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09-07-2015, 05:10 PM - 4 Likes   #1
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It's not just a "zen" thing

Just a little op-ed posting here... Probably a year or more ago I posted a little blurb here about much more comfy it is here, tucked away in the Film SLR Discussion threads. Of course I pop over into the other forums as well but I frequently find them quickly tiring. Many here (and elsewhere - it's become a silly sort of "debate" of sorts, e.g. the pro-film or pro-digital which is not what I'm necessarily commenting on here) have voiced a love of film for reasons that have been covered --- 'i like the look', 'it slows me down', 'the process is more organic' and so forth --- and the reciprocal of those for me has been simply opting out of the 'megapixel' race. But it's more than just pixel-flexing on the digital side. Browsing the other forums today something dawned on me, a more concise version of why I love film photography and film cameras - it's a bit simplistic and there are certainly points of contention but nonetheless...

It isn't just a 'zen' thing, it's also of a 'pride' thing. As I look through the hundreds of posts in all the other sections they are all about the best in-camera meters, how fast the AF is, how many focus points, which modes to use for what and when, program mode this and auto-bracketing-so-I-can-auto-blend-exposures-in-post that. It just reiterates the fact that digital cameras more and more become image-capturing computers with advanced algorithms dedicated to all of scenic possibilities a 'photographer' may encounter and those that are considered best are the ones which perform all of these functions the fastest and with the most consistency. In short, it seems that everyone is looking for the camera that, year after year, can take a photograph FOR them. There are countless cameras about now that can take 'accurate' photographs with little or no input from person behind the viewfinder (or LCD)... I find it strange.

I find myself tired and confused by this because I want to take the photograph. Me, using the camera as a tool, not the camera using me as a tripod. I want to choose the emulsion for the look and the available light, meter a scene (either with a meter or with my eye) and select the exposure, make a depth-of-field choice and focus quickly and accurately *myself*. As time goes on all these years that have passed and all that will pass, I want to become a better, simpler, more efficient and proficient photographer. Film photography largely demands this of me. Digital photography largely does not. It requires that I master an entirely different set of mostly-automated tools during a shoot and in post. It asked that I become an "image programmer". But, I just want to be a better photographer. And so here I am.

Hmmmm....

09-07-2015, 05:37 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Nice post. I also love the precision and simplicity of the classic meter less film cameras, from my 1933 Leica to my Pentax H1a. Yes, there are more steps to taking a photo, but they become second nature, and judgment and reason replace over-metering obsessions.
My favorite digital cameras let me use them the same way, and they aren't dSLRs.
09-07-2015, 05:39 PM   #3
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At the end of the day it's the product, not the process.
Most people don't care what it took to get there, or how you did it. If they like the image, and it says something to them, then you have communicated.
The process is for the artist, not the viewer.
09-07-2015, 06:04 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by K-Three Quote
At the end of the day it's the product, not the process.
Most people don't care what it took to get there, or how you did it. If they like the image, and it says something to them, then you have communicated.
The process is for the artist, not the viewer.
Very true, clearly, but that's another topic altogether.

09-07-2015, 06:26 PM - 3 Likes   #5
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Mastering the camera, digital or analog, and intelligently developing the resultant exposure, is always something the photographer has to do. I don't think there's much difference between the two processes once you get down to it. Some people get caught up in the bells and whistles (megapixels, etc), but that doesn't mean that creating the image is much different. I think that's one of the reasons Pentax is my brand - I love using the old manual lenses and feel more connected to the process. I have no idea how many AF points my K-S2 has, 'cause all my lenses are MF.
09-07-2015, 06:34 PM - 4 Likes   #6
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Coming from someone who spends way too much time pitching brickbats in the FF Forum I tend to agree. But then my film camera to digital ratio must be 5:1 and for MF to AF lenses it's higher.

On another thread a member asked why some of us avidly pursue old manual focus lenses, He contends AF is much more convenient and accurate, the new coatings are better and modern designs render sharper images. We responded similarly to you, in addition to slowing down the process, we just enjoy using old things that were made to last - made by people, not robots.

While he politely accepts and respects our opinion, he openly states, in conclusion, he just doesn't understand why we would use an inferior tool and accept (he claims) an inferior product. I believe there's more to life than clinically ranking image sharpness according to some scale and proclaiming the newest iteration of some device better than its competing brand.

I get to define my good, not someone else - so I get to define my best. And I like it that way.
09-07-2015, 08:01 PM - 2 Likes   #7
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I got sick of the complexity of the digital camera, it seemed every time I went to use it there was some stupid little thing to make me not enjoy the process.

The battery was flat
It stopped recognising a certain kind of battery alltogether (still have no clue why or how?)
the flash stopped charging,
The settings were always just wrong

I found an old SP1000 and put a roll through and it reminded me of why I enjoyed photography! it reminded me of when I used to shoot film and the enjoyment I got, so I bought more film bodies and well ended up here.



It also means that when I see people with cameras I don't need to get involved in the "well my Canon has a 12inch dick" "Oh yeah, my Nikon has one 13inches!" "well my Sony may only have one 3inches long, BUT it's got 3 of them!"

And so on.
09-07-2015, 08:29 PM - 2 Likes   #8
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Many years ago, there was a strip in Mad Magazine (Dave Berg, I think) where two shutterbugs are arguing on a tour bus over whose camera can take a better picture of the next point of interest. Finally, they ask the "real" photographer in the group, who replies "neither - we just passed it!"

After 25 years of shooting manual-focus film before I touched my first digital camera, I don't feel much desire to go back. (I have plenty of memories of dead batteries, wrong settings, mechanical problems, or some darned thing going wrong.) That said, when the latest gadgets don't work (and there will always be SOME situation where they won't work), I feel fortunate to have the "old school" skills that usually provide a workaround, rather than just go on the internet and complain that the camera is no darned good, the engineers are stupid, etc., etc., etc.

09-07-2015, 09:14 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by chickentender Quote
It isn't just a 'zen' thing, it's also of a 'pride' thing. As I look through the hundreds of posts in all the other sections they are all about the best in-camera meters, how fast the AF is, how many focus points, which modes to use for what and when, program mode this and auto-bracketing-so-I-can-auto-blend-exposures-in-post that. It just reiterates the fact that digital cameras more and more become image-capturing computers with advanced algorithms dedicated to all of scenic possibilities a 'photographer' may encounter and those that are considered best are the ones which perform all of these functions the fastest and with the most consistency. In short, it seems that everyone is looking for the camera that, year after year, can take a photograph FOR them. There are countless cameras about now that can take 'accurate' photographs with little or no input from person behind the viewfinder (or LCD)... I find it strange.
I'm sure there were once many artists who thought it strange that people found fulfillment in images made via a chemistry process, rather than paint, ink, chalk, etc.

FWIW, I shoot digital exclusively, and more than half of my shots have been not only with MF lenses, but also with me manually setting the exposure parameters. And yes, I take pride in the fact that my images are as influenced by my decisions as I can make them.

It's all about the intent of the photographer, not the equipment.
09-07-2015, 10:34 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by hks_kansei Quote

It also means that when I see people with cameras I don't need to get involved in the "well my Canon has a 12inch dick" "Oh yeah, my Nikon has one 13inches!" "well my Sony may only have one 3inches long, BUT it's got 3 of them!"

And so on.
So, it's not the length of the lens it's how you use, eh?
09-07-2015, 11:25 PM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by chickentender Quote
So, it's not the length of the lens it's how you use, eh?
I just say "My camera's old and can't get the thing working anyway these days, so it doesn't matter what size it is"






I've also had to explain the concept of film to a friend who had absolutely no knowledge of how a film camera works "how do you get the pictures off it if there's no sensor?"
09-08-2015, 01:03 AM   #12
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Film cameras didn't stop 'improving' with the advent of the Spotmatic.
QuoteOriginally posted by chickentender Quote
I want to choose the emulsion for the look and the available light, meter a scene (either with a meter or with my eye) and select the exposure, make a depth-of-field choice and focus quickly and accurately *myself*.
Apart from choosing the emulsion why can't you do this on digital?
09-08-2015, 01:56 AM - 1 Like   #13
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Those who never grew up with film cameras will likely not understand the connection, which is much like the connection to classic cars. For me, being able to hold a quality metal film camera is a delight. Often before I go to bed, I pick one of my collection to admire while I operate its controls.Note, one directly operates the control rather than another input which then does the job for you. This gives a tactile satisfaction and a bonding between man and machine. Like the difference between a manual car shift and auto shift, or the difference between a fine mechanical watch and a plastic quartz timepiece. The pleasure comes from the means, not the end result. This is all about emotion connected to operation, rather than to the end result.

Last edited by arnold; 09-08-2015 at 01:58 AM. Reason: punctuation
09-08-2015, 05:35 AM   #14
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I still prefer driving my 1973 VW for the same reasons. It doesn't even have a radio - just makes good mechanical sounds that tell me how it is doing.
09-08-2015, 07:02 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by arnold Quote
Those who never grew up with film cameras will likely not understand the connection, which is much like the connection to classic cars.
My first camera was a Zenit but I still prefer using a modern digital camera probably because I just enjoy taking photographs and all the stuff I learnt using manual cameras is just background information that I can use when needed. I still have five film cameras from an all manual Chinon CM4 to a Minolta 7000i but I am never tempted to use them.
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