July 21, 2014
Sunday afternoon rolled around and I couldn't wait to go out and take pictures.
So I went for a drive.
This photo trip really got me thinking. Actually, what got me thinking was the part where I get home and start comparing photos. That's when I realized something.
There is no question that digital is useful and even highly enjoyable, but I find the same thing happening here that can happen with medium and large format film. Digital, especially full-frame digital, has both high resolution and high acutance. I think what happens is that it gets you going down a certain road, where you start really concentrating on detail resolution and sharpness. Pretty soon you're poring over 100% crops and looking for ways to get ever-so-slightly more sharpness, so you can enlarge the prints even bigger than you've ever dreamed.
It's sort of like, "Digital has these qualities, so let's run with it".
Those qualities are fine, and today I returned with a couple of digital shots that I really like.
When I want the best digital camera I can get (this side of the much more expensive 5D Mark III) it's going to be the 6D. I know I can use it to make these ultra-sharp, super-detailed photos if I do my part. I also know that if I'm not careful, I can get on that same kick that so many other photographers do: chasing after sharper and more expensive lenses, and ultimately nitpicking pixels until it's impossible to be happy with any camera.
(It's not the camera's fault... it does its job very well. And by the way, the 40mm pancake or the 50mm "plastic fantastic" are plenty sharp enough for anything.)
The larger types of film can lead you down that same road, where it seems you're constantly searching for just a little bit more sharpness and just a little bit less grain. There's a branch of large format photography that's all about creating magnificently sharp, detailed, hyper-real images. And like I said, there's nothing wrong with that at all. It's a kind of art. Film can play the sharpness & detail game, and film can even win that game. Nothing on digital earth can even approach the detail of large format film.
I took a lot of film pictures today. I'll post some when I get them developed and scanned; but for now, I went through some older scans and pulled up this one.
Kodak Trimlite Instamatic 18
Kodak 400 film (Expired 1987)
This was shot in 2012 on a roll of 110 film that expired exactly a quarter-century before that. After developing, it was scanned on a cheap flatbed. Resolution is terrible; acutance is practically non-existent... and yet, I want to look at this picture. There is something about it. It's not even so much the subject; it's really the tones and other aspects.
Of these two pictures, the digital is closer to what its respective scene actually looked like. Certainly there's a place for that. But sometimes, digital can be boring. And even with saturation cranked in-camera, the digital doesn't put all the colors in the right places compared to slide film.
Meanwhile, a faded, grainy film image has something about it. I don't care that it's not a perfect rendition of the scene. In fact I don't really want a perfect rendition. I want the rendition that depicts my hazy recollection of the scene.
What's the point of this little exercise? Well, there's plenty of room for hi-res photos, but the "film look" doesn't necessarily have to be detailed. At times it has very little to do with resolution.
110 film and full-frame digital are at opposite ends of the photographic spectrum.
Both of them are good, but there is something about film that's almost other-worldly. And by the way, it is incredibly cool that Lomography brought back 110 film. You can get 3-packs of Tiger Color 110 through this link. Not many people even know that 110 cameras can still be used, but there are a lot of them around. If you're lucky you can still find a Kodak Trimlite at a yard sale for a buck or two.
Oh, and this is worth saying in really big letters...
You can now buy 110 slide film. I don't know why I didn't notice this sooner, but Lomography has made 110 slide film. Get it through this link. (For places to get the slide film developed, read Getting Started In Film Photography. You'll need "E-6" process for slide film.)
Film is so good, it's unreal. I don't care if the film sat in your hot attic for ten years; I don't care if you're using a yard-sale zoom lens from Sears & Roebuck; film is still one of the coolest things ever invented. Buy new film to keep supporting the production, but an expired roll here and there can be lots of fun.
I hope you enjoyed this article. You can really help me out by purchasing any of your stuff through the links on here.
Thanks for visiting my website!
3 p o.t o . 1 2 0 s t u d i o.. c o m
This won't directly copy and paste. Please manually type it into your mail program.
No spaces between letters.
Back to Top of Page