I was watching a video on the Leica Monochrom the other day and was struck by the presentation. No, I am not going to sell my M6 (and my car) in order to buy a digital camera. Actually, I didn't make it through more than 2 minutes of the video before I got annoyed with the presenter and had to turn it off.
In the opening, the reviewer is shown sitting and discussing the old days when he was new to photography (probably in the 80s). He was sitting in an alleyway somewhere and discussed how much fun the old days were; he had that nostalgic twinkle in his eye when he reminisced about using a manual camera loaded with Porta. Man, those days were fun. Unfortunately, he said, now those days are over. Is there a way to recapture the fun that could be had with photography?
Why are those days over? The whole introduction seemed quite silly to me. Maybe I'm missing something but if you thought shooting film was more fun than shooting digital why don't you buy a roll of film? It really is that easy. You don't have to shoot digital. Just because it is new does not mean that it's better or even mandatory to use. The argument that, "Well, now we have to use digital cameras because they are the newer more modern thing. We can't use film anymore just because digital cameras exist" is such silliness. Believe it or not, you can in fact still use film. Even if you are a professional photographer, you can shoot film. With the availability of negative scanners (or regular scanners if you are awesome and print in the darkroom) it is even possible to post photographs online! Wow! Who knew?
I would like to present two retorts to the arguments against film. The main "fact" that people point out is that film is more expensive. There are two main points I would like to bring up: shoot less and no it isn't.
Why is it better to take a million pictures? A few weeks back I was out at the coast photographing. After a few hours, I had finished two rolls of film a decided to call it a day. When I was walking up, I saw another photographer and talked to him for a few minutes. He had a big plastic Canon POS (or whatever they are called) and was surprised that I could take so few pictures. He said that he often takes 1000 pictures in a morning at the beach. I was floored. How can you possibly take that many pictures and still care about any of them? Part of the degradation of the art of photography is related to this ability to shoot near infinitely without having to think about what you are doing. The less you have to focus on what you are doing, the less you will improve. Art is inspiration plus craft. It takes work to improve not just more of the same.
Also, the argument that digital is better because it takes so long to develop negatives whereas you can just upload your pictures right from the camera to the computer is nonsense. I bet I could develop my film faster than it would take to upload a full memory card from camera to computer.
Shooting film is actually cheaper than shooting digital. Sounds like craziness right? The problem with how the argument is usually presented is that it seems most people only think about the cost of film vs megapixels. Sure it costs more to take a photographic on real photographic materials rather than making an image on a computer. Is that really the only cost associated with photography? I think the bigger issue at hand is the camera body itself. It seems like it's harder and harder to find a decent camera for under $1000. Even the mirrorless cameras are getting up to that range. Will a new, $1200 Olympus OMD outlast a $100 OM1? No. Digital cameras are like computers. Even the best of new digital cameras will be outdated in a year and you will need to purchase another. On the other hand, a film camera is never outdated. In fact, they are constantly updated. When Kodak released it's fantastic new T-Max a few years ago, every 35mm camera ever made received a free firmware update! My Exakta VX from the late 50s now takes sharper, higher resolution photographs than ever before.
As another example, the Leica Monochrom looks like a fantastic camera. It has all the fun of an old manual film camera but with the "convenience" of digital. There is a slight drawback though. It costs $8,000. My M6 set me back about $1,000 (which was a huge chunk of change for me but my motto is "Buy film, not food"). That means that the Monochrom because cheaper only after I have spent $7,000 on film. Since I buy 100ft of T-Max 400 at a time and roll it myself, each roll costs something to the tune of $3.75. I would have to shoot 1800 rolls of film before I am losing money on it.
Is there a way to rekindle to fun of shooting film? Can we still experience the simple pleasure of switching rolls of film part of the way through a day of strolling around with a camera? Could it be possible in this modern world of ours to spend more time on the craft of photography and less time on the computer? Is there a simple way to do most of the work in camera and less in post production? Is it possible to slow down, take total control, care more about each shot and master the craft of photography?
Buy a dang roll of film!