Why Film?

Why film? I think the better question should be “why not film?”. I get a lot of people coming up to me and asking about the equipment that I am using while I am out and shooting with one of my many film cameras and almost always the question “can you still get film?” is asked. No, I just like walking around pretending to shoot with an empty camera. I don’t say that but I am thinking it. I find that people are interested in film and becoming bored with digital because they see it constantly. For the older people, it reminds them of better times and younger folk think of it as something different. Look at the Holga cameras and how well they are selling, I know a store here that can’t keep them on the shelves.

Silky O’Sullivans on Beale St.
Nikon F4 80-200 f/4 Kodak BW400CN

This is one of my favorite shots taken with a Nikon F4 camera and a 80-200 f/4 Nikkor lens down on Beale St. here in Memphis on one of my forays with a film camera. I had this oneĀ  printed large 24″x36″ and it hangs in my house as a reminder of why I like film. I also donated a copy to the “Make-A-Wish” Foundation fund raiser auction and not to blow my own horn, It was the highest selling item of the entire event. Film has a mystique to it. There is an intangible quality that is hard to describe but it is there all the same. I have been shooting film for almost 30 years and I still enjoy seeing my prints for the first time after I have developed them. Even if I just take a roll or three and have them developed, the anticipation is almost palpable. Digital is kind of, meh. Don’t get me wrong, I think that they both have their place and I use a digital camera quite often, but it is just recently that I have been doing so.

Street shot
Nikon F4 80-200f/4 lens
Kodak BW400CN

There is a certain amount of knowledge that one must have when shooting film because you don’t have the immediate feedback that digital gives you. Knowing how to meter and read light is a must as well as knowing the type of film being used. A digital camera lets you shoot a scene and “chimp” to see if you captured it correctly and if not you can shoot it again but with film that luxury is not available. In one of my earlier blogs I wrote about the “Best camera, EVER”, the little Argus C3 and how it changed photography for the masses. I have several of these in-expensive cameras and I love to take them out and put a roll of film through them just for fun. “That’s the camera Colin Creevy has” was screamed at me by a very rambunctious girl about 10 or 12 as she dragged her father towards me while I was out shooting. The poor father couldn’t figure out if he was intrigued, perplexed or irritated as he examined his daughter and then the camera and back at his daughter. He was very interested in the camera and began to ask questions as we struck up a conversation between his daughters squeals of delight. “Can you still get film?” eventually emerged from his mouth, but only after he had asked some rather intelligent questions first.

Street Photography

Those types of reactions are reserved for my film cameras as most people tend to ignore my digital unless they want to see the picture I just took. Film has an allure. I can generally tell by looking at a print if it is a digital capture or film. Maybe it is the fact that I have been looking at film prints so long that I can judge by the grain or texture maybe even the rendering of the highlights and shadows, but I can. Film cameras and lenses are relatively cheap these days and good quality equipment can be had for next to nothing, I know, because I just bought a Yashica Lynx 5000 with a fixed 4.5cm f/1,8 lens and a dead meter for $10.00. Even with a non-functioning meter the camera still takes some phenomenally sharp pictures on good quality film. So, if you don’t already have a film camera collecting dust somewhere, go out and hit the yard sales and find one for a couple of bucks, put a roll of film in it and start shooting. Even if it has a sticky shutter and light leaks all over, mores the better because it will be challenging and create interesting images just like a Holga but for a lot less money. And if you like it, let me know. Better yet, If you live near Memphis drop me a line and I will lend you a camera and we can go shooting together. Why film? Why not?

Fuji X100 review, sort of.

Over the weekend I had use of the Fuji X100 thanks to my friends at http://www.LensRentals.com (gratuitous plug) and I wanted to get my thoughts out before I forgot. Keep in mind that I am not a paid advocate nor am I a professional reviewer. I am just an ordinary guy that happens to be a photographer and I wanted to try this camera out to see what all the fuss was about. Keep this in mind as you read on because if you are expecting a lot of technical jargon try dpreview or some other site ’cause you wont get it here.

Testing the camera to get used to it.

At first blush, the camera is a lot smaller than my Nikon D300s but compared to my rangefinder film cameras, it is pretty much comparable in size and that is how I think Fuji intended it. Compared to the majority of point and shoot cameras, the X100 is bigger. Big enough that it won’t fit into my jeans pocket but it would fit into a jacket pocket had I been stupid enough to wear one with temps in the upper 90’s and low 100’s while I had it. It took me some time playing with it and fiddling (as technical as I get) with the menu’s and buttons to start getting comfortable with it.

learning to focus the X100

As you can see by this photo, I hadn’t quite gotten used to focusing with the X100 and let me tell you, it takes some getting used to. I had a bunch of photos like this before I finally got the hang of it. One of the things I like about the X100 is it’s size but one of the things I didn’t like about the X100 is it’s size. I don’t have ginormous hands by any stretch of the imagination. In fact my hands are just about the right size if you ask me but when handling this camera, I had the problem of inadvertently hitting the wrong button or knob at the wrong time. I learned rather quickly that I had to watch my right thumb and index finger or they would either hit the navigation toggle or reset the EV compensation knob and the shot would be ruined. It would be nice if there was a place to park my thumb on the back of the camera for some extra grip and no buttons to accidentally push. I had thought about mounting a handle to it on the right side. That would have made the camera a little bigger and made it easier to hold and could be screwed into the tripod mount but that would have made the camera a bit more cumbersome and defeated the purpose of it’s diminutive size.

The nifty B&W setting

X100 in Velvia setting

I only had the camera for four days so I really didn’t have the opportunity to play with all the features but the one that impressed me the most was the film emulator. I’m pretty much a neophyte when it comes to technology, I’m fascinated by it and like playing with it but make it to hard for me to navigate through and I get frustrated. With the X100, it only took a couple of clicks in the menu option and there they were plainly labeled for me in easy language. You can shoot in B&W on JPEG and that is all you get but with Raw, all of the color data is still there for you to use. I really liked the look of the Velvia and the rich lustrous colors it captured. In the black and white setting the display screen shows it just that way so that you can see the picture as you shot it.

f2 1/8 sec ISO 200 handheld

Still f2 1/8sec ISO 200 handheld

I was also really impressed with the image quality in low light and hand held at slow shutter speeds. I didn’t start bumping up the ISO until later in the evening when I was inside taking shots of a band (see previous blog post). This camera just kept working away even when my D300s had to be bumped up. The fact that the camera has a fixed 23mm f2 lens has a lot to do with it even when you figure it’s equivalent to a 35mm lens with the APS-C sensor and the Nikon had a 105mm f2.8 lens.

Band shot f2 1/60sec ISO 3200 hand held

Even at high ISO the noise is kept to a minimum and the pictures come out crisp and clean. I might start talking about Anti-Aliasing filters and sensors that are arranged more like film but then that would be getting into the tech territory and I have no qualifications there. I will say tho, that for the short time that I had this camera I was both annoyed and surprised by it. Annoyed in that, every once in a while it would get in the way of taking pictures. Surprised by the fact that when I got used to some of the little annoyances, it took really outstanding photos. To bring this to a close, I really liked this camera, not to the point of paying almost $1200.00 for it but enough that if someone, say, Fuji or Roger at http://www.LensRentals.com wanted to give me one I wouldn’t turn it down (Hint, Hint).

Impromptue band photog.

Image

My daughter enjoys her music and she loves going to see bands perform at the New Daisy on Beale St. here in Memphis, but because she can’t drive, her mother or I usually get drafted into the taxi service. I don’t mind taking her because that gives me the opportunity to wander around and capture the people that visit our city and usually I end up getting some interesting shots. Eventually, after wandering around for a few hours getting some shooting in and eating, I end up back at the venue and because I look like a pro photographer (I like to think that’s the reason) the event staff usually just let me in. I have been to a few of these concerts with my camera in hand and that usually means “take a shot”. I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the results I have gotten. All of the bands I have seen and captured have been extremely powerful in that they are constantly moving and jumping about the stage. Now, I have been to see a lot of bands in my lifetime and most like the “Stones” or the “Scorpions” have been sedate compared to these bands today. The shot above was capture using a Nikon F4 camera with an 80-200 f4 lens and Kodak BW400CN film and one of the reasons I like it is because of the movement and energy that it conveys.

Theses shots were taken with a Nikon D300s and a 105 2.8 micro lens. I hate to admit it, but my daughter has some good taste in music, yes they are loud and yes they are like wild gophers on speed but they are fun to watch and shoot and the music isn’t half bad. If any of these bands needs a photographer, here is my shameless plug.