Why I shoot film

And why I'll never go back to digital (probably)

After having used film cameras since the late 60s, I was actually an early adopter of digital photography. I bought my first digital somewhere around 1996, a Kodak DC something. It was about the size of your head and, if I recall correctly, could store eight photos in its internal memory. Each photo was around 1 megapixel.

After the Kodak I progressed to a 4.1mp Konica Minolta, then a D80, D200, and eventually a D800 - which I still use. When I'm being paid to make photos I'll always use my D800 to make some back up images. In the studio I use it a bit like Polaroids were used years ago - to test exposure and the like.

At some point I realised that I was no longer enjoying photography, at all. The only part I still liked was taking my gear to some nice spot to make photos - that's where the enjoyment ended. I didn't like the way I was shooting, taking tonnes of photos instead of making a few. I didn't like that I was thinking about cameras, lenses, and filters more than I was thinking about photographs. I hated sorting through dozens of near identical photos to find the ones I would process. Hated processing them. Hated archiving them to try and keep them safe in case of digital failure.

I especially hated that the (relatively) expensive equipment that I had bought was rapidly becoming worthless junk.

By this point I was converting most of the photos I made to black and white and applying filters to make them look like they were shot on film.

Six keepers - it's funny because it's true ;)

Six keepers - it's funny because it's true ;)

I had reached the point where I would have been OK to walk away from the hobby and just make happy snaps on my phone. Until someone suggested to me that I should just go and buy an old camera. So I did.

I went to a shop that specialises in old camera gear and bought a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II body, a film back, a 110mm f/2.8 lens, and a few rolls of black and white 120 film. This was the camera set up that I had always lusted after but couldn't justify the cost when they were new.

I loaded up a roll of the film and went straight out for a walk to start making some photos. BOOM! That was it, I was back in the game. The mirror slap, cranking the film advance lever... awesome. The next day I drove to Vanbar in Fitzroy and bought some chemicals and a Patterson tank and reels, went back home and developed the film. Magic.

Since then I've added a 35mm SLR, another medium format, a 5x4 large format, and a point and shoot camera. I've also kitted out the RZ with a heap of extra goodies. I've even set up a darkroom at home to make my own prints.

I've finally figured out the various aspects that I enjoy the most:

I still love going to beautiful places to make photos, the big difference is that I'm once again enjoying the slow, deliberate process of shooting on film.

I like developing my own negatives. There is something special about opening the developing tank and the sense of relief you feel when you find that there are actual images on the film.

Making darkroom prints adds a completely new layer of enjoyment to photography. These days with high resolution scanning and other methods of getting images from negatives it's not necessary to have access to a darkroom. Printing is something I love to do even if it can be frustrating at times. But, the feeling of satisfaction that you get from holding and viewing a self-made, silver gelatin print really should be experienced by everyone at some point.

Lastly, I love camera gear. I don't care how many megapixels, or focus points, or essential new features your soon-to-become-landfill, dinky little mirrorless device has; a mechanical camera is a thing of timeless beauty and an absolute joy to use.

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