Why Shoot 35mm Film in 2019?

Our recent conversations around grain and noise in photographs yielded some interesting offshoot topics.

One of these was around the general standard of digital scans of 35mm film, and how the vast majority of digital images made from film negatives don’t give a fair representation of the high quality possible with film, and just how wonderful film photographs can look.

But is the final image quality possible with film – with professional developing, scanning and printing – a major factor people still use film in 2019? 

Perhaps. In fact certainly, for some.

I haven’t shot a roll of film for two years, but shot hundreds of rolls with at least a hundred cameras in the five years prior to that.

The main reasons I don’t shoot film any longer are the low cost, convenience, and small size of the digital compacts I favour these days.

But if I was going to put up an argument to still shoot 35mm film in 2019, these would be my main points – 

1. To use vintage film cameras.

After exploring perhaps 50 SLRs, my favourites I settled on were the Asahi Spotmatics in M42 mount (specifically the F), the Pentax M range (the ME Super gets most of the limelight but I like the simpler I like the simpler MG and MV just as much and they share 95% of the DNA), and the Contax 139 Quartz.

27455220521_20da345db9_b
Asahi Spotmatic SP with Asahi Super-Takumar 55/1.8 lens

Each of these, but especially the Spotmatic F and Contax 139, are sublime to use, and feel like finely engineered tools of artistry. Which they are!

As much as I love my digital cameras now, they don’t feel anything as good as the glass and metal majesty of these vintage classics. This alone is a fantastic reason to make film photographs.

2. To use vintage film lenses. 

My favourite ever lenses are in M42 mount. Those I still have now pretty much represent my favourites I’ve ever had.

The Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 with its preset aperture, underrated sharpness and swoonsome bokeh.

The Super-Takumar 55mm f/1.8, probably the smoothest lens I’ve ever used, with image quality to match. (In fact I’ve never used a Takumar that wasn’t a joy ).

The Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35mm f/2.4, probably objectively the best performing lens I’ve ever used, combined with a killer close focus of 0.2m.

Well worth a mention are the fantastic Minolta Rokkors. I’ve had a number of 50 and 55mm f/1.4 and f/1.7 lenses that feel almost as good as a Takumar and are pretty much on par in the final image too.

As well as Pentax’s later M and A range of lenses. A Pentax-M 50/1.7 is compact, lovely to use and will deliver time and time again.

There’s no comparison between any of these and the plastic digital lenses of today, especially in physical feel, and the character of the images. It’s an excellent reason to use them with the original film cameras they were made for.

28875784945_565416fe36_b

3. To use film. 

This sounds kind of obvious, but the look of film still has its unique charm. There’s a reason why brands like Fuji have emulations of their own old films in-built with their digital cameras!

Perhaps for me even more than this though is the physical aspect of 35mm film.

Unpacking a box of film, removing the canister and loading it into the camera, winding it on after each shot, rewinding at the end and removing it from the camera like a tiny cylindrical treasure chest of your favourite captured moments yet to be rediscovered. There’s no digital equivalent.

The packaging itself is wonderfully endearing too – the colours, the logos, the typefaces. I can fully understand why some collect vintage film purely for the aesthetics, and with no intention of running it through a camera.

When’s the last time you looked admiringly at the design and charm of the label of an SD card?

4. To slow down.

Everything about film is slower. Loading the film in the camera and winding on after each shot. Composing and focusing with manual focus lenses. Waiting for the results to come back from the lab days, perhaps weeks or months after you first released the shutter.

In today’s instant gratification evolution hyperspeed generation, the slowness and deliberateness of film is not just refreshing, it’s an essential oasis, and a rare and glorious retreat.

27368925781_b24ab54b1d_b

5. To emulate and honour our ancestors. 

Virtually all of us had past members of our family who made photographs. Even if not with any artistic ambition or inclination, we all have photos of us as children, of our parents before we were born, perhaps of their parents and even beyond.

To anyone over about 25, these images were made on film, and for most of the 70s, 80s and 90s this would have almost certainly been 35mm film.

So by using 35mm film yourself today, it follows that lineage, and relies on much the same technology and techniques your ancestors used 30, 40, 50 or more years ago. Especially is you’re using the same cameras and lenses from the period too.

That’s kind of a beautiful tradition to follow.

The fidelity of the final image is only the beginning with film.

And unless you’re planning to use (and pay for) high end professional services to develop, scan and/or print your film photographs, it’s not likely the first reason you’ll use film either.

But one or more of those I’ve suggested above might well be.

How about you? Do you still shoot 35mm film in 2019? What are the three main reasons for you? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

What Next?

Share this post with someone you think will enjoy it using the buttons below.

Read a random post from the archives.

See what I’m up to About Now.

64 thoughts on “Why Shoot 35mm Film in 2019?”

  1. So now I’m an ancestor? *LOL*
    Wholly agree with your points. Everyone should have the opportunity to shoot film just for the experience! Never mind the better functionality of film over digital cameras (just my opinion). I’d love to be able to shoot film again for all the reasons you mention. The closest I can come is getting a DSLR and putting my old M42 lenses on it. It’s very tempting.

    1. Marc, yes I did that for some time – M42 (and many other!) lenses on a Sony NEX, a couple of Sony DSLRs and a couple of Pentax DSLRs.

      It bridges the gap in some way – you use the old lenses and enjoy the wonderful images they’re capable of.

  2. I shoot far more film than digital these days, mostly for the reasons you quote in your post. I’m old enough to have grown up with film being the only option but, to my regret, I wasn’t a photographer back then, so the majority of my photos from the pre-digital age are the usual snapshots that most people took on film back then (and now take with their phones) – and a good number of them came complete with helpful little stickers telling me how to improve my technique.

    A few years ago I noticed that I was trying to get a film look with my digital photos, so decided to try the real thing again. Since then it’s gone from strength to strength (as has my collection of film cameras which began with a simple Olympus Trip and then grew to encompass various rangefinders, SLRs and medium format models).

    I love the tactile nature of film: choosing what to shoot; loading the film; being far more careful about getting it right than I am with digital; winding on after a shot etc. And then the wonderful anticipation that you get while waiting for the results. The convenience of digital is wonderful, and there are many other benefits too, but there’s something about the process of making an analogue photograph that I enjoy so much more.

    1. I think you’ve summed up the experience for many people.

      I also wonder what my photography “journey” would have been like if I was born a generation older.

      By the time I started making intentional photographs (as opposed to family snapshots) it was the mid 2000s and phone cameras, then a Nikon digital compact were my tools.

      30 years previously I might have picked up a used early 70s Spotmatic and Olympus OM and explored from there. Who knows!

      I wrote a post about this last year if you’re interested, and in the (quite extensive!) comments from others –

      https://35hunter.blog/2018/02/18/how-would-your-photography-have-looked-born-a-generation-older/

  3. Hi Dan, I would love to start off by saying “to be honest with you” but normally when someone says that today it means they are lying….So…. to the point…. Its over 35 yrs since I used film… and as sad as that may be… the reality of it is that I probably wont ever do so again…. BUT…. I do seem to find myself looking more and more at film cameras mainly by Nikon,Leica or Canon…. as even today I really can see the appeal to using it… as I do find that in today’s frantic world I am looking for something to make each shot count and can see that because film automatically makes you slow down… it may help with that…. so in answer to your question…. check back in around say 5 yrs and ask me the same question who knows.. I may well be a total film freak by then…hihi…rgds Lynd

  4. As you say Dan, the big draw for me is the wonderful cameras and even more, the lenses. Some of my favorite old lenses, like my few 1950’s Leica lenses just have a certain magic to them. Same with some of my Rollei and Zeiss TLR’s. I can always add sharpness in post, but I can’t add magic. I’ve tried using my old lenses on digital, but can’t seem to focus them reliably.

    1. Hi Jon, yes as you know I’ve used old lenses extensively with digital cameras, but they are harder to focus with DSLRs – the viewfinders just aren’t close to the best film SLR VFs.

      A good option is a mirrorless camera like a NEX or whatever they’re called now or micro four thirds with focus peaking. But it just doesn’t have the same appeal in use as shooting with an SLR with a glorious VF.

  5. Over the last couple of years I’ve shot a lot of film, but less so nowadays.

    When I got into photography properly a few years ago and realised that film photography was still a thing (especially accessible with the old Poundland Agfa Vista) then I really wanted to try an SLR like my Dad had in the 70s and 80s. It was a Ricoh KR10 Super and I was fascinated by it, though rarely allowed to use it!

    So I got into film with vigour and had a succession of fairly manual film cameras, culminating in a lovely Minolta XG1 with a couple of Rokkor lenses. A great combination. I loved the physical and mechanical nature of using cameras like that and developing the images myself. But honestly, the faff of developing and scanning the pictures (especiallly the scanning!) started to wear a little thin and I wasn’t willing to pay the prices necessary to have it all done for me in a pro lab.

    So bit by bit I’ve thinned out my camera collection, but have not given up on film altogether. There is a certain aesthetic with film, especially in colour, which I love but find hard to replicate digitally. In fact I don’t try any more, content to let the aesthetic of digital be its own thing.

    The thing I miss most in film is not any artistic photography per se but rather the old-school feel of family snapshots. Some of my favourite pictures in recent years have been those I shot on 35mm of family parties and Christmas etc.

    A few months back, I read a great article on 35mmc where a guy was extolling the virtues of a simple Canon P&S over cameras many times its price. Here’s a link:

    https://www.35mmc.com/07/12/2018/the-canon-sure-shot-max-eat-your-liver-yaschia-t4-by-mike-caputo/

    Inspired, I parted with the last of my manual cameras and picked up a Canon Sureshot Zoom 65 for a pittance in an online auction. Its a great camera – very simple to use, can be switched on easily with the flash off and (in use as a 38mm prime lens) makes great images. I don’t use it a huge amount but shoot the occasional roll at the right time to keep on making those lovely old school family pictures. Just to keep scratching what’s left of that itch!

    The vast majority of my photography these days is digital, but I guess my top three reasons to love film are:

    1. The aesthetic
    2. The hands on in involvement in making the image and negatives
    3. The tactile mechanics of old cameras

    1. Thanks for your thoughts as always Richard.

      I remember that post on 35MMC at the time, and I’m sure there are hundreds or thousands of people curious about film that think you need an SLR or rangefinder. Anything that makes it more accessible is great – including late era compacts and SLRs that aren’t radically different to the early digital compacts and DSLRs.

      I sold off all but two of my film cameras, and for a long while kept a few like the Olympus Mju and LT-1 and Ricoh R10, pretty much my favourite film compacts I’d found. I do know what you mean about the aesthetic, but I think my view is if you’re going to shoot film, go all in with something like a classic SLR and enjoy the full experience, rather than just using a point and shoot. So I sold them off and kept just the Spotmatic F and Contax 139Q.

  6. Dan,

    This is such a wonderful write-up. Thanks for turning it into a full fledged blog entry.

    I agree hands down with everything you outlined, and I hope this post will inspire others who never have, to try film out in order to see what they’re missing. There are such a multitude of reasons to shoot film that simply can’t be found with digital that I’d be surprised if any photographer who gave it a shot wasn’t sucked in by some facet of it.

    I’m rather technical, so those aspects are important to me. That said, I have no access to a darkroom where I live and no ability to build one. So at the moment I have all my film scanned by consumer labs (pro labs are way too expensive), since using flatbeds simply doesn’t appeal to me or live up to my expectations of film (as I’ve discussed at length). Even then, scans from consumer labs can be a mixed bag, and I am oftentimes disappointed with them as well (sometimes the quality of my negatives is in part to blame, other times the lab just does a poor job). Thus, for the moment, I don’t even feel that I’m getting to see my own images at their best. But, my hope is that eventually I will either gain access to a darkroom (best case scenario) or happen across a working quality scanner from yesteryear (Nikon, Minolta, etc.) for a good price that allows me to produce scans myself that really bring out the unique qualities film has to offer. Until then, I have to severely limit myself on the amount of film I shoot due to the cost of scanning services (which we’ve discussed at great length previously), but I know that my negatives will always be there waiting in their archival sleeves.

    Admittedly, I’m no film expert. I’m not a pro. I’m just an amateur who really loves the medium for what it has to offer both technically and artistically, and because it’s real and tangible (which in my view equates to having true value). I love to learn, and I’m still on a long journey to improve my photography, both in-camera and during developing to achieve better quality negatives. Sadly, that journey frequently seems to be progressing at a snail’s pace since I can’t shoot as much film as I’d like to help me refine my process and learn quicker. I have a long ways to go. Nonetheless, film is a medium I care deeply about, so despite the hurdles (scanning being the big one) I will continue to shoot as much as possible and strive to further my understanding of it.

    I firmly believe film is something all photographers should at least play around with once to see if they also find it to be something truly special, as I have. And their reasons very well may be entirely different than my own. I think that’s just further evidence of how incredible film is.

    Take care!

    1. Thanks P, and for your initial thoughts that inspired this offshoot post.

      Interesting point about value and something being “real and tangible”. I wonder how many people avoid or perhaps somehow distrust digital because they can’t hold it in their hands like a film negative or print?

      I admit myself that digital seems more disposable and easier to delete. I’m not to “spray and pray” dozens of exposures at a time then just keep the best one, to me that’s not photography. But I am more likely to try perhaps two or three different angles with digital that I probably wouldn’t with film, in case I wasted the frames – and all the associated cost and time.

      1. Hi Dan,

        Regarding tangible things having actual value — Can you imagine telling someone a hundred, or even twenty-five years ago that by the second decade of the 21st century people would pay huge amounts of money for — and apply (false) value to — intangible things, things that very literally don’t exist? I imagine they would laugh in our faces, and they would be right to do so. As just one example, why do people today pay more money for cloud-based, highly compressed (i.e. poor quality), digitally licensed music and movies than what actual physical discs oftentimes cost, with vastly superior audio/video quality (effectively lossless these days) and no need for an internet connection to boot? Plus, what happens when a company that manages these digital licenses disappears, is bought out, decides to quit supporting an “outdated” platform, or has a server/storage array malfunction that wipes out people’s licensing information? Obviously, what people “owned” is simply gone, in an instant, and for good. This is already happening. I would argue that with anything that has real, true value this sort of thing simply can’t happen. This in turn means that only tangible, physical items have actual value, and a longevity only limited by how well the owner of these items takes care of them. Music and movies are only one small example of this. Other obvious examples are books (even more disconcerting), photos, video games (okay, maybe video games arguably inherently lack real value in any format, but just like all forms of entertainment, in moderation they can still be enjoyable, as long as they’re not trash), software (in the context of how it’s distributed and licensed), etcetera, etcetera. It applies to so many things in the “digital age.” The list just goes on and on, and sadly seems to be growing at an exponential rate. Why people have so willingly bought into this — literally — is beyond me. Don’t take me the wrong way here. I’m not saying that materialism is good and that the only valuable things in life are material objects. Not at all. But strictly in terms of people’s material possessions, and specifically the topic of photography, if it isn’t tangible, then yes, I am saying it’s value is highly suspect at best. Clearly though, there is such a thing as intangible value, such as knowledge, but that’s an entirely different discussion altogether. However, along that line of thought, I believe digital photography does have real value in its ability to allow people to learn photographic technique by shooting manually and gaining knowledge through experimentation (composition, shutter speeds, apertures, lighting, etc.) with no investment beyond a cheap “outdated” digital camera, a lens, and a memory card. That’s certainly valuable, but even so, what’s the percentage of digital photographers who actually use their equipment in this manner? Out of your followers, probably a ton, but in general my guess would be a tiny fraction.

        I agree. The “spray and pray” approach to photography is just ridiculous. As you said, it’s not really photography. I even find the continuous shooting modes of later-era film cameras to be nothing shy of laughable. In some ways I wish I could shoot digital cameras with the same slow, deliberate, thoughtful approach I take to film photography, the way you seem to be able to. But I can’t, at least not entirely, as it just doesn’t work for me. And even if it did, I’m still left with nothing real (again, physical/tangible) to show for it (i.e. my negatives). Sure, I could print everything I like, but in my opinion that’s a very poor substitute for actual film stored properly using archival materials (ensuring they last for a long, long time), not to mention incredibly expensive if high quality prints are desired. At the end of the day I just feel like any and all time spent making digital “photographs” is, for me at least, a complete waste of my time. It’s not at all rewarding, no doubt because I don’t feel that I’ve created anything of value. And yes, this even extends to film scanning and editing those scans, which goes back to many of our previous discussions (I won’t rehash them here).

        All of this ties directly into your follow-up post (“The High Definition Hypnosis”) regarding the “need” many seem to have for the latest and greatest digital camera (and everything else) to hit the market every few months. Sure, for many, especially younger photographers (born in the 90’s or later), it is just a sad product of people falling prey to mass consumerism, another thing that if presented to a person a hundred years ago would no doubt baffle them with its absurdity. But with regards to your discussion on people trying to eliminate imperfection from their photography, specifically digital, I actually think there is a deeper issue here. I believe a lot of digital photographers recognize, whether consciously or not, that there is something “wrong” or “missing” with the medium, and through new cameras with better sensors and image processing they are seeking to “fix” this, even if they don’t know what “it” is. Arguably, what is missing is actually precisely what film is. Digital photography, after all, is and always has been nothing more than an attempt to replicate the true, analog medium: film. Since it is an impossibility for it to ever fully achieve this task, it means this will just go on indefinitely. This doesn’t just apply to photography, but to every digital format out there that is nothing but an attempted replication through digital sampling of the real deal, be it photography, audio, video, etc. Sure, digital photography has picked up some cool tricks along the way, specifically with regards to shooting in low-light situations, but I have to wonder if the same advancements wouldn’t have been achieved (i.e. reducing granularity of very high speed film emulsions) if the development of technology behind high ASA film stocks hadn’t effectively come to an end in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. Wouldn’t it be something if film R&D had continued full-force, and yielded emulsions with true speeds of 3200, 6400, or even higher when developed properly, but that had apparent grain comparable to the noise present at equivalent ISO’s in the images produced by today’s best digital cameras?

        Now, regarding your discussion on photographers trying to eliminate imperfection from their work, I would say that artistically speaking, especially in the context of traditional artistic mediums (real/tangible), “perfection” and “imperfection” are entirely subjective. But from a technical perspective, and specifically addressing the topic of digital noise, this is not simply an imperfection, but a legitimate problem, one that really does need to be eliminated as much as possible. Again, whereas the organic nature of film is actually pleasing to one’s senses and can add greatly to the aesthetic of a film photograph if so desired, digital noise does not and cannot do the same for digital “photographs” (one could easily argue a photograph has to be printed, hence the quotes). Once more, it’s not called “noise” without reason. It’s aggravating and unpleasant, just as all noise is by definition. Perhaps getting people to recognize this, especially if they’re younger and were born after the start of the digital age, is a lost cause. After all, tons of people now literally listen to audio noise and consider it to be music (I’m not talking about you as I seriously doubt what you listen to is what I’m talking about). And regardless of what they think consciously, their bodies actually don’t find this noise pleasant at all. There are plenty of studies on this topic. So I don’t really know what you do with that… But for those digital photographers who buy new camera bodies in an attempt to mitigate image noise, I get it. If I cared about digital photography, and had the means, I would do exactly the same thing. For anyone who is older than the onset of digital photography, it should be immediately recognizable to them that sensor design and image processing techniques have not only sought to shrink the noise levels present in digital images, but they’ve also evolved in such a manner as to mimic the organic nature of film grain as closely as possible. This is no accident. Ultimately, this has culminated into what we see today, with digital cameras (and post-processing) software having built-in film presets. It’s almost laughable when you really sit down and think about it.

        But I’ll wrap it up there. And for anyone who actually took the time to read all the way through this, thank you!

      2. P, thanks as always for your thoughtful response. I couldn’t resist pasting your reply into Word to see the word count, and at 1400+ words it’s longer than most of my blog posts. 🙂

        On to the topics…

        I remember the whole outcry when mp3 music files were first appearing and how much lower quality they were compared with CDs, which themselves many argued were inferior to vinyl records… The same digital versus analogue argument can be applied across a whole range of media and formats.

        I do have mixed feelings about it. I do really enjoy the digital cameras I have, and the images are fine for my needs – in digital and print form. But yes I love old film cameras too, and the whole tactile aspect of the equipment and the canisters of film, then looking at the negatives afterwards.

        With books I can’t bring myself to read a “proper” book in digital form, though I do read a fair bit online in the form of blogs etc. Again I love the physical and tactile aspect of a book, the texture, the scent, the weight, how the pages wear and yellow over time, and so on.

        It’s hard to feel romantic or nostalgic about digital devices and formats.

        I think an offshoot effect of this is people value digital files (and devices) less. They all feel more disposable. If you buy a book or a CD or a roll of film it has some physical presence and value that something that’s an intangible digital file can’t really communicate to us.

        This diposable perception I think then feeds the rate at which people shoot – 1000s of photos per session, because their camera can and “storage is so cheap these days”. But who wants to store 1000s of junk images? It’s like buying a massive house then filling half of the rooms with disposable cutlery and plastic plates.

        Maybe it’s this that’s at the root of why many of us don’t connect with all aspects of digital in the same way as analogue.

        I would say I still take a few more images with a digital camera compared with film. But it is comparable. Over an hour or two photowalk I might have used two 36exp rolls of film, and with digital I might shoot 50 – 75 images. But the process of composing is much the same – I don’t fire off seven near identical shots of the same thing just because my camera can do that in a fraction of a second. It’s more a mindset and measured approach I think rather than the gear being used.

        On noise, perhaps because, whilst I grew up in the film era, I didn’t start deliberate photography until the mid 2000s with camera phones, then a Nikon compact, before I tried film, so I accept digital noise more than someone for whom film was the norm for years, even decades.

        To be honest I find overly sharp, clinical, saturated digital images far more offensive to the eye than those with a little noise.

        But again it’s down to one’s personal needs, I only need images good enough to view on perhaps a 15” screen and print to 8×6 without having noise that detracts from the image. If I was making billboard size posters obviously my favoured equipment would be inadequate for the expectations of that format and the flaws be magnified.

        Finally yes it is ironic that cameras now come with film presets built in, and even become a significant factor in why people choose certain brands. I’m thinking of the Fuji X cameras for example where I’ve heard so many people say they love them for the film emulations based on old FujiFilm emulsions and the styling and design of the cameras based on 50s and 60s rangefinders…

      3. Hi Dan,

        Sorry for the slow reply.

        Haha, 1400+ words… Oh my! I told you so — I often feel like I’m writing blog posts in reply to your blog posts, instead of mere comments. I do apologize if they ever eat up too much of your time. Feel free to ignore me anytime you need/want to!

        Regarding your statement about finding “overly sharp, clinical, saturated digital images far more offensive to the eye than those with a little noise.” Yes, I agree entirely. And this is the other side to the whole discussion about the “fake” nature of digital images, and also why I’ve grown to dislike digital photography more and more over the years. Not only are they literally fake in the sense that they don’t physically exist (back to the whole discussion of value), but more often than not they also look entirely fake for the reasons you outlined here. A “good” digital image is, in my view, one that decently replicates the organic appearance of film. The irony is that as digital cameras have become more competent in this regard, it seems that people’s images (not all, but mostly) have gone the other direction. For me, all the trillions of overly-sharpened, over-saturated, totally unnatural looking digital images out there are not only bad images, they are quite simply, as you put it, “offensive.” (On a side note, I sadly even find that most lab scans of film are way over-sharpened, seriously degrading, or even outright ruining, the image.) I do my best to avoid them, but given that they seem to be everywhere these days (not just online, but on billboards, product packaging, marketing advertisements everywhere you look, etc.) it’s rather difficult. It’s as if everyone has watched one too many episodes of CSI Miami, and no longer pays any attention to what the real world actually looks like. It’s actually a bit disturbing.

        I could write a lot more about the other topics at hand, but I’ll wrap it up to avoid posting another book in your comments section (or have I already?).

        Take care, Dan!

        P.S. Believe it or not, I think you’re the only digital photographer I presently follow. Please take that as a compliment, as it speaks directly to the fact that you are one of very few out there making digital images that I don’t find offensive.

      4. P, no worries, I like your expansive thoughts, and I’m grateful for your presence here.

        I guess when digital began, its main aim was to emulate film, plus offer benefits of speed, cost and convenience. This was true for the photographers who were early adopters of digital cameras and were used to the look of film and craved some consistency in their work, and for the manufacturers who wanted to sell their new digital cameras to photographers raised on film, and make the transition (and the purchase!) as seamless as possible.

        It’s no coincidence that many of the early DSLRs from Pentax, Canon, Minolta etc were essentially the same bodies as their last line of 35mm film cameras, but with a sensor and more electronics inside, instead of the film chamber.

        Over time, digital has had a chance to find its way and its voice, and stand alone as a medium in its own right. This means that many photographers have moved away from trying to emulate the look of film and have explored other looks that digital can provide that film couldn’t.

        As we’ve both said, many of the HDR overly sharpened over saturated, almost plastic looking images are offensive to the eyes. In our personal opinion. Not just because they may have failed to emulate film (which is our aim and hope for the images after all, not the photographer’s, whose mission is likely to be far from this), but because they just don’t look aesthetically appealing to us in any way. Put another way, they look fake, like you said.

        (Whether digital is “fake” because it doesn’t exist as a physical entity is a complex argument, because most film image we see these days are digital scans, not the original negatives or prints made from negatives).

        Add into this the rise and evolution of photography software. Even many who shoot film choose to then process it extensively via digital software, something not possibly really (at least not at home) 20 or more years ago.

        I think this might be a bigger factor here actually P. Most digital images don’t come out of the photographer’s camera looking like they do when they’re finally shared online. So the sharpening, colour shifts, effects et al are intentionally added to the basic image, as if the camera produce a simple vase of grey clay and the processing adds colours, varnish, decoration, a handle even, etc.

        I know there are many who love processing, and indeed this is a whole other hobby and art form almost separate from photography (which I’d define simply as getting out exploring and making pictures with a camera). I’m not one who enjoys processing, but it’s the way the world is now with the plethora of software available and, really, infinite scope to digitally alter virtually any image in any way.

        I know you take issue with the general standard of film scanning, but the above is why when I was shooting film I just focused on enjoying the photography part (getting out exploring and making pictures with a camera) and left the developing, scanning and processing entirely to the lab. I just wasn’t interested in spending time on a computer doing it myself (the scanning and processing) and found the infinite possibilities overwhelming. I prefer things to be simpler, as I’ve written about in various ways.

        Hence my ongoing hunt for cameras that give me images I love straight out of camera, side stepping the entire processing, er, process.

        Thanks re my photos, I’ll take the back handed compliment! (I imagined being on a date with someone and saying “I don’t find you offensive” and how that would go down, ha ha!)

      5. Dan,

        First off, thanks for your kind comments. It’s so rare to be able to write anything longer than two sentences these days and actually have somebody appreciate it, or even read it for that matter. It’s refreshing.

        Regarding my compliment, please don’t take it as being back-handed. It wasn’t meant to be. Rather, it was meant as a legitimate compliment. Like I’ve said before (infrequently, I admit), I’m not totally against digital photography; I just have serious concerns about how I feel most people are using it, the way it has negatively impacted photography as a whole based on my own personal observations (specifically as a traditional art form), and as stated I really don’t care for the fact it’s intangible by default. But used correctly, it can have merit. I see such merit in your work, whereas I don’t in most.

        Outside of the capabilities of digital in low light situations (very useful, I admit), I really don’t see that digital has managed to do anything that film couldn’t (and given twenty more years of engineering, I bet film could’ve done that too). If we’re talking about all the unrealistic, unnatural, “plastic” looking images as being “new” things that film couldn’t do, well, film could have done those things too. But thankfully the engineers at Kodak (et. al) were focused on reproducing images in an organically pleasing nature, and not making people’s eyes bleed. But even then, if people had darkrooms with color equipment (analogous to color digital post-processing today) they could do just about anything to a color image they wanted to, even in line with what people do today (shy of producing awful digital artifacts). Thankfully, back then, most people didn’t do terrible things to images because what’s the point in making something visual that’s unpleasant to look at? I know, being “art” there’s a certain level of subjectivity involved. But still, some things are just simply “offensive to the eyes,” as we’ve discussed.

        You said: “Most digital images don’t come out of the photographer’s camera looking like they do when they’re finally shared online.” You then rightfully pointed out it’s all the post-processing that makes these images look as they do. I agree with you. And that was the point I was trying to make when I stated how ironic it was that as digital cameras have become better at mimicking the nature of film, people have proceeded to ruin that quality with post-processing and taken things in the opposite direction. I can only imagine this is much to the dismay of the engineers designing today’s sensors and the in-camera image processing code.

        Yes, post-processing is effectively a hobby and discipline entirely separate from photography (if one chooses for it to be). It might surprise you to know that once home PC’s became powerful enough (kind of, at least — laughable by today’s standards) to actually use in this regard, one of my primary hobbies was graphic design/image processing. I spent many years and probably thousands of hours creating and editing digital images. This was pretty early in the digital craze, and I was genuinely interested. Even going back to the Windows 95 era, the first time I saw someone playing around in Microsoft Paint I was absolutely fascinated by it, and the possibilities of what even such a basic piece of graphic design software could allow. But eventually I got tired of all of it, started to look back at all my efforts, and came to the unsettling realization that after so much time and effort spent, all I had was bits of data floating around across a bunch of hard drives, CD’s, etc. Another one of my hobbies that I also invested tremendous time into was programming. Again, what was I left with in the end? Same thing… Prior to the digital age my primary hobbies were drawing (graphite, charcoal, and pastels mainly) and painting (oil and acrylic). Guess what? I still have most of that stuff. Maybe that will help provide some context to these discussions.

        I have one quick thing to say on the question of whether digital images are “fake” simply because they’re not a physical entity, and your comment that most film images these days are also only ever seen digitally, as film scans. Yes, that is entirely true. But, and here’s the critical part, the “real” images in the form of negatives still exist, physically, in the actual, tangible world (just like a charcoal sketch or an oil painting on canvas). I don’t apply any real value to film scans because yeah, they’re fake digital reproductions of the real deal. I do, however, apply real value to my negatives, because, well, they are real, plain and simple. If I had a darkroom, I wouldn’t care at all about scanning (or I’d just easily scan my actual prints). Sadly that’s just not feasible at this point in time, but hopefully someday that’ll change. Until then, film scanning is a necessary thing, even if everything about it is frustrating beyond reason, regardless of whether it’s done by a lab or at home. And you already know my extensive opinions on that topic.

        By the way, the fact that you don’t post-process your images to death is probably one of the main reasons why I enjoy them. That, and the fact I genuinely get a sense of the time and effort you put into creating pleasing images in-camera. Your approach is the very opposite of “spray and pray” followed by horrendous levels of post-processing. I not only respect that, but I can see it in your work. It stands out because of it. And I know that for you, it’s mostly the experience of taking photos that provides the true value, and in that case the intangible nature of digital is arguably irrelevant because it’s not the image itself providing the value anyways; it’s the process. I get that. But I’m not entirely like that. For me, the value of photography is pretty much an even split between the process and the created thing that comes out of it (i.e. the image itself). So if that image isn’t tangible, then I feel like I’m missing half of what I set out to accomplish, and thus in a sense failed. But that’s just me. If all digital shooters were like you, and took your approach, I honestly would not have issues with it. But again, you’re a rarity.

        Finally, regarding simplicity, I actually agree with you entirely. Give me a 1960s SLR (even one without a light meter), a manual-focus prime lens, and a roll of B&W film, and I’m happy. Hopefully the length of my responses hasn’t portrayed the idea that I enjoy needless complexity. I don’t (I’m just long-winded). I firmly believe the best things in life are simple. In fact, most everything I’ve written is really just a discussion about the needless complexity that exists today regarding all aspects of photography.

        Well, I wrote another book…

      6. Hi P,

        Thanks for the latest chapter. This is what blogging is about for me, a platform for this kind of discussion and exchange of ideas. It’s the antithesis of Instragam etc with likes and two word comments and strings of silly emoticons… So write on!

        Ah I know it was a legitimate compliment, thank you, I was just teasing.

        Everyone’s a photographer these days, just like everyone’s a writer, publisher, etc. Technology plus connectivity has made it all possible.

        Inevitably with such an opening of floodgates, not everyone is going to have the same talent, needs, standards, requirements or taste. I wrote before about how the internet has “ruined” photography, in that we are all so saturated in mediocre images, we no longer know how to find work that is truly special.

        If your own view of photography as “a traditional art form” in the past had been based on seeing every throwaway snapshot everyone made on their Brownie/Polaroid/Instamatic/etc, then you would have found a similar dilution of “quality” photography, or more simply just photographs that we connect with and enjoy in some way.

        But 30 years ago we didn’t have access to all the photos made by everyone, every day.

        Today, with Instagram et al, we do. If we choose to use those apps.

        This is a major reason I started delving seriously into photography books for the first time, only perhaps eighteen months ago. Because I was finding less and less I liked online, and I didn’t have the time and energy to wade through oceans of mediocre images in the hope of find the occasional treasure lurking on the ocean floor.

        I wonder too if the proliferation of highly processed digital images is simply because people can do this now. We have the technology, and we’re not afraid to use it!

        In the 80s and 90s, image editing software was far more primitive and limited. Now look at what you can do with Photoshop, Lightroom et al. I think perhaps many people just get software like this for the first time and party like a kid in a sweet shop, trying a little taste of every last option available to them. After all, how would know if you liked cola cubes more than pear drops or lemon sherberts, if you don’t try them both?

        But for me the cognitive (over)load of so many choices means I shy away from it. I ditched LightRoom and now I’m happy with my simple Snapseed b/w process that just nudges the contrast and brightness and makes it look (to me) much more appealing than the image straight out of camera. I’m even happier when a camera does this for me with an in-built dynamic mono mode or similar, like my Pentax Q or Lumix LX3. Each to their own.

        Probably 98% of my written words are typed, I only write by hand for a few things at work and the occasional shopping list or greetings card at home. But I never find myself typing and enjoying the process much on a physical level, delighting at how my fingers feel bashing the cheap grubby plastic of my Dell keyboard (at work). My MacBook feels far nicer to use, granted, but it’s still a means to an end, a conduit for communication.

        But I still love using a pencil to write or draw, just the feeling, the sound, the way the thickness and darkness of the lines vary depending on the subtlety of pressure you apply…

        I often colour (with felt tip pens) with our kids, and again it’s a satisfying tactile experience. I couldn’t ever get that from playing around in Microsoft Paint or anything else on a computer.

        What’s also come to mind is exercise classes over here that are popular where people get on exercise bikes in a dark room with pounding dance music, flashing neon lights and a screen in front of them with a simulated road. My goodness how this is the complete antithesis of what cycling is to me and how I enjoy the freedom of the outdoors, the wind in my hair, the peacefulness!

        There’s a connection here too with using a smart phone to photograph versus a dedicated camera. The former, for me, is nearly always a means to end – to have a picture of what’s in front of me.

        Whereas with cameras, the experience, the feeling and so on play a major part in the overall appeal and enjoyment.

        I think many would probably read about my preference of JPEGs and getting images straight out of camera, and dismiss me as an amateur, lazy, or both.

        But as you’ve recognised (thank you!), time has been invested in finding cameras that I can set up to give me this, and then setting them up to give me what I like.

        I don’t just grab any old camera, stick on full Auto and spray away. The whole approach is considered and thought out, and optimising both my enjoyment, and my chances of creating a few keepers along the way I’m proud to share.

        I wrote about this before previously, see below –

        https://35hunter.blog/2018/05/04/irreversible-photography-where-the-work-begins/

        Thanks again P.

      7. Thanks, Dan. In that case, I will indeed try to continue to “write on.” I feel very fortunate to have found your blog, and have thoroughly enjoyed all the discussions we’ve had so far.

        I’m not going to respond to every new topic you brought up (at least I’ll try not to!), but I will say that I’m pretty much in agreement with you across the board. I will comment on a few of your thoughts though.

        With regards to my prior discussion of photography as a traditional art form, I was in no way including snapshots in the equation, even film snapshots. Snapshots are snapshots, and I have no problem with them in any format or in any quantity. I have no expectation of them being works of art. That said, I don’t understand why everyone posts all their snapshots all over the web. Are snapshots not by their very nature a personal thing? Why put them online? But back to photography as a traditional art form, back in the day, using film, if you wanted to excel at photography as art, you had to actually know what you were doing and have true talent. This took time and legitimate effort to develop. A person’s diligence, passion, and raw talent could be seen and felt in the photos they produced. The same is true with all traditional art forms, whether it be film photography, oil painting, watercolors, charcoal drawing, pastels, printmaking, ceramics, etcetera. The list goes on and on. And there’s a common thread here: all of these art forms are tangible. “Traditional” means tangible. It means the original, unadulterated, physical process. Something was made by a person’s own two hands. Back then, you couldn’t fake talent and/or expertise in these fields, period. Today, with technology, the internet, and people placing false value on a bunch of intangible stuff that literally doesn’t even exist in the real world, photography (as well as all the other mediums mentioned, and a million others) has been overtaken by a bunch of people who quite literally know nothing about the photographic process, and have no respect for it. Nor do they care to learn as that would require too much effort for them. They just know they did a search for “this or that” online, changed their digital camera settings to match what someone else said was good, set to “auto basically everything,” spray away, and afterwards follow whatever popular internet tutorial is making the rounds “teaching” everyone how to post-process the few images they got lucky with. Then they think they’re experts creating art. In my opinion, this has trashed the medium. The same goes for basically all other traditional mediums that have been “replaced” by digital (fake) versions. I’m generalizing, of course. There are people who use digital tools and technology who don’t fit in this category, like yourself, and actually create interesting things, but I think they’re very few and far between.

        Since people spend so much time being entertained today, here’s an example that will perhaps resonate with some: Can anyone honestly say that they’ve ever gone to a theater and seen a digitally generated animation, digitally projected onto the screen, that could even come close to matching the awe and wonder evoked by watching a hand drawn animation, printed and projected on film? Or has everyone old enough to remember the difference forgotten? I severely miss film projection in movie theaters. It just isn’t the same. Even things like Pixar movies (which are obviously digitally created), when they were projected on film, just had a quality that’s now lost.

        Yes, the internet has ruined so many things, not just photography. Sadly, most people born in the last twenty years or so will never be able to understand this, because they never knew the world back when everything in it was actually real, and as such most everything had a lot more true value.

        You may have already (I’ll have to search), but it would be great to see a post outlining some of your photography book recommendations. I’ve been reading a lot of old technical photography materials over the past couple of years, but haven’t looked at very many highlighting the actual works of photographers.

        I should clarify that while my interest in graphic design/image processing/etcetera began in the 90’s, I continued heavily with this hobby until the mid-to-late 2000’s. So I wasn’t only doing things when they were extremely primitive. I used a tremendous number of different pieces of software over the years, everything from MS Paint, Paint Shop Pro (both under Jasc and Corel), Macromedia’s stuff (before they were bought by Adobe and absorbed into their suite), Adobe’s suite itself, and many others, including about a million open source packages. I was fortunate enough to have access to all the Macromedia and Adobe software while I was in school since the school licensed it, allowing me to spend a great deal of time playing with and learning it. But afterwards, when I no longer had access, I gravitated much more towards open source options because the cost of Adobe’s suite was simply unaffordable. Plus, I had already experimented with a lot of open source software and I could do most everything with it that I could with the expensive commercial stuff. Today, for post-processing my film scans (a necessary, but not at all enjoyable process) I primarily use darktable and GIMP, but there are plenty of other useful open source packages as well, such as Image Magick, an extremely powerful command line image processing tool. So, in case I was unclear, I wasn’t only into this hobby during its primitive years. It was very well-developed by the time I got tired of it and quit doing a whole lot with it. And I have kept up with new developments since, just out of curiosity. To be honest, other than RAW processing and higher bit-depths gaining wider support, not much has changed in the past decade as far as I can tell. There are a lot more gimmicky bells and whistles (e.g. filters galore) and certain actions have been simplified, but not much in the way of revolutionary advancements. Even things like HDR or image stacking were not really anything new when they started becoming a big deal. These techniques were being employed long before by people with know-how. Regarding the ease of use of software tools, yes, they’ve become easier to use, but once again, all that’s really done is make everyone think they’re an expert. The percentage of quality artwork, in my opinion and based on my own observations, has diminished greatly as technology and such has “advanced.” As one has gone up, the other has gone down. I’m not an expert, and I know that. I don’t pretend to be. But I do hope that when people see things I’ve created, be it a photograph or something else, they’ll at least be able to get a sense of the thought, time, and effort involved and not just dismiss it as quickly as they saw it. That’s what I strive for.

        That’s awesome that you color with your kids!

        The whole idea of riding a stationary bike indoors, in a dark room, staring at a monitor, with noise (I mean “music”) blasting, and lights flashing is so absurd I don’t even have a response to it. Well, I do, but I’ll just say that I’m in agreement with you. There are few things as special as riding around on a real bike, enjoying nature.

        The irreversible photography post was interesting. Thanks. Since I shoot film, of course I have to consider how I’m going to develop the film afterwards as well. But in a similar manner I’m also trying to achieve the best exposure possible in-camera, resulting in a nice negative, and ultimately a nice scan/print.

      8. Yes, the internet has been the great equaliser, making all kinds of “art” forms available to the masses. What it can’t equalise is talent. Anyone can improve, but you have to have a certain amount of talent in the first place I think.

        I have really mixed views. I love the democracy and opportunity of the internet, but the ever expanding mass of mediocrity we have to wade through to find anything meaningful.

        We still need curators we can trust to light the way.

        Regarding books, I haven’t read a great deal of photography books but I do have an ongoing series here –

        https://35hunter.blog/tag/books-before-gear/

      9. Dan,

        Don’t get me wrong, I think the internet can be a great tool for learning and communicating. After all, without it this conversation wouldn’t be taking place. But, I think the internet has created a new mentality in the world that is, simply put, extremely detrimental to all of us. And the issue of this “internet mentality” extends way beyond what is done on the internet, and that’s the truly disturbing part.

        Regarding needing curators for content online, I actually don’t think we need that. At all. In fact, I think that’s also a very dangerous thing, but is a discussion well outside the context of photography. The fact of the matter is that content that is mediocre has and will always exist, in every format imaginable, whether a photo, a book, a painting, or anything else. The difference is that while mediocrity didn’t used to be typically celebrated (before the internet, especially 50+ years ago), it now is. And it has progressed to the point that the vast majority of younger people appear to feel entitled to others celebrating the mediocrity of their “work.” They can’t tolerate any criticism whatsoever, even in the form of constructive and positive feedback. Constructive and positive feedback should be desired, so that people can grow (I certainly welcome it). But the net effect of all this is that we have a society seemingly unable to distinguish between things of true value and things that are frankly trash (again, I’m not only referring to photography). This isn’t because of a lack of curation; it’s largely a byproduct of the (wrong) mentality created by the internet as a whole. Extending beyond this, people are also losing the ability to separate what’s fake from what’s real, and that is even more disconcerting.

        The value of a thing used to stand on its own merits, and was instantly recognizable. And people used to aid each other by offering legitimately helpful positive feedback and constructive comments/advice. And this was appreciated. This still happens, but it’s becoming more and more rare, at an exponential rate. This further fuels a lack of growth and advancement in one’s work, and in turn adds to the mediocrity of everything, the celebration of it, and the absurd notion that everyone is entitled to the praise of others.

      10. P, there’s little I can disagree with!

        The main concern for me is that younger people are not being “trained” for want of a better word, to have some kind of taste or discernment. Every new film or album or camera is “awesome” and yesterday’s are forgotten.

        (Perhaps this is one driving motivation for me playing with older cameras, to show that they are not junk just because they’ve been superceded a few times.)

      11. Dan,

        Have you seen The Lego Movie? … “Everything is Awesome!”

        Sorry, I couldn’t resist. That’s what I thought of when I read your reply. Haha!

  7. I love shooting with the Rollei 35 S. All the reasons you’ve said. The solid feel of the metal. The weight of the camera. I like that I have to zone focus. Even moving the aperture and speed to get the meter needle lined up. It’s a process.

    But you didn’t mention to anticipation and surprise when the scans land in my inbox. (I send the film out for developing and scanning).

    I always drop what I’m doing to see what I got.

    My next project might be to find the cameras that some of the great journalists used in the past. Maybe some of the nikkons from the Vietnam War? I’ll go get those and shoot them….

    I do love my fuji x100f for its acros.

    1. Yes I did overlook that anticipation aspect. The highs and lows as you browse through the scans and see how well (or not!) the photographs have come out.

      Have you shot Acros film? Is it like the X100F emulation?

  8. I started photography as a teenager in the seventies. Obviously with film (and my own darkroom); until I bought my first digital compact in 2004 I had no alternative. Today, as photo makers, we are very privileged with all the choices we have. Film is still available, digital has many different options, and camera phones have added a new dimension to photography. No need to pigeonhole yourself by a specific format or genre.

    Having said that – as I mentioned in earlier comments: for me, gear should not be the starting point, but the photos you want to take. So what could be a reason to shoot film in 2019? If you like night photography, then CineStill film might be a revelation compared to digital (for me, it was). Or you take documentary photos and you like edgy and raw images with some imperfections, then buy a plastic Holga for $20 and experiment. Etcetera. Don’t shoot film for the sake of shooting film. Don’t make things complicated just to make it complicated. At least, that’s my experience – Dan, I know you have a somewhat reverse “strategy”, experimenting with cameras to find out what kind of photography you like.

      1. How does a beginner know though? Especially if they’ve not seen many photographs made by others?

        What if you enjoy making photographs but you don’t know what your genre or style is?

        I think everyone has to start somewhere, then over time you try different equipment and different subject matter and see which brings most satisfaction.

        Same with any art form I think, it takes time to find your own voice. Perhaps decades!

      2. Of course, beginners have to start somewhere. I just think “somewhere” should not be an advanced tool. I always advise beginners to take a lot of pictures with the simplest camera available (today most likely the phone they already own). In this way you’ll find the limits you encounter (not close enough, too slow, problems in low light) and which other type of camera could solve those problems.

        And people no longer looking at photos of others to find what they (don’t) like is a sad development. Newcomers are too much led by Instagram influencers, YouTube vloggers and gear/brand obsessed bloggers – instead of exploring styles and creativity. It saves a lot of money (and frustration) when you first set your photographic priorities, and only then invest in tools.

      3. Absolutely agree, start with a simple camera until you find that it can’t do things you want it to. Then figure out if you just need to read the manual (quite likely with a DSLR) or you need a different camera and/or lens to achieve what you want.

    1. That is a great point Robert, that we are so spoilt for choice – with film and digital. There are more cameras available to us today (new and used) that ever before and this is multiplying daily.

      I think everyone has to start somewhere, you can’t as a beginner have an ideal vision of how you want your photographs to look.

      The more you shoot, the more you learn, and the more subtleties you discover.

      Then the challenge becomes finding the equipment and process and results that are “good enough”, to just get on and enjoy shooting, without constantly trying to perfect every last detail and being repeatedly disappointed.

  9. I shoot film for most of the reasons you listed, but lately feel like it’s not worth the extra effort and expense for me, so will probably be transitioning back to full digital. I know, I’ve said this before…. If anyone wants some film, I have SO MUCH in my fridge that I’m not shooting. Maybe I’ll list it for sale on my blog (I don’t use ebay anymore)

    1. Mel, does have so much film put an unnecessary pressure on you to shoot more when you perhaps don’t want to?

      I just wonder if you only had say a dozen rolls of film, and only one or two emulsions, you might be happier shooting a roll as and when you feel like it?

      I think I’m probably projecting some of my own experience here. I hated having 50 cameras and literally hundreds of rolls of film in the freezer, and knowing that even in four or five years I wouldn’t properly get through them all.

      1. It’s possible, never really thought about it! Will be interesting to see what happens when I sell some rolls. I’ve had a few that have been knocking about in my flat since well into last year, and I know I will never get around to shooting them.

      2. Let me know when you get the ones for sale organised (I set up a temporary “for sale” page on my blog, as you know, because you bought some film from it!) and I’ll send out a post here to my readers.

  10. I’ve been shooting film for over ten years now and I agree with all of these. I can’t fully articulate why I myself still prefer film, but the closest I can get is simply by saying “film is more interesting”.

    Saying that, I was looking through my photos from 2011 just the other day, where I shot over 6,000 images with my first interchangeable digital camera – a Panasonic GF1 which I see you are also having a brief affair with. I took some of my favourite shots, and had some of the most fun I’ve had in photography with that camera.

    I think I also knew less, technically, which meant I got less caught up on things…

    1. Darcy, thanks for your thoughts.

      The Lumix GF1 I still have mixed feelings about. It’s a lovely camera, capable of excellent results, makes excellent b/w images straight out of camera, and allows me to use my old M42 lenses as well as a modern AF lens if/when I want to.

      But I don’t know, it just seems overkill when my much smaller Lumix LX3 delivers just as well and is more fun to use.

      Interesting thoughts around being more technically knowledgeable now. I do sometimes reminisce fondly about my early days when I used nothing but a humble 3 or 5MP phone camera and did nothing more than take the photographs then download them to my computer and share them.

      I just said in another comment, the more we know, the more options we have available, but then the challenge becomes finding that balance, and making photographs that are good enough without obsessing over the last few percent of improvement and never being satisfied.

  11. Hi Dan,

    You asked for three reasons I use film: (1) I like old 35mm cameras, (2) I like my hybrid film/scan/inkjet process, (3) I like the final product – the prints.

    A recurring theme in the arguments against film is the tedium of scanning. When I returned to film I started having my negatives scanned by Walgreens. When the quality of their scans deteriorated I tried some of the usual mail order places. The quality ranged from OK to very good, but the cost quickly became prohibitive. I tried a CanoScan flatbed scanner. It lowered the scanning cost but the quality for 35mm wasn’t there and it was very slow. An Epson V700 and then a borrowed Plustek 8100 improved the quality but both were still painfully slow. Finally, I started experimenting with “scanning” my negatives with a digital camera. It’s a long story, but after several years and number of false starts and dead ends I can finally “scan” a 24-exposure roll of film in less than 5 minutes and the quality is at least as good as the best commercial scans I’ve had done.

    1. I think you’ve really found the holy grail with scanning Doug! I read so many blog posts and replies about the tedium and frustration of home scanning versus the expense of commercial scans…

      1. My approach certainly works for me, but there’s a caveat. It works better with cubic grain b&w film like Tri-X-X than it does with tabular grain b&w film like T-Max, in that the grain in an inkjet print looks more like the grain in a darkroom print. And, most important, it doesn’t work at all with color negative film. Others “scanning” with digital cameras have worked out various approaches to removing the orange mask in the scans and achieving a good color balance but none that I have tried produce as good a result color-wise as my old scans of the same negatives with a CanoScan 8800 flatbed scanner. But I haven’t shot any color negative film in over ten years and I have usable scans of all of my existing negatives so it’s a non-issue for me.

      2. In a different way, I’ve found – and continue to find – colour photography is so much more difficult to get satisfying results with.

  12. I shoot film in 2019 for many of the reasons you say. I’d sum it up in 3 statements:
    1. permanence – negatives are always there, they don’t become outdated, they aren’t lost when your computer inevitably dies, they are tangible.
    2. Challenge – I like the challenge of film. Getting that good image is harder with film, and often requires more thought and knowledge. I’m in it for the exhilaration of opening the film lab package in the mail.
    3. I love old cameras. The feel of the mechanics, the heft of metal, the cool ideas like a half frame 35mm camera.
    And , finally, I know I said 3, and now its 4, I shoot film for that look that is unique to film, it’s imperfection, the warm tones, the natural grain.
    I like my full frame Nikon, but I love my FM. I’ll shoot with me too!t digital mostly when I go to Yosemite in October, so I know I get the shot after traveling all the way there, but I will have my film equipment with me too!

    Marty Cutrone

    1. Thanks for your input Marty. Do you usually take film and digital on the same trip, using digital as a back up?

      The permanence issue is interesting, and of course in theory as scanning technology improves, negatives from decades ago can be given new life.

      1. I usually do take film and digital on the same trip, and do use digital as a check on lighting, exposure, composition. The permanence thing is important to me. I’ve lost digital files through unexplained equipment failure, and recently I found some old slides in my Dad’s desk drawer. Slides of me and my sisters, 40-50 years old. They were floating in the drawer, not in a box, and it took me all of 5 min to scan and brighten them, and they’re as good as new! This experience just brought it all home to me. I’ve tried going all digital, and I’m happy with the images, but it just doesn’t give me the same thrill. Oh well, I’ll keep struggling with this over time…

      2. That’s amazing with those old slides, what a find!

        I remember as a kid going round to my aunt and uncle’s after they’d got back from a holiday and watching the slides on a projector with a darkened room as a makeshift cinema. Magical.

        Re carrying digital and film, I tried this but found using the digital camera broke the spell of shooting the old film camera. It was like being in a time machine that keeps jarring back and forth across three or four decades, and never settled in any long enough to enjoy it.

        When I shoot (film or digital) I just like to be immersed in the experience of using just one medium, one camera and have as few interruptions to the flow as possible.

      3. You have a good point. As I’ve grown more confident in my film skills, I’m trying to leave the digital cam in the bag while shooting film. I shot film only until I was 40, and so should be able to. I’ll post some of those rescued slides and send you a link. They really are a remarkable tribute to the power of Kodachrome and Ektachrome to look so good after so many unprotected years. You’ve set me a good challenge that I’ll try to meet this weekend – take only 1 camera out with me at a time!

  13. Guess I’m late to the show… err comments. I only just saw your post and I must say that you got all those reasons spot on.

    Exactly why I don’t get along with digital cameras. Each time I own one it rarely sees the light of day. Strangely they stay in my bag. Nothing like the terrible joy of holding a Spotmatic and knowing that there’s only 36 shots inside, that each one has a price and that I have to make each one count!

    Just one question…. why don’t you go back to film 😉

      1. I’m writing about this for a future post! Buying older digital cameras means I’ve gather a handful of small SD cards from about 16MB upwards.

  14. I have the first negatives, slides and prints that I ever shot back in the 60’s and early 70’s. Just scanned one of the slides to enter in a competition. I shot my first photo project in 1979 of a West Texas cotton harvest and I am presently making arrangements to go photograph the cotton harvest this fall. 40 years apart and still have the camera that I shot with and will shoot the same b&w Ilford film. Longevity and consistency/ repeatability and no hard drive required for archiving.

    I am a serious enthusiast and I make my living (since 1976) as a photo retoucher and now digital darkroom specialist. I post process Phase One files as well as the new Fuji 100 mp files and I am amazed at the detail but archiving this information (for use in years to come) is a huge undertaking. Having medium format negatives or transparencies gives me all I want without the continuos work of managing an electrical archive. My archive will be passed to future generations without them being required to know how to manage and update a digital file format.

    I presently shoot with a Contax G2 and Zeiss lenses with Kodak Portra 160 90% of the time. Before that I shot with a Canon F1-n for over 30 years. If I produce a file for social media it looks beautiful. Film gives me all I want. I’ve been doing this so long it’s not about the process. I enjoy the low light capabilities of digital and use that when I need it (I don’t like flash except for fill). I am not a film snob. I have all my film processed and scanned by my lab in Dallas, photographique.com , and use Capture 1 and ACR to process the file then take it into PS to finish and output to Epson printers. Since I make my living using this software I know I have an advantage over most people so I won’t say how easy it is to post process a digital film file versus a digital file. I will only say that most of the sliders are already adjusted with a film file.

    I could go on and on but will close by saying I love film and will continue to shoot it as long as it’s available and I can get out to shoot. Thanks for a forum to discuss this topic without all the drama of film vs digital.

    1. Bill, that’s an amazing body of work you’ve built up over the decades! How big physically is your archive, and in what form (I mean is it folders with negatives in strips etc)?

      I do have slight concerns about digital archives, and what to do if/when file formats change and potentially older images become obsolete. I think I’ve developed a kind of detachment to all of my photographs, assuming that even though i back up quite robustly, I could lose it all in a moment and have to start over.

      As you may have read in other posts, I have been surprised getting into DSLRs again how much work is required just to get a decent exposure. When I shot colour negative film with -1/+3 exposure latitude it covered a multitude of sins that you can’t get away with shooting digital. So it doesn’t surprise me to read your comments on “how easy it is to post process a digital film file versus a digital file”.

      You’re welcome re the forum, thanks for joining in, I hope we talk more in other threads.

  15. Dan, as far as my archive goes I wish I could say that everything was in black archival boxes but that is not the case. Since my work was just personal work I didn’t actually take it seriously until about 2010 when I began to date and catalog everything. I am still in the process of getting everything in date order but I can see the finish line just ahead. As far as my negs and transparencies are concerned, everything that I self processed or had processed at a professional lab, are in archival print file sleeves. The photographers that I worked with or knew about all used the print file preservers so I just followed suit.

    I have my negs stored together in groups as they were shot and processed. Each group is placed in a white 9×12 envelope and marked on the outside with the year and dates as well as a letter of the alphabet. Example: 2019-A is the first film shot and processed for the year. Since I shoot mostly 35mm I also separate my film between 35 & 120 if both were shot and processed at the same time. Example: 2019-A/35 & 2019-A/120. I also have all my film roll scanned (since 2005) at the time of processing before it is cut and sleeved.

    All of my Kodachrome slides are sleeved and in binders according to subject matter. The slides are the easiest part of my archive to locate an image quickly. I don’t know exactly how to put a size to my archive. I guess it is large for a private citizen who is not a professional photographer. A photographer I work with has his archive in a 12×18 foot climate controlled room and it is filled floor to ceiling on rolling metal carts. Everything he has shot(negs)since the 80’s is there and cataloged. He can locate any neg in less than 5 minutes! I hope to get my archive into a similar state someday. He went digital in 2006 and has that archive at immediate disposal as well through a server (above 30TB’s).

    I know many so-called photographers these days don’t archive their work past 2 years but I don’t consider them professionals. He has clients come to him for prints of old work such as parents now deceased or a child about to graduate high school and putting together their senior page in the yearbook. If you ever hire a professional photographer ask them what their policy is concerning the archiving of the work they produce. I digress so will bring this to a close.

    1. Bill, thanks for your reply. So how much physically do these take up, do you have a dedicated room, or are they in cupboards and on shelves where there’s space?

      Your colleague’s archive (and organsiation!) sounds incredible. I wouldn’t think to go back to a professional photographer years later to see if they still had family photos. We have one we use ocassionally, and to be honest I don’t know her policy, but I’m pretty sure it was given to us in writing when we first met her, and she stated how long she keeps archived copies for. I don’t think it’s decades!

  16. My archive occupies a small bedroom closet that has had wire grid shelving put in it as well as a few shelves in a larger storage cabinet. Maybe about 8-10 medium sized bins (13″x15″x13″) so not all that much in many ways. It’s more about the content than the quantity. I’ve learned most of what I know about organizing and cataloging an archive from my photographer friend/client.

    Yesterday we had a longtime client call and ask us about several photos taken over the last 16 years. She is preparing his senior page. The oldest was a negative from 2003. The studio manager had already pulled the negative and it took me several minutes to locate the previously retouched images from the other years. A workable archive is a must for a body of work to have staying power.

    I’ve been reading some of the other responses to your original post. I would like to say to “P” that not everyone has gone over to the dark side of digital. As a retoucher I get the brunt of a lot of the bad feelings about digital. Mine, as well as all of my clients attitude has always been about keeping a reality to the work. Since I have worked with my main client since 1990 we have a history of repeat clients and when he made the jump to digital in 2006 he first purchased a 31mp Phase One digital back for his medium format film camera. He wasn’t willing to move to digital until the image quality was comparable to medium format film. We /I have labored to keep a look to our work that embodies our history with film but also embrace the advantages of digital(it is a business). I have many steps in my digital workflow that are there to remove artifacts of digital capture all well as emulate my style of retouching with brush and dyes from the film days. We are certainly a dying breed of photography studio but we will continue to provide a quality alternative to the discerning client.

    Most people will never get to experience a personal hands on one on one with some of the top digital cameras on the market today(medium format with larger sensor). The out of camera file can look amazing. The Fuji GFX 50r set to capture with the Acros setting can look wonderful with little post processing. This photographer shot with Acros film before the move to digital. I also use the film standard preset in Capture One before beginning the processing. I think photography is about the print so this will always separate me from the vast majority of modern thinkers. I’ve never gone along with the crowd and don’t intend to start now.

    1. Bill, I love archives generally, and organising stuff. In my day job I’m quite hot on it. We don’t have millions of files, but we do use tens of thousands of historical documents and our own (Word) document files are quite extensive (probably a few thousand), so I’ve always pushed systems and an organisational approach that are logical and mean you can find what you need fairly quickly.

      There was a discussion on another thread here some time back about having a filing system versus a search based system (for photographs). I’ve written a couple of posts about using tags on Flickr (and on 35hunter) because it’s the most logical way for me to find, say, a picture of a tree made with 35mm film (I’d type “tree 35mm film” in the Flickr search box) or a previous blog post about, say, close focus (I’d use Google and type “35hunter close”, which would bring up the posts tagged with “close” on the site). This is very different to archiving photographs (or indeed anything) by date or event.

      The future seems to be to favour the search approach, digitally at least, obviously this is very hard to implement with physical photos or negatives. How would you find a selection of pictures of trees made with a certain camera, say? Or by person? (This is a hypothetical question, you don’t have to answer!)

      Good for you for going with what you feel is right as a photographer! We need more photographers to stick to their guns in the face of the general “dumbing down” of photography.

      I just read an article about how camera sales are plummeting, and, of course, that smart phone sales continuing to rise. An interesting angle the writer was discussing was that because the big phone players like Google, apple, Samsung, Huawei etc are selling so many phones, and the traditional big camera players like Canon and Nikon are selling fewer by the day, those phone brands have far more capital to invest in developing their new phones (not least of all the cameras within them) at a faster rate. There will come a point when the phone makers overtake the camera makers with their technology, goes the argument, then where will that leave Canon, Nikon etc?

      There are many for whom a camera phone will never replace a “proper” camera (me included, not least of all because of the awful handling!) but in terms of technical raw ability, and making it easy to create amazing looking pictures, the phones will only get closer to cameras, and possibly overtake them.

      And yes, coming back to your point about the top digital cameras, most people have a phone with a half decent camera, and will never experience a high end DSLR or mirrorless, let alone a medium format digital camera. So for them, their yardstick for both a “good” picture, and a “good” experience making that picture, is completely different. Essentially they only ask “can this new phone help me take better pictures than my last one?” And, on the technical front, and ease of use, it probably can, so they buy it. I’m far from an expert and as you probably favour decade old cameras, but my impression is new digital cameras in the mainstream have not really offered anything new for years, just higher numbers that the marketers have tried to impress the customer with, and sell more cameras.

      The true professional photographers are of course beyond all of this, I imagine. They know what works, from years of honing their craft, and are dazzled by the latest examples of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

      I think I’ve digressed somewhat. Ha,I should probably turn this into a new post!

  17. My present search engine is my memory of the shots I’ve taken over the decades. This may sound impossible but I have an unusual ability to recall the shots I’ve taken over the years. Certainly not specific dates but I recall where based on the memories of everyday life. I can actually recall numerous tree shots as I run it through my mental database. Some on Kodachrome,some b&w negative,some color neg. I love tree cast shadows so I also recall those as well. Part of my ability to recall revolves around the fact that I go through my archive visually from time to time and this puts the images fresh in my mind. On a digital level I embed metadata in every image that I work on in PS as well as copyright and contact info. This is part of my workflow.

    As far as advancements on newer cameras not being much I would say it depends on what you are looking for. The advancements in reduction of high ISO noise and color noise issues has certainly been improved. The raw processing engines have also improved greatly in their ability for suttle nuance if you so desire it. Capture One 12 has amazing ability to do intricate tone and color selections. This is extremely helpful in backlight situations in being able to select specific parts quickly and precisely. Remember time is money. I do as much in the process stage as possible so that PS is left for what it is good at.

    On the subject of phones I will only say I have owned 2 phones since 2004. I had a little Nokia for 12 years but was forced to upgrade by my service provider so I went with a flip phone. I have no comprehension of purchasing a phone because of its camera.

    A little saying that I have adopted says, “Im not the target audience”. This applies to practically anything newer than 2012. My van is 2001(375,000mi.), my lawnmower is 1985(just mowed with it),my MacPro is early 2009(retouch on it constantly) and the list goes on and on. I only move to something newer when I’m forced to or it truly offers me something better. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it(analog),if it ain’t broke just wait till the next update(digital). And finally, my American tv hero is Adrian Monk.

    I don’t want to let this day pass without saying a Big THANK YOU to all early responders and those constantly in harms way working to keep us safe and free. Always remember 9-11-2001.

    1. I’ve found the more photographs I’ve taken, the more the lines have blurred between what I’ve actually seen and what I remember as a photograph (but don’t remember seeing the original scene in the flesh).

      I have a similar thing with dreams, I dream quite often (probably four nights out of five) and sometimes have difficulty differentiating between what is a memory and what was a dream, especially with very realistic dreams that aren’t obviously detached with reality (like where we can fly or are in our favourite movie or something).

      It doesn’t surprise me what you say about phones. When you have the photography gear at your disposal that you do, a phone will never compare!

      (Though I just read about the new iPhone, with supposedly the best camera ever seen on a phone, I am slightly curious.)

      I have to say we have much in common in using outdated tech! I’m writing this on my 2008 MacBook Pro, which I swapped the original HD for a Samsung SSD perhaps four years ago, but otherwise is untouched. I still the screen is fantastic and virtually everything looks better on it than other screens (mostly PC!) I’ve used in the interim (not my own).

      I literally just upgraded last week to OS 10.11 El Capitan, so now I’m only, what, four updates behind the latest one now? : ) I keep it lean and simple (essentially only use Chrome, the Finder and Image Capture to import photos from SD cards) and it all seems to tick along very well.

      2012 is a good marker for me too, I think all of my digital cameras are pre 2012. My current faves are Pentax DSLRs from 2006 and 2009 respectively.

      I don’t have such an old lawnmower though!

      What van do you drive, that’s impressive mileage? My Seat TDi
      is just about broken in at 107k!

  18. I’m amazed that I actually upgraded to OS10.11 before someone else(March 2019). I only upgraded because dropbox wasn’t going to support 10.9 anymore. Sad to say my PS doesn’t work as good now,several bugs that I’m stuck with because of El Capitan. I work on a second computer at another location and it is kept current with OS. It had the same bugs when it was updated to El Capitan back when it was the latest OS so I had decided to not move my home computer forward because of that. I at least had 4+ years of perfect operation before this update. It proved that I had made the right decision not to update. Some of the issues that began at El Capitan still exist with Mojave(plus some new ones). I hate PS 2019. I tried it for 2 hours, it crashed constantly, plus they eliminated some of my tool settings that I have used since 2006. I’m not an Adobe fan. I will spare you a rant. All I will say is that they turned their back on the longtime user when it went to CC download only. All they care about is the newbie having an easy go of it and kicking the entrenched user to the curb. Enough said.

    My van is a Dodge Grand Caravan. Not much to look at but has been paid for since 2005. Great for transporting large scale work and it’s perfect to stand on the roof for that better photographic angle. It certainly gets the attention of passers by.

  19. Bill, whilst I was never anything like a hardcore Adobe user, I increasingly disliked their tactics and ranted about it in early 2018 – https://35hunter.blog/2018/01/17/lightrooms-last-hurrah-why-adobe-has-lost-my-trust-and-business/

    So I understand some of where you’re coming from.

    I googled your van, somehow thought it would be bigger with that grand (literally!) name. Very impressive to get that mileage! I’d love to see you standing on it, do you have a roof rack or something?

  20. No roof rack,just slide the side door back and climb up. I think there are a few permanent dents in the roof but I got the shots. No one has ever photographed me while I’m on the roof, just seems like normal everyday thing to them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s