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Thursday, 18 February 2010


Pretty much my same thought process when I "evolved" to an all digital workflow. My slide started when I needed to learn to make digital negatives for my pt/pd prints. I had to learn PS and it evolved from there. I could not "support" both digital and analog processes as well as my family. (They really like to live indoors, eat regularly and wear shoes.)

The tough part for me was giving up the darkroom gear. Things that have been a part of my life for such a long time are not parted with easily.

Shock! Horror! Blasphemy! (g)

Sad too..... but then some of us haven't your depth of photographic experience and are still learning what we can do with film.
I often go out with film & digital cameras in the bag but if I only go out with one camera it has to be film, for me there are far too many photo opportunities where digital won't do.

Cheers, Robin

I went through that a few years ago. My film cameras sit silent in a filing cabinet, my Linhof a display piece, my lenses sitting dark.
I sold my Jobo processor and the Durst roller processer. My Omega D sits dark, the Gralab no longer pluged in.
Not really sure what to do with some of the other remaining equipment.
In the meantime the digital cameras are busy, the computer gets a regular workout. I keep taking photos, just that now all of the "negatives" are in one place instead of scattered all over the house, and the water bill has gone down.
I miss the darkroom, someday I might resurrect it. Sounds like a retirement project to me! Just not this year. Nor is retirement as far as I know.

Well, it is actually quite depressing info, Ctein. Can't you do film photography once in a while just for fun? To use your old camera ...
Anyway, for me it was an easy choice ... when they killed Kodachrome development in Europe ... they just broke my heart ...
But I will do some medium format Velvia shooting once in a while, once a year, just to get that mechanical, chemical feeling you can' get any other way ...


I take it that any future spot of daguerreotyping's also out of the question?

re: your Pentax 6x7 lenses, doesn't (didn't) someone like Novoflex produce a 6x7 - K mount adapter? In which case you could be grabbing the ultimate sweet spots with your K20d now instead of waiting for the never never digital medium format release.

I've been done with film for a while, too (longer than you) but still haven't found it in myself to sell my film SLR. I'll keep a couple older semi-collectible cameras that I just plain like, but I really ought to sell my SLR and that "what if" voice keeps me from doing it. (The fact that it takes up little room and will net me little money makes it easy to hang onto).

I wholeheartedly agree with your "shrug & move on" comment. I've never seen the appeal of a superzoom as a carry-everywhere lens "'cause you never know what you might see". I'd rather carry a fast prime and am rarely at a loss for things to shoot. So I can't get a closeup of that seagull on the roof ... (shrug & move on).

Ctein, I still have an entire bedroom and a large walk-in closet (the darkroom part) dedicated to film photography even though I haven't shot a roll of film in years. I just can't seem to let go of the romance of someday producing my definitive photographic statement on TX and double-weight fibre paper. I even installed a sink in the closet lol (it's not funny, I know).

Anyway, I'm gonna hold onto my dream even if I never act on it. Maybe digital photography will turn-out to be just a fad haha [wink wink].

Given the high quality of your prints and photography, I'd be interested to know which digital camera you shoot with that meets those standards. Could you please share?

I was a hardcore, death before digital, film geek. I'd never shut down my darkroom no matter how good they said digital was (it was never going to get that good anyway), and I'd be hand developing and printing BW to the end of my days.

I reluctantly bought my first DSLR. Many of my jobs were photos for web site display, and I was still shooting 6x7 and having it scanned. The client would have preferred faster processing. I did my own BW work, but needed labs for C41 and E6. The local film services had all but disappeared, and when the last lab standing mishandled a few rolls of 120, and caused light streaks, I just decided that for jobs like that it was silly not to have a DSLR. I had been eyeing a mint Graflex Super RB 4x5 SLR, but decided it was a smarter business decision to go for a Canon 20D. I vowed that it was only for low res, business work.

About a week later I thought "I guess this thing would be pretty handy for family snaps." The conversion came quickly. I think I made my last film exposure in July, 2006. :)

I did the same thing - but in reverse. I woke up realising that I wasn't interested in digital any more. It would be o.k. if it wasn't for all the tedious computer time involved.


If you change your mind about the 67 lenses; I'd be very interested in the 400mm ED.:)

James, Pentax makes a 67 to K adapter (third party adapters exist as well). I have one, but frankly it doesn't make much sense in many cases, the lenses are much larger and heavier. Although the 105mm f2.4 makes a nice portrait lens.

I gave up on film several years ago. The best part was that I sold my darkroom set-up to a very enthusiastic-looking teenager. I hope he does great work with it.

I came back to film in a limited way. Instead of making a big deal about it (as in: have to develop my own negatives and make my own prints), I shoot the occasional roll and let the lab develop and print them.

I've resisted taking the lesson back to digital photography and still obsess and fuss over details that may not matter.

All other considerations aside, getting Charles de Lint & Mary Ann Harris in your last frame of film is pretty cool... I feel much envy! :^D

- Jack

The Pentax 645D should be announced within the next couple of weeks, so you shouldn't have to wait too long.

Welcome to the 100% digital side, Ctein. But beware, it's true what they say: The grass really is more pixelated here.

6x7 to K mount adapters are also available from Zoerk

I'd really like to know which photo opportunities need film, and digital won't do.

It's 2010, you might be surprised what digital cameras are capable of.

Please contact me when you've concluded the vaporware will never condense. I was going to ask which Pentax 67 lenses you have and possibly make an offer. That'll have to wait for your next bit flip.

I'm not sure why, but these "I'm done with film" pronouncements (and I've read many of them over the past few years) always make me resolve to go out and shoot even MORE film than I already do.

"...was me thinking about what I'm going to be doing with my art and my work over the next year or so... None of that thinking involved picking up a film camera."

Why did that thinking about art involve thinking about a *digital* camera? Surely thinking about art means thinking about the image, not the capture device?

I certainly understand "quitting" film. No matter how ready your resources (i.e. home darkroom, a brother who works at a film lab, etc.) film is a pain in the ass and has a P/G ratio far above 2.0. (That's a Pain-to-Gain ratio, against which I measure many aspects of photography...and daily life.)

Still... we live in a terrific time for photography right now, a time that will never come again. We still have ready access to the "old" 19th/20th century medium of film while the new 21st century medium of digital imaging has indisputably taken over the photo world.

So while 98% of my own photography is electronic I still enjoy spending time on that last 2% of chemical photography. No, there's no arguable or discernible advantage (and I don't want to kick dust up on this subject). It's just fun to count frames in anticipation of commercial breaks every so often. I still have a Leica M7 that gets walked every so often. And last year I even picked up an MP...just 'cuz. I also have a 1960/61 Rolleiflex (which had a stroke last November when I took it out...it's been recovering in Manhattan Beach, Ca. all winter...lucky fellow) which I very much enjoy.

I know of many snappers who have declared that they've "quit" film. I understand making such a declaration, especially if it helps you focus your time and energy toward imaging rather than imaging -and- medium. But I'll not likely make such a declaration, statistics be damned. I absolutely "quit" smoking (quite some time ago) but I've not yet absolutely quit film. And, like cheating "former" smokers who keep ashtrays and lighters as "souvenirs", I keep a few film cameras because I enjoy "lighting-up" a roll every now and then.

Just 'cuz I can. After all, the name of the photo game for me is FUN.

Each to their own, I suppose. I shall still be wheeling out the 5x4 on occasion simply because I find digital to be rather dull. There's no surprise, no real sense of satisfaction when it 'comes out right' (of course it does: I check the review and reshoot on the spot if it doesn't) and, to be frank, no real skill either. In short, it's not engaging.

Of course, I'll continue to shoot digital when needs must but for real satisfaction it's 5x4 everytime.

Who are Charles de Lint & Mary Ann Harris?

As someone who loves film (both 35mm and 120) and who worries about the future availability of film--especially 120, I'm truly disappointed to hear this.

I made this same decision two years ago and after a year's "honeymoon" with digital-only, regretted selling my 35mm and medium format systems. Now I'm trying to replace them with great difficulty (although I still shoot digital, too), as the prices haven't dropped that much on the high-quality film equipment I prefer.

Mikal: Fantasy author and his wife, both also musicians. Easily googleable. The photo is from Minicon 42 in Minneapolis. I don't seem to have one of Ctein with the Fuji camera recognizably in that music party, or I'd be posting it :-).

Three weeks ago I went into the darkroom for the first time in six or eight months. I processed two films, made contacts and test strips and came out with two 10" prints.

I wanted to see if I still enjoyed it, as I knew I was moving and I wanted to know if it would be worth building another darkroom.

I did and it is. I love the physical skills of developing and printing, so for me it's 35mm for B & W, digital for colour.

Except for a bit of B&W darkroom work, I'm fully digital--using film.

Delayed Digital Capture--I'm just storing the light readings on a chemically laden polyester sheet until it can be digitized later.

I think I'd title it more "Another One Bites the Dust", myself :-).

I guess I do support film photography; I paid the postage myself to mail the last of my 35mm film to the person who reacted fast when I offered it (young person; highschool age I think). But I got rid of the last 35mm film bodies several years ago, and they were unused quite a while before that.

I run into digital bigots and film bigots that seem to have very emotionally-charged positions on this stuff, and they tend to be annoying. The ability to check instantly removes quite a bit of the nail-biting angst, but doesn't make it the slightest bit easier to take a superb picture; it makes it easier to take a technically competent picture, which was never the hard part. On the other hand, my 4x5 is the one film camera I still have. On the third hand (or the "gripping hand"), I haven't shot anything with it since, um, 17-Mar-2001 it looks like. Anyway, no quarrel with you or Ken or whoever shooting whatever technology you like to work with! (I found more annoying digital bigots in the early days; that side has calmed down somewhat since they won. These days most of the annoying ones are film bigots.)

Ctein -- one reason people are going to be surprised, I think, is that your Pentax 6x7s are widely regarded as pro-grade cameras, whereas the digital cameras you've mentioned using are widely regarded as toys. This kind of cognitive dissonance is good for people.

I'll point out to people still struggling with this that an awful lot of what you pay as you go up to pro-level DSLRs is for faster reaction, better auto-focus, and so forth; and that Ctein's subjects generally sit still. And that Ctein is quite capable of stitching multiple frames when the intended print size requires that kind of resolution.

Last month I sold my Nikon digital camera and superfluous autofocus lenses as they were not getting used. Whenever I pick up my camera it is always my FM3 or Mamiya 7 that jumped to hand. For me the decision is less about film or digital but more about the fact that I still have not found a digital camera that offers the right blend of ergonomics and simplicity to make it as much a pleasure to use as my simple analogue tools.

I also think that the excitement of unrolling the film off the development spool and holding it up to the light for the first time beats pixel-peeping on screens after each shot!

I went cold turkey last year...sold off all of my darkroom gear, and traded my film Leicas for digital ones.

One idea on selling equipment. I lived in the Bay area at the time and found a trustworthy photo store in the area that took in used equipment. After donating some things to schools, I gave the rest to them for sale.

For a reasonable fee, they proceeded to sell off stuff in various ways to maximize proceeds. Some items went to floor of the store, some went on eBay and some got sold to client contacts. They decided how to do it, and handled everything. They knew from experience the best outlets for each item. When something went on eBay, they emailed me so I could follow the auction if I chose.

Over the subsequent 5 months, I got a check every month for what they sold that month. In the end, I got more than I ever imagined, with no hassle on my part other than to haul the gear to them.

By going cold turkey...and getting rid of everything in an afternoon...I knew there was no looking back. It would just be too hard to buy it all again.

I read TOP regularly, but have never commented on a post. This one has me stumped. I don't understand why there is any need to make this decision or to make a public pronouncement of it. What benefit is there to limiting ones options? I would love to see an article that explores this as I've been reading about peoples decision to "go digital" for years and have never understood the desire to swear off using film. For the record I use both.

To David Dyer-Bennet. Interesting observation about the cameras, I have been using "toy cameras" for quite a while getting really good results, and as Ctien said before if I ever find a subject or situation where I cannot shoot due to the limitations of the equipment I shrug and look for something else to shoot. I am afraid I cannot say I get the same results as Ctien, but the same principle applies.

About conversion to digital, I have been working lately with an excellent pt/pd printer that had to move to digital to produce his negatives. His dilemma was that the materials (film) he used to produce his negatives are no longer available, and after a couple of projects working with a Service Bureau they also run out of the film they used. He is now the proud owner of a new iMac and an Epson 4880 where he is making his negatives. I discovered working with him that all his instincts (his method is not scientific unless you understand his thought processes) were easily transferable to the digital realm, the final process is in the darkroom but there are several characteristics of the new materials that were different than film, so we had to modify the negatives and adjust them to work well on the UV exposures. His prints now glow again, and he is in complete control of the process. It was an invaluable learning experience for me (and I got paid in the process!)

I am certain Ctien would do equally well. Good luck with your new adventure!

Film clung on to my thoughts for a long while after I sold my Hasselblad - especially missed using that beautiful giant square viewfinder to compose with. I think, however, that it wasn't film per se that I missed, although I loved the look of hp5 and fp4.

I was always reliant on others for processing and scanning. When I sorted through some film scans for an upcoming exhibition, it reminded me how painfully slow and infuriating it could be to achieve the perfect print using my hybrid film/digi workflow. In fact now that I have my digital workflow perfected for colour and b&w, I realise it was more the Hasselblad process I missed, and now I just wish I could afford a digital Hassy back!

The digicam has been my staple out-walking-the-dogs camera for a year or two now, and I've not got a decent photograph out of it in the process. Yesterday I said "sod it", took the hasselblad out with said dogs, and felt more creative than I had for a while; it might even bring to fruition a project I've been dreaming about for a couple of months, with any luck. Whenever I get around to developing & scanning all that film...

Unfortunately I've just enrolled as a passenger on the same boat as Ctein. This past year has been a disaster in a film sense: my Minolta 5400 crapped out and every time it was repaired UPS managed to damage the unit in shipping - strike one! My slide film developer of choice screwed up three rolls of film - strike two! The professional lab I use for my bw film now takes forever to develop my film and is on the verge of closing all together - strike three! I sold my remaining film cameras on the internet last week. Done. Damnit! I'll probably order a digital Nikon for my Nikon glass this week to join my M8 and my Leica glass. I think selling my last film M was like taking my manhood - very painful, but unfortunately representative of our new century.

Does this mean you'll spring for an A850 with the funds from your film camera sales?

>>I'd really like to know which photo opportunities need film, and digital won't do.
It's 2010, you might be surprised what digital cameras are capable of. <<

Yes Jason I know it's 2010 and my attidude on this may be a little distorted by what digital camera I can afford (a Sony A100), but several times over the past six years I've tried to give up film and failed.
Of course digital can take adequate photos, it's just that the kind of photos I want to take look better if shot on film - perhaps it's to do with the subtle way film treats highlights and doesn't pixelate fine detail?
One last point, about 1/3 of what I shoot is for projection - a couple of years ago I tried 12 months worth of digital for my annual "slide" show via a digital projector and immediately went back to buying Elitechrome!

cheers, Robin

I've had an OM 3 Ti sitting in a drawer since last summer. A nice little SLR. And somehow I never find time to buy film and even less to take the camera out for a walk. The lenses reside in the bag with my digital camera. The spirit is kinda willing...

I don't seem to have one of Ctein with the Fuji camera recognizably in that music party

Maybe because you apparently were at the same side of the room, , possibly right beside him? :) (The first photo down under Music.)

Ctein- I suppose that's it with coming over to see you project your slides? What's something that you can't do with digital- project images in full colour and high resolution. Not yet least.

Hmmmm..... I left film in 1999.
Then in 2006 I came back.
Will be looking forward to your return!

At this moment, my entire Mamiya 7II system is on Ebay as well as a Leica 24mm and my whole film stock. I'm keeping the M6 and two lenses. Everything else is digital. I'm okay with it.

Dear Robin, Pete, et al.,

Oh, nonsense, it's not sad at all. No person or circumstance is forcing me into this. I'm doing it because I want to. I have never been wedded to a craft. I know there are people out there who are in love with some craft or another, but I am not one of them. For me the function of the craft has always been to produce the art. I may qualify as a guru, but I'm not a champion, evangelist, nor advocate.

And, no, doing film photography occasionally wouldn't be fun. If I thought it would, I wouldn't have come to this decision. It hasn't been fun for a very long time. As long as there was still the possibility it would be useful in terms of my art, fun or not, I maintained the capability. I've reached the point where I no longer care; my muse is utterly not engaged with film. And, no, she's not likely to turn around.

Tom, you very much miss the point. I didn't NEED to make any decision. I arrived at the decision. It's a quite different thing. Considering it took me nearly half a decade of serious attention to get there (combined with the fact that I've been engaged in digital/electronic photography and printing since 1971), I think what's most interesting is that I ever got there at all. A year ago, that wasn't at all obvious!

Options always cost time/money/resources (and, yes, maintaining the film option does cost me some of these, although I'm not going to go into the particulars). There's a price in keeping open an option that I have no intention of making use of. In the same way, once I'm done with dye transfer, the darkroom is going to go away; it eats up 200 square feet I'd love to have for other purposes.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Dear Folks,

Regarding my lenses, I have the K-mount adapter. It's pretty useless-- the 67lenses are WAY oversized for use on a 35mm-size camera, and they are not such brilliant performers that I can't do better with smaller.

Please don't post messages here asking about buying my equipment. If you want to pursue that avenue, email me privately-- this is The Online Photographer, not The Online Flea Market.


pax / Ctein.


I wish. I wish I could afford the entrance fee for a dSLR that would allow me to use my modest collection of Nikon glass and equal the performance of my F3HP with film. Retirement has given me more time to devote to my image making passions but the money simply isn't there.

I shoot mostly B&W, then develop and scan myself so I can afford to "stay in the game with film."

Dear Miserere,

The Pentax medium format digital has been announced several times over the past five years. If this announcement includes a real date when they will be shipping production units that isn't more than six months ahead, then I will consider it might be real. If it's just another one of those "real soon now" announcements, it's vaporware.


Dear Jason,

You really need to go back and read my previous columns. You might be surprised at how much I know about what digital cameras are capable of, things I don't think you've even imagined. I've been involved with this technology for longer than most of the readers here have been alive.

Yes, there are some photographs that I can imagine doing on film that I would not be able to do digitally (at any price point that I can afford). There are not enough of them that I care about. So what? It is not about proving that digital is better than film or vice versa.

Might make a worthwhile topic for a future column, though... I'll add it to the queue.


Dear Tim,

If you've figured out how to divorce photographic craft and instrumentality from the art, you've learned a trick that I sure haven't. You mean that when you're contemplating a future art project, the equipment never enters into it? You don't think about whether it's going to be 35mm or large format? Whether it should be photographed in black and white or color, negative film or slide? What kind of lenses you'll need to accomplish it? None of that!? I'm impressed.


Dear Ken and Roger,

Total agreement; it's mostly about the fun. In my case, it's also somewhat about the business. If it weren't for the business, I wouldn't be engaged in "analog" photography or printing at all. That stopped exciting my muse years ago. I'd been doing that for nearly 45 years. The modest change of medium and instrumentality (for me it is very modest; I'm equally comfortable with silver or silicon) has had me much more excited for years. I just kept allowing for the possibility I might want to do "silver" again. Now I'm certain I won't.


Dear DDB,

Yes, the partisans on either side are most annoying. I spent most of the 1980s explaining to skeptical pros how good digital was going to get. I spent most of the 90s explaining to digital cheerleaders that film and film cameras were not going to go away in the next year (yes, there were supposedly knowledgeable people predicting, then, that film photography would be dead within a year). Now that we're into the 21st century, I try to correct the excesses I see on both sides.


Dear Mike Jones,

You didn't miss anything. I never was a slide photographer; I did all my serious work on negative film. For some reason my audiences never got excited about me projecting color negatives onto a big screen in a darkened room for them. They always seem to prefer that I project it onto sheets of paper instead.

I just don't understand...

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Ctein, how do you make the colour separations for dye transfer printing from digital files? With an inkjet printer?


so..what are you going to do with all that "unwanted" film in your freezer ?

Dear Mark,

My most recent digital is an Olympus Pen EP-1, with the Lumix 20mm and the 14-42 mm kit lenses. The next most recent is a Fuji FinePix S100fs. Both cameras let me do exhibition/portfolio quality ** 11 x 14's at low ISOs. I'm comfortable up to ISO 400 with the Fuji; I can take the Olympus up to ISO 800.

As DDB and I discovered, the Fuji produces photographs at ISO 100-200 (there is little difference between the two speeds) that can't be distinguished from Nikon D200 photographs, except for their "flavor." *** See my test report on the camera of two years back: "Fujifilm Finepix S100FS Review" . In most respects, the Olympus image quality is somewhat better than that.

Depending on how serious I am about the Olympus, I am contemplating getting a longer zoom (something in the 40-150 mm range), a good macro lens, and a wider-than-14 mm lens.

I'm not rushing to buy another camera. Life will present me with interesting choices when it's time.

(** Before someone asks me what that means, go look at my work. Then you'll know what my standards are.)

(*** Incidentally, the Fuji makes a fine rebuke for all the size queens out there who whine and gripe about pixel pitches; with 2.3 micron pixels, it nicely demonstrates that size isn't everything.)

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 


Well, for me I embraced the whole digital thing when I returned to photography a few years back and have enjoyed it a lot. However, now that I've gone back to college and work an office job, the last thing I want to do is see a computer let alone use one. Hence, I prefer to have fun with photography without the high-technology.

I use digital almost exclusively for flash photography. It's so convenient being able to take dozens of images with different lighting ratios and get quick feedback.

But nowadays, most images I care about are on film. Some combination of the medium and the different workflow I guess, but I'm just more pleased with the result - the "look", true, but also the composition, the situation - from the film cameras I use.

To each their own.

One less reason to spend time reading TOP. Maybe more time in the darkroom, which is always enjoyable.
Adios, Ctein.

"So what's my next step? I don't have a bloody clue. Isn't that fun!"

It really is.

It's one of the great changes in my own life: gradually learning to let "logic" take a smaller and smaller role, and let "higher forces" or intuition rule. It seems to be much smarter than me.

I'm quitting too. But with digital. For a while I've been shooting only film and that's better for me, everybody is just digital and i love to feel different - i'm italian, after all.

I felt this way in roughly 2004, and didn't shoot any film for a while after that. Now, I haven't shot much digital in the past year, and I'm enjoying photography a lot more again and spending less money to do it.

Dear Voltz,

No, an inkjet printer can't produce a negative of anywhere near high enough quality for doing dye transfer printing. I work with a local custom lab that can write a digital file to 4 x 5 or 8 x 10 color negative film and I print from that. It is superior to the purely-darkroom approach, because we can color- and tone-manage the whole chain, but it isn't as enjoyable as the entirely hands-on craft of doing it in the darkroom.


Dear Jim,

It will end up getting donated to a school that still has an analog photography program or club.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Dear Doug,

Yer kiddin', right? If you've been reading TOP for my columns about analog photography, you've been one frustrated reader! There's been maybe a half dozen in the past 3+ years.

And most of them I could have written without actually doing any analog photography.

(Come to think of it... I did!)

pax / Ctein

I think it's funny that Ctein announced that he hadn't shot film for several years, yet the folks here had no idea until they found out about it today! ;) Apostasy. Some folks seem upset, Ctein, that you have left the "exclusive club" of film shooters and become just a common digital shooter. I'm sure it won't matter a whit what you shoot with!

Probably have to give up the secret decoder ring, though.

Ctein... Columbus Camera are good folks, but you might also want to get a bid from KEH on your equipment.


I've read this site since its inception and I'm fully aware of your articles. My burned out scroll wheel is proof of that and any doubts are settled by your continued assertion of authority. My statement about digital's capabilities was tongue in cheek. In a way I was paying you a compliment knowing you are producing capable work with your Fuji camera.

The question about where film would do where digital can't was real. I guess there are more 10-stop dynamic range photo opportunities I'm missing than I thought. I'll be looking forward to your article, perhaps then you can give an answer to my question so my untrained eye will finally how unsatisfactory my previous photos have been. Perhaps I can remove them from my walls, jump in my Mr. Fusion powered DeLorean and recreate that moment, with the proper tools, eye, and talent. Until then, I'll shoot what I have.     

I still enjoy shooting with film from time to time I have a 645 hit with 3 lenses and an old Pentax 67 with one lens and an unmetered prism. For the past couple of years I've been using just the 67. I thought at first it was because of the appeal of the working methods enforced by the larger size, unmetered prism and lack of lens choice, but I eventually realized it was largely because getting only 10 shots per roll with the 67 instead of 15 with the 645 was cleaning out the supply of film from my freezer. When it's gone I'll probably be all-digital too.

Maybe I'm just weird, but I love all the film-digital transition angst writing here and elsewhere, old and new. Change is interesting to me; so is resistance to change.

I just began shooting 120 last year and I expect I'll shoot it for a very long time, despite the rather fabulous cost involved. It's big fun, probably the most fun I've ever had with cameras. But after a fairly long period of coexistence with digital (greatly facilitated by a Pakon roll film scanner), I find I'm finally done with 35mm for anything other than the occasional rangefinder outing. More of a discovery than a decision.

Stone-simple manual rangefinders have a unique and probably irrational hold on me, but I also have a near-mint Nikon F5 I'll be unloading soon. Up to now I've followed the "Never Sell a Camera" philosophy but the F5 is...well, silly. I can't think of a more thoroughly obsolete machine that still has some residual value. Anybody who still uses a huge, incredibly overbuilt camera like this for its original design purpose (very high speed photojournalism and sports work) really is spitting in the Digital Breeze. Why some people still find it appealing for other applications is a total mystery to me now. Seems like true obsolescence strikes hardest at the high end.

Leica excepted, of course.

Dear Ctein

Never say never 'cause ya never know!


"I am sure the next step will be the electronic image, and I hope I shall live to see it. I trust that the creative eye will continue to function, whatever technological innovations may develop." - Ansel Adams, 1983

As for me, I bought my first digital camera in 1993 and shot my last film in 2000.

I retired last year and thought I would return to LF film as my retirement hobby but when it came right down to it digital just makes more sense 99% of the time and LF is way to expensive for this retired guy even though I had the gear.

For those retired guys struggling with the cost of digital gear, don't be afraid to stay a generation or two behind the latest technology. Let someone else chase perfection and take the big depreciation. There are some great DSLR bodies out there that no one wants because they "are not state of the art."

Dear Jim,

In all fairness, I think most of the people reading this thread are aware that I haven't used any film in years; I've mentioned it frequently in my columns and comments. What is startling them is me actually making a decision about quitting film. I think that's understandable; I'm startled by it, too.


Dear Jason,

Oh, sorry. Tone of voice is pretty much impossible to read. Trying to be tongue-in-cheek is almost hopeless; no matter how obvious you think you're being, you can always find someone online who will say something more outrageous in all seriousness.

I should say that I don't really expect to ever hit the situation where film would get me out of a fix that digital wouldn't. But I'm trained as a physicist; I can't ever say "never" about anything with absolute certainty. Ask me if the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning, and I will feel compelled to answer "Almost certainly." If you ask me if I'm absolutely positive of that, I'll have to say no. So me talking about the possibility of running into a film-not-digital photographic situation is just my usual mental conservatism. I'm fairly confident it won't happen.

Still, it is a good question that you asked, and there are certainly situations I can think of which will push close to that limit. I may make it the topic of next week's column, discussing the situations that in the past have given me pause. It would help inform and illuminate my reasoning.

There are still some things that digital gets wrong (at least, in any cameras I could possibly afford). Its rendering of subject detail as a function of image contrast is kind of wonky (don't ask me to explain in detail now; I'm still figuring out how to talk about it). It doesn't especially bother me, but it drives Oren Grad nuts; he has a much more particular eye for the way spatial frequencies play out in an image than I do.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 


I'd just like to add that I've unusually (and rather unexpectedly!) experienced the opposite of what you've detailed here. A friend of the family heard that I liked photography and gave me an enlarger!! Just goes to show what circumstance brings.

Sometime this week in a dark dark room somewhere.... and on a MacBook Pro on the other side of the world...


Funny, digital did the opposite for me. I never was really serious with photography, until I got my first digital camera. I then quickly started shooting more film (and slides for the first time), and have now multiple film bodies (and still only one digital). I'm also setting up a darkroom, and SHMBO is complaining about the film in de fridge.

Point is, for me photography is a hobby. I work as a programmer, so the last thing I want in my hobby is more screen-time.

If photography is your livelyhood, I can totally understand the opposite sentiment (and I know that, LF negs aside, quality has long stopped being an argument on either side of the equation).

I was curious on how you were doing dye-printing from digital files, thanks for explaining that.

Congratulations on your decision!

here's my last frame on film:
i stopped in sept 2008 and quit for new years eve '08/'09.
there is one exception though: anyone paying me to shoot film will get film. because first and foremost i am a service provider.

@ colin
Why stop half way? Go for the ultimate
'blend of ergonomics and simplicity'
and use a pinhole camera.

Hmm. This has been food for thought. I find it very hard to bypass a picture and say "oh, I don't have the camera for that". What I mean is, I'm really curious about all aspects of the craft. I have a mental checklist of things I must explore so I understand the limits of what I can do artistically.

It really is very checklist like, now that I think about it. Sunset w/velvia? Check. Star trails? Check. Long exposure cityscape? Check.

I think this kind of checklist photography has led me to ask all kinds of technical questions because I'm obsessed with trying to understand the tools I have to work with. Thus the endless noodling over what more megapixels means. As far as I can tell, what I've discovered is that film is great for exposures over 30sec, but image stacking probably fixes that. And that if you need more detail you can always stitch. Unless it's not a stitch-able subject, and you can't afford a full frame DSLR, so you can substitute 120 film. (As long as you don't take too many pictures a year.) And if you really need big files, and can't afford the rentals for a digital MF camera, 4x5 film is just fine. (As long as you don't take too many pictures a year.)

Anyway Ctein, thanks for sharing why you do what you do.

I'm afraid Sir that you have missed my point. I understand entirely what you are saying about arriving at a decision and acting on it. To say, “Hey, I'm not using this process or this equipment anymore and could use the room for something else” and then packing away or selling or giving away the equipment, all makes perfect sense. Its entirely logical. What I don't understand is the need to declare that a decision has been reached.

I have a VCR sitting in my living room. I haven't used it in ages. One of these days I'll probably get rid of it. If other people want to keep using VCRs or using VCRs along with DVDs or whatever else come down the road, more power to them. I won’t write an article declaring that I’ve quit using VCRs and will never again make or watch a tape, even though there’s a good chance I never will. I will simply move on.

I only miss the manual advance lever. I loved flicking it with my thumb, a tactile connection with the camera. I hated motorized film advance, except for my wife's Canon Rebel. For some reason, I liked the fact that it did it backwards, unwound the entire roll first and inserted it back into the cassette as you shot. That appealed to me.

"What I don't understand is the need to declare that a decision has been reached."

Again, not to step on Ctein's toes, but I think I can answer that. It's because if you've worked at a certain high level in any discipline, it's not satisfying to putter in it. You either commit to it, or you give it up.

I've known athletes like that--when they're done competing at the professional level, they're done altogether.

I once worked with a guy who for many years had been a trumpeter in a U.S. Army band. I asked him if he still played trumpet, and he said no. When I asked him why, he said it's because he practiced six or seven hours every day when he was in the military, and played at a very high level. He couldn't come anywhere near that as a civilian, and he wasn't interested in being a lot worse than he had been at his best. So he quit.


"I've had an OM 3 Ti sitting in a drawer since last summer."

That makes me a little sad. Arguably the very best (and rarest) OM body ever made is sitting unused and without purpose. It is the SLR that Leica should have made. I ask and beg that you sell or give the camera to somebody who will use it. Mine was given to me and it is now the first camera I grab whenever I can. The OM-4T, also gifted for the same reason, is used nearly as much.

There is a mini-revival of film usage going on and serious photographers choosing film even though they have grown up in the digital era and never shot film previously. Help keep these systems "alive" by getting them in the hands of people CHOOSING to shoot film.

I fully appreciate Ctein's reasoning--for him, moving away from film is logical and he has no emotional attachment to it. It makes no sense to stay with it. But his reasoning is personal and is specific to his years of doing this as his job. Anything he can do to make his job easier is a good thing.

Ctein, quite true about tone of voice. It's why I think emoticons have value as more than cutesy shorthand in the new medium; it's about as close to inflection and tone we can get. My apologies for being so brusque in my reply.

If you choose to explore my question in depth (and not saying you need to) I'll be looking forward to it, if only to satisfy the my gadget hound tendencies!

Dear Tom,

There is a threefold answer to your question, which starts with the general and goes to the specific:

1) Mike has commissioned me to write one column a week, subject only to his (extremely loose) approval. The readership has voted 85-15% that I should write about anything I feel like, even if it isn't even about photography. Accordingly, every column will not appeal to everybody. Some of them appeal to a very narrow subset of the readership: I wrote one about the problems for people who have astigmatism using split image rangefinder cameras; want to guess what percentage of our readership that in encompassed? If you find a particular column that I wrote boring, move on. I am not writing for you, especially.

2) This particular topic is one that I've been addressing as an ongoing process in probably a half dozen columns over the past three years. Readers have consistently found it interesting, especially since I am widely considered to be one of the technical gurus of analog photography. (Arthur Kramer said my book on darkroom methods was one of the finest ever written and the necessary reference for everybody practicing in that field.) So, yes, it's a noteworthy moment and it's the logical if unexpected conclusion to a process I've been chronicling for the readers for some time. And, honestly, with some 75 comments so far, I'm not going to worry much about your lack of interest.

3) If you found this column boring, you are really going to hate an upcoming one. I have been converting all my entertainment media to digital/virtual form over the past several years. Vinyl, CDs, and, yes, videotapes. So, guess what? I actually do have a column in planning about getting rid of my VCR and never watching a videotape again!

And you know what? I'll bet you a bagel a whole bunch of people (not you) will find it fascinating. 'Cause that's just the kind of fellow I am [ modest and self-effacing grin ].

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

I don't read Japanese but it seems to me the vapor might condensate rather soon...



Erlik: Well, that's where the Kodak Picture Point marker was! Or, it's where the decent angles were. I did move around some; lots of worse pictures from a somewhat larger variety of angles in my snapshot gallery (that day is at http://dd-b.net/dd-b/SnapshotAlbum/data/2007/04060-minicon/04080-sun/). Huh, did I say "day"? The one of Charles and MaryAnn that she uses on her website claims it was shot at 1:46 in the morning (well, my copy does; didn't look if the EXIF was still in hers).

I'm a bit amused that some people find film attractive because they work on computers all day, and the last thing they want is more screen time. I've been a software developer since 1969, which predates my first SLR camera, and I find my digital workflow more fun and more convenient than the darkroom ever was. Like everything thing else, this is "to each his own" (or "their" own, if you think being wrong about number is better than being wrong about gender :-) and don't mind butchering the quote). But then, I still love computers rather the way I still love photography.

(The one clear-cut objective win for digital post-processing is that you can fit it into smaller bits of time, since there isn't set-up and clean-up (and print washing and drying) time wrapped around the basic working time.)

"I find my digital workflow more fun and more convenient than the darkroom ever was."

And that's the third reason why I won't be scanning (well, at least not doing it myself). I don't feel I'm expert with Photoshop, and I don't find it fun to do inkjet printing. It makes me anxious. Whereas I'm one of those rare individuals who always liked the darkroom (even many inveterate printers didn't). I can remember (fondly) all the darkrooms I've worked in.


I always liked the darkroom too, at least in my mind (just like I liked the Mamiya 6 from the other post in my mind). I didn't really like the breathing problems and skin rashes and the hours of setup and washing time though.

In the end the need for faster turnaround (kid pictures) and the lack of *blocks* of time dictate digital workflow for me. I also tried to avoid it for a while since my professional life is also spent on computers. But photo work and software engineering work are very different, so I'm over it.

The only thing that counts is to follow your artistic vision. For that you need the appropriate tool. In your case. it is a digital camera.

I am working with DSLR and film. The DSLR I use to photograph my kids (along a Leica M2). The rest is entirely done on film. The majority of it on 4X5". I am shooting almost exclusively in B/W.

My goal ist the best print possible. Nothing I have seen so far, reaches the level of a well done baryta print. Its inkjet brothers ( and I have tried a lot of them) just do not work for me.

However, )for the few color images I print) the quality and degree of controll I get from PS and my inkjet printer is absolutely amazing. If I was a color photographer, I would follow the same road as you do.

Hey, Ctein, if you've solved the problem of transferring records to digital, especially 78s, I want to hear about it. I've got that on my to-do list, and it's getting near the end of the aging queue and might see the actual work queue at some point here. (I think I'm trying to do a perfect job, and haven't figured out what unaffordable hardware I need to achieve that, and what I most need is to be pointed at something that will be "good enough". Not involving a whole new turntable, since my old one works fine.)

John McDevitt: I shoot mostly B&W, then develop and scan myself so I can afford to "stay in the game with film."

You should feel good about that. There's a lot more to be said for a portfolio based around a consistent technique that's been well refined, than for a lump of images cobbled from various sources in higgledy-piggledy fashion.

Ctein: You mean that when you're contemplating a future art project, the equipment never enters into it? You don't think about whether it's going to be 35mm or large format?

I think you were addressing the other Tim ;) but in any event, I sort of see his point. In our case, the landscape is the image, which does allow a separation of projects between "I want to go out and shoot the light at a given place" from "I want to make a series all using $fooCamera and $fooLens": you can point a p&s compact at the scenery and it won't complain that it's not LF Velvia. Maybe if your gig is urban portraits then that might dictate the equipment more (say 35mm rangefinder + b&w film) before you get to a specific project (this town, this road, people wearing red).

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