My photographic journey

From film to digital and back again…

I came relatively late in life to ‘serious’ photography. I was in my mid twenties when I bought my first SLR. Prior to that I’d only used point and shoot cameras – apart from a very brief period in my early teens when my older cousin lent me his Rolleicord TLR. He also gave me a lightmeter, which I could never figure out, and consequently none of my shots came out. I still have the lightmeter and with all the experience I now have with lightmeters I still can’t figure it out, so it’s no wonder I struggled with it back then.

My first SLR was an Olympus OM-40, then an OM-1N and an Olympus XA (both of which I still have).

I stopped shooting film around 1998/99 and switched to digital. In other words I made the switch to digital pretty much as soon as it became available. I used digital compacts for a while and then bought my first DSLR, an Olympus E-1 (which I also still have). And then when mirrorless cameras came along I bought an Olympus OM-D E-M5, which I still use for the occasional digital shot. Can you tell I have a thing about Olympus by the way?!

About 4 years ago I became aware that more and more people seemed to be going back to film. That didn’t make any sense to me but my curiosity was piqued so I decided to dig a little deeper. I started seeking out photos shot on film online and for the most part liked what I saw.

I decided to try film again for myself, this time in medium format. I set myself a budget of £100 and bought a Rolleicord Va on Ebay, similar to the one that I’d used in my teens, along with a roll of Tri-X, and a Russian light meter that cost 10p. I took some test shots around the house, of my dog, and some on a local beach. I sent the film away for a ‘process and scan’ and eagerly awaited the negatives and CD with the scanned images.

Receiving that package in the post was incredibly exciting, and when I loaded the CD in my computer I was blown away by the quality. It’s not that film is sharper or ‘better’ (that’s a debate I’m not going to get into), it’s the subtle way the tones are rendered compared to the rather more harsh and clinical rendering of digital. The photos were just beautiful.

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My greyhound, Tim, from the first roll of film through the Rolleicord

I started dabbling more in film, bought a developing tank and changing bag so I could develop my own film, and a scanner, so I could cut down on the processing costs. Pulling out the film from the tank for the first time to see images was another unforgettable moment.

At this point I was still shooting mostly digital and just dabbling in film now and again and then I came across a Hasselblad 500C/M with prism, 80mm lens, A12 back, and Polaroid back for £300. I’d never actually seen a Hasselblad in the flesh, never mind handled one, but I wanted to try it to see what everyone was raving about. And when I started using it I understood. Suddenly I didn’t want to use any other camera.

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A shot from the first roll of film through the Hasselblad 500C/M

For the next six months I shot digital and film, but film gradually took over so that eventually I stopped shooting digital for all my photography, apart from what I was required to shoot for my work. From that point onwards all photos uploaded to Flickr, my Facebook page etc were film. My web site at http://cariadus.com is entirely film.

My collection of film cameras has grown considerably too. I still mostly use the Hasselblad (but now a 503CX rather than 500C/M) but I also have five Olympus OM bodies, an Olympus 35DC, a Contax G1, a couple of medium format folders, a Crown Graphic 5×4, a Holga and probably some others that I’ve forgotten to mention. Collecting film cameras is just as addictive as shooting film.

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My Hasselblad 503CX with Zeiss 40mm lens on location (taken with Bessa R3A)

So why film? Well, I suppose a detailed answer to that is another story, but the short answer is that I like film. I like the tangible nature of film, I love the excitement of pulling the film out of the developing tank and seeing the images (especially with transparency film) and I love the look of film images.

I no longer shoot digital at all for personal work. On a recent trip to the Algarve I didn’t take a digital camera with me, other than the camera on my phone, but I took three film cameras.

So I guess my journey really has gone full circle from film to digital and back to film.

 

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About cariadus

Photography addict. Film shooter.

4 comments

  1. I am having a similar journey of sorts. I inherited my brother’s OM2 and have accumulated a number of slrs and MF cameras. Just got a XA to play with. I am finding that I am more than happy to shoot with film and not care about peeping, megapixels etc lately. Thanks for following.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Look forward to reading more of your film adventures.
    Careful though, film can get addictive! As I know only too well… 🙂

    Like

  3. Jak

    Hei! I’m always glad to find such a personal story telling about photography. Reading about photography is a need, just the same as shooting. I started my career in photography with film, an old man gave me all his gears and a piece of advice “The picture is in your mind. Get out and grab it”. Film or not film is just a question. Small format, middle format, large… are just tools. Ten years ago I moved from classic photo to digital. Recently a well known mag published an article about my latest works, in the lines I tell that “the only way is film”. The interview was an old one. The same mag show and compare two different works of mine: one in b&w, the other in color. The first made by Kodak film, the latter made by Nikon D3s. Where is the point? In my opinion we, the photographers, must keep in mind the old man advice. Picture is just in your mind. Get it! Digital or film!
    When digital was not invented yet, in the golden age of Kodachrome, we had the choice of using slide or negative. We had tools to get the picture we wanted under any condition. In Europe, at the turn of 2000 or by there, the market decided to dismiss analog equipment and to go all digital. It was a catastrophe. But the people followed the market, instead of keeping both. Analog gears were at the top, when digital was just starting. What a stupid madness!
    Now some people are back to film, but in the same time the world has changed, technology and people as well changed… I never stopped to use films because to make photographs is a real creative act, and films, as you said, make that dream real!
    Have a great photo trip !!!

    Like

  4. Thanks, it’s certainly been a great journey so far! Good point about the different formats too. I shoot 35mm, medium format and 5×4, they all have their place.

    Like

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