Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Photography with a Film Camera In the Modern Age?

The majority of us today photograph with digital cameras, and there are many good reasons for that, which I'll touch on later. With that being said, are there still any good reasons to shoot with film in this day and age, and if so, are the reasons enough for you to consider getting a film camera if you already have a digital camera?
I'll start off by saying that I do not shoot with film very often, part of the reason behind that choice is the cost of film and processing it. Dealing with digital files is far easier than storing negatives, well sort of. While digital images and backups fill up well over 100GB of space on various different hard drives, most of my film negatives are siting in a single fire proof box in my room. Oh yes, but that is not what I really want to talk about. 

I am far more interested in the results of the images, than storage issues, in all honesty. I love the quality and sharpness of digital images, and the ability to instantly see the results is very reassuring, to say the least. When I shoot with film, I often have no idea how the photo will turn out, but at the same time I often will spend far more time thinking about the shot I am going to take. I do have a soft spot for film, since that is I what I grew up shooting with. One of the biggest challenges I faced with shooting film was using a manual focus camera, which is fine for landscapes and people, but for wildlife photography, I never bothered to bring my film camera along. All of this brings me to why I am even taking about shooting film in the first place, the cheap (less than $40 US) auto focus film camera I bought last week. 

Yup, you heard me right, I bought an auto focus film camera, the F90X (N90s for my American readers), to be precise. Now why on earth would I want a film camera in the modern age, aside from the fact that I have a few newish rolls of film that I want to use? First reason, full frame shooting, vs DX shooting, and you might wonder why that matters to me, after all most of my subjects are wildlife, where the added reach that a DX camera offers is desirable? Full frame shooting is desirable for landscape photography, and film offers high resolution at a reasonably low cost.  Now, think of the resolution that the Nikon D3X and Sony A850/A900 offer, well a 35mm film negative offers approximately the same resolution, for way less money. As I said, I bought the camera for less than $40 US dollars, and I already have some film laying around, so I might as well use it! The resolution offered by film, would be the primary reason I made the purchase, which may be followed by purchasing my own film scanner, simply to save on development cost, but I'll see how much I like the results before I consider that. 

So should everyone rush out and get a cheap film camera, that depends on you really. If you need to see your shots right away, and like to tinker with them a lot, I'd say no, unless you want to build your own darkroom for film development. 

Oh and why do the majority of us shoot with digital cameras rather than film? I think the answer is simple, it's faster, you can take far more shots for less money, and you don't have to worry about your memory cards expiring in the box if you don't use them within a set amount of time, as you did with film. 

Just a few updates: I'll be posting my review of the Nikon 85mm F3.5G Micro next week, most likely on Monday. I'll post my thoughts on the Nikon F90X this weekend, as I'll likely be doing some test shooting this afternoon. Obviously I wont have any shots to share for a while, so the review will be at least a month away. An update on my thoughts on Aperture 3, will likely come with the F90X preview.