Why Analog Photography (Still) Rocks! - Digital Photography School

Why Analog Photography (Still) Rocks!

by Matthias Hombauer and Karl Blümel from “The Analog Docs”.

015 The Analog Docs

We are two professional music and wedding photographers and we shoot digital when necessary. However, we clearly see the point of going back to analog like a lot of pros are doing nowadays. In this post, we would like to discuss the benefits as well as the drawbacks of film photography from our point of view.

Since we love film, we decided to start our own project named “Analog Docs“, where we exclusively use analog medium format cameras.

The following points are true for all analog camera systems.

001 The Analog Docs

1. The Look

Ok, let’s face it. Film shooters will tell you how much they love this special look of film. This is similar to music lovers who tell you that vinyl sounds more organic than a CD. A lot of digital shooters try to imitate this look on their digital files – but you can hardly get there. Film has an incredible colour palette and a huge dynamic range of detail in both highlights and shadows. So why imitate when you simply can shoot analog?

005 The Analog Docs

2. Film will make you a Better Photographer, Promise!

When shooting film, you are bound to know exactly what you are doing. You have to nail the exposure, how you frame the picture and how to direct the model so that he or she doesn’t have his or her eyes closed in the moment you release the shutter. Every picture costs money and believe us, you want to be sure to know your camera beforehand. Furthermore, most of the cameras have got only manual focus lenses and you need an external light meter to get the right exposure. This sounds a little bit frightening to someone who has experience only in digital photography. It’s a steep learning curve but it’s absolutely worth it.

006 The Analog Docs

3. Film is a Time Saver

When we are shooting digital, we return from a job with hundreds of pictures, which have to be sorted out and post-processed (we always shoot RAW). With film, we come back with 40 pictures and most of them are awesome. We have outsourced the developing and scanning process of our films and get them sent from our photo lab. Once you know how to handle the different films like Fuji or Kodak already in the camera, you will save a lot of time with post-production. Honestly saying, there is almost no post-processing necessary and you can spend more time on doing the things you love, too.

008 The Analog Docs

4. Film Gear is Cheap (but this Might Change in the Future)

20 years ago, a professional medium format camera was as expensive as a car. Today you can pick a Mamiya, Hasselblad or Fuji for a decent price and you’ve got an awesome camera, like the pros were/are using. For Contax cameras, this is another story. The price is skyrocketing in the second hand market, cause it is the most popular camera for wedding photographers nowadays. However, you can also acquire an old 35mm camera for a few bucks and get the whole analog experience with it.

009 The Analog Docs

5. BOKEH Madness

BOKEH (Japanese for ‘blur’) is the way “the lens renders out-of-focus points of light”. And this seems to be the search for the Holy Grail for every portrait photographer. There are tons of articles and discussions going on in the web about which lens is the best. The bigger the aperture is, e.g. 1.2, 1.4, the narrower is the depth of field. This makes you just focus on the eyes where the eyelashes are already out of focus. The quality of BOKEH on a medium format camera looks different than a 35mm camera system. So therefore we love our medium format cameras to get this special out-of-focus look.

010 The Analog Docs

6. Forget to search the Rumours Sites

One advantage of these old cameras is that once you bought them you don’t have to satisfy your needs to have the newest equipment for it: It’s as simple as that: There will not be new stuff released. Most of the cameras we use are 30+ years old and everything you need is available on the second hand market. And there are also a lot of reviews about the equipment in the web, which make it easier to decide which system you should get. Additionally, these cameras are built like tanks and they are of superior quality compared to the newest DSLRs.

016 The Analog Docs

Advantages:

  • the look
  • you will become a better photographer
  • film saves you time
  • it’s still cheap (when you know what you are doing)
  • gorgeous BOKEH

Disadvantages:

  • old camera systems, sometimes no service for them
  • you have to calculate per picture
  • it takes more effort to get your pictures

017 The Analog Docs

To us as professional photographers, the advantages are still striking. We provide the best quality you can get from a camera to our clients, which is the most important point. As said in the beginning, we are also shooting digital when needed. When shooting for newspapers and magazines, the time pressure to deliver the pictures won’t always allow for the analog option. However, the best magazine photographers like Martin Schoeller or Dan Winters are still shooting film.

Sure, there is the option of digital medium format cameras, which are gaining wide popularity in the scene. The prices are dropping but they are still in the 30 000$ range. Compared to digital, buying an analog medium format system is a no-brainer.

019 The Analog Docs

So the final question you should ask yourself is: What do I use my camera for?

If you are a sports or newspaper photographer, then shooting film might not be the best choice. But for all of you who want to shoot great portraits, landscapes or architecture and you are willing to learn more about the craft of photography, you should definitely give film a chance.

Matthias Hombauer (Ph.D.) and Karl Blümel (MD) are both professional photographers based in Vienna/Austria. They are founder of “The Analog Docs”. They also have a facebook fanpage.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like...

Matthias Hombauer is a self-taught music photographer. He has a Ph.D. in molecular biology, but has quickly realized that he wanted to combine his two passions, music and photography, instead. Currently, Matthias is based in Vienna/Austria and  works for national and international music magazines as well as record labels and bands in order to capture the amazing moments during a rock stage performance. Check out his new blog on How to Become a Rockstar Photographer

  • http://howtobecomearockstarphotographer.com/ Matthias Hombauer

    excatly Erran!

  • http://howtobecomearockstarphotographer.com/ Matthias Hombauer

    Hi Christian, thanks so much. Good luck and enjoy the analog experience!

Some older comments

  • Matthias Hombauer

    September 18, 2013 10:48 pm

    We are planning another article on this film topic. What do you want to know from us?

  • Matthias Hombauer

    September 17, 2013 06:00 pm

    @ eraser head,
    that´s a good point. I do a lot of concert and musicphotography and I find myself often at ISO 9000 and above on my Nikon D800. Without the digital revolution in the field of full frame cameras with high ISO capacity this won´t be possible. In my opinion film is not the medium which is the holy grail for everyone. It really comes down what you want to do with film. In the case of "The analog Docs" medium format film still rocks and a Zeiss lens f2.0 on a Contax can not be beaten ;).

  • John Meadows

    September 15, 2013 01:14 am

    It's easy online: B & H photo, Freestyle photo at http://www.freestylephoto.biz, Film Photography Project @ http://filmphotographyproject.com/store There are many options.

  • Rachel

    September 14, 2013 12:44 pm

    I have a few film cameras that I am dying to use but I'll be darned if I can find film for them.
    I have only been around for the digital era and would really appreciate getting back to the Art of photography. If anyone knows where I can get film from please fill me in.

  • Angie

    September 12, 2013 07:06 am

    It was great to read this article, and some of the comments. I've read it again, We come back and the shots need to be post Processed, 100 shots! With Film we come back with 40 Pictures and most of them are awesome, Film will save you time.
    In other words at this moment in time it sounds like digital is not quite there yet, and the truth hurts people who like to shoot with a digital camera. The thing is, Film and Digital do not look the same, Digital is processed to hell, and I don't know what is good photography anymore. Therefore I'm saying I prefer the look of film and 100 percent agree with this article. I shoot both mediums, digital for quick snaps, and film for more serious work. I shoot film because I do not like the post processing you have to do with digital.

  • Eraser Head

    September 8, 2013 05:15 pm

    Nobody seems to be considering one strong point in favor of digital: the ability of shooting in low light and stretch the exposures up to 6400 ISO or more with good if not great results.

  • Matthias Hombauer

    September 5, 2013 11:05 pm

    Thanks to all of you for your comments and that you love photography as we do (analog or digital)

  • Pete Jordan

    September 5, 2013 09:55 pm

    Excellent article! I cut my teeth on film years ago when in my early teens. My Dad was an avid photographer and I used to spend heaps of time in the darkroom with him. I went to digital about 16 years ago but still kept my Pentax 35mm SLR. My Dad passed away some time ago and Mum gave me his Voigtlander Bessa 1 folding camera. In the last 12 months I felt the urge to go and buy some film for both cameras. The Voigtlander was a bit of a beast to tame at first; but I am gradually getting better photos out of it. My Pentax is still a joy to use! The thing I love about film is the excitement and anticipation of putting the film in to be developed. It has also brought me back to basics for the very reasons you talk of here; you must get it right in camera.

  • Amy

    September 5, 2013 01:18 am

    @eric - Sorry but I can't agree with you. I used to work at a lab and I can't begin to count the number of film images and prints we had to restore for people. Thousands upon thousands, and hundreds that could not be restored. They do not endure the test of time at all. Even the ones that are kept in dark places. That's just nature; of course there is going to be a break down of the materials it's made out of. And scanning film is a nightmare; dust is always a problem, among other things. And unless you request a high resolution scan, which costs more, you won't get anything close to the resolution you can get with a digital camera.

    A digital image on the other hand, unless it becomes corrupt for some reason, will always remain. And
    I don't believe for a moment that with the enormous use of jpeg, tiff, png, RAW (brand specific) formats, etc., and that fact that we live in the technology age that we live in, that if a better file format was developed, they wouldn't create a way to convert your files. It would have to be created or the acceptance of this new format would be slow or not used at all, thereby hindering the creation and it's purpose.

    I'm not against film at all, I would love to practice more myself, (in fact I just inherited an old Kodak I can't wait to try) I just don't agree that film lasts longer than a digital image.

  • Paul

    September 4, 2013 10:56 pm

    Crack up a few old timers on here still reminiscing about the old days let it rest boys time to move on this is 2013.

  • Mike

    September 4, 2013 07:08 pm

    digital ftw...q.e.d

  • John B.

    August 31, 2013 07:59 am

    I'd like to see side by side comparisons of the same scene, shot at the same time, taken with digital and film. Without that, I'm not convinced that film is better than digital. (Yeah, I'm hard-headed!)

    I got caught up in the film revival, last year, and bought a camera on eBay, intending it only for black and white photos. I bought a four pack of film and shot the first roll. It was then that I discovered the cost of having it developed and printed. The choice of labs were few, too. The print results? Meh. So the camera went back on eBay.

    The pro who uses film probably does see a superior product in his own mind, but do his customers appreciate that? Do they also see a superior product? Do they understand the nuances of film over digital? Or do they just want good photos that were taken with any kind of camera?

    I'm not a psychologist but I believe we can convince ourselves a product is superior to a similar product because it was done in a different way. If you like and prefer film, go for it! If you like and prefer digital, go for it! Each to their own.

  • Andrew Wilkin

    August 30, 2013 10:09 pm

    Many thanks for this article. Prompting me to get some roll film and blow the dust of my Mamiya C330f's. You're quite right when you say film makes you think a lot more about what you are doing. I enjoy the versatility of digital, being able to instantly preview shots, able to change ASA as I go etc, but I do think too many people rely on post-production to get them out of trouble. Using film does make you think a lot more before pressing the shutter button, particularly about exposure. Now where's that Weston Euro-Master V light meter gone?

  • Mike 'Silent Cougar'

    August 30, 2013 09:48 am

    A decent enough article, but geared towards the single side of film. A preference as stated, but being a non-pro, considering myself to be a keen amateur, I shoot with film/slide and digital, albeit a bridge digital.. My likes? seeing my rewards in the outcome of images captured.
    Yes I may have to evaluate the exposure and speed, the lens to use, check the depth of field I want in each shot, whether to compensate for EV + or - on each shot etc etc, with a 'film' camera, but the resulting image is one I created. Usually following the old school technique of bracketing each shot as a safety net.
    Yet here we are in the digital age, so many million of pixels to play with, so many modes to choose from, and the beauty of coming home and downloading the days shots straight onto the screen, rather than wait for the film to be returned from processing. (sadly I could never afford a home darkroom) but, will film or digital make me a better photographer? I think not.
    My eyes bless me with an image, my job is to 'try' and capture a perfect rendition of it via the camera, regardless of make model film or digital. The more I focus on detail, and remain concentrated on the end image results, the more appreciative viewers are in my escapades. Yes, we can scan the filmed shots onto the computer, manipulate them in many ways, from changing them to sepia toned, B&W, even to producing HDR images. We can burn or dodge out parts that don't look right. we can do that with both formatted end results, but it still won't make us the worlds best known 'pro' photographers or make us a million. It is the ability to capture that elusive shot, that one image that makes everyone stop and say WOW!
    Think about it, think about the classic names we place as photographic masters of the past, too many to mention, but did they have digital? some of them didn't even have film as we know it. But yet we still look at there captures and say they are masters.
    Film is great, it has it's place, as does Digital, especially for the speed of production. But, it is US who make and take the shot. The equipment we choose to use are our tools, it is our skills that determines what is saved and what is binned, deleted, crumpled up or whatever.

  • Matthias

    August 30, 2013 09:24 am

    @michael

    Thanks for your comment. I agree with you that the analog option is not always suitable and probably most of the clients don't care about if it's analog or digital. I am also a pro and as mentioned above i am also shooting digital (with a nikon D800). A picture editor for a newspaper doesn't care either. They want to have the pics as soon as possible.

    For our project 'the analog docs' we plan everything from the model, styling, make up and don't have the pressure to deliver to someone. Therefore we like to use analog cameras, not only for the end result in print but also for the experience to work with those cameras.

    I can understand the comments from people who argue that film is dead and not practical for their works. I think it really depends in which field you are working. Take for example martin schoeller or dan winters, two of the best magazine photographers out there who shoot film for time magazine and wired. Jose villa, tanja lippert and other great wedding photogrpahers who shoot on film exclusively.
    For portraits medium format rocks. Joey l, zack arias, drew gardner, peter hurley all are using medium format ca,mras for a reason. They are using digital ones like the phase one or hasselbald, but to get the quality you have to pay the price and who can afford to pay 30.000$ and more? Not me, so therefore i am using relatively cheap analog medium format cameras, to get the same quality but for a decent price.

    At the end of the day it's just important that you do what you love. If you are a fillm shooter, great. If you prefer digital it's also great. Everyone will find his/her way to satisfy the needs of their clients.

  • Matthias

    August 30, 2013 08:57 am

    @edmumd

    So you compare digital medium film backs with analog medium format cameras. Maybe there is no big difference in quality but in price. As you mentioned correctly a good digital medium format camera system like a phase one or a hasselblad will cost you a car. An analog medium camera will cost you about 1000-1500$, so it's definitely cheaper than digital. Amd i can live with the fact that i have to store my films in the freeze, not difficult at all.
    If i would have the money i would love to buy a digital one and compare it. Since i want the best quality for me only analog medium format gets me there. (And hopefully a digital system in the future)

  • Karla

    August 30, 2013 08:09 am

    As a photo major, I enjoy shooting film and prefer being in the darkroom versus sitting in front of a computer screen. There are advantages/disadvantages to both digital and analog and it is a preference. At my college, we began using caffenol for film and print development and the only toxic chemical we use is the fix. The advantage for me is that now I have a darkroom at home and because I use so little fix, everything can go down the drain. Fabulously fantastic is film for me!

  • G. Allan Carver

    August 30, 2013 06:16 am

    this article is spot on. Using both types (film and digital) I can honestly agree that film will indeed make you a better photographer because you are force in to learning about light shadows and the film used. Bravo for an excellent article.

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  • Fight_The_Hype

    August 30, 2013 04:18 am

    Digital, what a great ride it has been, 20 years now for me, going from a lousy overpriced, no LCD & internal battery NC-2000 to cameras like a D800, it is a medium that has truly arrived. But even though I have shot countless assignments, jobs and landed plenty of magazine covers, awards and earned a great living off it it, I am kind of over it and the mentality that it has brought forth. So an article like this is refreshing and seems to be growing trend, the hype of digital is over, now it's time for a balanced visual diet.

    So I have a full blown black and white fine art darkroom, that is my future as a pro, not same thing as every other hack digital. I shoot a little 35mm, lots of 120 and a good bit of 4x5. I process it at home for pennies on the dollar, make hand made prints that sell for $500 and up….and boy do they sell! It must frustrate the heck out of the digi-printers who put up a HDR laden "Fine Art Photography" site, pay hundreds for a craft fair tent only to sit their sipping iced tea all day long not earning a dime for their over-saturated wares.

    I still use digital, but far less and I actually get commercial clients to chip in for some occasional C41& E6 medium or large format film work. It's so small in the grand scheme of a budget and yet the results thrill the heck out of everyone involved, even some editorial clients. Several New York Times staffers shoot film, one in particular using a lot of medium format. I hear all kinds of "Never" or "No going back" etc. from said "Pros" and yet there are plenty who are billing out great days and calling the creative shots because that is why they are hired, they have strong visual opinions that clients trust.

    This is a great time to be a photographer in that we have so many choices…and one of those choices is to not let the hype of companies and sites selling you down the digital river convince you that you don't have the choice of using film. It's not about better or worse, it is about choice and if you enjoy using film more, then you will make better photographs, period.

  • Mike Snelson

    August 30, 2013 02:26 am

    I think the opinions and feedback on this article are all great. We all have our own opinion about what we like and the look that works for us. Let me provide a bit of perspective and some indisputable facts based on personal experience of 40 years and a three-generation history, my grandfather, my father and me, in the photography industry.

    My grandfather, Ralph, apprenticed under George Edward Anderson, my father, Ralph, learned the craft from his father and I learned from my father. My father started our pro lab business in 1973, I took control of day-to-day operations in 1991 and still serve and work full-time in the business, I have shot medium format Hasselblads and 35mm Canons as well as Canon DSLRs so I do have some perspective.

    In the “film” days we processed 700-1000 rolls of medium format film per day and we are a small lab. Each frame on each roll was printed as a 4x5, 5x5, 4x6 or 3.5x5 print depending on the film format. Since we are a pro lab the quality had to be perfect and perfect depended solely on the opinion of the client (still does, by the way). We knew and understood what each client's preferences were and we met those preferences very well. We know what good color from “analog” looks like.

    I have seen first hand the effects, good and bad, of digital photography on this industry. We have valiantly kept up with the latest digital technologies through the “digital transition”, in fact we started in 1991 when Photoshop was version 2.0 and not a single photographer knew what was coming in 10 years. We fully understand the difference between digital and analog.

    We would love to still be in the full film processing business, we made a lot more money back then but the reality is digital. From the beginning of the transition in about 2001, film processing volume steadily decreased to the low numbers we have today of about 10 rolls per week, most of which is 35mm. Quite the transition, eh, from 700 rolls of medium format per day to 10 rolls of 35mm per week?

    Enough history, it's too boring. The facts are that there are no longer any companies making film processors for volume film processing. The reason film processing is now so expensive is because it all has to be either batch or hand processed. It's simply not cost effective to try to keep large volumes of film processing chemicals in control when there is so little film being processed. Even if there is a resurgence of film who will process it in what equipment? When a lab's processors die they can't be replaced. Most film processing equipment is already at or very near end-of-life. Film shooters will have to hand process their own film. Black and White is easy, but good luck with your own color processing.

    Another point to consider is that film, generally now-days, is scanned to be printed. So the analog is now converted to digital and one more generation between original and print is created, naturally introducing issues that have to be dealt with. Those issues all have to do with the quality that the scanner produces. How many film shooters are still printing negatives directly to paper on an enlarger and then processing the paper? Virtually every film shooter we do business with has their film scanned and printed on digital printers, either on our silver halide printers or their own inkjet printers. So much for “analog” prints.

    It's true, there is a different look between what is shot on film and what is shot on digital, even if the film is scanned, but which one is better is completely subjective. @Eric has a great point I would like to emphasize. There is no better archive than analog, either film or print. If you shoot digital make prints or, regardless of your backup procedures, you will lose your images. Print it or lose it!

  • Michael

    August 30, 2013 02:19 am

    Maybe it is the resolution and short colour gamut of the internet, but for the life of me, I can not see the difference here between film and digital. To my eye, there is little perceivable difference in the posted shots from what I feel I am able to achieve using digital (or the nuances are soooooooo subtle, I haven't a single client who could see the difference----please don't gloss over this part because after all, if your audience can not see the difference...just photophiles----is this just some sort of photographic affectation?). Again, perhaps my untrained eye or perhaps the shortcomings of the medium within which these nuances are presented, but I can't see it.

    Yesterday, I shot a portrait of a client in a myriad of outfits; reviewed the images, uploaded a gallery for their selection; finished and delivered the final files in various sizes within a couple of hours start to finish (including the shoot). The client loved the outcome and the invoice is emailed.

    I must confess, I kept (and still have my F5---I now I shoot with a D3X (just waiting for that gosh-darned D4X announcement)) but I don't know that I'll ever go back. My digital workflow is awesome. I turn work around very quickly. If I shoot film, I have to either make mini-prints (assuming print film here not trans) or look at a (cough cough) contact sheet. HUH? Actually, I guess I have to make prints to show my client!!!$!$ Once I find the shot I/they want to use...or shots, I have to pay to get them professionally scanned or buy a scanner and scan (and process/adjust and clean the scans). Whew.

    I don't want to seem cynical here because I'm actually a nice guy (I have re-read the above and sound very cynical---but if you knew me...), but I liken the use of film to folks with either giant budgets or want to shoot film for personal work---or nostalgia; to the same group that have 3 assistants, 3 lighting people, make-up and wardrobe on set. Perhaps I'm just too small-time, but I make a living by pricing competitively, shooting well, and processing like a pro. (then billing for my time). I mostly light and shoot alone. Some shoots warrant make-up and hair...but they're rare because it ands hundreds to a budget....

    One day, I hope to shoot a bit of film again (My wife wants me to toss my tanks and reels!---they're only 24 years old...) But for professional work, I'm not going back---at least not for the foreseeable future.

    Matthias, thanks for the time and energy it took to create this post. I do not mean to poo-poo what you do in any way. I am sure your results are stellar and shooting analog is working well for you. Your shots look terrific. My hat's off to you (I started shooting in the 70's when there was none of the instant feedback of histo's and previews on the back of your camera!!! so I get it--honestly). Just can't justify it for professional work.

    Very best to you all.

  • Joshua Marshall

    August 30, 2013 01:56 am

    I agree completely with both the arguments for analog and digital, not to sound wishy washy. Ultimately each photographer needs to access what is best for their own needs and that of the needs of their business. That said, I personally, chose the analog side. At first clients are pensive, but the product brings them around in the end. Of course I also process and print my own photographs now, but have had good luck outsourcing when in a pinch. In the end photography is both an art form and a business, and the decision must be made with both of those aspects in mind.

  • Ramzy Ramly

    August 30, 2013 01:50 am

    I own a Yaschica slr and a few zoom lenses and I have developed skills in using it. I shot landscapes and party and sometimes sports. I couldn't agree more with you that normally out of 36, i could use mostly 35. the dynamic range was absolutely at best with only one shot. And I don't have to hunt for the latest gadget to upgrade. However, I need to find a shop that could reproduced what I want to see with decent price.

  • Edmund

    August 30, 2013 01:38 am

    I used to use a 5"X4" and shoot Fujichrome 100. With 35mm I shot Kodachrome 25 or 64 or Fujuchrome 200. Sometimes I pushed the Fujichrome 1 stop and I always developed it myself, Kodachrome obviously had to go to the Kodak lab.

    I disagree with the article except in the care taken to expose a valuable photo was better in those days becaue of the time taken to compose the subject. It was normal for me to take four Polaroids before removing my dark slide for the picture. This does take a long time, it is expensive and it ensures that the image is correctly exposed. However, the file size, once scanned, is huge and it is only really relevent for poster sized prints. I agree with Steven Elingson, maybe the quality is better, certainly on slide film I don't think the tonal range is better and once printed on paper there is no difference.

    Yes, old cameras are cheaper. The processing costs a lot more. Pro film is becoming increasingly difficult to source so having a batch colour corrected and keeping it in the fridge/freezer is more difficult.

    With digital you can do HDR (which I don't like) to improve the tonal range but the actual print is limited by the photo printer. If you are serious get a new 5x4 digital back for your film camera (or medium format back) and please upload the results so we can compare. It wil cost you the price of a car and there is a reason.

    Rechargeable batteries are a lot more convenient than film canisters and quicker to fit, no airport x-rays.

    I think there is a certain snobism about shooting film. I agree that manual focus may be better but it is available in digital. I agree that the quality may be better but who needs it (and a medium format digital back is every bit as good as a film back) so that leaves you with only your preference for expensive film and a cheap camera over an expensive camera and no developing costs.

    Edmund

  • Corporate Photographer

    August 29, 2013 04:11 pm

    I loved shooting on film and enjoyed the wet room process, but in todays commercial world I would not have the time or the be able to justify the extra costs to my clients if I were to shoot on film.

  • Matthias

    August 29, 2013 07:30 am

    @john, actually we did develop our own black and white films both in a studio and in the bathroom of my flat. It's fun and you can learn a lot from it. However, developing your own color films seems more tricky and therefore we decided to outsource this part and spend more time on taking pictures.

    @tod, indeed the lomographic movement started in the 90's here in vienna and their cameras are a good way to start and have fun with film. As mentioned above every 35 mm camera can do the trick and they are a bargain nowadays. Sure, shooting medium format is another level, but for the start we recommend a 35mm camera.

    @eric, thanks. We love film and want to write and provide help for people who are new to the topic. Large format is awesome. I once helped a friend who is shooting portraits with a large format camera and the pics turned out gorgeous. I think large format is the king of film photography, but it's also really expensive when you don't develop the films by yourself. Let's see, maybe we will write some more articles about the topic here.

  • Matthias

    August 29, 2013 07:28 am

    @ barry, shooting both platforms is a good way to have the best of both worlds

    @eric, totally agree with your comments

  • Matthias

    August 29, 2013 07:25 am

    @javan
    I think the most important point is to serve your clients and it doesn't matter if it's digital or analog. If you were shooting 20 years as a pro then there is no doubt that you have more experience with that topic then we do. I am shooting now analog for a couple of years both personal and professional work and what i can say is that the analog pics from my hasselblad always turned out more superior (in my eyes).

    Once again we don't want to argue if digital or analog is the better choice. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. For me a print from a 6x9 negative reflects more of the quality i want to deliver as a file from a digital full frame DSLR which has a 1/3 smaller sensor in it.

  • Matthias

    August 29, 2013 07:14 am

    @Steve,
    As you wrote in #1 the core difference compared to digital is obviously the look when using film. We love this look, so therefore we are shooting analog.

    I agree with some of your arguments, and think that shooting film is not only limited to the output, but rather the experience for both clients and photographers.
    Sure, it´s a personal preference and we are aware of the fact, that a lot of people are glad to have the digital revolution. So do we. As music pro I can not imagine how to shoot concerts without my digital camera When shooting for newspapers it´s almost not possible to use the analog option.

    But, as with every topic there is controversary. I love listening to vinyl. Most of the people will say that a CD or MP3 is more flexible and the sound is not so important for them. Some love polaroid others hate it. Some will say Apple is the only options for me others will love their windows computers. Either you are going to use analog or digital both are two different directions. The good thing is that you can mix it together.

    I see it in that way. Yes, I can just use a prime lens (which I do), can set it to manual, use a 1 GB memory card and use my D800 which allows me to get 20 pictures. Still it´s not the same. With an analog camera I know that I have 8 pictures per roll of 120 film on my Fuji and when I am shooting portaits I really have to think about everything. This brings me out of my comfort zone and allows me to think harder and produce better pictures, cause I have to focus on the craft of photography itself whithout always checking the LCD display after every photo. For me personally I value this pictures more than my digital ones.
    „Every picture cost money“ means that I have a direct overview. I buy a film, and with every picture I take I have to take in mind the cost of the development. Compared to digital medium format camera systems (this is what we are talking in our article, medium format) film is still a bargain. You get analog medium format cameras starting from a few hundered dollars, 1 film cost about 10$ and development per roll is 15$. For a digital camera system that cost 30 000$ you get a lot of analog pictures with superior quality. So in my opinion, yes, it´s still cheap. And most of the digital DSLR can not match the quality of medium format prints.

    Medium format cameras might not be for everyone so therefore we also suggested to start with a 35mm camera which you can get really cheap. I got my Nikon F100 for 100$ and it´s like new.

    I do think that the BOKEH has to do with film photogprahy, cause every lens has it´s own BOKEH characteristics. A Zeiss f2.0 looks different than a Fuji f3.5 or a Mamiya f2.8. In digital you can get a 85mm f1.2 or f1.4 but they will look different. There is a lot of information of these lenses out in the web. Since we know what kind of look we want we can choose our lenses.

    The point with the rumors site was not to meant that seriously. I just know a lot of folks who are spending hours on it instead of shooting great projects.

    @Jim
    if you compare 1975 with today then a medium format camera would have cost you a house and was therefore restricted to people who could afford it. Nowadays the price is no big deal compared to a good digital DSLR. Process can be done in a good lab in 1 day and they can send you the files per email.

    As said before, this article is not arguing if analog or digital is the better medium. Both are great and both have their limitations. We just made the experience that shooting analog is much more rewarding when we got our pictures back and therefore they have more value for our personal work.

  • Eric

    August 29, 2013 02:14 am

    Another problem with digital is longevity. With the ephemeral nature of electronics, I have my doubts that the jpegs and RAW files we use today will be easily accessible to a computer 20, 30, 50+ years in the future. This is such a concern that I am basing much of my master's work in archiving on this dilemma.

    Thankfully our grandparents and great grandparents had the foresight to shoot on film, glass and metal plates, so we still have the originals that scan at resolutions as great as today's top digital SLRs. I recently scanned a 35mm picture from my grandparents' wedding in 1941.....looks as good as the day it was shot.

    With film, you always have the original that updates to whatever the current technology is. I really think that the only benefit of digital is convenience, which is admittedly a huge benefit in the short term. Film beats it in every other regard, but in today's "I want it now" mindset, digital is the clear winner.

  • Barry E Warren

    August 29, 2013 01:54 am

    Shooting film back in its hay days were fun and challenging. You really didn't know what you had till you got your prints back. Unless you had your own dark room setup , then you could do it at home. Digital You can see what you have done before you leave the photo shoot. But it is all in what the photographer wants to do. I've done both and enjoy being a photographer. I don't know when the last time I had my 35mm Olympus out, Its just sitting there looking at me. Maybe I'll take it out and do some old school shooting.

  • Don Hasman

    August 29, 2013 01:41 am

    The gradation of colour produced by film still can not be match by digital photo.
    The sense of depth that analog produced is better.
    Regards.
    Don Hasman.

  • John Meadows

    August 29, 2013 01:08 am

    @Mridula:

    I do photography for passion, and for a lot of what I do film makes sense -- you don't speak for everyone.

  • javan

    August 29, 2013 01:02 am

    For my professional work, I grind my own lenses and build my own cameras. Then I polish a copper plate, coat it and put it in my camera. Once it is exposed, I develop it using dangerous mercury vapors. I only get the one original image but the detail and sharpness is amazing! It takes a lot of time and money, but my clients are happy.
    Seriously, though, as a pro I find that I am delivering more of what my clients want and expect with digital. I shot film professionally for 20 yrs because that's all I had; digital offers a lot more. I guess there are some pros who can afford to dabble with film and if you have a client base that can afford it or really have to have the look that's fine. I talk to a lot of people who think film is "cool" but for me to deliver what my clients want I need to be shooting digitally. If someone is shooting too much and spending too much time in post processing then they need to address their working methods. However, even in the film days we shot way more images than we needed because we couldn't know for sure what the image would look like ( I don't care how good you are).

  • Mridula

    August 29, 2013 12:50 am

    Thank you for telling me what Bokeh exactly means. And for us who do photography for passion digital makes sense.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/

  • Ygor

    August 29, 2013 12:24 am

    Explain it to Sebastião Salgado.

  • Seth

    August 28, 2013 05:24 pm

    LOL at Jim Donahue's comment above. Welcome to 2013, buddy. EVERYTHING costs 3-4 times more than it used to.

  • Jenn

    August 28, 2013 05:00 pm

    I enjoyed analog but then stupidly gave up photography. I'm now trying to pick it back up and have bought the Canon T3i. I've been really frustrated by the difference between analog and digital. It's nice to know people are still shooting film and with analog. Rather than disecting your artical I'd just like to leave a comment saying ''thanks for the info and perspective"

  • Eric

    August 28, 2013 04:54 pm

    For landscapes, film is still the best option. Compare a large format film picture with anything a digital SLR could produce and digital falls flat on its face. Of course, if your main use for pictures is sharing on the internet or making small prints, then you won't get the advantage of large format film, but for large prints, digital just can't compete in terms of detail and sharpness, dynamic range and colors.

    One point that wasn't made is that film cameras tend to use WAY less battery power. Except for my 35mm Nikon F100, none of my other cameras even use batteries. My Nikon needs a new battery about once every 5 years. Kinda nice to not lug around extra stuff and worry about charging batteries when I'm out in the field.

    Plus, it is nice to be able to have a hard copy of the original, and to be able to hold it in your hands.

  • Matthias Hombauer

    August 28, 2013 04:23 pm

    @Steve,

    As you wrote in #1 the core difference compared to digital is obviously the look when using film. We love this look, so therefore we are shooting analog.

    I agree with some of your arguments, and think that shooting film is not only limited to the output, but rather the experience for both clients and photographers.
    Sure, it´s a personal preference and we are aware of the fact, that a lot of people are glad to have the digital revolution. So do we. As music pro I can not imagine how to shoot concerts without my digital camera When shooting for newspapers it´s almost not possible to use the analog option.

    But, as with every topic there is controversary. I love listening to vinyl. Most of the people will say that a CD or MP3 is more flexible and the sound is not so important for them. Some love polaroid others hate it. Some will say Apple is the only options for me others will love their windows computers. Either you are going to use analog or digital both are two different directions. The good thing is that you can mix it together.

    I see it in that way. Yes, I can just use a prime lens (which I do), can set it to manual, use a 1 GB memory card and use my D800 which allows me to get 20 pictures. Still it´s not the same. With an analog camera I know that I have 8 pictures per roll of 120 film on my Fuji and when I am shooting portaits I really have to think about everything. This brings me out of my comfort zone and allows me to think harder and produce better pictures, cause I have to focus on the craft of photography itself whithout always checking the LCD display after every photo. For me personally I value this pictures more than my digital ones.
    „Every picture cost money“ means that I have a direct overview. I buy a film, and with every picture I take I have to take in mind the cost of the development. Compared to digital medium format camera systems (this is what we are talking in our article, medium format) film is still a bargain. You get analog medium format cameras starting from a few hundered dollars, 1 film cost about 10$ and development per roll is 15$. For a digital camera system that cost 30 000$ you get a lot of analog pictures with superior quality. So in my opinion, yes, it´s still cheap. And most of the digital DSLR can not match the quality of medium format prints.

    Medium format cameras might not be for everyone so therefore we also suggested to start with a 35mm camera which you can get really cheap. I got my Nikon F100 for 100$ and it´s like new.

    I do think that the BOKEH has to do with film photogprahy, cause every lens has it´s own BOKEH characteristics. A Zeiss f2.0 looks different than a Fuji f3.5 or a Mamiya f2.8. In digital you can get a 85mm f1.2 or f1.4 but they will look different. There is a lot of information of these lenses out in the web. Since we know what kind of look we want we can choose our lenses.

    The point with the rumors site was not to meant that seriously. I just know a lot of folks who are spending hours on it instead of shooting great projects.

    @Jim
    if you compare 1975 with today then a medium format camera would have cost you a house and was therefore restricted to people who could afford it. Nowadays the price is no big deal compared to a good digital DSLR. Process can be done in a good lab in 1 day and they can send you the files per email.

    As said before, this article is not arguing if analog or digital is the better medium. Both are great and both have their limitations. We just made the experience that shooting analog is much more rewarding when we got our pictures back and therefore they have more value for our personal work.

  • Russel Fernandez

    August 28, 2013 02:46 pm

    Well said Mr. Steven Ellingson

  • Jim Donahue

    August 28, 2013 12:20 pm

    Film and Processing now costs even at discount outlets about 3 to 4 times as much as it did ten years ago, Plus the process is painfully slow. This is 2013 not 1975 and film may be awesome for you pro types but to us every day hackers this is just not the case. Make mine digital.

  • Steven Ellingson

    August 28, 2013 09:41 am

    #1 is a personal preference thing, and I'm not going to argue with you. But it should be clear that's all it is.

    #2 & #3: It seems to me that you are taking the limitations of film photography, and counting them as advantages. If the key to good photography is to only take 40 photos, then take 40 photos! If you don't have the willpower to do that, then bring a memory card that only allows you to take 40 photos. If manual focus is an advantage, then put your lens on manual focus and put some superglue over the switch! But you wouldn't do that of course, because having the option is an advantage. The point is, you CAN shoot like that with digital, but not the other way around.
    Also, it is pretty disingenuous to say "Every picture costs money" one section before talking about how cheap film photography is.
    As far as post-processing, same thing. It's only saving you time because you outsourced the processing. But, if you wanted all your photos to be processed in a standard way, you can just set it up that way in lightroom! Viola! Time saved! But, with digital, you have the flexibility of changing it after the fact if need be. Not the mention the time you save by not having to buy film, mail it in, etc.

    #5 has nothing to do with film photography. It has to do with the medium format. And if you're arguing for buying a medium format camera + film + develping, is #4 really true anymore?

    #6: As with #2 & #3, this is not a real advantage, and there are other ways to solve this problem besides handcuffing yourself. If you really can't stop yourself from spending all your time on rumors websites, then block them!

    I'm not going to say there isn't an argument for film photography, but I will say that many of your points are misguided. If you enjoy film photography, then great! But almost every one of your "advantages" has more to do with self-control than it does with film. If you want to be a better photographer, I wholeheartedly agree that limiting yourself to manual focus, or a limited number of shots can help. In fact, I think there was an article to that effect on this site recently. I just think it's silly to think you need a film camera to do those things.

  • Dominic

    August 28, 2013 06:57 am

    Great article!

    Try a Sigma SD1 and it will change the way you see digital photography. In my opinion the only camera that gives you a similar look, due to it's similar technology, RGB acquisition.

  • Eric

    August 28, 2013 06:37 am

    Yes! Finally a good article! Especially for landscapes, you can't beat film. I shoot large format and 6x17 panoramic and the quality is so far beyond anything digital could produce.....and for a fraction of the price.

    Even though this site is about digital photography, it is nice to see an article that looks at what is still a very big and vital part of the photographic world.

    I would love to see more articles on this....so much content could be covered, from film types to camera formats, etc.

  • Tod

    August 28, 2013 06:24 am

    Ive just been given a couple of old konika slr's which is my first venture into film. It is a bit of a learning curve but it is fun to experiment with. I also think that the whole lomography movement is giving film a second life.

  • John Meadows

    August 28, 2013 06:20 am

    Nice post!

    Although you outsource your processing (a perfectly valid approach), I think one fun part of film cameras is learning to develop your own black and white film. It's not hard, and not expensive, and you get your photos more quickly!

    I agree that the days of bargains in film gear are coming to and end, but there are still great deals to be had!

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