What Works for Me

(this was originally going to be entitled “Doing It Yourself” but I kind of went off on a tangent!)

Many people perceive film as being an expensive way of creating images. To a certain extent that is true – when your mobile phone contains a camera, it is mind-blowingly cheap to capture an image (approaching free even).

So, why shoot film? Well for me, it changes the way in which I take pictures – I am more considered in setting up shots, since I know there’s a finite limit to the number of pictures left on a film (36 exposures on 35mm, 12 exposures on 120 roll-film). Also, I believe (for the results) it is cheaper than digital.

What? Cheaper? Are you sure?!

Well, consider my main piece of photographic equipment – a Yashica FX-D 35mm SLR camera. I got the FX-D body, an FX-3 body (fully manual), and five lenses (50mm prime, 28-50mm zoom, 70-210mm zoom, 135mm prime and another zoom lens) for nothing. Seems like with people upgrading to digital, there is a glut of film-based camera equipment which is being disposed of via schemes like freecycle often for no charge.

Ok so it wasn’t all plain sailing – the light seals were crumbling, so I bought a light-seal repair kit for about £7 from ebay. An evening later and I had a nice light-tight camera. I also spent about the same for new leatherette since Yashicas tend to shed their skins (but that was a purely cosmetic exercise after I’d been using the cameras for several months).

So, then you have the recurring costs. Film and development. I decided that I would do the developing myself – I haven’t worked it out, but it is undoubtedly cheaper than sending black-and-white films off to be developed elsewhere(+). I also get a great sense of achievement when the film emerges from its final wash and see the brand-new images!

Film, also, can be bought (online) at reasonable prices – it can be bought bulk in 30m lengths, to be loaded into reloadable-cassettes if money is really tight. And with different film stocks, come different ‘looks’, or capabilities. Want to shoot in really low light? How about Ilford’s Delta 3200. Need fine grain? Ilford PanF 50. Classic black-and-white portraiture? Kodak Tri-X. The list goes on…

Once the negs are dried and cut, I use a low-end Epson scanner (V100) to give me an idea of the film content (far easier to judge a neg by looking at it in positive form!), and to print out a digital ‘contact sheet’ for future reference. I can then retreat to my darkroom and print out nice sharp 10×8s of the standout images. The scanner could give me a 3200 dpi image of the neg – that’s over 14 Megapixels from a 35mm frame…

(Oh yes, and virtually all of my darkroom equipment was also obtained for nothing via freecycle)

Of course, digital cameras are getting cheaper and better specified all the time (and the results can be stunning of course!), but I don’t believe that I can currently afford a digital setup which will compare with the results from my 30 year old SLR (not to mention the 70 year old Rolleicord, but that’s for another time!)

I’m not starting yet another film vs. digital war, that will get us nowhere (and it’s the results that count, not the equipment used)

So. There you go,

I don’t know why, colour film developing is – as far as I’m concerned – much more hazardous/tricky, and yet is cheaper than getting a lab to do B&W!)

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