Though I saw it all around
Never thought I could be affected
Thought that we'd be the last to go
It is so strange the way things turn

Monday, July 26, 2010

I can read the writing on the wall

Mamma don't take my Kodacrhome away.

Well, she may not, but Kodak will.

And I really don't see digital as a replacement. Comparatively, digital sucks, but that's also a circumstance of lens quality, apertures available, speed of exposure, and focal length. But digital is cheap. And everybody is doing it. People wonder how I take such good photos (when I take them as photos instead of snapshots). It's because I have photo training using film. Trust me, forcing a CCD to behave like chemical film is a bitch. And there are several techniques (light painting for instance) that will disappear. Many people don't know that the photos they've seen everyday can't be done on digital (tire photography, many of those tire images you see in the ads have exposure times best rated in either whole or fractions of hours). CCDs have a time limit, unlike film where you can let an image build up. After so long a CCD will lose it's charge.

But then there are cool things you can do digitally that you couldn't do with film. I'm not sure the trade off is worth it, but ask me in twenty years. By then we should have seen the digital analog to Ansel Adams or Al Stieglitz.

15 comments:

Random Michelle K said...

I get your point, but...

I love digital cameras. I love to take pictures--always have--but I rarely did, because I didn't want to "waste film" on a shot that was going to suck, so I never took any chances.

That's long gone.

Saturday I shot 350 pictures of my niece (I did actually spend lots of time holding her and oohing and aahing over her, as well as talking with people) and those were pictures I never would have taken with a film camera.

I discovered, through playing around, I really prefer natural light to the flash, so of the 350 pictures I shot, I whittled down to 220 after ditching the shots that were unusably blurry. Then I deleted the shots where people look absolutely horrific.

After all was said and done, I ended up with about 20 shots I loved--many of them shots I never would have taken if I was using film.

Not only that, but since people now expect me to go nuts with the camera, they stop paying attention to me. I got a lot of good shots of my brother and sister-in-law just being themselves with the baby. If I'd been using film, I'd have ended up with posed shots, and those just aren't the same.

This isn't to say you don't have good points, but for me, none of those photos would have been taken if I had a film camera.

Nathan said...

I've said it before...I shoot a lot professionally, but I'm no photographer. The fact is, though, that I was much better shooting film than I am with digital. Digital gives me 'option overload'.

By choosing what stock to shoot, I used to be really good at getting heavy grain or super-saturating shots...or standing still without a tripod and still getting good exposures in limited light. (I NEVER use a flash for work because it alters the colors and then the DP is pissed when everything looks different in person.)

And Michelle may like shooting tons and tons of exposures, but it just adds work for me when I have to trim down everything from 100 shots to 20.

There are things I like about digital and that's good since I don't have any choice in the matter, but I really miss shooting film.

Dr. Phil (Physics) said...

The overhead in digital photography is in the price ahead of time. I just looked at the price of a Leica M9. (gurk) (But I want one -- sigh.) Sure pro camera gear was expensive In The Day, but I was able to amass a couple of Nikon F3s and an old F, and a bunch of lenses from 24mm to 200mm, all comparably fast. Still can't afford a full-frame FX sensor Nikon D-SLR.

But... if I shot a half dozen rolls of Kodachrome 64 or Ektachrome 200 Professional, not only did the film cost, but then I had to add in the processing, both dollars and time. And bad shots cost just as much as good ones.

My only consolation is that my two little Sony digital cameras both have Carl Zeiss lenses -- never thought I'd get to say that. (grin)

Dr. Phil

Steve Buchheit said...

Michelle, don't get me wrong, I love my digital cameras too. It's just I miss the ability to do some of the things that were so easy with film. Part of that is that I have't spent a few thousand on a camera rig (which would get me most of the functionality I had with my $150 SLR film camera). What I would love to have? An aperture of f64, at least. Exposure times of up to a minute, and down to 1/1000th of a second. More hand controls (instead of menus - for quick adjustment - just doing bracketing on digital is a pain in the butt). And actual engineered glass lens. And some focal length. I can get some of that for about $600, but not all.

But I like my $300 point and shoot. I wouldn't trade it for a film camera for what it's supposed to be used for. But with a film camera, for that amount, I could get a whole lot more.

However, I do like the digital workflow. Last week I was shooting some scenes in one of our factories as my boss's direction. She didn't understand why I took so long. I explained, "Why take just one shot when I can take six." I like that.

And as Nathan says, some are good things, some are bad. Kodachrome was excellent for it's fidelity and range. Safety film used to be very good as well (until they made it "ultra safety" back in the late 80s, which they sacrificed things they shouldn't have had and made it hard to "force film"). There's shots I know I would have gotten on film or transparency (Kodachrome was, after all, slide film), but whenI look at the digital it just goes "meh."

Also, there are things the digital camera "just does" to compensate (going for the "safety film" route of making it easier) that bugs the crap out of me. Like for the afore mentioned shoot. It was low lighting, which my Nikon can handle (better than most). However, the only feedback I get is shutter speed. Okay, I can handle that. What I don't see as feedback, until I get to look at the full size image, is the camera is deciding to also cut back resolution and clarity giving me a very washed out, pixelated, and fuzzy image (interpolation errors). That bugs me. A lot.

I'm pretty sure my next digital will be another Kodak or maybe an Olympus.

Steve Buchheit said...

Dr. Phil, oh yes. One must choose the lens you get. And I certainly don't miss paying for processing of film to get back images that aren't even B-roll quality.

Dr. Phil (Physics) said...

(1) I meant to say Kodachrome 64 Professional (PKM-135-36 ??), which had a really nice color response curve to it, even better than the previous Kodachrome 64.

(2) As far as lenses go, the insistence of zoom lenses with large ranges and crappily small apertures was brought on in part by the CCD's strong attractor to dust feature -- if you had zoom lenses, you didn't have to change lenses as much.

But... I have two issues with these lenses. One is that zoom lenses usually offer some compromises optically. And their variable max aperture ratings, like f3.5-5.6 really suck for "available darkness" shooting.

Still, there are some amazing optics in some of the zoom lenses, such as the Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 AFS -- I can hardly believe that such specs exist for an FX lens having started photography in the late 60s -- and the Leica Tri-Elmar 16-18-21mm f4 ASPH for the Leica M9, which is an optimized three focal length lens and NOT a zoom. (grin)

And I can't afford to play with any of those. (sad-sad-grin)

Dr. Phil

Eric said...

Steve, the good news or bad news, depending on how you look at it, is that you can do almost all of those things with a decent DSLR (I'd have to look at the aperture options for my Nikon D300S, but the rest of it is doable even with my older, cheaper D40X). The bad news part of it is that you'd need to invest more than $150: my old D40X cost $600 (with a lens!) as a refurb on eBay and the 300S twice that (body only). (The good news is that that's still less than thousands... at least until you start buying glass for it.

Like Dr. Phil says, the keenest thing about digital is that you can just fire away without worrying about how much the film is costing you. And the stuff you can do to digital in GIMP or Photoshop is pretty boss, too--and cheap and easy, as opposed to having to set up a lab in your bathroom.

The biggest thing that's lost, in my opinion, is the literal graininess of analog. I'm a bit lapsed on my own shooting, sad to say, but I spent (and expect to spend) a lot of time trying to make the even regularity of a digital image look like film. There are plug-ins and presets and techniques that you can add, but it's not as lovely as that powerful raw look you see in classic '50s black-and-white photography by Gordon Parks, et al. Although here, one has to point out that my big love of B&W photography and attempts to duplicate that with a digital camera are also sort of a fringe taste, probably, anyway.

Mer said...

I still dream of setting up a dark room in my basement... so I hope it doesn't ALL go away.

Raul Gonzales said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steve Buchheit said...

Raul, I don't allow link farming here. If you'd like to make a comment, excellent, welcome. Even if you make a link that's germaine to the conversation, I'll let it alone. However, drive bye link farming is not tolerated.

Steve Buchheit said...

Dr. Phil and Eric, yeah, it's the cost point. And I'm damn cheap when it comes down to it. I can get a lot of what I'm looking for with a standard SLR body and a digital back, but that's big bucks. So far all the DSLRs are crippled by the apeture settings, and if I'm going to that expense, I really want more manual controls (including focus), and most DSLRs are fancy/schamncy point and shoots. Although you do get the focal lengths necessary for deep photos.

Mer, I would live to be able to do BW processing again. I loved that part of photo classes (including setting up my own film winders).

WendyB_09 said...

I too miss the old film days, but not the development costs. I've had an assortment of Nikon equipment over the years, still have a well loved 35+ year old Nikkormat FtN and Nikon 2020 (their first auto-focus series) and I miss shooting with them. The 2020 is picky though, it doesn't like temperature extremes. Which is why I've kept the Nikkormat so long.

For years I had a Kodak 35mm point and shoot pocket camera, I took that sucker everywhere and nearly always had it with me. But I didn't take as many pics as that implies. Development costs and if I wanted a digital set the CD of jpegs was another $15.

Now I have a Canon digital that's about the same size as my old Kodak, I take it everywhere and I shoot something most every day. It has great functions, did some killer fireworks a couple years ago.

But I still miss the exercise of checking settings, ASA speeds, pushing film, grain focusing for the best print.

Sigh.

Steve Buchheit said...

WendyB, see, those are the things I miss a little as well. The ability to get what I wanted, instead of what the camera thinks I want.

And yes, I don't miss spending for processing. Especially after everything went to 1 hour crap processing (again, the processing computer would compensate the exposure and not give me what I wanted).

Porter said...

I miss having the pictures printed out. I did a lot with the prints -- sent them off in a snail mail card or letter, cut them up to use in art, used them as bookmarks, created scrapbooks (real ones, not "scrapbooking" ones,) changed off the pics in frames around the house.
I miss not knowing how they'll turn out, too. I have gotten some great surprises.
Do I, by any chance, sound like an old lady?

Steve Buchheit said...

Christina, no, not like an old woman at all. :) Yeah, the surprises are also missed.