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9 REASONS WHY FILM PHOTOGRAPHY IS ON THE RISE

by ARTBYPINO - Images by @JeremyRata


1. Authenticity & Credibility: Think of something handmade versus machine-made. You know that the person that handmade it put thought and effort into it; there is a certain amount of craftsmanship for which you are willing to pay a premium price. Taking pictures with a film camera is similar. Not everyone can do it well. It takes practice and experience to produce stellar film images that come with shooting rolls and rolls of film using different films and cameras. Each film type has its personality – a unique look.

If you gave a monkey a DSLR and it takes 1,000 images in an hour, a handful are bound to be great images. The film reveals a photographer’s true depth of knowledge, experience, and creativity, with only 24-36 frames available to shoot on a film roll. That number further reduces if they are shooting 6×6 medium format – it goes down to 12 images. If they are shooting a large format, now it is down to 2 images.

@jeremyrata Shot on Rolleiflex 75mm f3.5 - Film: IlfordXP2 400.

Given the cost of each frame or shot (£0.xx to £x.xx), a photographer must be decisive and conversant with photography to produce a pleasing image. The learning curve with the film is much steeper. Unless one thoroughly understands the Exposure or Photography Triangle, one is unlikely to get far in film photography. The yearning to be a real photographer contributes to film photography’s revival—authenticity and credibility as a photographer that results in a more rewarding experience. While buying fully automatic film cameras is possible, people who shoot with film do it for pleasure, the reward of controlling all aspects of creating an image. One has to evaluate the light quality, the angle, the film type (color or black & white, ISO), the lens, the aperture, and the shutter speed. People realise a difference between applying a filter on an app to a digital image versus shooting the real thing – on film. It takes creativity at a higher level than a digital filter applied to an image on a DSLR.


2. Richer Images: The film captures a dynamic range (the difference between lighting and shadows) that digital struggles to render. Theoretically, the digital sensor is better at capturing the dynamic range than a film camera (9-12 stops of light versus six stops on film). To get the same effect on digital, one has to shoot multiple shots at varying exposures using exposure compensation or bracketing. Then, you merge the images in the digital darkroom (Photoshop or Lightroom). This way, you have different exposures of the same scene that record the different light levels preserved upon the merged image and look equivalent to film but not quite. There is a certain depth in film images you don’t see in digital photos. If you learn to set your exposure right on film, you can capture that dynamic range in one shot. The images are classy.


@jeremyrata Shot on Hasselblad H3 35mm f3.5 lens - Film: Fuji Provia 100F


3. Unmatched Aesthetics: The film’s look is unique and imperfect – an unmatched aesthetic. Digital gives a clinical look to pictures. Crisp, sharp, vivid, and entirely predictable. Another way to think about this – listening to Bob Marley or UB40 on Vinyl versus a CD. There is a richness or warmth that you experience listening to a Vinyl record. Few photographers stand out with digital photography as the technology is within the masses’ reach. HDR had its time of glory. As did the bright, airy, and rustic presets. In digital, such looks start with one photographer, and the crowd immediately imitates it. With film, not quite the same. Not easy for the masses to recreate the unique look that a photographer gives to their images. It helps establish a unique style attributed to the photographer leaving her or his signature on every film image. In the film, the color saturation, depth, the grain adds flair to the photos. Each film stock has its unique flair. Yes, there are presets that one can use in digital to give it a film look. But then, presets can never replicate the entire film shooting experience. Only the most trained eye could discern between an image shot on film versus a digital image expertly manipulated with film-look presets on smaller screens.



@jeremyrata Shot on Hasselblad 503CW 50mm F4 Cfi lens - Film: Kodak Ektar 100



4. Therapeutic: Shooting with film is considered and calming. One has to concentrate on a deeper level than taking a picture with a DSLR and consider various factors. A film photographer strives to get the image right in the camera and relies less on post-production. Adding to the therapeutic value is the lack of instant gratification, waiting for the film’s results. We asked our Customers – 90% of those in the 18-25 age group – what attracted them to film photography. Typically, the number one response is ‘the look’ followed by delayed gratification, the mystery of not knowing the result. In the case of black and white film, deciding what chemistry to use as different chemistry allows different results from the same kind of film; it is almost meditative to shoot with film. With digital, while one has to evaluate some of the same variables, a burst mode of shots is possible or relatively affordable and move on to the next. It is not as deliberate of a process as it is with the film. With film, it is like the old saying, “measure twice (or thrice) and cut once.” Even if an app or film preset on digital emulates, the look of the film, where it fails, is in the inability to recreate the process of shooting film photographs. The entire ritual of thinking about what film to use – color or black & white? Then, decide what ISO film to use. Opting for black & white decides what chemistry you will use to develop the film after shooting. Each chemistry combination with film stock gives it a different look—a hands-on affair to get that unique photograph.

@jeremyrata Shot on Rollei 35 f3.5 Carl Zeiss Lens - Film: Ilford XP2 400



5. Making a print from the film is remarkably different from printing a digital image—such prints stand out. You have probably seen them in museums that display old photographic prints. It is not an image printed on a printer like digital images. But, to experience the sheer majesty of a film image, a picture is made from the negative by hand. It is a different kind of craftsmanship dwindling in the digital age. It takes an extensive setup to create a print from a negative. Outside of academic institutions offering film photography courses, few commercial outlets provide it. Yes, smaller-scale darkroom printing can be set up at home using an area with water access nearby, ideally, the bathroom. An enlarger is needed to create prints. The black and white photos are known as ‘true’ black and white prints as they use silver gelatin to create the picture.


@jeremyrata Shot on Rolleiflex 80mm F2.8F - Film: Ilford XP2 400



6. Simplicity: Once upon a time, you needed a proper darkroom setup to develop or process film. That was a luxury for someone pursuing film photography as a passion or a hobby. For one, having space and for another, the required array of equipment and plumbing added to the cost. Those days are gone unless you intend to make analog prints at home. If you are taking the hybrid approach as mentioned below, for about $200, you can put together the necessary equipment and supplies necessary to develop or process 35mm and 120 medium format films. Furthermore, companies like CineStill Film have simplified developing chemistry using chemical resources that were not in existence when film-developing processes were first invented. This has had multiple advantages – simplicity, lower cost, and, perhaps, the biggest advantage being safety (read more about safety on the CineStill Film site).



@jeremyrata Shot on Rolleiflex 80mm f2.8F - Film: Kodak Ektar 100


7. Longevity and cost of film as a medium: Interestingly, film photographers buy older cameras, some over 50 years old. Once such cameras are overhauled (lubricants dry out, and if you don’t get them cleaned, lubricated, and adjusted, it is a matter of time before a mechanical spring breaks), they will last another generation. Consider the longevity of the digital format, where photographers update their cameras every 2-5 years. Another consideration – look at the cost of medium-format digital cameras compared to shooting medium-format film that is scanned. The MF film costs are much lower. Also, film images are captured on a negative. Something tangible. Compare that to the horror stories of someone who had lost all their digital image files due to a hard drive crash. You get the point.


@jeremyrata Shot on Leica iiif 50mm f2 Summitar - Film: Kodax T-Max 400



8. Exclusivity: Well-known photographers are beginning to include film shots as part of their wedding/documentary work. Why? They are exclusive and not within everyone’s reach due to the costs associated with the cost of the film, the shooting, development, digitization (converting the analog image to digital), and printing or having prints made from negatives. So, for Clients wanting the best of everything in life, it is an allure to capture their special moments on film.

@jeremyrata Shot on Rolleiflex 80mm f2.8 - Film: Kodak Portra 160



9. Authentic Look: We are still determining if Covid-19 has had anything to do with this, but the trend is to capture folks as their true selves, which means no airbrushing and no photoshopping, but creating images of folks in genuine form. Folks want the real thing. Not a fantasy or make-believe image. They desire to be captured in a picture of their real persona. The film does this very well in a flattering way. Use a film such as Ilford XP2 400, Kodak Tri-X, or Kodak Portra 160 for a portrait shoot, and you will see what we mean. Be sure to get the roll developed at a professional lab for the best results. Why a professional lab instead of a low-cost option offered by someone down the street? A controlled developing process and better scanning from the pro lab.

@jeremyrata Shot on Rolleiflex 80mm f2.8 - Film: Kodak Ektar 100

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Film Cameras - Buy/Sell/Keep/Avoid

27th August 2022


In this monthly blog I will will feature four film cameras that I think are either worth buying, have had their day, are worth keeping or are to be avoided.


It is intended to be a fun piece and I welcome any feedback or discussion (providing it is polite).


Please remember this is a personal opinion piece based on buying film cameras over the last twenty five years and for the last two years selling them, so please don't be offended if I list your favourite camera in 'Avoid'! We are all entitled to our opinions after all.

 

Buy/Sell/Keep/Avoid - How it works


I take four cameras freely available in the marketplace, online or other, and rate them as to whether you should be putting them in your wishlist to 'Buy', or if you own them to 'Keep' as they will appreciate, be ever harder to find in a reasonable condition and therefore become ever more desirable, or if they have had their day they should be a 'Sell' as they will potentially lose their sheen, or finally 'Avoid' that camera you have had your eye on but you really shouldn't!


I will detail my reasons, which may or may not meet with agreement but will be based on my personal experience or of those of people I know and respect.


I use the following perspectives (not exclusively) that lead me to my conclusions:

Quality (both build and image potential)

Performance and reliability

Value

Price Trajectory

Form and Function

Desirability (both as a reason to own and not to own)


So all that said here goes!




Buy


The Nikon F100



Introduced in 1999 just as digital cameras were starting their march towards photographic domination, this beautiful camera was designed to appeal to photographers who wanted a camera capable of professional results but didn't want to lug around the behemoth F5. The significantly more expensive and better Nikon F6 was launched in 2004 but the F100 still had its place and lasted another couple of years until production of the F100 ceased in 2006.


Still capable of working with pretty much all of the modern Nikon AFS and later G lenses, the F100 handles better than the F5 and is about half the weight. It has a very good auto focus capability for a camera of that era (way better than the F5) and is robust enough to handle supremely in challenging locations. And it is serviceable/repairable.


Negatives are that the LCD viewfinders can be unreliable (but there are parts around to sort that) so check that out and the grip/leather gets very sticky and tatty over time.


Whilst not pretending to be an F6 alternative (although it really is) it is a brilliant film camera that is ideal for 'Nikonistas' that don't want to fork out big bucks for an F6 but still get a camera capable of pro quality imagery. And then there's those Nikon lenses...all of them!


It is gaining in popularity. Boxed versions can be found on eBay for around £250 which is one of photography's great bargains.....but don't hang around, given the F6 currently goes for around four or five times more I expect to see the prices for the Nikon F100 go up.


Grab one whilst you can.


 

SELL


The Contax T2


Now I know this one is probably going to be the most controversial one but bear with me.


By way of background Contax was originally conceived in 1932 as the first rangefinder by the Zeiss Ikon company. After the war in 1947 Contax was formed in Eastern Germany to make other cameras amongst then their first SLR. In 1972 Contax and Yashica partnered up, enabling the Japanese company in essence to secure supply of the Carl Zeiss lenses and produce a line of far more credible cameras. Yashica was swallowed up by Kyocera (in 1984) at the same time the Contax T was introduced. After the onset of digital cameras and mounting losses Kyocera left the camera production business in 2005 and since then the Contax brand has remained dormant. Predictably there is now no Contax production facility, no parts supply or after sales back up, nothing.


The Contax T2 is an excellent camera, it does everything well and has that brilliant Carl Zeiss 38mm f2.8 lens. But....since a Kardashian/Jenner fired the gun on must have accessories on a chat show this camera has garnered a cult following and prices are ridiculous as a result. It seems that no self respecting hipster would be without one, loaded with the ubiquitous Portra 400 and worn as a fashion/wealth statement. Be that as it may, in terms of capability it is a brilliant camera (if you ignore the distinctly average viewfinder and the inability to shoot wide open in certain light conditions), but it isn't that brilliant in some other more important ways.


As the era of digital dawned back in the early 2000's you could pick one up for around £200. Now it is not uncommon for them to be fetching over £1,000 on eBay and if you go for the black copy then nearer £1,500. And here's the rub, whilst brilliant they can be brittle in one key area. The electronics in them are beginning to get a reputation for unreliability and are expensive to fix, in some cases unfixable.


I would be very wary of buying one now (particularly off eBay) as the 'value v risk' coefficient possibly makes them economically unviable. And that is why I would recommend that if you have one now is the time to consider its future with you. Prices are at an all time high, as the reliability issues become more common that may slide. If you have to have a Contax go for the mainly manual T, same lens and way cheaper but with the same electronic gremlins, crucially between a third and a half the price of a T2, so a less expensive paperweight when it fails.


Alternatively, here are a few options that are more reliable - at the top end a Leica Minilux or a Nikon Ti - both reliable and repairable - or a more reasonable but brilliant Yashica T4. If the lens is your reason for owning then the all manual Rollei 35s has pretty much the same lens, is nearly a 1/3rd of the price and much cooler!


However if you have, or hanker after, a camera that fits with the hipster image of drinking free trade coffee when visiting the Brick Lane Coffee shop then maybe stick with it or go for it. Ignore the irony that a Kardashian family member (torch bearers for rampant consumerism) made the market for this camera, so enjoy it whilst it lasts.


The Contax T2 is an undeniably brilliant camera but it isn't the only brilliant compact out there, and the value is no longer there.


Sell it.


 


Keep


The Leica M2


Probably not a difficult one this, but if you are lucky enough to own a Leica M2 then unless you have a bailiff at your door, do not let it go.


One of the most underrated cameras in the Leica film camera stable for years it has sat below the M3 in terms of price, popularity and to some people desirability. That is changing. It was produced in 1958, first sold as a budget Leica compared to the M3 which confusingly was produced four years earlier, and for years it has been underpriced compared to the M3, but the gap is narrowing and for good reason, it is every bit as capable as its big sister.


The prices for an M2 five years ago were about 70% of a comparable condition M3. Now they are pretty much the same. Its illustrious sister the M3 gets all the plaudits and rightly so, I even have one, but I wish I had an M2.


Both are made of brass and have the highest quality construction of any subsequent Leica M cameras especially the more cheaply constructed M6 which is made from zinc, alloy and the odd bit of plastic.


Ok so the M2 has a .72mm viewfinder as opposed to the .91mm viewfinder in the M3 but it is this that enables better frame lines, those glorious frame lines of 35mm/50mm & 90mm which means you don't need to guess or have an add on viewfinder, so you can put a lightmeter on your cold-shoe if you feel the need! The M3 has no 35mm frame line but it does have the 135mm frame line.... exactly. When did anyone last shoot a Leica with a 135mm lens? Why would anyone even do that? Oh and the film counter on the M2 is a bit pedestrian.


The M2 is aesthetically prettier than the M3 too in my opinion, it's slightly less angular and notchy, altogether better looking.


If you own one and plan to sell it I wouldn't, it's a beauty.


For now I'd hold on.


 

Avoid



The Diana F+




Ok, now I know that the price of film is going up fast and this is bad news, it risks once again killing off a beautiful medium, but if you have to waste film don't do it with a Diana F+


Thought by some to be mildly amusing and interesting (as it shoots 120), the Diana F+ is neither of those things.


To my mind they are bottom end useless and the appeal is only in the aesthetic, which is tenuous at best. Yes it shoots medium format film, but that is counter intuitive. Medium Format is all about the size of the negative to get an even better more detailed image. Isn't it? A Diana uses plastic glass. How is that aiding the process? It is a plastic camera with a plastic lens that produces plastic imagery. And at £70 it is not even that cheap to buy. If you have to have an egalitarian camera then there are better options around.


If plastic is fantastic in this upside down world then try the Kodak Ektar Half Frame Camera if you really have to, it is half the price and twice the fun. You get 72 images out of a standard roll of 36 exposure 35mm film and it is way cooler than the Diana. It even has a built in flash. Now this I get. Fast, practical and fun. And you get 72 images not 10 or 12.


I do like the idea of a cheap(ish) medium format camera that is capable of producing great results, but this one just doesn't.


If you want a good cheap MF camera and if you don't mind risking President Zelensky's disappointment in you, try a Moskva, Lubitel or a Horizon (yes they are Russian, the last two made by the same company). Or if you do want to support Ukraine (in spirit obviously) then try a Kiev 80 or 88. All are Medium Format, all believe the Crimea is part of Ukraine and all are a good, longer lasting alternative. The Kievs are cheap as chips and a load of fun. They also made excellent Contax tooled Rangefinders for 35mm photography too that are a steal.


All are far more likely to float your boat than the Diana F+ and unlike the Russian effort are pretty cool looking to boot.


Хай живе Україна - Уникайте



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Welcome to the FilmFurbish Blog - About all things Camera & Film related





My name is Jeremy Rata. I am a photographer who has been exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery and provided the imagery for the book Afghan Faces. You can see my work on www.jeremyrata.com


In March 2020 in the teeth of lockdown I started working on FilmFurbish as I had little else to do! It all came about after I bought a Rollei 35 off eBay, I wanted a small film camera to shoot some film during the pandemic and didn't want to spend money I didn't have on a Leica. Of course, as is so often the case on online auction sites it was a basket case despite being sold as mint!


I shoot Rolleiflex TLR's and have them serviced by the UK's leading specialist so I called him to see if he knew anything about them, it turned out he was trained on them at the factory so I landed on my feet. He repaired it to as good as new standard. From there the idea for FilmFurbish was born. In the absence of anything else to do I decided that online retail would keep me out of mischief so I set about buying a half a dozen of them, sent them all to be serviced and I was on my way.


I launched the website proper in November 2020. It has been a great success I am pleased to say. Nearly a year ago I boldly stated that I intended to launch a Blog. Well, albeit a bit later than planned, here it is! I hope to make it a bit more interesting than just a 'sales' blog and at times I intend to be slightly controversial, alongside trying to convert the unconverted to the Rollei 35 and Canon Rangefinder.


I have decided to blog every month, sometimes more, sometimes less in 4 or 5 key areas;


  • A buying advice blog called 'Buy/Sell/Keep/Avoid' that centres on my picks of the month that I would be buying if I didn't already have too much stock. It won't be a plug for Rollei's and Canon's it will be a genuine opinion piece on what i think is good/bad or ugly! It will probably be a bit controversial but I will explain my reasoning.


  • A market watch piece called rather predictably 'Monthly Market Watch', heavily focused around eBay, on what film camera prices are doing and where the bargains lie. It will be largely concentrating on Rollei 35's and Canon Rangefinders but not exclusively so.


  • A feature piece on an individual camera, under the title of 'Camera of the Month' which will be from my stock, so mainly Rollei/Canon based bur once again not exclusively so, for instance I plan to feature the Panon Wideluxe which I don't sell.


  • And finally I will feature a guest photographer from my database telling their story around film photography along with around half a dozen of their images.


If you haven't subscribed yet please do. I will also occasionally put a few offers or sale items on that are available only to subscribers.



This is me, in a Hotel Room in Dhaka getting ready to go out and take some images with a Leica iiif in stifling heat! (Ilford XP2 Super 400)



So that's it! Welcome!

Do feel free to comment, positively or negatively, it would be a dull world if we all agreed and please support the site if you feel able. This is genuinely one man trying his best to keep himself and the film world thriving

 

A quick Poll to finish with


Do you like a re-skinned Camera?

  • Yes indeedy!

  • Not whilst I draw breath!


Please click on the button below to return to the site, and if you haven't already please support the site by subscribing. It really is very much appreciated.


Thank You

Jeremy


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