuitive I can just think about taking the photos and enjoying the results.

My ideal setup would be shooting with an analogue ish camera (e.g. Fuji x), and swiftly being able to generate satisfying prints. The bit in-between always seems like a hurdle... software... Sliders... Monitor calibration... Printer set up... Profiles... Lab website uploader tools. Eeek.

I'd be all for it!......
Just as long as you don't spend so much time in the darkroom that you posted less often.
I will even throw out a challenge.
Take a camera with 35mm lens and film of your choice.
Take your Fuji H1 with 23mm lens.
Go somewhere local and take the same shot with both cameras.
Now this is the hard part - show us, your fellow TOPpers, both shots in the same post.

"Do you think it would be bad if I went back to shooting film?"
No, I don't think going back to film would be bad especially if there is creativity involved. You might like shooting film or you might not, nothing ventured nothing gained. At the very least it will be an interesting learning experience and it may give you some new insights or reflection for your future photography, whether you stick to film or shoot digital.

I've been following your blog for more than a decade. I love your writing, I love your photography, and I love your thoughts on photography. Could I offer just one suggestion? Go out and shoot more photos. Don't wait for inspiration, don't wait for better weather, light, or the right mood. You have a cold? Go take photos. It's sleeting sideways and the roads are dangerous? Go take photos. You feel like film will inspire you? Go take photos. You're clicking on the 100th political article of the week? Go take photos. You're concerned that you don't have the right camera or lens? Go take photos.

You live in a beautiful area. Document it. You've spent a lifetime practicing photography. Use those muscles. The eventual portfolio or project will materialize. Us readers want to follow along on that ride. Show us the frustrations,and the triumphs. Ask us for help and then show us why we're wrong. That's why we keep on coming back.

The question is will you be able to take off your lab tech smock when you develop your B&W prints? Will you be able to ignore the lack of dynamic range compared to digital, etc., etc.?

I burn through about 4 rolls of Ilford Delta 3200 every year because it's just so much fun. I just love that big fat grain. I know there will be people that will counter that this look can be done via a PS preset, but why spoil the fun?

if you do go back to film, i think a medium format or large format would be a better option. the pain may be more but you would get much better image quality than a 35mm camera. i'm also saying this because this is what i have wanted to do but both time and equipment have not been easy to come by.

I too have been in the doldrums, but am working on a couple of projects to get going again. I am having a Sony A7R II’s color filter array removed to make it a panchromatic black and white camera. I am also seriously looking at shooting film again with a Nikon S2 rangefinder. Finally, I plan on converting an Epson printer to Jone Cone’s Piezography black and white ink system. I’ve always shot color, but am jumping in B&W to get excited about photography again. Do what excites you and I will read it.

To be quite honest, I read everything you write anyway, but I am personally bored to tears with reading about new digital cameras when they are all more than good enough anyway.
I bought a new Z6 and after three months find myself using my prehistoric D3s in preference. Z6 just too small too fiddly and I hate even good evf's.
Before I read your post I had packed for a small road trip and my bag included a Rollei, SWC and a widelux, did not even bother to take any digital and having recently moved house have started building yet another darkroom. I've just retired early and if you don't have to earn money directly from it, use whatever you want, we're mostly dinosaurs here anyway......

1. I don’t see how such a choice would affect your readership. To put it respectfully, but frankly, TOP is certainly not a top go-to source for digital photography news. Over the past few years most of your posts have no real relation to photography at all. (“Open Mike” has become the norm.). I think your core readers just like to read what you write, whether its about your current diet, your local pool games, or your auto recollections. Your photo preferences? You don’t show your work.

2. Photography, good photography, comes first from the head. If nothing’s emerging from your head it makes absolutely no difference if it doesn’t emerge on a piece of chemically coated plastic or an electronic sensor. Writers’ block is just as blank with a pencil as it is with Word.

3. Your interest in photography seems to have waned on a somewhat parallel path to the slowing of new developments in digital camera tech, no? What about your interest in “photography” (versus cameras)? Photographers? Books?

4. Perhaps you’ve just outgrown photography as a primary interest? Perhaps you should consider re-tasking your site to some other area of greater personal interest rather than agonize over how to revive a dead interest?

Just a few thoughts and impressions from afar.

All I can say about film nostalgia that I haven't bored you with already, is that I got my N90s in the mail today and have a roll of Arista.edu Ultra 100 in it. I found my Agfa Rondinax daylight tank, my jugs of Diafine and my 5 gallon bucket of sodium thiosulfate so I can make homebrew fixer.

Scanners are cheap enough on EPrey, I'll get one soon enough.

So I have now got a very nice digital camera and and a very nice film camera and the two can share lenses. Best of both worlds.

Why does it need to be one or the other, why not shoot both as the fancy takes.

Whatever keeps your enthusiasm up is good...

I love, no I need, analogue photography. Not for the end result, but because of the process. I said exactly the same thing the other day: 'I miss photography.' In my experience I should rephrase that to 'I miss the process of doing photography.' So I picked up my Hasselblad, loaded it with Portra 400, emptied my mind and went walkabout in our nearest city to do some street photography. This resulted in a couple of random meetings with strangers who gravitated to the camera, which then led to friendly conversations and some portraits that I'm really pleased with. You can see them on my flickr page.


I then went home to develop the film and post-process the scans. That's also a very engaging process. To me, that's what photography is about. The end result is nice, but not essentially important. I also do archery. It's the same thing. It's not about hitting the target. It's about the entire process of engaging with and developing the shot. You have to be acutely aware of every muscle and bone involved and you have to be totally, completely empty and relaxed at the moment you release the arrow. Which is counter-intuitive, because the string has a draw strength of 35 lbs on my fingers. Anyway, I focus on the process, not the end result, that's just the icing on the cake if it works. And if it does work, that's so much more satisfying on a very deep level. I never get that with a digital camera, because to me that's about the end result, not the process.

[Some impressive work there. You're good. --Mike]

I will read TOP whatever form of photography you write about, over the years I’ve been encouraged to think about and try different things in analogue and digital photography after having read about them here. Having said that, from a selfish point of view as a film photographer I’d be delighted to see more film-related content here. Looking forward to it!

This all seems a little grand and dramatic. All one way or all another (would you ritualistically burn your Fuji cameras? Could be good for "likes"!). Or you could just try shooting a couple of rolls of film and see how it goes. You could try using some of that equipment that you thought was great back in the day. A 50mm f1.4 SMC for example. Lots of approaches. What was that adage about never stepping into the same river twice?
So - I would say give it a go. Maybe pay someone good to process and scan for you to start off with.
Kind regards,
Uncle J

Mike, you antiquated fool!

Don't you know that all the cool kids are shooting film now? "Vintage" cameras are all the rage and film just has an authenticity, look and soul that even the most on-point filter sets can't match.

What's old is new again! The fastest ticket you have to the cutting edge is to set up your own dark room and start denouncing digital like soulless the fad it always was.

Not convinced? Take a look at the engagement on this post: http://www.johnnypatience.com/the-zone-system-is-dead/

Of course, I'm not actually joking, and am not actually as cynical as I'm probably coming across. Here's an interesting trend: https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=today%205-y&q=film%20camera,digital%20camera

And, also of course, I think you should do what makes your heart sing, because people who are enthused about what they're doing write compellingly, and I come here for the compelling writing about pictures and photography. I do not think we need more thoughts about technology or its effects.

Can't wait to see what you come up with.

I was fortunate enough to see this last week:


Wow. Just wow. The joy and pleasure I got from seeing high quality vintage prints from master photographers was huge.

It's not a bad thing to go back to film. It's just a thing. Who cares as long as you are engaged in the process?

Why do you still edit stuff with no auto save or backup sync? Many options available these days

Do you think it would be bad if I went back to shooting film?

No, not at all.
I do it all the time.

Dear Mike,

Writing obsessively about your return to film photography could indeed accelerate the pace of you becoming irrelevant within a certain curmudgeonly demographic, but it could also burnish your reputation among a younger slice of the population, thus insuring your long term viability. Who knows! More importantly, a change like this could lead to discovering new directions in your art making. Again, who knows? My wife is a fiber artist who recently has been exploring paper collage as a way to get unstuck, and these experiments are leading to new levels of understanding of her process. I’m pretty sure these pieces will never see the light of day; nevertheless, they have been important to her. Thus, I would encourage you to make the move, and just do the f*ing experiment. See what comes of it and then decide on your next steps! I would certainly be interested to hear your thoughts, and I have a feeling I would not be alone in that regard.


Hey Mike, I believe it's more important to figure out what you're going to photograph, or what the assignment requires, before worrying about equipment or technique. Once you know what you're trying to accomplish photographically, the question answers itself. The subject is more important and pressing than the equipment.

It can’t be a bad idea if you’ll enjoy it. You might want to find a shared darkroom facility...must be some within driving distance...and become really sure before sinking tons of scarce money into your own darkroom, ripping up your nice house. A few months of darkroom work will prove whether the magic of watching a print come alive is really worth it.

While you’re contemplating all that, turn off automatic updates. Otherwise Apple will someday give you the gift of an OS that makes installed software you rely on unusable.

So let me get this straight: during the time you've been writing this blog you've obsessed over coffee, toast, billiards, diets, audio equipment, automobiles, and most recently flagships, yet you're worried that if you occasionally write about film photography you'll lose readers? Am I missing something here?

The world suffers badly from neophilia as it is. Personally, I don't visit TOP for more of it. I come for your unique perspective, which is driven, as it must be, by your individual and unique interests. There is also a deeper, and more profound, truism at work: the more personal the connection, the more universal is the result.

"...and can't wait to finish my current roll of Ilford so that I can start."

No, no, no. That's one of the problems with film. You want to finish a roll so you can do something else, so you give up looking and just waste your last shots. Or you see a great scene, but it's low light and you're loaded with ISO125 and you really need ISO400, so you just waste your time agonising over unloading the slow film, then finding and loading a new roll of faster film. Then either the light gets even worse and you agonise over whether to change speed mid roll and probably lose your earlier shots. And so on and so on.

This is crazy. Digital avoids all this. You can simply concentrate on your creativity and what you're seeing. It's unlikely you'll ever fill a card and so what, it takes seconds to start a new one. You are in total control.

If you like film and the film look, either buy Fujifilm cameras with their sophisticated film simulation modes, or set your camera up to give you that look, or learn to make your shots look film-like in your editor.

Finally, you can afford to buy and have film processed?

Having said all that, all my images on the Picfair website (https://bullsnapper.picfair.com) were shot on film in the 80s. I still have a few film cameras, including Contax G1 and G2, but it's too much trouble.

Edward Taylor's comments are interesting in that he apparently expected film would deliver digital "quality" (why?) and was disappointed when it unsurprisingly didn't. Perhaps the expectation was the problem. If Mike's expectations are centered around having some fun, enjoying the old muscle memory of film, seeing if film supports his photographic practice, and getting out of the doldrums, well that sounds worthwhile to me.

I would enjoy reading your experiences about the occasional roll of film, Mike. It's inconceivable that a few posts about shooting film would cost you readers; I mean if posts about diet don't chase people off nothing will! :-) And if using some film gets your photography kickstarted I bet there would be some readers interested in learning why.

Your site is the "Online Photographer". Not Digital Photographer or Digital Camera. Go for it. I would expect a broader range of topics would be welcome.

"As for your current quandary, be it digital, phone, or film—it is photography. Follow your joy, write about what is exciting and we will still find things in your posts to challenge or excite us." - Ms. Jen

Ms. Jen said it as well or better than I could have. Mike, I have been reading you since The 37th Frame and Luminous Landscape days. I find your best posts (for me) to be when you are excited/passionate about something. I hope you decide to pick up film again, at least to see if it still has the same appeal to you. And on a selfish note, I've been playing around with film lately, and would be happy to learn more from your re-introduction to it.

I think doing something that made you happy, and challenged you, would make the site that much more interesting. You were a M4/3 and currently a Fuji shooter, that isn't exactly playing to the crowd either.

Curious to what you'd shoot, honestly. 35mm has been more frustrating after getting used to digital, as much as I love the cameras. Medium format has been a lot more fun to develop and print, so looking forward to see what you find.

Definitely try shooting film again. It might be bad for your income if you started shooting and writing about film exclusively, but there's nothing wrong with exercising any and all types of photography. In fact for the author of TOP, it's pretty much required!

Some people find film liberating in a quite different way, which TBH has nothing to do with the extremes of "technical quality" addressed by ET. (Not to mention the quality of a 10x8 with movements for some kinds of photography that would require digital trickery to emulate).

Film photography brings me joy, but I still love to read TOP daily, go figure!

Go for it. If your juices aren’t flowing and shooting film will start them up, I can only think your writing may improve (not that anyone is complaining).

Like you, I am not a "professional" photographer. I make photos for myself. So, I see it this way:
Since I am beholden to no one but me, photographic-result-wise, I can use whatever set of equipment and techniques I find personally satisfying. Now, I love film cameras. I grew up shooting film, and I love the way the best cameras of the film era are built, how they operate, and how the involvement of the person holding them is very much required.
Since the results only have to please me, I very often think I should just shoot film "for the cameras". So I do! And I enjoy the hell out of it.
Then, I get to develop the negs (I shoot mostly B&W), and I get to experience the wonderment of pulling fresh, still wet negs off of the reel to see them for the first time. (I still get that feeling, after doing this for nearly 40 years! How many things can we say that about?)

Here's where things always start to break down for me. I do not have a darkroom. My wife, I am sure, would not appreciate me having a darkroom and disappearing for hours every evening to work on a print or two. So I scan my negatives. And, to my eyes anyway, scanned 35mm B&W negatives look really...blah. The grain is weird, the tonality is weird. I occasionally will blow the dust off one of my medium format (120) folders and shoot a roll or two, and the look is much much better, but I prefer the 35mm cameras much much more. I've used a half dozen different scanners and even DSLR scanning, but I just am not felling it.
This is exasperating, and leads to all kinds of existential angst (well, photographic angst), and to me becoming less interested in making any pictures at all!

In the meantime, I have gone through probably 30 different digital cameras from probably 10 different producers, searching for a little bit of the "feeling" I get from my old Leica and Nikons. No dice there, either. Some fine pieces of technology, for sure, but somewhat hollow and souless.
Well, now I can get close - the Nikon Z6 is pretty compact, has (to me) a great sensor with great colors (and the B&W looks great!). Plus, that 50mm S lens is superlative. The results often look like medium format film to me. I even like the JPGs, even though I am not supposed to.

Long rambling story short: As much as I want to use film, I cannot get over the end result being so unsatisfying, so I am going to give the Z6 a long-term tryout. One camera, one lens, and lots and lots of patience. Let's see if I can make it stick this time.

I think you should try film again. It would make for an interesting series of posts. I will always keep reading!

I think you should experiment with fujifilm instax cameras.

I too have toyed with the idea of shooting film again. Prior to switching to digital in 2002, I had grown into medium format for a few years. I was all set to return to that format when I discovered the two local labs that processed medium format film had closed shop years ago. That ended my zeal since I didn’t want to have it sent away for processing. Then I thought about ‘hybrid’ film—shooting Polaroid or instant film in one of the many available formats and then digitally scanning the result for printing. That idea ended when I saw the actual quality of the prints that those cameras produced. As many times as I revisit the idea in one of several permutations, I ultimately realize that, sadly, film is now dead to me.

Follow your joy, indeed. As for the loyalty of your readers, I think you needn't worry. If there is one thing I have happily learned in my time here, it is that you cannot be depended upon to write on one topic forever! Like the old adage about Chicago weather: "If you don't like it, wait, it will change."

As for film being an antidote for the doldrums, though, I'm not too sure. Just as the advice is commonly given that buying a new camera to stimulate creativity is not the answer, I'd offer that buying an 'old' one mightn't necessarily be any more effective. Were I to wake up one morning and realize that I'd slowly lost my desire for listening to music, I doubt that the situation would be helped by heading off to the Goodwill Store to load up on 8-track tapes.


As far as I can tell, you have all the parts handy to make wonderful prints. Two Fujis that you love, and an Epson professional grade pigment printer.

As you said, your memory has gotten shorter. Think back to your last house and the darkroom from which there emerged no prints that I can remember.

I will suggest that you, instead, travel someplace that looks nothing like the Finger Lakes and bring along a camera. New wallpaper is often a good jump start.

If you switch I will still come back every day for the writing.

As you know Mike, I have done this over the last 2 years though I use a hybrid approach where I shoot BW film, develop it and then process and print digitally. That is because I love shooting with some of the old film cameras as well as the alchemy and seemingly infinite ways different films and developers interact. I still use digital to shoot color because I believe it to be a superior tool for that. My digital camera also doubles as my film scanner as that technique has really matured of late.

I have to say that I'm starting to tire of the film development/scanning process and am leaning towards going completely digital again. It seems that I only have so much energy/time that my brain wants to dedicate to photography and by taking up so much of the bandwidth with the developing/scanning part I have found that I am shooting less. In fact, recently I have started playing with shooting BW JPEGs (plus RAW just in case) with tweaks "out of camera" with my Fuji cameras so as to also avoid much of the digital processing drudgery. I have to say that the files shot this way with variations on the ACROS film emulation are remarkably good. In the end, I think it depends upon how much of the darkroom rat you still have in you. In regard, to your question of irrelevancy, I would be happy if this Blog had more posts about photography in general and less about gear--though that might put a crimp in whatever income you have left coming from Amazon and BH. I would suggest shooting BW in film and consider shooting color with digital to keep your toe in the pond.

Would you please? And then write about it a lot?

My darkroom teacher retired, and the state of film discussion on the interwebs exceeds Sturgeon's Law by a comfortable margin. Some informed commentary on the subject would be like a cold Perrier in the Sahara. Shoot, I didn't even know that Oriental paper was still available.

Mike: Shoot more film! I mean, if film is calling your name, then you have no choice. Your writing about photography is great and inspiring, and it doesn't depend on any particular technology. That's because it's largely about vision. Have fun and show us some prints. Bob

Reading this post, my first thought was that if you decide to shoot film almost exclusively, you should probably choose medium format so as to have sufficient image quality for reasonable size prints. 35mm quality would probably not be worth the effort. Then I read Edward Taylor's comment that pretty much confirmed what I was thinking. I've recently started looking into current minimum equipment needed to develop and contact print a few proof sheets, partly for a bit of nostalgia, but also to pass along some history to my 14 year old daughter. I'll be using a Mamiya C220, but have long had a hankering for one of the Fuji 680 or 690 series rangefinder's. Shoot film for yourself, but be active in digital enough to remain relevant to the blog.

Mike, if you want to shoot film, go for it! There has been a huge revival in film use, especially in Europe and Asia among young photographers. It seems to me that many of the detractors today are old geezers who used film in the past and now are convinced that they do better work with digital. If so, good for them. Maybe "technical quality" rules. But that has no bearing on which medium you prefer or find to be more fun. If something is no fun, why do it?

Go with your passion! Write about it on your blog.

I liked your question and enjoyed both the featured comments - one negative and one positive (!). I have a package of 5 rolls of 120 Kodak Portra 160, ready to rumble in an absolutely mint Pentax 645N I was gifted by a retired portrait photographer. But there are problems:

The camera came to me "bare bones", just it and a fine SMC Pentax - FA 645 150mm F/2.8 lens. No lens or body caps, custom carry strap or anything else but its manual. I had an old RRS generic L-Plate which fit it perfectly, so I can use it on my tripod just fine. It also came with many rolls of 10+ years old of date film. Shooting some of that proved all the functions of the camera were fine and exposures were ball park, but the film had otherwise deteriorated in grain & color balance aspects which I could not overcome or enjoy. Hence the new film for my nature and landscape work. But more problems...

For me, as a retired guy on SS, the film, the processing and the shipping costs are not incidental. Furthermore, I have no interest in merely looking at film on a light table - I want to print it. I have the scanners and using a few of my best old 120 Hasselblad shots, I have made 24" x 36" prints that are just beginning to lose visible resolution. Standing 3 feet or more away from them, they are beautiful and very much equal to any of my 8 to 16MP digital work in terms of personal excitement. But the scanning process IS not an easy one and one of them is maybe near death.

Scanning film to produce a "RAW" file is what I do and, though it is not identical to RAW digital, I can produce colors that I like which is all I care about. So the computer "processing" part of it is not unlike what I have been doing since 2002.

So I must disagree a bit with Edward Taylor's comment regarding "technical" qualities. I get what he's saying in "practicel" terms easily, yet if I keep my best scans at, say, under 16 x 20 print size, I'm hard pressed to see "practical" differences! The final results are enjoyable.

The most major issue for me "practically" is actually the fine lens - it is a portrait type and I am a wide angle man. I can't bear to part with it or sell it to get a wide angle lens, so I wait for the opportunity to acquire what I want and just experiment using the 150 where I can. I'm biding my time.

Since I cut my photographic teeth on B&W 120 film with thousands of images, I look forward to some of that too and also seeing what you do.

I completely accept the fact that shooting some film for the fun of it is a very esoteric endeavor. But so what if it is if it's something that excites you. Regarding you, it doesn't remove a drop of your current knowledge or writing abilities as it pertains to a majority of your TOP audience. I don't see you being required to reveal much about it beyond what you wish to bring to the table. You already bring wildly non-photographic things into your "Open Mike" columns - my Vitamix purchase is owing to you!

So have it! I find it inconceivable your indulgence in film will be any other than a "positive" contribution to your professional writing & personal photography.

Seems to me that you already strike a good balance between analogue and digital based on your content. That is to say, book reviews, museum, show reviews, mixed with war stories cover the analogue space pretty well.
Most of your camera reviews and experience reviews cover cameras that nobody uses anyway, i.e., Fuji, Panasonic, Olympus, Pentax, etc. It's a Canon/Sony world out there. But people relate to your experience of being a photographer. Your communication of that experience is what your readers benefit from and is independent of your photographic methodologies.
One of my enlargers is a Durst A300 that I bought in 1975. As far as I know, it hasn't done an unattended upgrade since I've owned it.

TOP is different from all the other blogs and YouTube channels and everything else out there because it's not so much about cameras and lenses and sensors and computers and film and photos and... but more about you discussing your viewpoints on all of those things in an erudite but approachable way. There's something supremely satisfying to me (and I'm sure to much of your reader base) when I read a TOP post because of that. You're gifted at making the read interesting no matter what the subject. I even read the pool posts beginning to end and I don't have the slightest interest in the sport. Your appreciation of it, however, is genuine and that shows in your posts. That's why I come to TOP.

So, from my viewpoint, I'd say go for it. Maybe you'll lose a few supporters. I'd doubt that number will be substantial, though. You can't please all of the people all of the time and all that.

Personally, I think such a journey would be good for the blog. I can recall some other unofficial series of posts when you've engaged in passing fancies from ye olde Big Dragoon to the Single Use Device, etc. Even if the current film kick ends up like either of those examples, there will be a numbers of posts on the subject that will be enjoyable and enlightening to read. And TOP will carry on as usual.

Best of luck!

Go back to shooting film, but don't go back to a darkroom. Buy the best macro lens you can afford (the M.Zuiko 60mm) and attach it to an Olympus OMD-EM5II (superceded and selling cheap) which offers high resolution mode. You now have the equipment to do camera scans. You might like Adox CMS 20 for pictorial work.

The image quality (especially sharpness) of digital cameras and modern lenses is clearly much better than film, at least for my pictures. And the film process was much slower and more time consuming. But film cameras were fun to use and I don't think digital camera are. With film there were no endless menus and sub-menus, no customizable buttons that change function all the time, no complex autofocus modes, no fun hours sitting at your computer for 'post-processing' and no sharing and viewing images on iphone screens instead of with prints. Also no pressure to constantly upgrade your camera to get the newest digital widgets and no hours spent reading camera reviews and looking at important things like 200% magnifications of walls.
I wonder how many people actually enjoy the entire modern digital wonder camera experience.
Maybe this is where the rose colored memories of film come from and part of why so many people are bailing out of cameras and going to phones.

Silver printing is just a different technology. You could go back and use the old technology if you like. You could also hunt with a black powder rifle. You could drive a Model T. Play golf with hickory shafted clubs. I know you would love to go back to tube amplifiers and belt driven turntables. It's all good.

This much I can tell you, if it's something technology based chances are whatever it is it is better today than it was twenty or thirty years ago.

Whatever you want to do, go do it. Don't write about it. Go do it. The object is to produce photographs. Writing about it won't make them happen. Photographing and doing the darkroom work will.

I'd rather give myself a root canal than shoot a roll of film, but it certainly wouldn't cause me to stop reading TOP if you started shooting film yourself. As you said, you're a writer, and you're a good enough one that I've been reading TOP for more than a decade. We've rarely had similar gear, so most of what brings me back is clearly not your choice in such. Enjoy your film, and write something interesting about shooting with it! I'll be around to read it.

It seems to me that you have the huge fortunate life experience of being in the mainstream of analog photography as a user, doer and writer, as well as an early adopter, user and writer of the digital. Your philosophic and archivist comments are well qualified, too. But the acknowledgment of the creation of the image as the premier focus seems to demand a constant revisiting and comparison of all these photographic aspects against each other, that might only be attained by renewing your experiences with them. I, for one, do not mind at all your views of physically trying anything in the analog or digital realms, as I range through both on a constant basis.

You know, you don't actually write that many posts about your current shooting and equipment - so I don't think it would really have a massive impact on the blog from that point of view.

If you want to do it, then go for it. And if after six months you find that it wasn't a good idea, you'll still have got some blog posts out of it :)

Life is short - got to do what you want to do.

Rather than thinking of it as a step backwards, I like to think of film photography as film-simulation simulation mode.

You've stated many times you have the shakes when holding a camera for a picture. It's why you had a gx8, reluctantly a g9 and then sang the praises of the gifted xh1. They all had ibis. Didn't know there was a film camera with ibis. Zooms with lens vr yes. But you're not a zoom kind of guy.

You also wrote once about a observation by your brother. It was, to paraphrase, "you gave good advice to others but bad advice to yourself." You're just bored with photography.


Nothing would make me not read TOP. As it happens, I've just embarked on the "Leica as a teacher" exercise, so you would be aligning yourself perfectly with my current state of mind. Therefore, a resounding thumbs up on both counts from me!

Is it the film or the print you're missing?

Mike, I experienced just enough "blank screen/lost documents" to use plain old Word documents to write lengthy pieces. Then I copy and paste them to an online site for dispatch. I have the original in Word and, if the system doesn't crash, also the copy that I sent. I don't use Twitter nor Typepad, but it seems that this would be a safeguard route for you.

Why does it have to be film OR digital? You can of course do both, and write about whatever takes your fancy on any given day. If you feel like indulging a film phase, then go for it. I will be very interested in what you have to say and the insights I'm sure you can share. Nothing to stop you from writing on digital from time to time as well, even if that is not where most of you energy goes for some indefinite period of time.

I'd have to say "Go for it". I still have a darkroom, but the time gaps between sessions in there are getting longer. Please help regenerate my enthusiasm. Part of my problem is that I can only rarely make a print that looks as good as an image (or digital print) made from a scanned negative I've processed in Lightroom.

Hi Mike, if you're concerned about readership, go back and look at the blogs that contain the chart of readers with years in film versus years in digital.
Go on, I’ll wait :~)
Now what do you have to worry about?
People read TOP for the writing, including the occasional pieces about photography, when you’re not discussing music, sport, pool, cars, diet/food, one’s health, the weather. Yes, I’m trying to gently pull your leg, and open your eyes.
Just don’t try to set up your own dark room. You may never take a shot waiting for that to happen, once the phase passes.

I won't go anywhere Mike. In fact, I would hang around in the hope that you might be able to put in your erudite way why film has become trendy and cool the way it has. I am mystified. I was glad to say goodbye to the darkroom and all that. I see kids with not much money paying for film and developing and scanning to produce mediocre pics with an excruciatingly long feedback loop. The reasons usually offered usually don't make much sense. (including "it's great to have to wait days/weeks before you can see the results"!) Can you can throw some light on the whole phenomenon please? Is it just empty fashion?

We may all have to return to film if a solution for the lidar problem isn't found. Lidar ("laser radar") shoots invisible laser beams to detect objects and measure their range. Self-driving cars commonly use continuous 360-degree lidar to supplement their cameras. But as some photographers have discovered, it can permanently damage digital sensors.

When autonomous vehicles become widespread, it may be hazardous to take pictures when they're anywhere in the frame. Maybe special filters on sensors (like the infrared "hot sensors" in some cameras) will block the lasers or reduce their intensity. Or maybe the lasers will be modified to make them less harmful to sensors.

A few ideas:

Books. We are in some sort of golden age of photography books. There’s so much to see that we (the readers) could use someone like you (the blog publisher) to highlight on a regular basis books you find interesting—and maybe do a few more of those book deals you used to have. Buying the books is expensive, of course, but I bet you’d be awash in free books if you just let on that you are now a photo book reviewer (there are very few sites that reviews photo books—you would instantly be one of the largest). Book of the month club (with affiliate links).

Old lenses on new cameras. You know a lot about older lenses. You know a lot about digital cameras. So, why not talk about combining the two? There’s lots of interest here and you could bring not only knowledge to bear but a higher level of taste than those other sites. You are the bokeh guy, after all.

Do you know anything about shooting video? Enough to do videos? Videos are killing the blogs, as you know. I’d love to see intelligent interviews with curators, artists, anyone interesting.

Lastly, serious photography with iPhones. I know, I know, but borrow somebody’s iPhone 11 Pro and get a $15 iPhone Arca-Swiss mount on Amazon and try it for a while, try it at night, try it in Portrait Mode, just try it. There’s magic there, you’ll feel it again. Certainly worked for me. Lots on accessories to consider here, from super-lightweight tripods to cases to adapter lenses and, heck, figuring out how to use a dark cloth again. iPhone on a tripod, not in your pocket.

I'm mostly a film photographer by choice, but it's not about that really. Find a project, something that will take time to complete, shoot as often as you are able, but only looking for images which make sense in the light of that project. Think about making sequences rather than individual images, when you feel the project has reached its end edit the images down into a tight series, and make a self-published book out of it. Repeat every year or two and you will end up with some bodies of work which mean something, because they are about a time in your life when you saw things in a certain way, and reflect, in a thought through and evolving way, your responses to the world around you. This to me is what photography is all about. Individual images are thin gruel on which to sustain oneself.

"Film may work well in some very limited circumstances, but its use will greatly reduce your options and your ability to get that decisive image."

Thank you, Mr. Taylor. The film emperor has no clothes!

Go for it. I'd love to hear your experiences with film.
I got into digital but soon realized it was stupid to spend big bucks for bodies that become obsolete and valueless in 6 months. I got off the digital treadmill at around the 6 mpx stage.
Then a couple of ridiculously cheap 35mm cameras with great glass off Craigslist led to Rolleiflex and Yashica 120 film. [BTW Rolleiflex' are no longer cheap]. Film suits the rather slow way I prefer to work- thinking about shutter, aperture, focal point and composition. Digital's auto-everything and rapid fire capability [essentially shooting a movie] to find one frame that works doesn't appeal. And, asking myself if I'd want to hang that print cuts down on any urge to shoot everything in sight.
I also picked up a $30 Canon P&S digital in a pawn shop that I use infrequently if quick convenience is a priority.

Mike, is it film you miss, or printing from negatives? If the latter, I think I read that Peter Turnley makes internegs from digital from which his printer in Paris makes his beautiful prints. Just wondering. I grew up in photography with film, too, but keeping up a darkroom got too hard. Whatever you, do, we'll be around.

Mike, speaking for myself, I don't come to TOP to find out information about the latest camera, or lens. It is fine when you write about it, but that's not the primary focus of TOP.

Your best posts are about photography in general; about trends, techniques, values, and about ideas in photography. One of the recent ones that really resonated with me was the one about the concept of sharpness in photography. Readers love your discussions of photographs, as well.

Look, it is long past time we stopped qualifying our photography by spelling out that we made the photo on a digital camera, or a film one. We should, I feel, let the viewer know that we changed things in the picture (deleted people, for example), if we do so, but not the gear that was used to make the photo. Go get a roll of 120 film and load up that Exakta 66. Develop and print the results any way you want and show us a photo once in a while. Present it for sale, or talk about the tonality. Whatever. And you don't even have to say what equipment made it, unless you want to. Grab 35mm film and load up your Olympus (if you still have it) and go have fun. I am sure you can find a closet, or a washroom, you can use as a darkroom.

And yes, you can share your film workflow and the joy you get from it on TOP. Many readers will love it, myself included. If it brings you joy and gets you excited and you share that on TOP your readers will appreciate it, too. And it does not matter if the phase lasts 2 months, or 20 years.

Go to it Mike. It will be very interesting to follow your journey. The subject matter you choose for your essays is rarely dependant on digital technique anyway.

I had to think about this one a bit. And I realize I enjoy TOP because of the variety, not just of your blogs, but also the readers. And because of the variety I learn things that I can apply to my own photography, even if what I'm doing is different. Whether you shoot film or digital, or whatever camera or sensor or lens, I'll continue to read you, and also your readers comments.

Plus, the atmosphere here is refreshing in the reader comments. It's a lot of work to edit them I'm sure, but it sure stands out in the end compared to other discussion boards, there is a sense of community here.


My 2 cents: Shoot what you like. Yes, you can still write about digital gear. You never promoted the idea that you are an expert in digital technology, so there is no sort of "betrayal". To be honest, if a few more posts were about analog photography, I would be chuffed because everyone and their dog is writing about the latest, greatest digital thing while there is little enough thoughtful writing about analog photography.

Further, if it prompts you to write more about the practice of photography (who cares what camera is used?), then that might further everyone's interests.

John said "However, don’t take this wrong but it sounds like a goal that will wind up somewhere near the museum dozen project."

Whatever did happen with that project? It's the only time I've ever submitted a photo to one of those projects and have been awaiting the results.

I find TOP the most interesting when you write about photography. Not cameras, or sensors, or film, but about pictures. So get your darkroom set up and start shooting film, and then write about photography.

Oh, and I'm a film shooter, except when I use my phone. I'll be printing this weekend.

Go ahead and write about the gear too. I sort of read that stuff when you write it.

I recently pulled out some old equipment and started shooting film again. The way it makes me think differently and the visceral experience of using totally mechanical cameras has really given me a lot of inspiration. In fact, I just set up a darkroom in my basement to make prints. Do whatever inspires you! If you already have the equipment, what is the harm?

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