Why the hell should I do this, you may ask. And then you will list all the disadvantages as a slow workflow from the exposure to the final image, that you can’t control immediately, what you have shot. That you only have a limited number of pictures on a film, that you can’t change the ISO setting from one image to the next and, and, and….
Well and now after many years of technical development even hardcore analogue-fans have to admit that the technical quality of digitally taken pictures are better than those exposed on film. But have you ever asked yourself why all these great photographers, who we admire so often, could take their pictures without any digital help?
The answer is obvious: It’s not only a question of used technology.
For us analogue photography is neither better nor worse than digital photography. We are using both. But the analogue photos have this special look and feel that can hardly be imitated with digital equipment. You can add “analogue grain” of higher ISO films in the digital post production but you have to admit that your images will lose their authenticity.
Take a walk through „The analogue competitive“ magazine and you will probably understand what we mean. May even be that you want to try yourself?
So what do you need for your first analogue Experiments?
Maybe you still own an old analogue camera. If not you can buy one for little money. Unless you don´t want to buy a Leica Rangefinder or a Hasselblad medium format camera you will see, that the equipment is very cheap. There are a lot of good working analogue cams on the web with excellent and cheap lenses for about 50-100 Dollars or simply ask your local photo equipment dealer. What else do you need? Right, a film which you can buy everywhere. That’s it. Take it and go out shooting. Your camera is not working automatically? Well than you definitely need a light meter… or much experience.
You have the choice between a 35mm camera or a medium format camera. If you buy a used one you can get nearly everything that has been produced since photography exists. Lets begin with 35mm Cameras. If you are addicted to rangefinder cams, a used Leica maybe the perfect choice for you. Normally even older models work great. If you can´t afford it, try a Russian rangefinder like the Zorki. This ones you get very cheap on eBay. Even some russian lenses have a good reputation. Of course you can also buy a 35mm SLR camera. Almost every brand is still to get (Canon, Nikon, Contax, Yashica, Minolta ….) They are cheap and the older ones are even smaller than the big digital SLR cameras from today. And remember, the size of film has the same size as a modern high expensive digital full frame chip. There is no crop-factor. A 50mm lens means 50mm focus and that’s it.
Here is an example for a 35mm shoot with a Russian Zorki 3M
Maybe you want to buy a medium format camera with a 120 roll-film. Hasselblads or Rolleiflex are great but of course still expensive. You can get cheaper ones in compact sizes like elder folding cameras, such as Agfa Isolette, Franka Solida etc. There are also other nice working and looking twin eye cameras (Yashica) available on the web.
Hasselblad SWC (wide-angle-lens Zeiss Biogon) working on 120mm Film
What about films? There is still a lot of material in the market. The first you have to decide if you want to shoot on a color or a black and white film. Then you have to look for the sensitivity to light (ISO). We suppose you know what the ISO value on you digital camera means. The light sensitivity of a film is measured in ISO values too. There is no difference. But you should know that the higher the ISO number is, the more grain you will get. In former times all photographers wanted to see as little grain as possible. The owner of a small photo lab in Cologne recently told us, that today more grain is very trendy. He is selling more than usual 400 – 800 ISO films. Many photographers, especially those working on streets want these films and even the digital equipment users try to imitate this old-fashioned look on their computers. So please ask your dealer for films with more or less grain.
To come back in the digital world: to post your pictures where ever you want, you need your negatives scanned. Either your local drugstore will do it for you or you should buy a good scanner.
So you are back in the normal workflow that you know from your digital work up to now. But you will have won the special look of the film material. You can print your images or leave it in digital form. But we as lovers of this calm and unexcited photography, we want to make our own prints from the negatives on special photography-paper. You certainly will find small photo labs in your home-town which are glad to do this for you.
So what do you think? Is it worth trying to shoot the analogue way? Go out and make you first steps – we are waiting for you!
Michael Gehling & Frieder Zimmermann