Why Film Is Still Better Than Digital

Inspiration January 17th 2014 8:09 AM 44 Comments

Why I Still Shoot Film

Let me start off by saying this article isn’t an argument on how film is better overall than digital, I’m not that ignorant. Rather, this article is meant to show how shooting film is still relevant for photographers today. Shooting film nowadays seems like a novelty reserved for grandparents and hipsters, but does it still hold its ground in a world where everything is digital? We have Instagram, VSCO Cam, and hundreds of other applications that will emulate the look of film, so does shooting actual film make a difference?

[Rewind: Film Is Not Dead]
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From left to right: Canon Eos Elan, Mamiya RZ67, Mamiya 645 AFD

4 Reasons Why Film is Still King of Natural Light Photography

I’m going to make a bold claim and say that shooting film in natural light is better than shooting digital in natural light. Of course, there are thousands of other scenarios where digital will sweep the floor with film, but when it comes to natural light photography, film is still better. If you don’t agree, hear me out first, I’ll give you four reasons why film is the King of Natural Light.

All of the following photos I shot with 100% natural light. If you want to learn more about natural light shooting techniques be sure to check out these articles. 

1. Film Controls Highlights Well

One area where I see film having a clear advantage over digital is in natural light. Film is meant to be shot in natural light, and that’s where it thrives. It is much more forgiving when it comes to overexposure, and it doesn’t blow out highlights as easily as digital cameras. This is especially helpful when I’m using the brightest thing in our solar system as a hair light.

Mamiya 645 AFD with 80mm f/2.8 and Kodak Portra 400

Mamiya 645 AFD with 80mm f/2.8 and Kodak Portra 400

In the photo above, I have Emily standing in some bamboo shoots with the sun directly behind her. If I shot this with my Canon 5DM3 I know I’d be dealing with a lot more blown out highlights. In this photo, the Portra 400 (the film) is doing a great job controlling the highlights, and I’m able to capture the nice out of focus bamboo shoots as well as details in her hair.

2. Film Blends Light and Color Better

Digital camera sensors, are made up of millions of tiny squares that give us an image. Film isn’t split up in such a linear way, and because of that, it naturally blends light and colors better.

Mamiya 645 AFD with 80mm f/2.8 and Kodak Portra 400

Mamiya 645 AFD with 80mm f/2.8 and Kodak Portra 400

In the photo, above we have a beautifully blended green bokeh in the foreground. In all my years of shooting photos, I have yet to come across a digital camera that can blend light and color as well as a film camera. Out of focus areas are meant to draw your attention into the areas in focus, but this foreground bokeh is so beautiful and distracting I almost forget there’s a person in the photo.

3. Film Has Aesthetically Pleasing Grain

One of the worst things about digital cameras is also one of the best things about film, the grain. The grain that you get from film is much more pleasing and natural than digital cameras, and it adds to the texture and character of the photo.

Mamiya 645 AFD with 80mm f/2.8 and Kodak Portra 400

Mamiya 645 AFD with 80mm f/2.8 and Kodak Portra 400

In the photo above, I love the grain I’m getting in the trees, the leaves, and the in the neutral tones. Film grain adds another element and dimension to a photo that makes it more tangible and charming. Although, you must be careful with your exposures because if you don’t expose properly, you will get an ugly grainy photo.

4. You Can Shoot Medium Format Without Selling Your Soul

Shooting film has given me the opportunity to shoot on a camera format that I wouldn’t have been able to shoot with digital, medium format. What’s the big deal with medium format, and why does that matter? Let me simply say, shooting medium format has changed the way I approach photography.

Mamiya 645 AFD with 80mm f/2.8 and Kodak Portra 400

Mamiya 645 AFD with 80mm f/2.8 and Kodak Portra 400

Because of the larger film size, the perceived focal length of the 80mm lens shortens to about 50mm. So imagine taking photos with your 50mm, but getting the compression and depth of field from an 80mm lens. I’m able to compose and frame my shots with the versatility of a 50mm lens, while still getting the shallow depth of field and bokeh of an 80mm lens. Of course you can get a shallower depth of field with a faster 50mm lens, but when you’re shooting them both at f/2.8, the 80mm becomes something really special. It’s one of the best things in my life right now.

How I Shoot Film

Film is great because there are so many different types of cameras and stocks of film to choose from. You can easily develop a style of photography by simply choosing a type of film you like, and sticking with it. I’m gonna go through a couple of my favorite cameras and types of film I love to use.

Most of the gear I use aren’t in production anymore, but if you have a keen eye sometimes you can pick up some amazing goodies from BH’s used film store. I have bought some used film equipment from BH and I can say that their rating system in terms of camera condition is very accurate, so there won’t be any surprises when it shows up at your door.

The film I mainly use is

Mamiya RZ67 with 90mm f/3.5

Out of all the cameras I have ever shot with in my life, this one is my favorite. It’s unique in my collection of cameras because you don’t look through a traditional viewfinder to frame your shots, instead you look down through a waist level viewfinder.

waist level viewfinder

waist level viewfinder

On the RZ67, I exclusively shoot packfilm, or what’s more commonly known as “polaroid.” I have 2 Polaroid backs for the this camera and one I load will color packfilm (FP-100C) and the other with black and white packfilm (FP-3000B). Unfortunately, the FP-3000B is being discontinued sometime this year, so if you want to shoot FP-3000B, this year will be your last chance.

Mamiya RZ67 with 90mm f/3.5 lens<br />Polaroid backs with FP-100C and FP-3000B

Mamiya RZ67 with 90mm f/3.5 lens
Polaroid backs with FP-100C and FP-3000B

When’s the last time you held a photograph in your hands that came straight out of a camera? I love taking photos and seeing how surprised people are when I pull out the packfilm from the camera and hand them a photo 2 minutes later. It makes for great gifts and memories.

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Canon Eos Elan

The Elan’s are a great camera because they’re cheap and reliable. I have two which I bought for about $25 each on Ebay. I have one camera dedicated to color 35mm film (Fuji 400h or Kodak Portra 400), and the other is 35mm black and white film only (Ilford HP5 400). I have a piece of gaffer tape on my dedicated black and white camera so I can quickly identify which camera is which.

Canon Eos Elan with Canon 50mm f/1.2 (left) and Canon 40mm f/2.8 (right) Film left to right: Fuji 400h, Kodak Portra 400, Ilford HP5 400

Canon Eos Elan with Canon 50mm f/1.2 (left) and Canon 40mm f/2.8 (right)
Film left to right: Fuji 400h, Kodak Portra 400, Ilford HP5 400

For someone who wants to start shooting film, I strongly recommend this camera because it does not cost much to get started and if you’re a Canon shooter you can put modern EF lenses on it. I love shooting with the 35mm film cameras because the camera’s are lighter (than the Mamiyas, at least) and I can shoot 36 exposures. I really enjoy going out on photo adventures and having fun with the Eos Elan cameras whereas with the Medium Format Mamiyas, I’ll focus a lot more on composition and framing.

Canon Eos Elan with Canon 50mm f/1.2

Canon Eos Elan with Canon 50mm f/1.2

Mamiya 645 AFD with 80mm f/2.8

When I’m shooting film, this is the camera I’m spending 90% of my time with, and you already know why. This camera basically changes the laws of physics for me so I can get great looking shots without trying too hard.

Mamiya 645 AFD with 80mm f/2.8 and Kodak Portra 400

Mamiya 645 AFD with 80mm f/2.8 and Kodak Portra 400

Conclusion & Learn More

My journey as a film photographer started as a curiosity, then grew to an obsession when I fell in love with the results. I used to be a stubborn digital photographer who thought film had no merit other than being a novelty for people who enjoy ironic things. But one day I gave film a chance, and in a way, that’s what photography is about for me. Photography is about taking chances and looking at the results, if you don’t like them then you move on, but sometimes the results can pleasantly surprise you.

If you want to learn more about natural light photography be sure to check out our Natural Light Shooting Techniques section.

All of these images were processed and scanned by Richard’s Photo Lab

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Cha

About

I’m a photographer and filmmaker based in Southern California. When I’m not taking photos I enjoy burgers, cats, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

44 Comments

  1. Jon Sharman

    The line: “So imagine taking photos with your 50mm, but getting the compression and depth of field from an 80mm lens” doesn’t make any sense.

    The compression is exactly the same. The depth of field is 2’10″ from 15 feet away with a 6×4.5 format, f/2.8 lens. Stick a 50mm f/1.4 on a full frame digital and you’re looking at a tighter depth of field of 2’3″ from 15 feet away. So you don’t get a shallower DOF on medium format… you do at the same apertures, but with lenses that are as fast as f/1.0, f/1.2, f/1.4, even f/1.8 on full frame, full frame wins.

    Also, the RZ67 isn’t “unique” by having a waist-level finder, tons of cameras have them. And you can also buy traditional prism viewfinders for the RZ67.

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    • Cha

      In my experience the compression isn’t exactly the same . When i pull up side by side shots with the mamiya 645 with 80 and the elan with the 50 the background is noticeably closer on the 645. Shooting a 80mm 2.8 also allows me to get much better corner to corner sharpness and less vignetting than a 50mm at 1.4 so I have to disagree with you, in this case, the full frame does not win.

      I never said the rz67 was the only camera with the waistlevel viewfinder, it’s just the only camera I own that has one. It’s also one of the only SLR cameras that can shoot packfilm with a reasonable crop. I know I can buy traditional viewfinders for the rz67, but where’s the fun in that?

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  2. Jon Sharman

    I’m not disagreeing that shooting at 2.8 allows better corner to corner sharpness and less vignetting than a 50mm at 1.4, but that wasn’t what we were talking about – we were talking about DOF, because you said the 80mm f/2.8 on a 645 gets better DOF, but it doesn’t – full frame clearly wins here.

    NOW, you stick a 110mm (50mm equivalent) on that Mamiya RZ67, and it beats the 50mm f/1.4 in DOF.

    It’s really kind of a moot point, because I totally agree that MF gets better quality in natural light than digital – I just don’t see the point of claiming something to be true that isn’t, in this case DOF. The highlight retention, color rendering, and wider range of tones is reason enough – the DOF is one of the few areas that digital wins.

    And you said the RZ67 is “unique” for having a waist-level finder – unique means only one. It’s not. But again, totally agree it’s more fun (once you get used to the reverse image) than a prism finder, the 3D view you get is amazing. And packfilm is ace, I’ve got dozens hanging on my walls.

    3
    • Cha

      I understand your point, and it makes perfect sense (I even clarified it in the article), but in practice I get something totally different. I use the 50mm 1.2 the most when I’m shooting with the Elan’s or my 5dm3 and for some reason I can’t replicate the DOF that the mamiya 80mm f/2.8 gives, even when I’m shooting at 1.2! The only reason I can think of is that there’s something about the larger film that gives the perception of a shallower depth of field, even when mathematically they should be the same. The way I think of it is, if I cropped into a razor thin DOF then the DOF is no longer as “thin” as it was when I was looking at the full image.

      And let me clarify and say that the rz67 is “unique in my collection of cameras.” Having the reverse image is actually a ton of fun, it definitely keeps photography interesting. Also, super glad there’s a fellow packfilm shooter reading this article. It’s becoming a lost art =(. What camera do you shoot packfilm on?

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    • Brandon Wright

      Stop talking about DOF and start talking about things like “hyperfocal distance” and “circle of confusion”. Higher focal length lenses have more compression with greater depth of field.

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  3. LPMURPH

    Wow, neat article. I used to shoot a lot of film in my formative years, especially before DSLR’s became affordable. I was gifted an Olympus SLR by my grandfather when I was 12 and it was what really got me into photography. I have felt that there is something missing from digital photography, specifically the anticipation (and when you’re learning the disappointment) of finding out how everything ended up turning out on a roll of film. Sure there is no longer the same amount of “guess work” in my photography anymore, but the wait was something special.

    Digital is exciting, the speed, and the fact that I can jump onto my computer and start post-pro without designating a large space in my house for a dark room is amazing, but something is lost in the convenience… I may have to load up that old Olympus and have some fun next time I go on a trip. If nothing else, thank you for the reminder!

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    • Cha

      I definitely do not have time or the space for a darkroom, which is why I send all my rolls to richard photo lab in LA. Although it is pricey (and there are more affordable film labs) it allows me to have the convenience of not designating a space of a darkroom and also getting awesome film results.

      The thing about digital is that it’s so easy to shoot, erase, and try again. My experience with film has taught me to be a lot more patient. Because I only have 10, 16, or 36 exposures (depending on the camera I’m shooting) I’m much more patient with my exposures, more focused on my composition, and my photography overall gets better.

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  4. Jon Sharman

    I get what you mean – medium format does give a creamier boheh, there always seems a more natural drop off as the image moves out of focus.

    I’ve got a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II as well, with a 50mm, 110mm, and 180mm. The 90mm is next on my list! The pack film is so much fun to use, I’ve probably shot more with that back than with film… the quality of both Fuji films is incredible. It did take me a while to get used to the reverse image on my first waist-level finder though, especially getting horizons straight – but there’s nothing quite like looking down through that WL finder!

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    • Cha

      wow that is quite the mamiya collection you have there. I’ve only used the 90mm, but it’s been very good to me.

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  5. J. Cassario

    Awesome article Joe, I started shooting film about a year ago and got hooked, but only with shooting 35mm. Now I’ve gotten on a kick with polaroid land cameras, I just ordered an SX-70 which im excited about. I would love to get a Mamiya and start shooting MF but havent been able to justify the investment. I’m very interested in the polaroid back on the Mamiya RZ67, thats something I haven’t thought about. Are you able to scan those?

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    • Jon Sharman

      Man, I really want an SX-70, they’re awesome!

      You can scan the negs on the Mamiya. You’ve gotta dry them off pretty quickly – usually with a hair dryer – but they scan really well.

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    • Cha

      yeah you can scan the negatives (you can scan the positives too) but you do have to make sure they’re dry. Shooting with the mamiya 645 is definitely an investment, but it’s also the only camera I can recommend in the 645 format. I know a lot of people who shoot with the contax 645, but the mamiya 645 is cheaper, easier to find parts for, and cheaper to repair.

      My rz67 outfit with 2 polaroid backs was not that cheap, it came out to about $700 altogether. When I think about it, paying $700 for a camera just to shoot polaroids with is kinda ridiculous, but i don’t regret it haha.

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    • Joseph Molina

      If you get a mamiya RZ67 you can always get a 645 back pretty cheaply along side the 67 and polaroid backs. Thats what I did for a while anyways. As for a dedicated 645 camera (which has obvious advantages), I’d say a better starter MF camera would be the pentax 645. I got my kit for around 200$. Way cheaper than the Mamiya AFD series and waaaaay cheaper than the contax series. Plus, you can put some the pentax 67 lenses on it which are absolutely gorgeous in quality and character. Later if you want/need to upgrade to another system, then you can, but i’d say for people coming into MF film, the pentax 645 is unbeatable in value, and pretty damn high in quality.

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  6. Eric Flores

    I will say that I did take a film photography class and I did enjoyed it. However, in the long run, it is expensive for me. @.@

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    • Cha

      yeah the thing about shooting film is that it’s cheaper to start compared to digital, but the costs to shoot film eventually outweigh the cost to shoot digital.

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    • Jim

      Yeah, film is expensive.

      Between film, development and scans, it actually comes out to about the same as leasing or buying a lower end digital MF camera if you shoot at least 10 rolls a week. After two years, it was actually cheaper for me to buy my Mamiya DM with a leaf back and lens.

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  7. Andrew

    I use an RB67, an Elan (or ’50e’ as it’s called here) and a Bronica for my portable MF option.

    We should hang out.

    3
  8. Q3

    I have never shot film before, and have been shooting digital full frame for 5 years.

    But I am finding myself so drawn to medium format cameras for use outdoors, especially because of the large film size (6×7 or 6×9) and smoother handling of highlights. Specifically looking for a rangefinder for portability with large film size. And have in mind the Mamiya 7ii with 65mm or 80mm and the Fuji GW690iii. Any recommendations on these? I heard the Mamiya lenses are sharper and better, but I love 3:2 format and the 6×9 film size.

    Which is better and details why? For shooting people, and what color films preferred?

    2
    • Cha

      I think you’ll be happy with either of those formats. I really only have experience with Mamiya lenses and I can definitely vouch for their quality, they are SHARP even when they’re wide open.

      As far as which is better, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by either, just as long as the camera you buy isn’t defective in any way.

      For color films, especially when shooting people I use kodak portra 400 or fuji 400h. For best results it’s best to shoot the portra 400 with +.5 stops of exposure and the fuji 400h at +1.5 stops. Or if you have it scanned and processed at a lab you can shoot the film at box speed and have the lab push it those amount of stops.

      Hope that helped, happy hunting!

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  9. Won Phan

    Awesome! Thanks!

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  10. Peter

    “Film Has Aesthetically Pleasing Grain”…. really?

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    • Cha

      Before when I shot digital I had no idea what good looking grain was, but when I got my first scans and prints back I was floored! It’s not like that angry rainbow glitter you get with high iso digital images, instead it’s like this pleasing texture that adds character and charm to your photo.

      It’s basically the life of the party, when it’s not there you never notice, but when it is there it just makes everything better.

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    • Jiri Ruzek

      Cha: can you imagine how “aesthetically pleasing” would be the grain from ISO 6400 film? Some modern digital cameras can produce almost noiseless photzos at that ISO.

      I am shooting on a 6×6 film for fun, but digital is my everyday choice. For me these are different medias, not better and worse. By the way I think you agree the digital cameras have done fantastic progress during the last years.

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  11. JT

    I don’t think it is not a bold claim at all. Like you said, film holds highlights better, which it does. So under harsh light film is your friend. Of course you could underexpose with digital and pull detail from the shadows later (if you need to compromise exposure in a high contrasty scene) but the colours get all messed up (at least from my experience). The benefit of digital in this case would be that you can use a faster shutter speed (underexpose) to get around it, whereas with film if you underexpose, you risk clipping the blacks, which light highlights in digital are almost impossible to recover. Technology is getting better though, I don’t know how long film will be able to compete. It is pretty useless in low-light, if a scene is too dark, you either need high ISO film stock or risk having to drag the shutter. I’d have the film camera for outdoors exclusively, then digital for low light. Obviously you could use a tripod, flash or fast lens, but if those options aren’t available just stick with digital indoors, film outdoors. If it is overcast, don’t bother with the film camera.

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    • Cha

      Thank you, I don’t think it’s a bold claim either, but a lot of photographers would aggressively disagree.

      2
  12. Mike

    Another blog post title just to get clicks.

    You could have called it “Why Film Is Still Relevant Today” and taken out your first two sentences.

    You’re better than that

    2
    • Cha

      well if I was discussing the relevance of film for 2014 then that title would have made sense, but since I have outlined 4 distinct points on how film is better than digital I think my title is a better fit for the article.

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  13. Mike

    Cha, you wrote this at the very top – “this article is meant to show how shooting film is still relevant for photographers today.”

    Four points, however distinct and correct, doesn’t conclusively answer your title “Why Film Is Better Than Digital” I’m sure anyone can come up with at least four distinct points for the other side also.

    I do agree that each of the points you raise prove that there are characteristics of film cameras that a digital camera can not match.

    show that, while our digital cameras are technologically advanced, there are characteristics that a film camera

    If you’re gonna hold to the title you picked out,
    Four points doesn’t

    1
    • Cha

      Well thank you for agreeing with the points. As for the titles, both are accurate, but one will get more clicks.

      It’s not like I’m trying to “trick” people into reading these articles, but I do believe in this style of photography. If I can inspire a few people to try starting film, then I would consider that more of a success than getting more clicks.

      Sorry you feel that I could have done better with the title, but like shooting film, it’s a decision that I stand by.

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  14. Berneck

    I love that people are having DOR and “equivalent” arguments with medium format vs 35mm format film… Lol. Maybe I was wrong when I said, people never had these arguments before m43 came along.

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  15. Michael Steinbach

    “Film is great because there are so many different types of cameras and stocks of film to choose from. You can easily develop a style of photography by simply choosing a type of film you like, and sticking with it.”

    Honestly I thought that all of this film vs digital had been put to bed years ago. With film simulation pacs from the likes of DXO, VSCO and others there really isn’t even an argument to be made…. other than to be a contrarian of course.

    Do begrudge you your choice? No. But the points you have made are so full of holes. The biggest being that unless you find (very rare) a printer that is using straight optical printing you are scanned or are forced to scan and then you already have a generational loss. If you scan yourself you are subject to the rendering of that specific scanner… I could go on but that would belabor the point.

    2
    • Joseph Molina

      Mhe, i dont really see the scanning as a loss though. There really is something magical about a fuji frontier scanner for example. Of course it depends on the lab and technician, but they can add alot to the image, in a way thats akin to outsourcing your post production. Being subject to the rendition of the scanner is just another point in the creative process, it how the scanner is used that will add or detract from an image.

      2
    • Michael Steinbach

      Joseph, you have basically reinforced the point I made. At some point a lab person will have to adjust the WB, contrast and density. Film doesn’t come with an auto WB setting :) So depending on the equipment and personal you could get completely different results with each shoot. How is that going to “develop” your personal style? Pun intended.

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    • Joseph Molina

      @michael – Well, sure I reinforced your point in some sense, because i wasnt arguing against it. I was simply putting it in a different light. I simply dont see the lab process as a negative (pun back at ya). Most pro’s dont switch around from lab to lab, they find a lab they like and stick with it. Further more, pro labs will work with you to get the look you want. Yes there are alot of qualities inherent to the film stock itself of course (your not going to get the same look from portra that you would from velvia) but the lab techs work with your style to add to the characteristics of the scan. Its quite similiar to outsourcing digital post production in my opinion. You send out your digital images to pro’s who really really know what they are doing (presumably) and they work with you to get a look you want. Again, this doesnt detract from your style in my opinion, just augments it with the skill of another professional. And its a hell of a lot better than sitting in front of the computer editing digital images all day.

      Just like color grading, post production and photo editing are artforms in of themselves, so if film developing, and scanning. Some people choose to do both of these things themselves, and others outsource it. In the end, its about getting the results you want. Sure, you have to be smart about it, and like everything else in life, you get what you pay for.

      1
    • Brandon Wright

      Honestly Michael, your originally comments about DXO and VSCO just show that could not have shot film and had it handled by a decent lane recently. And generational loss? What about whats added generationally. A lot of records are recorded digitally, mixed down to tape and then distributed digitally. Did they loos something generationally or gain something? Plus that does not matter since your 6×6 negative has more stops of dynamic range than any printed material can preserve and better resolution than your eye can perceive on a wall sized print. You just need a good lab or good equipment and know how.

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  16. Jacob delaRosa

    I shoot film only for my personal work. Why? Because of the negatives. Properly stored, they can last for a VERY long time. Heck some 100 year old negatives were fished out the Artic ice and found to be perfectly scannable. When was the last time anyone used a floppy disk? CD’s are on their way out. Sony released the XQD card a year ago which is currently used by a whopping two cameras. Digital storage formats are too fickle for me to put anything that I truly care about on them. And who knows? Maybe after I’ve been dead for 80 years, my negatives will be found in a storage locker and someone might say: “Well, isn’t this interesting!”

    Or something like that.

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  17. crees84

    I have shot a lot of film in my own personal photography development but I have decided to sideline it for now for multiple reasons…
    1. Film is expensive
    2. Printing takes a lot of time (BW)
    3. Color printing does not really exist in a pure analog form anymore…there will be a scanner involved at some point which automatically affects the final viewing of the picture.
    4. Film Cameras / Film is not that weather proof.
    5. Medium Format gear is heavy.
    I still a top of the line BW photo enlarger with the sharpest lenses you can get, a laser level and all my own darkroom gear. I jumped into film photography shortly after starting digital photography on my own because I thought I would learn more from a Nikon FM2 camera than I would from a digital camera. It was the best money I ever spent to help me learn photography. But many many film cameras later I find that the digital format is the best for me. I do the majority of my organizing and initial editing off an 11″ laptop and do more adjusting off a 27″ screen when I can. I just move around way too much to be able to set a whole day aside for darkroom stuff. Is there something lost in the process? Yes. But that is really what I think it comes down to for me is what I feel during the photographic process when using a film camera (my Leica M6 or Yashica TLR), vs what I feel when veiwing my images on screen or in print much more quickly from my DSLR/digital cameras (D800 / Ricoh GR). Having kids does not help either as far as time invested goes. I have kept my film equipment for now in the hopes that in 10 to 20 years, I will be able to settle down in a large city and focus on my darkroom game but for now that is just not possible. The skills I have learned in the darkroom and with film cameras are invaluable and directly translate to digital cameras and digital editing. I also think it is much easier to experiment with different types of shots/ styles with digital and invaluable in this regard. Once again it is up to personal preference. Can you get the same type of grain through digital editing? Yes. Can you get the same type of bokeh with digital cameras? Yes. You know you manipulated them though, and that may affect how you feel about your images. But, is how you feel about your images more important to you or the dialogue you initiate with your viewers through the final image you display more important?

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    • Brandon Wright

      Sounds like you need a good lab… And glad you brought up the point that you learn more with film! Film makes you become a better photographer!

      1. Not really
      2. Printing takes time but so does going to disneyland. Or you can have a lob do it. CHEAP from scans!
      3. Scanning does not affect the final quality of the image any differently than Photoshop does you digital capture. There is a reason why most of the best Hollywood DPS and directors still capture on film when given the choice. They still telecine (digital) but celluloid has a unique look that is “better”.
      4. Ummm…. Film is totally waterproof! It’s made, processed and printed in water! Cameras? Yeah… There are a lot of weather resistant cameras! Shooting in Antarctica you don’t have a choice because in massive sub zero temperatures only a truly well built mechanical camera like Leica will work.
      5. Digital gear is heavy and cumbersome! Try a Rollie TLR, Mamiya 7 or a Fuji GF670! Extremely compact and simple to use!

      1
  18. Derek

    I just recently purchased a CLA’d Pentacon 6 TL MF camera, and I’m excited to get shooting with it. I understand the draw of a current/modern system like Mamiya or Hasselblad, but the big, all-mechanical Pentacon kinda spoke to me and was relatively inexpensive. At least on paper – we’ll see about that in practice.

    One additional thought on shooting film, especially MF: I think the market has pretty much dropped out in terms of value of the equipment and accessories. So, as long as you’re buying in a fairly thoughtful fashion, even if you decide you hate the stuff in a couple of years, you can probably get out of it what you put into it, financially.

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  19. Flavio E.

    I own about 14 cameras, in which 2 of them are digital full frame SLRs, 4 of them are medium-format film cameras, and the rest are 35mm cameras. I also own a Mamiya RB67 very similar to the RB67 on picture and a Mamiya C330 which is another medium-format classic. I use my film cameras everyday for personal satisfaction.

    However, this article strikes a bad note within myself. You know, shooting film is very fun and can be rewarding. The problem is that this article wants to encourage people to shoot film, but then brings up some flawed arguments to support it. I will answer based on my experience of more than 17 years shooting film cameras.

    1. Film Controls Highlights Well
    Actually, modern DSLRs with HDR/extended dynamic range facilities are able to capture much more dynamic range than negative film in a very easy way. Additionally, with a DSLR one can easily know immediately if the exposure is correct or not, so i’d say this point is moot.
    On the other hand, slide film has a very restricted dynamic range, you can really say it has a terrible highlight clipping problem…

    2. Film Blends Light and Color Better
    Frankly this part was puzzling. The qualities you describe are not exclusive to film but have more to do with the lenses you use. By the way, quality DSLRs are more accurate in color reproduction than any kind of film available today.

    3.Film Has Aesthetically Pleasing Grain
    Not every film photographer considers film “aesthetically pleasing”. This is puzzling coming from you since one of the main reasons Medium Format cameras were used by pros… was to get rid of the film grain!!

    4. You Can Shoot Medium Format Without Selling Your Soul
    Quite the opposite, nowadays getting film developed and enlarged -especially medium format film- is more expensive than ever. And it’s rare to find people able to do it to professional standards, because the fashion nowadays is to think that the cool thing about film is that “lo-fi” blurry and grainy (ahem!) look. So it’s not easy to find a lab that will extract the quality of the film. Same for scanning: quality scanning — and i mean the kind of scanning that really extracts the detail that is contained in the film — is extremely expensive.

    Now, if you want to know what are my reasons to shoot film, how could i encourage people to shoot film, i’d say that in #1 the reason every frame costs you money (unlike a digital camera) forces you to be extremely careful and mindful about every time you hit the shutter button — in a way that can bring yourself to a higher level of craft. Simply as that.

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    • Brandon Wright

      Film is fantastic! The cameras are amazing and offer something digital just plain can’t in the shooting experience. I think Cha’s article needs to be looked at from an objective standpoint of that it is written from his unique perspective and it is not exhaustive in it’s explanation. An article could be written arguing the virtues of digital with valid points but then everyone knows why digital is better. It’s easy!

      I agree with the article on every point!

      1. Film Controls Highlights Well
      Ummm… yeah, this really can’t be argued! I have shot film in high contrast lighting situations 5 stops overexposed and there is still separation in the highlights. Film has latitude that digital can only dream of. It all depends on if you get a good print or scan in the same way digital capture depends upon good file processing. Also, film looks much more natural than digital because of the way it handles highlights (curve) and color in overexposed areas. Especially when you compare it to in camera HDR! And this article never mentions color reversal capture.

      2. Film Blends Light and Color Better
      This is a fact. Film capture is better for retaining actual detail and capturing color in a way that is natural. Sensor technology uses rows and column of sensor wells, usually with a bayer pattern to interpret color in an image. In that there are gaps. Film captures every ray of light and deeding on the film stock will handle many mixed lighting situations much better than digital would. Digital often blows out colors in mixed color temperature situations. The color gradation of film is far superior to that of raw digital files. It is not clinically accurate but it is more pleasing to the eye in interpreting color.

      3.Film Has Aesthetically Pleasing Grain
      This is purely the opinion of the author and shared opinion of anyone who shoots film. He did not say the grain was better. He said it was more pleasing. Grain is natural fluid texture whereas noise is disgusting digital interference. It’s like the difference between clipping in audio recording and distortion on a guitar amp. If you don’t ever want noise or grain this is a non-issue because you can get that with either.

      4. You Can Shoot Medium Format Without Selling Your Soul
      It all depends on who you are and what your soul is worth. I kid! How many images do you take is the key. When you shoot film you naturally shoot less. But you get better shots more frequently. :-P The depreciation on say a Phase One P45+ is ridiculous! You can shoot and have film processed well rather inexpensively. Just get proof scans ($8 through Indie Film Lab online) and then drum scan your favorites and get even more pixels (and resolution) than the highest megapixel digital backs! The cost of doing photography and the time it takes out of a professionals life has gone up dramatically since digital. A film camera after 7 years of shooting is worth exactly the same if not more than when it was purchased. Digital technology is worthless after 7 years! So basically with film, cameras are free! Then there are the computers, raid drives, backup, upgrades, electricity usage, and all the new toys you have to buy… Not to mention your time at the computer! Film puts all your expenses in the emulsion… Storage, technology… you want to upgrade your sensor? That will be $4.95 for a new roll of film!

      But the number reason to shoot film is because you love it! If you love photography and creating images there is no reason not to shoot film. It is low investment, forces you to see things from a new perspective (WLF) and is a unique tactile method of creating images. Film is a tool, not for every job, but if you love the art of photography you will really be missing out if you never try it. For me it is the only way to do what I love the way I love to do it.

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  20. Mario S

    I have been shooting with film for one year after I shoot digitally about 7 years. I still shoot digital as records of my friends and family, not as a photography, since I concern about the aesthetic difference between them. Many people says that they can look almost the same with the current film simulation plug ins, but I can see the difference and I simply prefer the real film look.

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  21. idigitalclic

    Digital photography cameras / image sensors took years of evolution to come close to the in-camera gallery quality results of the film camera. A film cameras life and purpose has not ended. One type of camera has not replaced the other.

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