The Future Of Film (For Me, At Least).

A consignment of film arrived from  5 Propacks of Fuji RVP 50 and 10x 36 exposures of 35mm Kodak BW400CN.  The cost for this modest amount of film was in excess of £106 plus postage.  It's going to cost at least the same again for processing.  If I shoot the Velvia on 6x17 format, that gives me exactly 100 frames at a processed cost of over £2 per exposure.  On 6x9, the running cost is halved and on 6x6 the processed cost per exposure is around 70p.  In addition to the material cost of shooting film, the time spent on scanning, adjusting and cleaning up the files makes little commercial sense in the face of falling revenue from stock and library sales.  So, I have a dilemma.

Is the time approaching for me to change my fine art landscape photography workflow to digital capture?  I use digital equipment exclusively in other areas of my business and have done so for over a decade since I made the big switch, so there is nothing new for me to learn there. The problem, if there is one, lies with me.

I like my chosen film and I like my analogue equipment. I like those big Fuji and Zeiss lenses and the squares and rectangles of my favourite formats. I enjoy the challenge of using the medium and I like the huge file sizes that can be created from it.

I like the process of making images on transparency film, especially on Fuji Velvia 50asa, and I like the results.  Looking at a correctly exposed 6x17, 6x9, 6x6 and even 35mm transparency on the lightbox is far more satisfying to me than looking at the subsequent drum scanner-derived tiffs at 100%.

Where do I go from here when I decide the time has arrived? Digital medium format, whilst appealing in many ways presents other issues.  I like wide angle lenses and different aspect ratios for my landscape work and this is a major area where MFD falls short.

Even with some major concerns, that time can't be far away and resistance is rather futile.


Tim Parkin said…
If you are taking photographs for stock and hoping to make a profit - film makes no sense at all.

If you are taking your photographs for love, film makes every sense.

If a bit of both, buy something like a Panasonic GF1 or GH1 and take it with you as well as the film cameras and then cherry pick the best shots leaving the stock photography for the digital.

Personally I love what film and film cameras do far too much to let film costs get in the way. I'm happy to take less pictures (40 pictures for an intensive 8.5 hr per day four day holiday for instance).

If you love it as much as you say, it makes no sense to get rid of everything.
Steve Walton said…
Thanks, Tim. If only it were that simple :-)

The reality for me is that sales of my images and my photography pay for everything from the food on my table to the clothes on my back, so the decision can only be based on that simple fact.

The dilemma lies in the range of formats that film offers, bablanced against the image production costs as outlined above.

A lot of my work is taken on 6x17 format and there is no affordable digital alternative other than resorting to stitched panoramics, which is not a path I want to go down. At the moment, this is one film format which I will continue to use.

I also have an emotional attachment to some of my analogue cameras, they have made money and brought a measure of professional recognition for me through some of the images I have created with them. Unfortunately, there is little sense in hanging on to this equipment when simple business economics dictate otherwise.

The GF-1 seems to be a very capable camera within it's limits, I have handled it on numerous occasions and tried to think of a reason why I might want one as a good enough excuse to buy. Again, the fact is i don't need one, I have a Ricoh GRD2 which is perfect for my compact camera needs and does go with me when I out shooting with the medium format gear. The GR lens angle of view corresponds to the 65mm Fujinon on my Fuji GSW690111 and the GW-1 converter closely matches my favourite 21mm focal length (or 43mm on 6x7) for landscape work.

The GF-1 and Mu43rds as a format has been rendered even less attractive to me since Ricoh announced the Leica lens module for the GXR a couple of days ago.

This announcement by Ricoh for an APS-C Leica module is really interesting. I have a clutch of high quality Leica M lenses that are just waiting to be used if the Ricoh module lives up to expectation.

So to your final point, yes I do like my analogue medium format cameras but that is not a sensible reason on it's own to keep them.
Colin Griffiths said…
I loved my manual camera outfits, an Ebony and a Mamiya 7 plus others, but simplifying my kit, now a 5D MkII for shorter trips, GF1 for strenuous days and an LX5 for everywhere else was for me the right thing to do. I totally understand the emotional attachment you have to those lovely lenses, I did too with mine. I'm an engineer and really appreciated the obvious mechanical precision and quality of the equipment that my L lenses seem devoid of. I find my digital cameras soulless and view them as just tools with which to pursue my hobby. However, the convenience of digital has enabled me to move forward and concentrate on making images that fulfil the objectives of my projects; no longer do I obsess about equipment. Today, I am much more concerned about what I want to photograph rather than what I use to make photographs and it has been a very liberating journey. I've no regrets ~at all!
Steve Walton said…
Thanks, Colin. The majority of my day to day bread and butter work is captured on high-end Nikon dslrs. Strangely, it seems that I use the Nikons in a completely different way to my analogue equipment, even though I invariably use manual settings on my digital cameras! The fact is, I actually use analogue and digital cameras in an identical way, it just seems different somehow.

The increasing cost of film shooting teaches you is that you have to make the shots count if you are attempting to generate income from the results. Medium format digital is becoming affordable with the H4D-31 and there is a genuine wide angle lens option there, which is good news. The downside would be the weight!