The Online Darkroom Store

Tuesday, October 18

Just buy a film camera!

Mike Johnston's The Online Photographer blog is probably the best read, photographically speaking, on the internet. It's always clever and insightful and Mike's a great writer. However, this post - involving a "discussion" between Mike and his quaintly-named regular contributor, Ctein*, had me in stitches.

The two are discussing the possible merits of a black and white only sensor in a digital camera. I suppose when I was in thrall to digital I would have found some traction in this topic but now it just seems a touch surreal. Mike and Ctein ponder whether or not a manufacturer might take on the production of a black and white sensor and, if so, what the benefits might be in terms of sharpness and dynamic range over the present colour sensors that are in digital cameras.

Because it's such a popular blog, there are, as usual, loads of comments all debating the pros and cons, not one of which (I think I read or at least skimmed every one of the comments) mentions the obvious solution: get a film camera and use black and white film. How difficult can it be?

There are still plenty of choices when it comes to black and white film and 35mm SLRs can be picked up very cheaply on Ebay. A quick Google search will bring up plenty of labs which will still happily process and scan the film if you can't be bothered to do it yourself. This would save you having to spend £1000 - or more, who knows - on a black and white sensor camera, should one make it to the shops. And instead of having to use Photoshop or Silver Efex Pro (no matter how good these two pieces of software are) to simulate the look of film, you've got the real thing.

I'm finding it increasingly difficult to get my head round the type of thinking that's espoused in the Mike/Ctein conversation and the follow-up comments. So much effort and debate has gone into something with a very easy solution. Having gone from film to digital and back again, I'm convinced it's just about laziness and convenience in many cases. Has the pace of life really become so frantic that we can't find the time in the course of a week to develop and scan a roll of film?

* Had to be careful there. My spell checker suggests the substitution of Ctein with "cretin"...


opticagent said...

I had the same thought when reading that article. Well put!

Carol Mikkelson said...

There have always been two schools of thought in photography...The first (what you've just reported on) revolves around equipment, technique, and learning all the techinical stuff. The second school of thought is centered more around that it is NOT the camera that takes the picture. Really it is the photographer who MAKES the picture. Making a picture implies making intentional choices, not only in regards to equipment, but also in regards to what it is you are seeing in front of you. I think this is where the art lies. You can buy all the best and latest equipment and still take a crappy photo.
Don't get me wrong, it is important to learn your craft by setting a foundation of understanding your equipment and what your options are. Just don't forget to learn how to see.
I am a huge fan of film because it slows me down and allows me the space to cultivate a more intentional seeing. I can't seem to do that when I have so many choices. There are many great photographers who do use all the bells and whistles quite well. I think really you have to find what works for you, and for some it may be a special B/W digital sensor. I myself am not looking for some "magical machine" that will make art for me. And I am especailly not will to pay what will probably be a fairly high price tag. Besides, as you pointed out, it has already been invented! Nothing like re-inventing the wheel!
Thanks for posting this, I am enjoying your blog. BTW thanks also for the footnote on your spell checker...very funny!

Shawn Hoke said...

:) Don't even get me started on these people!

Anonymous said...

ugh, i don't even bother with TOP anymore. their content gets absurd too often lately.


I still drop by regularly because Mike is such a good writer. Don't know what he's like as a photographer, though, because he never seems to post pictures! Not sure why that is - maybe he's one of those guys who reads, writes and thinks a lot about photography but is seldom inspired enough to pick up a camera.