Really?  You Still Shoot Slides?

120studio.com
2014       


Reader Support

This article is possible only with the support of readers like you, when you use the links on here to buy your stuff.  Your help is much appreciated!



In This Article:


Slide Film Is Not Kodachrome

Film's Not Dead

There's Nothin' Like a Box of Slides

It's All About The Colors

Current Slide Films

Should've Used Slide Film

Film Cameras Are Fresh Again




Slide Film Is Not Kodachrome


Kodachrome used an older and more complex process known as K-14.  It was made obsolete by the newer and simpler E-6 process.  

There were photographers who had already stopped using Kodachrome by the early 1980's as Ektachrome became popular.   I want Kodachrome back, too, but instead of jumping on the "I quit, time to go digital" bandwagon, I'm out there shooting other types of slide film.  And I'm loving every minute of it.


In fact, I had already "gone digital" for a long time.  Then I realized something was missing.

By the way, even though Dwayne's Photo stopped processing Kodachrome, they still process E-6, as do many pro labs today.


Film's Not Dead

Film photography is alive and well in 2014, and slides still represent the best of film.  I don't know what it is, but the pictures just look better. 

As I've probably said earlier,  don't get sidetracked on image sharpness.  Many of the scans you'll see on here were made using consumer-grade scanners, which cannot pick up the detail inherent in a slide.  Most of my earlier scans were done with a V500  (Update:  this method is much better).  So for now, just look at the colors and tones.

In case you're wondering, though:  slide film has the resolution.  35mm slide film is at least 20MP equivalent, and probably more like 25 with good lenses.  It has all the detail most of us would ever really need.



Fuji Velvia 100


Digital has come a long way, sure.  It seems photography has forked into two main categories.  On the one hand is the smooth, mellow richness of analog.  On the other is the hyper-sharp, technical look of digital.  (The thing is, though, with sharp lenses, slide film can do that, too.) 

While the best of digital is enough to make anyone do a double-take,  the flat harshness and coldness are just beneath the surface.  Even the best digital HDR and long-exposure shots have a certain electronic coldness about them, in my opinion.   Don't take that the wrong way;  I enjoy many digital photos.   But there is a difference.  Lighting control and "post" can mitigate this somewhat, but I find it easier to use the more "organic" medium of film.

Slide film represents not only the best of film photography, but also the best of what can be accomplished with a camera.  It doesn't require fancy algorithms or CPU-intensive processing.  It doesn't have that flatness or that hard-edged coldness.  It imparts a bit of its rich character to the photographs.  Slide film is simply awesome.


Even drab, dark storm clouds look better on slide film, as I found out on a stormy evening in late April, 2011.  The following picture is from a storm that gave some pretty severe hail and a tornado that didn't touch down.  The cloud had a bluish-green tinge to it.  I have no idea why, but odd colors in a storm cloud seem to go hand-in-hand with severe weather.

The low light required a 30th of a second.  I don't know how I managed to hold it still enough to get the photo-- with a zoom lens, no less-- but there it is.  



Fuji Velvia 100
f/3.5 @ 30th



Yes, there are people still using slide film in 2014.   Many people. 

Actually, there seem to be more now than there were in 2011 when I first published this article.  Just as a quick example, I'm seeing one or two types of Velvia which "everyone",  just last year, was calling "discontinued". 

Yep, people are catching on to film again, and it's a great thing. 

Slide pictures look best when they're sharply focused (unless you're going for impressionism), but I don't think that's what sets the medium apart.  There's something else.  It's the colors and the tones, I think.  All I know is that it looks great.


There's Nothin' Like a Box Of Slides


Slides are also nice because of their longevity.   I can pick up slides from thirty years ago, and they look as good as the day they were taken.  If you leave a typical CD-ROM for thirty years with a JPG image on it, there's a good chance it will be unreadable.  Many DVD drives (especially laptop ones) have a hard enough time reading discs made on someone else's drive;  now imagine you've got scratches in the disc. 

And solid-state memory cards?   These are known to eat pictures.  JPG images don't degrade gently... they become useless, spontaneously.  Instead of scratches, fading, and dust, you get a blank gray screen or "file unreadable".  Corrupted digital data takes down the whole show;  corrupted analog data just has noise or scratches.  And besides, you need hi-tech equipment just to read that CD-ROM or SD card. 

With a slide, you just hold it up to the light and right away you know what it is. 


Here's one I did with a toy camera, the Diana Mini.  It has a rather soft focus because of the plastic lens:




Agfa Precisa 100
35mm toy camera
(Diana Mini)


Even through a toy camera with a plastic lens, slide film still has that look.  I don't quite know what it is.  I can tire of looking at digital pictures pretty quickly, but not slides.



It's All About The Colors


Slide pictures are generally more saturated when underexposed.  This happens easily with toy cameras, because most of them have only two or three aperture settings. 

If you want to get the most saturation possible, use Elite Chrome EBX 100 or Fuji Velvia.   Update:  Kodak's  decision makers didn't recognize the pure awesome of slide film, so right now there are no Kodak slide films.  Fuji is still making Velvia 100 (available here) and Provia 100F (here). 

Velvia 50 has the best saturation of all, but I use Velvia 100 where I need the extra stop.  The Holga and the Diana Mini don't have the wider apertures. Come to think of it, you could
use Velvia 50 in either of these cameras if you're in full sunlight.   On a sunny day with 100 film, the perfect exposure is between f/11 and f/16 at 1/125th of a second.  With ISO 50 film, it would instead be between f/8 and f/11.  On a toy camera you can't use in-between settings, so pick one.  Want the deeper saturation?  Use f/11.

(If you're still getting slight overexposure, try holding a 1-stop ND filter over the lens.)

That's the thing, though... make sure it's bright sunlight.   In very late afternoon, low-ISO films can start requiring f-stops you won't find on a toy camera.



Gulf Sign

Underexposure can deepen colors with slide film.

By the way, you should take pictures of landmarks in your town.
A couple months after I took this photo, the sign was gone.

Holga 120GN
  Velvia 100
120 film







How high to put the dark ground in a photo like this is a matter of some opinion.
 Should you use the rule of thirds, or just keep it a narrow band along the bottom? 
I lean toward the latter option, usually.

Velvia 100

35mm


This next one is from a photo walk around town.  I was just looking for something to use up the roll so I could get in out of the cold.  


I didn't increase the saturation at all (nor did I with any of these slide scans, far as I can remember).    Once again, this is the kind of underexposure you can get from a Holga when the sun isn't full:



Holga 120GN
Velvia 100
120 film


One thing about image quality is that I've found it's much better to have a high-saturation original and go downward than it is to have a low-saturation original and try to go upward.  Increasing saturation too much with software causes image artifacts and noise.  

(Keep in mind I shot this at -1/3 stop):



Velvia 100
35mm


Art photography, landscapes, and nature are all great with slides.   I even find that portraits and family pictures look best with slide film. 

If you have a TTL flash setup, even indoor photography looks great on slides.  Yes, you lose some shadow detail, and highlights can get blown out more easily than with print film, but you also get "that look" that only slide film can give.   Besides, blown-out highlights on slide film don't have that computerized look (unless you scan carelessly).


Actually, slide film has a lot more dynamic range than we give it credit.   It looks much better projected than it does when scanned or captured with a DSLR.  I've found that slide film may actually have more shadow detail than digital.  




Current Slide Films


I've moved the discontinued films (including Ektachrome and Elite Chrome) to their own page.


Right now (2014) Fujifilm is still making Velvia and Provia transparency films.

Fujichrome Velvia, as we've seen, is the most colorful film.   Velvia is unbeatable for hyper-saturated sunsets, fall foliage, desertscapes, or just about anywhere you want to bring out the colors.   

Velvia reddens skin tones, but
you can always correct these after you scan.  (Whatever you do, don't do the -1/3 stop trick with Velvia if you're taking pictures of people.  They'll look like the rocks of the Grand Canyon at sunset).  

It's hard to overstate how much I like Fujichrome Velvia.  Both the 50 and the 100 are superb films.

Provia 100F is great for all-around shooting where you don't want or need intensified red-purple-orange hues.   As of September 2014, the 100F is the only version of Provia still in production.  Provia 400X has been discontinued.

Provia 400X has gotten expensive since the announcement, but it can still be found.  
These are just residual film stocks.

You can push Provia 100F to ISO 400, so even without 400X you'll still be able to do some low-light people-photography with slide film.  Just use a fast lens.  Get yourself a 5-roll pro pack of Provia 100F.

There will always be a demand for slide film, as long as people know about it.  That's really the key.  People don't buy what they don't know about.  This is where Kodak dropped the ball, big time.  I hope Fuji learned from Kodak's mistake.

It's important to mention that in 2014 there are still a couple other brands.  It also appears there is some good news on the horizon.

Agfa Precisa 100 is a great film for taking pictures of people;  it has a fairly neutral color balance.  (Right now, you can get Precisa 100 through this link.)  If you can't find that, pick up a 5-pack of Provia in 35mm.

There's also this film from Lomography.  It's actually re-branded Agfa RSX 200.  (Technically it's Aviphot Chrome 200).  I hope to see this on the market for years to come.  This film has good shadow detail, good saturation, and moderate grain.  Right now I'm trying some at ISO 800 to see how it pushes.  ISO 200 slide film is that much closer to 400 and 800. 



Last but definitely not least, Film Ferrania has announced they're working on a new slide film.  They're supposed to have something available toward the end of this year or sometime next year.   This is extremely good news for film photographers. 


         


Should've Used Slide Film


After I went through that whole phase of "switching to digital" a few years ago, I looked back at many irreplaceable photos I took then.  The digital pictures are flat, cold, and harsh;  worst of all, they're missing highlights.   I can never go back and re-take them.   The best I can get by post-processing them is digital pictures that look like they've been post-processed.  

I should have used slide film.

Many subjects that looked good on film-- such as the afternoon sun on a person's face-- turned into a disaster with digital.  The dynamic range just wasn't there, leaving the side of someone's face completely devoid of tone detail.  

When digital blows out highlights, that information is gone and it ain't comin' back.  The technology is getting better, but it's at the cost of more transistors, more complexity, more chances to become useless in the middle of a photo shoot.  Another cost is in the data harvesting that goes along with digital cameras.  
They now have cameras that analyze the pictures you take and group them together by who's in the photo.   That's only the beginning.  Once they have your data, you have no say in what happens to it anymore. 

Why do I need a camera to tell me who's in my photographs?  You can keep your face recognition;  I'll arrange my photos myself, thank you very much.

The digital age has given us a throwaway mentality when it comes to images.  It's become somehow normal to expect bombardment of the senses with rapidly-changing pictures.  Everything is like, "so five minutes ago", to quote a movie character.  What these companies need to be doing is slowing it down and getting back to what's good (and lose the creepy data-mining, while they're at it).   Here, to me, is what's good:  send away a roll of pictures, and get back a storage box of nice, mounted slides.  Or with 120, a big long strip of transparencies. 


The best digital cameras take pictures with excellent sharpness and color, but they don't quite have what slide film can offer.  I am of the firm opinion that there's room on the market for both types of photography.  I'm also of the opinion that many photographers will gladly use and enjoy both.  



Velvia 100


This next
photo, by the way, is part of a series I'm doing where I emphasize color and impression rather than technical realism. 



Velvia 100
(RVP100)


(actually, this was shot on heat-damaged Velvia.  When I do a better scan of this, I'll put it up in the art gallery.)

For those of us who remember a time when we didn't stand there chimping through pictures on an LCD screen,  there's no time like the present to dust off that film camera, get some slide film, and start taking pictures the way they ought to be. 

Then, go on outside, pick some colorful subjects, and find out why slide films are called "chromes".



Film Cameras Are Fresh Again


In this high-tech age where it seems authenticity is getting scarce, there is something comforting about still being able to take pictures with slide film.   It's also the top choice for discerning clients and fine art photography;  and 35mm and 120 cameras have never been more affordable.  There are many tens of millions of used film cameras out there;  there are also new ones being made, including a whole host of "Lomo" toy cameras.  And don't forget the Vivitar V3800N.  There's also the Nikon FM10

As a new generation discovers film photography, there will be a new market.   Digital photography won't anymore be a bandwagon sort of thing the way we've experienced it.   To that generation, the old classics will be something new and fresh again. 


There are many labs still out there doing E-6, and any of the better camera shops still carry slide film.   These days I purchase mine through Amazon;  you can buy Velvia 100 through this link.  (Individual rolls here.)

These are mostly 5-roll pro packs: 


              


(This site depends on the support of readers like you, when you use these links to buy your stuff.  To all who have helped, my sincerest thanks... and I'll have more articles for you soon, hopefully.)

I don't care what "everybody" is saying, this is a great time to be a film photographer.

Long live film!


I hope you enjoyed this article.

Have a good one,





For unto us a Child is born,
      Unto us a Son is given;
      And the government will be upon His shoulder.
      And His name will be called
      Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
      Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
-Isaiah 9:6

And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
-1 John 5:11




Contact me:

3 p o.t o .1 2 0 s t u d i o.. c o m


The address won't copy-and-paste properly.  Spammers left me no choice.
Please manually type it into your mail program.  No spaces between letters.




Site News

How To Scan Slides With a DSLR


Film Scanning With the 6D


Home Page

Art Gallery






All photos are Copyright 2010-2014