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Monday, August 17

Mark Smith ditches his DSLR


Some readers will know Mark Smith's Photo Utopia blog which has been on the go for a long time by blogging standards. Mark's been at it since 2006. His posts tailed off last year but they picked up again in 2015. He writes about film and darkroom related matters and has also been an active participant in the Rangefinder Forum.

Anyway, the reason for this post is to say that he has just sold his Nikon DSLR and bought an MPP Micro Technical 5x4 camera. He says he's back to using the same sort of equipment he used 20 years ago. The only digital cameras he has access to now are those his family have and they're just for snapping things for his blog posts.

I'm in pretty much the same place myself. I bought my Nikon D700 in 2008 but it's been rarely used over the past few years. It's pressed into service when I want to photograph something for sale on Ebay or when I have a product to photograph for the blog. That's a pretty shameful waste of a very capable camera.



I've taken some pictures that I really like with the D700 and as a means of providing images for posting on a blog it's superb as there's no need to develop the film and then make scans or prints! It certainly makes a blogging photographer's life so much easier.

Here (above) are a couple of pics of my daughter Freya taken about five years ago, hand-held and by window light. The camera's output is of a very high standard but I can't see me ever going back to digital now so perhaps I should do the same as Mark and sell the Nikon while it still has some value.

It's something I've considered over the years but there always seems to be just enough of a reason to justify its existence. Whilst I think about it some more, you should pop over to Mark's blog and see what he has to say. 

42 comments :

Dave Jenkins said...

Keep the D700. You'll always find uses for it, and it's not costing you anything.

Michael Carberry said...

Photography is not a religion. You can shoot digital and not go to hell. I don't understand the feelings bordering on hatred by some photographers concerning the film vs. digital debate. I use both but should it become necessary to choose film would win out.

I'll cover the shipping to the US for proper disposal of the D700 should it be needed. :D

Michael Stevens said...

Michael Reichmann's at it too: https://luminous-landscape.com/rediscovering-craft/. How does it feel to be a trend setter?

Bruce Robbins said...

I don't see any problem with choosing one over the other. There's no rule that says you have to be use both - I can shoot only film and not go to hell either. If you don't like digital then why feel you have to use it? I don't hate digital but I do resent it because digital's existence is a direct threat to film.

Bruce Robbins said...

Interesting, Michael (Stevens). Thank you for another post idea!

Michael Carberry said...

I neither said nor implied one must shoot digital.........or film for that matter. Only my lack of understanding on the disgust for it.

Photo Utopia said...

Hi Bruce
I see you posted about my post-thanks :)
This decision was purely a practical one for me, a friend borrowed my DSLR and asked to buy it-cash. I hadn't used the camera for over six months, it just isn't useful to me and doesn't fit in with my creative process.

I don't hate digital far from it this was not a religious decision, rather a one driven by pragmatism the sale paid for a 4x5 and gave me spending money for my family holiday.
I too can't understand the hatred I sometimes get from a small minority because I'm a 'religious luddite' who if he only just too the time to use digital would see the error of his ways.
So Mr Carberry its not a decision driven by religion and digital isn't really the enemy (although it has been a disruptive tech for film)for me personally digital has/is not the method I would choose to make images-no offence intended (Though some take it as such)

Jake said...

"I don't hate digital but I do resent it because digital's existence is a direct threat to film."

No, Bruce. You hate digital photography so much that you don't even call it photography. You demean it calling it "digital imaging".

Bruce Robbins said...

Why does that demean it, Jake? It's an accurate description of the process.

DougH said...

I was a computer programmer before retiring, so not a Luddite. But traditional photography and digital imagery have completely different workflows (especially if you are doing more than taking snapshots). And the hidden costs of digital are hardly ever elaborated in such comparisons. I have 4 LF cameras with age range of 10 yrs to 100 yrs old. They will never need to be upgraded. No software or printer upgrades either. And no worries about long-term storage other than a collection of PrintFiles.

David M said...

Keep the Nikon.
It's been a friend and will continue to be one. Nikon is one of the great camera-makers of the world.
It's curious how this sort of discussion seems to develop. Protestations of tolerance abound. Niggles over terminology creep in. One groups says photography/digital photography/analogue photography; another says digital imaging/photography; and so on. Potato/potato to the lot of you.
So far, this discussion has been spared the real fundamentalists – "digital (or d*****l, as they say) photographers just press a button" – "a digital print isn't real, because it's squirted" "darkroom prints have souls." – and so on. No need to quote the digital fundamentalists here. No mention of the wonders of EfexPro (?), whatever that may be. No RAW emotions.

I'd like to know more about DougH's four LF cameras. Real Film comes in sheets. Real Cameras are lovingly hand-made by dedicated Real People. Real Photographers have souls. Real Photographers are never sneaky. Real Photographers have five legs. Real Photographers carry a dark cloth to hide the sun shining out of their backsides.

I hope that's enough stirring of the stormy teacup. Can you have a storm in a Combiplan? It would wreck the highlights.

Herman Sheephouse said...

Hmm - this is interesting eh Bruce!
I think the 'hatred' comes from having something foisted upon you by the camera manufacturers when a lot of us weren't really ready or willing to accept it. When one is being painted into a corner, there's only one way out and for a long time that is what it felt like.
The big camera manufacturers have changed the enjoyable experience of buying a machine you could possibly have handed down to your children, into something akin to buying a fridge. I've even alluded to EVERY digital camera being effectively disposable, and I think that is the case. It's really interesting to see what a healthy market there is in secondhand film cameras at the moment . . . simply because they're not being made any more (OK - I know there are a few exceptions).
Anyway, I digress. I confess I have gone over to the dark side with the purchase of an EOS 50D and I am enjoying the experience. It isn't like handling an M2 or a F, but, if I just set it up and use it like a manual camera and ditch 90% of the automation, so that it produces what I want (I'll tell you this a grounding in the Zone system really helps with the metering!) which is a colour 'photograph' then I am sort of OK with it, albeit the nagging thought (all the time) that what you have taken isn't really there in physical terms . . .
So, interesting times and interesting comments, and it'll be fascinating to see how much digital ditching goes on . .

Jake said...

DougH "I have 4 LF cameras with age range of 10 yrs to 100 yrs old. They will never need to be upgraded. No software or printer upgrades either. And no worries about long-term storage other than a collection of PrintFiles."

I hate to bust your bubble, but photographers have upgrading their cameras for decades. For example, the Canon EOS-1(film) from 1989 has only one autofocus point and 5.5fps burst. The EOS-1N five years later has five autofocus points and 6fps. Finally, the EOS-1v from 2000 has 45 autofocus points and 10fps burst speed.

There's also hidden costs associated with film: film(obviously), chemicals(one set for film developing, another for printing), light-sensitive paper, enlarger(if you want to go from b/w to color, you will need to upgrade), enlarger lenses, enlarger color correction filters, sink, timer, archival grade storage materials(acid-free sleeves, boxes, etc.) ventilation, drying cabinet, changing bag, rotary processor(a must for color printing), etc.

Another thing; you said "digital imagery", not "digital photography", as if digital photography doesn't exist. You couldn't be more of a luddite than that.

Bruce Robbins said...

If you read Doug's post carefully, you'll see that he never said there were no costs to film. What he said was that the hidden costs of digital are not always taken into account when comparing the two mediums. I'm sure Doug can speak for himself but I reckon he'll be able to live without 45 autofocus points and 10 fps. :)

Photo Utopia said...

"I hate to bust your bubble, but photographers have upgrading their cameras for decades"
What a silly comment. Cameras have always improved overtime of course but the quality and end result doesn't necessarily.

It is a fact that you can put the very latest film in a Leica camera from the 1950's and you won't tell the difference between that and a brand new one with the same film and lens Try that with an M8 and the latest M.

This is because the film is a free sensor upgrade, so a 1959 Nikon F has a level playing field quality wise with a 1990's FM2a shoot a roll of the same film though both of them and you can't tell the difference.

Try that with a 2001 D1 and a D800! The point being you didn't NEED to upgrade the camera to achieve the SAME quality--the film gave you a 'free' upgrade.

Michael Carberry said...

I didn't mean for this discussion to head this direction although had I considered carefully it would have been obvious that it would. Probably with or without my input.

That being said I've found digital photography to be a great inexpensive way to develop my skills which are lacking. However when I want to take a meaningful photo it's a film camera. I've taken a break from color both electronic and film to try and concentrate on composition. I find color makes it difficult for me to see the final result clearly.

And Mark(?)/PhotoUtopia my first comment was directed at no one in particular. Just an observation on my part of current attitudes by many.

Bruce Robbins said...

Don't worry, Michael. As long as you're not swearing or being nasty then please feel free to say what you think. I've absolutely no problem with anything you've written. There's nothing wrong with a free exchange of opinions. Speaking of which, you might be tickled by this one from none other than Ken Rockwell:

"Digital, like McDonalds, is for when 'good enough' is good enough, and if you're too busy to take the time to do it right. Digital is great for the photos that don't matter. Digital is better for the pictures you're going to delete. Digital is better for shooting in worthless light that needs ISO 6,400. Digital is better for letting you shoot without thinking, and coming home with 4,395 thoughtless shots that all stink.

"Film is so simple, and it just looks better. Film is for the photos that do matter. Film is for the photos made under glorious light that will be the shots that get thrown up on the gallery wall."

John Robison said...

I read that LL Michael Reichmann blog a few weeks ago. Well, we'll see if he sticks to it or the Rollei winds up being sold in six months. I do disagree with him about C-41 processing being everywhere. Almost all labs have closed leaving mail order only for 80% of the population with the resulting expense of shipping tacked onto other costs. Bruce, the decision to keep or sell is strictly your personal decision. I also hate having expensive (or even cheap) gear hanging about unused. I've already got way too much unused photographic stuff.

Don't know why Reichmann feels 35mm is not good enough. Why do all prints have to be big? Thirty five millimeter is a small negative so make small prints, 6X9 on 8X10 paper is about perfect.

Bruce Robbins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DougH said...

Jake, if all that you are concerned with is digital imagery's ability to emulate photography, then you are the Luddite. Digital can do so much more than just emulate other media. Many people are being very creative with digital imagery, eg graphic artists, video gamers. Bryan Carter's interactive virtual reality tour of Harlem is a good example ( ibryancarter.com ). So get on board to creative digital imagery before you miss the boat.

Michael Carberry said...

C'mon man...........quoting Rockwell??? You've managed to come up with the only thing that's likely to be more controversial than film v. digital.

Jake said...

"This is because the film is a free sensor upgrade, so a 1959 Nikon F has a level playing field quality wise with a 1990's FM2a shoot a roll of the same film though both of them and you can't tell the difference."

Your wrong. Film cost money, and it's also getting more expensive. Not to mention you're stuck at 15MP for 35mm, 40MP for 645, 55MP for 6X6, 68MP for 6X7, 203MP for 4x5in and 868MP for 8X10in.(then again, do most people shoot large format anyways, especially when it's $4,50 and $16.50 a shot for 4X5 and 8X10 respectfully?), as far as usable scanning resolutions is concern. http://genotypewritings.blogspot.com/2012/10/digital-resolution-is-higher-than-film.html You also left out autofocus and burst modes, essential for wildlife and sports photography, something neither you or Bruce had ever done, since the both of you only use all-manual cameras.

"Jake, if all that you are concerned with is digital imagery's ability to emulate photography, then you are the Luddite."

Well what do you call light hitting a sensor then?

Photo Utopia said...

"This is because the film is a free sensor upgrade, so a 1959 Nikon F has a level playing field quality wise with a 1990's FM2a shoot a roll of the same film though both of them and you can't tell the difference."

Your wrong. Film cost money

No its perfectly correct Jake you can't tell the difference between a 1959 and a 1999 Nikon loaded with the same film-FACT
Cost has nothing to do with it!

I was a professional for 23 years and before the advent of autofocus-guess what yes I still managed to get shots and have good enough timing not to need burst mode.
Your idea for the reason to shoot film is WAY off, and resolution isn't the reason I shoot film, there is more to photography than AF burst mode and resolution.

I shoot film because it does all I could ever need-got that?
My photography doesn't need the muli megapixel gadgetry you seem to worship, sad but typical of the camera makes the photographer mentality.

If you doubt people can take great wildlife photos with 'simple' manual cameras take a look at Doulas Herr who has spent most of his life with a Leicaflex:
http://www.wildlightphoto.com/
So you see automation and spay and pray are no substitute for actual skill.


Anti electrons said...

Nice one. Welcome to the silver side!

Sitting here looking at a pack of 50 sheets of MGFB Classic 12 x 16 and 50 sheets of 7x9.5 and planning which images to print over the next week and a half of my holidays.

I enjoy posting the odd iPhone image to facebook but my real passion for photography is with film and black and white.

morris1800 said...

I often buy a ready meal from a well known retailer. 'It goes in the oven or microwave and I enjoy it immensely. But it can't compete with the pleasure I get from going to my cook book collection , selecting a recipe , gathering together the ingredients, often making adjustments to suit my personal tastes. Then cooking the dish to the best of my ability. So many things can go wrong in this process but that's the challenge that's the motivation to get it right. When it all comes together its great. When it goes wrong its disappointing but you learn from it and improve your approach whether altering ingredients or technique. I have tried digital photography but it left me feeling empty.I needed more of my own input in selecting the materials and technique in the success or failure of the end result.

Bruce Robbins said...

Jake,

"What do you call light hitting a sensor then?"

Don't know but it does a good job of controlling my security light. :)

You do know that people once photographed sports and wildlife without autofocus, digital and high burst rates? If you Google "the '70s" you'll find out loads of stuff like that. You'll also find that it required far more skill than it does today but that goes for all film v digital subjects.

There's not much point in going on about megapixel counts here because, believe it or not, we don't give a damn! That's a digital preoccupation and totally irrelevant.

Re large format, check out the Large Format Photography Forum, among others. Lots of people are happy to pay for quality and don't feel the need to shoot thousands of free frames.

David M said...

Well now, aren't we all getting a bit too excited? Toys back in the pram, please.
Sculptors can make carvings or castings. You can actually make a carving by banging one rock on another. Casting takes a good deal more technology, needs all sorts of extra equipment and can (in principle) can be infinitely duplicated.
Do sculptors have problems with this? Did they ever? Why are photographers so very worried by these things? I, for one, would like to know.

Bruce Robbins said...

"Do sculptors have problems with this? Did they ever? Why are photographers so very worried by these things? I, for one, would like to know."

Because we're not sculptors?

Photo Utopia said...

I think Sculptors don't have this problem because those ones who use high tech casting are not telling the ones who 'bang rocks' that they are luddites who need to 'move on' and their art is going to die 'Banging rocks is dead' and they will go the way of the dinosaurs.

Jake said...

You do know that people once photographed sports and wildlife without autofocus, digital and high burst rates? If you Google "the '70s" you'll find out loads of stuff like that. You'll also find that it required far more skill than it does today but that goes for all film v digital subjects.

If you love the 70s so much, why do you build a time machine and go back there and leave the rest of humanity alone? You're a anti-digital luddite with a "holier-than-thou" attitude and you don't want to admit it.

Bruce Robbins said...

You provide the blueprint and I'll build it. If you love digital so much then why do you keep hanging round a film blog? Doth you protest too much?

Jake said...

"There's not much point in going on about megapixel counts here because, believe it or not, we don't give a damn! That's a digital preoccupation and totally irrelevant.
"

Well I don't give a damn about your religious devotion to film, either. What I can't ignore is the snobbish elitist attitudes of(most) film-only photographers, yourself included. From the middle-aged old farts in the UK to the Warby Parker-glasses-wearing douchebag hipsters here in the United States, you all complain about digital bringing photography to the masses, about it's not photography and about dying film stocks. And you all tried to belittle photographers(like Ralph Gibson) for the mere act of using a digital camera(Leica M Monochrom):

"Ralph Gibson has gone over to the dark side, his beloved Leica MP and M6 film cameras replaced by a digital impostor that looks the same but eats pixels instead of silver." -Bruce Robbins http://www.theonlinedarkroom.com/2014/01/a-less-beautiful-ralph-gibson.html

"I love making dslr users feel small and inadequate." -"I'll fight you for that sandwich"https://www.flickr.com/groups/70423225@N00/discuss/72157622788124903/

I gave up film photography years ago due to rising film and developing costs, but after seeing the rising elitism growing in the film photography, I'm glad I did and will NEVER go back to shooting film.

Bruce Robbins said...

Did I really write that about Ralph Gibson? That was quite good, wasn't it?

David M said...

Jake is truly wonderful. An almost almost perfect specimen. More Jake, please.

But...
What's a Warby Parker?

Photo Utopia said...

"If you Google "the '70s" you'll find out loads of stuff like that. You'll also find that it required far more skill than it does today but that goes for all film v digital subjects".

These skills are a bad thing? If not and I can take images that suit my purpose and use those skills how is that a bad thing?

If you love the 70s so much, why do you build a time machine and go back there and leave the rest of humanity alone? You're a anti-digital luddite with a "holier-than-thou" attitude and you don't want to admit it.

There you go again the 'Luddite' insult why don't you chuck in the dinosaur and a few buggy whip, film is dead jibes as well.

This is Bruce's blog and you choose to read it, so 'leaving humanity alone' is just Bruce putting forth his view of the world which is called free speech in the country we come from.
If you don't like Bruce's freedom of expression why don't you just go and count your pixels or something of equal value.

Bruce Robbins said...

Sorry to disappoint you, David M., but I'll not be publishing any further comments from Jake. He's now getting personal and will just keep coming back with nothing of any substance to add to the debate. Can I suggest the DPReview site for you Jake? I'm sure you'd be much happier there.

David M said...

Oh well... Goodbye Jake. I was hoping for a monthly rant. You're probably right.
Warby Parker, now. They sell spectacles ("eyeglasses") in the USA only. Frames like NHS frames used to be, even though WP was only founded in 2010. For every pair sold, they donate to training and eye care in developing countries. Not all bad, then.

W. P. sounded like some undiscovered mule-driving, wet-plate pioneer – "A Prospect of the Yo-Semity Valley. Dawn, Christmas Day. 1874. 17 inches by 28 inches. The Warby Parker Archive." Sounds right, doesn't it?

morris1800 said...

I am not a fan of 'pixel' perfect images nor do I like paintings that look like photographs. Although the paintings require a great skill they don't seem special somehow.

David M said...

Morris 1800,
You have given us a paradox.
You seem to admire skill in cooking and in the darkroom. Then you don't seem to like skill in painting.
I wonder what's wrong with aiming for perfection, even if most of us will probably never reach it.

Anti electrons said...

First two prints now dry.... (7x9)

Technicalities aside, I just love the look of a good analogue print! I don't care about the rest....

Have posted quick iPhone prints of the first two prints to my flickr...

https://www.flickr.com/photos/25784885@N03/20621567740/in/dateposted-public/

Scotty Elmslie said...

The film vs. digital argument is often as undignified as, "This is my rifle, this is my gun.this is for fighting ,this is for fun."

I am happy to use either one based on convenience and my current objective. However, it's hard to beat a nice large format negative image, especially for B&W, regardless of how you intend to print it.

Bruce Robbins said...

Hi Scotty,
That' s not the version I remember from Full Metal Jacket. :)