What Advantages are There to Keep Shooting Film in 35mm?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by karl_borowski, Jul 25, 2006.

  1. I'm surprised to see a fair number of images in magazines galleries, etc, still authored on 35mm film.
    With all of the 35mm bashing that takes place in this forum (I still shoot all film, so I have no problems
    with 35 myself), what practical advantages does 35mm have over digital? It still has advantages to me
    mainly because I have my own color photo lab setup now, but I'd like to hear what advantages for print
    and distribution that it might offer some pros. This is NOT to start a flame war. I know that the resolution
    of 35 is lower than the high-end DSLRs now, but how does 35 compare in other areas? Also, I've noticed
    that most 35mm images I see are shot on slide film. Is there still some sort of inherent advantage to
    slides over negs? I thought neg film had caught up in resolution, and it's always had a great advantage in
    terms of latitude.


    ~KArl Borowski
  2. Film still has a greater dynamic range. The problem now is that so many labs which used optical printing have either closed or resorted to scanning the negatives and making digital prints that the unique look of opticaly printed negatives is becoming rare. The same is true for slides which used to be used to make Type R prints. A clerk at a local camera store told me he would use their high resolution scan of my 35mm negative if I would pay for it. What did he consider high? 1200 dpi. I wouldn't say the 8X10 print he made was bad but it wasn't great either. I sent the negative to A&I for some custom Type C prints. When they come back I will take both to the local camera store so they can compare them.

    Color print film has been good for a long time but the results will only be as good as what your lab can generate. Film is good for subjects which would cause interference patterns with digital cameras. Properly processed and stored negatives will last much longer than any currently available digital storage. To match the versatility of a $100 used 35mm SLR camera you still have to pay almost $1,000 for a DSLR. The lattitude of color print film is much greater on the overexposure side than that of slide film or digital sensors. Over time digital equipment and techniques will improve but film based photography has probably reached the end of the line where new inprovements are concerned. Enjoy both.
  3. You don't have to print them at home.
  4. You can see the images without using a computer (slides or prints), you can project slides with minimal cost and amazing quality, the variety of wide angles that work well on film is greater, and the quality of black and white photography is better on film. These are my opinions. In addition, shallow depth of field can be achieved easily, and film has a traditional look (depends on the film of course) that is just pleasing to the eye. Also, the temptation to modify the images substantially is lesser because it's more difficult.

    I use 35 mm film quite a bit though with the D200 it's getting less. I very much prefer the larger 35mm format over DX except for some tele applications.

    I can't believe how much time I spend on converting raw images, adjusting them and making prints - and how much time I could spend in the great outdoors instead when I was just shooting film!
  5. The equipment, especially manual focus equipment, is dirt cheap. I have less invested in my FD-mount system of 6 bodies and 12 lenses than would have bought me a 30D and kit lens, as well as a much more versatile kit with lenses from 21mm to 300mm plus a superfast 1.2 standard lens and macro lenses.
  6. With film, you get the colour, skin tones etc you like straight out of the box. (this is assuming of course you've found films which you like)
  7. "...what practical advantages does 35mm have over digital?"

    Momentum. Maybe some nostalgia.
  8. I've shot film for 37 years now. For me the advantages of film is simple, shoot and forget.
    Just keep changing rolls and keep going. Drop at the lab. Review slides. Select ones to
    scan, and then the workflow is the same to Web or print.

    Another reason for me is that my system (Minolta manual focus) isn't compatible with new
    digital systems, so I would have to replace my entire system, and even replacing the most
    commonly used body and lenses would cost more than my entire current system, let alone
    duplicating it. So the question is the on-going cost of film versus the capitol investment in
    a full-frame DSLR system.
  9. Well without 35mm film 29-40 of my cameras would only be window displays.

  10. Shooting with film keeps the digimaniac kooks in stitches, vulnerable and stupid. Shoot film.
  11. According to my tests, even lossy desktop scanned 35mm film outresolves
    Which still bears asking the question that if your film tests show 35mm film in superiority in terms of sharpness over a Nikon D2X, why does my worst work on my 6mp 10D look 10x sharper and clearer than the best image I've ever seen you post? I still like it when you 35mm worshippers come up with math that concludes your stupid and obsolete film SLR has more resolution than my RB67. MF shooters have been laughing at you resolution chart addicts for so long I guess the digital crowd needs to get in line. Which brings me to another question, and that's why is it the smaller the format you shoot, the greater obsession there is to shoot resolution charts?
    Drop at the lab. Review slides. Select ones to scan, and then the workflow is the same to Web or print.
    Dude, no offense, but your posted images on your site are softer and muddier than Les's. You guys keep talking about all this wonderfull resolution with your 35mm film, and getting embarrassed by a Fuji F10:
    Shooting with film keeps the digimaniac kooks in stitches, vulnerable and stupid. Shoot film.
    For somebody with no uploads at all, you sure have strong opinions.
    Otherwise, the only advanatge I can see with 35mm film is it allows a grocery store mini-lab trained teenager to do your work for you because they are smarter than you at color/density balancing, or you just need an excuse to not part with your old gear. The full frame vs APS digital format arguement does get my support though.
  12. There's nothing like the feeling of picking up your slides or prints and viewing them for
    the first time. Nothing.
    The originals will be viewable in 50 years when cd's, usb, and firewire cables, don't exist.
  13. Forget about resolution and grain. It's all about the color. Digital colors look very similar to what you see on a TV screen, not bad, but if you're used to looking at color transparencies.......

    Also try to process a RAW file from a DSLR to give it similar contrast and saturation as a slide film, look at it at 100% and you will see all the advantages of digital disappear. All the digital hype about no noise and clean images only applies to unprocessed digital captures, soft very low contrast and saturation. But if you try to make them look like a real photo, well, try it for yourself. You'll see the photo disintegrate.
  14. I am glad I still own a B&W T.V.. Larry
  15. Remember, Karl's original call for discussion was about the rationale for continuing with film specifically in the 35mm format. One has to recall that 135 was never about quality, but rather that fast workflow, portability, and price, for everything from cameras to consumables were all superior to larger formats. In these niches where 35mm film cameras used to reign, current digital cameras tend to do the job better.

    Having said this, I continue to shoot 35mm film (in addition to lots of digital.) Camera, lenses and film scanner are all sunk costs for me at this point, and recurring expenses with film are inconsequential (for now.) So, I have some empathy with the Leicaphiles over at the other forum, even though they really _are_ crazy.
  16. Film is Rock&Roll Digital as we know it today is Disco.... Ok not like that but I bet it will end up differant than everyone thinks it will.

  17. I like to use film so I use it. Its simply that for me.
    I like to buy film, drop it off and pick it up after processing.

    With digi I waste a lot of time taking too much photo's and too careless. Too much time on computer. Unlike a pro a DSLR is not cheap, there is a lot of film and d+p for $750.

    I not like DX lenses so prefer my lenses work as they do in my film camera. With DSLR you have to duplicate some of your lenses....
  18. "Otherwise, the only advanatge I can see with 35mm film is it allows a grocery store mini- lab "trained teenager to do your work for you because they are smarter than you" Nice attitude you have there Mr 'Hero'! My reasons for shooting film (as well as digital) is I enjoy using film, I like processing my own B&W- especially printing the results myself. I get the best quality currently possible nothing beats the look of B&W on real Chloro-Bromide paper. I've seen people try and I've tried to equal 'the look' of a fine art print on B&W with digital but somehow they fall short. YMMV
  19. My Widelux doesn't take CF cards.
  20. most of the above, and... you don't have to buy a new camera, and in some cases (depending on what you have), all new lenses. You have to spend few thousand to get a DSLR with decnet build quality that doesn't feel like some plastic toy. Film is also cheap. Unless you're cranking out thousands of images, film in your existing cameras is cheaper. And if you are using a medium format film camera, it takes a vicious amount of money to match their image quality.
  21. Why use film ?

    For portraiture I use film because it gives me excellent results, cheaply. (hasselblad/astia/cibachrome or ilford delta DIY) The big cannon dslr might compare with similar results but the cost is chalk and cheese.
    For mountaineering i need a non battery dependent camera that can take knocks so its velvia through a nikon f2. Again ancient gear but superb quality results.
    I also have a pocket rollei in the glove compartment of the car - it has no battery so i can pick it up and use anytime.
    In addition i enjoy using characterful cameras and films and enjoy the ritual of processing and printing.

    I spend a lot of time in front of a pc (work) where i use a digital camera and photoshop, reluctantly.
  22. Mr. Eaton, with respect to, "Dude, no offense, but your posted images on your site are softer and muddier than Les's. You guys keep talking about all this wonderfull resolution with your 35mm film, and getting embarrassed by a Fuji F10..." I don't talk about resolution, I leave that to those folks interested in it. Secondly it's not correct to compare a low resolution Web image with a higher resolution Web image, that has nothing to do with the original film or digital image, only the Web versions. And as for my images, I'm still learning to scan slides and soft isn't necessarily a fault of the slide or image, but the scan and photograher's preference. And it might be helpful and positive it you would stop confusing your opinion with reality.
  23. scott, any dummo knows film can not compete with D on the internet so why go on so much about posting film pictures,the only good thing about film is behind glass on your walls, i have loads, better than anyone else can produce because they are mine. also if you don't care for film anymore why do you hang around this forum so much, don't see your name on many others, strange.
  24. I'm with Ben. The only reason I shoot film is because on a non-profit salary I can walk around with 2 SLR bodies with superb viewfinders, high-quality prime lenses, can afford useful accessories like extension tubes, and don't worry all that much about damaging my equipment. A new body will set me back $100, and the lenses much less. Scanning film is slow and a PITA (but I'm getting better at it), but I don't do volume work. I shot a car race with a borrowed 20D and my existing equipment, and concluded that I don't care if there's a slight resolution advantage with film- the bold color, lack of grain, and consistency makes the 20D far preferable for real world shots, in my opinion.
  25. Sorry, attached the wrong version.
  26. Film has been good enough for the last 80 years and so it will be for the next. There are no professionals or amateurs who can deny that. The fact that Canon & Co. produce superb D-slr's doesn't make the quality of film inferior. It's just that a D-slr may be more versatile, not better or worse. What the heck if there were no D-slr's we'd all still be shooting film and you would hear no one complain.
  27. Folks, let me just clarify: I shoot mostly 6x7cm, and have my own lab. With the exception
    of the one pro-lab I use, or in emergencies when I'm out of chemicals, I am never doing
    one-hour-photo again. Mr. Eaton, as I was a teenager up until two weeks ago, I'll thank
    you to keep your biased opinions about the skill and appearance of most teenagers to
    yourself. Teenagers are no more all alike than all Jews, women, Blacks, or white bald men
    over the age of 50 are. I shot my first wedding as a teenager, and I think the results are
    better than a lot of the ones shot by "mid-life crisis photographers" that got into digital
    because they needed some new toys to play with. I want to know, having my own analog
    optical photolab and the capability ot pull off professional C-41 processing for less than
    70c a roll for 35mm 36exp. whether I should get rid of 35mm and get a digital P&S, keep
    shooting, processing and scanning 35mm C-41, or only use E-6 with my 35 and take care
    of E-6 at the local lab. I don't really want to hear about subjective opinions of the quality
    of scanned 35 versus digital. Clearly that is going to be as biased as lasering a digital file
    onto film and comparing that with a native E-6 slide. All of my prints, baring the ones
    that need excessive digital retouching, are printed optically. Having scanned a fair share
    of 35mm in my day though, I think that some of the Kodachrome I've shot pulls a decent
    12 megapixels or more, with acceptable grain that looks a lot nicer than compression
    noise IMO. I'm just worried that this grain is viewed as "old-fashioned" or unacceptable by
    a lot of clientele out there now. After all, as much as I'd want to, I can't shoot 6-7 for
    everything :) Please no flame wars, objectivity. I really want to know what the resolving
    powers of modern E-6 films are. I like Kodachrome, and am goign to start shooting more
    of it, but even it has a bit of grain and is slow for some applications. I've never shot pro
    E-6 films. How do they compare to the current line of C-41 like Portra 160? Again, I"m
    mostly concerned about grain and resolving power. Obviously, with the demise of reversal
    print materials, I'd need to scan them.

  28. I can think of several advantages for shooting film. However, I prefer medium format and find it difficult to defend 35mm. It is not only a size issue. Most of my objections to digital stem from it's ties to 35mm. Anyway, one line that I've been seeing a lot from editors lately goes "We accept digital images of the highest quality, but color transparencies are preferred". I suspect on some level, that dealing with a lot of slides may be easier than lots of discs.

    P.S. Maybe it is time to stop picking on teenagers.
  29. Karl, your last question (print film vs slide film) is totally different than the DSLR vs 35mm question you asked above. You're going to trade one flame war for another.

    If you mainly shoot a larger format, why are you asking about 35mm at all?

    Check out Photo Techniques magazine where Ctein rates different films. You won't find anything of comparable quality on this forum, and "Pros" are few and far between here.

    If you want to see what grain looks like on slide vs negative film on a high-end 35mm scanner, look at Les Sarile's film gallery, which is as close to objective as you're going to find here.
  30. Roger, reread my initial post and see I make mention of slide films and ask about the
    current run of them there as well. I have now asked twice for objectivity, but people still
    supply flames. I shoot all film, but I don't feel the need to demonize digital... I shoot
    primarily MF, but obviously there are places where it is too bulky/expensive for the subject
    matter. I want to know how I can best keep MF quality with ease and compactness. Some
    of the accounts I have read say that 35mm negative is too grainy for pro use anymore, so I
    brought up the possibility of E6 as an alternative that'd allow me to keep my 35mm rig.


  31. "35mm negative is too grainy for pro use anymore, so I brought up the possibility of E6 as an alternative..."

    Generally, reversal film trades off better grain characteristics for decreased sharpness (relative to negatives.) Either deficiency can be dealt with to a decent degree in the digital post-pass. So long as the film is scanned, the choice of transparency or negatives is significantly one of individual bias. Personally, I prefer negative film for the greater dynamic range and simple convenience.

    If the choice is between 35mm film gear and digital, it's easier to produce technically better images with even low-end modern DSLR's.
  32. Les, it's an internet forum, not a college term paper. Come on ;-) THe article I got the
    info on gold from
    was in an early '03 or late '02 issue of Popular Photography IIRC. I don't own a copy, so I
    can't give you a definitive citation. It had one of those stupid titles like "Digital
    Outresolves Film!" and compared the top of the line Kodak DSLR with Gold 400. If I get a
    DSLR, obviously it won't be a 6MP variety. I'm
    looking at the higher-end ones. I have already looked at your listings of different films
    versus digital, but I find parts of the list confusing, mainly the lack of actual established
    resolutions (just a list going from 1 to 20 ranking films and digital SLRs), and the absence
    of certain films. I didn't see Portra 160 on there, or 100T, so the list is kind of useless to
    me as I am a Kodak guy.


  33. I am not as accomplished as most respondents here, but I will venture the following:

    I started more serious photography a bit late, and I know film. So I shoot film. I am not interested in starting over with a new medium. I am interested in excellence in the little I currently know. Fool around with as few films as possible, and as few labs as possible. Get to know each as best as I can. Then .... go out and continue shooting.

    I was much younger, I would have to experiment with both, choose which appealed to me more, and go with it.

    If I was only a bit younger, I would be tempted by "changeover" from film to digital. Then I would be trapped in all these flame wars. Happily, I am out of it.
  34. Sorry, that is "If I was much younger, ... "
  35. I shoot film because I enjoy developing my film and doing enlarging and watching a print come up in the developer tray. I don't get the same thrill from mousing around in Photoshop and watching a print inch its way out of an inkjet. I'm not selling or exhibiting my prints, it's purely a hobby for me, and my right to approach it any way that makes me happy. My wife sews by hand with needle and thread, and my next-door neighbor makes and restores antique furniture with equally antique hand-tools. Their results are definitely slower, and in all probability less technically perfect than if they used the latest microprocessor controlled machinery, but they enjoy doing it and that's the definition of a hobby.
  36. Well, as far as I know, RA-4 is still faster than inkjet, and more archival and cheaper than
    most inkjet products out there, so I'm never giving that up regardless. I've given up tray-
    processed RA-4 printing (except for weddings and prints larger than 5x7), but I have to
    follow a good business model and provide what the customer wants. I'll probably always
    shoot film for my own personal uses, but then I generally tend towards larger formats
    there anyways. I started out on 35mm as most pro photographers still do at present, but
    I've come a long way professionally since I was shooting a lot of 35. I'm inclined towards
    nostalgia in more places than just photography, but I have to be objective. Since I'm
    considering getting a dye sublimation printer for quick jobs, I"m just wondering if it is silly
    to shoot film on location, process & scan it on site, and make dye sub prints if film doesn't
    resolve as well as digital anyway. It's a lot of extra effort that I don't mind, but I do
    expecct better results out of it if I put all of that extra time and effort into it.


  37. "I"m just wondering if it is silly to shoot film on location, process & scan it on site, and make dye sub prints..."

    Yep, I think it's kinda of silly. Going with a DSLR is a no-brainer for this application.
  38. "I"m just wondering if it is silly to shoot film on location, process & scan it on site, and make dye sub prints if film doesn't resolve as well as digital anyway"

    How do you process and scan color negative or slide film on site? Mobile lab? Polaroid?

    I hope you got what ever information you were looking for as this thread doesn't seem to be getting any clearer as it goes along.
  39. I don�t have the background as some who have posted but I love the look of fuji Reala, NPZ & Acros (pretty much the only films I use) scanned on my Minolta 5400II. I also like the look of digital done with controlled lighting. I want the best of both worlds. Probably a dream. For assignments I use mostly digital, since I�ve already incurred the cost I might as well use it and get better at it. For fun, low light, B&W & wide-angle photography I use film. I think scanning/capture, exposure, development/post processing, printing and good photography principals have a lot to do with high quality images film or digital. It must feel good to own a lab and process your own color film.
  40. Only when it comes out right Thaddeus ;-) The machinery I have gives me an aweful lot of
    technical troubles, but when it works, it is superb, as good as or better than any lab I have
    ever used.

    Mobile film processing I'd use a Jobo tank, changing bag, and chemicals, of course :) I'd
    probably throw a hair dryer in to cheat on drying time coupled with a scanner and a laptop.

  41. Advantages to continued shooting film in 35 mm.? Viewfinder, depth of field, wide angle,
    durability, no continual obsolescence. For Scott, who used to use a Nikon FE2, here are
    some scanned images from that camera used with primes (they lose something in the
    conversion from RGB to sRGB). I've just added medium format (Pentax 645) to my kit.






  42. I don't think digital B&W will ever have the same impact. To me, some small amount of
    grain can be beautiful. Grain isn't always bad--it would be like trashing the brushstrokes
    on the Mona Lisa. Take a look at the works of Nick Brandt, or Sebastien Salgado, or many
    of the classic portraits that appear in the New Yorker (like a recent one of Morton
    Feldman). The look of medium format--the incredible tones and details with that touch of
    grain--really do it for me. I suppose you could add grain in the computer, but this seems
    dishonest and pointless.
    I just printed a 13x19 of a tri-x scan (35mm), and the results are stunning.
    To me, that is.

    It's too bad that one of us (one that shares my surname) seems to troll all the forums,
    waiting to jump down every hapless poster's throat. Get a life.
  43. I shot my daughters wedding today. A Kiev 6c with Foma 400 a Nikon EM with Agfa Vista 100 and a Nikon D70. Guess what? I think they all have a place and a use. Just because I have a DVD player does not mean I had to get rid of all my VHS.

    We also gave everyone a 1 use polaroid 35mm camera....

    Will post pictures soon.

  44. Trolling is good for boney fish and ugly women. Larry

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