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Business / Philosophy of Photography Taking pics is one thing, but understanding why we take them, what they mean, what they are best used for, how they effect our reality -- all of these and more are important issues of the Philosophy of Photography. One of the best authors on the subject is Susan Sontag in her book "On Photography."

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Project overseas - film or digital
Old 03-13-2008   #1
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Project overseas - film or digital

Hi everybody,
I have to decide on something that I keep going back and forth on in my mind.

I will be going to the south of China soon, and one of the reasons of the trip is photographing places/areas/buildings that will be lost in the near future.

I have been there before, and it will be a lot of dark places with incidental patches of very bright light. The subject is right up my alley with a lot of grimy stuff.
I have a Bronica RF that I'm pretty familiar with and from which I absolutely love the output. I like using it too.
I also have a D200 that for colour is really quite amazing but at the risk of sounding extremely spoiled, I don't like the camera that much.

Why I keep going back and forth about which format to shoot, is two reasons;
-I will be shooting with a friend of mine, she will shoot with a Nikon D80. We will be dependent on each other during shooting and might want to publish a book together.
-Speed, and handling; the D200 does have autofocus which helps a lot actually. I do shoot some street with the Bronica and prefocus it, but most of the time I will be shooting wide open and at iso1600 and the depth of field is not great. The variable iso of the D200 will be great. It will also get a little bit more out of the way. Yes I dislike and don't enjoy shooting it as much, but worrying less about focus and exposure (shooting manual and checking every now and then when light changes) means I can be quicker in and out of peoples space and focus my attention on composition and subject matter. Perhaps it's more because I've shot the D200 so so much before I got the Bronica, I do know that camera inside and out.

I'm not a big fan of high iso digital, and the quality of the Zenzanon 65 and 45mmm lenses and Neopan400 (even pushed two stops) are great. Not necessarily better of worse than digital (let's not start that discussion), but it looks the way I like it. I will not bring both systems as my main reason for being there is actually making illustrations and I will have to carry kit for that as well (sketchbooks, papers, paints etc., a laptop for emails etcetc.).

When I've shot in Seoul in similar places with the Bronica, I got very nice results, but I have to admit also some dissapointments (couple of rollsnot exposed correctly, focus off etc).
In short I think you could say I love the output of film, and love to go out and take photographs (i.e. being immersed in photography) with the Bronica.
The D200 is a mere tool that could proof very convenient for the task at hand.

Of course I will also discuss this with my friend, but I would like some thoughts from other rangefinder and film shooters.

Any comments or thoughts very much appreciated.

edit - I do have to say, with film the exposure is not that critical cause you have so much more leaway.



Bronica RF645, 65mm (56), 45mm (75) Zenzanon.
Fuji GA645Zi, Fuji X100

Last edited by tensai : 03-14-2008 at 00:35.
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Old 03-14-2008   #2
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I guess my question would be: are you taking your camera gear along primarily to take the types of photos you'd prefer to take or to provide backup and the same "style" of shooting for you and your friend's joint project? If its the first, take the Bronica. You know you want to. But if its the 2nd, you probably "should" take the Nikon. (I'd be tempted to at least take along a 35mm pocketable that I could put some B&W film through. A T2, Stylus Epic or XA doesn't take up much room.)

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Old 03-16-2008   #3
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Why not bring both? I know it's more gear to carry but they'll have them when you need them. Also, at the end of your trip you can take inventory of which camera you actually used most often. It may come as a (unpleasant?) revelation.
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Old 03-17-2008   #4
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You want to have a wander through my gallery. I have done nothing but photograph these places the last 4 years. Take my advice and pack 400 speed film and lots of it. Digital is ok, but most of these places have a rough tough feel and the calm smoothness of digital does not lend itself well to these areas. One other tip, shooting in these old area, there are a lot of old people who like to see what you are doing. They just sit there and stare at you sometimes. Finding a place to change film gives them something odd to look at, sometimes that is a good thing. Having a big digital will scare people in these little places, but the ability to show images to kids and people in the streets after you have taken a pic of them helps get the general mood of a neighborhood on your side, for instance if there is a small crowd of people watching you they will talk amongst them selfs, and if someone has some sort of questionable objection then more times then not someone will say something on your behalf.

Also, if you have a friend you want to do a photo book with I highly suggest you use a different medium then him, its an extra way to differentiate yours and his photos. Dont underestimate that.
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