Film will always have a certain pull on me. Even though I have tons of digital cameras that will produce instant pictures that I can edit immediately, the texture and process of film is something unique in this era. One combo I haven’t seen any photographer online use is the Nikon 105mm 1.4E on a Nikon film camera. This is a modern lens (2016) that I’ve used to create almost all of my favorite portraits on digital SLR’s. It works with full AF on the F100 (circa 2000), but you have to shoot it wide open at f/1.4. Not a problem since that’s what this lens is designed for. I’d wondered for a long time if this lens could get one close to a medium format look on a smaller format. Here’s some examples from my first roll of Kodak Portra 160.
I first tried “scanning” the negatives by taking a picture of it with a few cameras. The above and below photos were shot with window light and a Canon EOS RP and 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.
Having used the quick DSLR method to “scan” negatives many times in the past, I thought I would really take the time to scan them via the flatbed scanner. It’s definitely time consuming, about 8 minutes per scan, and then maybe 15 minutes in post just to clean up the dust and hair manually.
Being daylight balanced, the Portra 160 shots are much cooler than you see here, but I color corrected and warmed up the images to my taste. At 100% it’s definitely grainy, but there’s always a realness to the photos.
Bear in mind these are many steps of degradation in the quality chain. Scanning a tiny piece of film on a consumer scanner will never be the same as the ones I used to get on a photo CD, oh 15+ years ago. Even at miniscule resolutions the lab provided, those always had a sharpness and crispness to the files that scaled quite well going up or down in resolution.
Out of the 36 pictures I’d say about 12 are decent keepers, and maybe 1-2 that I really liked. That’s actually a pretty good ratio when you think about it. With film being so “precious” and limited, you really have to think twice about pushing the shutter button.
For me though, I’ve always felt that digital is the best workflow for me (shoot a lot and cull through them later), as this past year has reminded me that simple hangouts with friends can be few and far between. Film is nice every now and then, since that’s the type of pictures I grew up with. I kick myself and think back to all the random moments in the past 10+ years (when I could still get it developed at Costco for cheap) (also R.I.P. in person Costco Photo Centers 🙁 ), and it would have been nice to have brought along a film camera for at least one shot. It would have been an interesting third or fourth option. Even I could have managed at least one shot a month.
Is film here to stay in my rotation? I don’t know. It’s definitely a time and $ commitment. But then again, my charcoal drawings on stonehenge paper weren’t exactly a fast turnaround either. 😉 But in going through my old work recently I’ve realized that almost anything that can record, capture, or make better the life experiences we have–I’ve probably bought or borrowed or tinkered with. All for that art/creative life. Not even to share with random strangers online, no, just to take a picture to keep and look at. Ah, the joys in simply doing.