I’m selling all of my digital camera equipment. I have a Fuji x100s and a Fuji XT-1 with 3 lenses, as well as various other bits of kit that I’ve collected over the last few years.
For a while I’ve been researching my next camera purchase. I narrowed it down to the new Sony A99 Mark II, the Canon 5D Mark IV or holding out for the new Fuji GFX medium format camera. I never quite managed to make up my mind—until I got my first roll of Ilford black and white film developed.
Over the past few weeks I had been shooting on an old Canon AE-1 alongside my digital gear. I enjoyed the process, from carefully considering each frame through to getting the film developed. It felt very natural. In my first roll I felt like I had learned more than I had in months of shooting digital. Out of the 36 photos, I was happy with nearly them all and proud of nine or ten. A much higher ratio than I’ve experienced before with digital. Undoubtably down to the time I takes to make each photo—stressing over the details as each click costs (about £1).
When I took photos with my Fujis I had everything on manual except the focus. I always manually set the shutter, aperture and ISO. The transition into using the Canon didn’t feel intimidating—the form factor and process I used on the Fujis was similar. The manual focus was new but the Split Focusing helper is great in the AE-1.
In an age of instant, clean, crisp, perfect digital results, nothing felt good enough to me. What I think was missing for me was the essence of photography itself. Capturing raw moments with digital seemed to miss some authenticity.
What I learned in just one roll coupled with enjoying the process made my mind up about which camera to get next—none. In six months to a year I’ll probably pick up another digital camera but in the meantime I want to put in the time learning film. I know I’ll be a better photographer for it. The photos will have grain, there will be things out of focus, but that doesn’t matter.
Here’s what I expect to learn in the next 6–12 months:
- Slowing down and carefully considering each frame. Making shot selections in the viewfinder and not in Lightroom.
- A better eye. Since there is no instant LCD feedback and each frame costs.
- Become more aware of light. I believe that shooting Black and White will really help me become more aware of light. I wont always shoot Black and White, but I expect the majority to be.
- Imperfections aid perfection.
What I’m looking forward to:
- Post processing takes seconds not minutes and hours.
- Weighty gear will be left behind. I fully expect me to carry around one camera and one lens. I’ll make that work.
- Enjoying and appreciating my surroundings more. I’ll be slowing down to take in a scene and pre-visualising the photograph—once I feel I have the shot I wont take a handful more for the sake of it. I’ll take what matters and leave what doesn’t.
- Images that feel timeless. I just love that raw grain.
This isn’t just some magical, nostalgic film fairytale. It’s something I fully expect to learn and grow with. I’m using it as a tool and a digital reset.
I grew up with my Grandad taking photos on film. I’m excited to follow that process for a while—it’s how I remember photography from my childhood. Film is a breath of fresh air.