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01-03-2016, 10:54 PM   #1
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Why do you still shoot manual film SLR?

In an age where photography has become so automated and convenient, why do you still choose to shoot fully manual vs AE, AF cameras? Is it nostalgia, an unwillingness to adapt to newer technologies, or perhaps something deeper than that?

If so, please mention which manual Pentax body if your preferred weapon of choice and why (SV, SP, KX, MX etc).

01-03-2016, 11:27 PM   #2
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I shoot black and white photos on film, because I think film produces a better result. As for equipment, I use my old Minolta cameras and lenses. I know that's sacrilege to post on this forum. Oh well.
01-03-2016, 11:48 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Harry_the_Wombat Quote
I shoot black and white photos on film, because I think film produces a better result.
Fair enough. But if you think about it, shooting digitally would give better results, technically speaking. I seem to think it's the process that we manual film shooters like. The limitations inherent in old camera technology make us approach the craft in a completely different manner than a modern, digital camera. What do you think?
01-04-2016, 12:03 AM - 2 Likes   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Harry_the_Wombat Quote
I shoot black and white photos on film, because I think film produces a better result. As for equipment, I use my old Minolta cameras and lenses. I know that's sacrilege to post on this forum. Oh well.
I still use my Minolta X-700, great camera that is. I recently took that on a kayaking trip (Not confident enough in my kayaking ability to bring the DSLR, weather-resistant or not) with a 24mm Rokkor along with my PZ-1p for telephotos. Minolta lenses are very underrated.

Though I won't say the cliche about how it "forces me to slow down" I do appreciate the quiet serene feeling I get from taking a picture in quiet with no beeps, no lcd glow, no auto-focus motors whirring, just me and the camera. I appreciate the look film gives, and I like the feeling of capturing an image with the film taking color control away from me and giving me an interesting result depending on the type of film. I would rather do that than spending hours at my computer to replicate that look.


Last edited by Dipsoid; 01-04-2016 at 12:08 AM.
01-04-2016, 12:16 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Dipsoid Quote
I do appreciate the quiet serene feeling I get from taking a picture in quiet with no beeps, no lcd glow, no auto-focus motors whirring, just me and the camera.
Absolutely. I also think having a limited number of shots per roll forced us to be accountable for each time we press that shutter button. On the other hand, having terabytes of data at your disposal tends to promote a 'shotgun approach' to photography which doesn't necessarily require you to be in the moment.
01-04-2016, 12:17 AM - 2 Likes   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by RR84 Quote
In an age where photography has become so automated and convenient, why do you still choose to shoot fully manual vs AE, AF cameras? Is it nostalgia, an unwillingness to adapt to newer technologies, or perhaps something deeper than that?

If so, please mention which manual Pentax body if your preferred weapon of choice and why (SV, SP, KX, MX etc).
I use fully manual cameras regularly because after over 40 years I still enjoy the process. I've been in to Pentax gear since 1973 and am enjoying going senile at the same pace as my cameras. Most of the time, though, I work with an A7r, often with adapted lenses.

I don't have much experience with Pentax cameras as weapons. However, it seems to me that a 6x7 with the wooden grip would make an excellent club. They work quite well for making photographs, too. Used one for 20 years.

For serious 35mm work I like the KX, using the MLU function on a tripod. For hand-held use I enjoy the MX equipped with a winder. I play with a wide assortment of Pentax manual bodies in a loose rotation. I don't get very excited about the virtues or vices of particular bodies. They are all old and interesting to explore as pieces of photographic history. Operating an S3 with a clip-on meter is a great reminder of how far cameras have progressed in my lifetime.

Digital is technically superior to film, but film has character that I like for some subjects.
01-04-2016, 01:28 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by RR84 Quote
In an age where photography has become so automated and convenient, why do you still choose to shoot fully manual vs AE, AF cameras? Is it nostalgia, an unwillingness to adapt to newer technologies, or perhaps something deeper than that?

If so, please mention which manual Pentax body if your preferred weapon of choice and why (SV, SP, KX, MX etc).
I went from film to digital in May, 2015. Why? Basically because I grew very tired of fighting with film developers who would take sometimes three + weeks to develop one roll. In fact, I put all the work together for them to produce an enlargement, and would you believe, they made me wait more than a month. At that point, I drew the line and had enough. Do I regret it? You bet I do. Why? Simple. I bought a digital bridge camera of a widely known brand name, only to find out that with all this advanced technology, it could not cover a specific color. It is called a limited Dynamic Range. So, when I am done taking digital photos, I have to upload them on to my computer only to find out that now I have to spring for software programs that are not cheap in order to doctor up my flicks. I owned just about every SLR that Pentax made, and my favorite was the Spotmatic F and those wonderful Takumar prime lenses. Would I go back to film? No, because I donated all of my SLRs and bags of fresh film thinking I was entering into space age technology, when in fact it is more like Stone Age technology. Yes, I know, "Whaaa, whaaa, whaaa!! So, now if I want a digital camera that has unlimited Dynamic Range, I have to fork over nearly $1,000.00 and possibly more if my lenses are not compatible with the upgrade. Cool, huh? Anyway, that's my story and I am sticking to it. )

Tony

Last edited by Tonytee; 01-04-2016 at 01:31 AM. Reason: I had to do the right thing.
01-04-2016, 01:47 AM - 8 Likes   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by RR84 Quote
In an age where photography has become so automated and convenient, why do you still choose to shoot fully manual vs AE, AF cameras? Is it nostalgia, an unwillingness to adapt to newer technologies, or perhaps something deeper than that?

If so, please mention which manual Pentax body if your preferred weapon of choice and why (SV, SP, KX, MX etc).
Although I do shoot digitally, I also continue to shoot with a manual focus, film SLR, and not for nostalgia or an unwillingness to adapt to new tech. Lots of reasons; you asked; here it is:

Manual focus? It's about making the conscious choice of what to focus on. With auto focus, there is always a delay, even for a millisecond. With MF I can anticipate where and when I want to shoot, and when I push the trigger, there is no AF delay. It's also one less thing to break or use power.

Manual exposure? The engineers that have devised all the various exposure modes have done a great job, but unlike the human brain, I've yet to use a light meter that learns from its mistakes. One extreme example is shooting the moon. The meter thinks the night sky should be 18% grey and the exposure will indicate I must be shooting at night. But in fact, I'm shooting daytime on the moon, which is about the same exposure as a sunny day on Earth. Ultimately, manual exposure allows the photographer to be in total control and forces greater awareness of the lighting.

Note: I don't always shoot manual focus and manual exposure, but these are the reasons why I do, when I do.

Film? For 35mm, I prefer my Nikon F3HP. But I usually shoot medium format with a Pentax 645:

a) Intentionality: I can't on the spur of the moment change ISO or emulsion. So when I go out with Ilford Delta 100, I know exactly what my contrast and grain structure is going to look like in grey scale. If I'm shooting Kodak Ektar 100, I'll look for different kinds of contrast, color, and lighting, than if I were shooting Fujichrome Velvia.

b) Vision: I get 15 exposures on a 120 roll and I won't see the results immediately. So I make every shot count. The first one, the second one, the last one. The trials and errors are so much more painful and meaningful than digital that it marks you. It is not a media for the weak or lazy.

c) Aesthetics: All digital images are a grid of pixels or dots. Columns and rows of info. Film is analog and every exposure is a different arrangement of grain, either on the film or the paper. When you shoot digitally on the same sensor, it sends virtual data to a ones and zeros file and the info is processed by chips into recreating data. With film, photons of light are striking a one of a kind emulsion and a latent image is created. Then depending on many variables with chemistry, temperature, etc, the image is created and each one is slightly unique. With digital each image is slightly identical at the elemental level. I've done blind tests with students, and they can always tell the difference when images are put side to side. The best analogy I can make is film is like analog sound recording (yes, even with the scratches and pops), but although it is not as "clean" as an digitally compressed mp3, it is a fuller spectrum. Most motion pictures are still shot on film, and not just because of the dynamic range.

d) Linearity and discovery: I have students that in high school, get to experience both film and digital. Some prefer digital; some prefer film. Why film? They say it's like opening presents under the Christmas tree. You hope, you wish, it may be a dud, or it may be something better than you expected....but you've got to wait and unwrap it. Watching the latent image emerge from the developer tray never gets old. And during critiques, overwhelmingly the favorite shots were serendipity.

e) Art: You are more the creator and less the user. With film, you have to decide long before shooting, what you're going to shoot with and why. Other than different characteristics of various lenses, the camera is essentially just aperture and shutter speed and light meter. You do the rest. With digital, especially jpegs, it's highly engineered for us to the degree that bad technology will limit your potential. Another analogy: Driving a manual transmission car from the 70's vs. a modern CVT today. Most cars are all drive by wire, and the steering wheel, gas pedal, brakes, etc. are essentially video game controllers. We give the car's computer inputs, it responds to what the software says to do, and then sends commands to another computer that tells various parts to do whatever electronically. One has direct linkages, the other has virtual linkages. Yes I love Rock Band, but can I play a real guitar?

f) Price: I bought my Pentax 645 (and 3 manual focus primes) 30 years ago. Imagine buying any DSLR today and still using it to get great images 30 years from today? I cannot afford to buy a 645D or 645Z, but with my 60mm x 45mm film camera, I can scan the image and get 40 MP files. The 6x4.5cm format is approximately 3.7x larger than FF and it's larger than the digital medium format in the 645D or Z. That equals wider angle of view and shallower DOF with the 35mm and 75mm Pentax primes.

g) Archivability: If stored properly, my film should last over 100 years. How about digital tape, floppy disks, zip disks, jaz cartridges, hard drives, etc? How many of us have backed up and transferred our home movies shot on magnetic tape like miniDV? Yes, the cloud will become our collective image bank for the species, but think of the impact it has had on ownership, authorship, copyright, etc.

Don't get me wrong. I love the digital future on so many levels, and for every argument why I shoot film and manual, there are counterpoints for digital. But for me, shooting manually and with film has nothing to do with nostalgia or an aversion to technology.

01-04-2016, 01:59 AM   #9
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I still shoot with a Pentax MX.

I used film younger, because there was no digital at that time. First with disposable cameras
during school trips, then with my own compact zoom cameras.
Then, I bought my first digital camera in 2000 for my 20th birthday, a Nikon Coolpix 800. I LOVED it.
It pushed me to Pentax DSLR later, and a photo club at work.

There, some people (well, 2, maybe 3 ?) were still shooting film, and I remembered clearly having printed a shot
in a darkroom while in primary school. I wanted to try it again, but getting to it again, and enjoyng it took me
some time : I went through different cameras (rental Mamiya 7, faulty MZ-L (LX-M), and finaly MX).

It is only the combination MX + processing film at home that made me enjoy it: Feeling in charge of the whole
process, the pleasure to unroll the film from the spool after developping it, the magic of the image appearing
after having put the paper in the developper solution....

So what made me shoot manual film SLR is probably nostalgia, but it is not what make me still shoot it.
01-04-2016, 02:28 AM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Alex645 Quote
The best analogy I can make is film is like analog sound recording
Interesting that you brought this up. I'm a sound engineer by trade, and I can say that many similarities can be drawn between analogue recording and film photography. In fact, I wrote an article recently which touches on many of the points you raised above.

QuoteOriginally posted by Alex645 Quote
Archivability: If stored properly, my film should last over 100 years.
The same holds true for recording to tape; it still remains the most future-proof medium available. While digital recording formats have come and gone, a well-stored reel of tape will outlive the artists who recorded to it.

QuoteOriginally posted by Tonytee Quote
I went from film to digital in May, 2015...Do I regret it? You bet I do.
Sorry to hear about your loss Tony. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that art is getting better, just because technology is getting better. But in reality, it's not getting better; only more convenient.

Last edited by RR84; 01-04-2016 at 02:52 AM.
01-04-2016, 02:51 AM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by RR84 Quote
Interesting that you brought this up. I'm a sound engineer by trade, and I can say that many similarities can be drawn between analogue recording and film photography. In fact, I wrote an article recently which touches on many of the points you raised above.


The same holds true for recording to tape; it still remains the most future-proof medium available. While digital recording formats have come and gone, a well-stored reel of tape will outlive the artists who recorded to it.
When I was in film school, I had a great Sound Rerecording professor who was one of the best in Hollywood: Richard Portman.
Richard Portman - IMDb

In 1981 when I was in his class, he explained that he was now 95% deaf in one ear, and about 50% in the other, but (like Beethoven) knew sound so well, he could read the analog VU meters and feel the vibrations to understand what the rest of us could hear. Richard won an Oscar for Best Sound and won the BAFTA in 1979 for some sci-fi movie called Star Wars.
01-04-2016, 02:56 AM - 1 Like   #12
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because I want to.
01-04-2016, 03:03 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Alex645 Quote
Richard Portman.
Wow, that's a hell of a professor you had there. I wonder what he thinks of modern recording techniques..
01-04-2016, 03:17 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by RR84 Quote
Wow, that's a hell of a professor you had there. I wonder what he thinks of modern recording techniques..
Portman retired about 10 years ago.... but he's brilliant and probably recognizes the pros and cons of the old and the new.

What I've found in my own lifetime is that the best of the best seem to fall into one of three categories. a) Conservative and maintain old craft, technique, traditions to an extreme. b) Brave New World and completely embraces innovation and rejects the past. c) Synthesizes awareness of past process and paradigms and integrates it with contemporary trends. If I dare speak for Portman, I'd say he's in category 'c'. Maybe he's working with Neil Young on his Pono format?
01-04-2016, 03:53 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Alex645 Quote
Maybe he's working with Neil Young on his Pono format?
I'll never forget one of the promo videos for Pono where Neil Young invites big name celebrities to audition his revolutionary new audio format through his car stereo. Because there's no listening environment more transparent than the back seat of a Cadillac.
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