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Film novice question - very basic sorry !


Julian Thompson
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Can someone give me an idea what I'd be in for if I tried a film camera? My experience of it was just as a teenager - since then I've been using digital cameras.

 

I want to know a workflow, what I would need, how I do it and how long it takes to get from a roll of film in the back of the camera to a scanned image?

 

Really sorry to ask such a silly question but I really don't know the answer! I'm hoping there is a gadget I can buy that I load the fully exposed film canister into at one end and the scans pop out of the ethernet cable at the other but I suspect that won't be the case ;-)

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Can someone give me an idea what I'd be in for if I tried a film camera? My experience of it was just as a teenager - since then I've been using digital cameras.

 

I want to know a workflow, what I would need, how I do it and how long it takes to get from a roll of film in the back of the camera to a scanned image?

 

Really sorry to ask such a silly question but I really don't know the answer! I'm hoping there is a gadget I can buy that I load the fully exposed film canister into at one end and the scans pop out of the ethernet cable at the other but I suspect that won't be the case ;-)

 

 

I'm just a hobbyist, not as experienced as many on the forum, but here's my two cents.

 

First of all, the gadget you describe does not exist. However, the process can still be fairly simple and relatively quick and painless. Once you've shot your roll of film, you'll need to have it developed. Sadly, competent film development services are somewhat of a dying breed, unless you live in a larger city. So if you don't have a decent pro lab nearby, you'll either need to rely on big-box services (Target or Wal-Mart types in the USA, Tesco or Asda types in UK), which can be a bit dodgy, or utilize a good mail-in service, such as A&I Photographic or Dale Labs in the USA. At this point, you can decide to get traditional prints with your developed negs/slides, a CD with scans, or both. How long does it take? Again, options may largely depend on where you live, but the big-box stores have one-hour processing, as do some pro labs. At the very least, you can have your results in a couple of days. If you use a mail-in service, complete turnaround will often take a week or two.

 

You can, of course, also develop yourself, but since you're new to film, I'm assuming this would not really be in the cards.

 

If you decide to go with a CD from your film developer, keep in mind that these will not be hi-res images. They'll be perfectly fine for posting to the web, emailing friends/family, or printing small (4x6) photos on your home inkjet printer, but won't be adequate for large format printing. In the event you want to do larger printing, you'll want to invest in a film scanner so that you can do your own hi-res scanning.

 

Scanning is time consuming, and a lot of people around here hate it. I shoot about 90% film, and do quite a bit of scanning, although because of the time-intensive nature I limit myself to scanning just a few frames per roll. But since I rarely have more than a few frames per roll that are any good (!), that works pretty well for me.:)

 

Anyway, to sum up, the major disadvantages to a film workflow are the inability to preview your image in the field, and the lack of versatility frame-to-frame (ie, you're locked into one ISO for 24-36 exposures, unless you have multiple camera bodies). Additional disadvantages (which I would consider minor in nature) are the extra expense of developing, the time-delay, and the extra work involved with scanning.

 

There are some advantages though. Since you're on a Leica forum, one advantage would be the ability to use some of the best 35mm cameras and lenses ever made --- Leicas. Another is the whole notion of "a new sensor in every can". There may not be as much choice in film as there was 10-20 years ago, but there is still a wide variety of good quality film to choose from, each with their own characteristics. It's a lot of fun to experiment with different film types: color, b&w, negative, slide, fast/grainy films, slow films, vivid color films, natural film, etc. and so on.

 

It's good that you're going into this eyes open --- there are certainly many inconvenient aspects to shooting film. But many of them can be mitigated, and if you're not a pro working on tight deadlines (and/or needing to deliver digital files to clients), it can be a very satisying way of practicing photography.

 

Best,

 

Jeff.

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We're all novices when we first begin, Julian.

 

Allan's workflow:

 

1. Buy 6 rolls Kodak Ektar 100 from Adorama

2. Shoot one up (36 clicks of the shutter)

3. Take the roll to Target Photo and request "Prints & CD"

4. Come back in one hour and pick up package

5. Insert enclosed CD into your computer's D:drive

 

Voila! Pictures on computer just like always.

 

Here's some of my own, processed earlier today:

 

 

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Julian,

 

You will really enjoy it if you have used film before. Get a s/h Leica - 2 -3 -4 -6-7 according to your pocket. Develop the film yourself if you like otherwise get it commercially developed and scan it. Use Photoshop and a good printer and enjoy your pictures!

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We're all novices when we first begin, Julian.

 

Allan's workflow:

 

1. Buy 6 rolls Kodak Ektar 100 from Adorama

2. Shoot one up (36 clicks of the shutter)

3. Take the roll to Target Photo and request "Prints & CD"

4. Come back in one hour and pick up package

5. Insert enclosed CD into your computer's D:drive

 

Voila! Pictures on computer just like always.

 

Here's some of my own, processed earlier today:

 

 

Allan,

 

Nice photos, as always. I like me some Ektar too!

 

As for Target, I haven't had as good of luck. I had used them for awhile, but found them wildly inconsistent. The price was always good, and development was often good, but probably one out of every 4 times the processing was royally fraked up, and they seemed to handle the negs roughly (too many scratches, dust, etc.). This is maybe the biggest argument for a pro lab --- they're probably much more likely to assume you will actually be using the negatives for scanning, and thus will be a bit more careful with handling. I'm guessing most of Target's patrons don't care about negatives.

 

Jeff.

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As others have mentioned you might not want to try processing your own right away, but here's my experience last night.

I wanted to test a new camera's meter.

Got home at 5:15PM.

Shot a quick roll of B&W Tmax in my backyard, finished by 5:35PM.

Had film loaded into a processing tank (using a changing bag...you don't need a darkroom) by 5:50PM.

Film was processed and hanging to dry by 6:10PM.

Film was dry by 6:45PM...I louped three or 4 images for sharpness, scanned them and had rough 5x7" prints by 7:30PM.

So total time from starting to take pictures to 5x7's was just a shade over 2 hours.

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Hi Julian! (I'm a Julian too, but anyway...)

 

Shooting film, nowadays, as long as you have the extra $s to spare is surprisingly un-painful.

 

What do I mean? Well, almost any medium-sized town will have a decent mini-lab (somewhere that will be able to process and scan your negatives for print up-to typical snapshot size (5x7" or thereabouts)). They're fine for small prints and web-work, but never forget that unlike digital you have the original negatives to play with. That means further work later, up to something comparable to the top-end of digital imaging - on a shot-by-shot basis.

 

I am only 30 and caught the tail-end of film photography (I did the UK A-level in photography right when the first digital cameras were being made available), so i may be stuck in an unhealthy rut - BUT I have a few thoughts as someone raised on the cusp:

 

I shoot mainly colour, and I love the way certain film (notable Portra 160NC, Fuji 160S, Astia 100, Fuji 400H) render colours... and I love the way my film Ms feel even though I own an M8... BUT, if I were starting out today, I'd probably accept the limitations of colour on digital and if (big IF) I wanted to shoot film I'd buy a JOBO tank and a set of chemicals and start on b&w. If you can afford it (and if you have an M8 and a few lenses, I assume you can), buy a Nikon Coolscan before they're put out to pasture and then you have a full digital darkroom until Firewire becomes extinct.

 

Me? I like being a dinosaur, but I can recognise when the world's moved on...

Edited by mongrelnomad
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Thanks for that, Bob

 

I think the take-home message for Julian is that film need not be a days-long process of toil and trouble

 

If you use your noodle it can be as speedy (well, almost as speedy) as digital capture

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And I agree with you, Jeff, in just about every respect

 

Fortunately for me I have a really, really good tech named Daniel at the Glendale Target who takes excellent care with my photos

 

That is lucky! Personal and competent service at Target prices --- that's a tough combination to beat.

 

Jeff.

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Jeff, it's only recently that Target discontinued its discounted pre-paid photo processing cards

 

Up until a year ago one might pop for a $100 card that also granted a 20% discount on the charges

 

I was literally stealing from them when I could walk away with processed negs, 36 prints and a 261 ppi CD for $8 per

 

Those were the days, ehh?

 

:D

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Jeff, it's only recently that Target discontinued its discounted pre-paid photo processing cards

 

Up until a year ago one might pop for a $100 card that also granted a 20% discount on the charges

 

I was literally stealing from them when I could walk away with processed negs, 36 prints and a 261 ppi CD for $8 per

 

Those were the days, ehh?

 

:D

 

I'll say! I was pretty happy paying roughly $10 per 36 exposure roll, with one set of prints (no CD). Lately I've been using ProEx/Ritz, who has been consistently excellent in their processing (and only one hour), and after joining their "Frequent Foto" club, I pay about $13 per roll for dev and one set of prints. The extra 3 bucks is more than offset by less time cloning/brushing out scratches and dust spots in CS3 or Aperture!

 

Jeff.

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Julian, Welcome to the forum. As Mr Garrison would say "There are no stupid questions, only stupid people":D

 

Allan's advice seems a great way to start, but watch out, soon you will have a cupboard full of developing chemicals and a scanner or two and you will be planning how to turn the bathroom into a darkroom without your wife killing you. :p

 

mr-garrison.jpg

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In my town (50 miles out of Toronto), the only developing outlet at hand is Wal-Mart. I learned with my first roll of BW - that came back totally blank - that these stores only develop the C-41 type of film. A lab would be needed for other formats.

I'm not sure if this is true elsewhere, but I advise all neophytes to ask the people behind the counter if they have any development limitations.

I'm looking forward to learning how to process negatives at home (a straightforward process), and then throwing them into my scanner. Perhaps later I can get a little frou-frou, and turn them into prints first...

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Julian, as you will be aware, there are several species of film: neg, slide (transparency), and B+W.

 

Developing your own is a whole other ball game that can be fun, but you need the time.

 

How about borrowing/buying a Leica M film camera (any model, but if pre M6 you need a handheld meter), and shooting slide film?

 

You end up with beautiful jewel-like slides that are actually the end result. If you get a projector, you will be rewarded with huge luminescent images that still knock the socks off digital images viewed on a computer screen. Or you can have them scanned onto CD/DVD so you can print them or email them.

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Thanks for taking the time to answer so patiently and in such a comprehensive way.

 

I currently use an M8 and and would maybe like to try my lenses with film to see if I enjoy it.

 

Thanks very much once more :-)

 

Julian, be careful. This sounds exactly like what happened to me. I started this as a hobby 3 years ago and quickly ended up with an M8. Then I got to thinking about a backup camera and decided to get an MP in order to use all those nice lenses.

 

These days the M8 sees little action (spent 2 weeks in India) sans digital, only film.

 

Julian, Welcome to the forum. As Mr Garrison would say "There are no stupid questions, only stupid people":D

 

Allan's advice seems a great way to start, but watch out, soon you will have a cupboard full of developing chemicals and a scanner or two and you will be planning how to turn the bathroom into a darkroom without your wife killing you. :p

 

mr-garrison.jpg

 

Now I shoot mostly B&W and do my own developing, have 2 scanners because I also shoot Medium Format film.

 

Next is learning about and doing some wet printing and see if that leads to somehow having a darkroom. As a note: wife fully supports me in this.

 

All this, without need for the typical discussions, for a very simple reason it is more fun for me, I enjoy it more, and think I get better results when I'm more engaged in "seeing" then checking if I got the shot. Think of it as non-attachment to the results and being surprised when you pull the film off the spool after developing.

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I think a logical second step for most people is to take a course in darkroom (including printmaking), then start developing B&W at home using the technique Bob describes above

 

I suggest the course as a quick way to sponge off someone's experience and avoid the expenses until you see how you like it

 

Then go for it with your own scans etc

 

Others may disagree

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I am biased but I think you should give film a go. I would suggest getting hold of a loan camera from somewhere, it doesn't have to be a Leica camera for this exercise, buy some B&W C41, say Fuji Neopan 400 film which can be processed in your local print shop and a roll of slide film, say Fuji Sensia 200. When you have exposed all the shots take them into your processing shop and have them process them for you including a full set on CD. From that experience you will have a better understanding of the attributes of film.

 

It's a long shot I know, but if you live near me I'll lend you an M6 and some film so it will only cost you the processing or you could process it yourself at my house

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