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A quick look on eBay will reveal thousands of low use, high quality film cameras for incredibly low prices. It is perhaps the best time ever to buy a film camera, but why would you want to go back to film when today’s digital cameras produce such stunning images. Well, here are some reasons.
The Look of Film.
Many photographers today spend huge amounts of camera time and post processing time to try and recreate the film look. There is a definite and pleasing look to the quality of film, it’s impossible to describe with mere words and it’s not necessarily a better look than digital, its just different. So the easiest way to create the film look? Use a film camera.
The Feel of Film
Maybe it sounds a little crazy, but those of us brought up in the days of Kodak, Fuji, Agfa and Ilford will tell you there is something very special about putting your hands into your pocket and pulling out a roll of film. Placing the leader of a roll of 35mm into a Nikon, unwrapping a roll of 120, whilst trying not to expose too much of the film to light, simple skills that marked you as a photographer.
It might seem odd that I include the cost as a reason to return to film but bear with me on this one. Every time you put a roll of film in your camera, it has cost you money. That cost continues with the development and printing. Every time you take a poor picture, it has cost you, personally. But the counterpoint to that is that every time you a good picture, you will appreciate the value of your knowledge of photography. It’s too easy these days to rely on the camera to create the image. Delete the poor ones keep the good ones. When you have to pay for each image, you will learn to make each one count, and that will stand you in good stead when you return to your DSLR.
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Learning to Understand Exposure.
The previous reason, leads us onto learning exposure. Although film is generally regarded to have a higher tonal range than digital, is has a lower tolerance to incorrect exposure, especially if you are using transparency. An underexposed image cannot be recovered by merely shifting the levels, it needs to be right when the shutter clicks and you need to understand what is happening when the exposure is made.
Understanding Color Temperature
Unlike a digital camera where you can set a color balance or let the camera do it automatically, you have to buy the right type of film for the right type of light. The first time you use a roll of daylight film under tungsten lighting, you will start to understand the importance of the color of light.
Pro Cameras at Low Prices
For many of us former film users, cameras like Nikon F5’s, Hasselblads, even Leica’s, were the stuff of dreams. They idea of one day owning one of these marvels of imaging fueled our passion for photography. Take a quick trawl through eBay today, and you will find mint quality samples of these cameras for less than the price of a base level DSLR.
Do it Yourself
For aficionados of the digital darkroom this may sound odd, but getting your hands dirty by developing and printing your own films is in my personal opinion, one of the great highlights of film photography. Its easy enough to make a temporary darkroom in not much more space than it you would need for a desktop computer and A3 printer. The sight of a large black and white print, slowly revealing itself under the gloom of a red safe light should thrill even the most hardened digital darkroom enthusiast.
So there you have it, if you have a hankering for trying out film, there are little or no obstacles. Trawl through eBay, or your local camera store, bag yourself a bargain. Most professional camera stores still sell film and will also know where you can get it developed and printed. If at the end of the day you still prefer digital, old film cameras make great ornaments for your home.
Jason Row is a British photographer based in Ukraine. Follow him on Facebook or see his work at The Odessa Files.