I’ve been taking film and digital photos for close to 50 years now. I got started with a relatively primitive Yashica 35 mm rangefinder back in 1970. For about 15 years I concentrated my photography on slide film – which meant I needed a screen and projector to view my handiwork.
I later converted to color print film and most of the next 20 years are documented that way in photo albums. I was a late convert to digital photography and only threw in the towel on film around 2007.
Most of that reluctance to go digital was nostalgia I admit. Even when I got my first real high quality autofocus camera in 2002 I stuck with film. I have a fine Nikon F80 film camera setup now gathering dust in the closet as a result. The lenses can be used after a fashion on a modern DSLR but the camera body is toast for all practical purposes.
Consider the above photo taken in 1981 with the Yashica. Actually by then my technique had improved a lot and the lighting was good at the Tower of London that day, so the old 35mm camera did an OK job. In bright light I often got out of focus pics – never knew why – maybe just a bad photographer.
Sadly, film had other disadvantages that nostalgia cannot deny:
- Loading and unloading even with cartridges could be fraught with danger. I had more than one film ruined by sloppy handling.
- You only got a few chances to make a good image. You had only 36 shots with a cartridge of 35 mm color slide film or 24 with prints, so you needed to be perfect every time. I never was.
- Film could and did get expensive over the years.
- Color slide film was slow, did not have a lot of contrast to begin with and it tends to fade as it ages.
- Color prints are difficult to store if you have a lot of them. Trust me.
- You have to figure out some way to scan and digitize film if you want to display them today or post them on the internet. That goes for both slides and photo prints.
Above is one of the last color slides I took back in 1985. You can see some of the problems here even though by this time I had a quality manual focus Nikon FE camera and some mid-grade lenses for it. Contrast is a definite problem with a black steam tractor silhouetted against a bright sky. The sky is “blown out” even after white balance correction on the slide scan.
Here is a color print from 2003 taken in Italy. Not a bad scan, although I was at the mercy of the print provider to get the color right and then I could make a scan with the result. This was with a high quality Nikon camera body and Nikon lenses. so about as good as you can get with film.
Shortly after this I started to dip my toe into digital photography and either my technique got better or the digital cameras did. Either way I am I am much happier with the results.
Digital photography has advantages nostalgia cannot overcome:
- Once you buy the camera, images are limitless and essentially cost zero. Take as many as you want.
- You transfer your pics directly to the computer or the Internet.
- The camera gives you much better contrast and huge ranges of film speed. Autofocus takes your bad vision out of the picture.
Here’s an example of what a Panasonic Lumix camera the size of a deck of cards can do. Taken in November at La-Seyne-sur-Mer, France. No blown out sky here on a dazzlingly sunny day. Easy to transfer and post.
At first when I went out to photograph my life, all I had was a smallish rangefinder camera and some packs of film. By the time I got to Italy in 2003, I had a camera body, 4 lenses, flash and even more film. Today I have the Lumix and that’s it. I have come full circle and I don’t feel nostalgic at all.