Is film making a comeback? Why indeed it is!

Someone e-mailed this to me today. It appears NCPS, one of the largest and most popular labs to send your film to for processing and scanning is in need of help! Check out their HELP WANTED ad on San Diego Craigslist.

I wonder if sites like this one who are re-descovering film and talking about it are helping this little “resurgence”. B&H Photo tells me film sales are way up, NCPS needs people to scan images for them, and Leica tells me the MP is a hot seller right now and they are backordered (but then again, what ARENT they backordered on?). It appears that more and more people are shooting film which is SUPER COOL. I have spoken with teenagers who are wanting film cameras and even my son, who loves his Nikon D3000 dearly wants a Leica M3 for Christmas this year.

IMO, a 35mm film camera with Leica glass and good metering can easily surpass even a Leica M9 for richness, color, and feeling. If you would have asked me this a few months ago I would have said NO WAY IN HELL that a frame of 35mm film could pump out a nicer image than the M9, but it can if it is done correctly. I have seen some pro high res scans from friends and my jaw dropped. Not just with the color but all of the tonal gradations of that color that come through with film. Amazing. I have yet to see any digital file beat some of the scans I have seen.

Also, I have yet to get my own “pro” scans done so I am not talking about the silly snapshots of mine that have been posted so far, but soon I will have some real scans and I will share my results. I also plan on doing a comparison in the next few weeks by taking the same exact images with the same exact lenses with the Leica MP and the Leica M9. I will have the film, which will be print and slide film, pro scanned at high res for the test. Tripods will be used and I will shoot the M9 in RAW and process for best results possible. I will also have the best comparisons PRINTED at 20X30 and share the results.

I am curious to see the results myself. Sure, the M9 wins every time on instant gratification, instant feedback, and convenience but this will be a test to judge the “ultimate image quality” by two of the best 35mm format cameras in existence (IMO). The M9 may win with the print as its 18MP are incredible for large printing.

For my uses, my thoughts are to shoot the M9 and MP and to choose the one I want depending on the situation. The MP for the more “special” moments and the M9 for those times where I want the convenience of digital. Street shooting in NYC? I would shoot both but would expect the MP to give me the more pleasing results with some B&W loaded. A paid job? I would shoot BOTH.

I think there are a bunch of people saying “HEY! You mean I can buy a film camera for $100 and get nicer quality than my $1000 digital?”  Even my local Wal Mart is sold out of film today. The drug store that scans my film says they have been getting quite a bit of film in recently. It goes on and on.

It’s happening but let’s see how far it goes. Even looking at buy/sell forums I am seeing WANTED ads for MP’s, M6’s and film scanners. Pretty crazy! Maybe it’s just a phase, but maybe it will grow bigger.

Yes, film is making a little bit of a comeback at this very moment. In reality a good film camera with a good lens can indeed beat a top end digital file for presence, feeling, soul and capturing a moment. For things like portraits, street shooting, and even landscapes I think film still rules. With crappy drug store processing and scans digital has the edge but if you use a good lab or take the time to do your own (B&W) it’s pretty incredible.

So, now that I made another pro film rant let me write about a few things I dislike about my Leica film experiences…

When shooting film only I miss being able to switch my ISO on the fly. I was shooting at a table at dinner the other night and I had ISO 400 film loaded. Wasn’t fast enough and if I did have 800 speed the grain would have been pretty excessive. A friend shot his M9 at ISO 1000-2000 and his files look smooth and noise free. Mine were not usable due to a red cast and motion blur. Which leads me to the next…

White Balance. On a digital you can change the white balance to adjust to the lighting. With film you will most likely be using a “daylight” film which means that if you shoot in anything other than daylight your images will have a cast to them. Mine were a strong red.

On my MP the max shutter speed is 1000. In sunlight that means no F2 or even F2.8. Most shots are at F8-F11 and then the magic of the lens is gone. It is my opinion that Leica lenses give their special look and “glow” when wide open, so unless you have an ND filter for your lenses you miss out on shooting at F1.4 or F2. Due to the cloth shutter the film M’s top out at 1/1000, but then again my wife’s Contax T2 has a max of 1/500. I guess it all depends on what kind of look you want, but if its shallow DOF then you need ND filters. Not a problem, just more of an inconvenience  to attach and remove them if you are not carrying a bag.

I also hate when labs scratch your negs. Negatives are pretty fragile so with important shots I never have my negs cut. I have the lab put them back in the film canister in a roll. When I scan I cut them myself, using gloves. For silly snapshots I usually do not take as much care because once they are scanned by the lab chances are I won’t mess with those negs again. So yea, negatives need to be stored but I guess its better than having to keep 4-5 hard drives running with multiple backups of your digital files. I had a HD crash once and I lost 3000 images. I did NOT have a backup.

Even with this list of things I dislike about film I think “film is forever”. I have said it before but it is TANGIBLE. It’s REAL. It’s a part of our HISTORY. I have seen so many amazing film images recently that it has made a huge believer out of me. My camera kit will now consist of an MP and M9 as well as the Contax T2 for my wife. It’s all I need. Now, if I can just stop buying and selling lenses I would be set 🙂 But even with my love for film, I still adore the M9 and feel it is a “must” for my kit.

Now, how about some more film images? Again, just el-cheapo, el-crap-o drug store scans here of family snapshots so nothing fantastic. I felt like this article had too many words and no images so I have to post something! Isn’t that what photography is all about? Going out and making memories AND having fun in the process. You gotta love it!

PS – Check back later today for something about the Apple Ipad!


  1. What is astonishing in this compendium of comments is the absence of one word: DARKROOM.

    To sit before one’s enlarger (has anyone heard of them?), to compose one’s print under safelight, completely protected from electronic invasion, to make test strips, then a test print, to study the result and make corrections, to produce the best possible print: it’s a wonderful use of creativity to banish all one’s cares for hours. It is joyful, with practice it is not difficult, and it is not expensive.

    The finished picture goes down the street (in Istanbul) for an excellent framing job for $10. Would that my apartment had more wall space!

  2. Thats the way I feel about my Rolleiflex 3.f camera. I was completly blown away with the insane detail that it picked up and the beautiful Bokah. Just stunning!

  3. It’s a little investment for what you get in return. I only shoot film now for anything of importance, such as family and art.

  4. I’ve shot film for nearly 25 years, dabbled in digital for a year and then lost 26,000 pictures in a key stroke. That’s just ONE reason film will always be better than digital. And yes, 6×6 negs, UNBEATABLE.

    • I did that once as well, lost 15,000 images but that was my mistake as I did not have a back up. These days I keep three backups of everything. Just something you have to do. On the other end of the spectrum, in 2000-2004 I shot mostly film and lots of it. All of my negatives from that era were destroyed in a flood situation, and man did they take up quite a bit of space. So it goes both ways.

  5. I figured that this would happen. As stated in the article I love the ease and convenience of my DSLRs but no matter the MP count it just doesn’t have that organic look and feel to it. Just got some film back from my C220 TLR and I’m not sure if I ever want to shoot on anything else ever again, except maybe the Pentax 645. Nothing beats 6×6 120! Well except maybe 6×7. And I too am tired of having to keep up with DSLR tech.

  6. Just got a fine Nikon FM3A with 50mm MF, what a beauty!!!
    I love the look and feel of film photographs, Im a big fan of Steve McCurry, see his work, try to compare his before and after 2005 work, when he switched to digital, you´ll notice, the beauty, the soul, the feel and emotions are almost gone from the pictures, now he is “almost” like every other Joe with DSLR who shoot 1000 picture for capture one “moment” :o)

    Would love to see comeback of film!

  7. Gosh, this thread gets me all goose-bumpy! Myself, I cannot put my finger on it, exactly, but I can say this anecdotally: younger-sih people are most definitely -rediscovering “real” photography in film. As I mentioned in a post elsewhere (in the 50 Summicron bit), I am repeatedly begged by various college students to loan them a “film camera.” Last year I literally had a waiting list! Having caved in to demand on the training cruise in ’09, I brought _four_ cameras with me last year. Several “kids” begged to use that “goofy toy thing” (translation, my Leica M3) for fun ashore. Uh, NO! They’d get even more enthralled when I brought out the Rolleiflex MX-EVS or Automat.

    So now I bring along my Rollei, the M3; my Rollei 35 with 40mm Tessar; and a 1953 Voigtlander Vito. In the days when we actually still had a darkroom on the ship, I’d spend literally HOURS in there, the place packed to the overhead, teaching these guys how to develop. Each and every one of them says the same thing: “Digital is great and super-convenient and all that, but I just look at the pix that one time, right afterwards, then they’re lost in the thousands of other goofy pix.” But the ones they printed? Kept forever. I theorize that they’re realizing that “soul” of halide photos…

    Now if I could only get my hands on some AGFA 25…

    • Going back to film – a few reasons:

      You just like the look of film.

      The latest generation of films are really awesome.

      You can change the look of pictures by changing film. Photoshop can only go so far.

      Sorting through 300 pictures from a vacation is easier than 18,300.

      You love the anticipation and fear as you take a long walk to your local lab to pick up the results.

      The depreciation and interest of an M9 far exceeds your annual film/dev costs. Then add all the other crappy DCs you have wasted money on.

      You like your film camera more than any digital you have owned, so you are always one digital camera away from happiness. You know that the M10 or Panasonic GF3pro… will finally be your digital camera… In the mean time, you still buy another crappy DC.

      You tend to take more time with each shot (I, know, could do that with digital, but for some reason you don’t).

      Shooting with a completely manual camera feels and sounds good.

      Used full frame cameras are cheap. If your gear was stolen it would cost less – and in many cases it does not get stolen.

      A bad reason, but… your beat up M4 looks great with a tweed sports jacket at a party (or in front of a mirror).

      You can make your son rich by paying him 25 cents per pic to do high res scans on a Nikon Coolscan.

  8. actualy that snap was shiity expired film. I’d like to see someone replicate that with digitall…

  9. I think if your client cares for image more than convenience, then film is the only way to go. Digital lacks soul and the tonal depth is rubbish. Something needs to be said about grain aswell I love fast film. I has so much character

    and don’t forget medium format. a cheap 60s TLR for £100 will blow a 20000 pound digital back outta the water in my humble.. opinion.

    these aren’t even great scans.

  10. Angela: I ordered the first time blindly. The second time was because the experince was good. Not everything was in stock but they shipped what they had and it was fresh. And I’ve just placed my third order. So no complaints from me. Good luck.

  11. Growing up, film had always been a point and shoot affair; it wasn’t until college that digital cameras were invented and I gained the ability to cheaply experiment with photography.

    Fast forward to last year: I’m lugging around digital SLRs for my growing wedding photography and studio business, obsessed with photographic perfection and capturing the moment. Point and shoot cameras had slow AF and shutter lag, as well as noisy pictures. Something was missing.. surely there was some alternative to lugging around massive dSLRs with me?

    Engadget runs an article on a camera called the Digital Harinezumi. It’s a cheap digital camera that supposedly recreates the blurry film-like quality of toy cams. Glancing at some example pictures on the web, I quickly become excited about film-like “quality” with the benefits of digital’s instant gratification.

    The camera was terrible. Dark, blurry, pixelated with digital noise. Where else could I get a small camera with film-like effects? And then it hit me: film still exists! And photo labs now scan your photos into a digital copy!

    I quickly buy a holga. I love it. I re-discover film (first surprise was when I opened a film canister: film has an odor?!). I upgrade to a TLR. I bask in the magic of carefully composing one’s photo. I buy a Lomo LC-A for quick point and shoot. It’s ok. Film works, it’s stable, and I can have it easily scanned.

    After dipping my feet into the waters, I discover Leica. High quality lenses in a smaller body. I’ve previously written off Leica from the world of digital due to its out-of-reach cost. However, now that I’ve reassured myself of film being a viable medium, I’ve found that Leica is well within my reach… in the film medium. I now own a M4-P.

    There is a magic with working with film. There is a tangible creative process that gives me the end result I want, instead of working within Aperture 3 to create pseudo film-like effects (that is very much in vogue). You don’t need equipment that causes you to go through a checklist and a heavy bag for a simple day out; a M-body machine is quite capable. I now know.

    I love this film resurgence. I’m not sure how everyone else found their way back, but I have a small article and a crappy digital camera to give thanks to.

  12. Dear Steve,
    Film is definitely making its comeback – all over the world. Just think about it: two years ago you could by a good-looking Rolleiflex or an Hasselblad for about 300/400 Euros (roughly 370-500 USD). Today you can pay at least 50% more.
    For me, film is definitely the ultimate choice for good photography. Digital looks all the same and too perfect when it comes to texture. But its perfection will stop there. Try to overexpose it and you’ll have no information whatsoever in highlight zones and almost untouchable shadow detail. The latitude and color quality is also another value you can get from film, specially from chrome. But you can also render beautiful skin tones with some nice color negative film like Fuji 400H or Kodak Portra 400 NC.
    Even in such a small photographic market such as Portugal, you can still get nice B&W, C-41 and E-6 processing in no more than a couple of days.
    I choose analogue photography for its consistency and color control. But as far as I’m concerned, I prefer B&W film – the silver-based one – Kodak Tri-X or T-Max 400, specially for wedding work. For color, I’ll shoot Fuji 400H, a very reliable film for me, or Kodak Portra 400 NC or VC (for outdoor/travel). Chrome-wise, I’ll go for Velvia, period.

    Here are some of my images:


  13. @Zane @ Elaine

    Repost – as it just disappeared…. TMY2 in DDX @ 1600 is my go to setup. It looks like TRI-X at 400 but is two stops faster and has the t grain structure that scans so well.

    Here is one of TMY2 @ 1600 in DDX shot with an AIS 85/2

  14. @Elaine, According to the Ilford factsheet for DD-X you can push Delta 400 up to 3200. Having said that if it reacts anything like Tri-X 400 or TMAX 400 (I recently pushed both to 1600) it will depend on your lighting. This is something I’ll be playing with some more. I really liked the results I got from the TMAX, I didn’t like the Tri-X results as well, but part of that might have been due to the lighting, and part due to the fact I really like how TMAX 400 scans. I’ve also been playing with the Ilford and Kodak 3200 films, and gotten good results from both.

    Here are a couple of my TMAX 400 to 1600 test shots.


  15. I’ve gone back and forth between digital and film. After shooting 300,000 shots through my Canon 10D (and yes the shutter, which was rated at 50,000 actuations never gave me a problem), I went back to shooting film on a canon slr. Then sold both and got a 50D and then a 7D. And now I’ve been bitten by the Leica bug and have an M6 titanium with 35 & 50mm summilux waiting for me when I return to the US. And I’m about to get an MP! I’ll still use the digital if doing sports and such, but really love the look/feel/choice/effect of film. Oh, and I picked up a Coolscan 9000 for more $ than I want to mention, but my first scans of my old 35mm/SLR film was outstanding. 20MP and awesome. I scanned my B&W in color mode and get a nice sepia tone. You can also have your B&W negs printed on color paper for the same affect. Yay for film!

    Steve – a special thanks for all your great posts. When I stop spending money on Leica gear, I’ll have to send you some dough!


  16. After a bunch of searching, I partially answered my own question regarding Reflecta scanners in US — at least one model (RFS 3600) has been marketed (and discontinued) by Kodak.

  17. Re Johnny’s comment (#45) regarding ‘Reflecta’ brand scanners. Does anyone know what the brand is sold as in the US?

    I think I’m going to have to start dev/scanning myself. I just got two rolls back from my local shop, and *every* scanned image has a line through it. At first I thought “oh, no, they’ve scratched my negs”, but after some inspection of both the files and the negs it looks like scanning side-effects. Still a bummer because I’m going to have to take the negs back for a rescan because none of these files are usable.

  18. Garon,

    I believe that most professionals (the ones who shoot for a living and have bills to pay) prefer digital because it is a fine compromise between cost effectiveness and quality. I bet most of them still shoot plenty of film when quality really matters and they are not pressured by time/cost constraints. The truth is that here we are mostly passionate amateurs who don’t necessarily want to spend hours in front of a screen manipulating digital files (which is an art in itself and one that is over-used/abused).
    Also, you are talking about grain like it is a dirty word. It actually is what makes film stand apart and the reason why most digital files look boring/flat in my opinion. As far as cleaning negatives, I do my own developing for b&w and with just a little care I spend zero time cleaning in post processing. When I send out to NCPS, the scans also come back as clean as a digital file can be, so no issues there. If film really was about sentimentality for the past, manufacturers would have pulled out completely already…and yes, vinyl still sounds better than CDs. Convenience and progress does not always translate into better quality.



    • Garon’s point re: smudged grain on post-produced scanned film images is a valid one.

      Having survived the era of scanning and retouching weddings shot on film, those retouched grain anomolies are quite difficult to get around without some skill and experience.

      PS Thanks Steve for a very informative website.


  19. Dear Garon,

    I understand your point, but …

    I don’t want to look at my images at 500%, I don’t care about microscopic specs (digital or film);
    I don’t want to be a flash photographer, ever, (digital or film)
    I don’t want do lots of post-processing on my images (digital or film);
    I don’t want to fix grain, I want to see grain, grain is beautiful (digital or film);
    I don’t want to be that kind of photographer. Ever.
    You are indeed serious about your photography, way too serious.
    It’s got nothing to do about sentimentality for the past.
    It’s all about slowing down, taking the time, the fine equipment, the moment, the light, not doing 8 frames/sec and deleting 95% of your images at the end of the day, etc.

    Best Regards.

  20. I hate to be the naysayer but with film you are seriously limiting your options. If you’ve ever had a genuine professional scan (they are quite expensive) one thing you’ll notice is that even when the neg is properly cleaned, there is at least 15 to 20 minutes of spotting necessary simply to clean the microscopic specs of dust that the scanner picks up but the naked eye can’t see. The other issue is grain. Every film has it and if you are going to do any digital post production then it always becomes an issue. Have you ever tried serious retouching on a neg. It looks horrible. There is nice clean grain in some spots and smudges in others. If film were in deed so great, why does Annie Leibovitz and every other MEGA photographer shoot digital? It’s because of the options. They are endless and they are clean. You don’t have to worry about color shifts or simply not choosing the right emulsion. I have yet to hear anyone seriously talk about white balance. Good luck shooting indoors with incandescent bulbs, fluorescent tubes and then a little flash for fill. It looks like crap. If all your doing is walking down streets and capturing the moment, then fine. Have fun with film. Those who are serious, have given it up years ago. I know I’m going to get hammered for saying this and I accept it fully. Film people are just like music people who are still in love with vinyl. It’s nothing more than sentimentality for the past.


    • Garon, I was following along with the initial points in your argument… then you make the analogy with vinyl recordings and blow your credibility right out of the water. PROPER turntable set-up and maintenance may indeed be a pain for some folks — pretty much for all of us to some degree — but to suggest that digital recording and playback as most people know it rivals, let alone surpasses, analog reproduction on even a modest turntable/cartridge combination of suitable pedigree reflects a sweeping and profound ignorance that can exposed for what it is in the span of about 10 seconds listening time. In fact, digital replay equipment in the $15-20K range, also of a suitable pedigree to be in some sense “worth it”, receives a rather rude come-uppance in the face of true high end analog replay as well.

      The issues with digital photography alluded to here in fairly vague terms are rather similar to issues in the digital audio realm — except that the distortions and shortfalls in producing a truly convincing illusion of real music in a real venue (given an appropriate recording) are FAR more pronounced here than they are in any visual medium. And better understood by real experts, both “pro” and amateur, as well, than are the real world consequences of the technology’s limitations in photographic reproduction. Even a simple perusal of the numbers — some RELEVANT numbers — quickly suggests numerous inherent advantages for analog vinyl replay in terms of resolution and brain-impacting dynamic range (particularly with 16-bit CDs). My half-century old Empire and Lenco turntables, correctly sited/modified and set up on the basis of 21st century knowledge, can provide a level of reproduction sometimes described as “a [heretofore unrealized] religious experience” by decidedly neutral wife/girlfriend observers first exposed to a legitimate demonstration. Like trying to “compare” your live rear axle “Boss” Mustang to a real Ferrari guy’s Ferrari — surely you must be joking.

  21. …by the way: If anyone is looking for a Nikon Coolscan alternative, try the “Reflecta RPS 7200”. (I believe in the US its sold under a different name).

    The scanner has a very high optical resolution and is pretty fast. And it takes film strips directly (no need to fiddle like with flatbed scanners).

    I compared it side by side to my Coolscan and they produce quite similar results.


  22. Between the M9 shot and the Woman with child crossing the street, I choose the latter. I see depth in that shot. Film adds depth. (I love digital though, but something about the look of film). It’s just different. I think the M9 and M camera would make a wonderful combo. Best of both worlds.

  23. Hi Donald,

    I personally don’t think those film shots look that bad at all, especially the woman and child crossing the street. It has a nice feel of depth, and good colors. It has character. The M9 file is, well, squeaky clean…

  24. Hi Black-Rooster..great points there. What we did before the advent of digital is work around certain limitations with the required preparation, more thinking/diligence and, to really turn something mundane into art, a better knowledge of how the camera/lens/filter with a given film would perform. Digital and post processing techniques have relegated those notions to second fiddle, as comfort is taken in the fact that much can be fixed later. In turn, we shoot digital rapid fire and and end up throwing most of it away, while never learning much about light, composition, and what makes an “honest” photograph work. That’s what film does…keeps you honest. Yes, you can improve or correct a few things afterwards but otherwise you’re stuck with pretty much the decisions you’ve made “before” snapping that shutter.
    And oh yes..I do carry 2-3 bodies now at times (slides, color negs and b&w) and that’s okay. 🙂

  25. Hey BR, thanks for the comments. You make perfect sense and the one key thing you said was the little thing about “being prepared”. That was actually my issue as I was not really prepared for the lower light. I probably should have kept a few of this in MY minds gallery, ha ha. But yea, this whole film this is really an exercise in slowing down and not being so trigger happy anyway!

    Coming from 100% digital it is all a learning process with film type, film speed, color, BW, and learning the characteristics of each film. I’m settling down with two or three films and am starting ti learn the strengths of each. Overall I am enjoying shooting film MORE than digital and wow, i have extra time these days due to not sitting at Photoshop for hours and hours!

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts!


  26. Wow! These film threads are definitely producing some interesting points of view. I love what you wrote about film in the “what I dislike about my Leica film experiences” section Steve. I agree with you wholeheartedly although the WB thing is not so much of an issue because I find I can correct it just in the same way I do with digital by using the droplet tool or indeed…hue and temperature adjustments. But what I really find interesting is that all of the negatives you listed are exactly the reasons why I love shooting film. I love that due to the restrictions of having committed to film type and speed, I am forced to frame the image another way. I am forced to think outside of the box and be creative…to take the image in another way that I perhaps wouldn’t of thought of.

    Now I know what you’re thinking seeing as I believe it was me you were referring to regarding the images that were taking at dinner (some of you and Mina), yes, they were digital and so it’s alright for me to say what I just said about forced creativity, but honestly it wouldn’t have bothered me if I only had film or slow film for that matter. I simply would have found another way to record the memory or at the very worst…not taken the image at all and I would’ve been okay with that. Some images are best kept in the minds gallery.

    One of the things I’ve started doing is going back to the old school way of preparation. Having two bodies with me at all times. The luxury of Leica ‘M’ is that they’re so small and light, that this approach is feasible, if not cost effective. I usually have a film compact with me also so being able to throw Neopan 1600 (sadly discontinued….a grave day indeed) or some 3200 in it is a great option.

    I hear you about not being able to shoot your lenses wide open but again, my own experiences have taught me that being prepared is the key, making the decision before leaving home with regards to what and how I am going to frame helps a lot I find. Regardless, these are realities and you are correct in pretty much everything you stated as being film negatives. But let me leave you with one last thought if I may.
    What did all the great Magnum photographers do before digital regarding these limitations? More to the point, what did we do ten years ago? I seem to remember enjoying photography every bit as much and in some cases….a little more 🙂


  27. Farnesworth, I loved my Rolleiflex. I wish I never sold it. Best pictures ever came out of that camera. Indescribable. Nothing comes close to it.

    Donals: The problems you’re seeing are my constant worry as well. There are very few places that in my opinion doe a wonderful job of developing and printing nowadays. And if they do, they are very expensive. The roll of B&W I got back from the lab had water spots or something on them. Weird. But, I think V700 scanner would be a good alternative to Walgreens’ scans.

    So, does anyone know if I can push ISO 400 Ilford Delta film to ISO 1600? I need to know this. Maybe I’ll do a google on it.

  28. Much as I adore my M8, X1 and D700 for ease of use and speed, every so often I take my Rolleiflex 2.8F or Mamiya 7 out, shoot one roll of film, scan it in and go “wow”.
    With medium format you get such an organic look and deliciously thin depth of field which really is impossible to recreate with digital (or 35mm film for that matter).
    But. But. Every time I power up my Coolscan 9000 I wonder how much longer this hugely mechanical device will keep working. What will I do when it breaks and can’t be repaired ?
    And then I hold the Rolleiflex and wonder whether this is one of the most perfect mechanical device ever made. (I think it is….if you think Leicas are good, just pick up a Rolli…you know your grandchildren will still be able to use it…)
    From the look of your article, though, drug store scans or a V750 seem pretty good right now.

  29. Well, I hate to run against the grain here (wink) but I have had some issues with shooting film already. To remind anyone in this group who might have known my situation and to bring anyone else up to speed, I just bought an unused M7 and a 50 Cron. I shot three rolls through it. First was a processing and scan at Bel Air Camera that produced 18 MB tiffs that were all over the place dreadful. Then I had A&I processs and scan a roll which I though was going to produce 6.5 MB jpegs for me. They were only 1500 kbit files, however, with the explanation being that they become 6.5 MB files when opened in Photoshop. Uh… my D3 produces 6.5 MP jpegs out of the camera that open to 25 MB in Photoshop. 1500 kbit files isn’t the starting point I was hoping for in having something to manipulate and work with.

    Then I had a roll of Ilford C41 black & white film processed and now PRINTED for me at the local Walgreens.

    I don’t have any doubts about film, of course, or my M7 and lens. But the process of digitizing these images to MY satisfaction turned out to be an immediately expensive and frustrating challenge. Not to mention the hesitation to hit that shutter coming from digital.

    My issues really represent results that are the opposites of why I want to shoot film. Instead of the incredible dynamic latitude of film I’m getting scans, and prints, that show badly blown highs in the same image with NO shadow detail. Bland color. Off color. No real image detail information to work with. etc.

    Here are some samples of why I’m disappointed sans the drug store prints which I will not be digitizing.

    first roll.


    Second roll.


    Now I did get some better shots/scans than this from the second roll. But still. This stuff looks kind of creepy to me and trying to extract a clean image from a 1500 kbit shot… it’s hard. And yeah, this was the cheapest scanning option in the case of A&I. Like I said, I can SEE the results YOU GUYS are getting going another route. But North Coast is EXPENSIVE to process a roll and to scan. I think Steve, your results blow away what I got from two “pro” shops in Los Angeles.

    Some better shots from the A&I job.




    SO…. what did I do? Yep. I’m in the poor house now. I went and bought an M9. And a nice little 35 Summarit to go with it. IMMEDIATELY I got incredible results. First shot with a memory card was great and many others. Here is that first shot. I’ll be back later. I’m not getting rid of my M7. But I’m going to be shooting the M9 for a long time.

    Here’s my first shot ever with the M9


  30. I have to agree that film is making a comeback. I just bought 10 rolls of the now discontinued Reala, and 5 rolls of Ilford XP2.


    I have an old roll of Ilford Delta 400 (2006) that I just shot at a birthday party at ISO 1600. Does anyone know if a film can be pushed that far? I’m hoping it can. I got some cool shots. The light was so low in that house where the party was held, that I figured it would need at least 1600 in the ISO. May come out grainy, but as long as it can be pushed from 400 to 1600, I’ll be happy. The other old roll of B&W I used was pushed from ISO 400 to ISO 800, and I got some pretty cool shots considering I didn’t think ANY of the shots would come out.

    I am hoping that Fuji won’t discontinue their stock, because it’s my first choice in film other than Ilford. If they make it so exclusive by narrowing the choices down and closing the places that develop and print, the cost will be too prohibitive to continue with film. I’d hate to see that happen.

  31. Steve, and everyone, it’s so exciting to hear, feel and even smell the passion, there is a renaissance happening, I just know it and I love being part of it. I’ve now shot, and developed, several B&W rolls with a Zeiss Ikon (got it a couple of weeks back) which is worthwhile considering as an alternative to a Leica film body for those M series lens owners like me. There’s a couple of things I really like about it: 1. it goes to 1/2000 sec, 2. extraordinarily bright viewfinder, 3. window to see what film is loaded 4. easy to set EV.
    I’ve now filled up the kitchen fridge with Kodak Tri-x, Ilford Delta 100, Delta 400, Delta 3200, FP4, PanF, XP2 and some Rollei Pan 25 and plan on working through them over the next few so I can get a feel for each of their relative merits.
    I was able to find most of my old developing gear from 10-15 years ago, cleaned everything up, bought new Ilford chemicals and now have it back in action. I’m trying both Ilford Perceptol and ID11 as developers. The Perceptol is supposed to give even finer grain results but I really can’t see much difference yet.
    Anyway, I’ve just put everything into the old black changing bag and I’m about to stick my arms in and pop the top off a roll of Ilford Delta 400 and load it into the Paterson drum. In 30 mins or so I’ll experience the excitement as I pull the wet roll of negs out, put a clip on each end and hang them up to dry. Seeing those images appear that you’ve created from capture through developing is a feeling you just can’t even come close to achieving with digital. Then it’ll be into the V700 and maybe a little bit of dust removal with Photoshop and that’s several hours of my Saturday taken care of. I wouldn’t be dead for quids. :o)
    My poor old M9 hasn’t had much action lately although I do keep pulling it out of the bag and telling it that I do love it, which I really do, I’m just giving it a little holiday. :o)
    Steve, thanks so much, to you and everyone who contributes to the site. It is a fantastic, no bull forum for people who are genuinely passionate about their photography and I love it.
    Cheers, Peter
    PS. I’m waiting for a Nikon FM3a to arrive next week and will let you know how the glass on it compares to the M glass on the Zeiss Ikon.

  32. Thanks to sites like yours I was recently inspired to buy an Olympus OM1 camera for $60 on Ebay to go along with my new e-pl1. Although my film results haven’t quite matched my digital ones yet I have enjoyed the all manual control and solidly feel to the OM camera. And my fiancé (who is tiny btw) has started stealing the heavier metal OM1 instead of her tiny digicam. I greatly enjoy your site Steve despite my inability to buy any Leica products anytime soon.

  33. Steve !!! , you MUST try these !!! :

    For B&W :
    Try some 1600 & 3200 (So much fun!!!)
    Fuji Neopan 1600 / Ilford Delta 3200

    Some 400:
    Kodak Tri-X 400 (Classic!) / Ilford HP5 400

    Then some great color rolls :
    Velvia (OH MY GOD!!!!) SOOO Vivid !!!
    Portra VC (vivid colors) Oh la la !!!
    Portra NC (neutral colors) Soooo Classy !!!

    Have Fun !!!

  34. Thanks John! Pretty fun isn’t it? I’m online at B&H now picking my next batch of film to buy. I also got some great tips from a friend that I may post soon. Thx


  35. Shot Digital for 20 years. Sold all my gear. Now 100% film! Totally addicted like you Steve! Buying rolls is like buying a good bottle of wine. So many choices, so many flavors, such quality. I hated all the post processing with digital. So many hours wasted in front of the computer.
    Now I just choose a film for its colors/looks/tone/grain/ISO/Feel .. (like carefully picking this or that bottle of wine according to the occasion) – then just shoot & totally enjoying the moment (& the beautiful results)!!

    Keep it up Steve! You are very inspiring!

  36. Look at the prices on ebay for CoolScan 5000’s…. almost on par with the CoolScan 9000’s. Not selling mine.

    There is also a solution to slow top shutter speeds… a different camera. I was printing today and had a request to purchase another print. 🙂 Seems my FM3a + me = stuff that people want.

    But me + internet = Leica that I want. :-s

    Not that I need it at all. 😉

  37. So Steve, there’s no other good 35mm film camera than a Leica? Best bin the old FM2 with its 24, 35, 85, 105 and 200 Nikkors then… 🙁 I was just (persuaded partly by you I might add) getting it back into service with a few rolls of Tri-X!

  38. Well, it sure looks like film is still alive (thank God). I recently decided instead of upgrading to the M9, to keep my M8 and purchase two used M’s, M6 and M7 (one chrome for color & slides and the other black for b&w !!). This combination along with the fact that shooting, developing and printing rolls is expensive will definatelly cause a World War with my wife but man, it worths every penny. The look of film is unique, I am not getting into the never ending battle of digital vs film, each medium serves a different purpose, I just like film. The only problem of course (as others have also mentioned) is getting high quality scans from a lab, until now I have been very dissapointed from the “professional labs’ scanning quality, my Epson V500 sure cannot compare to a professional scanner, but the good thing is that by time your scanning ability improves and results are getting better and better. And of course you get the chance to shoot some wonderful medium format cameras (used prices are quite low for these cameras these days) which is a wonderful experience (looking at a 6×7 slide frame is simply amazing!!)

  39. Steve… Try this as a possible solution to your ISO change issue. I regularly shoot Kodak TRI-X at varying ISO’s on the same roll (from 200 all the way to 1250, believe it or not!).

    Using a true compensating developer like Diafine, these images will all easily produce usable negatives. Because this developer is not time (or temperature) sensitive, everything usually comes out great.

    This is a lifesaver for someone who shoots as much B&W as I do.

  40. I grew up looking at 4×6 film prints in photo albums. I agree with Steve that there are so many digital images today, but I think it’s up to the individual to print his/her favorite pics and place them in an album. If your hard drive crashes, at least you still have the prints.


  41. @ scott,
    sry for double post but I believe costco uses the same film scanner and frontier printers that my lab does, ask for a base 16 scanning, it is much nicer quality, the standard is usually base 4, that may or may not be the case for you but may as well ask.

  42. @ christian, given that I work in a film lab and I am a general tech geek I can tell you that getting 20+ megapixels out of film takes a long time with very very expensive equipment. Some scanners can do it but dont capture all that much detail and the scanners that can do a “pro” job are drum scanners costing more then most peoples car and said scanners take specialists to operate them, are prone to breaking and in general make a mess from all the water and cleaning required.

    @ steve, my college photography program is 100 % digital, we use our own 35mm slrs such as the D90 for small projects, borrow D3’s and 1D’s for better results, have digital MF mamiya and phase backs, and use those same backs on 4×5 cameras yet the school has a large supply of new high end scanners because many students choose to go out and buy film gear and shoot with that even though there is 0 requirement too and the program gives no darkroom training what so ever. Film will always be popular in my opinion, some types wil be discontinued but there will always be a few brands and types left and thats all thats needed.

  43. Steve, I am very, very, very much looking forward to your reviews and comparisons of prints and scans, high-res and low-res, etc. It looks like you have seen that a professional scan can be even better than what you can get with your Epson V700…. but, unfortunately, professional scans are very expensive.

    I am currently struggling on the analog road with my M6…. because I yet have not found a lab that can develop and scan my film and deliver high quality (!!!) picture-files…… at a reasonable price, in Europe.
    To buy a scanner and do it myself would bring me back to where I do not want to be: working on the computer. In that case, it would really be easier to just go back to my M8, which delivers very nice pictures, too.

    But since I do appreciate that “look” of photographs from film, I am grateful for all advice from you and the readers of your website how they turn film negatives or slides into digital files. What do you use, how do you use it, how much effort do you put into it…. everything.

    I still do not understand why it is so difficult to turn a 24x36mm piece of film into a digital file with approx. 20 Megapixel (i.e. the “average resolution” of such a film negative or slide).

    Please keep up the good work and have fun with what you do…. I will check your website daily!

  44. Dear Steve,

    Those drugstore scans look really good. Do you request anything out of the ordinary? I ask, because I tried this strategy at my local Costco with Ektar 100 (shot in an M6) and got back a set of washed-out, off-color prints and low-rez scans to match. A roll of Velvia 50 in the same camera looked fantastic. I think I need to get to know the Costco photo manager…

    For me, 2010 is the summer of film! Can’t wait for June.

  45. Steve if you want enlargements, try NCPS. They are a true pro lab and will give you great results. Also, if you have access to a university, you could try to use their equipment. However, if you have a good High Res scan, I don’t think it will make a difference.

  46. So psyched. I have 14 rolls of kodakchrome 64 coming my way (including the 2 I have stored. Let’s just say that Dwayne’s is gonna be busy….The ISO 64 should allow me to shoot fast lenses open unless it’s super bright out…

    I am loving your shots with film, Steve, and enjoy the experience of film as well. Gotta say though that the M9 remains my favorite camera ever…

    And yeah, agree that we all should stop buying and selling lenses….the perfectionists in us won’t let us, though my set up is really pretty close to where I need it to be.

    Hopefully, once the new 35 luxes come out, people will unload their 24 luxes to help finance, and then I can grab one….

  47. One More thought – Because film has lost so much popularity it can be found cheap – I buy quite a bit from and it is fresh and happy to be living in my fridge. Portra 160 VC or NC for $3.50 a roll is brilliance. . . . Film $3.50, Process w/ CD $7.50 or just process for $3 – in NYC – and in an hour or less – Just as or maybe a bit more Awesome than Digital FF!

  48. @Scott – Are you sure about Fujifilm discontinuing everything except 400H? I know they have removed the option for buying single rolls on some films, but AFAIK Superia 100, Pro 160 etc. remain.

  49. As much as I love digital my big SLR and pocket P&Ss- the M9 really got me back to the roots of shooting and hence back to film – In the past few months, I have repurchased some classics all film, M6TTL, Leica CM Zoom, Nikon 35Ti, even a Minox TLX and I just ordered a Series “0” – so yes, I agree film is coming back, with the ease of scanning 24 negs in 15 mins at 1200dpi on an Epson V750 why not – it truly is fun – and the idea of processing C-41 at home for a few hundred dollar investment adds more punch the romance of it all – It is a Renaissance. . . And Film is back! IMHO at least . . .

  50. “I have spoken with teenagers who are wanting film cameras and even my son, who loves his Nikon D3000 dearly, wants a Leica M3 for Christmas this year.”

    Dear Steve,

    Teenagers can be complicated, problematic and, often, ungrateful. Buy ‘me’ an M3 for Xmas and I will love you forever! 🙂

  51. @ Scott.. I don’t know about B&H but on ebay the activity is quite brisk. The little Contax T2 sells well, last week a Mamiya 7II with 80mm lens was snatched in record time right in front of my eyes for $1,300 (a total steal for a great set), Contax 645s, Leicas, clean examples of the awesome Nikon FM3A, etc. There is action.

    @ David S. …you nailed it!

  52. @Mike – Ha ha, you caught me. Well, I seeing as I just ran into the issue I guess now it’s a real one. 🙂 Also, when I said those things I meant them and still do. If I am out shooting with any digital it seems my WB shifts from one shot to the next. With film, it is the same every time. Also, Daylight film seems better than a Daylight setting on a digital. As for ISO, digital has the advantage no question.

    @Scott – My guess? I think this “resurgence” is so new that the decision to cancel those films was made quite a while ago. Fuji would not expect any kind of surge in film sales, just the opposite. They had their plans in place. But like you said, this could be a small boost in the grand scheme of things. Only time will tell.

    @Erik – Where can I get an analogue print done? That is the question.

    @Max – I hear ya!

  53. Whenever someone talks to me about the supposed obsolescence of film, I encourage them to go to their local movie theater, where they can see simple 35mm film images projected 80 feet high.

    I am in the movie business, and for studio productions, no one even really questions the superiority of film images (although the gap is definitely closing for low-budget productions shot on Canon 5D). The studios are willing to spend a lot more money on stock, processing, lighting and generators, in order to get an archivable negative that goes into a vault. Their film libraries are their most important assets. They don’t trust hard drives to last them 80 years. With film, you can keep going back to the original negative as telecine (film scanner) technology improves. Take a look at the recent reissue of THE GODFATHER on Blu-Ray, which literally looks better than it did when it was first released. With digital, you’re stuck with the video image you get forever.

    If you want to really look at digital vs. film, go to a theater and look at a recent movie shot on digital, like PUBLIC ENEMIES or CRANK, and then look at one on film, like the last Bond movie, QUANTUM OF SOLACE. Watch them projected 80 feet high. The film stuff will blow you away. It’s easy to forget that this is the same 35mm Kodak and Fuji film stock that you load in your little Leica, and it is flawless. The digital will have blown-out highlights. It will look a little cheap. PUBLIC ENEMIES was shot by Dante Spinotti, one of the greatest cameramen alive, and it looks like it was shot on videotape, because it was.

    There is a reason people like Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay have both said that they will shoot film for as long as film is made — until the very last can of the stuff is gone.

    I love digital photography for its convenience. I am able to get things I could never get otherwise. But for really important images, you should definitely shoot film.

  54. Why then is Fujifilm, for example, canceling all color negative films except for 400H? Not doubting you, just curious as to why a bunch of films stocks are being discontinued if there is a resurgence. BTW, the same thing seems to be happening in the world of Polaroid films — there is a resurgence. With both instant and conventional film, it’s not clear if it’s a small bubble that cannot sustain a real market or whether it is something bigger. Perhaps if you found other non-Leica film cameras that B&H couldn’t keep in stock, it would be a bit more powerful argument. 🙂

    • Well it’s more than a year and a half since your comment and rather than cancel, Fuji has introduced even more formulations. FAIL.

      • Well, now it’s soon to me March 2012 and Fuji has indeed canceled many films in 35mm and in 120. I asked Fuji-Japan why they canceled the infamous Fuji Neopan 400 ASA in 120 and they gave their standard answer: Not enough demand. (however, interned discussions point to a toxic element being banned in Japan, which was used in the emulsion).

        Kodak is on the brink of disappearing now days (although their film division is actually making a nice profit).

        Still, there are loads of other brands, like Ilford, Foma, Efke, Rollei, Adox and others.

        I am not sure if the Lomo-crowd is enough to sustain the industry, because the lomo’s usually aren’t interested in the photographic craft, they want the cool cameras with the fubar lenses, light leeks and funky angles.

        – But lets hope that fad continues and that they burn enough film, so that other people, genuinely interested in the analog photography and process -craftmanship- can have access to materials for many years to come. 🙂

  55. Not knocking you, but I can’t help noticing how in one article about film you were saying “it’s great not to worry about ISO, white balance, etc”, and now in this one you’re bemoaning those very things WRT film. In the first case, I remember thinking to myself, “well, it’s not that you don’t *have* to worry about those things with film, it’s that there’s little you can do about them once the film is loaded”.

    That’s a slightly negative way of saying “I feel your pain/pleasure”. I just got back into film too (B&W only, so far), with an M2, and have already had to partially rewind some 100 ISO to load some 400 due to not finishing the first roll and having a new environment for the second. Now I haven’t quite finished that second roll, and would prefer to be back on 100. Madness!

    Now we know why the old pros were always carrying a bunch of cameras :-). Seems like it’d be useful to have a color body, a slow speed B&W body, and a fast B&W body (not to mention an “indoor” color body). GAS all over again :-).

    Keep up the good work. It’s been fun keeping up with your site…

  56. To be really fair I think you should compare an analogue print from film with a digital print from digital. Scanning film will always mean a slight degradation of quality and will turn the equation slightly in favour of digital.

  57. Oh yeah, Steve, It’s happening! I can see it, I can feel it. It may also have something to do with the state of economies around the world. I think people may be re-examining their “wants” and “needs” and realize that buying the latest and greatest digital every 18 months is just a HUGE waste of money and, more so, valuable time. Every photographer friend I talk to feels the same way. It’s tiring and it sucks out creativity and that special bonding with your camera and lenses (not to mention cash). When I take my old M3 out is like putting on an old pair of sweat pants after coming home from a long day at work. I know exactly what it can do and there are no surprises, ever. When I shoot b&w, I rarely use a meter now (good brain exercise that can only make one a better photographer) and I can concentrate on enjoying and catching the moment. My M9 certainly stays as it still fits some plans but, if I didn’t have one, I don’t think I would go out and buy one now.
    Who knows, maybe Kodak will even bring back Kodachrome now 🙂

  58. That would be so cool if Kodachrome ever came back. Unlikely as it was just discontinued but ya never know. You are right though about the archives. I used to enjoy (and still do) sitting down with my photo albums. With digital they just sit on the drives and are rarely looked through and you know why? Because there are sooooo many of them and so many stinkers. Digital has really helped to lessen our skills.

  59. I much prefer the look of film and have started shooting it again, after a brief stint in dslr country. Sure, digital is easier and quicker and maybe even a bit cheaper (taking into account that dslr’s lose their value the second you buy them, maybe not). Longevity, for me, is the clincher: My parents started shooting digital in I guess about 2005. Before 2005 they have an extensive library of pictures of every major event in our lives. After 2005 up to now, there seems to be a gap in the archive. Why? Because they don’t need to print digital pictures, they rarely do. The pictures just sit on hard-drives, never looked at, until one day the computer crashes and they’re lost forever. Is film making a comeback? I hope so, and if so, hopefully I can finally shoot some kodachrome when kodak reintroduces it.

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