|A Rolleiflex 2.8 FX similar to the one bought by Michael to kick-start his film photography.|
How ironic to me that Michael Reichmann of all people has now decided that he's been missing something during his time with digital photography and wants some film back in his life. It was Michael who got me into digital photography in the first place through his review of the Minolta A2 camera about a hundred years ago.
I progressed quite quickly through the Pentax K10D and then the Nikon D700 before realising about four years ago that it didn't matter what digital camera I used I'd never get the satisfaction from pixel photography that I derived from good old film and darkroom. That's when I decided to ditch digital and follow my heart.
Michael has arrived at the same conclusion (he posted the article back in June but I've just seen it and I'd imagine a lot of others will not be familiar with it) although he's still going to be a mainly digital photographer from what I understand. Here's what he had to say after spending hours each day walking the streets of Havana:
"As the days pass, I realise something profound. I really miss the craft side of photography. I miss getting my hands wet. I miss loading a Nikor reel in the dark. I miss seeing an image slowly appear under a safelight, as if by magic.
"Yes, I have mastered digital. I've been using Lightroom since it was code-named Shadowland and have been a long-time beta tester for Adobe. I have produced countless training videos and dozens of articles on digital image processing over the past 15 years or so.
"But I was also a competent colour and B&W darkroom worker and teacher for many decades and I've recently come to the realisation that I miss it. The whole messy, smell thing.
"Once I returned home, I realised that I had to actualise my thoughts. I needed to return to doing film-based photography (at least some of the time) and it was high time that I fulfilled my desire to own an f2.8 Rolleiflex TLR."That's exactly why I gave up digital - the "craft" side of digital just doesn't do it for me. I don't have Michael's experience with Lightroom but I've been using Photoshop for about 20 years, digitising negatives through scanning before moving onto digital cameras. It just leaves me cold when compared with darkroom work. Michael's comments are encouraging because his Luminous Landscape website gets a lot of traffic and he's influential - infinitely more so than I am anyway.
Cognitive DissonanceHowever, he added, "…film is inherently highly imperfect. It has a narrower dynamic range and shows grain - a form of analogue noise. But man does it have character." I have to admit to being a little confused when Michael speaks of the quality of film - or lack of it from his perspective. After highlighting film's character, Michael says when it comes to image quality "film sucks". He said:
"The lowest acceptable ISO for medium format (my bold) is, to my mind, ISO 100. I shot several rolls of ISO 400 B&W negative and colour negative and while it once (obviously) met my standard in terms of grain and resolution, it no longer does.
"As for 35mm, as far as I'm concerned 135 film is simply not competitive at all against any digital camera. If you like it, fine, but history has moved on."He also said he won't be doing darkroom printing but will be scanning his negs and printing them out on an inkjet. That's a pity and I hope he feels sufficiently inspired to get some sort of darkroom set up even though he says he lacks the space. Come on Michael - go the whole hog! You said you miss seeing the image appearing under a safelight, well the answer isn't difficult to figure out!
Digital also seems to have affected the way he views film. Michael seems to only find film acceptable when it mimics the qualities he gets from pixel-based imaging. The tiniest bit of grain is now no longer permissible. I'm not sure how you can mention the character of film but complain that it's not as smooth and grain-free as digital!
Michael runs one of the most successful photography websites in the world and doesn't seem short of a bob or two. Why not open The Michael Reichmann Community Darkroom in your city (Toronto?), get your own hands wet and teach other people how to get theirs wet? Or host residential darkroom courses which I'm sure you'd be excellent at. The thing about Michael is he's not only a great communicator but he's a bloody good photographer as well.
Hit RateI might be reading too much into his final paragraph when he says that all the images in his article are digital because, "…I have not yet done enough good work with the Rollei to publish any (film images)." I wonder if Michael is finding his hit rate lower with the Rolleiflex. Having just 12 shots instead of thousands can take a bit of getting used to.
I think it's great that he has realised what he's been missing. TOD reader Michael Stevens pointed out Michael's story in a comment to the post I published on Monday asking me, "What does it feel like to be a trend setter?" I don't know about that but it is nice to know that the guy who basically got me into digital has come to the same realisation as me. And so what if he's a little late to the party? :)
It was also interesting to read that he chose a new Rolleiflex FX with the f2.8 Planar for his return to film photography. By sheer coincidence, I'll be posting about my own Rolleiflex 2.8F this week and why I think it's the best camera ever. Spooky, eh?
You can read Michael's article here.