E-M5: Shoot it like it was a Film Camera


Came across an interesting challenge the other day, it involved shooting your digital camera as a film cameras. You’d think, what is the difference other than the media used? Well, many,  Film cameras [don’t] have a histogram to determine exposure. And, non have a Preview LCD to check the photo right after the exposure. Those two things could cause many [post-film] photographers who rely on these two features to check the exposure, left in frustration.

This can be a great exercise in getting to know your camera exposure system, and help you determine that you did indeed get the exposure correct without double checking the LCD. The best challenge would be to use the [Sunny 16 Guide]. That is, on a Sunny day, the exposure at any given ISO is as follows. f/16, then the shutter speed is the ISO. That is: If you are at ISO 200, then you use 1/200s @ f/16 for a Sunny day (not the Beach, then you go to the next faster shutter speed).

You don’t have to try try this, but, in will help you determine exposure in full manual mode.

The exposure guide as follows:  Use the Shutter speed that represents your ISO.  ISO 200 Guide

  • Beach, Bright Sun:……f/16 @ 1/400s (1/500s)
  • Sunny, blue sky:……...f/16 @ 1/200s (1/250s)
  • Overcast, no shadow:.f/16 @ 1/100s (1/125s)
  • Open Shade:……………f/16 @ 1/50s (1/60s)
  • Dark Shade:…………….f/16 @ 1/25s (1/30s)

Now, these are guidelines for a good exposure with FILM. So with Digital, you may need to bracket if you are in doubt. Because Digital exposes like Slide Film in JPG, and Negative film in RAW. That is: With RAW, you have about a 2-3 stop exposure variance in exposure while editing. Plus, your shadows won’t turn funky colors as you adjust in RAW. JPG has about 1 stop variance before you get unusable shadows.

Shoot Digital as a Film Camera

To do this own your own without the [Sunny 16 guide],

  1. Set your camera on any metered mode. (P/S/A/M)
  2. Turn off the LCD Preview (and EVF Preview)
  3. Turn off the Histogram
  4. Take 36 exposures (as a roll of film)
  5. Don’t look at the photos for at least 12 hours on your camera. (no peaking)… You are waiting for the [film] to be processed at the local lab of old (no 1hr labs allowed)

You may use the Following:

  1. Exposure Compensation
  2. With manual exposure: use the read-out to determine exposure
  3. The Different exposure meters

You may not Change, or Use:

  1. ISO (Must remain the same for all 36 exposures)
  2. Art Filters. (Expect the B&W shooting mode in JPG)

In a film camera, you have a roll of film at a set ISO.. So, No ISO changing. You also may have color OR black and white, but not both. So, if in editing you decide to process in Black and White, then all 36 shots are Black & White

You may Use in editing:

  1. Exposure Adjustment
  2. Contrast settings
  3. Curves
  4. Black & White Conversion Plugins. You must use the SAME settings for all 36 exposures. If a Contrast Paper Grade is an option, you use different paper grades..BUT, the Film Brand/Type MUST be the same. (Ilford/HP4, for example)
  5. Sharpening

You may not use in editing:

  1. No Noise Reduction (you can’t change the Film Grain when making prints. (Pretend you are wet printing)
  2. No Cross Processing effects.
  3. NO HDR

The idea of this [Pretend] that you are shooting film, and you are limited to what you can do with film [in Camera] and, if you where to make wet prints in a Darkroom.

Here is some from my 36x Roll. I shot RAW, and converted to a Ilford HP4 Print with various contrast paper used via a Plugin in AfterShot Pro.

8 thoughts on “E-M5: Shoot it like it was a Film Camera”

  1. A surprising idea! I have not (yet?) an OM-D bit I’ll try this with my digital camera (Leica x1) and see what happens.
    robert
    PS: I’m just back from a few “film only” weeks and the exercise can be a good way to go back to digital 🙂

  2. Great article! I used to shoot colour slide film, which has near zero tolerance for faulty exposure, but nowadays (in digital) w histograms etc it´s easy to get very lazy…good thing to think more in detail regarding exposure..can´t be worse doing so! ;-))

  3. This is a good idea – particularly for masochists. As I am one such, I might as well use one of my several actual film cameras. I will readily accept that the method outlined here is going to be easier on the pocket.

    Joking apart, I do recommend the exercise for all post-film (like this label) photographers.

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