Why I still use a film camera

Most serious photographers have now ‘gone digital’, throwing away their old film cameras and investing in expensive new all-digital ones. I thought long and hard about this route at the time, and made a very deliberate decision that I’m going to hold off as long as possible and stay with film until the last minute. Here’s why…

Nearly all my photographic work over the last 30 years has been on colour slides for projection, (and a spell of a few years of black and white printing in the darkroom). Prints can be made from slides, although I didn’t do this very often. I do a lot of club photography and enter mainly into the slide section of competitions. Digital cameras do not generate slides without going to an external house to have them made.
Digital SLR cameras use the same lenses as their film counterparts but the sensor is smaller, meaning that the effective focal length of lenses is increased by some 60%. This is fine if you’re into sports work with telephotos, but not if you like wide-angle landscape work as I do.
Furthermore, as everyone else moves to digital, their old cameras become available at knock-down prices and I snap up their old Pentaxes for, almost, a few pence.

Film scanners have rapidly been getting better, and I was on the verge of getting an exotic Nikon Coolscan unit for several hundred pounds so I finally could join the digital printing community. Then I saw the CanonScan in Jessops. £99 for a combined flatbed and film scanner, with a resolution almost comparable with the Nikon job I was going for – at that price it had to be worth trying! Most of the pictures on this site have been scanned in on it, many not even at its maximum resolution. The resolution obtained is, however, comparable with some of the better digital cameras on the market.

Other reasons for staying with film…

- Film is the ultimate archival material.
CDs degrade; Hard discs fail; Flash memory doesn’t, forever.

- Although I use an electronic SLR, batteries have let me down a few times over the years, so I keep two purely mechanical cameras on standby (a few pounds from boot sales) The picture “motox1” is what happens when the battery fails in the middle of a shoot and the shutter doesn't close straightaway – fortunately the cock-up ended with an interesting result that the competition judges liked!

- Digital cameras can’t do Infra Red – (but then nor can I judging by my abortive first attempt with Kodak IR reversal film!)

The Downside

- Getting film processed is becoming more difficult, although hopefully there will still be mail-order companies doing it for a long time to come. I could always do my own processing – provided the source of chemicals doesn’t dry up.

- Each film only has 36 exposures, unlike memory cards that can handle hundreds, and the cost of the film + processing is not-insignificant.
But not buying a new digi-SLR can pay for a lot of film!

- The lead time of several days for film processing is irritating when smug owners of the latest digital hardware show their pictures there-and-then on their laptops. But, whateverrrrrrrrrrr............