NOTE: I'll begin this experience report with a brief disclaimer. It's been less than two years since I've returned to shooting 35mm film after switching to digital photography over 20 years ago. I've inundated myself in as much film education as I could find between web articles and advice from experienced film shooters. But, with my former experience way in the past and limited recent experience, this review is coming from a relative novice point of view.
My Gen-Z kids think shooting 35 film is stupid. I remember when my daughter was about 8 years old, my mom came to visit, and she brought with her a disposable film camera, which she quickly filled with images of her grandkids. When my daughter asked to see the photos, my mom explained that she had to develop the roll and order prints. My daughter looked confused so I explained that with the film we can't see the photos right away. We have to wait until the camera can't take any more pictures, then take it to CVS, where they will "develop" the film with chemicals, then create printed photos. Sometimes we can get the pictures right away and sometimes we have to wait a few days. Her question was "do we still have to pay even if the pictures are bad". Yes, I said. Her retort, "That's stupid!".
I'll admit this right now. I was wrong. Shooting 35mm film can be fun. Let's be clear, I think digital photography is superior to 35mm film photography in every way. Autofocus, higher resolution, better quality lenses, size, etc. Digital is unbeatable. However, just like with cars, sometimes using older technology can be a fun way to connect to the past and shared experiences.
Because all the cool kids are doing it, which I know is a silly reason to do anything, I have been rediscovering film photography. Maybe my wanting to shoot film stems from my the passing of my father last year and working through my emotions and memories of his photography, and maybe some of it is the challenge of relearning an old skill. Also, I thought it could be fun. Shooting film with old 1970s and 1980s era film SLRs, an Asahi Optical Co. Spotmatic II and a Pentax P3, means shooting with no light meter and/or manual focusing without any visual aids and being limited by the speed of the film which further limits the range of shutter speeds and aperture combinations.
The last time I shot a roll of film was 1999, shortly after my first child was born. My first attempt at shooting film after all these years was mostly a failure. But I persist and recently completed shooting a 35mm roll of Ilford HP5 Plus 400 in my Pentax P3 using a rubber band to hold the film door shut. The images below are from that roll.
I mailed two rolls of film to be processed at The Darkroom in San Clemente, California. The Darkroom develops colour print (C-41), slide (E-6) and Black & White in 35mm and other formats and provides prints and/or negative scans.
With every roll of film developed, The Darkroom scans the film and negatives in one of three scan sizes. The Darkroom states that Standard Scans and Enhanced scans are recommended for 5x7 inches and for prints up to 12x18 inches respectively. Super Scans are 4492×6774 pixel JPEGs scanned from 35 mm film and are downloaded only. The Darkroom claims these are perfect for
giant prints. I ordered no prints but opted for the Super Scans and access to online gallery to download the scanned images. Developing and scanning my roll of Ilford HP5 Plus 400 costs me $20 before shipping and handling.
One of the downsides of shooting film is that unless one has the patience to record the settings for every shot into a notebook, the metadata about the photograph is not captured. It took me some time to recall the date when some of these were captured, but I have no clue at to time of day, shutter speed, aperture, etc. I used Exif Editor to add in the camera and lens information.
My wife, the woman in the featured image, has this expression every time I point a camera in her direction but she had a bemused expression when I mentioned I was shooting and developing film. She saw the invoice for the film, watched me delete the 14 really bad images, and walked away shaking her head.
I am not convinced this was worth the effort and cost but I had already purchase rolls of Velvia, Ektachrome 100 and ADOX Scala 160.
Bhavna is the office manager for a local mental health and counselling practice. We attended an office dinner party hosted at Bhavna's employer's home. The guests were gracious in allowing me to practice my photography on them. After the dinner party, Bhavna and I walked around downtown Lambertville, providing me with the opportunity to finish the roll. Some of the images were shot indoors and some outdoors in the late afternoon and early evening. It's not a cohesive set of images. The subject matter varied from portraiture to street to "je ne sais quoi".
If you want to see how to properly shoot Ilford HP5 Plus 400 see Jim Grey's post on
Shooting Ilford HP5 Plus.