Why I still shoot film

2009/09/02

Those of y’all who’ve read my various blatherings about photography will probably know by now that I still occasionally shoot film – and archaic film cameras, to boot. I could probably attempt to write up a long-winded explanation of why I do this, [1] but rather than do that, I’ll show you. [2]

RetIIc-ORF_Mansard01

I shot this photo on Fuji’s amazing Fujichrome Velvia ISO 100 color reversal slide film. While this film has its detractors (and ardent supporters), something to take away from the above image is that while it is a scan of the original slide, it involved minimal post-processing. This won’t mean too much until I mention the camera and meter I was using: a Kodak Retina IIc and my Minolta Spotmeter F. While the latter is rather sophisticated, the former was not nearly as sophisticated as its contemporaries (nor was it intended to be). To make things even more interesting, the rangefinder on my Retina IIc doesn’t work, so I had to use it as a scale-focused snapshot camera. [3]

The point of all this is that while there have been plenty of claims over the past few years about the supremacy of digital cameras over their film counterparts, the only way for me to produce results similar to the above photo with my digital camera is to manipulate the living hell out of the original image in post-processing. I have yet to use a digital camera that could produce results like this without substantial manipulation. Given that the slides can be scanned with relatively little effort, [4] one can effectively combine the best of both media types, namely, maintaining the archival advantages of slides with the ease-of-use attendent to using digital media.

And seriously…just look at those colors. Certainly, there are situations where such highly saturated colors wouldn’t be desirable (I suspect that the film would not lend itself to portraiture, for example), but in situations such as this? What else can I say, but to check out the photo again?

Enjoy.

Notes:

[1]: Besides saying “because I want to,” that is. Even though, at the end of the day, that is my primary motivation. Having been educated in the ways of a design-oriented profession, however, I have been trained to instinctively shy away from such simplistic explanations, even if I have few other motivations. But let’s face it…the primary reason I still shoot film is because I want to.

[2]: Er, yes…that whole “a picture is worth a thousand words” deal. Considering how long-winded some of my posts end up, it’s probably a good thing that I sidestep the writing in this manner.

[3]: Of course, given that this is a Kodak camera, using it to take quick snapshots is actually part of the standard Kodak milieu.

[4]: Okay, to be fair, you’ll have to pay for the film, processing, and scanning, unless you own your very own slide scanner (most of which are still obscenely expensive); even so, you’ll still need to pay for the film and processing. Being a film targeted primarily at professionals, it doesn’t come cheap, either. [*] On the other hand, I also find it difficult to argue with results. Given the unique look of the results, it might be worth carrying around a roll or two and a point-and-shoot film camera for vacations, or such “special” events.

[5]: I should also point out that shooting this film was actually something of a happy accident; at the time I purchased the film, I had no idea that it was slide film, or what kind of results to expect from it. I suppose the fact that the processing type required was E-6 (as opposed to the standard color film C-41 process) should have tipped me off, but it did not. Surprise!

[*]: If you happen to reside in the great state of Virginia, and are near one of the larger cities/towns, I highly recommend availing yourself of the services offered by Richmond Camera. I have been taking advantage of their film services for several years now, and have been consistently satisfied with their results. All of their film processing takes place at a central lab located, appropriately enough, in Richmond, so you’ll need to wait a couple of days to get your film back; most of the time, the wait does not exceed two or three days, so it isn’t that bad. Check out their website for additional information about their services, as well as the retail products they offer. Note that they also offer digital services, as well, so if you don’t have the fortitude to venture into the wonderful world of film, you can still satisfy your electronic needs there, as well.

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