SO MANY FILMS TO TRY!
• A film camera— or a collection of film cameras— can offer far more outlets of creativity than a single DSLR or mirrorless camera with even multiple lenses. Film photographers have a choice between 120, 35mm, slide, infrared, Polaroid and various other films. Many films have their own unique look. This ‘look’ is precisely why so many photographers switch from digital to film.
This is a typical shot on Flickr with way too much post editing.
• With digital everything happens in post. For example, many high-end DSLRs take more or less the same looking photo straight-out-of-the-camera. After shooting, all the magic finally happens in programs like Adobe Lightroom and DxO OptixPro. So many presets and sliders are in these programs. A beginning photographer may find these editing sliders overwhelming. It takes years to fully understand how and why to use all the available tools to edit a photo. All the editing in the world can make a mediocre photo ‘look cool’… but it will still be a mediocre photo.
These eBay screenshots are all of very capable film cameras at inexpensive prices.
• Film cameras are rather cheap to buy. Rangefinders, Polaroids, point-n-shoots and a plethora of 35mm camera SLRs can all be bought on eBay for around $100— or cheaper! Medium format beauties can also be purchased at a lower cost then many current DSLRs or mirrorless cams.
A 100% zoom crop of a 35mm photo. Shot with a Canon Canonet QL-17.
• Film actually has incredible resolution! A 35mm frame scanned at 3200 resolution can easily be printed about 17″ wide. In digital terms this image would be equivalent to a 16mp DSLR photo. A 6×7 120 frame is about 4x the size of a 35mm negative— this is roughly a 70mp image! Check out the resolution of a Pentax 6×7 in this portfolio entry.
A cropped Kodak Ektar photo. An example of the great dynamic range of film.
• You might’ve heard that film has incredible exposure ‘latitude’. This is so true. This means that film has the ability to capture all the dynamic range of a scene. Highlights are not over-blown, midtones are plentiful, and shadow detail is balanced. I’ve had photos both under & over exposed by 2 or 3 stops that still retain good detail in shadows and highlights. During one photo shoot I intentionally underexposed a frame of Kodak Ektar just for the fun of it. This shot is one of my most popular on Flickr.
My cat Bucky shot with Adox Color Implosion using a Lomo LC-A.
• Different film stocks produce uniquely different looks. Kodak Portra has a balanced tonal range that is great for portraits. Kodak Ektar gives wonderful false colors. CineStill can give a cinematic look. Adox Color Implosion offers a groovy 70’s look and feel. These are only a few I’ve shot with. I won’t even get into all the great tones and textures that b/w films have. Also, don’t forget about the wonderful world of Polaroid film. A resurgence of instant film is growing thanks to Impossible.
Kodak Portra photos from a Diana F+ left, Canon Canonet QL-17 on right.
• Interestingly the same film stock shot in different cameras can produce uniquely different images. For example, a Kodak Portra photo in a Lomo LC-A will be noticeably different compared to one from a professional Nikon F3. Portra loaded into a toy camera; like the Diana & Holga, will take photos so unique and otherworldly that I think every fine art photographer should have one.
Examples of top shelf film cameras. 35mm Nikon F3 left, 120 format Pentax 6×7 on right.
• Nothing compares to shooting with a classic film camera. It’s quite romantic shooting with a well-made 30, 40 or 50+ year-old camera. High-end classic cameras operate with the precision of a perfectly machined, well-oiled firearm.
Always store negatives in Print File archival sleeves.
• Film is a future-proof storage medium. On the contrary, digital photos are only as safe as how carefully they’re backed up. Film is not bullet proof, however. Negatives should always be stored away from extreme humidity and kept away from extreme heat. They also should be kept in notebook film sleeves. If properly cared for the only thing that will destroy film is a house fire.