Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Why Film is still Awesome !!

Hi Folks,

Again, so sorry for being away from my blog post  for awhile. For the past few months leading up to the Lunar New Year, I have been busy hustling around my only income earning '' Antiquities ''. When you're retired like me with a depleting savings, its best that you make some income from the things that you love and know best ... Ha,Ha.

This is another topic that I have always wanted to write about , but due to thigh schedule, I had to wait until now. It's by no means a coincidence that there seems to be a surge in interest on all things ... '' FILM ''. Looks like the God of Negatives are a playing prank on me ... Adooiii !!  Why ? One may ask, well, just when I finally cleared my last piece of functional Film Camera ( A OM-4Ti ), that folks from around the country asking  if I have any more Film SLR's. It seems like those silver oxide just can't leave me alone ... Wakaka !!

Remember this isn't about Film vs Digital, rather its all about why Film is still ( IMHO ) the Reigning King of Available Light Photography. A medium where one really learn what Photography is all about and not just snap shots. Its here that one truly understand ( Through mistakes ) what Depth of Field , Aperture, Shutter Speed , Side Lighting , Back Lit , Available lights,  Composition, Framing , Posing , Fill in and controlled Lights is all about ... Phew !!  I am lucky because I started from Film or rather '' The Old School '' era. I am not saying that one can't be a good photog if you haven't tried Film. Its just that there are so many basic things that you'll  will miss out if you went in direct to the Digital format. It's the root and foundation of all things Photographic. The thrills and learning curves are simply overwhelming to say the least ... Yee Haa !!
So, Whats so good and enjoyable about Film ? Well, here are some fun factors for those who has never been through the Film era. This are what separates Film users from Digital ... Crank On !!

The Desire For all things Film ... '' I WANT '' , a pic I shot a few years back ... It says it all !!

  @ You shoot one frame at a time and uses all part of your creative mind to calculate, compose and framed the shot. After years into it , one look,  and you know what aperture & shutter speed to use and that built in Metering,  is in one word ... '' Priceless '' !!  Folks today just fire away at their shutter at frame rates that of a Machine Gun ... '' Rat_Tat_Tat _Tat '' and delete almost half of them ... Ha,Ha . 

A pic taken during the 70's when I first started Bird Photography.  Patience was the essence of the day and that one shot at a time matters most . This was shot using a 135mm F/3.5 Zuiko lens ( At the time a standard for Birding ), on an OM 1.

The rest of the pics below were shot with a borrowed Nikkor 200mm F/4 ( It was an luxury back then ) and an FM and later FM2.  Birders today are Blessed with Long Toms that we could only dream of back then. Lenses in the range of 400 to 600mm are just a standard lens and the even the 800mm can be seen quite often ...Wow !! Even the tripod for Birders today are unbelievably expensive, like the Gitzo's and the Wimberly Gimbal type Heads. In my days we use and utilized by using sandbags and hanging water bottles under our standard tripods. You guys are a Lucky lot ... Far Out !!

If you wanted fast frames per sec, you have to fork out some money and buy a Motor Winder as its called back then. Even though it was a 3fps winder,  but it was a accessory not everyone could afford.  Here's one taken with a third party winder on my Nikon FM2. Done with simulated Film borders.

@ You learn to utilize and treasure every moment of the Natural Light  that mother nature has in store for you, because your film sensitivity at peak is only ASA 400. Although ASA 100 was our preferred sensitivity, most of the time it was the 200 that most of us would carry along with the premium Kodachrome 64 slide film ( The best for details and blowing up Big on your walls !! ). Today in this Digital age many folks are crying for ISO 52,000  !! They say it isn't high enough for them ...?? Don't tell me that you shoot Cockroaches in the dark most of the time ... Wow !! I know its a Want rather than a Need for most of the folks today.

@ With only a bare minimum of ISO film, you learn how to fill in with Flash and at the same time learn to calculate  the flash output be it in a crowd at a Dinner party or Studio portrait. I even learn from Stephen Dalton's book ( No online stuff in those days ) on how to use remote Light Trigger to fire away Multiple flash of a Bird in Flight in total darkness ...Far Out !! A lot of Digital users today are reluctant or are ignorant enough  to shy away from using fill in flash as they feel that its not cool to do so ... What ?? Ya, they are worried that their friends or family members would be Blinded by that split second Spark ...!! Even in group photos, I have seen a lot of folks still relying heavily on the cameras high ISO. In the end there is so much details lost and in some cases one can hardly see the faces of the subject. 

 @ The Word '' Dynamic Range '' is indeed a Rare word during Film days. If one has a normal kit lens ( 50mm ) with and aperture of around 1.8 or 2.0 and a standard film, DR ( contrast ratio ) will be there and around. We were never worried about it,  knowing that if your exposure was correct  then too your DR will be there ... Cheers !! Why ? one might ask, well, its all in the emulsion and grains  ( Pixels in digital terms ) of good old film. Photographic emulsion is a light-sensitive colloid. Most commonly, in silver-gelatin photography it consists of silver halide crystals dispersed in gelatin. The latitude of this stuff is what make Film King when it comes to DR and available Light Photography .

Here's a Pic that I took during the 70's with just two candles , just to demonstrate the latitude of the DR even in extreme lowlight.

 @ You learn how to select the best shutter speed and aperture for that particular situation and moment. Auto was only used as a last resort when you in a hurry. You mainly use Aperture Priority for most situation and Shutter Priority to freeze an action or movement. Manual was my Forte, for it forces you to make mistake and learn the hard way, but in the end it brings out the best in you. Most folks today just simply set to Auto or i Auto and Program mode. Its a norm and there's nothing wrong with it except that you missed the fun and the learning curves.

@ Finally to the sensor itself and that's '' FILM ''. Selecting one that suits your needs is, in itself a joy and a challenge. In the early stages the maximum ISO was 100, then it was 200 and later 400. Only in the final days of Film that we manage to see the lights of ISO ( ASA ) 600 and finally a 1600 film. When the 400 first came out back in the  late 70's, I rush to get one for my Birding pics, but it was too Grainy ( Noisy in today's term ).  the price of a roll of film wasn't that costly , but we still take every shot with care as there were only 36 shots in a roll. Well, we do buy a couple of spare rolls and not more than 2 rolls. I love slides the most, especially Kodachrome 64, for its Details , Warm tones and beautiful Greens. Back then ( Early 70's ), the price of the slide film includes , processing and mounting ( Which were send to Australia ). We had to wait for about three weeks to see the results, and boy, can you imagine the Joy when it arrives. Those feelings ( While waiting & anticipating )  are what makes Film so Wonderful and Awesome ... Yee Haa !!

And my all time Favorite ...The Kodachrome 64.

One of the highest ISO back then was the Kodak T-MAX 3200 Black & White film.

@  Besides all these there's always the thrill of trying out the different format of film. Starting from the 110 in the early 60's to the standard 135 ( 35mm ) and later the 120 Medium format. The joy is in the Darkroom ( If you do it yourself ), or while waiting in the photo studio, just to have a look at the Negatives. In the negative side we would select the best and one with a proper exposure and sharpness. Whereas in slides its of course the positive picture, mounted on paper mounts. The whole process of waiting, anticipating, doubts and jubilation are what makes the good old film days so wonderful. I must admit I do missed them all and will be going down this memory lane sooner rather than later.

My first slide projector ...A cabin projector from japan. I had to drag each slides manually and the tray can only take about 20 slides ... Wow ! Those were the days .

@ Finally, it comes down to the hardware itself and that's the CAMERA. Believe me when I say that cameras back then were really '' Work Horses '' and made to last decades. So, when you have save enough, you choose the best one for your budget. I started very early in photography, thanks to my late elder brother whose influence and encouragements change my photographic life till now. I begin in my primary school days with a Kodak brownie given to me by my brother and the rest is history.  For me in the 60's ( When I went serious ) it was the Exa Ia and a Olympus Pen Trip 35 ( Half-Frame ) for the extra 36 shots and a Yashica electro35 for special occasion . Another thing is you get to learn how to service and take care of your precious camera and lenses. Later in the 80's I started repairing my own work horse FM & FM2 cameras.

Some self portraits with the cameras that I used at the time .... Is that You ???



 And some early cameras that I use .

When it comes to TT or OT , it was of course our favorite Kopitiam , and back then we mostly  talk about Techniques, Exposures, Lightings and believe me very little about '' Gears ''. We share ideas on how to improve and innovate and plan an outing almost every two week . Most of the younger folks today when gathered, would most likely be talking about ''  What, Where   and When to get the next New gear ''... Sad, but true. Two pics from our outing and TT way back in the early 80's.

The one that started it all ...The Kodak Pin Hole Box camera. Kodak were first in many things photographic including the first Digital slr. But sadly it was to become the main reason for their downfall . They files for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2012.

This is the First truly innovative camera made by KODAK and The first camera to use The 135 format ...The Kodak Retina 117, a Beauty indeed. This will be my collecting target this coming trip to U.K. ( June 2015 ) .

Cameras back in the film days were solid and built with the best materials known then. They were design to last long and new one came out only once in a while, unlike today , the top guns like Canikon, Sony, Pentax and Fuji are  rushing out numerous new models every year. There are so many of them, but I will choose those that are popular and of course Beautiful and special in their own class.

The early 110 , Micro film and 35mm ( 135 ) format small, and some unique cameras of the days

This below are in my opinion some of the most Beautiful cameras ever made. They are film cameras in their respective format.

35 mm King of the Roads ...!! All the pics here were source from the net and the most were from . Thanks to all of you whose pics are posted here ... Gracias !!



This camera below is really unique and truly a forgotten First in cameradom. The legendary Minolta Maxxum 7000 camera. It was the World first AF slr and took the photographic world by storm. It's sadly now mostly forgotten and few are left in the used market today. A little slow and noisy by today's standard but was an eye opener when it first came out.

Now for the Medium Format, both TLR's , 6X6 and 6x7 Format.

Another cool items in our film days were the catalogs and brochures. Here are some for your eyes to feast on. Truly Down Memory Lane stuff.

Before I end the post , here's a very good example of what film or slides are truly capable of in the right hands. This pictures below was shot with '' The Last Roll of Kodachrome '' by the world renown Nat Geo Photographer '' Steve Mccurry ''. Take a look at the colour , Details and Warmth that can only be found in film. Ya, I know, there are so many Film emulation softwares out there but believe me, some do get close, but non can truly replace that special look and feel of Film. Do log on to this legends webpage here :

This are two 1950's pics shot which were taken with Kodachrome . Truly beautiful and Life like for a film in those days.

The other two man whose photos and and Techniques has a profound impact on my early days of Flash and Bird photography were ... Sir Eric Hosking and Stephen Dalton.  Here are the man themselves and some truly Awesome pics taken by them.

The late Sir Eric Hosking ... Pioneer of Bird photography in the early 50's till the 80's.

 The set up back in the 50's ...Gosh . Look what you lucky folks has today .

 The Results ... Awesome even by today's standards.

Stephen Dalton ...The undisputed King of High Speed Flash Photography with two of his works.

Well, there we go again, its another almost 100 pic post ...Ha,Ha.  Like I said before, it isn't about Film vs Digital, but rather why I think some of us in the digital age needs to just give film a try.  There are of course so many advantages of Digital photography, for that is another story. Besides film cameras are reasonably cheap nowadays. Too bad all of the photo studios in my town has decided to stop processing film anymore. For that I need to travel to Muar the next nearest town , just to buy film and develop photos. Give it a go with just a standard kit lens  and go back to basics all over again. I promise you will have lots fun and learn and discover so many things that you take for granted in photography. For those who staying near me and you need any advice in buying one, do feel free to PM or ring me up.

Hope you guys have fun reading and viewing all this Beautiful cameras and pics. There are still lots of nice cameras that I might have left out, but in due time I will do an update when it crops up my mind. They are so beautiful,  that most camera Mfg today are busy going retro in designing their latest Digital cameras. Most of the top guns are running out of ideas and had simply gone back to the Film past for inspirations ...!!  Remember to just go out and have fun and try new things.

 Film isn't dead, its a sleeping giant waiting for its royal faithful to wake it up again ... Hurrah to Film !!

Thanks and take care !!

Regards ... Uncle James.


  1. Very, very nice blog: Congratulations ! well written and very nice ilustrated !

    1. Hi Betiana ... Thanks a lot for the kind comment, really appreciate it. Glad you enjoy the short pictorial journey ... Gracias !!