One of my reservations about using digital cameras – especially higher spec’d ones – is the images can be too clean, too clinical looking.
Coming from shooting film for five years – and enjoying the natural grain inherent in film, especially with expired or cross processed or redscaled treatments – this contrast was exacerbated further.
This is a significant reason why I’ve generally favoured older, lower resolution digital cameras in recent times.
Their lower res, CCD sensors give, in my eyes, a less digital, less perfect, more organic look.
When it comes to using a digital camera that is almost too high spec for my needs, there are a few things I tend to do to take that potentially too sharp and sterile edge off the final images.
Lower the resolution
A camera like my Pentax Q with its 12MP sensor, or K30 with a 16MP sensor are more than I need. So I generally lower the resolution (MP) in camera. The Q I have at 4:3 9MP images by default, and my new K30 I’m starting out with 3:2 8MP images.
In practice, you only notice a difference in image quality if you blow them up or zoom in vastly, something I don’t do, or need to do (I’m no pixel peeper).
An added bonus is much smaller file sizes, so they’re quicker to download and back up, and take less storage space.
Increase the ISO
Again using the Q and K30 as examples, I go with ISO400 by default.
Both cameras still make very usable images at ISO800, 1600 and beyond (see my recent high ISO experiments with the Q), but I find when shooting wide apertures I max out the shutter speed too often, so ISO400 is a great compromise between adding a little more texture and character to the final images, without adversely impacting the flow of the shooting experience.
With the Q and K30, I have them set up in camera to shoot in black and white, and add contrast. This just gives me a more atmospheric and again less sharp and clinical final image compared with shooting at low ISOs and default contrast.
For cameras where I can’t get this look in camera, I run the JPEGs output through my simple 13 second Snapseed process to achieve the same kind of result.
Use vintage lenses
This only applies to the K30 of course. I do have a Pentax-DA 35/2.4, a lens specifically designed for APC-S sensor DSLRs, but even so the images aren’t super clinical.
Most of the time though, I’ve been using an older lens, either an F, A or M series Pentax K mount lens.
It is a slight generalisation, to which their are exceptions, but on the whole, these older lenses designed for 35mm film I feel tend to have more character and charm than modern digital AF lenses.
Then of course if I want images that are really dumbed down and dirty, I just grab the Ricoh GRD III, stick on High Contrast Mono and shoot…
Do you find digital images too clean sometimes? Is there anything you do to dirty them up?
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).
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