Film and Digital...


I mentioned in the 'Tour Camera' thread that I'm thinking of taking a film camera next time I go on tour. This actually represents a general move in my photography. Although I've owned two dslr's I've made a conscious effort over the last three years to switch back to film, and have been very pleased with the results.

There are several reasons for this. I've been a photography fanatic for more than 30 years and thus 'grew up' with film but in recent years I began to notice that a much higher proportion of the pictures I took were pretty uninteresting. After much thought I realised that the main reason for this was automation: using zoom lenses and fully auto digital cameras meant that I was no longer thinking as much about what I was doing. With a zoom lens I wasn't looking for the best angle, I was just zooming in and out until I was there or thereabouts; I was letting 'program' exposure do the hard work; and I was exploiting the fact that I could put hundreds of shots on a big CF card to just keep clicking away until I got a picture that was 'acceptable'. A switch to mostly using mechanical, manual-focus film cameras has resulted in a much higher proportion of 'keepers'.

Secondly, like all good photography geeks, I enjoy the process. I develop and print my own B&W and like fiddling around with different formats, chemicals and techniques to get the look I want. Similarly, I'm into home brewing and breadmaking, and also used to hand-load my ammunition when I shot classic pistol: I need to feed the inner nerd!

I'm also a bit of a collector. I have a ludicrously large number of cameras and while I use most of them regularly, there are a couple that tend to sit on the shelf for long periods. Even so, Über-high quality film cameras are ridiculously cheap at present and will I suspect, be a reasonable investment. There has already been a 'bounce' in secondhand medium format camera prices.

Finally, I've got a strong suspicion that digital pictures won't last as long. Hard-drives crash and CDs and DVDs turn out not to be as archivally stable as everyone once thought they were. I've got all my negatives and slides going back to the late 70s, a lot of my parents' negs back to the '50s and some of my grandparents negs back to the 1920s, all of which are printable or scannable. It isn't beyond the bounds of possibility that a lot of RAW formats will be unreadable in ten years from now as manufacturers fall by the wayside.

Of course, digital is much more convenient than film and there is no longer a huge difference in quality, but those are my reasons.


There was something mentioned recently on the TV or in one of the papers (can't remember which), which would agree with your desire to return to wet photography. By all accounts there are many who are hankering after such a return for the same reasons you point out. As far as the demise of digital goes, I'm not sure about the higher end of the market, but I reckon that the point and shoot is here to stay. Better quality images, low prices and the sheer convenience of these little cameras make them ideal for what the masses want from photography. Something to take on holiday which isn't technically difficult and you don't need to wait for your prints to be developed by the chemist. Don't like what you've taken, delete it and start again. But that's only one end of the market.

As for 'tour cameras' though, I reckon that the point and shoot wins with squaddies, not only for the reasons mentioned, but also that they don't cost an arm and a leg when you break them, and they are easily stashed. Oh, and you don't need to take your chances on the chemist finding out that you are in fact a war criminal who enjoys nothing more than strapping one of the locals to the business end of a forklift!
If I had the room, I'd go back to using B&W film and developing it myself.
I read somewhere that this generation (last 10 years or so) there have been more photographs taken than any equivalent period in history. However, only somewhere areound 2-3% of these images will ever see the light of day so to speak. I have taken about 8,000 digital images over the years but only have a handful of them in print. I blame digital cameras in phones and T'interweb, rather than the "true" cameras and printed albums.
I was a dyed in the wood wet filmmer until I bought a small ditital camera to take on tour-very impressed with the results. On my return my missus let me keep the Sub Pay so I bought a Lumix G1. Flogged my 35mm gear for more lenses and have take about 15000 photos in the last year. I have rediscovered my photographic mojo. Sure I use phtoshop, but I still have to see the picture in my mind and know what effect I want. I would love to go back into the darkroom but it is never going to happen. What matters is that you get out there and take the pictures. If formats change there will be plenty of chance to convert. All that remains is to make sure you back up, back up and back up some more.
back up, back up and back up some more.
Or print them out :)

I did a topless model shoot recently. Backed up the digital files from my camera onto a trusty backup disk. Realised that the backups were actually syncing, so changed it to incremental backup. Yup, lost the 140 or so images, as I had already reformatted the CF card for another shoot... the only copies I have are on-line JPEGS of about 6 of the images. Gutted!
Still have a Canon EOS 1000/Rebel with all sorts of kit for being arty/taking shots at the Rugby & an Olympus mju zoom. Until they break or 35mm film is no longer sold I'm sticking with them as I like the quality.

MrsPlume had a Nikon 500D (?) for her last birthday, so if I want instant pictures I rely on hers! MasterPlume must be the most photographed small boy in the worls, so plenty of blackmail material for when he starts bringing girlfriends home. May have to get one of those digital photo frames...
Having only recently got into photography I dug out my wife's old Pentax 35mm SLR. It was only after shooting a couple of rolls that I realised that you can't get them processed for less than a fiver! I haven't got space for a darkroom, and probably wouldn't have the time or inclination for all the faffing about that home developing entails, so this looks like becoming a rather expensive hobby if I let it! And I certainly can't afford a DSLR at the moment.

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