Film photography tends to get romanticized these days. Aspiring Jurgen Tellers and Lomographers will wax poetic about the “transcendent experience of shooting film” and the “joy of just shooting”. Hell, we’ve probably said both. The fact of the matter is that most people I’ve talked to about shooting film were a bit short when it came to real, logical explanations for why they love this outdated technology so much. As an avid digital photographer I couldn’t quite figure out what all the fuss was about, but I was willing to give it a shot. After about 72 rolls of film split 50/50 between 35mm and medium format over the past year (for those keeping track at home that’s about a Canon 70D in film and development costs) it’s safe to say that I’ve been won over. I’ll save you the metaphysics and poetry and get right into why I’m in love.
- COST EFFECTIVENESS - I know this first one sounds like a joke but bear with me. Medium-format film has a bunch of really interesting advantages over puny 35mm roll film (and digital DSLRs). The depth of field is better because of the larger film area, images are sharper because they’re usually scaled up less than 35mm (they can subsequently be enlarged way more), and thanks to some optical trickery they more closely emulate what the world looks like to the human eye. A roll of medium-format film has 12 frames and costs about $10 to buy and develop. Shelling out nearly a dollar per picture might seem unbelievably expensive until you consider the digital alternative. If you want to shoot medium format digitally, get ready for some sticker shock. A mid-range digital medium-format camera will run somewhere in the neighborhood of $15,000; an excellent one will be closer to $30,000. That’s the cost equivalent of a film-based Hasselblad 500C/M and 2,800 rolls of film. In fairness, you’ll need to buy a good scanner to get the best of your film shots, but even including that it’s still a significant savings unless you’re shooting a lot and getting compensated well for it. So concrete reason number one why I’m in love with film? I can get the amazing results of medium-format photography without auctioning off naming rights to my first-born.