Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2018... A Year In Analog

It didn't feel too long ago that 2018 was starting. Lots have happened, both changes that were unavoidable or otherwise. And the next thing I know, here we are, capping off the year. It was only a matter of perspective, that set it apart from being a good or a bad year.

Top: Minolta Alpha 303si, Canonet QL17, Nikon F-801; Bottom: Minolta SR1, Canonet QL19, Lomo 135BC. Yeah, when you're not counting, it becomes more than a handful before you know it. This addiction is beginning to get out of hand.

Just like that, 2018 has ended... Another year done. What I found different with this, is the fact that throughout the whole year, I've mostly been shooting with film. By mostly, I'd guess-timate it to be around 95% minimum... It doesn't seem like it's  lost its novelty to me either. So what is it like?

For starters, it takes a bit more patience... Okay, lots of it. Some limitations I had to deal with...
  • The constant ISO. On digital, one can change the sensor sensitivity on a whim. Too dark? Raise that to ISO800! Still too dark? Do ISO1600. Oh it's night and there's no tripod. ISO3200 then. On particularly lazy days, some models have auto-ISO that can be enabled- just set the range, and forget it. It can change as soon as the clever electronics find it too dark or too bright. But on film, not so. Once you pop in that roll with the ISO of your choice, there's no changing that ISO until the end. That means compensating it with the shutter speed, or aperture. If you change your ISO, that means changing the film roll. Considering how fairly expensive film is, one may not find it wise to change film in between the roll - that usually means forfeiting the rest of the shots.
  • The blurry pictures! Since ISO isn't flexible, that means adjusting other parameters to get the best exposure. Usually that means adjusting the aperture. But when the aperture can only open up so much, that means adjusting the other parameter: The shutter speed. Low light means slower shutter speeds. Slower shutter speed means blurry pictures. Especially on times when you find yourself without a stable platform - namely a tripod. It doesn't help either that I'm not a fan of using flash on the pictures.
  • Surprise Blank Rolls! It is a nightmare scenario for me when I was using digital to have a corrupted memory card. All the shots disappearing at the blink of an eye. Same goes with the battery. I always find myself always carrying a charger. Not anymore with film. However, there's a different set of challenges that come with it. To start off, it's the loading of the film - this is usually addressed if your camera has some automatic loading features, but for the basic ones, that can be heartbreaking - one can go believing that all the frames in the film were consumed, only to find out the hard way that it wasn't properly loaded and it didn't advance at all.
  • The Wait. What makes digital photography so much more popular would be, among many things, the convenience and how it's relatively low cost it is when you're taking pictures. One thing that stands out though, would be how instantly one can get the result. Snap! Snap! Click! And you see instantly what you got. Not so with film. One has to get the rolls processed first after it's all consumed. Also, at most one can have up to around 36 shots at most per roll. It's can slow anyone down when it gets hectic.

"36 shots each roll. Use them wisely."

But it's not all bad... I'm inclined to believe it has its own merits. For starters, I found myself some sort of freedom. These are what keeps me drawn to it.
  • On digital one has to think of many things, like file format, image settings, RAW vs. JPEG, File size, etc. Much of that is removed from film. The properties of the film you use determines the color, tones, overall characteristics of the image.
  • It has let me combat my fear of missing out. On my days when I was mostly using digital, I had trouble choosing which was the best to pick. This effect? Or This filter? My digital camera (Olympus E-PL5) had Filter Bracketing, which let me apply all the filters I want at once, and I thought that'd help me choose later on - But I was wrong. Turns out, I ended up more spoiled for choice. With film I surrendered this kind of choice, and I spent less time in the computer because of it. Less time pixel-wrangling, more time going out shooting.
  • The overall appeal of the image looks timeless to me, compared to heavily edited pictures. Images shot on film have a timeless look, and though there's software that can replicate the effect, it still feels different when it's the real thing. 
  • I still gawk at and even drool over newer digital cameras released, but I no longer want it as badly anymore. And I think that's a good thing. I can admire them, but not badly want them. I guess I can say I'm out from the "Megapixel sensor wars" of camera manufacturers.
  • I'm no longer concerned about the "which camera takes better pictures" dilemma. I'm no longer Jedi/Sith (what Canon fans and Nikon fans refer to themselves) nor disturbed by the full-frame wars between Sony/Nikon/Canon. Instead I find myself excited to try out new film rolls.
  • This is probably just psychological, but I feel the ones taken by film have more value to me compared to the ones taken with a digital camera.  That's just me.

 So yes, I'm beginning to feel that film photography is more to my style.  Also, no - I'm not a hipster. After over a year of playing with film, I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone, and everyone interested. It's a bit more expensive, but personally, more gratifying.

My top 9 pictures were mostly taken on film... Except for the pictures with our dog, That one was taken with a phone camera. I didn't have a film camera handy at the time I took those pictures.

If I can have a proper new year's resolution, if, this thing I endeavor to do can be dignified as such, it's probably to curb my Gear Acquisition Syndrome - I should just go shoot more, buy less gear if not, stop hoarding film cameras altogether.  I think I already have most if not all the film cameras I could ever need.

... But actually, its easier said than done. Haha! Until then, don't let the fear of getting lost stop you from going out to wander!

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