#1271. Yet more thoughts on Film vs Digital

By pascaljappy | Opinion

Mar 14

Some photographers prefer film, like foodies prefer elaborate cooking and fancy dining experiences.

Sony NEX-5n & Voigtlander 35 Color-Skopar

Wading through some of my photographs in DS archives, I found a few that have a (vaguely) film-like look and reignited my interest in this topic. None are really quite there, but they each tend to illustrate a specific aspect of what is so loved about film photography.

Because I think that, from an aesthetic point of view, what we call the look of film is actually a multi-layered construct that has far more complexity to it than what the film alone does to the image.

Add to this the workflow that film forces upon you, a divisive topic if ever there was one, and you get a whole package, hard to deconstruct and analyze, which proves seductive beyond words to some and repulsive beyond grimace to others.

Sony a7RII & Mamiya 645 lens (I forget the focal length) – The vintage lens look, but not 100% the film look.

A lot has been written about this, so let’s not waste your time with lengthy repetition. To summarize:

With shooting film comes the film camera, which evolved slowly and along many weird and wonderful avenues that produced a rich landscape of (mainly) durable and simple machines, that looked as similar to one another as dinosaurs in a Jurassic Park movie. Digital cameras, on the other hand, are largely all the same (with exceptions), overly complicated, and most certainly not built to last (again, with exceptions). You love one or the other, and there’s no point in trying to convince the other camp, as each proposition appeals to very different areas of our mind.

Then, you have the lenses of the film era. Typically simple designs, much, much simpler than today’s digital glass. That made them less resolved and more alive. More prone to flare and glare, odd bokeh, chromatic vaguery and other aberrations that delight some and repulse others. The picture above was made with a camera that looked so bad to me that it made my veins pop with fury, but with an old film-lens, it was quite nice. Still, at the time I remember thinking about my attempt at recreating the “medium format look” (film is always implied in that expression): close, but no cigar. Which is now obvious, because lenses are just one ingredient and the others were missing.

Hasselblad X1D & XCD90 (the soft highlight rolloff of film, but not the other characteristics)

And then, of course, there is the film itself. And describing that, alone, could fill a heavy book. Keeping with analogy of recipes, film is both the flavouring and the conditions in which you eat (them bloody French, always on about food). Bear with me.

Film has softer (tone curve) shoulders, grain (as opposed to noise), more, or less, dynamic range than digital sensors, more, or less, resolution than digital camera, and a very different way of making detail disappear into texture rather than nothingness. Light also interacts with it in more or less predictable ways, creating diffusion, halations, and more artifacts that were a problem to scientific imagery and a godsend to creative minds.

Much like digital cameras mostly converging towards an idealized high-performance sameness, digital sensors too are all migrating to that Omega point of zero-defect, zero limit tech supremacy. In fact, much like lenses, they are actively criticized by the media and the community for any criminal deviation from that tech ideal. Compare this to the bewildering variety of the film x old lens x film camera artistic combinations (*) and you can easily understand why learning photography in the film days was largely a matter of experience rather than of reading a 700 page tech manual. No one could try all the combinations, so everyone tried their own, developing a personal style dictated by availability, taste, tutoring … (* each combination produced a different look because a same film looks different in 35mm, in 6×7, in 8×10 โ€ฆ, because the different enlargement factors at common prints sizes resulting in different grain presence, aberration feel, tonal smoothness โ€ฆ)

Hasselblad X1D & XCD45 (the tones of some b&w films, but not the old lens or film look)

Today, we have presets to simulate this complex layering of imperfections, but it’s not quite the same. The photo above uses a preset I have created and looks good (to me), but not film-like. That’s because the lens looks anything but from the film-era ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s essentially perfect. Looking at its MTFs is the most boring and awe-inspiring thing. And, to some film-lovers, looking at this picture also could be boring to the extreme. In a way, it lacks the personality of the human who made the conscious decision of filmstock, aberrated lens and camera format (though, to be honest, I chose this camera and lens system for this exact look).

Back to food. Film photography is a recipe that uses a lot of ingredients. And I imagine that it appeals to some people for the same reason cooking appeals to others. The sense of achievement, and experience gained. Whereas digital photography increasingly has one flavour – neutral – one which you can slap a preset seasoning on.

Film photography aesthetics are like a complex dish. They result from a lot of different ingredients mixed together in a way that works only through luck or when you have acquired the experience to intuitively know what works when, and can improvise well enough to adapt to real-world circumstances. I guess, in a way, a chef in his restaurant is like a studio photographer, working on the best recipes for weeks. In that analogy, the amateur cook making fantastic meals from whatever is available in the shop and fridge is a talented street photographer adapting to the light and available sights. That is why film photographers often describe their craft as more authentic than digital photography. There is more personal intuition to build, and less relying on the machine.


Using digital is a “left brain” experience. You learn, you understand, you do. Using a filmstock requires experience. You need to shoot it, a lot, to gain an intuitive understanding of what it is going to look like in specific situations. You learn not just photography (composition, light …) but also your film. But even then, there is uncertainty. So, to those in the proper state of mind, it not only brings the joy of becoming proficient but also of still being surprised by the results.

When it the last time your digital camera surprised you with its style? ๐Ÿ˜‰

It did happen to me with my current camera. Once. In my review of the Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 with that camera, I made the photograph above, in which the overexposed sun turned black, as in a famous photograph by Ansel Adams. I’ve no idea why or how (and hope I’m remembering this right and didn’t edit the black circle in, in post, but really don’t think so) and that was a surprise.


And then, on top of the complex multi-layered aesthetics, there’s the experience of film.

Youtuber Teo Crawford published the fantastic video essay “Why Film Photography is popular again.” a year ago, and I highly recommend you watch it. It is a heavily researched and fascinating watch and Teo is a good photographer to boot.

There’s little point in me paraphrasing him about his findings, but I’ll add two quick ideas before signing out.

X1D & Audrey again. Film-era lens, still not a film-look image ๐Ÿ˜‰

An important part of the film experience, which we lose with digital, is choosing the filmstock we are going to use – before the shoot – and sticking with it for the 8, 10, 12, 16, 24 or 36 frames the roll is going to last (1 frame, for large format heroes ๐Ÿ˜‰ but loading the film you are taking with you is still an act of selection, a commitment).

This commitment, coupled with the anticipatioin in the wait for results, participates in the fun and in the feedback loop that makes film photography more envolving than picking up our digital camera (and shooting as many frames as it takes). It’s a well established fact that constraints nurture creativity and unlimited possibility stifles it. In exchange for those losses, digital photography has drastically extended the shooting envelope, so it’s not all bad, is it? ๐Ÿ™‚ So, if you are struggling with the idea of film vs digital, it probably pays to ask yourself whether you are a process photographer or an envelope photographer. Do you value results over experience, or vice-versa?

Let’s bring this back to food again. Last month, I was fortunate to eat in two Michelin-star-spangled restaurants. This dessert, below, may well be the best I’ve ever eaten. In both cases, the meals were 8 courses. The setting was luxurious and welcoming. It was the French doing what the French do best.

Speculoos sticks, fennel slices, citron (not lemon) and green lemon sherbet, honey and ginger sauce.

But I also remember climbing a cobbled street near Montalcino, sitting on wooden chairs in a small trattoria, eating a dish of pasta sitting in butter and covered with black truffle, with a glass of 2015 Grattamacco, and repeatedly thinking to myself that life doesn’t get better than that. To me, it doesn’t. Film photography is not just about the taste of the recipe, but about the experience, and the ceremony. Maybe digital photography would be more fulfilling if we made it a personal ceremony again?

Finally, the materiality aspect (holding a physical negative) goes a long way towards making the whole process grounded and fulfilling, as opposed to just sending data to a hard drive and antisocial media. I’ll deal with both those ideas in my next post, about printing, because I feel printing is the perfect antidote to both digital issues. See you then. And please let me know what you think ๐Ÿ™‚


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  • Ian Varkevisser says:

    Hi Pascal,

    Digital may well be moving briskly into the realm of emulating traditional film photography.

    I have recently been following the releases of low cost traditional styled imperfect ( based on designs over 50 yrs old ) primes by chinese companies like 7Artisans, TTartisans and Zonlai to name a few. Yes a basic 35 mm F/1.4 manual prime for around EUR 100.

    The Fuji community ( sorry to bang on about it ) has hundred of recipes emulating old film stock.

    Now combine those with these cheap traditional style lenses and Fuji’s built in camera grain, not noise but simulated grain , and where is it going or already gone ????

    I would be interested to hear some expert opinion in this field based on real data tests if any of the viewers has experimented with this combination.

    Is it simply a non starter, getting there , or a really good solution with all the ‘soul’ of film ??

    At the price I am sorely tempted to forego a tank full of diesel ๐Ÿ™‚



    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Ian, it would indeed be interesting to hear from the experts.

      One of the youtubers I respect the most is Kyle McDougall. He has been working on presets that emulate the look of film on his – wait for it – Fuji GFX100, in order to match the aesthetics of his film work as closely as possible. Here is a very interesting video of his : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ma35aUBJhbk

      And yes, he does use vintage looking glass (a Mitakon, from memory). He gets close, but to my eyes, it’s not really the same. But it’s definitely worth experimenting on.

      I’m more interested in forgetting about the exact look of film and recreating some of the experience. Kyle is a pro, I want to enjoy the process.

      But looking for new lenses is certainly a part of my new hunt and I’ll be working on better presets myself. Plus printing. But I still feel that’s not enough ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I look forward to the results of your week of cycling and the look of the diesel money lenses. That can only be a fascinating experience.


      • Ian Varkevisser says:

        Hi Pascal,

        If one takes a plunge and commits to setting the camera to shoot jpeg 1 recipe only. Then follows this up with targeted dodging and burning and overall exposure adjustment in post processing ( just like in the dark room of the days of old but without inhaling all the carcinogenic chemical fumes of course : ) one moves even closer to the film experience.

        Of course one is always welcome to buy a bottle of developer and open it and inhale the fumes while sitting at ones computer performing mild post processing just to enhance the experience ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ Perhaps that would have a positive effect on the post processing.

        • pascaljappy says:

          That’s exactly what I do. Since some developers of old are out of stock, the replacements come from Burgundy, Tuscany, Stellenbosch. They smell lovely ๐Ÿ˜‰

          Quick question from a Fuji-ignoramus on the Fuji fence: when you shoot that jpeg 1 recipe, do you get a similar look in Lightroom on the RAW file? Is some sort of corresponding profile embedded in the RAW metadata? Or do you have the exact same presets in Lightroom and in the camera? How does that work?


          • Ian Varkevisser says:

            Ah Stellenbosch – a man of infinite taste I see – my alma mater – best value in town over there I suppose and not a bad replacement for developer. I can recommend Mt Vernon 2018 Malbec if available over there. A developer that produces smooth grain and a subtle plum toned saturation with dancing highlights and full bodied shadows.

            With regard to the jpeg raw question – I am not really sure when shooting RAW if the exact jpeg profile is embedded in it. As with all cameras the lightroom simulations do not match the jpeg results from camera exactly.

            It is best to stick with Fuji’s in camera science for the best results. Their technicians have spent long hours approximating their film stock.

            To coin a recent phrase – follow the science ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ except that in this case they really did apply science to their jpeg machine. LOL

            • pascaljappy says:

              Ah, thanks for the Malbec recommendation. An alternative to South America ๐Ÿ™‚ My exposure to Stellenbosch or closely related areas is sadly limited, due to shipping and tax expenses. Cape Point Vineyards Isliedh is one, and the other is a friend’s Pinotage, that I cannot remember exactly the name of. Both excellent wines making me dearly want to visit the area !!!

              Science is what draws me to Fuji. I’m seriously considering a transition and have to say the company’s scientific background and Japanese philosophy speak to me. David Brookover told me about work he did for them long ago, taking photos of Tokyo over and over again so they could fine tune skin tones, leaf tones, sky tones. Such attention to details is marvelous. I’ve never been able to make myself fall in love with a Fuji system, particularly with the GFX, but I’m slowly getting there ๐Ÿ˜‰


          • Ian Varkevisser says:

            To further approximate the film experience one could always go out shooting with a snails pace legacy 2GB card in the camera – and no backup the bag . At 16.2 MB a jpeg image – on my camera that is – that relates to a roll of film of 123 exposures. A mere 5 rolls of film. Probably even a lot less for full frame 50MB digital cameras.

            • Ian Varkevisser says:

              Slap a 1.5GB file on the card before you go out shooting and viola you are stuck with a roll of 30 film

            • pascaljappy says:

              I sense you are taking the mick ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‰
              But come on, it does sound appealing ๐Ÿ˜†

              • Ian Varkevisser says:

                I would never take the mick when it comes to a great Malbec ๐Ÿ™‚

                Regarding the rest of the comments only suggestions if one wishes to try and simulate the old film experience – good advice I thought – Now I am feeling insulted – I need a safe space to retreat to ๐Ÿ˜‰ Or dare I say ‘venerable’ as someone recently accused me of making them feel. I didn’t have the guts to refer them to the meaning of the word LMAO.

              • pascaljappy says:

                Oh dear, an international incident! Well, when you fly over to France to retaliate, let me just promise you a good sample of Burgundy developer to ease the pain ๐Ÿ˜‰

                That was cryptic AF!

              • Ian Varkevisser says:

                Is cryptic Auto Focus a Hassy thing – its new to me – how doe it work

              • pascaljappy says:

                Hassy AF? Slow AF AF is wot ๐Ÿ˜†

              • pascaljappy says:

                Gamification and all that .. Not for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. But on a day to day round-the-house basis?

              • Ian Varkevisser says:

                p.s. just don’t forget to enable the Frames left counter on your display to see how many exposures you have left in the bag

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    In the 1960’s film was fun but unless it was mono (Panatomic X, TriX or Plus X) which I processed myself, the outcome was in the lap (should I say Lab) of the gods. Kodak transparency processing varied from country to country but was usually OK but colour negative was too tricky to try on ones own and the results from most processors was appalling.

    Later in the ’80’s with different kit and shooting CN I rarely enjoyed the results.

    Personally, digital turned it all around and reignited my interest, dare I say passion, for photography.
    Using legacy Nikon glass on a D70 and D200 produced acceptable results (to my very amateur eyes) and I gained a modicum of control as well as instant access.

    As always, Pascal, food for thought and the banter is great.

    As far as wine is concerned, you’ll get more for 10Euro in SA than France ๐Ÿ™‚

    • pascaljappy says:

      Peter, I can only note that the only two people who respond to quality photography and quality food are from South Africa. What does that say about the rest of the wolrd? ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Seriously, though, one interesting fact in Teo Crawford’s video is that most film users are digital natives. They never were … exposed (sorry) … to the difficulties we had with film. It’s amusing that those who have, like me, may pine for the look but stay cautiously away from the reality of labs and film availability. Though, to be fair, it seems labs are better today, if you have lungs and kidneys to spare.

      I don’t know why it took me so long to understand that the “film look” is a composite of many factors (format, lens, film type, development …) but now, it has freed me to search along the directions that matter to me (lenses, grain structure and size, colour “science” …) and forget about the rest (labs, rolls, …).

      10 โ‚ฌ in SA. Hmmm. I’ve long wanted to organize Wine + Photography workshops. We could do the beatiful Champagne area, The Langhe, Provence, Tuscany, Napa, and … the Western Cape, among others. Wouldn’t that be lovely? ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚


  • ……”because I feel printing is the perfect antidote to both digital issues.” There it is, that’s what I was waiting for. As per our earlier conversation at Paris Photo, so much happens on the back end yet so very few travel that road Pascal. Finding an open minded, gifted and ambitious analogue printer and collaborating with them will do more for you than any camera system digital or film. You want flavor this is where you add it in spades.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Indeed David. Even with my tiny home printed, I recently dared to try more “interesting” paper than the glossy Ilford Premium that was lying around and was stunned.

      Printing is where that “materiality” and that “authenticity” come back to life ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope we can do that road trip of great printers together one day!

  • Jeffrey D Mathias says:

    Aside from your food analogies I find your arguments comparing film and digital totally off and incorrect. Further, how can they even be compared when film was typically printed on a paper and digital to a display screen. And then attempting to compare such on a display. (Of course there are many other display types, and ,maybe this is the point here.)

    Example: I can make a film negative and a 16-bit digital negative and they will be identical, the digital having been adjusted to character of the film and the film having been adjusted to print with Pt/Pd. However, and here has been my challenge, the film negative can print a Pt/Pd print while the digital cannot because it is not physical (and there is no reasonable printer to make one.) The film can be scanned and come close to the digital, but neither can find a display that will make them look as a Pt/Pd print is expected.

    The issue you give here is not that of film vs digital, but rather the medium upon which the image is viewed. displays have a long way to go. That is not to say that I do not enjoy your imagery. (And yes, some images can be intended to fit the limitations of a digital display.) I enjoy photographic images fully when viewed as intended. Looking forward to your next post.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Jeffrey, essentially, I’m trying to understand why so many young people are staying away from digital cameras and spending small fortunes on film. And I’ve been trying to get my highlights, midtone contrast and colours to look like film for a while, without complete success.

      I get what you are saying, film needs to be printed to be viewed, not digital. But, if you watch YT channels such as Kyle McDougall and Grainydays, you will see plenty of scanned film that has a character that’s hard to reproduce. Since those guys do not scan but use high-end digital cameras to digitize their negatives/slides, the film has to be the source of the difference.

      I’ve never tried it myself, but you can have internegatives printed on a transparent support, and have Pt/Pd prints made from that. I’ll try one day, and that may be something you enjoy too ๐Ÿ™‚


      • Jeffrey D. Mathias says:

        As to the internegs… been there done that. If one can get ink onto the support in a minimum of 14 bits dynamic range one might just do it. Very expensive now.

        • pascaljappy says:

          Indeed. And so is carbon printing. I’d love to have one or two of mine done that way, but quotes were above 500 โ‚ฌ each, in a fairly small size. Ouch.

  • Rand Scott Adams says:

    Hi Pascal,

    As both a Fuji X and GFX user I can say that youโ€™re onto something with your interest in Fuji and their color science. Iโ€™ll echo what some have said already . . . the Lightroom, ACR or Capture One โ€œversionsโ€ of Fujiโ€™s film recipes are very good, but not exact. But, thereโ€™s a too often unexplored but wonderful option with Fuji cameras – and that is the ability to โ€œspin offโ€ from the raw capture โ€œin cameraโ€ a tiff file w/ any of Fujiโ€™s in camera recipes and modifications to those recipes that are in the camerasโ€™ menus. It can also be done on a computer via Fujiโ€™s X Raw Studio software (with your camera connected). This might even be a sort of โ€œbridgeโ€ between the analog / digital divide. Worth exploring.

    For me, coming from many decades in the analog world, the GFX is an excellent tool for combining the advantages of digital, with the qualitative experience of photographing with film. While a very flexible system, it lends itself to the more immersed way of shooting that is typical of film cameras. The files are rich and flexible and easy to render in any way that suits your mood and esthetic.


    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Rand,

      Very interesting! Thanks. So you shoot RAW in camera, having selected an emulation. Then export a TIFF which embeds the selected preset to your Lightroom (or similar) and it automatically gives you the look of the preset? Is that it? It does sound very film-like, as a process!

      I’m very interested in your take on the file quality, being currently torn between the idea of buying the X2D or the GFX. The GFX has the added bonus of being easier to work with if you are using old lenses, as the X2D has an obligatory silent shutter. The X1D has that internal SSD and that amazing amazing IBIS. But the GFX still does appeal a lot.

      So often, in reviews, GFX images are presented with horrible presets (overdone browns and fake vintage looks) so I can’t imagine a GFX100s file being clean, neutral, malleable. Do you find them to be high quality? Is dynamic range good? As you may know highlight clipping isn’t my favourite thing ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Thanks again. Cheers.

      • Rand Scott Adams says:

        To your first comment… “not exactly.” If one shoots raw + jpeg the jpeg will have whatever film simulation you “pre selected.” But with the in-camera processing it starts with the raw file and you can “tell the camera” to process it into a 16 bit tiff using any of the film simulations, and other parameters, e.g. grain, tone curve, color intensity, etc. The camera then processes and puts “on the SD card” that tiff file. It is unlimited in that you may go back to the original raw and “spin off” as many iterations in tiff as you choose.

        GFX 100(s) files are very high quality. Have the same dynamic range and other qualities as the X2D since it’s the same sensor. File-wise they are equivalent, but I find the GFX a much more flexible system. The GFX using the shutter in electronic-first-curtain mode is pretty quiet, and if the subject allows, full electronic shutter is completely silent (assuming one turns off the ersatz shutter sounds the camera can produce).

        I print for photographers in my area and can say that “the things mankind does” in terms of ugly renderings is true across all camera brands! But it certainly does not have to be so.


        • pascaljappy says:

          Thank you so much, Rand. That is very useful.

          All the best!

        • pascaljappy says:

          Rand, if I may ask one more thing, what do you think of the native GFX lenses?

          One thing the X2D has going for it is lenses that are so sharp they could cut through diamond. Viewed at 200% in Lightroom, images look sharper than my previous camera did at 100%. It’s not really that important, but I wouldn’t want to make a very expensive jump from one brand to the other and regret it because of the glass. The glass is what draws me most to a system. Much more so than the camera itself.

          Thank you again for your input!!

  • Lash LaRue says:

    You have neglected to mention aging eyes. When I see photos that are declared to have certain qualities, I am often unable to see it; 85 year old eyes have their limits. Consequently, your comments on the included images often failed to convince me. Whether an image looks like film may be more subjective than you have imagined.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Aha! Yes, indeed.

      Do you think your eyes would be able to see the differences between a digital file that’s not pretending to be a film image, and a real film-image? Each of my photographs had one aspect of film images, but a real film image has all of them, making for a greater difference (I imagine).

      That’s an intriguing point you make. Teo Crawford explains that most film photographers are digital natives, possibly as a digital detox. But maybe those youngsters are the only population with good enough to see a huge difference. I hadn’t thought of it that way!

      Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Imants says:

    Most convert their film photography into digital thus it becomes something else just another digital image on a backlit screen.
    Film is about creating physical prints directly from a negative

    • pascaljappy says:

      Well, I can understand why youtubers would scan their film to show us the images, and for the easier post-processing, but it seems a shame to print a film image on an inkjet printer. Willem Verbeeck enlarges his the traditional way, and there is a big aesthetic difference, to my eyes.


      • Pascal Ravach says:

        Well, you know how much this is a main topic for me ๐Ÿ™‚
        Yes, printing on inkjet is different; I use an aging Epson 7900, still amongst the “1%” of very good semi-pro printers; nothing even approaches my old Cibachrome… their “metallic” feel is unique, and suits the Fujichrome Velvia so well…
        OEM ink manufacturers have even proposed a “Silver” pigment, but to paraphrase you “close, but no cigar”.
        Regarding the young generation infatuation with analog photography, I think this whole thread misses an important factor; to me while for a few it is a personal quest for a special quality (as it is for you and me old farts), for many it is simply “social” !
        Exactly like LPs in my area of expertise…
        When millions of people have zillions of digital files, analog allows many of them to feel “different”… in High-Fidelity, the best illustration of this is to see some young customers spending 50 to 100 dollars for an LP, buying *a lot* of them, while their turntable is cheap crap ๐Ÿ™‚
        I can’t remember how many times I just told them that buying just 10 LPs less and putting the money in their front end would bring them to such better result, to no avail ๐Ÿ™‚
        In totally analog photography, the real extra effort needed probably means the proportion of those in search of a real experience is higher, but still…

        • pascaljappy says:

          Hi Pascal, the Japanese would have quite a few arguments to add to your Cibachrome point, and I agree entirely. The imperfections and extra layer of depth are what made it so special. Dye transfer also. Some inkjet printing is nice, but nothing really compares to those traditional methods. I think the only colour process alive that does is carbon printing, and that is hugely expensive and time consuming.

          I suspect you are correct also about the motivations behind film photography, for a large part of the digital-native population. It’s a lifestyle choice, motivated in part by the more interesting look out of the box, and partly by the desire to be trendy. It’s a real shame that those 100$ LPs are being gobbled up by people owning turntables that will damage them, but hey … at least they are listening to music and allowing an industry to survive. A good turntable is potentially very expensive. Do you know of a solid option that would be affordable enough for a young population ?

          Thanks for the interesting thoughts !

          • Pascal Ravach says:

            Surprisingly enough, affordable decent turntables have always been available.
            When I wrote ยซย cheap crapย ยป I should have just said ยซย crapย ยป ๐Ÿ˜€
            In fact, even 300,- or 400,- euro buys a decent Pro-Ject with the arm and the cartridge!
            From 300,- to around 1.000,- the choice is so vast that the main issue is which one to choose ! Pro-Ject, Rega and Thorens are classic choices.
            Young ยซย connectedย ยป people can buy USB turntables, or even Wi-Fi ones, including a Phono and sending the signal wirelessly; but the result is not on par with a traditional TT + Phono preamp.

            • pascaljappy says:

              Thanks. Big fan of the cheap Regas here. A planar 3 doesn’t look swanky, but it sure sounds nice for the money.

              Just in case someone interested is reading ๐Ÿ˜‰


  • Nancee Rostad says:

    Enjoyed your images, Pascal! Especially the snowy trees and winding path – beautiful. Iโ€™ve never shot with film, and so have nothing to add to the conversation that your well written post started.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you, Nancee ๐Ÿ™‚
      Film is long in my past. And, as Pascal Ravach suggests in his comment, film today may well be a lifestyle choice very different from what I knew in terms of intention. Whatever the case, I’m not going back. It keeps tempting me, notably through cameras that allow both film and digital backs, but it’s just not worth the hassle.
      Have a lovely day!

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    WOW – well I guess you share the blame for this, Pascal – you’ve chosen a topic you introduce as contoversial, and dug deeply into it.
    The response is overwelming – has it set a record for DS?
    Just for a change I’m stepping back – observing. Not for lack of interest. Just because I’m off duty till the end of next week – stranded in hospital – HATE texting from cellphones, that’s even worse than their limitations as cameras!
    I do sense that we should all pursue the path that gives each of us the greatest personal satisfaction. There can be no “single perfect answer”. Anyway conformity destroys creativity – I could never have had so many disagreements with my parents and teachers, if I hadn’t worked that one out early in my life.
    Of course this suggestion won’t take each of us to the top. But we can’t all rise to the top anyway.
    Better to just enjoy our lives.
    Some with film – some, digi. Some cine, some still. Some lugging tripods to mountain tops & racecourses. Some color, some B&W, some both. Some MF, others FF, HF or smaller. There is no right or wrong.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Oh, hospital!? Hope you’re OK, Pete!!

      I agree, of course, everyone should get on with enjoying their life, not bothering overly about their gear or the gear of others!

      Come back to us soon ๐Ÿ™‚

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        OK? Don’t know, yet. First attempt didn’t work. Tomorrow is going to be unfit for publication – and I won’t be allowed near this phone to let you know how it went, for 24 hours afterwards.

  • PaulB says:


    This post was enjoyable to read, and generated quite the discussion. I think Pete is correct, this may be a discussion for the records.

    I agree that your images have many things that make them enjoyable, though they are missing the film look.

    One aspect of film images that I think you did not mention is depth. Images rendered by the silver halide emulsion are truly three dimensional, since the emulsion is several microns thick.

    PS. A wine and photography workshop sounds like fun.

  • Christian says:

    while I somehow understand the love for old tech ( i work with the wet plate process for some projects ) but this article is a prime example for a total wrong perception, romantizising a technology which had a lot of issues and great limitations.

    “There is more personal intuition to build, and less relying on the machine”

    so using film created by someone in a lab and manufactured in bulk is less relying on a machine than the endless creative opportunities we have today with digital cameras and post processing ?

    all this talk about how film adds to the creative process is the self-deception of photographers which are overwhelmed by the amount of creative possibilities available today and unable to use them to develop a unique personal style for themself.

    outside the hoppyist phantasy world film was also a horror to use when you had to rely on it as a professional, even Ansel Adams fucked up a lot of his famous images !

  • Anthony Dente says:

    Introducing the Leica M-D 262.
    I donโ€™t see the need to emulate film with a digital camera. They are two different formats. The MD does shoot like a film camera, the reason I bought it, and doesnโ€™t have an annoying screen to distract from the simplicity of photography.
    The MD has a surreal almost too perfect rendering whilst my film camera, Nikon F2 is more real and natural in its rendition.
    For me I enjoy bothโ€ฆ!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Well done, Anthony! And I’m glad at least one person appreciates the value of not having a rear screen on some cameras, and not following the same paths. Enjoy!

  • collin says:

    I’m grateful for the article, as I find myself in the midst of a dilemma between film and digital photography. Here’s a collection of insights on the characteristics of film and digital media that I’ve gathered through my research, which I’d like to share:

    Characteristics of Film Photography:
    Key terms include craftsmanship, immersion, randomness, nostalgic aesthetics, and tangibility. Here are some relevant perspectives and sources:

    Wolfgang Tillmans notes a psychological attachment to traditional media hierarchies, where handmade is valued over reproduced, and traditional painting and drafting are seen as superior to printing and screens. This highlights the specificity and hierarchy of media. Despite inkjet printing matching the quality of C-type prints with greater color spaces, people still choose C-type for its connection to negatives (tangible materials rather than code), indicating a pursuit of analog authenticity.

    ERIC KIM points to the randomness and texture brought by grain, which aligns with human DNA preferences.

    Teo Crawford discusses the resurgence of film photography as a desire for nostalgia. The theory of the “Aura” in analog photography emphasizes its materiality and uniqueness, contrasting the overly perfect nature of digital photography. Film’s tangible aspects and selective shooting process foster a focused mindset, known as the photographic gaze, which is driven by subject and motive, whereas digital photography is more about adjusting to achieve the ideal image.

    Grapy7777-Uol, a Master of Photography, mentions the immersion and engagement during shooting, alongside the joy of unexpected outcomes.

    Favian Rafif talks about the film process being mindful, tactile, and authentic, which stimulates creativity.

    Whatโ€™s Buzzing highlights the control over the process, the randomness, uniqueness, and the craftsmanship of film photography.

    Juan Londono Photography emphasizes manual controls and limitations fostering creativity, the unique experience for youngsters who’ve never used film, and the affordability of second-hand film cameras today.

    Characteristics of Digital Photography:
    Keywords: convenience, cost-effectiveness, stability, accurate reproduction, media egalitarianism. Perspectives include:

    Paul Graham praises the high quality and convenience of digital over film, focusing on the importance of what is captured.

    Wolfgang Tillmans speaks to how digital technologies, like inkjet printers, have created unprecedented equality among different media. The clarity of small digital cameras can match large-format film, making it unnecessary to artificially add texture to these images. Digital photos offer an emotional impact and intensity through their surreal, non-nostalgic representation.

    Comments on “Why I’m saying goodbye to digital photography” raise questions about the perceivability of the medium by the viewer, such as whether a piece was shot on film.

    Roger Deakins notes the reduction in waiting and uncertainty after shooting.

    Jim Kasson compares the efficiency of printing to darkroom processes, with digital prints matching the quality of 4×5 film and achieving high color accuracy.

    As for me, I’m still caught between the two mediums. The shooting experience offered by film is particularly appealing, but the rising costs of film photography and my recent admiration for postmodern artists like Wolfgang Tillmans have led me to contemplate the switch to digital.

    • pascaljappy says:

      That’s a wonderful comment, Collin, thank you! In fact, it’s a shame that few people will read it because it is not a post. So if you’re interested in publishing it as a post, you are very welcome ๐Ÿ™‚

      As for answering your question, it is indeed difficult. One thing that appeals to me tremendously in film is the variety of sizes and formats. Having identical grain and “colour” in each format means the larger ones feel smoother and the smaller ones feel grainier. For me, medium format (6×6 or 6×7) is the sweet spot and creates a wonderful image that is both organic and dense and rich in detail, but has more depth of field than what large format produces. In a recent video, someone was comparing the Hasselblad 907x 100 Mp with XCD lenses, the same back on a Hassy 500CM body with a vintage Hassy lens and the same body/lens on film. And film just blew the excellent 907x into the weeds. Colour was so much more palpable and rich, particularly in the sky. Compared to it, the (excellent) 907x looked quite gray and flat.

      In spite of this, I’m sticking with digital, as my lifestyle doesn’t allow me the time needed to scan/correct those film images. But, if the choice was completely mine, I’d go back to film in a heartbeat. I think the decision should be tied to what will yield more keepers. If you are short on time like me, digital seems like the better idea. Otherwise, I just don’t think digital has caught up yet ๐Ÿ˜‰


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