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SCL Photo Podcast 33 - The Argument For Film

SCL PodcastTake it with a pinch of salt, but today I make the argument and state the case for shooting Film as well as Digital!

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Show notes:

My Notes:

Feature: The Argument For Film

(Sound of Eos 50e at maximum fps)

That's the sound of a new, second hand 35mm film slr I picked up at the car boot sale this morning. Its a Canon EOS 50e, with a 28-80mm Auto-focus f3.5 zoom lens. It goes from full auto, point and shoot style, to full manual where you choose all the settings. It can shoot at about 3 frames per second, the auto focus can track moving objects, it can work out the correct aperture to have two different objects in focus yet the rest blurred, it has centre-weighted, spot and evaluative metering. Its got a built in flash, or can use an external flash and meter it automatically. It tracks your eye across the viewfinder and activates the nearest AF point so that it focuses on what you're looking at. And it only cost me £40.

There's loads of good stuff on ebay too, lens, filters, adapters, batteries etc, or maybe you've got a real camera shop near you that deals in second hand kit - just talk to the owners and find out the history of the camera, make sure it turns on, the lens is clean and operates smoothly, and the shutter works. If its an older model make sure the light-meter operates too - but hey. half of the fun of working with the older, clockwork powered cameras is the lack of electronics - less to go wrong and they'll last forever.

So that's the first argument for thinking about shooting film - the hardware is incredibly cheap. You know me - I've got a couple of manual Minolta SLR's, a Practika, a Beirette and an Olympus film point and shoot, all bought at the local car-boot sale, and all, apart from this Canon, for less than a tenner.

Next up, quality of your images. With film, it's all down to the film you put in, your technique, and your lens. The film depends on how much you want to spend, but its pretty cheap anyway. Technique? Well, that's something you learn and get better at. So it's only really the last thing, the lens that we control with our purchasing power. And you know that boca-backed portrait / macro style that's all the rage, photo's where the foreground and background are blurred, with all the main subject, or parts of it, in focus? Well that's incredibly easy with a 50mm f1.4 lens. And that came on a Minolta that I paid less than a tenner for. The equivalent digital lens is hundreds of pounds.

It could be argued that film prints look better than digital too. There's no noise - just grain, which has an organic, natural feel that often adds to the feel of the photograph, not take it away. With film you're always going to have the pleasure of looking through glossy prints, a much nicer experience than just looking at images on your monitor.

If we're talking detail, why not step up to medium format film? More expensive and rare, but the kit is still available. The reason why Ansel Adams photographs are so full of detail is because he was creating large negatives which make beautiful large prints - the bigger the better.Another argument for Film is the ultimate portability. No computers, usb leads or chargers required. The battery in my new Eos 5e is good for 90 rolls of film, more than enough for any holiday or adventure. Would any digital camera last that long?

Something that we're all obsessed with is backing up our digital photographs, and thinking about how we can archive them for the future, but if we really think about it - even if we copied them to dvds, cd-roms, multiple hard-drives or the all-conquering DROBO, do you really think our ancestors, our great grand-kids or other relatives are going to be able to read them? ard-drives fail within a few years, especially if not used, and plastic media slowly falls apart. Sure, we could print out every digital photo we shoot, but how long does your average printer photo-paper last? A few years at most before it becomes brittle and turns to dust. Film has the double back-up of the print and the negative - which if store correctly will last for decades, and as long as they've got some sort of scanner or cameras in the future, which of course they'll have, they'll be able to scan, or photograph those negatives and re-produce those photo's, just like I did with my Dad's old film slides from the 1960's.

The final reason to shoot film is that it makes you a better photographer. Only having 24 or 36 exposures on a roll, which will cost you a tenner to develop, makes you consider each frame more carefully. You slow down and think instead of just firing the shutter off. Shoot a roll of film and your digital photo's will be better, guaranteed. Going back and shooting a roll of film every few months will keep you sharp, and you'll become a better photographer, taking fewer, but better, photographs.

So what are you waiting for? Think of all those family parties, get-togethers and special moments that you've captured on digital, but won't be there in 40 years for your ancestors to see? Surely it would have been better to shoot with film as well, so all those memories are saved forever, for a future and for people that we cannot even begin to imagine?

Next weekend, get down to your local car-boot sale and look for cheap film cameras. Check ebay, and the classifieds in your newspaper. Ask your relatives, there's probably at least one that's got a really good film SLR collecting dust in the attic, which they'd be more than happy for you to have, while they make do with a seemingly "cheaper" digital camera.

Get a Film camera, grab a few rolls of film, and go out and shoot -you won't regret it, in fact you'll wonder why you didn't try it sooner!

Few, I hope that was interesting to some of you guys. Take what I've said with a pinch of salt, and I've obviously exaggerated quite a bit, but maybe those who have only shot digital will be encouraged to try film, or those that have film cameras tucked away will think about firing them up again. In reality, I know that the cost of developing and printing is prohibitive - so why not have a film camera as well as your digital - so for those extra special memories, or those scenes that you want to last forever, shoot them on both - digital for ease of use, and film for longevity.

Oh, and as a PS for this article, just to show that although I love shooting film my, but digital is what I take most of my photographs with if anyone out there's got an old Canon digital back that they'd like to donate, say an old 10 or 20d, I'll use the lens off my new 50e, and it'd be much appreciated!

I'd like to thank Ted Marshall for the inspiration for this podcast - he's a dedicated Film Shooter who I've shared several emails with, and hopefully he'll be joining our Flickr group soon to share some of his great images.

I'd also like to thank Mathew Clark, or clarkysnap as he's know on Flickr - he came up with the great idea of asking for responses or questions to the podcast or blog in audio terms - so what I'd like for people to do is to think about Film, maybe you shoot in now, have in the past or are thinking about in the future - record a response in mp3 format and email it to me at It could be that you agree with what I'm saying, or maybe you think film is dead and digital is the only way forward - but what I'll try to do is collate your responses and play them in a future podcast. If you can't record audio, just send me an email and I'll read it out.

Photo Assignment For February - "The Third Dimension"

Long Term Assignment - "Where I Live"

Technique challenges (No Time Limit):

No Sky Landscapes

Fill The Frame!

Dawn / Dusk shots

A Landscape Style Shot With Strong Foreground Interest

Remember to email me your photos if you'd like to me work on them for the Photo Workbench.

To contact me, just click on the link near the top of the page under the big picture.

Thanks for listening, see you on Flickr!

Join the Flickr Group!

Cheers, Rob.

Reader Comments (1)

Hi Rob,

I thought this was going to be the prevebial 'can of worms' tale, but you did well to point out the merits of both digital and film!

The advance of technology always moves on and thankfully in many cases yesterdays 'hot' technology becomes tomorrows bargains. As you've already pointed out this is true for even recent digital technology.

People are often happy to view images on DVD's, digital frames and computers but 'prints' are the new technological leap for digital and the mainstay of film. I've recently been playing with HP's black only printing methods and with a good carbon ink and acid free paper they'll last for 200 years plus. (Although 'real' time will only tell!) To be honest, they're hard to tell apart from a good print from 35mm on traditional 'wet' processes. So far they're completely waterproof too! As this technology moves on and becomes more affordable, perhaps some of us will be inclined to put together a traditional 'family album' and even frame some prints.

No wires, no gadgets and no magic required to simply open an album or point to a picture on the wall and say, "That's your Great-Grandfather and Mother there....."

With film we had no choice, a print was a natural progression. With digital we just need to make this choice.

Good podcast Rob and best of luck for a digital body!

All the best,


February 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVictor

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