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Buying a film camera but only to use a lab?
Old 01-26-2013   #1
danielsterno
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Buying a film camera but only to use a lab?

All:

here is a good overview of most present available film cameras by Ming Thein (who puts out good insight on gear-PP-etc: http://blog.mingthein.com/2013/01/24...#comment-21252

After his write up I ask the the question: Is it realistic in 2013 to consider to buy a film camera, if your not developing & printing the film (which is part of my quandary/decision if to go analog)?
His reply is:The tonal qualities and color (assuming you’re not restricting yourself to B&W) are definitely different, even if scanned. That said, the digitisation process definitely affects the look of the output. Whether it ‘makes sense’ for you or not depends heavily on whether you have access to a good lab or not, and I the economics make sense. One of the reasons why I only picked it up again recently is because I wasn’t happy with the commercial developing results, or the prices – it’s 100% DIY for me now.

Whats your view? How many of you have bought film Leica's knowing you are not developing/printing?. I am considering it, for many reasons one of enjoying the interaction with the Leica...
thanks in advance for your thoughts?-sterno
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Old 01-26-2013   #2
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When I use film nowadays, I either have my negatives processed by a good lab, or process my negatives at home. Once the negative are processed, I scan them with a film scanner, and then shred them when I'm sure I've got all I can get from them.

I'm only interested in the images, not in storing film, and with a good film scanner on freshly processed, clean film, I'm getting everything that I want out of the film. It's the digital image data that I want for rendering and printing.

This nets me the look and feel of film, of film cameras, at minimum additional cost over working with digital cameras. A couple of good film scanners (one for 35mm and one for 120 format) were not cheap, but worth it to get the most out of my negatives.

I have exactly zero interest in getting back into darkroom printing anymore. Saw a gorgeous Phillips 35mm to 6x7 format enlarger yesterday, going for almost nothing. I would have sold my mom's right arm for one of those a couple of decades back, nowadays it's just more kibble that I'd never use. Such it is.

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Old 01-26-2013   #3
danielsterno
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Godfrey View Post
When I use film nowadays, I either have my negatives processed by a good lab, or process my negatives at home. Once the negative are processed, I scan them with a film scanner, and then shred them when I'm sure I've got all I can get from them.

I'm only interested in the images, not in storing film, and with a good film scanner on freshly processed, clean film, I'm getting everything that I want out of the film. It's the digital image data that I want for rendering and printing.

This nets me the look and feel of film, of film cameras, at minimum additional cost over working with digital cameras. A couple of good film scanners (one for 35mm and one for 120 format) were not cheap, but worth it to get the most out of my negatives.

I have exactly zero interest in getting back into darkroom printing anymore. Saw a gorgeous Phillips 35mm to 6x7 format enlarger yesterday, going for almost nothing. I would have sold my mom's right arm for one of those a couple of decades back, nowadays it's just more kibble that I'd never use. Such it is.

G
Godfrey:
Good, thorough feedback & I respect your insight- thank you.. -sterno.
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Old 01-26-2013   #4
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I did just recently pick up a Leica IIIf after years of digital only. My workflow will consist of developing at home and scanning (though I don't currently have a scanner...still researching that aspect). I don't know if I really care if my images are better or worse than what I can get with a digital camera. For me, the whole process is just more enjoyable. Even though dSLR's, mirrorless, and even high end compacts have full manual features, I feel like the process was just too robotic and I wasn't feeling a connection anymore.

The IIIf, even with it's drawbacks (small and separate range/viewfinders, quirky film loading, knob rewind), definitely brings a smile to my face every time I use it, and it makes me want to use it more. And developing at home - I love to go though the process and then at the end see the fruits of my labor (ok, there's not much labor involved in developing...).

But, to honestly answer your question, I don't think I'd go back to film if I had to rely on a lab. I think the costs would add up rather quickly then. To buy a scanner and all the stuff you need to develop, I'd think it would pay for itself within a year, and provide you with a lot more creative flexibility in the process.
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Old 01-26-2013   #5
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I plan to at some point, but I've never developed a film in my life. I only use film, I don't even really use the digital camera in my phone.

In the UK, developing is very much available, in fact I know of a couple of new labs opened recently, AG Photo Lab, and of course Lomography have started developing too.

I do certainly plan to develop myself soon, but right now, labs are just fine, and a real time saver for me.
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Old 01-26-2013   #6
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Yes, if you can afford it & frankly, if you can afford Leica gear, you can probably afford it if you really like the aesthetic qualities of film. I know I do & prefer using mechanical cameras, but have never enjoyed the drudgery of developing film (wet prints can be fun, though). I also like having the option of not just distributing work digitally, but also printing both digitally & chemically & having a physical backup (which is why I would never shred my film). Of course, scanning is also drudgery, so lately I've taken advantage of good labs that do high quality scanning like Precision (for color), or outsource bulk scanning to outfits like Scancafe (B&W).

I've done the cost calculations & for me, the price of using film, even developed & scanned @ pro labs, works out favorably to buying & using my Leica digital bodies, especially because the vast majority of my photography is personal & not deadline driven. Obviously, the economics are different for dSLR users or if you do have to meet deadlines.

Quote:
Originally Posted by danielsterno View Post
All:

here is a good overview of most present available film cameras by Ming Thein (who puts out good insight on gear-PP-etc: http://blog.mingthein.com/2013/01/24...#comment-21252

After his write up I ask the the question: Is it realistic in 2013 to consider to buy a film camera, if your not developing & printing the film (which is part of my quandary/decision if to go analog)?
His reply is:The tonal qualities and color (assuming you’re not restricting yourself to B&W) are definitely different, even if scanned. That said, the digitisation process definitely affects the look of the output. Whether it ‘makes sense’ for you or not depends heavily on whether you have access to a good lab or not, and I the economics make sense. One of the reasons why I only picked it up again recently is because I wasn’t happy with the commercial developing results, or the prices – it’s 100% DIY for me now.

Whats your view? How many of you have bought film Leica's knowing you are not developing/printing?. I am considering it, for many reasons one of enjoying the interaction with the Leica...
thanks in advance for your thoughts?-sterno
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Old 01-26-2013   #7
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As for scanners, I'm far from an expert but it seems to me that modern scanners can get very nearly all available detail out of a negative, but it seems that getting all the colour/tonal detail out is a bit trickier, which is why Vuescan and the like offer multiple passes over the negative to drag as much out of the slide/negative as possible.
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Old 01-26-2013   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danielsterno View Post
All:

here is a good overview of most present available film cameras by Ming Thein (who puts out good insight on gear-PP-etc: http://blog.mingthein.com/2013/01/24...#comment-21252

After his write up I ask the the question: Is it realistic in 2013 to consider to buy a film camera, if your not developing & printing the film (which is part of my quandary/decision if to go analog)?
His reply is:The tonal qualities and color (assuming you’re not restricting yourself to B&W) are definitely different, even if scanned. That said, the digitisation process definitely affects the look of the output. Whether it ‘makes sense’ for you or not depends heavily on whether you have access to a good lab or not, and I the economics make sense. One of the reasons why I only picked it up again recently is because I wasn’t happy with the commercial developing results, or the prices – it’s 100% DIY for me now.

Whats your view? How many of you have bought film Leica's knowing you are not developing/printing?. I am considering it, for many reasons one of enjoying the interaction with the Leica...
thanks in advance for your thoughts?-sterno
So I need to buy a Leica? This will make all the difference?
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Old 01-26-2013   #9
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Let say a person is thinking of buying a Leica M kit so that they can mainly shoot color images. With that in mind they've narrowed their choices to either a used M9 for say $4200 or a used M6+Plustek 8100 for about 1500.00. Plus $400 Voigtlander 35mm F 2.5 for the lens. So their either looking at about $4600 if they go with the M9 or about $2100.00 if the go with the M6,
Leaving a difference of $2500.00 for film a processing.
Now for someone shooting and processing10-12 rolls of color C41 film(Portra (400) that $2100 is going go pretty fast say about a year to 16 months. Now on the other hand for someone that might only average 3-5 rolls a month that $2100 is going to last quit a bit longer.
Also for a lot of people $2100 is a lot of money to spend on camera gear at one time let alone $4600.00
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Old 01-26-2013   #10
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I use film cameras because they are straight forward to use and I enjoy the feel of a mechanical shutter. I develop my own black and white and scan it. Sometimes I have colour neg film developed by a lab then scan it myself. It can be very frustrating and time consuming. On returning from a trip with a few rolls of colourneg I get it developed and scanned at a pro lab (about £10 per roll). This process is much more satisfying to me that wading through hundreds of raw files from a digital camera.
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Old 01-26-2013   #11
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Don't see what this got to do with Leica either.

I see no point in developing/printing at home. If you have a good lab in reach and a good understanding with them, then you cannot keep your chemicals in condition like they do. Unless you have the same volume to handle.

Certainly not when you do 95% slides like I do.

I do admit that color prints can be a bit variable in result. But then again I don't do those that much that I can be certain that it isn't my technique shooting the film that makes the difference. Or the film itself.
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Old 01-26-2013   #12
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I think sometimes film is like having a mortgage on a house, digital is like buying a nice car. You'll spend a lot on mortgage payments, but it's spread out over a lifetime. The car will cost you less, but be worthless eventually.
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Old 01-26-2013   #13
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Well with modern digital cameras the old film is better argument is really not valid anymore. I can make my digital files look like any film with a click of a preset. Digital has come of age and now affordable for most.
The Plustek is an amazing scanner for the price and I still like to shoot B&W and develop my own. I have just about gave up color film. The cost is just to high.
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Old 01-26-2013   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 68degrees View Post
do you think future scanners will be able to squeeze more data from the film than current scanning technology?
Honestly, I don't think there's much more data to be had that matters. Both the Nikon Coolscan V and Super Coolscan 9000 are pulling much more out of the film than any wet lab optical printing ever could, never mind the Imacon Flextight scanners, and that's certainly good enough for my needs.

Besides that, the likelihood that I'll go back and re-scan work that I'm done and finished with is vanishingly small. I'm more interested in moving forwards and producing great photos, not constantly trying to make the old work better.

If a substantially better scanner appeared that allowed me to work more difficult, pathological negatives, fine: I'd upgrade to that and keep moving forwards. But I don't see it happening, and I produce pretty easy to scan negatives anyway.

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Old 01-26-2013   #15
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I haven't developed a single roll of film since I got back into film around 2005. Would rather do my own dentistry.
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Old 01-26-2013   #16
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I do all my own b&w developing. I don't mind doing it, although I've not shot much recently so it's been at least 6 weeks since I last developed anything. I use an Epson flatbed (V500) for scanning, and it's straightforward enough. I like a lot of things about the film cameras I use, and don't find developing enough of a chore to stop using them.

I read Ming Thein's article. It was interesting, although I'm not sure I agree with him on everything. He complains about grain, but he's getting _way_ more grain on medium format film (Delta100 with a Hasselblad, for example) than I do. I'm fairly sure I have less visible grain in scans from HP5+ or Tmax 400.
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Old 01-27-2013   #17
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not everyone has the time, space, knowledge to self develop.
i only develop b&w at home, but have a E6 and C41 kits. im a little hesitant to do colour, lacking a bit of confidence. so for the moment i get a lab to do my colour films, then i scan and print.
my nearest lab is about 2hr drive away, so i need to sort this out.
if i had the space i would set up a darkroom.
i shoot a lot of medium and large format. not many digital cameras can match that experience.
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Old 01-27-2013   #18
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I own 20+ camera's these days, and I send out all my rolls. There are several reasons:

- I shoot about two rolls per month usually. Sometimes more, sometimes less.
- I've never developed film, so I'd face a big learning curve and financial investment in doing my own processing and printing.
- I have ready access to a local minilab as well as local stores that send out to labs.
- I shoot a wide variety of film that would be difficult to process: everything from 35mm B&W, 110 color, slide film, etc. Yet more learning curve & investment in chemicals.

Now, I'm considering at least doing my own 35mm B&W in the near future, since I shoot more of that then any other film, but for the other stuff.... the labs are just less of a hassle.
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Old 01-27-2013   #19
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Originally Posted by cosmonaut View Post
Well with modern digital cameras the old film is better argument is really not valid anymore. I can make my digital files look like any film with a click of a preset. Digital has come of age and now affordable for most.
The Plustek is an amazing scanner for the price and I still like to shoot B&W and develop my own. I have just about gave up color film. The cost is just to high.
For me (and most here I think), it's not a matter of "film is better", it's just we like it more. Whisky is not better than red wine, but I prefer it.

And yes, you can certainly make digital files look pretty much indiscernable from film, but you can make a quartz watch look identical to a mechanical watch, but many will still prefer the real thing, for all the disadvantages.
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Old 01-27-2013   #20
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For me (and most here I think), it's not a matter of "film is better", it's just we like it more. Whisky is not better than red wine, but I prefer it.

And yes, you can certainly make digital files look pretty much indiscernable from film, but you can make a quartz watch look identical to a mechanical watch, but many will still prefer the real thing, for all the disadvantages.
Complete agreement here -- with one qualification. Once you've strained film through a scanner and computer, it's more digital than I care for. For colour, therefore (a much more 'scientific' processing sequence than B+W, though no more difficult) I go straight to digital most of the time. I really have my doubts about digital monochrome as compared with wet-all-the-way B+W, especially when printed on Ilford Art 300.

Cheers,

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Old 01-27-2013   #21
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Quote:
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not everyone has the time, space, knowledge to self develop.
i only develop b&w at home, but have a E6 and C41 kits. im a little hesitant to do colour, lacking a bit of confidence. so for the moment i get a lab to do my colour films, then i scan and print.
my nearest lab is about 2hr drive away, so i need to sort this out.
if i had the space i would set up a darkroom.
i shoot a lot of medium and large format. not many digital cameras can match that experience.
Once you try it you may wonder why you were so hesitant -- especially if you use a Jobo, which makes it really easy.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 01-27-2013   #22
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Don't see what this got to do with Leica either.

I see no point in developing/printing at home. If you have a good lab in reach and a good understanding with them, then you cannot keep your chemicals in condition like they do. Unless you have the same volume to handle.

Certainly not when you do 95% slides like I do.

I do admit that color prints can be a bit variable in result. But then again I don't do those that much that I can be certain that it isn't my technique shooting the film that makes the difference. Or the film itself.
Uh... Yes you can. The main reasons for not developing and printing at home are (1) laziness, to which I plead guilty (2) incompetence, and developing really is pretty easy. With Tetenal E6 kits slides are REALLY easy, and no more time consuming than going to and from a lab, unless the lab is next door, on the way to work, or somewhere else that takes effectively no time to get to.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 01-27-2013   #23
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Quote:
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Complete agreement here -- with one qualification. Once you've strained film through a scanner and computer, it's more digital than I care for.
What's more, there aren't really any feasible alternatives to scanning for colour prints, if you are starting now - all available colour print paper is tuned to digital (Fuji Frontier) printing. Sure, you can still wet print on current paper, but unless you put an enormous effort into masking, the result will look no better than a print from a scan. And it takes scans from bigger negatives than 24x36 to beat the higher end of direct digital.

But of course, different properties of the cameras and lenses often still make me pick a film camera for colour even where digital might arguably deliver better IQ - image quality is more than resolution and colour rendition, and besides, image quality is not all that matters...
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Old 01-27-2013   #24
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Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Uh... Yes you can. The main reasons for not developing and printing at home are (1) laziness, to which I plead guilty (2) incompetence, and developing really is pretty easy. With Tetenal E6 kits slides are REALLY easy, and no more time consuming than going to and from a lab, unless the lab is next door, on the way to work, or somewhere else that takes effectively no time to get to.

Cheers,

R.
I plead guilty to laziness also.

It's just so tempting though to drop a film into the prepaid envelope, pay using PayPal, and wait for the results to drop onto my desk at work.
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Old 01-27-2013   #25
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Hi,

I can't see the link with Leica either and can think of many lenses as good for what most people do and better if digital is dragged into the argument.

As for D&P at home; FWIW, I stopped doing it myself about 30 years ago and don't miss it. We've three labs within the shopping circle but I'm in the UK where we have Ilford's excellent B&W service.

As for scanning, looking on ebay it seems enlargers are like APS P&S's and so dirt cheap...

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Old 01-27-2013   #26
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Uh... Yes you can.
Indeed, it is mostly superior to accessible developing services, now that many of the remaining in-store consumer labs are only there because nobody cares for and attends to them. Only the happy few among us that live in one of the few hubs of the European, American or Japanese media industry will be in walking distance close to a pro lab whose chemistry is up to the standard of one-shot batch home processing. For the rest, it is a choice between DIY or mail order to the next quality lab - for many among us, that even implies mail order abroad (and turn around times of weeks rather than days).
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Old 01-27-2013   #27
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My workflow will consist of developing at home and scanning (though I don't currently have a scanner...still researching that aspect).
It sounds as though you already have a DSLR, or equivalent, digital camera? I'd suggest re-photographing your black-and-white negatives with a bellows or macro-lens (an old and unfashionable [cheap!] manual focus one is fine), stopped down a bit, then converted from camera-RAW to (for example) black-and-white tiff before working on it.

You can make a quick, vertically arranged, test to see if you like the results using the camera on a tripod, a cardboard neg-holder resting on another piece of card with a hole in, wedged somehow at a convenient height. The light source can be something like a bright desk lamp bouncing off a white card on the floor, directly under the neg-holder and camera. To stop light reflecting off the top of the neg, make the room dark and put a collar made of black paper round the top of the neg-holder, reaching almost as high as the front of the lens. This takes longer to read than to do, almost.

When you decide to take this idea further, get a piece of black foamboard (as used for backing photographs) and make yourself a box with parallel light reflector, neg-holder and marked lines for aligning the front of the camera. Then all you need to do is shine a desklight in the hole you left at the back, over the angled reflector.

Quality can easily be enough for one foot digital prints. If/when you want (infrequently?) a mural sized print then get the neg scanned on some hugely expensive, ultra-high quality graphics scanner which you could never afford (not at the corner one-hour shop).
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Old 01-27-2013   #28
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For those who has never develop or print film, don't be swayed by people who has done it, but hated it, or gave it up, or found the nirvana in digital, or whatever else other reasons there are.

There is a big perspective difference, they have done it, you haven't.

At this point, film developing and printing is cheaper and available, and the journey towards the results is equally interesting and yes, even fun. So go ahead and try it. You may like it or not in the end, but at least you have done it.
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Old 01-27-2013   #29
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I process all my own films with possibly the exception of transparencies because I shoot only 5 rolls per year.
Processing colour negative is easier than mono, you only have one development time and it is short. The only different equipment is the thermometer which must go to 38°C.
Its so simple there's no good reason to avoid doing it unless you just can't be bothered.
http://photo-utopia.blogspot.co.uk/2...-negative.html

I prefer the look of colour negative to digital, not just because of the way it renders highlights (bulletproof) but also i love the way my TLR renders images.

I disagree strongly with those people who think they can make digital look like film 'at the click of a button' I've never seen any evidence of that in photographic form.
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Old 01-27-2013   #30
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I don't develop my own colour. I have a very good lab do that.

I do develop and print BW. Film is easy. Getting good prints is harder though, but rewarding.
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Old 01-27-2013   #31
NLewis
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There is no good rational reason to use a film camera today. You only do it because you are quirky.

I am quirky. I shoot mostly a Fuji GW690. The Nikon D3200, at $525 including a nice lens, has about the same resolution. But, I shoot the Fuji anyway. I like the process of it. I also have a Leica M2 and a prewar Leica III.

For processing, it is pretty much a mailorder thing today. I tried home processing and didn't like it. Too much work, and inconsistent results. I use Dwayne's, for the most part. I get the film back uncut, and then scan it at home.

With that said, the look of film, either BW or color, can be really nice. Portra 160 just has a creamy look that is really addictive for people shots. It might not be "literal" but so what. The look of Velvia 50 on sunrises and sunsets has been getting people excited for years.
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Old 01-27-2013   #32
sevo
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Originally Posted by NLewis View Post
There is no good rational reason to use a film camera
There is no good rational reason to use a digital camera either. Once we accept that it is sane to do things as pointless and strange as painting shadows of a mammoth onto the wall of our cave, any camera is permissible...
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Old 01-27-2013   #33
Photo_Smith
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NLewis View Post
There is no good rational reason to use a film camera today.
Here's your rational reason:

Quote:
Originally Posted by NLewis View Post
With that said, the look of film, either BW or color, can be really nice.
You like it that's rational enough.
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Old 01-27-2013   #34
Godfrey
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Originally Posted by NLewis View Post
There is no good rational reason to use a film camera today. You only do it because you are quirky.

I am quirky. ...

With that said, the look of film, either BW or color, can be really nice. ...
I resemble that remark.

I like the look I get from 6x6 and some 35mm film. I like the cameras too. There's no rational reason not to use my M9, or E-1, or GXR, or X2 ... but I like using the SX-70, the SWC, the Bessa III, the Baldix, the Minox EC, the Rollei 35S, etc etc.

Nothing rational about it, and nothing has to be. I'm not in the business of being a professional photographer any more, so what I do in photography only has to satisfy me.

If I were trying to make a living with my photography still, I wouldn't even consider shooting film any more: too much effort, not enough productivity, too much cost.

G
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Old 01-27-2013   #35
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I process all my own films with possibly the exception of transparencies because I shoot only 5 rolls per year.
Processing colour negative is easier than mono, you only have one development time and it is short. The only different equipment is the thermometer which must go to 38°C.
Its so simple there's no good reason to avoid doing it unless you just can't be bothered.
http://photo-utopia.blogspot.co.uk/2...-negative.html

I prefer the look of colour negative to digital, not just because of the way it renders highlights (bulletproof) but also i love the way my TLR renders images.

I disagree strongly with those people who think they can make digital look like film 'at the click of a button' I've never seen any evidence of that in photographic form.
Here's a chestnut tree leaf I processed in Tetenal kit in the kitchen sink.


Kodak 400vc Rolleiflex 3,5F Rolleinar II
Crap. Now I have to start shooting color film, too. Thanks for the write up. I think I've been avoiding color because I've never really read up on processing and thought it was very different.
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Old 01-27-2013   #36
Godfrey
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Originally Posted by digitalintrigue View Post
If I were a pro, depending on what niche I were serving, I may shoot film just to differentiate from all the 'pros' who just bought a digital camera yesterday...

There are quite a few wedding photogs shooting film for just this reason and making very good livings doing it...and there are many pro labs that cater to them.
If you were a pro, you'd do whatever it took to make a good living in the way that suited your interests and creativity best.

If wedding photography was your delight, your business plan makes sense. But I, and every photographer I know personally, abhor the grueling horror of wedding photography. It's a very tough and demanding business, and to me, an utterly stifling one.

I was a wedding photographer's assistant and second shooter for three years back in the day. Reasonably successful at it too. I would never want to do that again.

G
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Old 01-27-2013   #37
frank-grumman
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I'm about as amateur as you can get; just enjoy shooting pictures with digital as well as film, F5 and GA645Zi. When I'm in Philly I have the luxury, for me at least, of having Philadelphia Photographics doing the developing and hi-rez scanning and I really like the work they do. My 2 cents
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Old 01-27-2013   #38
Spanik
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There is no good rational reason to use a film camera today. You only do it because you are quirky.
My only reason to use film is that I like film cameras best. The day they make a digital that works like a mechanical camera from the 70's I'll change directly.
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Old 01-27-2013   #39
Roger Hicks
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My only reason to use film is that I like film cameras best. The day they make a digital that works like a mechanical camera from the 70's I'll change directly.
M9.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 01-28-2013   #40
Spanik
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M9.
A rangefinder isn't a proper camera Less flippant, it doesn't suit my way of working at all. I need from close up (not quite macro) to some tele over mostly wide angles and I really, really dislike auxilary finders.
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