Archive for October, 2008

The Romance of Film

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

2img7753 The Romance of Film


“Why don’t you shoot film man…!?!”


“Zebrio: now that’s an interesting comment… I’ve been sorely tempted to get myself a MF film camera and give it a go. there are a couple of things that stop me, the biggest of which is that I’d miss the immediacy of working with digital… and the most petty being that i don’t really have time to deal with the processing. that being said, i still love the idea of working with film again, so maybe one day.

i’m curious what inspired the comment. what about this shot makes you think it’d be improved by having been shot on film?”


“Well, technically speaking, (take this for what its worth cuz I’m looking at a 4” photo on piece of shit screen…), there is far too little detail in the blacks, the highs are drowning in lows, the bokeh has no real umph, and the tonal range is just sorta flat. No real drama here.

I don’t think that’s for a lack of effort because I love this kinda thoughtful and simple shot, done in B&W. But tones should be the real stars of a photo like this, and I am talking about all of them, the whole cast of blacks, whites, and grays. (Think of B&W magazine, think of Ansel Adams.) And your use of light and composition, DoF, pin-sharp or life-is-prettier-in-soft focus, and finally all your processing techniques should emphasize those tones and the gradients and nuances within. Then in turn the tones can add so much more the composition. I think this is where the time that film requires, and the grace that it provides can make and otherwise good black and white photo, a great one.

And I’m not saying that you can’t do it with digital. But film just has a mood, a smell, a feeling, a sentiency that digital inherently lacks. Ry said to me once “inanimate objects surely come to life on film”. I thought that was really spot on…

And to take it a step further, it’s the romance of shooting film, choosing your poison, getting in the soup, and having something to hold and touch add another layer of enjoyment that, I think, will more than compensate for the lack of immediacy and convenience it looses to digital. Besides, the waiting is exciting. It’s challenging. It’s like Christmas every 3 days.

It’s not that daunting once you get started, if you want to get started, that is. And it probably takes a while, buring through a dozen or more rolls of film. But once you get your first really great shot on film, then compare it to really great digital shot, I promise, the photos will speak for themselves. Try this one again on film and tell me what you think…”


“Zebrio: ah rats. that’s a much better answer than i was expecting… couldn’t you have been a little less convincing? this is going to end up costing me a fortune :P

i pretty much agree with what you say… there is a part of me that says that technically digital is getting to the point where it’s equivalent of iso 100 film (resolution of detail, etc) but that’s very tangible and the tangible is only a small part of the deal.

the intangible is harder to quantify. the mood, the romance, the feeling, those are the reasons that i’m tempted to give it a whirl…”


“It actually doesn’t cost that much. Think like this. Putting all gearhead talk aside, a decent straight-forward digital SLR camera and lens cost at least, say…$1200. A decent film equivalent cost say… average $250 (although you could get something much less or much more, same for the digital …and you don’t need lenses cuz you use the ones you have.) One irony here is that the digital camera will last you two-three years max. A standard manual focus Nikon FE, you can get from your grandfather and give to your grandkids.

Ok, so you have to add another 200 bucks for a scanner if you don’t have one already. Your up to $450.

With film, you inherently shoot less, going for quality over quantity. But don’t worry about shooting less. And you can blow through rolls of film like tissue if you please. That’s fun too.

So a roll of film costs you from purchase ($3-4 black and white) to developing ($3-$4 unless you develop yourself, then its just a matter of your time cuz a years worth of materials is less than a couple beers). So lets say 7 bucks, no prints cuz you got a scanner. And you have 750 bucks to spend on film, that’s 100+ rolls of film, 200+ if you develop yourself, 3500/7000 photos, that’s about 3 rolls a week, perfectly reasonable. Unless your Daido Moriyama and shoot 20 rolls a day.

And you find sales, and expired film, and slide film is more expensive. Again part of the enjoyment and adding to the creativity. But then you tend to buy more cameras and books and print and frame your favorites.

Basically, when it really boils down to it. It’s the same. Its not exactly a cheap art form, but it can be, but then again, we’re missing the point altogether.

You know, its kinda like the difference of snorkeling and scuba diving. They both rock! Snorkeling is just fun and easy, no need for lots of cost but you are just on the surface. Yeah, scuba gear is hella expensive, its difficult, and there is a level of risk…but look how much deeper you get to go…some places are good for snorkeling, others are good for dive. And just cuz you do one doesn’t mean you can’t do the other.

I’m stating the obvious here and just sorta ranting at this point.”