Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Using Film Cameras in the Digital Age

Why Use Film Cameras?

So here it is 2013 and digital photography has been around so long now that there is an entire generation of people that have never used a film camera! It's really a shame because film photography is photography and is worth learning about. As a growing number of young people discover film as a photography medium I thought it worthwhile to offer the benefit of my thoughts and experience on how I use film cameras today.  I have a hybrid workflow:  I don't do the stinky chemicals and darkrooms or photo enlargers like I did when I was a teenager.  Today (Adobe) Lightroom is my darkroom.  My printing happens on an injet printer not an enlarger. The biggest difference between my workflow and a 100% digital workflow is the hardware (film cameras) and "software" (the film). 

Nikon F3 w/ MD-4 Motor Drive & Leica M6.

The sweetest part of the deal for me is that I get to use some of the best cameras ever created for pennies since their value has dropped so drastically since the onset of digital.  I also like that I can have a camera for every occassion without breaking the bank. Casual afternoon out with the family? Out comes the Canon QL17 rangefinder with Kodak Portra loaded. This is a compact rangefinder with an excellent lens and a fast f1.7 maximum f-stop that when opened up has excellent bokeh which makes for great portraits. Studio or Strobist work?  I simply pull out the F100 and multiple Nikon SB speedlights (circa 1994) triggered by LightwaveIII triggers and the camera loaded with maybe some Fuji Pro 160S or any Portra. Cityscapes, candids or street photography?  How about the Leica M6 and Kodak Ektar 100 with an array of razor sharp Zeiss/Voigtlander/Leica lenses.  Sports or bird photography? Nikon F100 and Fuji 400, 800 or 1600 this time and a classic (or modernVR) Nikon telephoto zoom lens.  I think you get the point by now-look at all the fun that I get to have using all of these different cameras that literally cost pennies vs their digital counterparts.

Lets do the math:  

Full-frame Nikon digital camera (D800/D4/D600)= 2100.00 - 5999.00

Full frame Leica M9 = 6995.00

Full Frame Leica M9-M for great B&W = 7950.00 

Modern FX format VR zoom lenses = 1500.00?  2500? 

Fuji film X100s = 1200.00

Leica Lenses = (You don't want to know)

My entire camera and lens collection, Epson V700 film scanner and a bucket-load of film still costs a lot less than a Nikon D4 Body alone! Most of us can't afford to own this many different types of digital cameras just for each ocassion. Film cameras are so affordable that I can own all of these different camera bodies and lenses for specific purposes without breaking the bank. In addition, it's just really enjoyable to have and use so many types of cameras and not look like a boob when I'm hauling around some huge SLR/Lens combo that is clearly overkill for a given circumstance. 

About Me
I host the flickr.com group "Film Explosion" under the handle "greauxe" where I, as of this writing, have a member base of 2443 people who have uploaded upwards of 75,000 film photos.  My personal flickr photostream contains about 4499 photos of which 90% are scanned from film. I use film cameras for just about everything: macro photography, portraits, street photography, family photos, landscapes, wildlife, etc.

I have been in love with photography as long as I can remember and about 7 years ago have really gotten back into film photography in a big way.  I don't have anything against digital photography, I just really appreciate the beauty and relavance of film.  I like the thought that goes into a photograph when there is film in the camera. I crave the anticipation and surprise that happens when I develop and scan my film negatives. And I love how film renders life in such a creamy, contrasty, three dimensional manner unlike any other medium.  I love that you have to select which film you are going to use for a given subject or event. 

Like a lot of us that enjoy being stricken with G.A.S. or gear acquisition syndrome, I love buying and selling and using all of those old classic film cameras! There is nothing like the engineering and handling that has gone into the design of these cameras! They actually require that you the user actually know something about photography.
I sincerely hope that my flickr contacts and other people interested in film photography contribute and learn from my website.  Enjoy!