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Thread: The Future of Film Photography

  1. #1
    Mr
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    Question The Future of Film Photography

    I have recently changed career and now work in the photographic industry in London. I am also studying for a foundation degree in photography and the title of my extended study essay is "What is the future of film photography in the 21st century digital age?" Personally I am in the film camp, and I am about to indulge myself into the world of large format (I also use a Nikon FE, Hasselblad XPan and Mamiya 7). I am therefore canvassing opinion on the following questions:
    1. Is image quality really better with digital photography?
    2. Has film technology been curtailed too hastily, and are there technologies in emulsions and chemistry that we could be yet to benefit from?
    3. What are the real benefits of film? Are we 'film enthusiasts" simply photographers who refuse to be swept along on the wave of digital technology, wallowing in nostalgia and traditionalism, or are there real qualities to film that digital photography simply cannot replace?
    4. What is the driving force behind the digital market? Is it that camera manufacturers are simply exploiting the modern consumerist culture of today, or is there a real and tangible benefit in 24mp cameras and hugely expensive zooms etc...
    5. Will film photography have a role over the next 30 years, and where will film photography fit into the digital revolution?

    Any responses and thoughts to this will be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you.

  2. #2
    よろしくお願いします! Andrew O'Neill's Avatar
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    Re: The Future of Film Photography

    If I use digital cameras I start to miss the movements of a LF camera (ooh yes, there's photoshop but it's not the same). I and many other photographers cannot afford a digital back for our LF cameras. On an esthetic level I personally prefer the look and feel of film and fibre based photographic papers.
    There is also the storage issue. My negatives will also outlast any digital file of my images. I have a CD that is seven years old and won't open.
    There are also many photographers who take the hybrid approach. Capture on film, and then scan in the negative and print out on inkjet... or make digital negatives for alternative processes, like I'm trying to teach myself.
    There will still be film in the next thirty years. The niche may be smaller but it'll still be there. If it does go away tomorrow, I'll start coating glass plates like some people do here and over at the apug site.

  3. #3

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    Re: The Future of Film Photography

    Yaawn..!
    GPS

  4. #4
    Wayne venchka's Avatar
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    Re: The Future of Film Photography

    Hopefully Kirk Gittings will give us his perspective. Kirk is a professional working primarily with digital while maintaining a high degree of large format talent.

    For me, I like the idea of producing something tangible with my own hands and brain. I also own several lenses with a unique signature that are either impossible or very expensive to use in front of a digital sensor. For the moment I must print my negatives with an inkjet printer. I do aspire to a real darkroom when time and space permit.
    Wayne
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  5. #5
    Wayne venchka's Avatar
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    Cool Re: The Future of Film Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by GPS View Post
    Yaawn..!
    The difinitive response.
    Wayne
    Deep in the darkest heart of the East Texas rainforest.

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  6. #6

    Re: The Future of Film Photography

    I'm not sure if your question is inadvertently phrased incorrectly, but image quality is not currently better with digital. There are some digital film backs which rival 4x5 film, but aren't demonstrably better, and there isn't one that is acknowledged as good as anything larger than 4x5.

    It's virtually unchallenged that digital can rival anything analogue technically, so there will come a time when image quality will be better than film, however economics may come into play more than technology. To rival my Crown Graphic (which cost $500), one would have to spend something on the order of $30,000 in digital equipment. It'd be nicer, but there's no way I'm spending that kind of money. So ultimately it becomes an economic argument, not a technical one. In the short term, film has a place because it is superior quality for a far smaller price. In the longer term, film can only survive if it has critical mass, which may continue to be true for a while if there isn't sufficient demand to push electronics down the price curve.

    Understand - there is NO inherent advantage in film that cannot be overcome digitally. People will argue that film has a different look, or different quality; if those qualities are in sufficient demand, they can be created digitally. Again, the question is more one of economics than technical.

  7. #7

    Re: The Future of Film Photography

    If you are considering a career in photography, then I think your first step is to define what it is that you want to do with photography. If the answer is sports or photojournalism, then your typical ultra short deadlines will dictate your equipment. If you want to get into the wedding and portrait realm, then you need to factor cost and delivery choices. It really is more about running a business, and many factors are beyond a simple comparison.

    I do commercial photography in the corporate and advertising realm. Projects can take up vastly more time in meetings than they do on location actually using camera gear. There is an aspect of planning and control that I enjoy in this realm. The choices I have made have been partially technical, partially ergonomic, and always with an eye on profit potential. Sometimes that means renting gear, though obviously a good core package of equipment makes life much simpler and easier.

    Notice that I have not mentioned specific gear yet, because the business factors are really the things you need to consider first. If you don't get into a business mindset about everything you use, and your work practices, then you will have a rough, and potentially short career. So keep that in mind when you consider options.

    To me the perfect camera is one that does not get in my way. It should function in a way that is ergonomic, and become an extension of my vision. Obviously that could be more than one particular camera, depending upon the creative solution presented to me and the challenges of a location. Sometimes that means a particular film camera, though then delivery to the client means scanning, because no clients I work with accept film, nor would I want to hand over film. Once you scan, the rest is digital, and you can do whatever you want to your film scans in Photoshop.

    Anyway, to answer your questions:
    1. It depends upon the perception and taste of the viewer;
    2. Kodak Ektar 100 and Fuji 400X are examples of new film technology, though the more advanced technology ends up in motion picture films. To be fair, most ISO 100 films are really quite good, and would be a typical choice for commercial photography;
    3. Each film choice offers a different colour palette. Yes, you could mimic that in Photoshop, but then you spend more time at the computer (and that might be tough to bill out to your clients). Those who shoot B/W films can achieve a realm of shades and develop an interpretation of a scene without spending lots of time in post processing on a computer. In a way, it is about spending more time behind the camera than in front of the computer. The other reason is that it is a creative choice to use film, because one wants the "look" of film;
    4. Manufacturers want to sell newer gear to continue profits. Giving the perception to consumers that photography is "easier" than ever before, and each new camera is "better" than the last, they can create a cycle of buying. Also, if you mean the D3X, it is quite good, though definitely not a consumer camera, though I still don't like the command dials for settings;
    5. I think the fact that one can get platinum, cyanotype, palladium, and other alternative materials from the dawn of photography, indicates that there will be some enthusiasts willing to use whatever is available. Much like those who want to oil paint can still find paint and brushes, those who want to use film based photography should always have some choices. I glance at the stock market, and the fact that both Fuji and Kodak have bonds due in 30 or more years, indicates that the management of both companies expects to be around then, though obviously what films they make, if any, is not something that can be answered now.

    Just a side note on this: I have over 15 years experience with Photoshop, yet in the commercial realm I choose to streamline and minimize the time I spend in front of a computer. Just like my scanners, Photoshop is a tool needed to make deliveries of image files. Your greatest limit will be your imagination, not your tools.

    Ciao!

    Gordon Moat Photography

  8. #8

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    Re: The Future of Film Photography

    When they make a digital 8x10 at under $1000, I will switch immediately.

    Until then, nothing beats 8x10 for color photography. Nothing. So in my opinion, film is still the more powerful technology.

  9. #9

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    Re: The Future of Film Photography

    Ian,

    Welcome to photography and especially welcome to LF. I will weigh in with my wholehearted agreement to the responses you've gotten to your questions (except, I'm afraid, the 'Yawn'.) I think the topic of your essay remains important and interesting.

    I very much appreciate Andrew's reminder that, if push comes to shove, we can always make our own negatives. I can only add an item of possible interest. Handcrafted negatives aren't limited to glass plates. Coating large format film is as easy as coating paper. I'm the first one to hope that high quality commercial film will always be available (and I believe it will), but there is no need to fear that committing your career and gear acquisition to analog will become a dead end.

    d

  10. #10

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    Re: The Future of Film Photography

    I think this link is appropriate: HERE

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