View Full Version : Introduction; help with film?
Greetings. I'm expecting my first rangefinder to arrive any day now, so I thought I'd introduce myself and ask a question.
I'm from the digital world, which is a great place for snapshots, but I wasn't able to find a fixed lens 1's-and-0's camera that offered the sort of control and presence--not to mention glass--that manual film bodies offer. I could stretch to afford a DSLR, but I prefer the portability and unassuming appearance of rangefinders anyhow. I've also become enamored by the idea of physical capture of an image on film. Last, because I'm a student, the incremental costs associated with film are more appealing than the up-front costs of digital. So, an Olympus 35 SP is trudging its way through the UPS system to my door. Thing is, I don't know much about film itself.
What I'd like help with is a reality check on my approach to using film, and any help finding Cheap Stuff(tm) would be great, too. Let me tell you how I expect to use the film: rarely. To be more precise, I don't spend much time looking at my images. I enjoy hunting them down, capturing them, and learning from what I've done, but I don't make many prints and I'd rather be out making more than fussing about with the old. (Sort of like babies.) Admittedly, I hope to be taking more pictures worth enlarging, and may find myself wanting more prints. Mostly, though, I expect to be looking at my images on the film itself without having any prints made.
That said, here's my plan: first, run a few rolls of el-cheapo print film ($?), and have it processed with no prints at the drugstore ($?)--mostly for the experience of shooting the new medium and to test the camera. Then shoot a few rolls of slide ($4/36 exp?), and have it processed with a Fuji mailer ($4.25 @ B&H)...and compare the results. If I like the negatives, would move on to better film (I've been looking at the photo.net page (http://www.photo.net/equipment/film), but still $?) processed at a dip and dunk lab (cheapest I've found is $2.75/36 exp. roll). And go from there.
My impression is that prints from slides or negatives, given a pristine image, will basically be the same, as most prints come from digital scans and I doubt I'll pony up to have an optical enlargement made. Negatives allow more latitude for exposure errors, but slides--not being as flexible--will help me learn to make better exposures. Or can I see those errors on a negative, even though the printing process can correct for them?
I think I've said enough. :) Certainly don't hesitate to point out what might be a bad assumption, as I openly admit that I'm ignorant about this stuff but I enjoy learning. Any pointers to good reading material would also be appreciated. And any pointers on how to save money would be wonderful!
based on your plans, i'd suggest you to use slides and/or traditional black and white if you are up to developing your own film.
And welcome to rff.
Hello, I basically did what you plan to do exactly this time last year. I started with a Kiev 4 (bad choice) and spend money on bad cameras until I finally ended up with my current setup, which is a Bessa R and a Jupiter 3. Here are a few tips (from one broke student to another):
I was reluctant to spend the money at first, but there is nothing like the freedom of bulk loading film and developing your own black and white film. Both save you money in the long run and allow you to stop worrying about money and focus more on taking pictures. Its a little expensive at first, because you will need:
-developer (I recommend diafine because its easy to use, and it lasts forever)
-a few containers
-a graduated beaker
-a tank (patterson super system, or whatever its called, you can get it at any photo store)
-changing bag (I though I wouldnt need this at first, but fumbling around in a dark closet can get frustrating)
-silk gloves (Also thought I wouldnt need these at first, but they are quite important)
-something for hanging the negatives (I use some of those heavy duty paperclips for weights)
-bulk loader ($20?)
-100' of film ($30ish)
I think thats it, but I could be forgetting something.
There is a lot of stuff I could say, I will think and probably come back to this thread.
But I have to say, if there is one thing that I have learned during my short stay in the realm of film (besides things having to do with my actual pictures), its that bulk loading and developing my own pictures is aweseome.
if you don't do your own development then ilford xp2 400 is a pretty good c-41 black and white film, it's a little grainy but cost's a fraction of true black & white film to develop if you don't do it yourself. It's about a third of the cost. it's £2.99 per 36 exp roll, or less if you buy in bulk.
All labs that process colour film can develop it, but try to use a decent lab so they don't print it with a colour cast.
hope this helps
I'm going to add another vote for slides. If you intend to mostly develop the film and print only certain frames, then it's more logical to just shoot slides and look at them through a magnifying glass or cheap projector. With negatives you need to pay for either prints or scans to CD, because the negs are sort of useless on their own -- you can't judge color or exposure. So you might re-think the assumption that you'll be able to tell what's on your film just by looking at the negatives, I've spent a couple years shooting negatives and I still can't discern much until I've gotten it scanned or put into the enlarger.
So far your plan is pretty good. Shoot the cheap stuff first, move on to better films when you can tell the difference. Budget for a scanner, though, down the road - it's likely you'll want to get scans of your work, and pretty soon even the cheap scan-to-CD service will seem like highway robbery. :) Flatbed scanners are cheap and probably Good Enough for starving students, even for 35mm. I think I've paid mine off several times over in a year.
Also, bear in mind that once you have a scanner, you can shoot and develop your own b&w film for peanuts compared to lab-processed film, so that might be a possible outcome for you as well. I think my cost per roll of bulk-loaded tri-x is less than two bucks for the film and chemistry combined.
And hey, welcome to the site. :)
I hadn't considered developing my own B&W, because I don't have access to a dark room ... but, on reflection of my high school photo class, I guess the darkroom was only necessary for making prints. I like brewing my own beer, why not process my own film?
Are B&W negatives as difficult to read as color negatives? I had hoped that looking at a negative, like looking at an in-progress painting with a mirror, helps one look more at the technical than subjective aspects of the image. And I like the idea of cheap shooting. :)
Thanks, all, for your replies!
B&W negatives are easier to read than their color counterparts, because you don't have to mentally invert the colors and compensate for that dreaded orange base tint. Still, it's hard to judge how the print or scan will come out - remember that the b&w tonal scale is an extremely malleable curve, so what you see on the negative is not what you're likely to get on the print. For this reason, there's only so much you'll be able to discern by checking the negative. Obviously, you'll be able to judge composition and focus to some extent, but after the first couple of rolls, you'll need to see a scan or print to really judge more than the basics. Besides, people in color negatives look sort of freakish with their pale-blue skin, gleaming white smiles, and piercing pinpoint eyes -- like corpse aliens or something. :)
You're right about not needing a darkroom for b&w negatives - any room that you can seal off with towels under the door or weatherstriping in the doorframe will work, or you can just get a changing bag. You only need to load the tank in the dark, everything else can happen in the kitchen. Myself, I just wait for the sun to go down, turn off all the lights, wedge a towel under the door of the bathroom, and load my tank. Have a beer, soup some negatives - is there any better way to spend an evening? :)
Also, if or when you start to look into bulk loading, you can get away without the bulk loader yourself, if you're patient and not afraid to hand-roll your film cans in total darkness.
As Tetris says, b&w negatives are a lot easier to "read" than colour negs. Once you have experience with b&w negagtives and printing some of them (use a community or school darkroom for that), you will be able to tell a lot from a negative just by looking at it. Ansel Adams made a decision to become a photographer rather than a concert pianist when he saw Paul Strand's negatives. The negatives were so well made and so beautiful, he didn't even need to see the prints.
As you inferred, shooting slide film will help with exposure accuracy. The nice thing about the SP in this regard is the spot meter. I got some Kodachrome 64 slides back recently that were exposed in the SP, and they are beautiful. I found that rating the film at EI 80 yielded great results when using the spot meter. On auto a rating of 100 would be even better under certain lighting conditions. Kodachrome isn't normally available at a bargain price, but I got lucky and found a bunch of K64/24 at local drug stores for $1.87/roll, so I bought as much as I could.
Assuming the SP is in good shape and the meter is accurate, you'll love it. I have two and don't expect to ever sell them.
I'm from the digital world . . .
By that do you mean . . . the F U T U R E ?!
Hm. This stuff sounds great. I can't wait to stop pondering and start mucking about in it all.
By that do you mean . . . the F U T U R E ?!
Well, that depends on what you mean by that. If you follow one alignment of history, you have the modern period, followed by the postmodern, then the neomodern; in that schema, I'm more from the preneopostfuture than the F U T U R E itself, but reasonable minds could differ.
I don't think this introduction gave me any help with film! ;)
By that do you mean . . . the F U T U R E ?!
I thought exactly the same, Poptart!
Don't let our ocassional smart-assiness fool ya, Jon. Welcome to RFF :D
Don't let our ocassional smart-assiness fool ya, Jon.
I don't know if that was an intentional typo, but I like it anyway.
And if it isn't more than occasional, maybe I'm in the wrong place. I expect people who spend the equivalent amount of money of a month long vacation on a little dark box that can be made slightly less dark for brief periods of time to have a not-overly-serious grasp on reality. ;) I might need to add a bit of moisture to my text-based humor, though.
vacation? what's that?? who makes it, cosina or leitz wetzlar?
Welcome aboard, Jon. I too do a fair amount of digital shooting but nothing beats seeing a well-done slide or B&W negative. I use Kodak Elite Chrome almost exclusively in 35mm, it's just lovely. Slowly but surely, though, I'm gravitating over to black-and-white. Hopefully, Santa knows I've really tried to be good and will leave a darkroom kit under my tree this year.
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