I also shoot 35mm film!


For many, especially the younger photographer who were raised on digital cameras, have not considered film a viable form of photographic expression. Film can in many ways can “Out Shoot” digital cameras when it boils down to fine details in higher ISO Films. The big difference is that many high ISO digital cameras start to loose detail because of what I call “Noise Smearing”, that is: the noise filter is trying to produce smoother solid color areas, but, it is an “all-or-nothing” application of noise removal. What would be better is if, someone can invent a way to reduce noise in darker areas, and reduce noise less in lighter areas.

So, film can produce cleaner high ISO images, IE: there will still be grain structure, but, the finer detail edges still stay sharp and well defined.

There is a guy walking on the path in a white shirt. ISO 400 developed in Rodinal, Rodinal does not feather the edges of the silver crystals as D-76 does. So, the edges stay well defined.

I am already hearing the nay-sayers telling me I’m crazy. OK, Well, truth be known, Digital does benefit from having a smooth (or no grain) at low ISO’s, which many people, myself included, enjoy. And many cameras, including the Olympus OMD E-M5, show very good high ISO images with great detail. The Main difference, though, is that, compared to film, the digital lacks a character ” Because” of the smoother noise that digital has, film will all always maintain a grain structure, and this adds a bit of depth to the image. (most films are fine grain now). This is not a contradiction, film, because of the films very make up, it can have sharp grain (noise) + detail and retains the character look that we all love. This is why DxO Labs has a very popular film emulation pack for digital images.’

I should state at this point, that 35mm scanned at 5500/ppi, (Optical) is so detailed, you can see each particle of silver (smaller than most pixels on a 24mp camera). I scan at 3500-4500/ppi mainly to hold the TIFF down to around 100mb in size with my dedicated 35mm scanner. And with higher ISO films, like Ilford HP5 pushed to ISO 3200,  you still retain the same basic grain structure of the film as shoot at ISO 400, and without any detail smearing. This is the main advantage as far as grain (noise).

This is not a “Film vs Digital” post, but, for those who want to explore film as a different medium that results in a different end result, both in character and tonal range that is available. We all jump up and down when we have 12-14 stops of dynamic range with our digital cameras. Well, slower Black and White film can have more than that when exposed and developed properly. Just as an artist will paint using “Oil” for one type of image, and use charcoal for another type of image, so, photography shares a similar ability. The photographer has always had different mediums to record on. There is Digital, 35mm film or larger formats, Pin-Hole cameras, Lomo Cameras, different types of film (IR, Color, B&W), The Photographer has a wide range of what the final image will look like with the choices available to him/her. Just as the Painter has many types of materials to paint with and paint on.

Radial Blur (Fake Crazy Bokoh) added with Photoshop CS4.

The Photographer can manipulate an image to achieve a unique image, as above.  And, in some cases, makes sense, the Photographer, can use the tools available to make sure that the final image has the impact he/she wants.

I rarely manipulate film images past the basic stuff. You know, Levels, Contrast, Sharpening, Cropping, and with film, Spotting Dust. (If I follow my developing workflow correctly, I have very little spotting to do). I did add a “Radial Blur” to the above flower because I wanted more separation for the flower. Shooting with at close a distance, I had to shoot at a small f/stop to have enough DOF for the flower. I was  around 1 foot away. I knew I could fix it later. I decided on the Radial Blur to add a different type of Bokoh.

Bark on a Tree

Now, looking at these at 72dpi on a monitor is not going to show the full details of what is available to see. So, realize that anything you see on your computer monitor will always have less resolution than the original. and add the fact that you, nor I have the ability to change how each website “Crunches” and “Re-sizes” each image for display on their site. Some are better than others. Maybe the Apple Retna Screen will change that… If it allows like 300/ppi instead of 72/ppi.

For those who want to try shooting 35mm film or larger formats, I’d suggest using an ISO 100 or so film, and see how it goes. It is a different medium than digital, and may take some time to get used to. Just as any new-to-you medium will take time to learn the “Pros” and “Cons”. And what the best images will work better using film, in any format.

2 thoughts on “I also shoot 35mm film!”

  1. Thanks for posting this. Many of us who now largely do digital photography grew up on film 🙂 I still have my 35mm cameras but these days largely use the good optics from them on my digital ones via adapters. Some of the old film emulsions such as Kodak’s Tech Pan (discontinued) were of amazingly high resolution. Kodak released it when they had surplus quantities of this emulsion from military contracts which had ended, so they cut it down for 35mm use. I last used it a number of years ago, then found that I had not stored my remaining bulk roll properly during a cross-country move during a hot summer – sigh. You know that there is grain there, there must be, but even with the film scanner at 5400 ppi, you are stumped to find it 🙂 There is also enjoyment in learning how to develop film, though the cost savings of not having to develop and immediate visual feedback of digital are what drew me to the current cameras. Love my OM-series an OM-compatible lens on my 4/3 + m4/3 cameras! Keep up the good work on your blog! Mike H.

    1. Thanks Mike, I shot Kodak Panatomic X (25) and Kodak Plus-X (125) in my teens and twenties, and now I like Ilford HP5 as my main 35mm, but Ilford Delta Pro 100 is an amazing B&W film. I should try Ilford Pan F though for a low speed B&W film. I souped in Microdol-X 1:3 back then, Now I use Rodinal from 1:25 to 1:100, standard agitation.

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