Picture Source: Flickr
Mention film and people will think you are still stuck in last century. Relegated to small mom & pop stores, cramped together with batteries in larger camera stores, film has become a relic of the past to most photographers. With the ever decreasing price of digital camera equipment including dropping memory prices, it would be silly not to make the transition. The power to be able to see your shot straight after and determine if it’s a keeper, to be able to burst out a triptych of shots, experiment at will with settings and even apply effects is just too good to pass up. Who in the right mind would want to limit themselves to 36 (sometimes 16 & 12) shots per roll and then wait a few days for the photo lab to give them their pictures? I mean, after all, no one shoots film anymore do they?
You’ll be surprised; Quite a number of photographers who have made the switch, still retain their love for film photography and use film to compliment their digital work. There are also purists who refuse to switch over to digital citing all sorts of reasons why film is superior to digital but we won’t go into that, there will always be fanboys, haters gonna hate. And lastly there are the people who have been introduced to film from this whole Lomography movement, where toy plastic cameras are the name of the game.
In a slight departure from what you usually see on Lowyat.Net, welcome to part 1 of the Introduction To Film Photography series. Over the coming weeks, this series aims to show you the ropes to film photography, help you get started and perhaps by the end, you may find a reason to beg your relatives for any old film cameras they may have lying around. Whatever your style of photography (or even if you are completely new to the scene), I hope you’ll find something useful to take away from this series.
Article Continues After The Jump
Introduction: Film vs Digital or Film x Digital?
Taken With: Voigtlander Bessa R3A + 40mm f1.4 lens + Orange Filter
Film: Kodak Tri-X 400 Self Developed
Scanner: Canoscan 9000F
Taken With: Sony NEX-3
Lightly retouched in Lightroom 3
Since the first digital cameras burst onto the consumer market, there has been a raging debate to which is better, film or digital. Fanboys and haters alike litter the internet with page upon page of reasons and justification for their side, kind of like the famous rivalries today (Canon & Nikon, Apple & Microsoft). The truth is, it’s all dependant on what you want from your camera. Personally I use both and I find that they complement each other quite well when I’m out shooting gigs or even just on a walkabout. I’ve shot keepers from both my digital SLR and Film Rangefinder (Confused about these terms? Don’t worry, you’ll learn more in future instalments). The purists may argue otherwise, but I say give both a chance and don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I started as a film only photographer and eventually found reason and way to integrate digital into my workflow and shooting style.
But why shoot film?
There are plenty of articles around the internet if you just google the above question so i’ll just give you my take as an amateur/enthusiast photographer. First and foremost, my film cameras are all “Full Frame”. Since the “sensor” on a film camera is the entire 35mm film frame, what you see is what you get. If you’re a photographer, you’ll know that full frame cameras are an object of desire but for how much it cost to upgrade, it will just remain that for most people. As for film cameras, even a cheap EOS 50 SLR costs you RM200 for the body and kit lens and it’s inherently full frame.
Photo Source: Flickr
Photo Source: Flickr
Secondly with the right equipment, you’ll get better image sharpness and resolution from a 35mm frame. As for medium format cameras, an old Hasselblad 500C/M will most definitely shoot sharper images than your DSLR, especially when coupled with a killer scanner like the Epson v700/750 and Canon Canoscan 9000F (which will be covered in the future). Lets not even start talking about Large Format cameras, as those negatives will totally blow your mind. Keep in mind this is if you know how to use your camera and not send in your photos to the neighborhood store for digitizing. A scan at 72dpi is shitty no matter what film you use.
Photo Source: Flickr
Taken With: Voigtlander Bessa R3A + 40mm f1.4 lens
Thirdly, film has a higher dynamic range than digital counterparts. I’d like to say RAW files can challenge that, but I still feel that with my pictures, the film photos show a better tonal range than my digital ones. Not to mention the look and feel of a good B&W photo done with a roll of Kodak Tri-X 400, or the clarity and how the colours just pop with a well exposed, E6 roll of Velvia 50; There are programs out there to emulate the look but any photographer can tell you it’s not the same. Even the grain is grain, not noise. This will probably be true until you get a Leaf digital back for the price of a car. If you can afford it, go for it! (Buy me one while you’re at it) There’s been a craze with “Lomo” cameras and their effects but truth be told, those are just the effects made by cross-processing the film! Sure there are iPhone apps like hipstamatic and pudding camera, but nothing beats capturing it on a negative without chimping the shot.
Taken With: Voigtlander Bessa R3A + 40mm f1.4 lens + Red Filter
Fourthly, film forces me to slow down and think about things before I shoot. 36 shots in one roll will do that to you. Sure you can argue about getting a smaller card but fact of the matter is, with older manual focus SLR’s you are forced to get to know your camera and actually learn about the basics of photography before you make consistent pictures. I have found that for myself the best way to learn is to have both honestly, but the discipline of starting with film was the best move for me.
Lastly and most importantly for me, it’s fun. I enjoy manually advancing the film lever after every shot, knowing in your heart you got the shot when the shutter goes without seeing it on an LCD, loading and unloading film (Especially in old Leica’s and Rolleiflex’s), developing your own black and white rolls, the satisfaction at seeing your images materialise on the filmstrip and how it translates to pixels after a scan, heck even the labourious task of scanning the film and digitizing the prints gives me immense satisfaction. Even if you don’t process your own film, ask anyone who shoots film, and they’ll tell you that waiting for your prints from the lab is just as exciting! The feeling you get when you see your contact sheet for the first time is amazing!
Image Source: Flickr
I know there are photographers out there both agreeing and disagreeing with me (perhaps simultaneously), but like I said, that’s just me. You will probably find your own reasons to love or hate film, and whatever it is, I hope perhaps you’ll dust off that “antique” gem you have tucked away in a box somewhere and give film a chance.