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Why I've pulled out of film photography.

Discussion in 'Everything Film' started by peterkin1010, Sep 28, 2012.

  1. peterkin1010

    peterkin1010 Active Member

    I've been interested in photography since 1981 and acquired my first SLR back in 1984-a Ricoh XR-S+50mm f2 lens for the sum of £139.90 from Sherwoods-who were located in the Great Western Arcade in Birmingham in those days.

    I was hooked.

    Back in 1987 I got a job at Jessops and was like a kid in a sweet shop. Hard work and pay didn't matter-I loved cameras and became a good salesman as a result.

    Back in the year 2000 divorce came about and having gone through numerous 35mm camera systems I had to call it a day.

    Then in 2005 I acquired a Leica Minilux and was staggered at the quality of the pictures it was producing. Again I had to sell it and relied on a Samsung compact digital camera. This served me ok but again I wasn't using it enough to keep it.

    I then had a brainstorm earlier this year and acquired the funds to buy a pristine Nikon F5 and a Nikon 50mm F1.4 AF-D lens c/w a Nikon HS9 hood and for black and white a B+W 52mm Yellow/Green filter.

    If everything was working and I was using top quality film then I was certain to have been getting results at least as good as my Minilux and potentially an awful lot better.

    One big problem..I wasn't.

    In fact the results I was getting using Ilford XP2, Fuji Superia 200,Kodak BW400CN and Kodak Ektar 100 ranged from the barely acceptable to utter rubbish and produced some of the most dreadful pictures I've ever taken.

    The reasons?

    The equipment seemed to check out OK, I always used fresh film from either Boots or Jessops (except the Ektar which was bought of an eBay trader), I didn't recall making any mistakes when taking the photos, I held the camera steady, used Aperture Priority at between F2.8-F8 with the majority of shots being taken about F5.6. This was usually done on a bright day but not always. And the majority of pics were taken in Abbey Park, Leicester-probably the most photogenic park in Leicester.

    So what was the problem.


    I used a range of different labs from Boots to a so-called Pro Lab and the very best results could be described as passable/mediocre. And the very worst were truly AWFUL!

    I spend £30 getting two rolls of Ektar 100 printed up to 9 x 6 and the results were surreal. It was like using Colour Infra Red film of 20 years ago. And the contrast levels-soot and whitewash would be complimentary.

    Elsewhere results were equally disappointing but for different reasons.

    Wishy-washy colours on Fuji Superia, soot and whitewash on Ilford XP2 and similar on Kodak BW400CN.

    In the six months I owned that F5 I must have spent almost £200 on film and processing and been nothing but appalled by the results.

    I do know a bit about film photography and can still assess negatives by sight to ascertain whether or not they will print well.

    In all cases there was sufficient detail in the highlights and shadows to produce good quality prints with normal levels of contrast.

    The 9 x 6 pictures were the final straw.

    I put my F5 on eBay and breathed a sigh of relief when it was sold and paid for.

    Sadly I lost another £200 in the sale, but that was tempered by picking up a bargain for a Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone.

    My favourite film Fuji Superia Reala film has been discontinued-at least in the UK market and that was the one emulsion which gave me the opposite of what I've been complaining about here.

    IMHO D+P standards have plunged through the floor. It could be that Digital printing has very different characteristics to printing film and as the printers are understandably set up for Digital then film has a virtually extinct role.

    I could have tried another couple of pro labs and even changed over to transparencies but the cost was uneconomic.

    With Kodak having pulled out of light sensitive materials altogether (!) film is all set to become extinct apart from for those who still have their own darkroom and do all their own work.

    So sadly my Nikon F5 has a new owner. I have a Samsung Galaxy Note in its place which takes perfectly good photos. And if I don't like them I can always delete them.

    So Film photography is finished with me now forever. Its a shame because I loved that Nikon F5. But if it can't deliver the results I wanted economically irrespective of whose fault it is then its no good to me at all.

    Goodbye film hello smartphone.

    A shame but for me it really can't be any other way.
  2. Atavar

    Atavar Well-Known Member

    The print side of things really has gone to pot recently. Personally I put it down to kids who have never used film being the ones who are processing it in the labs these days in between refilling the printer cartridges.

    To put this all in some sort of perspective, a student friend of mine was getting much better film results developing his films in his accommodation bathroom than we were getting from paying for processing on the high street.

    It's got to the point where I would actively advise anyone interested in shooting film to grab a tank, chemicals and bargain enlarger off ebay, teach yourself and do it at home. As long as you teach yourself well chances are you'll have better results.
  3. peterkin1010

    peterkin1010 Active Member

    There was trouble brewing back in February when the printing of my first roll of film was messed up at Boots. When I complained I was told nothing could be done 'because the negatives were too dense'-utter rubbish!

    And yet my Leica Minilux had produced some stunning results from XP-2 some 5 years earlier via Jessops Diamond Laser service (whatever happened to that?).

    Its a tragedy when I've in the game almost 30 years and have to withdraw over printing standards-or lack of!
  4. Wheelu

    Wheelu Well-Known Member

    Develop B&W at home, colour at a pro lab, and buy a scanner. Great fun and the results can be super! You must have a large collection of negatives/slides that you could process in this way.

    However I have been down that road and have now gone over to the dark side, 100% digital ;)
  5. Roy5051

    Roy5051 Well-Known Member

    I believe that the purile printing we now have to put up with is down to the way things are done nowadays.

    In the 'old' days, the film was developed, then run through the printing machine, where light was shone through the negative on to light sensitive paper, the machine having been calibrated for that particular type of film.

    Nowadays, it is my understanding that step one is the same (film is developed) but everything else is different. Step two now involves the negatives being scanned (hence the availability of cheap CDs at this stage), then the resulting digital files are printed, by machine, using laser-type light, on to photographic paper. I don't know whether the scanning process takes account of the type of film, though I doubt it. I have NEVER yet seen a CD with what I would consider to have decent scans on it, irrespective of where it has been done. Even scans done by the Fujifilm lab were diabolical. Hence the problem - the processing houses are trying to make silk purses out of sows' ears.

    It is unlikely, in the current days of digital, whether things will go back to proper processing, so the only way is to do it yourself, with all the costs that that involves. It is also a steep learning curve as far as colour is concerned.

    Incidentally, I, too, have finally abandoned film; my wife has, also, my having bought her a Canon compact with a VIEWFINDER, which was her over-riding requirement for going digital.

    R.I.P. film, it was great knowing you.
  6. beejaybee

    beejaybee Marvin

    Surely that was always the norm?

    Professional print shops used to be very significantly above the quality of the hight street outlets, in the same way that the maintainance standards of major airlines were above those of local lawn mower repairers. I believe the situation hasn't changed all that much ... however, as with many other services, the price of a top notch service has increased well above the official inflation rate, and, as a consequence, reducing volume has caused a significant reduction in the number of high class outlets. But I don't believe that we are yet close to having scraped the barrel clean.
  7. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    Yes, much of the trade processing of films must be accelerating the demise of film to a niche market. The last roll of colour negative film I used was almost certainly just that, for this reason. There seems little point in using something less convenient to obtain a poorer result, but at least we know the archival properties of film. Properly processed and printed b&w is another matter though, it still looks well ahead of a digital image from an inkjet or processor, the now relatively mass trade processing of chromogenic black and white films is generally execrable in my experience, as is the condition of negatives that they have handled.
  8. swanseadave

    swanseadave Well-Known Member

    That`s exactly what I`ve done(A Minolta Scan Dual) for much the same reason.I`m lucky here though since I have colour print films done by a small family business who produce excellent prints since they`ve been doing it for years and take great care.
    Sadly businesses like that are rare.

    I still shoot film,negative and slide,then scan them,archive them as TIFFs,and print them when I need to.It`s great fun going through my negs and slides from years ago.
  9. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    The only prints I have had done were 6x6 colour negs from my Holga, so any colour/sharpness issues were inherant. ;) My normal routine is to scan and edit digitally. I don't print much at all really.
  10. P_Stoddart

    P_Stoddart Well-Known Member

    I reckon wet printing from negative/slide in the commercial market been on the down slope since the late 90s.

    I used to have wonderful Ciberchrome prints done in the late 80s from a Lab near Stratford but when large inkjet printing systems popped up in the early 90s. They soon went bust. :(

    Now you can get digital photo prints to A2 that are truly amazing.

    So as pointed out the only way is to shoot film so you can play with your old kit, then scan and drop into the digital print path.

    Again as mention it all digital from negative anyway so that colour is more controlled etc.

    If you want that full wet process you need to take it up yourself now. :(

    Mind you even back in the early 80s print was all over the place depending on how much some labs treated their systems. :rolleyes:

    The reason I shot slide was because you got more of what you shot. Plus Kodachrome was a highly controlled process being exclusive to Kodak. Just one lab I believe back then. Always seem to produce much more predictable results when shooting.
  11. Atavar

    Atavar Well-Known Member

    I must agree that we were not exactly spoilt for choice - however the worst prints I received were from an established photo shop of 30+ years. :-/
  12. taxor

    taxor Well-Known Member

    It's a bit sad your giving up on film, but if you're not getting the results you want, well, fair enough. I must admit I'm puzzled by your acquiring an F5 and very good lens and then getting a lab to print your results. At the very least you should have the film processed and then scan it yourself on a decent dedicated film scanner. I've been scanning colour negs from 30 years ago and they're amazing quality; far better than the prints that were made from them. As for mono, my humble opinion is that you need to print them yourself in a darkroom with an enlarger.
  13. swanseadave

    swanseadave Well-Known Member

    Totally agree.The OP would be well advised to take this route.S/H scanners can be bought without breaking the bank.
  14. spinno

    spinno Well-Known Member

    I'm always sad to hear someone giving up on film, paticularly as a result of the processing/printing.
    However I did note in your comments about the state of the negs....maybe they've not been processed properly or and I'm trying hard to phrase this ..maybe they weren't exposed properly in the first place- was the F5 faulty.
    I agree that having prints done can be a bit of a lottery.
    I'm lucky (possibly extremely lucky) that my local processing lab is so excellent and the scans (ok 1800 x 1200) are pretty good too...and that's Asda!
    FWIW if I want to print large I can either re-scan using my Epson 4490 or I can go up to A4 "full frame" myself.
    Black and white printing well...I let Asda do that again from my scans/edits and they do a good job.
    Much as I'd love to go back to develop and printing the old fashioned way I can't so I have to go the way I do...it works for me and I'm sad that for someone as enthusiastic as you it doesn't.
    I know a gent on this forum who will develop black and white films and he's done some for me but again I scan them myself and again get someone else to print them.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2012
  15. skellum

    skellum Well-Known Member

    A Phone??
    Makes sense.
    You love photography so much a phone is the thing to aspire to.
    Bit like, I enjoy driving so much I'm taking the bus to work.
    Or, I love literature so I'm reading all the labels on the tins in my cupboard.
    So long, Dude.
  16. Learning

    Learning Ethelred the Ill-Named

    I gave up on film because I am both impatient for results and I am lazy.
    They are not good reasons; certainly not valid excuses. At least they are honest.
    Sometimes the processing was sloppy, but that was my own fault. With digital I can reprocess provided I still have the orginal raws.
    Having said that, there is still a frisson of expectation when I develop a film. I don't have a darkroom any more and scan the film. I only use film as a demonstration of the process to others. To people who have never seen it before it seems to be like alchemy. Silly isn't it. Forty years ago digital imaging would be science fiction. To many film is like something from the gothic era along with wichcraft.
  17. beejaybee

    beejaybee Marvin

    Well, the CCD sensor wasn't developed until a few years later (1969) but the first real applications of digital imaging were the Mariner 3 & 4 spacecraft launched in late 1964. Mariner 3 failed but Mariner 4 returned the first digital images of Mars following the fly-by in July 1965. 21 images were returned, each 256 x 256 pixels (0.06 megapixels) at 8 bit depth, taking 17.5 hours each to transmit back to Earth at the huge data transfer rate of 8.3 bits/sec (each was transmitted twice for redundancy).
  18. I've been shooting more film than digital for my personal projects this last year, but I don't let labs anywhere near my negatives. I process my own and print my own in the darkroom (or scan the neg and print from there). Most photo processing shops that are easily accessible currently wouldn't know what a roll of 120 was if you hit them over the head with it!
  19. PeteE

    PeteE Well-Known Member

    I can't understand where you get 'terrible ' results from labs- if I do not do my own C41 Boots in Brentwood High Street here are excellent or I take it to The New Pharmacy where they have an account with 'SigFoto Labs' part of Sigma Pharmaceuticals and they do an excellent job -- £ 6-00 for up to 39 6x4" prints -- NO colour casts, NO scratches -- maybe it's the NIKON ( should have used a PENTAX ! )
  20. Phobug

    Phobug Well-Known Member

    I highly recommend Peak-Imaging for processing. If you're patient and can put rolls in your fridge for a while you get discounts for more rolls (3,5,10 increments I think).

    Black and white film is so easy to develop at home and you don't even need a darkroom. I use something called "the stand method" with most films, because it's low-effort and almost foolproof. Also very very cheap to do it that way.

    Hope you don't give up - just consider using better labs.

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