The smirk of photography

Most of us started to take up photography either with a point and shoot or a bridge camera venturing into the roam of (D)SLR’s.

The last years have seen dramatic changes in the photographic industry. When once it would have been unthinkable to work with an entry-level consumer format, APS-C digital cameras are now everywhere. Meanwhile, the seemingly eternal discussion about which professional medium-format system was best - with Bronica users against Rollei, Hasselblad, Mamiya,  Pentax  and others - has come to an end, highlighted by the disappearance of some brands. But is coming back now with cameras like the Nikon D800/D800E.

All this seems like the ongoing battle between window users and Mac enthusiasts. Like with film against digital. There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to both film photography and digital photography. It seems as well to be a love it or hate it proposition. Either you love digital photography and hate film photography, or you hate digital photography and love film photography. I found that both have strong points that should be considered before ruling out either of them.

All bubbles? Taken with an old Rolleiflex middle format camera Ilford FP 4 b/w film

All bubbles?
Taken with an old Rolleiflex middle format camera Ilford FP 4 b/w film

Apart from these obvious “wars” the rapid advances in the prosumer DSLR market, and the slow development at the high end, closed the technological gap between entry-level and pro bodies. Until there's clear difference between the  cheaper models of Canon or Nikon as example and some flagship bodies, there's a vacuum waiting to be filled. The quality of images available with medium format is now as compelling as the move from APS-C sensors to full frame sensors some years ago.

I decided to go into both worlds and started again to shoot with film as I did some 20 years ago. But now it is much more reasonable to buy a middle format camera that works as well without any batteries depending on the model and the fun and the creative kick make it work for me.

River Rhine with Rolleiflex middle format camera on slidefilm.

River Rhine with Rolleiflex middle format camera on slidefilm.

Here some thoughts of pro and contra of film vs. digital

Film

  • Lower initial cost
  • Better at capturing detail in whites and blacks (dynamic range)
  • More forgiving of minor focusing issues
  • More forgiving of exposure problems
  • Film is still higher resolution
  • Cameras are generally heavier
  • Film can take up a lot of space
  • Film is a continuing cost
  • Film must be developed before viewing
  • Unless you have a darkroom, you are dependent on the lab to edit your images

Digital

  • Higher initial cost
  • Can easily lose detail in whites and blacks
  • Megapixel race did give us nowadays-high enough resolution for very large prints
  • Cameras are generally lighter
  • Memory cards are small
  • One memory card can store more images than a dozen rolls of film
  • No changing of film if you need a different ISO
  • Images can be viewed immediately
  • You can edit your images more easily
Hook - taken with Rolleiflex middle format camera on b/w Ilford film.

Hook - taken with Rolleiflex middle format camera on b/w Ilford film.

Rambling about all this I think that “Photography” is somehow smirking at us. There is always the question what can I do, what do I like to do, what is possible??

There is a door you can open and have a look what solutions are there, but if you do this its springs open like a trap and you are standing in front of a buffet you wouldn’t have thought of. So many choices, but how to get everything on a shoestring?

And as photokina is lurking around the corner and nearly every photographer is a geek – I should shut my eyes and my try not to break my account.

Here just a glimpse of what might be coming middle format from Canon?

So go out shoot and have fun!