Thursday, April 28, 2011

Holga From Hong Kong

My Holga camera arrived from Hong Kong yesterday. So far I have taken five pictures with some old 120 film (that expired ten years ago). I'm curious how they will turn out. As soon as I finish the roll and get them back from the lab I'll post the results here.

Still waiting on the FED 5c to arrive from a camera store in England.....

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Going Retro

I've noticed a trend in photography. It started at least a few years ago, and has been slowly gaining steam.

Some photographers have been moving away from digital capture and back to shooting film.

Specifically, the trend is to photograph with old, unconventional and/or unusual cameras. 50+ year old Leica cameras (often at a price tag of over $1,000) are becoming more popular. The cheap Holga is being used more and more. The Russian FED has seen a surge thanks to ebay. There are even photographers who are using glass negatives instead of film!

Why is this? Aren't digital cameras great and wonderful examples of modern technology?

I believe one reason is that digital cameras have become too good. Now that image quality has become exceptional and costs reasonable, almost any Joe or Jane can buy a camera and take decent pictures. Even if he or she has no technical knowledge, training or experience, the camera--set in automatic--can figure out exactly what the settings should be. And if Joe or Jane takes enough pictures, one or two are bound to be great.

Since no skill is actually required, this cheapens the concept of photography as art. It's the same as a canvas and paint brush creating art with the push of a button. Would the "painter" still be an artist? Would painting still be considered art?

Moving away from fully-automatic or semi-automatic digital capture and into fully-manual or mostly-manual film photography reaffirms that the photographer is indeed an artist and the photograph is indeed art.

Another reason is that digital cameras bury their manual features in menus and submenus. This makes it difficult and time-consuming to operate the camera in full manual mode. Besides, the automatic features are often accurate, so why not use them?

Even if the photographer knows all the technical aspects and has lots of training and experience, he or she may use very little of that to actually take pictures and let the camera do the work. Again, this cheapens the concept of photography as art, but--more importantly--it takes a lot of the fun out of photography.

Still another reason is that digital photography can still be quite expensive, and, like a lot of technology, it becomes obsolete quickly. That $1,500 Canon is exceptional today, but five years from now it will be just "average", and ten years from now will be "out-of-date". It takes a lot to keep up. And with digital, it doesn't end with the camera. The software is nearly as important, and, to a lesser extent, the computer and even the monitor are important. One can drop quite a few pretty pennies and even more time on this.

For some, that's good and it's what they love. For others, it's a headache and a half!

A fourth reason is that film is still superior in quality. Digital capture has reached the point where it is pretty close to 35mm film, at least with the "professional" digital cameras. But most digital cameras are not "professional", and even if they are, medium and large format film still blows digital capture out of the water. That is not to say digital capture is not good quality, it's simply to say that the humble 35mm film is still as exceptional as it was 10 years ago when it was king.

A final reason is that, in photography, one needs to stand out from the crowd. Digital photography has made the crowd significantly larger, so it's even harder to stand out. One way to stand out is to go against the grain and do what few others are doing. Since most have put their film cameras in the closet, those wanting to stand out are pulling their's out of the closet.

None of this is to say that digital cameras are bad or that they shouldn't be used or that they are or should go away. Most of those who are moving back to film still have and use digital cameras. Many still use digital as their main option. But more and more they are reaching for their film cameras instead of their digital cameras.

Film is not dead. In fact, it is becoming trendy.