Friday, June 22, 2012

Why i went back to film ..

People, friends have been asking me this question as of recent, or i have been giving answers without the quest .. Driving home today with my just arrived Nikon 28Ti, the beauty that she is, i was asking myself this very question and a bunch of (valid) answers started to come out, some of which were putting a smile on my face.

Below, and without a further ado, i'll try to sum it all up - the key reasons - in no particular order - of my venturing back into film and accepting the associated risks, problems and (huge compared to digital) expense :

1. The work with VF and the unknown result. I am rediscovering the  composing using a VF, and the the gentle torture of unknowing what was captured there and then .. In life with digital, even if there is a VF, i enjoyed composing with the fantastic current LCDs, forgetting that there is / was a (good) VF on the camera

2. Full Frame in the pocket. If i wanted to shoot a FF digital, then i have to get a bag for it, a sizable one, and develop maybe a tennis elbow in time. Let alone the challenge of coming up with a small but capable lens to somehow offset the FX body builder. Not to mention the cost of acquisition of FX Nikon, for instance! Having decided to go in film with point & shoot film cameras, i can now have 2, loaded with different films in the pockets of my jackets ! Soon 3 - when my Yashika T3 arrives ;-)

3. Every and each film is unique and special. Various emulsions and color balances - think here of Lomography CN 400 vs Elitechrome 100. Then every developed film is like opening a present - as Steve Huff described the feeling on his blog ! Nothing short than this, i can now attest to it, and we'll see if it lasts ..

4. More thought and work for the 3rd eye, less work on the shutter. With digital, i tend to take a shot of the same scene few times and then some more .. Just in case .. Not with film ! Compositions and situations are "seen" and taken once, twice mostly - the cost of the whole thing changes your approach and assessment and brings much needed discipline.

5. The film cameras bodies. Call me a fetishist, but im still to see digital cameras as beautiful as my 2 film cameras : the Leica Minilux and the Nikon 28Ti ! Maybe with the exception of the latest offerings from Fujifilm, such as the X10 and the X100, everything else feels plasticky or flimsy or over-engineered, packing up a tiny sensor in comparison to film.

6. The feeling of film and the joy of scanning. Handling film is natural and "analogue", handling large capacity SD cards, is the cold advance of technology.. Putting a vinyl on or watching your amp valves glow in the dark is different from starting and staring at an ipod/multimedia player, or a paper thin DVD-CD player with built in chip amplifiers. SD cards do not have the wonderful smell of film. Putting a film in the holder for scanning is a rewarding ritual in winter, pushing a SD in the SD card slot in the Mac, is like .. sleeping through the entire journey on the Transsibirean or something. It is the journey and the destination with film, as further below.

7. The often superior (in a different way) results of film photography. I can confirm that grays /colors gradation, grain, DOF, 3D, dynamic range and deep shadows detail, or the lack of it rather - are far superior than anything i've had with my digital bodies, with the exception of certain images of the LC1, L1 and the D3 with the 50mm f1.8. And still, i cannot put the last 3 in my pocket. So the results, the destination arriving at with film is often what cannot be achieved with small digitals, or will require a lot of PP work.

8. Post Processing of film after scanning, a sacrilege for me. Unlike many a pro photographers, i cannot and will not process the scanned film further until it is all "perfect". In fact i tried, and was horrified at the damage that all Aperture presets and "gente lifts" had on a scanned film - same presets, which were bringing digital cameras images to life and closer to film ! But this balances out with the effort to scan in batches, so no real time saved here, but a lot of joy with the scanner showing the hits and misses from the film. Having said that, my B&W straight conversions from scanned colors look better in every way than the digital color ones converted to B&W .. Don't know why, don't ask me, but it is something to do with lens, gradation, grain.

9. The very shallow DOF with film (if needed). I do not need extra wide apertures to have shallow DOF with film, something so difficult and often with mediocre results - with digital. I get awesome bokeh with my Minilux and at f2.8 - f4 - something virtually impossible with < APS-C cameras. Recently tested Leica X2 impressed with its color balance, sharpness, bokeh, but disappointed with its allegedly fixed AF speed and we don't want to discuss it's prohibitive price here.

10. The Color Casts. I haven't come across a digital camera yet with the exception of D3, and the X10 to certain extent, which doesn't through a magenta or cyan cast in the whites and all sorts of mixed colors in the blacks + blotching digitalis de luxe. Not so with film and especially with some more recent films - the whites are white, and the blacks, well .. black.

Finally, I did not shoot enough film then.. A 40 - 50 rolls in my entire life to now, is like nothing. I wanted to "finish what i started" many years ago..

Words, words .. few images maybe ?

Well, in order not to duplicate too much here, you can go and see recent film here, here and here ..

What are your reasons if you've gone back to film like me ?


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