Why Film?

Why indeed?  In a world that has gone almost completely digital what is the point of film?

I have been a keen photographer for nearly thirty years, ever since secondary school.  In that time I have bought a lot of cameras and used a lot of film.  In particular I enjoyed using my medium format camera and developing and printing my black and white films in the darkroom at work.  Medium format uses a negative that is about four times the size of a 35 mm negative, so the quality in the final print is outstanding.  But then I left that job and bought my first digital camera (a Canon EOS 300D) and found the freedom of taking photos without the costs and delay of film.

A few years later the photo blogger Ken Rockwell started talking about going back to film.  Why?  Well, most cameras use a sensor that is a lot smaller than the size of a 35 mm negative, i.e. they are not full-frame.  Does sensor size matter?  Yes.  A bigger sensor means better quality photos, especially when using wide-angle lenses, but I’ll explain the technical reasons why another day.  A more immediate reason why sensor size is important is that those cameras that do have a large, full-frame sensor are generally expensive.  A 35 mm camera will set you back nearly £2,000 with medium format digital cameras costing £10,000 and more.

Except all the old film cameras of course which, since the advent of digital, have become amazingly cheap.  Old 35 mm film cameras can be as little as £10 on eBay and even medium format ones can be had for less than £100.  All you need to do is to develop your film, scan it and you then have full-frame or medium format digital for a fraction of the new digital costs.

Also, film has a character of its own.  Fuji Velvia is known for producing vivid colours, whilst Kodak Portra is great for people photos.  And then there is black and white, where there is a whole range of different films to choose from.  Nor does it have to be expensive.  I get my films from 7dayshop and get my colour films processed at Asda, where they throw in a CD of scans for the princely sum of 97 pence.  I’ve also bought myself some chemicals and so develop and scan my own black and white films at home.

Finally, with digital it’s very easy to keep taking pictures in the hope that you can choose the best one later on the PC.  With film I tend to take a bit more care over my photos since I have fewer shots in the camera, and I think that helps my photography.  This is especially true with my old manual medium format camera, which is slow to use and so forces me to think more about composition and lighting.  I think that those skills are far more important than gear in making a good image. And that’s what I am after.

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About photovalve

I am a keen amateur photographer and this is my space on the web to talk about my explorations through the world of photography, both film and digital.
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