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Film photography- still valid?

Discussion in 'Talking Pictures' started by roobarb, May 23, 2011.

  1. AlecM

    AlecM MiniMe

    Still valid, yes. I liken it to running a classic car, instead of (but most often in addition to) a modern one. There's a feeling of nostalgic enthusiasm about a vintage or classic vehicle - okay, you know it's not going to do the job as effectively on a number of levels, but there's a feel-good factor that cannot be compared.
    I know a number of people who, when they want to get the job done, use digital, but still indulge themselves with film when the mood takes them.
  2. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member


    I want to make a point here and my point is that one has to work at ensuring survivability of digital. I'll come back to that.

    I'm making the point not because I disagree with you or that I have a preference for film or digital but because if you (and others like you) keep extolling the longevity of digital without some caveats then someone, sometime, is going to come horribly unstuck.

    It's a fact that technology will change and that old files will need to be converted. It's a fact that hardware will change and that files won't be transferred. Hardware will crash and there will be no back up. And so on.

    Yes I know that, in theory, all of the above can be overcome but I personally believe that most folk won't bother or don't even consider back-ups.

    I also know that accidents happen to paper prints but believe that a far higher percentage of old fashioned family snaps will survive than modern digital files.

    Despite all that I'm 100% digital myself these days!!!

  3. AGW

    AGW Well-Known Member

    I would agree with Mick but I would also say that in my experience you have to work hard at looking after prints and negs too. I'm in the middle of a family history project. This has involved scanning plates from the 1890's (which had been stored in a garden shed) and a wide range of film based negs up the early 60's. The 35mm negs from the late 50's onwards seem to be the most vulnerable to damage. The damage results from a variety of sources but all could realistcally be summed up under the heading of "lack of care". The moral of the story seems to be that if you want to maintain an archive you have to work at it.

  4. PhilW

    PhilW Well-Known Member

    I've what I hope in an interesting take on this.

    For me the question could be asked without the "still". Yes I used to shoot film, but my pictures were analogous to the current camera phone snaps of kids and holidays. I only became "a Photographer"[1] in the digital age.


    Is Film photography valid?

    I think so.

    I shoot a fair amount (say 15 rolls in the last 12 months) of 120 in my Bronica, and recently borrowed an old canon 35mm body and have put a roll of Provia f and one XP2 through it.

    The Bronica I do just for fun. I think in IQ terms I have to say my digital work is better (although i did win the forum competition a few months back with one from the Bronica, and never have with my digital!). But there is something special about the waist level finder and the deafening mirror slap :D

    The scanning is a hassle, and the cost hurts my wallet, but it's still a nice treat now and then.

    Also I've developed a couple of B&W rolls myself, and that was a magical experience.

    For me it was about dipping into the past and seeing what it was like.

    The 35mm body was an odd one - I've used cross processed effects so often in my digital workflow I actually wanted to see what the real thing looked like!

    and the answer was: Pretty cool :)


    The roll of XP2 i put through was mostly because I've been shooting a project of shots in my studio window, all natural light and processed to emulate, you guessed it, XP2. So i wanted to see how my editing stood up to the real thing. I took some fun street stuff on the roll as well (that's another thing 36 exposures lasts a bloody long time!!):


    I'm not going to bin the digital kit, but this newly discovered film stuff will be a part of my photography for a while i think.

    [1] my definition of a photographer is someone who takes conscious decisions about exposure and composition - i.e doesn't just point and hope.
  5. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    I quite agree. I've used a number of different storage and backup systems in my time, floppies, Zip Disks, CDs, DVDs, external hard drives, cloud backups. It does take a lot of effort.

    Maybe, but actually I doubt it. There are probably more pictures on Facebook alone right now than paper prints stored everywhere. Yes, I know I made that up, and it's probably preposterous, but I honestly believe that not only are more shots actually stored now online, but that as a result, more people see them than ever before.

    Which is a different issue. :D

    And I agree with Graeme, too.
  6. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    What you say is correct of course but in a way you are missing the point. Firstly I'm really thinking about 'Mr Average' - and he is not to be found on this site. Mr. Average is the person who, in the film days, used exclusively print film, had Christmas at both ends of the film with the Christening or maybe his holiday in the middle. He never printed above enprint and having shown the pictures to his family threw them into the proverbial shoebox. If memory serves I read that the description just given applied to something of the order of 90% of 'photographers'.

    My contention is that Mr Average will do nothing about archive with either film or digital but that film based photos are more likely (notice the words - more likely - I'm not saying will) to survive.

    In a way your mention of using plates more than 120 years old proves my point. They have been maltreated in a shed and are still usable. I cannot convince myself that the digital files produced by my Mr Average will last half as long. They certainly could but I don't believe that they will.

  7. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    Yes you are probably right about number of viewings but, as you say, that's a different discussion.

    My contention is that one day facebook will disappear or the member (if that's the right term) will lose interest or maybe even die and the files will just languish possibly to be deleted. Then, even if the files themselves don't disappear their 'provenance' will be lost and their value to future historians reduced or eliminated.

    I don't have a facebook account but I assume that one needs a password. Have you given your password to anyone? If you should suddenly be unable to log in would anyone be able to go to retrieve your files? Is retrieval even possible? Would anyone even dream of rescuing your account?

    I know that I'm painting a bleak picture and doing it deliberately to make a point. I'm equally not talking about tomorrow or even the day after (I hope) because I'm talking about when we are long gone. I honestly don't expect my digital files to outlive me by more than a few months.

    Final point. I'm making this fuss because I think that both sides of the argument, especially the digitalists, fail to report the downsides (I almost typed negatives) about their favoured system.

  8. P_Stoddart

    P_Stoddart Well-Known Member

    Each technology has it strength and weakness

    Downsides to film are as follows:

    Costly per shot
    image unsafe until processed
    low capacity

    Downsides to digital

    data can be lost or deleted easily.
    Not the same feel/appearance as film
    Cannot be viewed without complex technology

    What you gain in shooting time with digital yo lose in post process work and backup. But it is surely better to have more shooting time and capacity on sight. In general with digital you know the shot is there. With film you could get the best shot in the world and then kill it in processing.

    So far I have not lost any shots on digital even when I have stupidly formatted a card before checking the upload files.
    As formats well CD-ROM format has now being going for over 25 years. Goverments have woken up to digital format issues. By the way Blue Ray players can now read CD as well because of CDA.

    But that is not question. If you produce your best work on film and you can still get the product you like then shoot film. It's a artist choice if the technology still exists. No different from picking a lens, shutter speed, DOF or using B&W.

    If you shoot digital then you make the effort to protect your work. Just like you would store your slides/negs safely against damp or heat.
  9. filmlover

    filmlover Well-Known Member

    Reasons for staying with film:

    1. digital may give "excellent" quality in megapixel terms, but it often has a "plasticky, unreal" feel about it. Film, particualrly black & white with its sometimes slightly grainy effects lends more atmosphere to a picture.

    2. digital cameras are useless without batteries. Film cameras come into their own for the long distance walker/wilderness explorer. Long distance footpaths don't have charging points along the way!

    2a. Digi cameras sometimes give up the ghost (as i've experienced) in rainy/humid conditions. Fine desert sand/clouds of dust, can be a nightmare for digital gear. Freezing Arctic type weather drains battery power in no time.

    3. digital gear depreciates rapidly in value, thanks to manufacturers bringing out "new models" every few months.
    The best mechanical film cameras (i.e. Rolleis, Leicas, Nikon) in good condition are better than money in the bank.

    4. a hard copy negative, particularly black & white, if correctly processed, will still be printable in 50 years time. The life of digital images is uncertain, although there seem to be growing cases of images going "corrupt" after 7-10 years.
    A scientist described digital images as "inherently unstable" compared to film.

    5. a hard copy negative, will be scannable into whatever system materialises in a couple of decades time. Will you be able to open up digi images shot today on tomorrow's computers? particularly if saved on CD's.

    6. digtal dulls the senses....you no longer think too much about things such as quality of light etc., it replaces the brain inside your head, making you totally reliant on the computer chip. In the same way drivers become slaves to their sat-navs, never daring to disobey them, and ending up in some river as a result.
  10. Learning

    Learning Ethelred the Ill-Named

    Yes and especially large format. 35mm was the convenience format; it is superseded by digital. Really classy photography is large format cut film. I admit that it is too much bother for me.
  11. Roger_Provins

    Roger_Provins Well-Known Member

    Or something like this. Note it's on special offer, you can save 4 grand!
  12. Learning

    Learning Ethelred the Ill-Named

    Who can afford that? 5 by 4 will give the same result and Fordes will sell you the gear for under a thousand quid. I am less fastideous about quality and will be perfectly satisfied by my best efforts at DX. For most amateurs the top digital is way out of reach; however if such an amateur really seeks to reach the upper level of the envelope of quality then they can do so using obsolete film.
  13. Roger_Provins

    Roger_Provins Well-Known Member

    ... 'twas was only a joke :) but I be surprised if there were not some on this board who could afford one.
  14. Learning

    Learning Ethelred the Ill-Named

    Yes, I for one could do so; its less than the cost of a half decent car. Would I do so for a very nice toy? No. It would be a silly waste of money for me. For a photographic tradesman it may well be worth it if it pays for itself and more.
  15. Brian

    Brian Venerable Elder

    Bugger, I do wish people would fill-in their Bio's.;)
  16. RogerMac

    RogerMac Well-Known Member

    I suppose at a push I could as well - but it is twice the cost of any car I have ever bought, and anyway I am saving up for my care home.
  17. Barney

    Barney Well-Known Member

    I could afford one, but I don't know where I'd live if I bought one. :D
  18. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    I'm sure the missus would have suggestions...
  19. RogerMac

    RogerMac Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the forum.
    I am afraid that the question is rather a long way off topic and may I suggest that you re-post it in the help section?

    You would get more sensible replies if you include details of your budget, your photographc expertise, and give an indication of how much weight you are prepaired to carry around.

    Edit: I think that the original post I was was answering has been deleted - so this one looks rather strange
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2011
  20. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Sorry, it was from a spammer, not a genuine post, so I axed it/him.

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