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Why One Landscape Photographer Still Prefers to Use Film

There's little to argue about the technical superiority of digital, but a devoted group of photographers still shot film for various reasons. This interesting video essay talks about five reasons why one photographer still opts for the older technology.

Coming to you from Steve O'Nions, this excellent video follows him as he discusses why he still prefers to shoot film for his landscape work. One thing I particularly appreciated is that O'Nions clearly isn't interested in discussing which medium is better; in fact, he happily admits that digital is technically superior. Rather, he digs into his personal preferences, the creative process, and artistic philosophies and examines how film influences and operates differently under those umbrellas. While I personally rely on digital exclusively for any work I'm being paid for, I still keep a healthy film habit going, and for reasons ranging from nostalgia to process, I actually prefer to shoot with it. I personally find that I think about photography a bit differently when I'm shooting film, not necessarily in a better way, but even so, in a way that still informs the way I approach the digital side. If you've not tried it, I recommend picking up a cheap camera and lens on eBay and giving it a shot! 

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michaeljin's picture


Matthew Saville's picture

And when you're ready for truly insane resolving power, real men shoot 8x10. :-P

Sure, you could easily match/surpass the resolution alone by just using a gigapan with a D850 or A7R3, however, simply put, photographers find their geeky satisfaction in many different ways. What one photographer is truly excited about, (gigapixel pano stitches) ...another photographer may consider horribly time-consuming and annoying to deal with, both in the field and in post-production.

And vice versa- while one photographer may get truly excited about the "simplicity" of figuring out reciprocity failure, and not even knowing if your shot has turned out until you've paid $10-20+ for that single click, ...other photographers may find it absolutely frustrating.

TLDR, different strokes for different folks.

jacob kerns's picture

but Sony made everything obsolete. 🙄

Matthew Saville's picture

It's not about obsolescence, it's about passion for a craft. Which is something Sony is only disadvantaged for, the more bells and whistles it adds, in the eyes of some folks.

Bill Peppas's picture

I would hesitate to call any of these "reasons" whatsoever.
All of them are truly and very deeply subjective and nor is any of this required.
You can't slow down without resorting to a film camera ? Practice some self control.
You don't compose well ? Go back to reading and shoot more, view more photos of others, analyze, repeat.

Just like this, the video is a personal opinion, a way to justify our actions regardless of them being logical or illogical.

Vincent Vega's picture

It's his own video based on his own preferences, passions and experiences, of course it's subjective. His viewpoints are not any less valid for being so. The issue is not trying to justifying anything, it's rather that the author's opinion is being disregarded because it doesn't perfectly align with the commenters.

Bill Peppas's picture

Right, let's fill up the site and the internet with very subjective and useless "articles" and videos then :D

Bill Peppas's picture

I'm seeing your non-subjective and non-useless contribution here of 4 comments of high quality content and an amazing collection of uploaded photographs :D

Deleted Account's picture

His work is delicate, sensitive, and quite beautiful.

That that is really the only thing I need to know.

If a particular process works for someone, great, especially if they have the results to back it up.

Ralph Hightower's picture

I agree with many of his reasons. Like him, I use a hybrid approach, film plus LightRoom; In 2013, I added a Canon 5D III to my film cameras: Canon A-1 and New F-1. The controls are fewer and easier to use than my 5D. A recent Fstoppers article was about the use of exposure compensation. With my film cameras, it is an easy look down at the ISO dial to see what it is. With my 5D, it involves using the Quick Menu to see if it's not zero; which I often forget.
With my 5D, I turned off the image review; I'll review images afterwards, but not immediately after a photo.

Jeff Colburn's picture

Very good video, thanks. I do miss film photography. All of my film camera and lenses were destroyed during a move when the moving van was parked for several days in an Arizona heat wave. All of the lubricants melted and ran over all the internal workings. Digital was just coming out, so I switched. I shoot my digital camera like a film camera in that I only use Manual mode and I shoot slowly so I don't wind up with a lot of photos.

Everyone says how great digital is because of the light camera body and lens, but it's the weight of a film camera that makes it so steady. When I shot film I only used a tripod for tabletop work. I could easily hand-hold at 1/4 second and get tack-sharp images. With digital, I always have to use a tripod.

And with film cameras, my exposure was always right-on. I honed that skill by shooting Kodachrome 64 slide film. Your exposure could only be off by 1/3 stop. With digital, I've never been able to get my exposure that accurate.

I'll always shoot digital, but film may get back into my work flow.

Have Fun,