Film Is The Future
Film is the future. Who would have thought? As the fiscal year of 2010 comes to a close and digital camera sales still tromp film camera sales while more rumours stir about popular types of film being discontinued, I say, Film is the future. Why? Check it out.
1--Digital Culture continues to nostalgically (yet futily) copy Film Culture, ever more unable to move forward and come into its own. Yet simultaneously, Digital Culture is staunchly dismissive of its roots with widespread, absolute refusal by most of its converts to ever burn another roll of film again.
On the rise is the release of retro-cameras, with cosmetics resembling film counterparts but housing the spirit of IBM instead of George Eastman. The Olympus Pen, Leica M9. Fuji X100 and other retro-styled digital goodies fly off the shelves as half functional 1960's Olympus Pen half frame cameras are sold on eBay to curious kids trying to break free of the mediocrity.
Black and white conversions and "the cross-processed look" continue to be all the rage while Fuji Neopan is endangered and it's nearly impossible to find a local E6 lab anymore.
HDR even tries to mimic the tonal range of print film but often ends up just being over-edited into something resembling a cartoon. Maybe that's the "something new" with digital I'm looking for? *sarcasm*
While new Kodachrome film and processing will be unavailable after this year, the half-baked spirit of this iconic slide film lives on in the Hipstmatic Ap in thousands of telephones, I mean, iPhones.
If such a large percentage of Digital Culture is going to be comprised of "more convenient" and "cheaper" versions of everything Film Culture created, what good is it? What value is there in converting colour digital images to an imitation of black and white film while real black and white film is being phased out of Photo 101 courses and labs that can do the processing are being shut down?
Perhaps the worst example is the death of Polaroid instant film last year. Instead of purchasing more Polaroid, everyone's Facebook pages were plastered with pixelated PolaDROID images with fake vintage date stamps.
What will Digital Culture copy once there is nothing left of Film Culture to copy?
I don't know but, this is why Film is the future.
As studying photographers are weened on slick magazine articles and internet tutorials preaching copycatting, the most faithful devotees to these looks will go deeper and there they will find film again. This is already happening.
2--When did you first by a digital camera? When I was in high school in the late 90's, my father bought one of those Casio point and shoots that took a 3.5 disk. I think it was 1 megapixel. Have you looked at the photos you took with your first digital recently? Mine look like hell and resemble flip phone pictures. They are staircased, unnaturally white balanced, have way too much depth of field and are just all around hard to look at. There's no way to get those photos "back." No amount of interpolation or digital restoration will make them look as nice as today's digital photos. Why? Because even if you shoot in RAW, your digital images can contain no more quality than the technology of the day that the camera was built. Imagine with the rate at which technology is "improving" lately, in how short a span of tyme it will be before images you take today are deemed unprofessional.
Film on the other hand can always be "upgraded." It used to take half an hour to scan one of my negatives to 2400 DPI and even then, there was no depth and a much smaller color range, 8 bit if I recall. Now I can scan to 6400 DPI, choose various bit depths and go up to as much as 24 bit color. And this is just using a $200 flatbed scanner which, 10 years ago, was unheard of for doing respectable, presentable film scans.
Ken Rockwell uses a really cool example for this. You might have seen the movie The Wizard of Oz? It was released in 1939. If you watch it on BluRay today, it looks pretty spectacular. Now, have you watched any of your old favourite standard definition TV shows on your new 1080i flatscreen?
Digital cameras may be turning out increasingly nicer and nicer images with each passing year but last years images just look the same with little hope for improvement.
And let's not forget the cameras themselves and their media. The 3.5 disks that the Casio used are stored neatly in a little box in my filing cabinet but I have no idea what is on them because I don't have a 3.5 drive with which to read them! The camera was traded in for an 8th or less of its retail value years ago.
A decade ago, that Casio was thought to be the future. But what do I have from it? Crappy photos and no camera. Not long after my dad bought that Casio, he bought me a Pentax K1000 for school. He bought it for $100. Which is a little less than I sell K1000's for after doing basic maintenance to them today. And guess what? I found a bunch of my old negatives from that camera last year, which had never been scanned, only printed. Do you know that they look just as nice as anything I've shot this past week?
Film is the future.