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Saturday, 19 August 2023


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Good post, right on target.

I used to shoot film and I had my own darkroom. Now I shoot digital. I also used to do analog audio with LPs, a turntable, and a class AB amp. Now I do digital audio with a music server and a streaming amp with an ethernet input, the only analog audio cables in the system are the speaker cables. Whether we're talking photography or video there's an analog/digital debate. I don't think one is better than the other but they are different, and each has a different set of strengths and weaknesses. Pick the one that has the strengths you like and, hopefully, the weaknesses that aren't deal breakers for you.

Regardless of which one you pick, there's still things you're going to like about the other because of those different strengths, and things you can still learn from the other. In the end, it's a very good thing that there are the differences there are and that different people choose different approaches. If we all liked the same thing, if there was one photography approach, or one audio approach, that suited everybody we'd all have the same gear and be doing everything in exactly the same way. There wouldn't be taste based differences in the results we all get. You wouldn't want to look at someone else's photos or listen to your favourite recording on someone else's audio system because you wouldn't see or hear anything different to your own results. Think of what that would mean. There'd be no reason for photography or audio clubs, or different magazines, no need to get together with other people of like interests because you'd never see or hear anything different to what you see or hear at home. All of the fun of a shared hobby or interest would be gone.

It's the differences that make life and our pursuits interesting.

Hi Mike,

If you told me that you were the guy in the picture with the enlarger, I would believe you. I can picture in my imagination the bell-bottom pants people wore in that era.

Dan K.

I’m in Scotland, I shoot digital, I shoot film, I mostly use D76 but often use Rodinal, do I win?

I like to be reminded of the old days, it allows me to indulge myself in nostalgia for the darkroom, which I did love. I still have my Meopta enlarger in the attic, everything else went on ebay, and you almost had me thinking of making a temporary set up in the bathroom, just so I could smell the fixer again. I wont, you are right that digital has won, but I dont get quite the same pleasure from a night using Lightroom that I had from the darkroom.

Thanks for the gentle hint. It often surprises me that, of all photography-oriented people, some of your readers seem compelled to spout off about how glad they are to have tossed film behind (a decade+ ago!), how much better their work is now, how that can do things they never could before, etc., etc. OK, great, so what? Why the compulsion to keep fighting this battle, as if a little voice inside hints that they have to keep justifying the switch to D?

Mike, I appreciate your willingness and ability to cover the entire spectrum of photography, both the usual "everything digital" as well as more traditional approaches. One size does not fit every situation nor every individual.

Not that long ago, large format film cameras were king of every pro photographer's tool kit and digital photography was spurned as low quality and limited to those unable or unwilling to understand the various technical intricacies of film.

Then, film became old school and not hip, to the extent that state of the art, diffraction limited large format film lenses in like-new condition could be purchased for under $200 USD, including shutter. Film was "dead, dead, dead", but it wasn't.

Inevitably cycling back, digital has become your grandfather's easy-driving, easy-riding "Buick" and film is again hip, especially for the younger avant-garde that wants to set itself apart through their technical abilities.

Film production continues to increase from year to year, large format lenses are again becoming expensive, and many US and foreign companies produce new large format cameras in a variety of high-tech materials and designs.

There's room for both digital and film photography, so why waste the effort to attempt to impose one's own ideology upon others, rather than learning the best of both subsets? Each has its own strengths and uses.

Personally, I mostly use digital day to day, either my M43 or Pentax full-frame and APS-C digital outfits, including the new Pentax K-3 III Monochrome.

But there are definitely times when I will pull out one of those modern, high-tech large format film camera outfits to work in a manner that's more thoughtful and precise than digital "run and gun".

There is, or should be, room for everyone in photography and I'm glad that you write about film on occasion, even if I don't use Rodinal.

'It'd be a boring old world if we all liked the same things...'

...I've been saying that since my Grandma said she preferred 'Olde Tyme Music-Hall' songs to Rock'n'Roll. But she never called Rock a dreadful noise like some folks did.

That picture is so dated that it’s hilarious. I read just about every one of your posts all the way through. There is always something to learn in them. I built my darkroom when I was in 7th grade. That was 1969 I guess. I enjoyed it for about 8 years. Moved away after college and had to make a living and raise a family. I tried to put one together recently but it’s not the same. It was somehow easy then. Now it’s not.

During a brief spell with a view camera-

It didn't last long, but it encouraged me to go from 35mm to medium format.

[Herman is TOP's official oldest reader. He is also a very accomplished gentleman and an indefatigable photographer. --Mike the Ed.]

I always enjoy your articles on film photography. Your recollections and walks down that memory lane bring a warm smile to me. Like “everyone else,” I put up my Paterson film tanks, the jerry-rigged drying set up in the bathroom, the Saunders enlarger, printing easel, trays, chemicals, and so on, years and years ago. But, I still enjoy reflecting back on the hours I spent in the darkroom. About four decades of my life involved that process.

I have many prints from those days, handmade by me, that still look good: bright, sharp, excellent shadow/highlight details, brilliant white borders (even though they were washed in a Gravity Works washer!).

So keep those remanences coming now and then. Not all the time, or even regularly. Just whenever the spirit moves you. I for one will certainly enjoy reading them!

Based on prices of used film cameras, as well as cost of film, there certainly seems to be a topicality to discussions on film photography.

I enjoyed my time in the darkroom, but have no desire to go back. For me, the darkroom posts are nostalgic.

"I had an enlarger like that

There's one about 3 metres away as I type this.

Ron Wisner of Wisner Classic Manufacturing Co., a builder of bespoke view cameras ... Ron never came through on his promises ...

No, he never did. The absolute worst camera I ever owned was a 5x7" Wisner Technical camera—a piece of junk made by a furniture company.

Now there is a statement that may ruffle some feathers. LOL. Have a nice weekend, Mike.

I had a 4x5 enlarger once, and an antique Kodak 8x10 view camera. Although I am 99.9% digital, occasionally, for fun, I try a bit of wet photography. Not often. I'm 81. Life is short.

How about one day a week to dispense your extensive knowledge of film photography? My local camera store has gone all in on film. Amazon has more than 10,000 listings under "Film Photography" (mostly cr*p of course.) The interest in film photography may not last so milk it while you can.

I've said this before but I miss the film advance lever.

When you mention film photography topics it makes me nostalgic (in a good way). Digital is, for sure, better, amazing really, but it is not as lovable (although I hope your BW rig is for you!). I doubt I will ever be nostalgic for any of the digital cameras I have owned the way I am for the Mamiyas I used to have.

So, how old is Herman?

I enjoy almost everything you write, Mike. Almost. The last post (Funniest thing...) left me a bit unmoved.

I used to shoot film but it was 99% reversal (now there's an old term) slide film, Kodachrome, Ektachrome, Fujichrome. Lovely stuff. I used to *love* holding the plastic sheets of new slides up to the window. So there was almost no chemistry or developing for me.

Except, I did spend (waste!) a lot of money on Cibachrome in a futile effort to get satisfactory prints which were not spoilt by excessive contrast. I have a few stored away, but most were abandoned. It was too difficult.

Wow, those were interesting times.

PS: in film days, I used to daydream about owning a 6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7 or 6x9 Fuji or other make, but I was always (in the 1980s) deterred by the expense and lack of a way to enlarge the negs or positives.

But once flatbed scanners came along, that problem went away! I became quite proficient at scanning and I've had some great results. I owned a 645 and a 6x9 Fuji at one time and I have quite a few big transparencies from that time. I have some 50-75MB files which made great prints on my A3+ printer. I wish I could get back into that, but the cost of film and processing has become prohibitive.

I want a Fuji GFX50 before I die!

“But Ron never came through on his promises”.
That sound familiar!

I love large format - the results you'll get with it, never tried the process myself (and I think I'd hate it). But if you look at photos by August Sander in a museum in Cologne, Germany, or when I've found a large book by Jim Rakete at my dentist's (she loves those, too), how can you not be in awe of those photographs?
That said, I've tried 35mm film photography after many years with my OM-2n, and while I love the camera and the process of using it, the results are not that great compared to my digital µ43rds E-M10Mk2. Not even the blacks on film, although a Pen-F would probably even have nicer "tones" right out of camera. Plus the process of digitising those negatives is a real pain in the doodah as a friend in the UK would call it, even with a nice macro lens and adapter...
I'll never be a Sander or a Rakete, so I stopped trying.

Agreed, Mike! I don't know why people get so exercised by internet posts! For what it's worth I did the whole 5 x 4 thing and had a lovely Wista. Problem was by the time I'd set the thing up the pleasure of taking a picture had gone away! The negatives were beautiful and a joy to print in a traditional darkroom, as you yourself said years ago, the larger the negative, the easier to print. I still shoot film (alongside digital, horses for courses!) and print in a traditional wet darkroom and am currently experimenting with 6 x 9 which seems to offer the prospect of 90 percent the quality of 5 x 4 without the hassle. I for one like the diversity of posts you make. It's a shame if you've been getting grief over this.

Thanks, Mike! I am apparently in the minority here, but I pretty much *only* read your articles about film.

I shoot film every day, develop it in my basement, and make prints in the darkroom at Portland Community College. It's so much fun!

In March, I bought a digital camera (a mint Fujifilm X-T2) for a trip to England, but I've hardly used it since. Great camera, but digital is sorta', well, boring.

Keep it up with the film stuff!

Mike, Obviously you have not been paying attention for the past decade or so! It is no longer possible to acknowledge even the mere existence of another viewpoint, other than your own, in the USA!:)

“A blog is like the weather in Scotland”. You mean mostly dull, with many days of cold and damp? I do hope not!
(I can say this being Scottish myself!)

I wonder if A.V. Shirk developed back problems. I want to invent a time machine and go back to 1974 so I can advise him to use a taller table for that enlarger. My back aches just looking at it.

Hey, variety is good. I must be old, because I enjoy reading about the history of photography and also reflecting on the good 'ol days.

I never developed my own film, it was the Fotomat and Drug Store for me. I had friends however who had dark rooms set up in basement or under the stairs, or what not, this being the 70's.

It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times.

I haven't taken photos on film for years now. But I come from the analogue age, and I still like to read reviews of Rodinal, for example, LOL!
And if I were rich, of course I'd have a darkroom.
And the experience is irreplacable.

Photography is a fast moving thing.
Cibachrome was great - you cannot make Cibachrome prints nowadays.
Platinum Prints are great, yet apart from some freaks, no one can make them anymore.
Carbon prints - inimitable, just see the works of Paul Outerbridge - his work on other media cannot compare to his Carbon prints, and yet the process has gone.
Dye Transfer Prints: Painstaking, expensive, but so great ... the process has gone, sigh.
Autochromes are great, but you cannot make them anymore. You can hope that some software emulates them to a certain extent.
Panatomic X - a wonderful film - gone, forever, idem Verichrome Pan and Kodachrome and Agfacolor and and and ...

I also do digital and film. I love both. I like the process with analog vs the inmediacy of digital.

Interesting article on PetaPixel about Ricoh and the proposed new manufacture film camera.


Count me in that minority that enjoys the articles on film and darkroom work. I went into my darkroom last night and was reminded how enjoyable and rewarding the process is. The articles on the latest digicam features mostly glaze me over...


If you’re lucky and have a local lab that will develop your film on demand and scan it at the same time it’s almost like having the best of both worlds. The nice feel of your old camera and the practicality of easy digital files.

"But Ron never came through on his promises . . .", as many a Wisner customer could attest.

I just popped over to see what you were up to while sitting here scanning prints made on Ilford RC paper from negatives that actually *were* developed in Rodinal (I decided I like Xtol better, by the way).

Don't know about anybody else, but I could not possibly disagree with you less. Rock on.

"It's Okay. You Can Relax."

Are you sure? At least it's photographic . . .

"Herman is TOP's official oldest reader."

Is this an honorary position? Or was there a contest?
I know I'm not in the running, but possess an Inquiring Mind \;~)>

It's funny that there's no digital/analogue divide when it comes to painting vs. digital artists. Nor between oil vs. watercolour artists.

But I'm with you on this one Mike. I can't stand people out taking selfies with their View Cameras. My pet peeve is getting on an elevator (we call them lifts) and finding half the space taken up by some guy with a tweed jacket and elbow patches, trying to do some street photography thing with a View Camera. Makes my blood boil.

I shoot digital for commercial work but I have concluded that in an era where the phone has become the new Brownie and most photos are only seen for a glance and a swipe, to me, unless you’re printing your digital photos which I believe most people are not, film is the only photography that truly is a craft, and truly that matters. The rest of it is just a look at what I had for lunch and look where I’m standing and it all feels quite banal.

I don’t care how easy digital is compared to film, just like I don’t care that acrylics wash out of your paintbrush easier than oil paints, it’s about making the art that you want to make and the art I want to make is hand-crafted gelatin silver photographs.

In a world of consolation, where most people are sold and choose ‘good enough’, just because something is more labor-intensive and fewer people are doing it doesn’t make it less valuable and film is still readily available for making actual photographs today. It’s my choice. There’s nothing like it.

It’s fine if you’re done with film, but I have a little interest in digital shooters who just play the Instagram game for likes, the Flickr game for thumbs ups. What do those numbers even mean or matter?

The photographs I print are in the homes of the family and friends who are dear to me. They exist. They’re tangible. They’re photographs.

I quite enjoy you writing about film, Mike. If nothing else it reminds me not to go back to film photography however much I think I would like to!

I have been to the Bievres Photo Fair in France a few times and was pretty impressed by the number, if only a handful, of young film photographers. Camera fairs are where today they have to search out film cameras, lenses and darkroom equipment. It seems there has been some resurgence of film photography, even if it is to scan negs or prints to put on the internet!

Speaking of weather in Scotland, growing up in the Rochester are, I often heard the same expression about the weather in western NY... or its alternate, "we sometimes get all four seasons in a single day."

hi, speaking of a come back. in Chennai, india a photographic foundation (CPB)has just opened a common user darkroom facility with four enlargers from 4x5 to 35.mm. the facility includes a library with 350 books and a scanning service. Apart from film developing & printing in sizes 4x5 to 35mm there is also alternative processes such as cyanotype, van dyke brown, gum bichromate, salt printing etc. open to any user who wants a darkroom facility. in the short time its been opened it has recieved excellent responce, particularly frm younger photographers for whom film is a new experience.

One of the reasons I like your blog is its diversity. Its nice to learn new things

I do occasionally miss the smell of fixer. I wonder if a scented candle could be had.

I for one enjoy the film talk! Since getting back into developing and printing black and white file in 2020, I've used HC-110 B for film processing. Usually with Tri-X.

I did not find my current negatives to be as nice as my older Tri-X negatives shot in the 2000s. May be due to the change in the film emulsion. But I thought about switching developer and I recently bought some packets of D-76 at my local camera shop (on clearance, but well within expiry). So your posts were timely.

Interesting you should mention darkroom equipment. I was at the local "junk" store over the weekend. They had an old copy stand for sale and the remains of a Beseler Enlarger. It was quite unusual to see this piece of equipment. I never had the pleasure of working in a darkroom, but it saddened me to see it sitting there.

Key Wood said "It's funny that there's no digital/analogue divide when it comes to painting vs. digital artists. Nor between oil vs. watercolour artists."

I'll add another funny lack of divide to Kyle's list. There's a digital/analogue divide between analog and digital audio, both at the recording and the reproduction levels but there doesn't seem to be a digital/analogue divide when it comes to musical instruments. Wendy, then Walter, Carlos' first LP, "Switched-on Bach" was the first electronic instrument performance of classical music and was widely accepted in classical music circles when it was released though it was a step too far for some. The digital synthesisers which eventually followed also didn't excite a digital/analog divide in classical or other music circles. Some people didn't like synthesisers, some thought the sounds produced were interesting but not as nice as the sound of acoustic instruments, and some artists used both acoustic and digital keyboards depending on the music. All of the debate about the use of digital and earlier electronic synthesisers seem to have been based on taste, whether the person making the comment preferred the sound of one over the other in the music being played rather than on whether one was inherently superior to the other as an instrument.

As per bell bottom pants and darkroom fumes: Nostalgia is the enemy of memory.

I've never shot film, but I love photography and enjoy reading about all aspects of it, including film and film developing. I'm glad you continue to include it here.

Re the A V Shirk photo: I had a rolling processor like the pair on this table. Made in Canada, as I recollect.

With it, I managed to get a few moderately successful Cibachrome prints, perhaps a 10% success ratio. Sharp 25ASA Kodachromes looked pretty good printed to A4 size, I thought.

That was infinitely more success I had any of the other ways I tried to print colour slides, over several years, and on a budget too small to pay for the right tools.

blah blah blah *film* blah blah blah *digital* blah blah blah *sucks!* blah blah blah *always* blah blah blah *never* blah blah blah *pool* blah blah blah *darkroom* blah blah blah

p.s. sorry, sometimes I just gotta do it.

p.p.s. oops. I almost forgot. blah blah blah *scotland* blah blah blah

Forget the darkroom stuff, just check out the hair and the clothes!

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