I am, once again, shooting film as well as digital.
A few weeks ago I went on eBay last week and spent about $50 to buy this Pentax 35mm film camera just like the one I had when I was in college in the early 1980s. Yes, I’m that old. For you Pentax fans, it’s the ME Super model. It’s manual focus but has an automated exposure mode as well as manual. I also purchased three lenses to go with it, including the 28-80mm lens that came with it, a 135mm fixed-focus lens, and a 70-200mm lens. I’m only only my second roll of film, and I’ve already realized that it’s going to take some time for me to get re-acclimated to both the limitations and the possibilities of this old image-making technology.
I decided I need a film camera again because digital photography makes it so easy to shoot hundreds of photographs in minutes, even thousands, at no marginal cost. It can make you lazy in terms of composition and exposure. You can click off half a dozen frames and look at the screen on the back of the camera and see if you got it right, and then reshoot if need be. By contrast, each frame of film costs about 50 cents to use it, when you add up the cost of the film and processing. And you can’t look at the LED screen to see if you got the shot because there is no LED screen. So shooting film should cause a photographer to carefully consider each shot before taking it – to think through the composition, the exposure, the focus, the aperture and depth-of-field, the shutter speed, etc. – and, hopefully, that re-learned discipline will influence how I shoot digitally (which will remain 95% of my photography).
(For my clients, of course, I will shoot digitally, but may also take a few film photos here and there.)
In 1996 I spent three weeks traveling out west and shot about a dozen rolls of film. I made fewer than 500 total photographs in three weeks during that trip. Today, if I was to make that exact same trip, I’d probably make that many photographs each day and come home with around 10,000 images to sort through. Many would be near-duplicates, of course, as I would slightly change exposure and focus settings or adjust the composition, but still I would have thousands of images to sort through and edit.
In the first five days with my “new” 33-year-old camera, I made just five photographs. I hope the old-fashioned disciplined shooting approach will make me a better photographer overall. I’ll share the results with you as they develop.
Here is an initial comparison: I made a photograph of the Nashville skyline’s iconic AT&T Tower, which locals call the Batman building, using both my Pentax ME Super and my Canon 5D Mark iii, from the exact same spot just about a minute apart. I composed the image with a slightly different perspective with the Pentax, but not much different. I chose to shift the building to the left a bit in the composition with the Pentax because of the people who showed up on the pedestrian bridge in the foreground. When using the Canon, it’s 24-105 lens was zoomed to 80mm. I don’t recall for sure what the Pentax lens was zoomed to but I’m guessing it was also zoomed to 80mm, it’s maximum zoom.
These are the resulting images:
P.S. The image above that was made with the digital camera has been accepted into the 2016 annual exhibition of works by members of SNAP: The Society of Nashville Artistic Photographers. The exhibition takes place in June at the Gordon Jewish Community Center.
P.S. #2 For you photo geeks, I’m initially shooting Ilford XP2 Super 400 ISO film. It is a C-41 processing film so it can be developed at any lab that processes color negative film. (Locally, the film is available at Dury’s, which also can process it.) In the future I may switch to other non-C-41 black & white films and process them myself by joining the Nashville Community Darkroom, located in East Nashville. But either way once I have negatives I plan on having them scanned and then digitally processing the scans before making prints. As of now I plan on only shooting black & white when shooting on film rather than digital.
P.S. #3 I’m not as retro as my friend Blake Wylie, who built his own camera of mid-1800s technology and now does these amazing “tintype” and “ambrotype” portraits.