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50/50

Most of those who have been following along here for a while know that I enjoy shooting both digitally and with film cameras. Both can be rewarding in their own ways and many of us have strong opinions of which we prefer. These days I carry my camera bag with me everywhere I go with no exception. In it you will usually find my Hasselblad, OM-2n, XA2, and the body of my 5D. I leave the OM lens adaptor on my 5D making it all to easy to pull out the body and swap lenses with the OM-2n when I want to switch things up.

How do I decide which camera to shoot with? It’s almost as simple as you knowing what lens you want to use, but the thought is extended when I consider the film inside each camera and the behavior of each. More often than not I reach for a film camera. These days I use my OM-2n the most, followed by the 5D and last but not least, my personal favorite, the Hasselblad.

Using film has nothing to do with being trendy. It’s a format in the same way digital photography is a format. Painters use different paints, sculptors use different raw material, and photographers use different lenses, bodies or types of film. It’s not just a matter of keeping up with technology, it’s simply a different paint, or material of which to create with.

Film still yields an unrivaled dynamic range, warmth, and a unique, beautiful way to capture life. Digital gives us ease of use as an entry point into the medium and an easy sense of accomplishment (which can ultimately leave you getting burnt out quicker). I notice many photographers that got into photography through digital means who end up looking to film as a way to further develop themselves as photographers. Sometimes it takes time to develop an appreciation of the nuances of using film when modern day tech seems to push so heavily against analog because of the constant pressure to develop and the latest and greatest digital camera system.

This weird push and pull for or against one format or another is unfortunate because there is clearly room for both. Any talk of film “dying off” is unheard of to me and it’s disappointing because a negative attitude toward film is not only absolutely pointless but drives the overall social mentality that paints it in a seemingly outdated way as if it is somehow redundant now that we can mimic the feel of it on a computer. It’s like drinking orange flavored sugar water instead of real orange juice.

Film isn’t dated, it’s very much alive and well. Against what you may believe after reading about Kodak’s financial state, they openly admit that their film division is still profitable despite the other parts of the company faltering, and they are certainly not the only film maker of the world. Shooting with film is not just for hipster kids or overly romantic shooters like myself. It’s for any photographer that wants to broaden his or her palate and as always I encourage anyone on the fence to give it a chance. Not only by trying it but by not talking down on the idea simply because your personal needs or taste does not align with what it gives you at this moment in time.

One nice example of someone giving film a chance is my good friend David who hand coded the new site design here on 50ft. He had been shooting with a modest DSLR for a few years now but recently decided to give film a try after being surprised by the results of using a borrowed rangefinder. He has been shooting with a Nikon FM2 lately and I love what he has been capturing with it. Looking back on his old photos it’s hard to believe its the same person shooting them. I think the switch has renewed his focus and spirit in looking for interesting things to shoot. You can see them on his Flickr stream here.

Well, I set out today simply looking to share a new desktop but here we are discussing film again and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I shot the above photo on the floor of a coffee shop a while back when I had first bought this lovely OM-2n. I thought the black and white tiles would make for a fun desktop image. Enjoy!

Comments

  1. Neil - January 24, 2012 at 12:36 am

    Interesting stuff. For me the enjoyment of using film is largely the cameras themselves, and I guess the waiting for it to come back or when you process it to see what you’ve got. That is genuinely exciting. I did some stuff recently with my Hasselblad in some woods near where I live, I felt sure I’d nailed on particular shot of a stream coming out of the side of a gorge, composed it properly, tripod positioned, light meter readings taken, when I got the roll back that shot (I took two actually but one was a mistake anyway) was rubbish. Blown highlights I think from water on the leaves on the floor reflecting the sun, maybe I should have used a polariser or something. So that really frustrated me as I’m making specific trips to visit places and shooting just film (I don’t have a digital camera at the moment) and I’m getting stuff back which is not what I expected. That’s a reason to shoot digital IMO you can review what you’ve done and make sure you nailed it, I do think there is a certain level of skill and learning to be attained shooting with film in tricky lighting conditions, as with I guess any format of photography.

    It’s something I really want to try to work on and understand more about exposure. The challenge to get some good results out of that location is what’s driving me at the moment as I know I’ll learn something from it which will help me in the future.

  2. john - January 24, 2012 at 1:16 am

    Yes, the anticipation is certainly a wonderful thing sometimes. Of course getting something back you thought would be great but didn’t work as anticipated can be initially disappointing but ends up being a much better learning experience than digital. With digital, you just shoot till it looks right and in the process forget about the process. There is a lack of finesse to shooting with a DSLR and the process becomes overlooked and forgotten much more easily.

    When you are challenged to do exactly as you have done, focusing your energy and paying close attention to all the elements but it still doesn’t work you have to ask why, what happened, it forces you into a position where you must continue to explore not simply by flipping dials until you find the sweet spot but in a way that lets you develop honestly. When a mistake is made you will certainly be more likely to remember it and know to try something different next time where with digital you casually snap away and get something close enough figuring you can do this or that later in post.

    I’m not suggesting you can’t learn from shooting digital, I’m just implying that we are all accidentally lazy about shooting digitally whether we admit it or not. At least until we get enough experience under our belts to let great exposures come more naturally.

    All in all, you have that part right, it is all about exposure. An article I have been writing in the back of my head for ages now, and will save for another day ;)

  3. Christopherr - January 24, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Great post and lovely photo as well.

    I picked up a film camera (Konica Hexar AF) a few months ago and am having a ball shooting with it. Its great to switch gears from digital to film and vice versa. Definitely keeps things interesting.

  4. thedoo - January 24, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Thanks for showing my OM-2. ;-)

  5. Dane Henson - January 24, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    I am in the same boat as your friend. I was shooting casually with a “prosumer” dslr for a while until I became disenchanted with it. I recently started shooting with the Nikon FE and I am loving it. Thanks for the encouraging post. Your use of both film and digital is inspiring.

  6. Richard - February 1, 2012 at 2:53 am

    I’m interested in pursuing film to improve my photos. I saw a trailer yesterday about this doco on a similar topic, although more geared towards film. It’s produced by Keanu Reeves of all people and looks pretty interesting:
    http://m.imdb.com/title/tt2014338/

  7. James - February 2, 2012 at 12:28 am

    I couldn’t agree more with you and the other commenters here. There’s a certain anticipation with film, like opening a present not knowing what to expect. I do also think that after getting so used to the quick satisfaction of shooting with digital and going back to film, I find myself thinking more about my shots. Changes your mindset from, “Oh, I can just delete that or keep shooting because I’ll never run out of space on this card.” It’s good practice for beginners or professionals in my opinion. :)

    BTW, been following your site for quite some time and this is my first post. Figured it was about time. Your work is fantastic!

  8. zaphod - August 6, 2012 at 12:06 am

    Hey

    I read that you use a Olympus lens adapter. I already have a few Olympus lenses, which I used to use with an earlier OM manual camera. While I am still looking to get a used OM4Ti to use those fantastic lenses with, I am intrigued that I can use these lenses on a Canon DSLR. Could you email me a link to which model of adapter you use? Or will this adapter allow using the Olympus Zuiko lenses in manual mode (which is fine too)?

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