This weekend I bought a lens for my film camera. Something to get me snapping again. In most cases, with my digital camera, I shot with my zoom lens stuck around 35mm, which is equivalent to about 50mm in the film world. So I decided to buy Nikon’s 50mm f/1.8 for about $100. I decided to try out Competitive Cameras, so Jess and I headed out there. It was a nice place. But it reminded me too much of a restaurant that doesn’t have any prices on the menu. In fact, many of the items on the shelves didn’t have prices on them. They guys there were very friendly, and very knowledgeable. However, they were a little too pushy for my tastes. I told them I wanted the 50mm f/1.8, and they tried to upgrade me to the f/1.4, a difference of about $200. They told me the f/1.4 was much sharper and they knew that’s what I was looking for. When I declined, knowing that the f/1.8 would suit my needs perfectly, they tried to sell me a wide-zoom instead. I fained interest and, when they told me the lens was sharp I asked "as sharp as the f/1.8?". "Well of course not," he said. Then why is he trying to sell it to me, I wondered, knowing that I’m looking for sharpness. I walked out with what I intended, the 50mm f/1.8. Unfortunately, their price was 10% higher than Arlington Camera. I should have just drove out to Arlington instead of supporting a business that wasn’t at all competitive and way too pushy… but I didn’t feel like it. So I paid the extra $10, bought a few rolls of film, and went on my way. I doubt I’ll go back.
The lens is great. Truly my favorite focal length to use. It just feels so natural. I can’t comment on the sharpness of the lens, as I’ve yet to get either of the two rolls I blew developed. But, reviews from other sites say that it’s actually better than the f/1.4 anyway, as long as you don’t need that extra 3/4 of a stop.
It’s so weird to go back to film. First of all, my film camera is so fast compared to the D100. When I first entered the world of digital, I used my Minolta dImage 7. That thing was so slow that, when I got the D100, I felt like I was on speed. But, it’s nothing compared to the speed of my film camera. Additionally, I realize now, I had gotten very comfortable with the thought of digital. I took more shots because, if I didn’t like it, I could always tell right then and I could just redo it. I also didn’t think about exposure nearly as much. Why bother? If my first guess wasn’t right, I’d see that and just try again. Having no instant feedback forced me to recall all of the exposure rules and guidelines that I’d somehow neglected every time I brought the digital to my eye. It felt much more rewarding, and much more pure.
I was a bit annoyed by my inability to change film speeds on a whim. I found that I’d used half a roll of Panchromatic 125 and then took it out again that evening to do some night street photography. I’d have done a lot better with a roll of HP5+ in there, pushed a stop or two. Though, in reality, if I had been shooting digital, I probably wouldn’t have pulled the images off the card yet, it’s annoying me that I don’t have them already. I figured it wouldn’t be much of an issue, since I usually wait so long to pull them off anyway. But now, when I am ready to work with them, I wont be able to because they’ll still be unprocessed. C-41 (color film) is fairly easy to get developed just about whenever in an hour at WalMart or any drug store. But most of the Professional labs aren’t open on the weekends: just 8ish to 5ish, Monday through Friday. So getting Black and White done whenever I feel like it is near impossible. I have to plan a trip to a Pro lab on my lunch break one day this week, drop the film off, and then plan a trip back the next day to pick it up. Additionally, when all of that is said and done, I still can’t really even look at them unless I’m willing to blow $0.65/shot getting proofs made, or $16 to get them scanned and put on CD. And, if I get proofs, I still can’t put them online or edit them until I’ve found a scanner to pull them in with.
Even if I manage to master a nice process for getting the images in a time-frame that I can accept, I’m still out $25, total, for a 24 exposure roll. That’s means I’m blowing more than $1 every time I push the button. I guess I should consider getting index prints, reviewing them in the lab, and then placing an order for individual scans or proofs right then. So, in that case, after three consecutive trips to the lab per roll, I should have what I want for as cheap as possible. Assuming, I get 5 images that are actually worth using per roll, that means I’m only spending about $0.65 every time I push the button. That’s still a bit expensive considering that I shot over 200 images one weekend with my digital. I’d be out $130. $130 isn’t much when you’re getting paid to do what you’re doing. But it’s a lot when you’re not. And… I’m not.
Now I’ve got a roll of ISO 100 color film in the body. It’s probably about half spent. So, it won’t be until next weekend that I’m able to change it. And I’ll be stuck on ISO 100 until I do. Maybe I should just call it a roll?
Regardless, two important lessons were learned this weekend. I’ve relearned to appreciate film and taking each exposure slow and accurate, as though I were paying for each snap. Secondly, I’ve learned to really appreciate digital for what it’s worth and have accepted that, it certainly is the future of photography. There is little that a 35mm film camera can do that a 6MP digital can’t. And the technology is only getting bigger, better, and faster.