Film pho­tog­ra­phy makes a come­back

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

Are­cent resur­gence in film cam­eras shows that smartphones haven’t com­pletely taken over pho­tog­ra­phy.

Pho­tog­ra­phers who are af­ter a cer­tain look or a more pa­tient ap­proach to the medium are choos­ing film over dig­i­tal.

They hunt out old-school cam­eras and head out with only 24 or 36 frames as op­posed to the hun­dreds or thou­sands avail­able when us­ing a dig­i­tal cam­era or smart­phone.

De­spite this re­cent surge in pop­u­lar­ity, Canon re­cently an­nounced it had sold its last film cam­era and had no in­ten­tion of mak­ing new mod­els.

While some of the cam­era man­u­fac­tur­ers have used the retro look of film cam­eras in the de­sign of their new dig­i­tal mod­els, none have re-is­sued old mod­els, though Nikon still has two film bod­ies for sale.

That’s mainly be­cause film pho­tog­ra­phers are choos­ing sec­ond­hand cam­eras over newer, more ex­pen­sive op­tions. And for many, it’s done in ad­di­tion to dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy and so most don’t want to spend thou­sands on a film cam­era.

Some com­pa­nies are ben­e­fit­ing from the shift back to film. The Fuji In­stax, which cre­ates pocket-sized pho­tos with instant film, is sell­ing well, and last year Ko­dak an­nounced it was re­viv­ing its high­re­garded Ek­tachrome slide film.

One in­di­ca­tion of film’s pop­u­lar­ity is In­sta­gram. A search for the hash­tag #film­pho­tog­ra­phy turns up nearly 9.5 mil­lion posts.

Get­ting started

One ad­van­tage of film pho­tog­ra­phy is that it’s quite cheap to get started.

There are about 1000 film cam­eras for sale on Trade Me, with prices from $5, though well­re­garded ba­sic mod­els sell for about $200.

If you are look­ing to get a film cam­era, stick with the well-known brands and 35mm mod­els as they’re the most com­mon. Mod­els such as the Pen­tax K-1000, Canon AE-1 and Olym­pus OM-1 were pop­u­lar in their day and they aren’t too hard to find.

But if you just want to have fun, then you could con­sider a ‘‘toy cam­era’’ such as the Diana or Holga, which take ‘‘lo-fi’’ im­ages. Pho­tos from these some­times fea­ture op­ti­cal aber­ra­tions such as light leak­ing into the body, but that is part of the ap­peal.

The other op­tion is instant cam­eras made by Fuji and Po­laroid. They’re a lot more sim­ple to use, you need less tech­ni­cal knowl­edge, and you get to see the re­sults right away.

Next up is the film. This is where your costs can start adding up. You can get a ba­sic roll of film for $10 to $20, but a more highly re­garded roll such as Fu­ji­film Fu­jichrome Velvia 100 will set you back $48.

There are sev­eral shops in New Zealand that de­velop film for about $20 a roll.

Patience re­quired

While film pho­tog­ra­phy is un­der­go­ing a resur­gence sim­i­lar to vinyl records, it does take more patience than us­ing a dig­i­tal cam­era.

But hope­fully, that per­se­ver­ance will pay off, even when you go back to us­ing your smart­phone cam­era.

That’s be­cause when us­ing film you will need to think care­fully about com­po­si­tion and light be­fore hit­ting the shut­ter and us­ing one of your 24 or 36 frames.

Be­ing me­thod­i­cal is a great skill to have as a pho­tog­ra­pher.

It forces you to take your time and con­sider what you’re pho­tograph­ing, a process that will hope­fully re­sult in a more thought­ful im­age.

And if you’re young enough that you’ve never used a film cam­era, you’ll have to learn new skills such as load­ing film which, if you get it wrong, will ruin a whole pho­to­shoot.

Also, you’ll need to un­der­stand ex­po­sure be­cause if you choose the wrong set­ting there’s no quick fix avail­able.

How­ever, you can get your pho­tos or neg­a­tives scanned so you can edit them if needed.

Your patience is also tested while wait­ing for your film to be de­vel­oped, which can be a healthy change from the instant grat­i­fi­ca­tion of dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy.


Us­ing film is a chance to let you stand out from the pho­tog­ra­phy crowd and ex­per­i­ment with film quirks such as dou­ble ex­po­sures that give your work a dif­fer­ent look.

It will also make you ap­pre­ci­ate the his­tory of pho­tog­ra­phy and learn bet­ter tech­ni­cal skills.

How­ever, the main rea­son to give it a go is that film im­ages are con­sid­ered to have more warmth than what can be achieved with a dig­i­tal cam­era.

While you can try to achieve this us­ing edit­ing soft­ware it’s ac­tu­ally hard to recre­ate.

Some pho­tog­ra­phers are prob­a­bly glad film was re­placed with dig­i­tal, but for some want­ing a new chal­lenge it can be fun and re­ward­ing.


Nikon still has film bod­ies for sale.

One ad­van­tage of film pho­tog­ra­phy is that it’s quite cheap to get started.

Phone cam­eras are quick and easy to use but the ef­fect can be quite dif­fer­ent.

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