Thursday, June 11, 2009

Film ain't dead (yet)

I remember, back in the 90s, the ongoing discussions about film versus digital. Digital cameras were still in the early ages and the output they produced was not very impressive. The first commercial digital SLR had been launched in 1991: the Kodak DCS 100, featuring 1.3 Mp resolution. At the newsgroups (the closest thing we had to a discussion forum at the time) many defended that film cameras would always render higher quality results and digital would never become the choice of serious/professional photographers. I was using a Contax SLR at the time, happily shooting slide film and ordering Cibachrome prints. I didn't even dream that someday I would buy a digital SLR.

Then, in 1999, Nikon launched the D1 with a 2.7 Mp sensor and things started to change. Digital SLRs were showing decent image quality for reasonable prices. That was 10 years ago.

Now the world is digital. But the "war" against film is not over. It might never end, actually. It's not like DVD replacing VHS, where the global improvement in quality and practicality was evident. Even though no one will question the capabilities of current digital SLRs, many argue that film is still technically better in some aspects, like highlight rendition, color range or grain quality. And then there is the attitude. The feel and sound of an all-mechanical camera, the excitement of scrutinizing a just developed roll of slide film, the vision of an image materializing on a sheet of photo paper...

I'm not shooting film anymore. I'm too lazy to do it now. But I find it refreshing to look at the work of those who are still doing "analog" photography. Somehow, I feel they are dealing with a "purer" form of photography. One of the sites I enjoy visiting is, home of The International Analogue Photographic Society, apropriately subtitled "Film is not dead it just smells funny." It is dedicated to "35mm, rollfilms, sheets and plates, with Polaroid or Liquid Light, with Large Format or any tool whatsoever, as long as chemical processing is involved."

Take a look, it might make you curious or nostalgic enough to take a short break from digital.


Mason Resnick said...

Nice stroll down memory lane, and I agree that film isn't dead. In fact, I take my trusty old Leica M3 out for a spin on a regular basis because (a) it's a great camera and (b) I can't afford a digital M8.

Co-incidentally, I also wrote about what the world of photography was like ten years ago in a blog post a few weeks back. You can read it here...

Frank M. said...

Here's a suggestion: in ten years time, we'll both post on what happened to film and digital since 2009!