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01-09-2011, 12:03 PM   #1
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Film shooting vs digital

Recently I am in a mood to shoot some rolls of film and have begun a kind of mental comparisson between shooting film and digital. There are certain minor differences on the final result (prints). For example with film you have better highlight rendering. But this is minimal.

So long I only find two big advantages of film:
a) with film you can achieve thinner depth of field (as it is ff compared to cropped aps-c)
b) with film you can go wider ( there are 14mm non-fisheye lenses out-there)


Do you think there are other advantages too?

01-09-2011, 01:11 PM   #2
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Film, particularly b&w film, just has a certain look that I can't define but it's there. When I shot b&w film side by side with digital the film just looks more 3-d and then there is the grain of film.
01-09-2011, 01:31 PM   #3
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I see another advantage of the film in relation to the photographer's attitude. You must think before you shoot, because you have only a limited number of photographs in your film.

When I was using 35mm, I found that close to 1/3 to 1/2 of my shots were reasonable to good. With digital cameras, I take much more shots (definitely) but less than 1/5 to 1/10 of my shots are reasonable (or better).

Last edited by hcc; 01-09-2011 at 02:18 PM.
01-09-2011, 11:00 PM   #4
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Expanding on what has been already posted in this thread, two more to add.

All those old Takumar, K, M, A, F, FA series lenses can be used as they were original designed for, focal length wise. (Example a 50/1.2 is a normal lens and not a portrait lens; a 28mm shift lens is actually useful on a film camera)

Each type of film is unique and can make more of a difference than the camera itself. A film camera is more of a transport and changing film types is fun and a cheap way of getting a whole different look to your photos. Example what “blackcloudbrew” mentioned with b&w film or Kodachrome slide film. (Yes it's too late for Kodachrome, hopefully you got a chance to try it)

Phil.

01-10-2011, 12:56 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by hcc Quote
I see another advantage of the film in relation to the photographer's attitude. You must think before you shoot, because you have only a limited number of photographs in your film.
True. Do you think that practicing with a 512 or 256MB cards would result in development of similar attitude even in DSLR shooters who never used film?

I remember carefully choosing what to shoot and checking remaining pictures counter almost after every shot some 10 years ago when memory cards were small capacity and expensive, the same I was doing with film cameras. (My first card was 4MB if I remember well.) I don't to that anymore. Perhaps it would be interesting to use a "sub GB" cards, if it is still possible to find them. A 512GB card with my K10D would store around 30 RAW shots, just about as much as a nice roll of film!
01-10-2011, 01:18 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ivan Glisin Quote
True. Do you think that practicing with a 512 or 256MB cards would result in development of similar attitude even in DSLR shooters who never used film?

...
Nah - it will just lead to premature failure of the delete button.
01-10-2011, 07:02 AM   #7
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Yeah, differences. Attitude and discipline (film isn't free). Texture and resolution. A big difference is that if you want to change resolution and spectral response etc, you just buy a different roll of film, not a whole new camera. With digital, the camera *IS* the film. A roll of IR film costs much less than an IR mod of your dSLR or P&S. A roll of fine-grain film costs much less than a 100mpx sensor. Etc.

On 135/FF cams, a wide lens is WIDE. My Tokina 21mm and Zenitar 16mm and that bizarre Vemar 12mm usually reside on my ZX-M or K1000. But there's more to life than 135/FF SLR's, eh? RF's (rangefinders) and TLR's are just about silent with their leaf shutters -- no mirror slap. If you're cheap, 135/HF (half-frame, the size of APS-C sensors) cameras give 72-75 shots per 36-shot cart. I had and loved 135/HF SLR's and RF's and they're great. I want to dig up another Canon Dial-35, the wind-up wonder. Even 135/FF P&S's can be great, from the Olympus XA (alas, mine broke) to a Canon ss80u that's in my carry bag a lot.

The real joy comes when you move up to MF (medium format) ie 120-220-620 film cams. I have a few usable 6x6cm TLRs and folders and toy boxes, and a couple 6x9cm folders. Besides handling totally differently than any SLR or RF, the resolution is incredible. Again, you can select film with any characteristics you want -- each new roll makes it a new camera, just as every new guitar tuning makes it a new instrument.

And yes, there are still things doable with film that are NOT possible with digital. Year-long pinhole exposures. Spectrum-shifted IR color. Or, trivial and easy: sprocket-hole 'panos' using 135 carts in MF cams. Try this with toy-box cams like Brownies or even Holgas. The effects of light around those sprocket holes just can't be duplicated.

I really really will re-start processing film soon, yes I will.
______________________________________________________________

Small memory cards: My first digicam was a 1mpx Sony DSC-P20 circa 2001. I think its default card was 256k. Oops, that's pretty small. I quickly bought a couple 4mb memory sticks, then moved up to 32mb sticks, good for maybe 90 of 912x1216 pixel shots. More than a couple rolls of film, much less than the 700+ RAWs or 1500 JPGs I can get on a 16gb card in my K20D.

So I handled the P20 like a 135/HF film cam (75 shots per 36-shot cart). Carrying it around Guatemala, I chimped every shot and deleted ruthlessly. Big mistake. Later PP skills could have save many shots that I shitcanned. But yes, having that space limitation imposes a definite discipline. You can't just shoot EVERYTHING. (I tried and failed in the great anthropological museum in Xalapa, Mexico.)

Shall we force discipline upon ourselves? Use 12-shot 135 carts, 9-shot 120 rolls, small capacity mem cards? That way, there's no cheating. We've not just set arbitrary limits that we can fudge. When storage capacity is gone, it's GONE. It's not like telling ourselves, "I'll only trip the shutter 12 times today." Yeah, sure.

Last edited by RioRico; 01-10-2011 at 07:18 AM.
01-10-2011, 10:19 AM   #8
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Isn't it an interesting subject? Film shooting is a whole system with decades of evolution. Many small diferences form a big diference over-all.

01-10-2011, 06:04 PM   #9
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I'd say the main differences are the unexpectedness and all the hassle with film. It isn't just about getting perfect results and fast. Every shot is special, because it isn't just a code on a memory card. There's the anticipation of getting the results, not to mention all the messing with aquiring film cheap, getting it developed, scanning it and placing negatives in holders. For me it's a lifestyle.
01-11-2011, 01:49 PM   #10
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My read of the experience and results of film vs. digital is this

Marginally technically superior results are possible with film but are much more difficult to obtain therefore you must be a pretty awesome photographer to NEED film to achieve the results you are looking for.

For us mere mortals the point of shooting film is to kind of strip down all the help that digital provides so we are forced to focus on the basics without any expectation of obtaining great shots. That roll of film is just like a scratch off lottery ticket maybe something great will come out of it but you better have a fall back plan.
01-11-2011, 02:26 PM   #11
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When I'm shooting film, I do a lot of mental editing. "Contrast range is too wide"..."Can't hand-hold that shutter speed"...so I pass up a lot of shots. I also find myself concentrating more on the technical end of things like exposure, composition, cropping, etc.. It's a process that I really enjoy. I also like the anticipation of getting the slides back and seeing if I captured what I thought I'd captured. On the flip side, digital is more free-form for me. I can fix certain things afterwards so it's not as crucial as with film. It also means that I can afford to take "I-wonder-what-would-happen" types of pics with digital that I might not try with film. I've also found that my ratio of tripod vs hand-held is very different. With film, I probably shoot off a tripod 90-95% of the time. With digital, it's just the opposite. I shoot hand-held most of the time.
01-11-2011, 03:59 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by TaoMaas Quote
When I'm shooting film, I do a lot of mental editing.
Interesting, and a good name for it: mental editing. I still do that with digital and just can't get rid of it. Even before I look through the viewfinder, just a glance at current parameters and I know what to expect and whether to shoot or not. I am certainly much less selective so I often press the shutter release even if I know things are not going to turn out very well, but I still go through the process of mental editing and I know in advance what to expect. The mental process is always there. I guess some 10-15 years of making sure I won't pay for film and chemicals more than I should has trained me really well!
01-11-2011, 04:06 PM   #13
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I do film in a different serious way than digital. I try mostly to use expired film which give sometimes funny results.

For me, it's adding a touch of uncertainty to my photograhy practice.
01-11-2011, 08:20 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by mikemike Quote
That roll of film is just like a scratch off lottery ticket maybe something great will come out of it but you better have a fall back plan.
Well, not exactly. Part of the REAL film process is the printing. I mean, y'all can throw a few carts of Fuji X-Tra 800 (sequentially) into your AF Pentax SFX and shoot like it was a Kx, then haul the carts to the WalMart lab for your 4x6" prints, and you most likely won't have anything special there.

I'd rather put a cart of Forte Pan 100 into my Yashica GSN rangefinder or even the ZX-M, look and shoot with some care, and then soup the film and make some prints. Each full print requires some test printing to get it right. It's not automatic. It takes experience and work. It's not snapshooting -- it is the MAKING of a picture, not just the TAKING of it. Whole different thang there...
01-12-2011, 12:46 PM   #15
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Starting out with film now means that you can pick up a great film camera on the cheap!

I still wouldn't shoot film any more though...

c[_]
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