What a tangled, twisted road this has been. When I finally built up the courage to try out large-format photography a little more than half a year ago, I knew that I was in for a bit of a rough ride. But with a healthy serving of ruined film, swear words, and YouTube lessons under my belt, I've come out semi-clean on the other side. Here are the most useful lessons I've learned thus far. Hopefully I can stave off some frustration for those of you who feel like taking the plunge.
It's 2017, which, if you haven't heard the news, means it's back to film (Yes, I admit I would have said the same for any year, but 2017 really is special in this regard. Read on to find out why). Most of us are living the digital photography lifestyle, however, and though every photographer is a gear hound to some degree, we're loath to overpay on stuff we don't need. Solution? Buy a film body for your existing lenses. In the first of a loose series, let's take a look at the first mount in the alphabet and your options for it. Here are some cool cameras for Sony's A-mount.
Last fall I reviewed the Intrepid Camera, a low-cost 4x5 large-format film camera. Although the sentiment behind the camera was admirable, I found it lacking in finish and functionality. Well now Intrepid has come out with their second version which aims to correct many of the flaws of their first generation. Were they successful? In a word: Yes!
Developing your own film might be the cheaper (and more amusing) way to go, but with all the preparation and lab space required, that simply hasn't always the best option. Ars-Imago's Lab-Box hopes to solve these problems in a small, light-proof container that enables you to develop your own film at home or even while traveling – yes, it's that easy and compact. The best part: it's not all that expensive, either.
How did technology make "Planet Earth" so much more cinematic? If we go back to how it was done back in the day and compare it to the technology we have today, it's quite a leap. Back in the day 35mm was the broadcast standard. The 35mm cameras were bulky and heavy, they were perfect for studio and not for the shots that they needed. In the filming circles and the BBC insiders saw 16mm film as being for amateurs. But, thanks to David Attenborough first taking his 16mm camera out to shoot abroad and coming back with footage of animals never filmed before, it changed opinions. This made the program that later became one of the best wildlife documentaries of all time.
A few months ago, I started a passion project of mine: FilmObjektiv.org. Film Objektiv was started with one goal in mind: to get more people shooting film. We do this by renting film cameras at low prices for longer periods of time, by providing prints at a low cost, and also by serving as an online and educational resource to help film shooters find everything they'd ever need. It's this last part that still needs some work, but it's well on its way with this new pricing guide for film labs across the country. Still, I could use your help.
Film has had a great resurgence in the industry. Whether it's because of the hipster hype or due to people wanting the special color and feeling that film brings is unknown to me. On January 5, 2017 Kodak made it known that they were bringing back a classic, the EKTACHROME Film stock.
Although words like "best" and "ultimate" are fun to throw around, of course there is no objectively best camera out there for a beginner. But to me, the Yashica Mat 124G is pretty close for a variety of reasons. From its handling to price, there is a lot to appreciate in this little gem. Here are some of my favorite features and why I think a person starting out in film photography might be in hog heaven with the little Yashica.
Have you ever thought: "I have some cardboard lying around, I bet I could make that into an instant camera"? No? Then you're not Oleg Khalip and his team of cardboard camera constructors. They launched the Jollylook, a vintage-folder looking camera on Kickstarter on January 31, and it has already beaten its modest $15,000 goal by over $200,000.
Shooting portraits in large format film is extremely rewarding. There's a simplicity of the process, from the posing to the static camera position, that helps ground both the photographer and the subject in the moment. Beautiful images may be your reward for such patience, but it's not without its challenges. For me, the biggest challenge shooting portraiture is not working with the camera, but the insane amount of light you need to throw at it. For the uninitiated, here are some facts about the format and its light-eating characteristics that you may need to consider.
Lately I've cottoned to the film beat quite a bit here. I've written about Super 8 and about film stock options for analog photography, about the revival of Ektachrome, and about instant photography. I love it all, but I'm also aware of the fact that we very much live in the twenty-first century. We live on computers and we live online, and if photos don't exist in these spaces, they may as well not exist at all. So what can be done about getting photos taken on film, old or new, into a form fit for such a universe? Let's talk about film scanning.
Film Ferrania, the reborn Italian manufacturer of analog film stock today announced that it will be selling an "Alpha" version of their first product, P30 black and white negative film, by mid-February.
It's not as hard as it looks. If you've ever been intimidated by, or even questioned the idea of shooting portraits on large format film, maybe George and Jack can help.
So you've read all my articles on film and decided: "You know what? I'm going to give it a shot!" Great! You're about to embark on a rewarding, sometimes frustrating journey into the old school! However, one of the first questions you'll have to answer is: What film should I shoot with? There are so many choices out there with varying brands, speeds, grain structures, and formulations that it can be daunting to select a few to try out. I know that when I first started out, I had no clue what to try. Hopefully, this guide will serve as a broad primer on some of the most popular stocks and take some of the mystery out of picking your first film.
CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, held each January in Las Vegas, is usually a place where new technologies compete for eyes and wallets, where, in a way, the world of the future is presented to us. We can experience this future first hand on the show floor. We can turn on a TV, or click on news links and YouTube videos. We can also read the glossy, picture-laden pages of electronics magazines, and the somewhat less glossy ones of newspapers. These analog news sources are where one of this year's most talked about photography and film-related invention should feel most at home: Super 8 is back.