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Switching from digital to film

jdphoto

Active member
I've considered switching full time to film. The benefits of digital photography are obvious, but the slower pace of composition and exposure have brought a more satisfying experience for me. Another reason for this consideration, is with digital, I was obsessing with absolute perfection in resolution and the high tech involved that provides IBIS, IS, HDR, focus stacking, pano modes, etc...ugh! Perhaps, it's my love for purely mechanical cameras too. Film cameras and lenses are a fraction of the price compared to their digital counterparts. Surprisingly, clients are starting to prefer film images over digital when given the option. I guess this has everything to do with the character of a lens and film or just the appreciation of a more analog process that connects us historically to the origins of photography. Everything old is new again...
 
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JoelM

Member
I find that there's room for both, but that's one of the great things about photography. You get to choose your weapons and shoot away.

Have Fun,

Joel
 

jdphoto

Active member
Obviously, I'm not saying one is better than another. Oddly, switching totally to film is not as easy as I thought, as it's like taking the training wheels off a bike for the first time. You better know what you're doing if shooting professionally. I love my Leica M2r, but primarily use a Pentax spot meter for exposure. However, my Canon F1 has aperture priority which has been a revelation. I never thought I would use as much as I do and it's really helped push me in the direction of "film only" for professional shoots. I also shoot with a Hasselblad 500CM, so I'd need a PME if I want the benefit of a meter. Yes, the sunny 16 rule works too, but I need more practice in placing my zones where I want them. Another aspect is value. Planned obsolescence for digital gear is extreme and I think i've finally tamed GAS knowing that prices are going to reflect that.
 

JoelM

Member
I shoot aperture priority for both analog and digital. It's not possible with the M4, but I think in aperture priority. The F1 is a great camera and I used them for years due to the fantastic Canon L lenses.

Switching can be challenging, but just like your exposures, you'll want to slow down and do more thinking. I think you'll like that. The lack of tech is refreshing and there is beauty in simplicity, I find.

Have Fun,

Joel
 

darr

Well-known member
Shooting both, film and digital is where my photographic life lives. I honestly would not be happy without film. Many of us came up on film and never left it. Shooting aperture priority was how I learned how to shoot with my first SLR back in the late 70s and that is how I shoot today.

I was a commercial photographer during the film era shooting a lot of 4x5 product chromes and 120 portrait negatives. But, I would appreciate the digital workflow for commercial work as it is less stressful to shoot for example a special event and ‘chimp’ than to wait a week or more for the C-41 to come back.

For me it is similar to cooking; I enjoy cooking when I have the time. The process of crafting a delicious meal is rewarding on many levels and it tastes so much better than anything commercially made IMO. But, it takes preparation and knowledge of ingredients; best use of equipment, a little food science for health benefits, and the time to put it all together. I have a microwave that gets used mainly to reheat what I have cooked prior, but I love the convenience of my microwave.

We truly live in the best of times for photography!

Kind regards,
Darr
 

anyone

Active member
I personally like the aesthetics of film and enjoy the larger formats for their quality reserves and possibility to print large when needed. As of today, when I talk about film, I almost always mean a hybrid workflow with scanning and post in Photoshop.

However, this does only account for medium and large format for me. I occassionally shoot also 24x36 analogue, but there I feel the quality reserves are really low and digital almost always wins.

Like you, I do enjoy the mechanical workflow a lot more than a highly technical digital workflow. Downsides are dust clone stamping and correcting smaller film mistakes in Photoshop later. I did not find to date a good workflow that would help with it other than manual work.
 

MartinN

Member
So sad for a professional that Fuji discontinued the Fp-100c which could be a safety net. The other option today is to use a digital camera for instant review. I am an amateur and can afford glitches and even downright useless frames, so I can wait for professional development. I am lucky to have one of the last labs nearby. What can't be simulated with digital is the contrasty nature of Fp-100c and the b&w response from it's monochrome sibling, longer ago discontinued. I want them both back!
Film stock availability could be a problem for a pro and switching materials is not always a good thing.

I was happy to get an excellent Plustek Opticfilm 120, an affordable modern scanner. What Hasselblad has done to the cost no object scanner is not nice and Nikon are no contender anymore. I personally would never maintain a true drumscanner even if I could get one cheap.

But ofcourse film is fun and getting all the work done is satisfying. But even I, a modest camera user and buyer can feel the ease and luxury of digital cameras. My main interest is in fat pixel backs and cheaper dbs for digital. It's almost something equally fun like film to use cheap digital backs. You know they were edge technology and quite scarce. So much more fun to me than something mainstream.
 

Godfrey

Well-known member
I've never stopped working with film, but in the years since a reasonably good quality digital camera first appeared (call it 2002 for me) I've made ten times the number of satisfying photos with digital capture than I have with film (since 1966).

Working with film and working digital capture are both highly technical endeavors, they're just different. I find the workflow with image processing to render my photos into their final expression works better for me, most of the time.

Pick what you like to work with, learn your tools, and go make photographs. :)

G
 
I shoot both film and digital and have produced some very nice images with both mediums. I think they both have their benefits. Though I shoot a lot more digital these days. Like many others, I started out shooting on film. However, some experiences in Bali last year revealed the ugly side of digital to me. I did some long exposures of swimming pools illuminated by flood lighting at night on M4/3. As many of you would likely know, Bali is a warm place (pretty hot at times) and it must have been the heat that produced the massive amounts of noise in these night time long exposures. Some were worse than others. Overall though, the exposure times weren't super long but the amount of noise shocked me. Not just chroma noise but severe colour noise too with lots of horrible purple blotches all over the place. And hot pixels galore which surprised me because I usually get those with longer exposures.

I was really gutted. If I had been shooting film, this would have been a non issue. Lesson learned. The next time I'm in a very warm part of the world with good opportunities for night photography, I'll definitely bring along some film.

Actually, more recently, I did some night time long exposures here in Australia with my Panasonic G6. Temperature wasn't warm or cold (it was fairly mild.) However, I noticed my images appeared to be more noisy compared with other time exposures Ive done in the past on M4/3. Though nowhere near as bad as what I experienced in Bali. Something weird going on with the sensor perhaps? I think that's going to give me an excuse to do more long exposures on film in general (regardless of the temperature.)
 

jdphoto

Active member
Long exposures can be tricky with heat and digital. Film reciprocity must also be considered with film too. Both technologies are great, but two photographs taken of the same subject using both, I always prefer the film because it takes more effort and skill. Imo, that's intrinsic to its value too.
 

Godfrey

Well-known member
Hmm.

I have done some very long exposure, very low light work with m43 cameras, both Panasonic and Olympus, and I'd have to say that their performance can be satisfactory a good bit of the time, but ultimately the larger sensor cameras do much better with such exposures. And particularly in very warm weather.

I don't think there's any more skill to making good exposures with film than there is to doing the same with digital capture, or that there's any more or less difficulty processing them either. They are different skills, that's all, and the two media have very different behaviors at the limits, and different limits. To get the best from either, you have to understand the limits of the particular capture medium you're using, how to get the most out of the cameras, and how to get the most out of the subsequent rendering/processing tools.

G
 
To get the best from either, you have to understand the limits of the particular capture medium you're using, how to get the most out of the cameras
Exactly. In the past, I found that 30 seconds was about the maximum amount of time I could leave the shutter open on my Panasonic M4/3 gear before things started to go south. However, in Bali, when I was bracketing exposures on one particular night, I found that even the shorter exposure times like 8 seconds was producing massive amounts of chroma and colour noise. That really caught me by surprise. Due to those negative experiences and the increase in noise with my recent long exposure work back in Australia, I'm attracted to the idea of using film for more of my night photography.

By the way, years ago, I used to do heaps of long exposures at night on 35mm film. Though this time around, I'd like to do the same on medium format.
 
JDPhoto, valid points about the reciprocity failure of film. Though if I was shooting film again for night urban scenes, I think I would select Fuji Provia 100F which is pretty much immune to recip. failure up to a certain length of time. By contrast, I know that Fuji Velvia suffers from recip. failure much, much earlier. My exposure times would typically be in the range of 8 - 30 seconds so would probably be fine with Provia. Actually, I did do some long exposures at night time in my city on Provia quite a few years ago (long before I got into digital.) I did find that this film stock was quite generous with exposure latitude. Definitely more so than Fuji Sensia which I used to use a lot. I did bracket exposures with the Provia but when I saw the processed film, it was pretty clear that there wasn't really much of a need to bracket. A lot of the images looked very similar to each other exposure wise. Whereas if I was shooting Sensia, bracketing would have been pretty much essential for night time long exposures.
 

Shashin

Well-known member
The thing I really liked about film was the large variation in camera type and the aspect ratio of the format--medium-format film cameras just offered so much. Those two things would be the prime considerations for me. The things I did not like--spotting, film handling, and dealing with processing (I did run my own darkroom, both color and B&W). Packing film can also be a real burden. I did not find film anymore time consuming or slower than digital--I can blow through a roll of film just as fast as digital (OK, reloading a roll does slow me down, but that is a technicality). And I can be very slow with digital, usually just sticking my camera on a tripod does that for me. But I certainly see the appeal of the maturity and experimentation with film technology. I miss my Mamiya 6, Horseman SW612, and Widelux F8 (I still have one of my Mamiya 6 cameras and Gossen light meters, but I don't use them).
 
I’ve always had to balance life, my profession, family and my work as an artist... whether I was in the early stages of my craft, in the midst of getting an MFA, and now with a young family... given those restrictions on my time I naturally gravitated to large format. If I only have X time I may as well shoot an 8x10
 
Speaking of film trends, I notice something interesting. Over ten years ago when I was shooting film on a regular basis, I noticed that more often than not, the people who were shooting colour film would generally select Fuji films (particularly their transparency films like Velvia and Provia.) I was the same though admittedly, I often used Sensia 100 due to the lower cost (still a very fine grained film though.) Yes there were exceptions and I'm sure many people shot the Kodak stuff too but from my observations, the Fuji tranny films seemed overall more popular (especially amongst serious photographers who were shooting landscapes, architecture etc.)

These days however, a lot of the people who are shooting colour film seem to prefer the Kodak negative films like Portra and Ektar. If I check out youtube videos on contemporary colour film photography, they're often dominated by Portra as the film stock of choice. So there does seem to be a shift in this direction. Less preference for Fuji transparency films these days?
 

Godfrey

Well-known member
I was not a huge fan of Fuji color transparency films, Velvia in particular, because they seemed to be too saturated for my tastes. I preferred Kodak and Agfa transparency films for their more muted, more natural, color gamuts. I think the use of various films for their color rendering became part of a cyclic style game, where someone's work with a bright, popping film would gain notoriety and bunches of people gravitated there to see if they could achieve equal success, then some softly muted work would gain recognition and bunches of people would move to that style, etc. I see these things going on but generally they don't affect me much ... I tend to just keep going on what I had in mind at a given time and switch stylistic memes driven more by my inner caprices and ideas rather than see something and want to try to emulate it.

There's plenty of space in the art world for many memes ... :D

G
 

jdphoto

Active member
Speaking of film trends, I notice something interesting. Over ten years ago when I was shooting film on a regular basis, I noticed that more often than not, the people who were shooting colour film would generally select Fuji films (particularly their transparency films like Velvia and Provia.) I was the same though admittedly, I often used Sensia 100 due to the lower cost (still a very fine grained film though.) Yes there were exceptions and I'm sure many people shot the Kodak stuff too but from my observations, the Fuji tranny films seemed overall more popular (especially amongst serious photographers who were shooting landscapes, architecture etc.)

These days however, a lot of the people who are shooting colour film seem to prefer the Kodak negative films like Portra and Ektar. If I check out youtube videos on contemporary colour film photography, they're often dominated by Portra as the film stock of choice. So there does seem to be a shift in this direction. Less preference for Fuji transparency films these days?
Kodak Portra is very forgiving in regards to exposure latitude and probably why many shoot it. I normally shoot Portra 400 and rate it at 200 or 100 iso to get 1 or 2 stops of overexposure. To me it just looks better as film retains detail in the highlights. I also like Kodak's E100 for great contrasty chromes.
 
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