Thursday, January 15, 2009

Shooting film in a digital age

I found myself wondering what is 'wrong' with me, after all, here I am thinking about buying another film camera. Medium format at that.

So I thought maybe writing would about it would help.

I'm not sure when it started, but I always wanted to own a film SLR. A basic one at that (not that I knew at the time that basic was what I wanted). I remember borrowing my dad's Olympus and having him tell me to "not fiddle with those other dials". I now know he was talking about not changing the aperture, though I have a sneaking suspicions that he did not know what aperture was (and probably still doesn't know or care :) )

But I know that I wanted one.

Of course, when it came time to upgrade cameras I started buying digital point & shoot cameras, until 2007 when I finally got a digital SLR (if you've made it this far, you might wonder why I'm talking about digital, when the title of this post clearly implies film ... and rightly so).

I shot like crazy with that little Nikon D40, at one point taking 900 pictures in a 3 hour walk. Some I even liked.

But I knew that to advance further and make better photos, I had to slow down. Shoot less. And learn a bit more. More than I was learning on the web and by just shooting every chance I got with the D40. So I bought a film camera. Sadly both film and digital cameras would get stolen not to long after, but luckily I had insurance.

I now have a very nice Nikon DSLR and 2 Nikon FM2n's. That's right, two. Again, you might rightly ask "Why two?". Well the first one turned out to have a malfunctioning film counter. And looked pretty beat up (takes nice photos though). So I picked up another one. Both cost about what I paid for a couple of the filters for my DSLR so I don't feel so bad about it. Now the "problem" is, that lately I've been shooting more with the film gear than I have with the high end digital gear. I simply am enjoying film and manual focus. It takes longer. There is a certain excitement when I get the film back from developing. Or, in the case of black and white, develop it myself. The delay makes it more of an event.

And I'm taking more time. I even think that I compose better photos. And I do like the sound of that shutter and knowing the film that just got exposed to light is now permanently altered. Never to be erased.

I've found many "film vs. digital" discussions around the web, but sadly they tend to focus on things like dynamic range, total resolution quality, the superiority of medium format film, the advances in full frame digital... In other words, they really want to decide which is the better equipment. I just think they are missing the point.

For those of us who shoot not to earn a paycheque, but instead of the pure enjoyment of recording an image which we will enjoy looking at after, none of those factors have much value.

What matters is that whatever you use to make photos, you enjoy the process, the outcomes and that it helps you to get better.

I think film has done that for me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not letting go of my digital gear, but I'm sure aware of the other options much more so than I was just a couple of years ago.

So, anyone have a nice Mamiya TLR that's looking for a new home? :)

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