Sunday, May 8, 2016

Hybrid photography (in a crazy mixed up world)

Last post I wrote about a couple of new acquisitions in the film camera line that I am now waiting to arrive. Having therefore reignited my interest in film photography, I re-read a few of my old posts (just the last few), and decided to do a quick update for anyone who may have read them and been left wondering...

First, I'll introduce a bit of heresy and talk digital. If you did read the last few posts, you'll be left with the impression that I am; a) shooting weddings in both digital and film; and b) using a Canon 1D Mk3 and 50D for digital, and a Canon EOS 30 and EOS 5 with film. None of that is true :-)

If you also happen to follow me on my other blog; nzdigital.blogspot.com then you will know that what I am actually shooting with now is the Olympus OMD EM5 Mk2. I sold the Canon 1D Mk3 and decided to 'downsize' to the micro four thirds mirrorless Olympus - and I'm so glad I did.

It is such an amazing piece of technology - as well as being a brilliant camera. But the other reason I love it so much is because of the sheer 'filmness' of it all. What do I mean by that?

Well firstly - just look at it. Retro is 'cool' in cameras at the moment, no doubt. But I truly think Olympus are the company that are implementing 'retro' the best (followed very closely by Fuji). Not only does the OMD EM5 Mk2 look like an OM film camera of old, but I've got it set up to shoot like one as well and yes, I have shot with OM film cameras.

See the flippy-out lcd screen on the back? I flip that around and fold it into the back of the camera so that it faces inward, not outwards. So no lcd screen on the back of my camera. Everything is composed and controlled via the electronic viewfinder, so I know what I'm getting before I take the shot. No need to 'chimp'.

I also often shoot in jpeg mode, which is a lot like shooting with slide film, in that the latitude isn't as large as it is when shooting RAW files, and setting are 'baked' into the file so you need to get it right in-camera. A lot like shooting film. And this makes you slow down and think of your exposure, composition, white-balance etc... A lot like using film. You can see where I'm going with this.

I once wrote, a long time ago (on this very blog I think?), that what I really wanted was an OM film camera with a digital back on it. Well wadda you know - that's the OMD EM5 Mk2. Almost literally.

So am I a reluctant digital user? No, not really. At least I don't think so. But having grown up with film, having learnt on film, and being someone who still enjoys film, I think I've been waiting a very long time for a system that gives me that experience (or close to it) in a modern - digital - way.

And of course, I can still shoot film. And still do. But with a very different workflow than before. Now, with scanning and computers, film photographers are adopting what is known as a 'hybrid' workflow. Hybrid because it incorporates both analog and digital. The film is the analog capture device - silver on plastic. Grain and not bytes. Then, however, the analog becomes digital when it is scanned into 1s and 0s (bits and bytes) for storage/manipulation/correction/sharing on the computer.

This 'hybrid' workflow is really the best of both worlds. We have the negatives with the film, and the scanned tiff/jpeg files on the computer. And depending on your scanner, these hybrid digital files from film can be as information-rich and detailed as any 'full-frame' digital camera. Scan at high-resolutions and it's not uncommon to get a 50MB (or higher) tiff file as a result.

Samsung S3 Camera Phone
There's really only one fly in the hybrid/film shooters ointment - the ease of shooting digital from the get go. I'll give you an example.

This weekend some friends and I went to chop wood for our local church. I wanted to document the occasion, but very quickly, because I was really there to help collect the wood. I also wanted to have the photos to share the next day.  I took two film cameras with me (an Olympus mju-1 point-and-shoot and the Ricoh KR5 Super), but never touched them the whole day. I ended up taking the photos on my.... phone. Yep, you guessed it. My phone. The point-and-shoot for this generation of photographers. Full disclosure: I hate using them. Absolutely hate it. Would rather shoot with anything else. And the image quality on my admittedly old Samsung S3 is only average at best. But brother, they are convenient! So that's what I used to 'capture' the day.

I could have (and probably should have) used the mju-1 instead. I'm sure it would be just as easy to quickly grab a shot and put it away again. But with the film camera I definitely wouldn't have had the images to show the next day. Horses for courses then I suppose. And it doesn't always have to be one versus the other. What's wrong with enjoying both?

Short answer - nothing.

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