Getting into Film Photography Pt 3 – Film

04Oct17

INTRO

Ok, so you have made the decision to get on to the Analogue photography train, either for the first time or you are getting back on to it after spending time in the digital world, and after much thought and research, a camera has been purchased, lenses (if you have gone SLR or Rangefinder ILC) but now the big thing is what film do i shoot, or for returning photographers, what film is still around?

The latter part of the question is most definitely relevant to many as over the last 15 years we have seen many classic films disappear from basic 35mm colour negative films to legends like Kodachrome.

For probably the best list of what films are still available, check out Kosmo Photo’s blog for the list  PART 1 and PART 2    Though i am sure that the list is not complete yet…

Colour or Black & White?

The age old question among photographers.. do i shoot colour or black and white?   This is a question i have never been able to fully answer myself, so personally, i shoot both because a lot of things i like are in colour, but some things also look amazing in black and white too,  quite often i will carry a couple of cameras, one loaded with B+W and one loaded with colour film.

Colour film is the standard, it has been now for so many years, why? because it is still easily processed commercially by the majority of photo labs.

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Troops on Tank, Colour negative film scanned,

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P-40 at rest,  Lomography 400ASA B+W film

Black and white film gives that gorgeous look that can be moody and intense, or light and playful, plus most labs can still process it, or you can process it at home with reasonably basic facilities.

In the colour film world, Fuji films are known for their punchy/vibrant greens and blues,  whereas Kodak had gorgeous Yellow and red tones, even among one brands range of films, looks can be different. For example, Kodak Portra is well know for really nice pleasing skin tones, but Ektar is bright and vibrant, and the legendary Kodachrome film had a look all its own that even spawned a hit song by the famous songwriter and photographer Paul Simon.

Black & White films are generally regarded on their grain structure and also the tonal range,  some films have gained legendary status, while others do not get the recognition that is deserved. The other reason B+W film  is so popular, it’s easy to develop at home!

Films like Ilford PanF have a following among landscape photographers with its 50ASA rating, it has super fine grain, and allows massive prints to be made with excellent tonal range that will deliver deep rich blacks, but still deliver crisp whites. I personally have used PanF 50 and printed 20×24″ prints from a 35mm negative that looked stunning.PanF

Yet also from Ilford the HP5+  is a 400ASA film that delivers superb tone, with a bit more grain, but still very well controlled for printing.

Kodak’s Legendary Tri-X and T/Max films give black and white shooters fine grain production, but superb tonal ranges that street and portrait shooters love.TriX

One other Black & White film that deserves a mention here is the Ilford SFX200, this 200ASA film is an extended red film,  this gives some gorgeous effects, especially when combined with filters can deliver some stunning images

Another film type is Transparency Film, aka Slide film.. Slide film reproduces images as they are colour wise, they are not a negative like normal film, so this means instead of reversed colours, the colours are as they should be. The big thing with Slide film is that it requires a different process to develop them, and this process is a bit more complicated and expensive than a traditional colour film, and here in NZ at least, there are few labs that can process it in house (our lab service is one though) although you can cross process many slide films for a different look…

Among the well known Slide films, Fujifilm produce Velvia in 50 & 100ASA speeds, and Provia in 100ASA, and there are others by small companies such as Lomography, Rollei and others.

Kodak currently have no Slide film available, but have had some of the most well known slide films in EktaChrome and Kodachrome, Kodacrhome was discontinued in the mid 2000’s as it was pretty difficult to process and by the early 2000’s there was only one lab in the world who processed it. Ektachrome on the other hand, was more easily processed and the main process is still available in labs around the world.  Ektachrome was a staple of National Geographic photographers for many many years.
Motion Pictures were shot using transparency films, and even now a number of major motion picture directors still shoot film and have committed to shooting the medium even for major Hollywood pictures.Ektachrom12

As a result of major movies being shot on film, and a revival of analogue photography, earlier in 2017 Kodak announced that they would be bringing Ektacrhome back in 100ASA  for 35mm still and super 8 movie cameras.

The other neat thing is that there are lots of companies out there releasing films as well, companies such as Film Ferrania, Kosmo Foto,  Lomography, Rollei, Agfa, Godox , Revolog, Cinestill, JCH and Fomopan to name  a few.
So as much as people say Analogue photography is dead, i personally beg to differ, not only is it still alive and kicking, but it is getting stronger again!

My best advice on choosing film, buy lots of different film, shoot it all, process it and see how it comes out and if you like it, shoot it again!

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