I've been going through my archives and I found this image of Ben destroying a fruit danish in the studio. Black and white still looks better from film.

This was taken 18 years ago with a film camera. You can see the edge print along the top of the frame. I shot the photo with a Pentax 645n and a 150mm lens. The distribution of tones seems just right to me. So much better than I am usually able to get no matter which software program I use to try to squeeze pretty black and white images out of any number of digital cameras, across a wide range of digital formats.

I have a stack of about 100 11x14 inch prints sitting on my desk that need to be scanned. Just thinking about preserving the tonal ranges.

Having a short re-romance with black and white film tonight as I try to find the box filled with old negatives from St. Petersburg, Russia.

As we get closer to the end of the year I keep talking myself out of driving up to Precision Camera to see just what they have in the way of medium format film cameras. I hope someone talks me out of it before I stick my foot back into the tar patch of film...


  1. Quite the reverse Kirk, quite the reverse - you're talking me into it! Love my OM-2, but when I see this, oh my...

  2. Fully agree, this is a really nice black an white photograph and I haven't seen anything from a digital camera that is quite as good.

  3. Don't resist the urge. Film is still beautiful. I (one of many, I'm sure) would love to see what you would do with film today. There's room in your kit for two cameras.

  4. Well, you could pick up used gear, roll film tanks, if you shoot 120/220, and great lenses for low money. The cost comes in if you send out the negatives to a drum scanning service vs a flatbed scanner. File sizes will be huge. Can you work in post to get the same results as shooting pure digital? Interesting question... Fixer makes me woozy...

  5. Or maybe it’s the lighting. Oops. No offense intended.

  6. Don't buy and sell Hasselblads, Kirk. Just get a 500-series body, a couple of backs, and a good portrait lens and keep them, just as you do your old Olympus Pen lenses. When you want it, it will be there, just as they are.

  7. A Rolleicord is good enough, and simple enough, to scratch the itch without costing much -- or indeed anything at all, as it won't go down in value any time soon. Just find one with a decently bright screen and you're set.

    Beware the small 6x6 enlarger, trays, stores of paper and the darken-able corner that grows to become the darkroom . . . Soon you might be "that photographer in Austin who does video and silver-based black-and-white" ;)

    Seasonal greetings to you and family (including studio-dog, of course).

  8. I still haul out my Blad or Rolleiflex every couple of months. It's a zen thing for me. I love using them and you just can't get, or at least I can't, the film look with any digital camera I have used. It's not that the film look is better, it's just sexier and huggable to my way of thinking. It's funny I sold all my Blad gear several years ago and I whined about missing it so much my photo buddy bought it all back and presented me with it. It was the only way to shut me up I guess ;)

  9. Hang on, Kirk. Let me offer another possible explanation.

    I agree that the tonal transitions and general qualities of these MF film shots are very pleasing.

    But just as you now eschew 35mm format film for digital, why should MF be any different?

    Perhaps it is not the recording medium that gives these attractive qualities but the format itself?

    MF digital would provide the tonal range and transitions that you find so compelling.

    This blog in the past has explored why different digital formats work, and right now you are in a sweet place with Panasonic for your general work. Having a flirt with MF film is all fine and dandy, but are you sure it is film you crave, or that MF look, in which case why not go all in and get MF digital?

    The only reasons to get an old MF film camera, to my mind, are cost and a sense of romantic nostalgia.

  10. Hmm. Rufus, this presupposes that I've never tried making black and white images from medium format digital files. Sorry, "been there and done that" and it's still not the same to me.

  11. I’ve been shooting film lately and quite enjoying it. I’m pretty bad at focusing manual lenses on old cameras, but my Pentax lenses work well with some very affordable AF film cameras from the last decade before digital. So my photos are mostly in focus now... As for the tone differences, I definitly see it, especially switching films. Tri-X in the right light looks awesome to me. But it also has helped me process my digital in a way that I like better, just having the reference. My main problem is I hate scanning, and I’m not yet set up to make good digital negative copies using a camera. So I get them professionally scanned. Good detail, but they are jpegs and not great for adjusting much.

  12. I do love shooting with my Bronica SQ.
    The photographs have a different quality to them. They're very affordable these days...


  13. I'm not going to talk you out of it. I've never been able to match the aesthetic look of black and white film digitally. I'm currently looking for a darkroom to use, as I find scanning negs to be such a pain, and always with a loss of quality. I would much rather scan a print made from the darkroom. For me no matter the format, whether its 35mm or 120 film, the look is different to digital black and white, especially the inherent grain. I know what I prefer.



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