November 2019

Is Film Dead?

Film is not dead! And probably will never really be. But it definitely is challenged since digital tools get not only better, but smaller. My friend Peter (aka @tastycreates) got a new iPhone 11 Pro and was just stunned by the camera quality. So when I suggested to go out into nature to shoot random things I wanted to bring my Yashica-D Medium Format Twin-Lens camera along, just for comparison. Oh and of course this will be a purely subjective comparison ... 

Peter’s iPhone Shots

Peter shot his pictures on an iPhone 11 Pro Max which now has 3 focal lenghts available. The selfie he shot only using the front camera which – and that’s the first surprise – is actually much improved to what I know from iPhones so far. He was using the VSCOcam app for editing and his usual settings to do so (not trying to mimic my film look in perticular).

I’m just in awe of what the iPhone 11 Pro can do in terms of (fake) shallow depth of field; and how the direct sunlight hitting the lens actually produces a smooth and pleasant looking roll off. Where I see my eyes crinch a bit is when the HDR mode stars to fill in a pretty solid blue in the sky. It does look unnatural to me.

Gregor’s Medium Format Shots

I shot my photos on Kodak Ektar 100 roll film with a 50mm equivalent lens on a Yashica-D. All settings had to be set manually in my case. The photos were scanned at my lab of choice in Vienna, I only did minor color tweaks to make them more cohesive and correct a few exposure mishaps (yup, I’m a bit out of practice when it comes to manual light metering).

As expected the medium format shots give me a smooth and buttery shallow depth of field if needed. This camera is by far not a professional tool and has its limitations but I was happy to see to have some control over effects that I wanted to achieve. What surprised me is that the Ektar 100 did not pick up a lot of color in the highlights once the environment was a bit dim. 

Peter definitely had more creative freedom being able to choose between a somewhat 13mm, 26mm or 52mm equivalent lens. And he put it to use nicely. Architecture on the super wide angle lens just looks amazing. And it’s pretty great how you can manually control the exposure of course and see directly what you get. Mobile photography became a real thing by now and the results (depending on the editing mostly) are getting definitely better. And sometimes I think you can even achieve results that would stand up in a professional workflow (especially with RAW shooting).

The 50mm equivalent lens on the Yashica-D is a good alrounder of course. But sometimes I feel very limited for some sceneriee. What I do have to say is that I like the big view finder with the magnifying lens. The only thing I really had to get used to again was that everyting is mirrored. But it gives you good accuracy for the manual focus. To have better control over my exposure I used the “Lightmeter” App on my phone when I wasn’t quite certain about the settings. But as it is with any film camera – once you hit the shutter you can only hope you got it right.

So what now!?

I haven’t used my Yashica in ages and it was very much fun to take it out for a sping again. The look of film is still quite magical to me. But the inconvenience and uncertainty of film and a manual camera honestly starts to stress me out. Seeing beautiful moments I do want to be 100% sure that I was capturing them in the best way possible. Only very experienced film photographers probably can sleep well after exposing a full roll.

What would I use it for? Well probably to challenge my eye again. I am a strong believer that limiting my technical tools will force me to think more about composition. So the Yashica-D will probably not disappear of my equipment drawer. But it probably will sit there for a while now again until I take her out.

And then there’s the cost. One shot of the medium format film cost me about 3 euros each to buy the roll, get the film developed and scanned. After 440 shots I could buy myself an iPhone 11 Pro – and would probably shoot 100 times more fotos with it. 

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