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ARTICLE

The Death of Film

Another one bites the dust

in Film , Saturday, March 10, 2012

The recent announcement of the demise of Kodak Ektachrome E100G - along with all other Kodak slide films - however predictable, came as quite a shock. At the time my stocks of E100G, in my opinion the best slide film ever, were 10 rolls. I’ve just ordered another 50 3 5-packs and whatever loose rolls my supplier can find, and in the meantime I’ve used 5. It will be interesting to see if Fuji are still making my second favourite, Velvia 100F, when I run out of E100G. It was never a very popular type, and that makes it a marginal product line in a very marginal product range. But if not Fuji, who else? Agfa? REALLY? The writing really seems to be on the wall now.

Of course this reopens the age-old Filme Vs Digital arguments. I’ve long had a foot firmly in both camps, and at the same time I’ve been an avid reader of the saner end of the ongoing debate. There are countless very persuasive exponents for and against fim, both making very convincing points. If you remember Paul Whitehouse’s character, Indecisive Dave, from the Fast Show - well, that’s me when it comes to film versus digital.

Apart from the overall arguments about image quality, film brings some practical issues with it. First of all, it needs to be developed. Since I really only work with slide film, then this means lab E6 processing. Long gone are the days of 24 hour turnaround - or even 1 or 2 hours in pro labs. Now it’s a week if you’re lucky. I recently discovered a convenient and remarkably well preserved local photo shop (no, not the abomination from Adobe) that would take charge of my films and could be trusted to ensure that the lab they get sent to follows my instructions and doesn’t cut them up. And sometimes even with 2-3 days turnaround. However, for the last batch of 5 I was charged CHF25 each. That’s basically $25. Each. Plus the initial cost, factoring in delivery, we reach CHF40 per film. That’s untenable, especially as one film had only 4 exposed frames due a mid-roll battery failure on my XPan.

Then there’s scanning. When all is going well, I actually quite enjoy scanning, up to a point. I’ve got a well tuned workflow, and things usually come out as I expect, but one thing I can’t easily fix are dirt and scratches due to careless processing. Processing that cost CHF40, that is. And as I’ve written before, my Minolta MultiScan Pro is showing signs of old age. Dust remains a constant issue, but a good supply of canned air - although good canned air is getting harder to find - and a VisibleDust sensor brush for awkward cases helps considerably.

The impatiently awaited new Plustek Medium Format scanner might be a god-send, at a price. But with no new film to feed into it, it might end up missing the bus.

But really, is it all worth it? Having recently seen what really high-end digital can do, the image quality argument is hard to make. Nevertheless, in my opinion, a correctly exposed piece of Ektachrome, or Fujifilm, has an immediate presence that (my) digital cameras can’t quite match. Of course the density and saturation of film can easily be replicated in digital post processing, but the sharpness of a good slide film is another matter…if, of course, you have a scanner and a scanning technique that can retain this sharpness into a digital file.

Essentially I’m not really fixated of film, but I am very attached to my XPan, and that doesn’t do digital. I’ve been having some thoughts about how to transition to digital panoramic photography - or perhaps transition back - but that’s the subject of another post.

In the meantime, I’m off to round up the last straggling rolls of Kodak Ektachrome E100G.

Goðafoss, Iceland, Feb 2012. A location that has “designed for XPan” written all over it. One day, maybe, I’ll finally get to see it in winter in good weather, having failed at the last 4 attempts. But I guess this is the last time I’ll shoot it on E100G.


 

Posted in category "Film" on Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 10:11 PM

Older Comments

from Leslie Ashe on Tue, March 13, 2012 - 7:34

Hi David

Like your picture of Godafoss - would like to see a larger version! as well as some of your other Iceland pictures. You have already some great material on your site.

I’ve done some work on my shots from the trip but I’m leaving them for a couple more weeks to let them “settle” in my mind before making final choices.

I took a long time to make the transition from film (or filum as we say here)to digital to the extent of buying a Bronica ETRSI system in 2005 (talk about not seeing the train coming!).  Really enjoyed using it but a cheap 6mp Canon point and shoot some 2 years later altered my view of digital.  What was also helpful to convert me to digital was Lightroom - it was like an electronic version of a B&W darkroom.  The purchase of a D300 early in 2008 was the final nail in the film coffin for me and the Bronica was eventually sold about 6 weeks ago.

On scanning, my old Minolta scanner gave up the ghost about a year ago and I eventually bought a Plustek 7600 - purely for 35mm and have spent some considerable time recently starting to scan my back catalogue of rallysport pictures (1973-1992) - see link.  The B&W negs scan OK as they were filed in neg sleeves.  I suffer the same problems of dust and scratches on transparencies which are stored in mounts in slide boxes(aaaargh!) - should have stored them differently.

Good luck with the pursuit of panoramic (in film or digital) but don’t expect plaudits from Daniel!

Best wishes

Leslie

from Project Hyakumeizan on Wed, March 14, 2012 - 9:43

I commiserate with you on the death of Ektachrome: obviously we weren’t buying enough - let’s hope that Fujifilm doesn’t follow suit.

As for panoramas, stitching (via Arcsoft or whatever) works well with either digital or scanned film frames. So no need to digitise the Xpan…