Lights and Tones Blog

FILM PHOTOGRAPHY: 02/03/18 – Rediscovering Film

It was 25 years ago when I last time shot on film. Meanwhile buying a film camera became quite affordable. It’s been on my mind for a year now to buy one and try it again. I pulled the trigger a couple of months ago. Earlier I used Canon FD lenses on my Sony A7/A7II with adapter so I decided buying an FD body with some primes. I also bought a couple of rolls of 35mm films, black and white and colour as well. I don’t want to process my negatives at home so I picked a reliable lab and sent there the results. I shot about 4-5 different films but I wasn’t really satisfied with the result. Although the films brought their typical tones and colours but the resolution was far from my expectations. Digital technology improved a lot in the last 10-15 years. The newest sensors and lenses are capable of stunning results. I decided to sell the Canon FD set and try medium format. I wanted to go for the biggest available negative which is not panoramic yet. The obvious choice was 6x9. The problem is it’s only available in rangefinder format. Fujifilm’s GW690 and GSW690 series are terrific cameras but no through-the-lens option is available. I could have gone for 6x8 which is Fujifilm GX680 series but this was rather built for using in studio. They are heavy and only slow glasses are available. The next step was 6x7. Here the options were Pentax, Mamiya and Bronica brands all of them have interchangeable lenses and through-the-lens viewfinders. Pentax 67 has focal plane shutter, Mamiya’s have bellows focusing. That’s why I picked Bronica’s GS-1 camera. It’s a nicely built-up system with relatively light body and a wide choice of leaf shutter lenses. I bought a used one from eBay with the PG 100mm F3.5 lens, 6x7 120 film back and AE prism finder. I also bought a couple of rolls of Ilford black and white films. I also decided that it was worth to scan my own negatives to save some money that's why I invested into an Epson V550 scanner. After the first two rolls I have to admit, medium format film plays in a different league. There is something magic in it. The rendering of the lenses combined with the tones of the film gives something special difficult to describe. Here I don’t have any problem with resolution. It’s at least as sharp as a good full frame digital sensor. Precise focusing needs practising but the huge focusing screen is a big help. The viewfinders of today’s DSLR’s can’t compete with it.

Here are some results from my first two rolls.

A portrait of my son. Look at the details around the eyes. Ilford Delta 400 was used and PG 100mm F3.5 wide open.

The next four images were shot on Ilford FP4+.

I’m going to carry on discovering and learning medium format film photography. I have some more black and white film to try and after using them I’d like to shoot with Kodak’s Ektar and the very famous Fuljifilm Velvia 50 RVP. Later I’m plannig to post a review of the Bronica GS-1 system too. Am I going to keep it? I decide it later. It’s not too expensive but still a fair amount investment into gear. Although it’s a new, different experience I enjoy a lot, one thing is sure: I’m not going to stop using digital as it has its own place in my photography.