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"The Lost Frame"

or:  Reason #9 Why I Use Film


The Background

What's the best digital camera?  That question is asked a lot, I suppose.  

One of the most important ratings for a digital camera is how many stops of dynamic range it has.  The question there is:  Where does it start to clip highlights? 

A related question is:  how badly can you overexpose a picture and still get something out of it?

Maybe, when we're asking these questions about digital cameras, it's worth stepping outside the box for a minute.  So here's another question.  Why is it that so many people insist on using film in 2014?  

We're going to find out that all three of these questions are connected.

I went back to film, and I'd like to share one of the reasons why.


Check This Out

These are scans of 35mm film.  I think it was CVS color film, ISO 400 (I believe this is Fuji Superia film stock).  What you're about to see is from a test roll I was shooting with an old Yashica Electro 35 from a yard sale (I enjoy using old cameras).  I think this one has the notorious "POD" problem, which can cause the metering to be wrong sometimes.

Photo # 10 is there just so you can see a normal picture.   (Actually, I was using a color polarizer there, but don't worry about that.)   Now that you've seen Photo #10, let's move on now.

It's Photo # 9 that I want you to pay attention to.



I scanned these together so you can see what the scanner saw.  With the identical setting that made # 10 look normal (along with all the rest of the pictures on the roll),  # 9 looked almost like a blank white page. 

When I hold the negatives up to the light, I can pick out # 9 immediately:  it's the one that's almost black.  It has a little bit of detail.  How many stops over is that?  Whatever it is, it's a lot.  



Anyway, check this out:   I re-scanned # 9 by itself and turned the settings way up. 

And behold, there was still information in that 35mm negative:



Compare again with the first scan.  Now that's what you call latitude.

All I had to do was go back to the negative, and there was still tone information there.

Digitized images are different.   The information has been collapsed into a digital file.  I can't think of a good analogy for this, except it's like collapsing three dimensional info into two dimensions.  Sort of.   One problem with that collapse is that it throws away certain info that you would want.

Real negatives and slides have something that digital never will.   They have a real, tangible original.  That's kind of a big deal.  

Now, I know this example here was blurry and overexposed (or impressionistic, if you prefer), but the point of this little exercise is to show the amazing latitude of film.   It's just one more reason why film is worth using in 2014. 

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