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Sick of digital now...


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Posted on 16 Aug 2010 07:55:46 BDT
I think I have two basic points.
A) Analogue doesn't get 'better' the more ancient the process used. Analogue is 'better' because it captures something more than digital, something intangible but which you can feel when looking at an analogue image. Analogue really is 'painting with light', the light produces a chemical reaction on film and paper which is infinitely subtle. Digital converts light to 0 and 1 and loses something in the process. The same is true of digital recording and playback of analogue instruments. Digital photography is excellent at recording a moment and unsurpassed for speed from camera to dissemination but for me and for those modern photographers now experimenting with analogue, it lacks something. Not everyone will be sensitive to that lack, but it does exist.

b) Darkroom V Photoshop. In the darkroom one can make adjustments to the image but one cannot, except in very skilled hands and over a long time, falsify the image taken. Photoshop allows almost total capacity to create a new image from the old and while that finished image may be pleasing it is, I contend, not strictly a photograph at all. It has been created on system. The camera never used to lie, now it does almost nothing but!

There is also the argument that Photoshop has created a legion of image obsessives, especially in the 45+ age group of men, who are not photographers at all, but that's another matter. The same thing was true of Hi Fi back in the day, the same demographic would obsess over tone arms and tracking weights etc, but couldn't tell a good song from a hole in the ground.

Posted on 16 Aug 2010 08:43:14 BDT
G. E. Hearn says:
You know, you're right. I'd forgotten all about the HiFi obsessives! I used to work in that industry in the early 80s and I well remember the anoraks who would spend ages going on about how their Linn Sondek would reproduce the clock sounds on the intro to Pink Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon" better than a competitor's deck, etc. That and their constant rattling-on about oxygen-free copper cables. Yawn.

Me? I used to make sympathetic noises because we were selling the stuff, but when I went home I'd play Split Enz or Squeeze albums on whatever I had lying around - and enjoy it for the music not the frequency response!

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Aug 2010 08:49:36 BDT
frogs says:
@Nicholas
point A. I think these days this is a false truth. Digital cameras at current pixel density catch more information than any analogue process can. It is analogous to the same argument between vinyl and digital music playback. Many people still claim that vinyl gives you a more real sound, but the fact is that current digitally available sources, especially high bitrate music files and SACD hold far more information from the original sound, than a piece of grooved plastic can hope to. So the "infinite" of analogue is actually less than the "finite" of digital.
point B. Probably true, but then these days the very word "photograph" doesn't usually mean the same thing anyway. I myself take thousands a year, and print very few on to the old fashioned medium of photo-paper. These days a photograph to most people means an image on a screen. Our lives are surrounded by high quality displays from phones through to huge televisions. And for the most part the quality is far higher. It's far nicer showing people my work on a 24 inch monitor, or my TV, than an album of 15x10 snaps.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Aug 2010 09:14:24 BDT
Last edited by the author on 16 Aug 2010 09:15:05 BDT
You have two very good points which I kind of agree with, Nick, especially the over obsessive use of photoshop to falsify the image. However, you do sound a bit of a young fogey, if you'll excuse the expression. At one time, in some circles, it was thought that black and white was the only medium for serious photographers and that colour was for holiday snaps - and I have some sympathy for that point too.
By the way, when the Daguerrotype gave way to the paper print I bet there were those who said it would kill the art of photography because unlimited numbers of images could be created, and altered in the printing process, whereas the Daguerrotype is of course a unique item.
Its not quite true that film (or analogue in nuspeek) has infinite subtlety because you have the limitation of grain size - something which can be exploited of course.
Maybe the 45+ brigade you single out for opprobrium just became tired of the limitations of film (there are some). A bit of a generalisation too - I often see an elderly bloke who still uses only a Linhoff with cut film (colour though). I like your analogy with Hi Fi obsessives though.
Maybe those "modern photographers now experimenting with analogue" are just rediscovering the wheel - photography's preRaphaelites? And why not - they may bring a new fresh approach not rooted in the pursuit of ever more technology. I think film cameras started going down hill when they all started being fitted with zoom lenses - with deleterious consequences for aperture and optical quality especially when paired with slow films. Remember when Olympus stopped making SLRs (except the OM4) and produced some fixed lens horror with a zoom - I haven't heard anyone describing them as classic. Automatic focussing was another mixed blessing IMO. I only bought an exposure meter when I started shooting colour reversal film. If I go on like this I shall be putting a roll through my OM1!
Personally I think there's room for everyone.

Posted on 16 Aug 2010 10:00:51 BDT
Nicholas - bravo. Very succinctly expressed, and, in my opinion, very true. And it's not even a "quality" thing, it's not about detail and sharpness, it's about a subtle something that many people don't see, perhaps simply because their idea of a good photograph differs from mine. To each his own, I suppose, but I know that I was recently obliged to buy a digital camera (small and packable, for a seven week trip with only carry-on) and it's cute and efficient, and the pictures seem fine, but I can't get excited about it, and still wish I were taking my Mamiya kit, all 3kg of it. Alas.

Posted on 16 Aug 2010 10:26:05 BDT
G. E. Hearn says:
Younger people are certainly rediscovering film. Look at the cult following of the Diana and Holga. Not my bag, and the results are certainly far too random for me to entertain, but they give enjoyment to a lot of people, so why not? No-one's saying they're as good as digital. Just different.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Aug 2010 14:48:35 BDT
They certainly are. I work around the corner from the Lomo shop in Soho and its always busy. Of course the whole point of lomos etc is that they produce very random results from technically appalling lenses and bodies that let in light. The images can be rather magical but are indeed a lottery. And film is an expensive medium. I cant afford that kind of luck/chance image making, although I do use a Zorki 4 and with colour film the pics look very evocative of days gone by.

Just got a roll of Tri x back from D&P and holding the neg sheet up to god's lightbox= the window, I am excited by about 6 of them and cant wait to get in the darkroom to see if they deliver.

Posted on 16 Aug 2010 16:16:13 BDT
Last edited by the author on 16 Aug 2010 16:32:24 BDT
If you want the arty Lomo look why not stretch a piece of wide clear selotape over your lens (don't touch the front element). This saves being ripped off 50 on a piece of cheap nasty plastic tat. If you can spare a filter wipe it with vaseline and play. No doubt there are other ways of degrading the image.
I was shocked to see them selling Lubitels for 300! Seriously, get one for a tenth of that on Ebay.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Aug 2010 18:48:23 BDT
Peely03 says:
I have just got to agree with you on this.
Well said

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Aug 2010 20:35:43 BDT
R K Elleson says:
You only think film was better because the developing lab compensated for any deficiencies in your exposure.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Aug 2010 21:44:21 BDT
Good point you need to take reversal film to see if your exposures are up to the mark.

Posted on 16 Aug 2010 23:46:04 BDT
Last edited by the author on 16 Aug 2010 23:51:41 BDT
G. E. Hearn says:
Yeah, Lomo amazes me too. I've looked at them on Fleabay and the expression "Sac du Merde" springs to mind. Still, if people like them then all well and groovy I guess...
I've noticed a lot of TV adverts these days where the footage is post-processed to give that "70s crap camera" appearance. Must be a fashion thing. I wouldn't know as I'm too old for all that and I remember the 70s for the grim times that in reality they were!

Nicholas:

Is Tri-X any good? I've only ever used Fuji Neopan 400 for B&W and I've not been all that impressed by it. It seems very (almost excessively) "Contrasty" for want of a better word, and it seemed to over-expose in my F90X. Perhaps this was due to the yellow filter? The Neopan is C-41 process, like colour negative. Would it work better without the filter? It's all new to me, but I like B&W with film, so I'll try to get better at it.

Doc:

Lubitels for 300? How about Olly Trip 35s in the rare black enamel finish for over 150? When the identical camera in satin chrome is maybe 10-20? Now that's a massive price hike for a pointless feature if ever I saw one.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Aug 2010 00:48:56 BDT
I dare say black enamel soon scratched in the 70s so if you want a good one there aren't many about. Did they make many? I only remember the silver ones.
On the subject of film, any fast film is contrasty and 400asa is fast. With B&W you can overexpose a bit to reduce it - but there again you may as well us a slower film at the regular exposure and have finer grain and less contrast too. I believe the press liked Tri X because the old fashioned printing quite liked a bit more contrast. I used to use Ilford FP4, which was 125asa (Plus X in Kodak). The landscape photographers used slow films like Pan f at 50asa for fine grain. I recall using techniques where the developer was diluted and the film was deliberately not agitated so that the developer salts would be depleted in the areas of highlights (black on a negative) thus reducing development and reducing contrast. Its a long time ago, I may have got some of this wrong.
You see why cameras all had f2 lenses or better, and not just for ease of focussing. Both Leitz and Zeiss made good f1.4/f1.5 lenses in the 30s and later there were f1 lenses from Canon and Leitz (later up to f0.95, I think).
I tried 400asa colour film once but in sunlit conditions with shade I got soot and whitewash results. Never again. Later Fuji 200asa wasn't bad though. As for reversal film I either used Kodak (25 or 64 asa) or the 50asa Perutz Chrome.
Now I'm beginning to remember why I like digital - change iso at will, B&W and colour in any combination as well as vivid colours or subdued to emulate say Agfa or Kodak - and all in a single body. It was very common to see photographers with a couple of slr and a compact or rangefinder to cover all the bases.
Why not outdo the Lomo fashion with a genuine Box Brownie? Same dubious lens quality and real iconic status.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Aug 2010 07:49:18 BDT
Actually I believe that, until at least quite recently a lab would take an average density reading of the roll of negatives and print them all using that. Not the best solution but suitable when bulk processing customers films. If you mean however that they would develop the negatives in a compensatory way, apart from pushing film asa to customer instruction, that would be quite impossible.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Aug 2010 07:56:54 BDT
@Dr G I recall my parents always took 'slide' film with their instamatic. For some reason most holidaymakers did in the 1970s, preferring the all in one price that had the film developed by Kodak and the fun of sitting around the slide projector.

The pictures I have in front of me now (126 format) seem fine and well exposed. Given the simple cameras then slide must have been reasonably forgiving.

Its true though that during the 80a and 90s in advertising agencies we always asked for reversal from photographers, they would never think of using color neg.They would always bracket exposure of course.

Posted on 17 Aug 2010 08:03:48 BDT
Oh and Dr G, yes you can change b&W to colour in digital at will, although you can do it back at base no need to do it in camera of course. I think digi b&w never looks like analogue b&w tho, even with false grain.

I always used Tri X in my role taking pics of live bands 77 -84 because pushed to 800 it gave punchy results that seemed to suit the mood. Any higher and the grain could become a bit too intrusive and also higher shutter speeds freeze action too much imho, a bit of motion blur is good

I think you made a confusion when you said f2 lenses made for easier focussing it is of course the opposite. The smaller the aperture the more leniency is provided by the greater depth of field.

If you meant a brighter lens means clearer picture to focus on, then yes it does,

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Aug 2010 09:18:18 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 17 Aug 2010 09:20:21 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Aug 2010 09:53:22 BDT
Last edited by the author on 17 Aug 2010 09:56:00 BDT
Nick, Nick,
Of course you can swap from colour to B&W on your computer but surely an arty bloke like you wants to review his shots in B&W on the camera if he is looking for B&W photo opportunities. Don't tell me you think a good B&W photo is just a photo with the colour removed? As for digital B&W looking different from film; well it would if you are using TriX, and pushing it, its the grain. Digital grain looks ghastly IMO.
B&W film has a certain lattitude - at least +1 to -1/2 stops (some would say +2 & -1 ev). As long as you are consistent the lab should expose the prints for the density of the negs.
Don't sneer at your parents and others who use colour slides/reversal: "I recall my parents always took 'slide' film with their instamatic. For some reason most holidaymakers did in the 1970s, preferring the all in one price that had the film developed by Kodak and the fun of sitting around the slide projector". If your parents got good exposures they may just have been good photographers - or maybe, like me, they only kept the good ones. Slides are LESS forgiving because you don't have the intermediate printing process where you can make some corrections. And remember; the reason I call it reversal film is to remind me that the characteristics are reversed - it can't stand over exposure. It has to be just right or the projected image is too dark. In fact slides were the preserve of the serious photographer (or professionals) in the 60s and 70s - till the price of decent cameras came down. As a medium it was prized for it's luminance and needed skill to master. At my club in the 60s all the serious photographers used B&W prints and slides (to great effect I might add). Most happy snappers, with the simple cameras of the day, chose prints because you can hand them round in a sociable way and have duplicates made whereas slides needed costly screens and projectors and have to be shown in the dark. I should have thought that slides would appeal to the artist in you since they are unique and are hard to take copies of - and require skill to expose.
Lastly you show your complete ignorance of optics. You are right, the smaller the aperture the greater the depth of field BUT f2 is a LARGE aperture you dimwit. You get a brighter image with a large aperture and the least depth of field. Check it out with your stop down button. Or google it.
I think you should finish your apprenticeship before setting yourself up as an expert - especially when you don't understand basics like aperture. And try not to be so condescending about other peoples preferences for slides or whatever - at least until you have some understanding of the medium.

Posted on 17 Aug 2010 10:23:16 BDT
Condescending? I found it an affectionate remark, to be honest. And although slide film has a reputation for being unforgiving, I get surprisingly good results from my MF cameras, just using Sunny 16. As a student in the 70's, I shot ONLY Kodachrome and Ektachrome for the financial reasons alluded to, and my my exposures were almost always spot-on, but then my old Praktica had a good built-in light meter.
Also, I think Nicholas is right about ease of focusing - or at least as far as accuracy goes. When I shoot at f1.4 I need to be EXACT, when I shoot at the smaller aperture a centimeter or two one way or another isn't going to have dire consequences.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Aug 2010 10:59:25 BDT
Yes @VE I was certainly not sneering at my parents nor being condescending, I look back on those holiday snap slideshows with great warmth and more than a little sadness that they won't come again. I don't understand how anyone could have thought otherwise from my post

Actually when you think of it it's remarkable those old instamatics were capable of creating images that, in my memory, looked absolutely fine when blown up so large. Obviously as a family we were not that fussy over perfection, the image of my father pretending to wrestle a blow-up shark on the beach was more interesting than whether the shadow detail was correct.

Dr G seems to have become very ill-mannered over the last 24 hours, perhaps another patient died on him? He certainly seems to be either reading things I didn't write or misreading what I did just as the fancy takes him.

I appreciate that men of science like Dr G don't like grain, for them it's an imperfection that must be eradicated. I however find it rather beautiful and emotional. It is of course subjective. I also rather like the crackle when you place the needle down on the start of a vinyl LP, I find it a prelude to the music.

N

Posted on 17 Aug 2010 11:07:34 BDT
G. E. Hearn says:
I think it's only a matter of time until the iPod has a "Vinyl" EQ setting which compresses the sound and adds a digitally generated "Ssssssss..Pop...Sssssss...Pop" in the background. ;-)

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Aug 2010 11:23:38 BDT
@GE Hearn Actually as I transfer a lot of my old vinyl to iPod it already has all the noise. Funny thing is, 30 years later, I can nearly always remember how the LP got the scratch! I hate it when the thing sticks or jumps though.

Of course people are already forgetting how much better music sounds off CD and through speakers and are accepting ipod and headphones as the norm. How much longer before bands simply don't bother making CDs? If the first thing the buyer does with a CD (assuming he didn't just pinch it off the web already compressed) is rip to mp3 and put the cd away on a high shelf never to be played again there seems little point in making high quality cds in the first place.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Aug 2010 11:24:29 BDT
Last edited by the author on 17 Aug 2010 11:31:27 BDT
BV
Perhaps you didn't detect the nuance? Equating the use of slides with holiday makers (picture knotted handkerchiefs on beetroot coloured heads) who take a few rolls a year on their instamatic (the choice of the tyro who can't even thread a film or choose between portrait and landscape format) is saying that serious photographers, like Nick, find that beneath them - trust me he was sneering. Including his parents in that category is disrespectful but maybe I'm old fashioned. After all the older generations needed more skill than we do now with all the technology to help us. The difference between then and now is that they tried to produce good photos with simple cameras whereas the Lomo lot seem to admire crap IQ as art; but probably have better cameras for general use. There again a lot of art is crap! Alternatively you could just take pictures in sunlight with the sun behind you (as recommended by Kodak on their film packaging) and most would be OK. The sun is a constant light source after all (unless you are an astronomer). Suggesting that slides are the choice of people taking photos on the cheap is insulting. Anyway don't you recall that you could get a roll of colour film for next to nothing and develop it for about 99p in the 90s. That's much cheaper than Kodachrome.
Of course you need to be spot on with your foussing if shooting at f1.4 - that's because depth of field is very small. Manual SLRs focus at wide aperture so you see when the subject snaps into focus. This is easier than at a smaller aperture because it's either in focus or it isn't. Then you stop down to get the desired depth of field.
I think you and Nick are confusing the action or technique of focussing (a manual camera) with ensuring the subject is in focus. For instance when taking a portrait it is important to get the eyes sharpest - easy when focussing at f1.4 or f2. Then you take the shot at f5.6 or f8 or whatever you want to get the other features in acceptable focus. Why do you think SLRs have auto diaphragms?
Did you never wonder why a lot of TLRs had a bigger aperture on the viewing lens than on the taking lens?
The focussing process is easier and more precise with a wide aperture simply because the depth of field is small - but you get more, or as much of the subject as you wish, in acceptable focus by stopping down.
Unfortunately manual focus is not well catered for on an auto focus camera - manual focus cameras had screens designed to assist focussing.

Posted on 17 Aug 2010 11:41:04 BDT
Nick,
I am not a physician.
If you really do not intend to sneer then you should choose your words more carefully to avoid unintentional offence. I still think you were caught bang to rights.
I didn't say I didn't like grain per se - only the photoshop version. I think it can be done to death though.
I tend to agree with you about music - especially the MP3/ headphone bit. Like Graham I don't like the hiss much though - but there again I used to have very high sensitivity to high frequency sound. I think CD players have improved but I am very happy with "analogue" sound. A bit like cameras there is the convenience of CDs, say,. You can play them in the car. Do you remeber the Discotron portable record player?

Posted on 17 Aug 2010 11:52:21 BDT
I don't think I was caught bang to rights Dr G, you simply projected onto my words a sub text that wasn't there. The idea that I would sneer at my now dead parents is both ridiculous and offensive.

I didn't think you were a physician really, but the joke was too good to miss. I imagine you are a scientist given your pursuit of accuracy over emotion.

False grain will never replace the real thing of course, it's amusing that Pshop feels it necessary to try though.

My car I am rather ashamed to say still has the cassette/radio it came with. I don't use the cassette player except as an input method for the ipod, but I do like the Blaupunkt radio's quality. Of course I will have to ditch it when analogue is turned off. Trouble is that as so many cars now come with integral ICE the range of available slot in systems is shrinking fast.
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