Filmtown Population: One Digital Nerd – Series Intro and Index

I present to you a new photo.net column, “Coming Home to Filmtown,” which will look at a different interesting film camera and film stock. Scroll down below the index to read how and why this series was created.


Horizon 202 & Kodak Ektar 100 (March 2009)


Leica IIIf & Fuji Provia 100F (January 2009)


Holga and Kodak BW400CN (November 2008)

These will be less “technical review” and more “information and opinion”. Panoramic, rangefinder, large format, square format, and so on. In an age when film has started what appears to be its swan song why bother with something like this? The goal is to remind (or teach) photographers that not everything that glitters is digital.

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Let me explain a little using my own experience as an example It has been 7-8 years now since I made the switch to digital. At the time, I was shooting 95% extreme sports athletes for various magazines. Given that a snowboarding or BMX sequence could consist of up to 20 shots, I was burning through rolls and rolls of film at 8fps with my Nikon F5. My film and processing bill for the year prior to my digital switch was painful. Once I made the switch, I made it completely. I don’t think I shot five rolls of film in the ensuing seven years. Digital gave me everything I needed. I was able to check to see if I got “the moment” (the athletes loved that there was no more “just one more time”), I could shoot all day without it costing me anything, I could submit my shots without having to dupe my slides or worry about my originals getting lost, and I could put stuff up onto the web without having to scan anything. For me, digital just flat out worked. That hasn’t changed in the ensuing years. I am very happy with digital photography and it has served me well in my personal and professional photographic life.

However, there is a glaring omission in digital photography that hasn’t been overcome yet. The fact is that, for the most part, every digital camera is the same as every other in it’s class/price-range. With a very few exceptions, within the budget of the average consumer there are three choices: point and shoot cameras, “prosumer” cameras, and SLR cameras, and that’s all. Do you want a swing-lens panoramic camera? Good luck. Do you want a square format camera? Keep dreaming. How about a camera with tilt/swing ability? Better start saving for that $20,000 large format back. In my film days, I loved having different cameras around. Leica, Holga, Crown Graphic, Rolleicord, etc. If I had a project that called for a different look or style, I could pull out any one of them and move a whole world away from the standard 35mm SLR. Thus far, digital rarely offers photographers that option.

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Like many things in life, for most people photography is more than just the end result. The enjoyment of the process itself is a crucial element. And the fact is, the point-and-shoot, prosumer, and DSLRs that digital photography is giving us now are the auto equivalent of a subcompact, a wagon, and an SUV. No sports cars, no vans, and absolutely no Unimogs. I miss viewing a square frame through a TLR’s waist level finder, or the distinct look of a swing lens panoramic image, or the slow shutter low light abilities of a 35/1.4 on a rangefinder body. Yes, someday the research, development, and production costs for digital cameras will drop to a point where products can be created for such niche markets. But for now, you are out of luck. This, in and of itself, is enough reason for many photographers to stay interested in film cameras and photography.

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That brings us to the creation of this column. I will be using and talking about any camera that catches my eye along with a whole range of currently available films. To be honest, you probably won’t see any point-and-shoot or SLR film cameras here. Why? Because as I said, there are digital versions of these cameras that virtually every one of us has. To everyone but the most hard-core film or digital crazies, there isn’t that much difference between the physical experience of using a film point-and-shoot and a digital one. Of course, there are a few differences. It’s more like the differences between a Honda Accord and a Toyota Camry. The interiors may be a little different, but either way, you’re still driving a practical Japanese sedan. I’m looking for differences more along the lines of a Honda Accord and a Lotus Elise—something that makes a photographer say, “Well this is something new for me!”.

In closing, I will leave you with this. I personally do not care what camera anyone shoots with. Digital and film are all the same to me when I’m looking at the final product in a gallery or magazine. People should use whatever makes them happy. The point of this column isn’t to promote one over the other. It is to remind people that there is no one right answer for everything. Digital is cool, film is cool. Just go shoot some photos, okay?

Original text and images ©2008-2009 Josh Root.

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    • Why do you think film is in its last days?
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    • So defensive film users would ask that question. Seriously, I didn't say anything about "last days". I just said it has started it's "swan song", which it has. Anyone who thinks the state of the photographic film industry is healthy is ignorant or not paying attention. Ever year that passes into the digital age sees fewer and fewer film choices. Polaroid, gone. Kodachrome, on it's way out. Kodak HIE, gone. Fewer format choices for virtually all existing film stocks. The list goes on and on. Don't worry, film will be around for years and years, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered to start a film column on photo.net. But there is no denying it will just be a shadow of what it was 20 years ago. Hence, swan song. Getting huffy about it on the internet is just a waste of time.
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    • Seems like you'll be drawing a lot of heat Josh! Film will be around for years and years, but not the film companies... and you can all pay dearly for samples from my personal stockpile. Josh: Would you say there's a "resurgence" in film use amongst the young'uns? Of course by young'uns I'm referring to people who were born after Polaroid... >:)
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    • Film is just more fun and digital is too much like work. Film needs to place itself in the "fun Column" and the "artist column". Even the "Image connoisseur " column. We'll see how Ektar 100 sales go. HIE was mostly used for scientific/technical work. Silicon CCD's are better "IR Detectors" than film, so the scientific/technical community was an early adopter of digital. My first IR DSLR camera is from 1992. With most of the buyers gone, I'm not surprised that it was discontinued. Saddened yes, surprised- no.
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    • "...film industry is healthy is ignorant or not paying attention."

      While the market for film is contracting, that doesn't mean it isn't healthy. Kodak recently announced new Ektar 100 35mm and Vision3 500T color negative film in Super 8 format. In the last two years, they've also revamped Porta and T-MAX 400 among others. In a recent article in Amateur Photographer it was stated that "Kodak says sales of sheet film are particularly healthy" and that "certain black & white films are bucking the downward trend in demand among professional photographers in Western Europe and the US."

      Ilford has also made similar statements in regards to their black and white film lines, going so far as to state in a press release last year that "today's marketplace that has enabled black-and-white photography and its associated products and services to carve a defined niche for itself." They've even started a special initiative in support of ultra large format (ULF) photographers this year, and stated "we will continue to champion [film] and do all we can to ensure photographers can buy the products they need. The special ULF two month ordering window is just the latest evidence of this."

      Kodak, Fujifilm, and Ilford all agree that the market for film is declining (they've each said so either in annual reports, press releases, or interviews if you look around). Fujifilm stated in an a 2007 annual report that "sales of color films declined" but that "on a more positive note...Fujifilm increased its market share thanks to the success of a sales strategy that seeks to take advantage of the exit from the market of competing companies." Ilford stated in a press release that, "most photographic film, paper and chemistry manufacturers have been involved in the black-and-white sector at one time or another, but many dropped out as the popular market declined, leaving ILFORD PHOTO as the world's leading manufacturer of this genre."

      People tend to focus on the fact that there are less choices from the larger players, but firms like Foma, Adox, and manufacturers in China still offer choice in black and white.

      Niche markets can be profitable when pursued correctly, and that's what film has become. The business case is there to continue to make film in a niche market setting, otherwise no film would be manufactured.

      Citing Polaroid isn't a great example; they didn't stop making film because of a contracting market, they stopped making film because their business operations were poorly managed. Polaroid was in trouble long before digital; the lengthy legal battle with Kodak, that hostile takeover they fended off in 1988, and sales were stagnate as early as 1990. Their attempts to diversify their products lines were poorly conceived; their move away from core strengths in instant imaging and research and development was the choice that sealed their fate.

      I'd venture to say that film is not in it's swan song based on the evidence, but rather has shifted from a mainstream consumer market that has declined to a specialized niche market that is stable and quite possibly increasing in the case of black and white films.

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    • Excellent, Josh! I too switched completely from film to digital, about 5-1/2 years ago. I too thought that I'd continue to shoot some film, but not a frame has been exposed in all that time. Your column might just nudge me to dust off some of my film cameras. My favorite is a 1964 Kiev 4a - I sorta thought I should use it every May Day ;-) I also have several Chinese (Commie) TLRs and a Pentacon 6 SLR. This article by Ken Rockwell on how he uses film cameras is also very interesting: http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/free-digital-camera.htm BTW, I really like your "gold Leica"... a customized FED? ;-)
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    • The beauty about using film, for me, is that it is a physical recording medium. When you look at a photograph shot on film you see a physical object, in the way that a painting or a drawing is a physical entity, separate from the original subject. An all electronically produced photograph is, in a way, more like looking through a window – unless it has been processed or enhanced in some way, of course – because there is no intermediate material between the original and the final print or monitor screenshot. This gives it an immediacy that is in itself a remarkable thing, but it often lacks the sense of being "an altogether new object, complete and self-contained", to quote Aaron Siskind's words, in respect of his own photographs (although, here, it has to be said, he isn't making a film/digital comparison). In many cases it is the qualities of this intermediate medium that gives a particular character to the film image. When I am looking at a photograph directly recorded on a physical medium, I feel that I am viewing something actual, produced in a chemical reaction by the light rays reflected from the subject and, the older the photograph, the more poignant the emotional response I feel – in a sense it is like holding something of the original event in your hand. In this respect I am sure you will find a wealth of material even from 35mm SLR and point-and-shoot cameras, particularly the exquisite – and largely hand built – examples from the 1960s and 70s, so I hope you won't exclude them completely.
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    • Yeah ... film *was* more fun. I can't give any decent example as to why, but it was. Most non-pros taking pictures prefer digital because they simply can't "see" or interpret the light source, and digital immediately allows correction for that user shortcoming (in most cases). But what 'da heck: film *will* be gone in a few short years, and I will miss it.
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    • I´m looking forward to this column...nice to see some new interest in film. I must be one of the few people who have never owned a digital camera. Until 10 years ago I shot lots of 35mm SLR, medium and large format cameras (all film), then I downsized to just a little Olympus XA. A couple of years ago I wanted to build up an SLR system again, but couldn´t afford to buy new digital, and picked up some great bargains in Caon FD instead. All those specialized lenses and camera bodies I´d lusted after 30 years ago were now less than 20% of the original cost and I could finally afford to buy them. I´ve been having a field day! And I just love the feel of solid, metal, cameras, with their watch-like mechanics.
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    • I do want to reiterate my statement that I think film will be around for a long time. Justin made some excellent points that make me wish I had expanded on my statement. I agree completely that I think some of the "big" players may go away and be replaced by smaller companies. And in fact, we may even see the return of something like Kodak HIE or polaroid if someone can get them to license it (which they should if they aren't going to make it themselves) and a small company can figure out how to make money selling it. But I do still maintain that the film industry, as it stands, is not very healthy. After a few more years of shakeouts and whatnot, I think some smaller companies will have taken over (or smaller versions of big companies). Once that happens and the market has contracted as far as it is going to, I think it will be fair to call it "healthy" again. Though obviously much smaller than it was previously.
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    • My approach to the digital/analogue argument in photography is simple. Having grown up with analogue I now use it for black and white only. For colour I use digital. If some fiend robbed me and left me only one of my numerous cameras, I would hope it was one of the film variety. Each medium has great aspects to it and some not so great. Taking the trouble to learn a few basic principles of photography would seem to be more fundamental an issue that the sort of camera used and it is a bit of a shame that none of the user manuals seem to cover this topic. Has it become too easy and if so which is 'easier' digital or analogue (I don't have any answers by the way, only what everone else has - opinions and what are they ever worth?). Some of my best analogue pictures were accidental in so far as the result was inexplicably better than I would have predicted, so no matter how hard I try, I still have a great deal to learn. If honesty was the human default condition instead of an optional extra, I think we would hear a lot of professionals and other 'experts' saying similar things, maybe. Happy snapping.
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    • Amen, Brother Root. For me, sticking with film was easy. It's abundant and affordable. There's a superb (young) mom&pop pro lab that's busy(i.e., healthy)just 15 minutes away. My photo group holds semi-annual "Jurassic Nites" with 6x6 and 6x7 slide shows just because it's fun. The not-so-sweet irony is that film's never been better. I won't comment on doctrinal issues beyond saying the "herd of independent minds" factor has made many unduly smug about ditching film. Looking forward to future instalments.
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    • Great article, and well timed as well... I have just purchased a Contax G2 outfit...for the purpose of using it for "point and shoot" photography in B&W. The initial spur for this purchase was a disappointment with the Canon G7's ergonomics, despite many upgrades. While this camera, and its successors, can give wonderful images, I find the rangefinder cameras (hand-held) to be far superior. And I cannot afford, or justify, the expense of a Leica M7/8 system. However, for me, the use of film goes beyond the ergonomics of the camera. It is about 'intention'. I _purposefully_ load the Contax with Ilford HP5+. I _purposefully_ compose, and filter for, the image for B&W. I _purposefully_ train my eye to see again in B&W. And I think this will change my vision. I was much disappointed to hear in a podcast by well-respected photographers that they felt that, if in an afternoon of shooting, they did not return with 1200 images, they were 'not shooting enough'. While this might be good for the professional, I doubt that these images were 'seen'. I consider these individuals to be simply 'curators of their images' rather than photographers. Previsualization is completely out the window. Everything is done in 'post'. Film imposes limitations on the photographer that, from the point of view of cost, intention and final image, causes him/her to pause, reflect, and consider...is the image worth capturing? In the digital world, I find the image is always 'worth capturing' as the cost is nothing. Cheers, Tom
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    • Film and associated materials may be readily available in some places, but my experience with film over the past few years has been to see my nearby color lab go out of business for lack of film shooters. And the lab on the other side of town, which gradually inherited all the film processing, soon reduced the number of runs per day for lack of interest. And the shop that supplied film and equipment to the pros in town stopped stocking film and darkroom supplies -- in fact during the last year or so I bought its last 14 rolls of Fuji Provia and its only light meter. This merchant was not averse to film, but his customers all grew up with or switched to digital. Film will probably survive, but as a niche in the art form that used to have no niches, but only film as its medium.
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    • I've worked on the computer 40 hours a week for 25 years. The last thing I want to do with my hobby is sit in front of a computer for my free time. I fly fish with old English reels. I grow heirloom tomatoes. I photograph with an F3HP and now an Agfa Billy Record ('52 German fold-out 120 format 6X9). I'm sure digital will exceed film some day soon (that Agfa is a 100 MP capture system!), but it won't be as fun for me. I'll stick with film until it or I am dead.
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    • Great column! Cool idea. Film is Fun, that's the bottom line. Nothing against digital, but film is the core of learning photography and will be for some time to come. We don't shoot it because it's easy or cheap, but because it's a passion, like oil painting or intaglio printmaking. Analog Rocks.
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    • The contracting market sure didn't help. I was citing Polaroid because they don't make film any more... do they? If they are I hope they start up again with the Captiva film!
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    • I have so many film cameras that I have to stop to count. Regarding, 35mm or 120 film cameras, is either film in more jeopardy than the other? I too shoot Nikon Digital but prefer film under certain conditions. Thanks for the article and information!
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    • I shoot architectural photography professionally. I highly recommend to my conservation-oriented clients that I shoot film for them, as they do not want to be in the "business" of copying CDs every five or so years, hoping that the CDs have not done any deteriorating in the meantime. A museum client might have proper procedures for that, but a church client wanting a lasting record of a 1913 building they are replacing will not remember to do that copying. But they will have the film in their vault of collectibles for the next 200 years, and that black and white silver-based film will still be good. Film will continue to have important professional uses.
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    • I still use film, lots of it too... and I do use 35mm slr's, 3 of them, as well as a 6 x 6 bronica. Then too, I have a point and shoot digital. Like you said, use what you want - but I LIKE film. I like developing my own b&w and I like making my own prints. I'm nowhere near as good at any of it as other people are but I like what I have. I don't have the money to go digital and that is part of what keeps me in film, then on the other hand, since everyone is going digital, I have been able to pick up some good film stuff for very low prices. When digital does get affordable for me, I'm sure I will get one - each kind of camera has an effective place and time. The digital time delay does make a difference for some things I shoot, at the same time, the "knowing right away" if I got the shot has it's benefits too. Like everything in photograhy, if you want one thing, you usually have to give up some other aspect to get that (shutter speed vs f/stop). Film and digital are similar in my mind. Then too, I work with computers all day and don't want a hobby that requires me to use the computer to have fun. A good option that I like a lot is to shoot film, develop it myself, take the uncut film to my camera store and have them scan the negs onto disk. I can still use the computer to upload the scans but can also make my own prints. When computers get better and the updates are worth it, I might have the negs scanned again, but for now, I use both film and the point-and-shoot digital. The combination serves me well. I will be reading your articles... By the way, thanks to photo net, I was able to "fix" a problem I started having with film - turns out my chemicals went south but because of the forums here, I was able to narrow down, then pinpoint and fix the problem. Saved me three rolls of film.
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    • I thoroughly enjoy using my Canon digital gear, but I enjoy using all sorts of film gear, both for frivolous shooting and for serious shooting. Film has a look to me that's different from digital, not better or worse, just different, and I like both and fully intend to use both for the foreseeable future. This will be a great column!
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    • I agree with you Josh; film we be around for a long time. If there is a market willing to buy at a price profitable for firms, then product will be produced for sale. Film is no exception to this rule.

      The licensing of film technology could in fact happen. The fact that no one has licensed Polaroids film technology (in particular Type 55 which has been rumored to have been profitable) just proves how poorly Polaroid was managed. Had they continued to find ways to reduce raw materiel and production costs, I suspect that someone would have licensed. At this point, I'd venture to guess that a) Polaroid is asking too much or b) the cost to produce outweighs the value of the existing or potentially new niche market. The fact that Fujifilm could also enter the US market with their instant products (a lot of their black and white instant film is not available here) is probably another factor.

      In the end, we agree that the mainstream film market is not healthy; film use by the general public will not increase. The niche market for film seems to be doing the opposite, and that's a good thing for those interested in film.

      I meant no malice in my original comment; I was strictly presenting a case in which the often doom-and-gloom story of film vanishing is unlikely to happen from a business approach. I'm glad that you're writing this new column and wish you the best of luck!

      Cheers, Justin

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    • Hi Josh, Would agree with what Jim Simmons above has stated in regards to the longevity of film if properly kept. I was sent a questionier from Kodak not long ago to fill in and was advised that 60% of pros in Europe still prefer film to digital. No doubt it is becoming a niche market and I don't see anything wrong with that as I feel that in many ways most pros try to offer a different take to their respective clients hence offering a quazi niche service per say. In regards to the 400 CN....I always keep a few rolls of 120 handy. Have used it as my prefer B&W stock, 2nd only to Tmax 100 which I develop my self. I find the grain acceptable when enlarging to A3 and have used it mainly for portraiture. In regards to the Holga...haven't had the pleasure as yet...perhaps may get one for Xmas this year. Artur
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    • During the last two years (from Photokina 2006 to photokina 2008) more new or improved films were introduced as in (most) similar time frames in the past (and some older films are back on the market, too): Kodak: Portra 160 NC-2, Portra 160 VC-2, Portra 400 NC-2, Portra 400 VC-2, Portra 800 version 3, Gold 200 new, Ultra Max 400 new, Portra 400 NC-3, Portra 400 VC-3, TMY-2, Ektar 100. Fuji: Fujichrome Provia 400X, Fujichrome 64 T Type II, Superia 200, Fujicolor 100. Velvia 50 II. Maco/Rollei-Film: Rollei Ortho 25, Rollei Pan 25, Rollei RSD, Rollei Digibase CN 200, Rollei Infrared 400, Rollei ATP 1.1, Superpan 200, Retro 80S, Retro 400S, CR 200, Supergraphic ATO 2.1. Next year a new infrared film without anti halation layer will be introduced, similar to the old Maco IR "Aura". Ilford: Resurrection of SFX 200. Fotokemika: Resurrection of IR 820. The quality of films is getting better and better. If you consider inflation, films are cheaper than 10 or 20 years before. The variety of films is great, so much alternatives (much more than in the digital sector concerning sensors). If I look at the slide film programme of Fuji for example, there are much more different films than in the early eighties, when I started using slide film. I am enjoying film, and I will use it till the end of my life. Much more fun and satisfaction than digital.
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    • As a 100% film photographer who processes 95% of his own film I think I will stick around I have never heard a Swan sing before but I do know what a goose honk sounds like. *g* Larry
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    • I was shooting 95 percent digital until I started up my photoblog. I made the decision to base my blogging (and personal photography) on toy cameras, vintage cameras, and film. I soon realized why I always had more fun shooting film than I did shooting digital -- variety (gear and emulsions), anticipation (waiting to see what, if anything, comes out), physical archivability, not having to "process" tens or hundreds of images that I don't want/need, and some indefinable warmth or roundness that film has that digital thus far lacks. I sold my DSLRs and have not missed them. As far as I'm concerned, we are living in the Golden Age of film photography. Outstanding and fascinating gear of all types can be had for pennies on the dollar, film technology has never been better, and for the most part what's been lost can still found with some digging (I've been stockpiling Verichrome Pan and miscellaneous Polaroid emulsions at every opportunity). I too have an outstanding pro lab nearby that has diversified enough to stay profitable while still offering dip & dunk E6, C41, and b&w. They will gladly cross-process anything I hand them, soup 127 rolls, and they always return my 620 spools. If I shot sports, news, or other deadline work, I'd keep a DSLR around. But for portraits, weddings, and personal photography I am happy to wait and see what comes back from the lab.
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    • The rant I start my digital classes with goes something like this: Digital makes it too easy to 'delete ' a photo that's not up to snuff in our eyes. So I'm concerned that if we're not judicious in the use of that button, in 10-20 years we may look around to find a huge gap in our photographic history. Not to mention the case of trashing every image of uncle Bob, hoping always to get a better one. Well, uncle Bob just stepped in front of the bus, and it's impossible to describe to the kids what your brother looked like. You need to show them. So, at least film images are physical, if imperfect. And if film is indeed going away, isn't that all the more reason to capture these physical images on film, since digital will always be there tomorrow? My two cents. Good on ya Josh.
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    • Just a bit of info to help fellow photographers to find a good selection of film sizes and other supplies, is a very friendly company located in California that you can order from over the phone or internet. The company name is Freestyle Photographic Supplies, 5124 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, CA, 90027. They also can be reached at www.freestylephoto.biz They even carry 2x3 and 3x4 sheet film if you want to bring your old press cameras, etc back to life. They have a huge advisory board of pro photographers to seek advice. They are helpful and friendly over the phone.It's easy to get on their catalog mailing list if you want to. Bruce Curtis
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    • I love shooting film, especially fuji and Kodak slide film but just try to get it processed today. I used to have 5 labs within 15 min. of my house in Orange County Ca. that could process the film in 3 hours or less. Now I believe there is only one lab left and it takes a week to get the film back if by some miracle they manage not to lose it. :-(
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    • Just in the last 3 months I have started using a digital SLR. It's odd, but after the first month I stopped chimping as I quickly found out the screen is just too small to see much. For now I've only shot jpeg but it's sure great to get 350 shots on a card. Photography is only a hobby so I find that I still carry and shoot with my film gear. I've owned Olympus stuff, OM, Pen F, Pen vf, for 35 years and selected an E-300 because...well, it was cheap and could use my OM Zuikos with an adapter. All that said, this digital is the only Olympus I've owned that has no personalty. It's a black box, it takes pictures, and that's it. Realistically, when it quits it's just another disposable electronic gadget. Perhaps I miss that most in modern cameras. No matter their proficiency, they will nevermore be something worth keeping past their use by date.
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    • I happily shoot both. You can be sure I'll be visiting Filmtown time and again. Good idea, Josh!
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    • Howdy filmfolks! Great to hear all the different takes on film usage. I finally took the digital dive six years after making my first digital exposure with by best friend's Olympus E-10. Shot a custom Superman-themed bike in my living room. Lit for film, fired up the Elinchroms, slaped on a matte box (remember these?) and viola! I was hooked! I went and got the current Elements 2 and was able to come up with an outstanding image. The client was happy and I was too in that the immediacy of digital was what won me over. I now own a crew of Pentax K10D's and DA* lenses. Don't need the five grand Canons or Nikons. The Pentaxes do what I need them to do and and not when the weather dictates. I enjoy using them. But, I love film and what it does for me. I'll scout locations and experiment using Digital. Digital has saved me dough and time for the sole reason in that I stage and light for film. My plan has always been to do all at the shooting stage, getting it right in the camera. The last thing I want to do is to spend time on the computer fixing crap I could have done before firing the shutter. For my personal work film is the music for me. Film has class for me. Film has style for me. Digital has inspired me even more than ever in using film. Using film has also separated me from everyone else using Digital exclusively. There's something to be said about this old boy re-shooting on film after Digital. Long live my RB's, F2's, F3's and P67's!! As long as film is being produced I will continue using it. Digital and Film complement eachother. Just remember when video was to be the death of film, imagine a megamillion dollar motion picture being shot on a Panaflex with a CCD video assist to the director's monitor yards away from the camera. Then realize the film gets edited on a Mac loaded with Final Cut. They work hand in hand.
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    • I started out with digital. I had never once used film; the hassle of buying and developing film was a reason I was never interested in photography until inexpensive digital cameras came around. I've been a happy user of compact cameras, then a digital SLR. Last winter I did start to get curious about film, though. I'd been encountering film images that really impressed me for a while, in exhibitions and on the net. They - mostly medium format and large format images - had a completely different "look"; a presence and emotional impact far different from what I'd seen from digital cameras or from the 35mm snapshots I remember from my childhood. So I dipped a toe into the water and got myself a second-hand Yashica Mat. That toe dip has turned into a full-body swim, as I now use a couple of older film cameras alongside with - and as much as - my digital gear. I've started to develop myself too, not because of a lack of places to do so here, but simply because it adds to the fun for me. In a slippery slope now more resembling an icy cliff I'm now considering upgrading my film gear to something more serious; a Mamiya 7 or possibly a Fuji rangefinder are possibilities, and I'd consider a Pentax 67ii if it wasn't so dependent on a tripod. Anyway, I think it's wrong to see the whole film market as one homogeneous whole. Polaroid film didn't have a chance, as its one major benefit - instant results - is also offered by digital but without the cost, quality issues and dubious longevity. Slide film is probably in a somewhat precarious situation as well. It shares a good deal of market overlap with digital, giving clear, saturated images but a somewhat limited dynamic range and abrupt cutoff. It's different, but among existing films the least different from digital and thus the one most in direct competition. Negative film, and negative black and white especially, is a medium very different from and complementary to digital. It has dramatically higher dynamic range and is by far the cheapest, most convenient option if you need really high resolution imagery. It's also cheaper to manufacture, use and process than the other film media. Negative film is likely to be around more or less indefinitely.
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    • It may just be an "Andy thing" but like Andy Game (above) I have never owned a digicam and see no reason why I ever will. As long as Ilford stays in business I will continue to feed my FM2, my Rolleiflex and my Crown Graphic with the real stuff. Like a certain Canadian large-format dealer says:"no batteries, no modes, no 18-month product life, no continuous upgrades." I can live with that.
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    • Film is going to be OK, the problem is the processing. Even that is not going to die, the good local minilabs will suffer, but in my area Costco is doing fine. As long as they are not messing up with my film I will continue. I know a guy who went to extreme and he is going to buy a used minilab for his own and install it in his basement. That is probably a way to go.
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    • Two thumbs up from me. Like Brian Sweeney says, film is fun, digital is work. And to my mind, film just seems more REAL!
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    • Here's a thread some of you may find interesting and/or amusing. It's called "What I hate about digital cameras" http://flickr.com/groups/film_cameras/discuss/72157603835943047/
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    • Hello Janne, you wrote concering slide film "It's different, but among existing films the least different from digital and thus the one most in direct competition. " I'm using slide film for over 25 years now and I have to disagree. Slide film is unique, and it is impossible to get the qualities of slide film with digital technique. The color brillance, color reproduction, resolution and three dimensionality of slide film are exceptinal and unique, when you are looking through a slide loupe or when you are projecting with a good projector lens. You can't get that with a digital file on a computer monitor or with a beamer. The color spaces of these mediums are physically limited. And the resolution of slide film is much, much higher than all you can achieve with a monitor or a beamer. I have projected extremely high resolution patterns of more than 100 lp/mm with my projector onto the screen. With very good projection lenses you can get outstanding results. Even with the most expensive beamers you can achieve only a very small fraction of this resolution. And you don't have the exceptional color brillance of slides.
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    • Too bad this has turned into such a pissfest between digital users over whether or not film is dying. I hope it isn't, it probably is, but what I'm more concerned with is acquiring more film gear almost every week not to mention all kinds of expired films, for dirt cheap or free. This is the golden age of film because everyone can use it.
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    • I am happy that this was started. I love my film camera!! I have never owned a digital camera and I hope to never have to own a digital camera(though I am sure I will have to some day)! I think that nothing can beat a good old Kodachrome Slide!! Long live film!
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    • Patrick, You have never owned a digital camera, yet you criticize digital and say how you can't imagine anything looking better than Kodachrome. Man, I wish I had a psychic critique ability. I really don't see the diffrence between digital and film photography. Digital is just another step in the evolution of photography just like film once was. FIlm isn't purer, daggeurotypes are! Long live daggeurotypes!
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    • and I quote from the article "The point of this column isn’t to promote one over the other. It is to remind people that there is no one right answer for everything. Digital is cool, film is cool. Just go shoot some photos, okay?"
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    • >I really don't see the diffrence between digital and film photography. Digital is just another step in the evolution of photography just like film once was.< Unfortunately there is a difference between film and digital. Anyone can see it just look closer on prints. It is very obvious if you compare digital prints from a digital camera and optical ones. I was not convinced until I did it myself. Too bad the optical printing is not common now days.
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    • i too, love film ! i started out with it 29 yrs ago & just rediscovered a "lost love" over the past 6 months.
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    • I don't want to comment on digital vs film, both have their practical advantages in my humble opinion. However, I do prefer the older film cameras; "Look, mom, no batteries!" With an older film camera I can go out and not have to worry about carrying spare batteries along. I like to think of Film cameras as being "green technology." Film cameras have a different "feel." Prints made from negatives have a different "feel." There is that moment of "revelation" you hang up the wet negative or wet print to dry. When all has gone well, I feel like the darkroom is the "holy of holies" in my temple.
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    • What I like about charcoal drawings: They're art. You get one where the artist was really good and you get not only the image but also the feeling about it. There's a portion of the artist left in the image, the way he felt about what he was doing at the time. What I don't like about charcoal drawings: I can't do it. I am totally talentless. If I tried I would get a bad picture after hours of effort and no one is going to give me back that time. The solutions to my dislikes: photography. But then there's choices -- should I go digital? use film? both? If you know what you want and you know what the result is going to look like and you are confident and you received good results using that technique, use it. No one is taking away charcoal, paper, or anything else. Digital will evolve itself being replaced by somethings else. There is no contest but for the artist himself as to what medium to use. I got to this thread by looking up information on Agfa Scala negatives ... go figure ...
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    • However diminished, film, and handcrafted photographs will be around long into the future. 150 yrs ago photogaphers were lugging their full-plate cameras around and, in my mind, digital is the first true revolutionary change to the medium. Just because you see a gorgeous young spice babe, does this mean the old wife gets the boot? Well, let me think about this!
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    • Twenty years ago in my profession, (musician) all the talk was that the era of tape was over. All recording would be digital. Today, both mediums are in use. Tape is hugely expensive and requires constant maintenance and hours and hours used up waiting, but it has its own inimitable sound. Digital is cheaper is much faster. The point I'm making is that film and digital can happily coexist. I still use my F65 and an old Praktica as well as a K100D and PS.I'm sorry that quality tape and machinery is only for the big players.but maybe I'm not. Come to think of it, with the time I save in a digital studio, it gives me more time for photography.
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    • I for one love the "look" of film and am excited that I may one day soon be able to afford a Hassy so I can shoot square format and get that film "look" that I like. I look forward to more submissions into this series.
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    • I love film. My wedding was shot on film and this xmas our family gatherings were too. Going to pick up the prints with my wife was wonderful, we grabbed them and quickly sat at the nearest bench to see how they were. My daughter (18 months old) spent more time walking around with the little photo album with the pictures in, than she did with any of the toys she received. She just kept looking through, naming everyone and I can thoroughly say that the experience of film is much more than snapping pictures, much more than photography in fact.
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    • @Stephen Rosenbach - "Chinese (Commie)". If you were Chinese you might just know that the Chinese do not believe they've even achieved the first stage of Socialism. It is the ignorant west that categorise them as Commies. Just thought I'd educate you in case you actually offend anyone!
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    • Thanks, Josh, for Filmtown! I'll be stopping in. I love that picture of the girl with the fellow in the background. Really nice!
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    • Film is much like blackpowder shooting: it's slow and requires more effort than digital, but the results can be good. The lack of instant feedback, however, makes it much harder to refine images based on initial feedback or to fine-tune complex lighting solutions. Some formats (such as 4x5) are cheaper with film than with digital, though the same disadvantages of shooting "blind" exist. So film would likely remain in use by niche shooters or traditionalists, same as etching remains in use despite computer alternatives.
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    • "This article by Ken Rockwell on how he uses film cameras is also very interesting: http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/free-digital-camera.htm" As someone who has been doing this for the last year or two, I should note that my local Costco discounted the Fuji 400 6-packs in the last couple of weeks on close-out to US $5.97. So Costco is going to stop selling film.
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    • Film versus digital, looks to me to be a silly debate. Just like analoque vinyl records vis-a-vis digital CD's/MP3's in musicville, film will continue to be around and have it's own profitable little niche & stable flock of followers vis-a-vis the digital hordes in photoland. Is digital the new king when ease of use or market share or future potential is concerned? Sure. Can it beat properly shot & projected slide film? Never ;-) Anyways, happy shooting everyone, be it film OR digital. And remember, whether you drop a digital or an analogue SLR on yer foot, yer toe will hurt like hell either way... Great column idea, btw. Feel right at home with me Contax RX's & Zeiss bunch! Can we now please move on and discuss all that great & quirky analogue gear? Can't wait for the next column... Cheers, Jurgen
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    • What a great analog overview you've started! What struck me in reading the posts is that to some degree or another everyone has made images with both film and digital. Also, the posters own more than one "image maker". Point and shoot? Sure, the Instamatic went to the back of the drawer years ago and the digital is light years better for that function, but most of us know what tools work best for what image making situation. Those who commented about film are correct, what is available now is so much better than even ten years ago. I really appreciate the skill of those who are really good with digital but I also appreciate those special individuals out on the extreme analog fringe in the "Brownie" group who still slit and shoot 116 size film in box cameras.
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    • Well, my film days aren't over, I've a substantial selection of films in my freezer & local developing available. I'll provide 'ya with one of those intrinsic plus's when shooting film. I own & shoot Nikon gear. My Digital body is currently a D80, tho I've shot with other Nikons, Canons & several Olympus models I have yet to get that 'Feel' that a fine mechanical film body such as my FM, FE2's or F3hp film bodies posess. That 'Feel" brings out my creative juices which I just don't get when shooting digital. Although you can do much with digital processing directly from your camera's memory card, I have no problem having my film developed & the results provided on a photo CD which I can then use in my 'puter for post-processing.
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    • What an interesting article...I'm glad I found it and have enjoyed reading all the comments and everyones views. I am a film photographer. I do have a small digital point and shoot that I use for birthday parties, etc. But when I'm shooting a wedding or any other event for hire, I am most comfortable with my Canon SLR's. My son, an avid digital photographer, shoots weddings, etc. with me. I think they both work well. He takes waaaaaaaaaay more shots than I do and he doesn't come up with any more saleable photos than I do. It just takes more time to filter through to find the good ones. I truly believe that digital and film photography are two different art forms. As far as fine art photos, film photographers have the challenges of cropping, composition, lighting, DOF, etc. as they shoot the image. Digital photographers shoot lots of frames and then find the one they like or do all their composition on the computer. Neither is better, just different techniques. Personally, I think the digital photos are tooo perfect. Perfect photos are rarely my favorite..but then that is just my opinion. I get a "feeling" from photos shot with film that I don't get from digital prints. But, before all the digital photographers start throwing things at me...that is just my opinion..nothing personal!
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    • I shoot both digital and film, but I'm finding flim to be more creative. I've shot flim from 110 instamatics up to 4x5. Today I shoot with a 1950s Argus C4 rangefinder with Kodak 400CN, and it's great. Plus I still have labs near me-both consumer and pro. I also want to put a darkroom in my basement since I know how to print black and white. Plus it's still amazing to see old negatives from the 1980s still in good (printing) condition. I can put them under an enlarger (or to the local lab) and still generate images. What's going to happen when digital media changes from DVD/blu-ray? True, in the end it's a personal choice for the photographer what media he/she uses. But more and more I'm shooting film.
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    • Well...here go my 2 cents for the column =) Although I'm still damn young to reach your level guys..but the fact is that I started shooting around 5 years ago, worked as an assistant for an advertising photographer in Argentina, and I was lucky that I caught the last good moments of film era. We were using Agfa 120 slide film (if im not mistaken), and the Hasselblad 500 series. The whole approach was different to what I ended up seeing afterwards. We did polaroids first, and bracket the hell out of a particular scene. The end result would be scanned by a third party lab, and photoshopped by us or a third party designer. I still remember one time when we actually had to re-do a shoot because of a messed up lighting. And..a year after that...Canon 5D came up to our hands. And I still remember that we were doing around 2000 shots per session (and that was a simple one), in contrast to 10 film loads used on a film shooting (that would be around 120 pics rite there). Efficient AF would save lots of time, and obviously the instant results were just amazing. The use of a handheld lightmeter became almost obsolete (dont get me wrong, we still used it a lot, just weren't as paranoid as before). And the subsequent shooting they were all digital. Just all digital. Digital forgives SO MUCH...what before one had to study and practice a lot, get an eye sharpened for a particular situation, for digital, a trained eye would become just a time saver and not a major factor for a great final product. Digital also hit the industry in a way, that now out of the blue...ANYONE with some extra time and little artistic skill can be a pro photographer. That led to an already competitive business to a scale where it is extremely hard to get into business and even harder to stay in one. A guy with a D700 and an off-camera flash system, can easily get a simple outdoor book shooting done, with almost same quality as an old pro, except that the young guy would charge 100 or 200 bucks for that, instead of much higher price that a good pro would charge. Result...old pros out of business. (I'm just describing a situation that I witnessed a couple years ago in Argentina while I was still assisting) But the whole point of these upcoming column, is...FILM! So..now...what's good about it?? Let's see... IMHO, education. Get people started in photography, strictly on film. That's how I started and from what I feel, it developed a strong composition skill, "think before you shoot" attitude, proper exposure skills (although, proper may vary), and overall a trained eye and natural instinct. Obviously after that, a natural transition to digital can be done, and from my own experience, things would come much more easier when it comes to massive and quality shooting =) And..last but not least. I use film as a backup when traveling It happened, and not once, (call me dumb, lol), I ran out of batteries, and I was in the middle of nowhere, (Patagonia, Arg...as a wild example). And had to grab my Pentax K1000 with Velvia 50 loaded in. And another use, i still remember how my digital Pentax started to run erratically when it got wet, I had to pull out my film body... So that was just my humble view of the whole film situation for now guys.. Open for discussion!
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    • I began using film well into the digital "revolution" and I love it, especially black and white and the whole darkroom thing. Mind you I also started using vinyl well into the the CD "revolution" so maybe I just have a thing for obsolete technology.
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    • Breaking news: Film sales at our largest photo dealer here in Sydney are up for the past two months. The three door showroom fridge is full of film again. Management decided that there were multiplier effects on stocking more film and quality used film cameras. One begets the other. Processing revenue is also up and we also have two really great B&W pro labs that do a superb job. They are both offering processing workshops for film shooters and you can go in and hire their darkroom if you want. Brilliant.
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    • Good writing, Josh. Just one question: How did you scan the panoramic shots? They are beautiful. I am both a digital and film person. My M8 is always accompanied by a film M. I love the instant gratification of digital. But I love the textures of scanned color film. I use a Konica Minolta 5400.
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    • Just discovered Filmtown. What a treat! Much as I use my two digital cameras (Canon G-10 and Rebel XSi) the last two cameras I bought were fim cameras: A Mamiya C220 w/80mm lens for $125 and a Canon EOS Rebel T2 body for $50.
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    • Too bad this series of articles stopped at the first 3. Would be nice to see more, but nothing new from 2009 onwards, so I think this is dead.

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