Film in the Digital Age

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Gaerek, May 31, 2009.

  1. Gaerek

    Gaerek TPF Noob!

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    I got into photography about 11 years ago when my Dad gave me his circa 1980 Canon AE-1. I had no idea how to use it, but I devoted a lot of time and effort into learning how to use it. A year and a half later, I went to college, couldn't afford the film and processing, and my AE-1 got stuffed in a closet to collect dust.

    Fast forward to a few years ago. I decided to get back into photography, but had all but forgotten my AE-1. With a good job, I went out and bought a DSLR and had to relearn everything I had forgotten. I was surprised at how automatic the cameras had gotten. Just a couple months ago, I ran across my AE-1, and I started playing with it. I didn't have any film, but I was amazed at how far photography had come in the past 30 years.

    Last week, I decided to go buy some film, and give this old camera a try again. It's actually amazing how refreshing it is to take photos with this old camera. Everything is manual, shutter, aperture, focus, etc. There is a rudimentary shutter priority mode (which I believe they called automatic aperture back then) but beyond that, everything is in the photographer's hands. I realized I had taken autofocus for granted. The first couple of shots I took, I looked at the back of my camera, as if looking at the LCD to find a black sheet of metal, with no buttons, screen, or anything. It's a pretty good feeling not to have to worry about messing with any settings between shots. The shot is either good or bad, and there's nothing that can be done with it!

    I think it would do most newer photographers good to pick up an old manual 35mm SLR like the AE-1 and shoot with it. You will really tone your skills in exposure and manual focusing. It's also a lot of fun! I don't think I will ever go completely back to film, but this makes for a fun diversion. I for sure will be pulling this camera out every once in a while for a change of pace. Again, I would recommend this to everyone. Just quickly browsing ebay, you can get good condition AE-1's with multiple lenses for less than $100. And the glass on some of these lenses is pretty darn good.

    Once I get my photos processed, I'll post some of what I get. I'm not expecting great things, but it sure is fun for the time being.
     
  2. AlexColeman

    AlexColeman TPF Noob!

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    I felt that same way when I was shooting with my dads F4, and it is quite a difference, I still miss ISO adjustment, instant review, and AF, but my 14-24 is still as good.
     
  3. Steph

    Steph No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    To me, in terms of image quality (which is what matters most), not that far. I am not starting a film vs digital debate, but prints from the latest digital camera are not necessarily much better than prints from a 30 year old camera. The progress (if any) in terms of image quality is not that amazing.
     
  4. Bitter Jeweler

    Bitter Jeweler Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I liked film, but I love the immediacy of digital. Also, taking many more pics and not paying for developing. More fun post processing and saving images that may have failed with film. The ability to take a bunch of pics and go home and play with them really got me back into photography. I too, came from an AE-1. :)
     
  5. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    And there is a reason for that, unrelated to cameras and lenses. That's the medium used to display an image be it a computer monitor or a print.

    How many technical advances have been made in photographic paper in the last 30 years?

    Rendering The Print: an Adobe technical article.

    Photography is at its core an attempt to represent the reality of light in a media that can't faithfully reproduce it. - Karl Lang
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2009
  6. Sjixxxy

    Sjixxxy TPF Noob!

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    Viewing some vintage prints I own that were made from the 4x5 press cameras that were standard during the middle of the century, I still feel that progress in terms of image quality has gone backwards in a few areas.
     
  7. Gaerek

    Gaerek TPF Noob!

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    This wasn't intended as a film vs digital debate. What I meant by how far things have come wasn't a reference to picture quality. It was a reference to the technology. 30 years ago, no one would have imagined little screens on the backs of their cameras that could give them instant feedback on their image. Fast, quiet, auto focus would be almost the realm of science fiction, and large corporate or government budgets. I suppose the title was a little misleading, but I was simply trying to be dramatic.

    In terms of picture quality, although film may have an advantage over digital, I challenge anyone here to consistently be able to tell the difference between a film and digital print. I think people get so caught up in this film/digital debate that any minute difference in IQ is considered a trump card. My reasons for preferring digital over film have absolutely nothing to do with image quality. Since I know I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a good print from negative, and a good print from digital, it's a wash to me. Digital gives me things that film could never give, like instant feedback, the ability to edit digitally without scanning, the ability to change ISO on the fly, the ability to shoot hundreds of photos without interruption (instead of just 36, in terms of 35mm), the ability to process in the field (if you have a laptop with you), and the fact that each press of the shutter doesn't cost me anything after my initial investment. I could probably go on, but you get the point.

    Let me just say, I have nothing against film or people who shoot film exclusively. I have a lot of respect for these people. I enjoy shooting film for a diversion, for something different, but it's not something I would enjoy doing exclusively. I actually hate the film/digital debate, and I'm kinda mad about myself jumping in it with this post. Really, there is no debate. If you like shooting film, keep shooting film. If you enjoy digital, keep shooting digital. That's all there is to it.
     
  8. Steph

    Steph No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I did not intend to start a film vs digital debate either and clearly stated that in my original post. To me photography is about the end result and therefore image quality. In that sens photography did not move forward that much. I agree with you that for most of us it would be hard to tell the difference in prints from film or digital (which shows that the progress is minimal (if any) in that area). Your points are valid about the technology but photography is more than just cameras.
     
  9. AnimalNoise

    AnimalNoise TPF Noob!

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    I prefer film. Not just because it's what i learned with...I feel like i take more time to compose and get better results. Also, i love how different films give you different looks, different contrasts, different colors...for me it cuts out a lot of the post processing on lightroom or photoshop.
     
  10. dxqcanada

    dxqcanada Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I have heard many Digital photographers state that using a Film camera has made them better Digital photographers ...
     
  11. Jon_Are

    Jon_Are TPF Noob!

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    Nice post, Gaerek.

    I bought my AE1 in 1980. I knew nothing about photography, but I sure felt like a pro the minute I took my first shot with it (and yes, I distinctly remember my first shot). I remember setting the shutter speed, the ASA (!), and manually focusing. Then clicking the film advance lever (which I think they should have as an option on a DSLR).

    I was going to be a rock concert photog :mrgreen:. I still have my prints of Springsteen, John Cougar, The Who, The B-52s, Warren Zevon.

    I drifted away from photography and the AE1 got closeted. I dug it out a couple of years ago with the intention of selling it on ebay. I am so glad I didn't.

    So now it sits on a shelf, on proud display. I just picked it up as I write this - it's heft surprised me. Maybe I'll grab a roll of film one of these days.

    Or maybe not. I know this, though: I will keep it always.

    Jon

    Edit: I just discovered there is a roll of film in it, with 15 shots exposed. I have no idea what they are of. :D
     
  12. Battou

    Battou No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I shoot my Canon EF near exclusively, I agree that everyone should have and shoot with atleast one 35mm SLR.
     

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