The joy of shooting film

On the market in Kabuleti, Georgia
Market in Kabuleti (Georgia). The gentleman is selling – among other things – home made chacha. Chacha is a strong liquior made of grapes varying in strength from 40% to – let’s say – 80%.

“The year is 2016 AD. Film is entirely replaced by digital. Well, not entirely.. One small village of film photographers still holds out against the invaders. And life is not easy for the digital legionnaires who garrison the fortified camps of Nikonium, Canonum, Panasonicum and Pentaxum”.

So far my adaptation of Asterix and friends. A whole new generation of photographers is around grown up with digital photography. I consider myself a very late convert. My photograpy school was from 2000 to 2003. Back then, digital cameras where not a serious option for the quality conscious photographer. Until 2014, I only used medium format film for my non-commissioned work. The assignments were done with a Nikon D90 that I never liked. All of that changed when I bought in September 2014 an entry level Canon DSLR for family snaps. This small gem could deliver amazing results. Soon better glass was bought and a model with more features replaced the entry-level DSLR. This dramatically changed my workflow and opened a different world.

So here I am, working with the technology that I considered not the real thing until recently and loving it. So what am I going to do with my beloved Rolleiflex 3.5f, Kiev 60 and the other great analog equipment that I have? They look at me sadly and feel abandoned when I take out the new Canon instead of them for a photo session .

From a quality point of view, the film versus digital discussion is no longer relevant. We are at the point that a full frame sensor can deliver the same resolution as the 35 mm film counterpart. In theory, film has a higher resolution than the common prosumer digital sensors. However between lab figures and field results, there are differences.

From personal experience: when I scan my medium format black and white negatives on a 14,000 Euro Flextight scanner at the best possible resolution, the result is a very large file and a lot of grain. A digital file of the same scene taken with a 35mm sensor has more detail, less grain/noise and wins here quality wise.

So what’s the point of using film, apart from nostalgia? The answer is simple, use what ever suits your needs and mood. Like a painter uses different brushes, paint and techniques, photographers too can use the strengths of both the analog and digital medium.

I shoot digital, when colorful landscapes or wildlife with lots of detail are my aim. When I am after “the look” of the golden era of black and white photojournalism, I use Kodak Tri-X 400 film and D76 developer.

I return to the small village of film photographers occasionally…