The Sacred Path

Journeys through the mist

Film in this digital age?

Large format film size vs DSLR CCD sizeWhat can I say, I’m a little bit of a purist when it comes to photography. The image at left will give you a comparison of  the image capture area on a couple of very fine, high-end ($7500 + without lens) digital cameras compared with 4×5 film. With so much more area to capture the same image on, 4×5 film is going to give a lot more detail and clarity.

Also, I like the whole process of shooting with 4×5. It is much more of a Zen experience. You set up the tripod, set up the camera, manually focus it, meter the scene with a hand-held light meter, and then set the aperture and shutter speed manually. No point and shoot. This means you need to be a lot more thoughtful in selecting your shots especially when you look at the costs involved. For film and processing it is going to average about $10 per sheet (with shipping both ways). Then after you decide on which ones you want scanned and printed, you have to send them off again and each scan is going to cost between $25 and $40 depending on resolution. So you make every shot count.

The one thing you have to keep in mind though, is that it is much more about the experience of being out in nature and seeing all the wonderful places. If you take 5 shots and none of them turn out to be great, then so be it. You had the experience, and that can never be taken away.

I shoot digital as well, but not when I want to best possible results.


  1. Nice reflection on the experience of photography.

    ‘Ouch’ to the cost of the scans!

    I was photographing a flower in the living room yesterday, camera on a tripod, shutter on self-timer.

    I don’t know exactly how the idea formed in my head, but the process of waiting while the timer counted down brought in images of photographers of old – waiting patiently while the plate was exposed. It was a nice feeling. And this with a Nikon D700.

    • David, yes it is more about the experience, and I certainly get a lot of enjoyment when out with my digital.

      A few months back, I was out with a landscape photographer friend who was taking shots of the lava entering the ocean here on the big island, and two of the shots were at f45 at four and a half minutes. It does give one a lot of respect for those photographers of old.

  2. My husband was a stillsman on feature films in the ’70s and ’80s, and he lived long enough to experience the digital camera revolution. In Chic’s opinion, his digital Nikon was terrific for was our travel photos; but when he wanted a REAL shot, it was taken with one of his film cameras. He processed his own B&Ws, and loved them best.
    It’s heartening to know that there are still people using film cameras, Richard! Now, if only the movie industry would revert, Continuity would rule once more!

    • I love film, and especially large format. I can scan them at up to 10,000 DPI and cover the side of a barn with the image if I wanted to and have it crystal clear. Sadly, the film I had been using is no longer available, and the writing is on the wall. There is only one type of film left (Fuji Velvia) for me to use, and I expect that one will go away within 5 years. Ten at the most.

      I’ve looked into digital backs for my Toyo Large Format, but at around $60,000USD that isn’t in the cards for me unless I win the lottery.

      Sadly just like with Audio, photography is going the way of convenience and expedience and quality is the victim. Such is progress (SIC).

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