Refreshed, Re-Inspired and Re-Loaded!

Refreshed, Re-Inspired and Re-Loaded!

By Steve Huff

It happens after a while to ALL of us. For one reason or another, we can lose our creativity. We can lose some passion, and even get burned out with photography. With so many websites out there concentrating on tech specs, megapixels, high ISO, and larger than life sensors, I believe that many people out there in this great hobby have lost their way. If we get caught up in all of the charts and graphs, it can overtake us and drive us mad. Then, we lose our creativity. We get frustrated with our images and the end result of this is that we lose interest in shooting. We sell our gear and then later regret it. We buy more gear and start the process all over again.

This happened to me just a couple of months ago. With all of this camera testing and reviewing, I sort of “lost my way” and started realizing I was no longer having fun with photography! I was stressing out when I did not get great shots for a review and started to question why I even bother with it! Yes, I admit. I was getting BURNED OUT! To fix this, I did something extreme…something forbidden..something unheard of in todays photo world. I decided to stop shooting digital for a little while and ONLY shoot film. What a concept!

It was time to go back Β to the basics. Back to the simplicity of analog and even take a little break from post processing every image that popped off of a memory card. It all started when Leica sent me the M7 to review and I remembered how much I loved shooting that camera! I used to have loads of Tri-X and Portra and always had great results. I had loads of fun processing my own negatives and scanning a few here and there. It seemed more relaxing. Less stressful.

Have fun and don’t worry about sharpness, softness, color, or perfection. Just shoot! When you do this you can end up with some fun results.

As I shot the first roll of film, I was instantly re-inspired when I cocked the film advance lever. It felt like I was actually working for my image and the thought of it being physically recorded onto film, which is tangible and can be kept for all time, made me think about why we all go so nuts for digital these days. Sure, digital is instant gratification and nice, but I also think it is nice to take a break from all of that and go back to the basics.

After 2 weeks of film, I am now REALLY in deep. I bought the Leica M6, a silver 50 cron to match it, and set my digitals in a cabinet for future use.Β I also aquired yet ANOTHER film camera! When my wife Mina saw how much fun I have been having with film, she decided she wanted a film point & shoot camera. After some research, I found one from Mr. Ken Hansen. He sent me the camera which is a used/mint Contax T2 and guess what? It’s frickkin’ awesome! Very solid, aperture ring on the lens, auto film advance/rewind, and a great viewfinder/rangefinder. Ken has a few cameras like this on hand all the time, I think. I know he has a Leica minilux and a few others, and he always gives great deals on these used cameras.

If you are thinking of trying out film but do not want to invest in a Leica M, then you can e-mail Ken and he may have something you are looking for. B&H Photo also has a pretty vast used section. When you go to their site just click on the “search used only” section when searching. You can search for Leica, Contax, Nikon, Canon, Olympus, etc. There are THOUSANDS of film bodies out there and available. Even this site is superb for old cameras and yes, I visited them in person a few weeks ago. They were GREAT!


Since going back to film, I have been re-inspired and have been having a BLAST shooting and yes, even scanning! I bought the Epson V700 and it is DAMN good and is so close to my old Nikon Coolscan V that I no longer have desire for a dedicated film scanner. I have been getting great results using Silverfast software and I will be putting up a video on using this scanner that will show how you set it up, load the negatives, and the settings I use when I scan. I spent a whole day messing with software, settings, and scans, and am now getting great results with this scanner. To those who have requested this, it’s on the way!

“Roadblock” – Leica M7 and 24 Elmar with Ilford XP2 400

For the past two weeks, I wake up, answer e-mails (I really do try to get to all of them), and usually have my breakfast while I decide what film I want to shoot for that day. I bought 10 different types of film as I want to try them all! The looks you can get are pretty incredible… just by changing your film. Want super saturated smooth files? Try some Velvia slide film. Want a nice print film with great color? Try the new Ektar 100. How about portraits? Portra is the answer for print film, but for something really nice, grab some Fuji Provia. BTW, Here is a link to B&H with my fave print films. Yes, I have shot them all πŸ™‚


I am going to a huge party in Mexico in about 3 weeks and will be on the beach for 2-3 days. I decided to only bring my M6 and 50 cron with some Velvia 50, Provia, and Neopan. Maybe a roll or two of Portra and Ektar as well. My wife wants to bring her new T2 and she may load hers with some Ektachrome. I keep asking myself if I will cave and bring a digital…so tempting, as I could shoot and edit photos at night on my laptop, right?!?! Β But that is what takes away some of the fun! When you shoot film, part of the fun is waiting for your images/scans to come back! When you get them, it is like you are receiving a present. Like it’s your birthday or something. Call me crazy, but that is how I feel.

I still love digital cameras and technology, but I think it’s great to go back every now and then to remember how it used to be. If you have never shot a roll of film, you should go out and try it. It can be fun, but also can get addictive. So many film stocks, so many old GREAT cameras to choose from, and so many great lenses. It can be overwhelming, but I suggest keeping it simple. Even a small P&S with a good lens can give you stellar results. My suggestions for quality P&S bodies are the Leica CM, Leica Minilux, Contax T2, and Nikon 28 or 35Ti. These can all be found used if you look around hard enough.

I’m sure I will soon be back to my Leica digital cameras and talking about how much I love them, but for now, in this moment, I am really digging film again. It’s a breath of fresh air in this ever-evolving digital craziness. Plus, I will always have digital cameras coming through here to review. But for my personal images, I think film is here to stay πŸ˜‰

Some images…

The first set of Black & White were shot with Ilford XP2, an easy-to-use C41 B&W film that even drug stores can process. I had my negatives done for $2 at the local CVS and scanned them on my Epson V700 at home. This first set was also taken with the Contax T2. I had to at least try it out and make sure it was working before I handed it over to the wife πŸ™‚

I like to find ways to take images of just about ANYTHING!

This film thing is addicting. I enjoyed this T2 so much, I can see myself becoming a collector of great film bodies like the Leica CM, Nikon 35Ti, etc. Even with ISO 400 film and mid-day light, the exposure was great.

My wife said, “HEY!! That is MY camera!” Β So she shot this one of me. The lens on the Contax T2 is a Zeiss Sonnar 38mm F2.8. It seems like a GREAT little lens.

My son has decided that anytime I try to take a picture of him from now on, that he will make a goofy face. I just tell him, “FINE! But remember that thousands of people will be seeing you with that goofy face!”

How about some Fuji Reala? This was actually shot 6 years ago. No processing, just a straight scan. Leica M7/35 Lux. Look at how rich the reds are.

Leica M6 and 50 Cron at F2 with XP2. Even with this C41 B&W, the results are great.

Here is a classic shot. I snapped this image of the “Westward Ho” which is a historic hotel that used to be visited by the stars. These days, it’s some sort of retirement home, but there are many homeless who live here as well, from what I hear. After scanning this image, I noticed that the guy in the lower right was flipping me off! To make it even more classic, he is sitting under the “no loitering” sign. Too funny πŸ™‚ This was harsh mid-day AZ sun with ISO 400 film. NOT The best choice, but it still did fine.

One more from the Contaxt T2…

Thanks for reading! If you guys are sick of the film posts, let me know πŸ™‚ More coming soon…

Epson Scanner Overview/Video

Leica 18 Elmar Review

MORE Binoculars…from Zeiss!

Hopefully…the Zeiss Sonnar 1.5 M mount lens re-review!

Samsung NX10 and more guest articles!

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  1. This post is quite old but while looking at info on the T2 I found this on your website (have you had every camera under the sun?) any way I read that you also tried the Nikon 35Ti and was wondering which you prefer, the T2 or Ti

  2. Steve you hit the nail right on the head! I picked up my m6 recently after sitting for many years. This even after buying an Olympus EP3 which is great by the way but I second the motion on everything you said!

  3. I can see how making all of these reviews can burden your lust, creativity and spontaneity. The need to produce images for the sake of telling people why they should get a Canon S90 or any camera at all. I guess, the joyce of being an amateur like me is that I can go out and, once in a while, be happy and real excited about that one special image that I was able to capture. Just like going fishing with no stress of catching anything on a nice summer early morning…

  4. True, Reiner. But sometimes a change of pace can shake up your old routines. This is supposed to be fun.

    Shooting film can help get you to focus on the shot you’re about to take, rather than the shot you just took (chimping).

  5. If people are loosing fun and creativity taking pictures, it has nothing to do shooting film or digital. It is just about the question: why i’m taking pictures? What is the reason i’m spending my time taking pictures? If we can answer this question, then it doesnt matter shooting film or digital. The motivation does not come from the technology, it comes from the inside of our soul, our brain, our interest.

  6. @Eric: Thanks for the suggestion! I can use my dad’s Nikon … assuming that the thing is working. I was trying to pick up an used M on Ebay, but somehow I never win the bids there!

  7. @Armanius : you can get a beat up Nikon slr with a 50 prime for pocket change on ebay, those things were produced in the millions. Olympus slrs go for even less.

  8. Film sounds great and I am tempted to get a film camera. But after having succumbed to the temptation of the M9 (thanks in great part to one Mr. Steve Huff), I am out of funds! πŸ™

    I’ll just have to live vicariously through you folks here! So keep posting those film photos!

  9. Steve, you should contact with Stephen Gandy at CameraQuest and ask about trying out the Bessa III folding rangefinder. I’ve been shooting 6×4.5 with a Bronica RF645 as well as 35mm in an M7, but the bigger the neg the better it gets. So the 6×6 or 6×7 negs that the Bessa produces should be a step in the right direction. Mine is on its way from California to Canada as I write and I must say, I’m a bit excited!

  10. I take my hat off to you, Mr Steve Huff! Thanks and respect for the courage in your words. / My two cent on this issue…. There can be new inspiration in reducing something. And analogue approach is a reduction to me. But in a positive and rich sense.
    I ordered recently some illustrated books with photographs from the old masters of the 50s/60s/70s and have to say, simply great. Absolute sharpness or perfect composition is not the key. It’s mostly the capture of a special moment, lighting or facial expression. A smile from Sophia Loren or a twinkle from Audrey Hepburns eyes don’t have to be catched with a M9, 5DII, A900 or D3X. One thing is documentation in a technically based way (most weddings, press work) and the other thing is artwork..

    My best wishes for you to get new inspiration! It’s the food of every good picture. But..I think, we all can see, you are an artist.


  11. Interesting — the Yashica t5 seems very similar to the Contax T — similar lens, appearance, etc. Not surprising since they were made by the same company, Kyocera.

    The Yashica might be a good bargain option for those who don’t need the titanium body of the Contax.

  12. Thanks Max for looking !!!
    i’ve been away from film photography for 1 year, and it’s one year lost…

    I shoot gigs and gigs for my job daily, my customers are happy, i do hdr, multi layers mask in PS4, lot of precessing and so (if you clik my name you’ll see my pro work)

    But film photography is the real things for the heart and the soul, this is what will stay when i’ll open the book of memories on my old days ! film catch things that digital will never, never.

  13. Mhh, also lusting for a manual camera. But going back to film? No way. If I want that feeling I keep the monitor of my R-D1 turned off and am happy. Gosh, all that logistics involved – that is what would keep me from thinking of shooting.

  14. WONDERFUL Holga shots there, Pascal. Which proves, once again, that it is all in the vision, the use of light and the moment, NOT the gear.

  15. Hello Davis,
    I think the favorite camera of T Richardson il the yashica T5
    I have one, and it’s fantastic (not in all circonstance)
    you can get it around 40€ on ebay πŸ˜‰

    Nice to have the feeling that film is not going to death completly

    almost all theses pict has been done with 30€ 6X6 film camera and can be printed very BIG :

  16. Steve,

    Tell your wife the T2 is a favorite of fashion photographers like Terry Richardson and Jurgen Teller. Richardson, who famously is not a “camera guy”, used it to shoot most of his Gucci campaigns.

    Try to imagine any digital camera that size producing images that can be blown up onto a billboard in Times Square. You can’t. You’d just have a lot of pixels.

    The T2s remain very expensive in the used market because pro photographers love them. The Contax G1 and G2 are even better. The 45mm Planar for Contax G is the sharpest 35mm lens ever tested, according to — sharper even than the 50mm Summicron. The lenses have been very cheap until now because the G system was orphaned when Contax went out of business, but now you can use them on micro 4/3 with an adapter. I’ve seen photos shot with the 45mm G on micro 4/3 and they are simply insane. And yet you can buy a G1 with 45mm Planar for less than $300.

    Film photography is the best bargain out there, no question.

  17. I love the look of the B&W pics Steve! A few questions:

    Why would the T2 be better than the T3 (I have a T3, next to a Yashica TL Electro, F, FE2, FM2, Tvs dig, P6000, D700…) and was wondering.

    Any thoughts about XP2 400 vs TX 400?

    And… you graciously omitted to mention the guy under the “No loitering” sign gives you the finger… Yes, that little T2’s Sonnar is very sharp! πŸ™‚

  18. @ Brian…that is the biggest problem that the “camera” business is facing. It really is a dead-end street, because the wheel cannot be re-invented. Digital breathed new life into an essentially stale business and the only way they (manufacturers and everyone down the chain) can entice “consumers” to “consume” is by pumping out new product on a regular basis to feed the system and therefore survive. It is not about technological improvements because once you’ve reached the pinnacle, it’s a dead end all over again and it threatens survival. As you’ve said, there is nothing to a camera in its simplicity of use and everything has already been said and done. Even with lenses, Zeiss probably achieved their pinnacle with the Contarex system many moons ago (the 21mm Biogon f4 is still the greatest wide on heart if you ask me) and, as we know, lens sharpness means diddly squat. As far Leica, a lens built 50 years ago is still all one needs (see the 50mm Summitar) and that’s telling you something. I can sense that the gear biz is hitting a bit of a wall. People are starting to resent all these useless features of digital cameras and their complexity. They long for simplicity and a product that they could possibly pass along to their children to use and won’t be obsolete in six months (who’s going to want a D3 in 20 years but I’m sure an old M3, M6 or MP will still be kicking ass and worth some $). I truly believe that the only reason Leica was far more successful that they had predicted with the M9 was the fact that it is still an M at heart and a fairly simple camera to use. Besides its quality, it attracted the many who basically wanted full frame 35mm format in a simple, compact form. But, what’s next? Aside from an improved sensors, you cannot do much to that camera until it becomes something else which in turn would bring them in the same boat as Nikon, Canon and the rest of the rat race.
    In short, digital will always be the choice for high volume professionals who need to pump out thousands of frames under time constraints, and film is just not cost effective at that level. For everyone else (and yet that includes the many professional who still shoot film for all their important work), film is where it’s at. I still have to see a digi-camera that gives me what Kodachrome 25 and Velvia 50 pumps out, almost effortlessly, unless I want to spend hours going blind in front of a screen, which still doesn’t cut it by a long shot.

    Sorry for the long diatribe, but as you can see I am passionate…and opinionated πŸ™‚

  19. Nice post Steve. I even noticed it to. There use to be frenetic stuff on this site. I use to check it everyday. But then again I thought, man thats gonna wear him out.

    Film is perfect to zen things a bit.

    Anyway I’m still hoping you’ll do a full review of the zeiss 28 biogon and the 85 sonnar, just as you’ll be doing for the 50 sonnar.

  20. Lovely words and images. I have been itching to give film another serious go, after Max’s articles. Now your articles as well. Ever think about a Konica Hexar?


  21. The lure of film seems to be based as much on the desire to embrace/re-embrace simplicity via the tactile response of the older cameras.

    Most camera manufacturers have lost their way, imho. A camera – any camera, be it film, digital, 4/3, MF, etc – is no more than a tool-box to 1) collect light, and 2) expose said light on some medium. The “collection” process of light seems to have gotten buried under the myriad of hi-tec buttons, menus and miscellaneous functions found on all modern cameras – save for Leica.

    Aperture, shutter speed, and film speed are what I would call Tier-One controls, for obvious reasons; and as such should be given dedicated controls for instant access on any camera intended for spontaneous, creative exposures. Having dedicated controls would also encourage “newbies” to experiment more outside of program modes, and hopefully gain greater creative insights.

    It’s not the medium, but the lost interaction that is sapping the fun out of photography.

  22. Steve!

    Great stuff. I am shooting mostly film these days, too, though I would love to get my hands on an M9…great files. If you really enjoy shooting film, get a coolscan 5000. The ease of scanning 35 mm and the file quality is much better than the Epson (I use a V750, too…prefer the Nikon).

    Also, check out…photos taken with the contax G cameras which are absolutely AMAZING film cameras. If a Leica is a sniper rifle, the G2 is the M16 of rangefinders.

    I have a couple of shots on that site:

    Keep up the good work.

    Jay Mueller

  23. Steve,
    Now that you have the V700, you need to give medium format a try!! Medium format is to 35mm film what 35mm film is to digital! And like 35mm, there are plenty of bargains out there in medium format land too!

  24. Steve,

    Since the digital work flow goes hand-in-hand with film now days and the most problematic part is scanning the negatives/slides, some articles on scanning techniques, etc. would be both helpful and appreciated by many of us who are trying to do this.

    Maybe an article that included a comparison between the various physical methods of cleaning negatives or slides vs. some of the scanner software methods, like Digital ICE. Can some of the DSLR sensor cleaning equipment be used effectively to clean negatives? How effective is the fluid mount technique for removing dust on B&W negatives (I noted that you ordered a Epson V700 instead of the V750), etc. etc.

    Thanks again for pursuing the film option, I’ve found that I have an analog brain when it come to photography and there is something very intuitive about operating a manual camera with film. Something that I don’t experience with a digital camera (although I haven’t had the pleasure of shooting a Leica yet, digital or otherwise). Maybe lots of other people have the same experience with digital cameras and that’s why there are so many automatic features on those cameras?

    Cheers, Jay

  25. Film is great. I’m moving on to 4×5 format for landscape and serious portrait. I have an M6 too for casual . My M8.2 isn’t getting much use and film has brought the inspiration back. Thanks Steve.

  26. I’ve just recently found your site and have enjoyed your pics and post, great work.

    Glad to see I’m not alone !!!!! I got burnt out on digital and my father in law suggested trying a rangefinder like the Yashica Electro 35, picked one up on ebay and am having a lot of fun shooting film and learning about the different rangefinders and their capabilities. .

  27. I don’t even have a digital anymore.. it was all sold and I’m on film only nowadays. πŸ™‚


  28. @ Elaine

    I’ve been looking @ Polaroid SX70’s myself on eBay of late and couldn’t believe how much they go for. Seems a cool classic, I’ve heard poor reports on the new film but don’t know what truth there is in that.

  29. I will never get sick of your film posts. Film is in my blood. I grew up on it. I feel sorry for the younger generation who have never used film. They can’t even imagine what they’re missing. My favorite catalog is Freestyle, and all of that Holga gear in it. Using my Holga is a blast; especially the Polaroid film back on the medium format Hlolga. The film is old (2005 669 film), and just experimenting with it is surreal. Looking at the results, I maybe get one or two out of a pack that are keeper due to the age of the film! The funny thing is, the pictures look like they were taken in the 1960’s! Weird.

    I also heard Polaroid film is making a comeback.

    My fave Polaroid film was the one you could put in the SX70 camera. After taking a picture, you could manipulate the film developing by using a stylus to draw on the picture which would give it some cool effects.

    My favorite film is black and white 35mm though. Love Tri-X and Ilford.

  30. Awesome post Steve. Keep the film entries coming. Really enjoying them.

    You’ve inspired me to leave my M8 for now and shoot all film as well. Trying out Porta 400 VC, XP2, and Tri-X this week. I have to say, I really enjoy researching that next $5 roll of film instead of the next $1000 micro 4/3 camera (or something of similar nature). My wife thanks you from the bottom of her heart.

    Keep up the great work!

  31. Thanks for the emphasis on film – I’ve made a similar journey recently. I bought my M4 new in college about 1968, and added a Leicaflex SL shortly after. Through the years added an M6, CL, R4, and a Pentax LX for carry-around. They were all in storage for many years, as I switched to digital and grumbled how none of the new digitals worked like “real” cameras. I like manual focus and aperture rings, and a shape that feels like a camera.
    I read about the M9, and it sounded like the answer – except I retired suddenly last year, and “M9” and “budget” don’t go together. But as a result I pulled out my film cameras and started checking them over. The M4 and my 1948 IIIc and 1955 IIIf still worked great, while all the newer models had various meter or foam seal issues. But I found there still are a few places that process film and scan it, so my darkroom gear is still stored. So I’ve been trying as many different film types as I can find, and have been having a blast! While I’m waiting for my later Leicas to get fixed I had the Pentax LX repaired, and am still amazed at how nice it is to use fast prime lenses in dim light. Who needs anything over ASA 400?
    For carry-around you really ought to try a IIIf and even work meter-less for a while. That’s real photography!

  32. Steve,

    Sick of the film posts, hell no, keep it coming.
    You also need more from Max, if he’s up to it.


  33. I went through the same experience like you, Steve. Back in High School I used an Olympus OM1 SLR and loved it. Now, 37 years later I still enjoy shooting film. I just tested my newly acquired film camera, a Vivitar 35mm SLR V2000. I purchased it for $5 at a Salvation Army store. I ran a roll of color print film through it and it worked great! It has a Pentax PK mount and I put a SMC Pentax 50 F1.4 on it.

  34. Hi Steve, from across the pond, great site. No, no, no, more, more, more film, pleez (:-)) My D700 might just be having a sleep for a bit, it can join its D3 brother that is in deep hibernation. Think my F4s or F6 will be waking soon from their deep slumber ! Thanx for bringing me to my senses !! Look forward to more Tri-X shots.

  35. oh yeah, Stephen. And Velvia is still Velvia, as proven by your takes there. Still have to find a digital camera that gives something as good without going blind for hour…and even then is not even close.

  36. Steve, nothing like it and glad you’re having fun with it again. Traveling with film can be a hassle sometimes but it’s still better than sitting on a computer at the end of the day, processing images, when you could be enjoying your vacation and family.

  37. Steve. These are great photographs! Loved the results you are getting out of the Contax! I am trying a new film for me at the moment (Fujipro 400H). I was trolling through the “I shoot film” group on Flickr (as you do) and noticed some amazing photographs taken with this film. It looks to be the colour version of tri-x, really great iso 400 colour film that is c-41. Can’t wait to develop it tomorrow!!

  38. Those XP2 pics really turned out nicely. Glad to see they look so great, as I just blindfoldedly bought a roll for my Yashica 35 GT, not knowing what I would be getting. Now I’m quite confident the results will be great πŸ™‚

  39. I recently switched from a M8 to a Contax G2. I agree what you are saying, it’s so much fun to shoot film. I love the results i’m getting from it.

  40. hi Steve
    interesting you’re going digital to film as i’ve recently gone the other way due mainly to the extra time film sucks up compared to digital. One thing that bugs me about shooting film and scanning is how long it takes to clean up the scan afterwards; all those tiny (and not so tiny) specks of dust on my scanner that I’ve tried in vain to remove. I’ve used dust removal software but it’s slow and takes away features of the scene as much as dust half the time. If you’re going to be doing some film / scanning articles I’d be fascinated to hear how you deal with your dust!

    Keep up the good work.

  41. Not sick of the film talk at all Steve, the more the better IMHO – bring it on! And many thanks in advance for your upcoming vid on using Silverfast with the V700. Really looking forward to that.

    Nice little camera that Contax T2, if you’ve never tried a G2 you really should. Maybe heresy in some quarters but I still say they are better than film Leica’s in so many ways and if I had to throw all my cameras out and leave just one I wouldn’t have to make a decision because I know the Contax G2 would win every time as much as I love my Leica gear.

  42. Steve, you inspired me to shoot film. I am purchasing a used Leica M6 TTL I found off of craigslist and am picking it up on Monday. I have a used 35 cron on the way as well. Looking forward to going “old school”! Keep up the film blogging….I’m really digging it.

  43. I am going to get some film and break out my Yashica T4 Super. It has a sharp Zeiss Tessar 3.5 35mm lens. Read your blog every day.

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