Monday, January 25, 2010
Nail in the Coffin?
In a continuing theme from this post, i would like to speak a little more about high ISO shooting.
So, we all know that film is dead, right? This is not a new story to be told. The question then is, do you know WHY its dead? You could blame the economic value of digital or the instant gratification factor. There are countless reasons for an immeasurable number of consumers as to why we just refuse to buy film. How about professional use? Why dont pros buy film anymore? Film is great, right? Kodak, Fuji, Agfa, Ilford, and Polaroid have spent more than half a century developing today's film technology to make it just the right color and contrast, just sharp enough yet still aesthetically soft. Film is, you might say, tried and true. Now before you try to argue that digital capture is hardly a new thing, lets think back a bit as to how long we have been efficiently shooting with digital. Five to Seven years, maybe? Kodak turned the corner in 2007 when they recorded more profit from digital based product and service than from film. It was not until larger sensors became affordable and widely available did pros box up the film cameras. This was thanks, in large part, to Canon's 5D, the first sub-$4000 SLR with a 24x36mm sensor. You can now buy a Sony A850 with 25 megapixels and a full frame sensor for $2000. Medium format digital systems (larger than 24x36mm) used to set you back a cool $20,000 plus, you can now purchase a Mamiya 645AF kit for just a hair under $10,000.
To the crux of the matter: it really comes down to what can be accomplished with today's cameras. What, where and how we can shoot today has changed the photographic world. I hear a complaints weekly about noise in high ISO digital shots. Most hobbyists or consumers never shot 3200 or even 1600 ISO film as 800 ISO was "bad enough". This seems to be the primary factor that leads to all the hubbub about noise. Though it's not all about the grain structure of the emulsion, high ISO reduces color saturation and contrast in addition to creating grain/noise. The latter being the primary reason for the loss of detail in a photograph.
Two weeks ago i shot a few rolls of film. After knocking the dust off my Nikkormat i grabbed some Ilford Delta 3200 and Fuji Velvia 100 out of the fridge, packed my gear and tripod then ventured out into the blustery winter night. The meter pooped out awhile back on the Nikkormat, so i brought along my D700 with the intent of using it to meter and shooting film for the end process. Once on site, i realized an interesting comparison that could be achieved. We regularly read comparitive reviews of today's equipment, but not many people seem to realize how far we've come in a very short timeframe (at least, we seem to forget how far we've come).
Typically, i wont shoot high ISO with night landscapes unless i am concerned about motion of subject matter. The only black and white film i had with me was the Ilford Delta 3200 which prompted my thought of the true difference between film and digital at higher ISO values.
I really wasnt surprised much by the grain structure of the Ilford, but the lack of tonal value and the extremely low contrast was a little bewildering. The comparison between the two prints (yes, i made prints) is startling to say the least.