Film is Dead! : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

This afternoon I did some shooting with a friend using his Hassy and the Kodak digital back. The resulting 16mb images were so unbelieveable that I almost dropped deuce.

After shooting we printed his images on an Epson 10000 at 30"x30". Let me tell all you digititaldoubters, these images blow away anything I have seen produced using wet photography.

For this dude, film is dead. I will be selling my film cameras asap.

Jon Adermeyer Adermeyer Photography Denver, Colorado

-- Jon Adermeyer (, March 11, 2002


Which Kodak digital back? Are you prepared to do a head to head comparison with film and drum scan? From what I have ascertained, Kodaks best back still can't match 4x5 film but comes very close... would you agree with this?

-- Bill Glickman (, March 11, 2002.

Can we develop a separate subsection away from the main forum for these types of posts? They seem to pop up every week or two, say basically the same thing, and fill bandwidth that could probably be put to better use.

(Sigh.) Yes, Jon, a lot of us have seen MF digital and are choosing to stick with film, thank you very much.

I was at Calumet about a month ago and I said to the Kodak digital sales guy, "Show me your best digital prints." He pulled out some--you guessed it--Kodak/Hassy prints, probably about 30x30, made from some enormous file size (far larger than 16mb, Jon; 48mb?), support for which would be extremely expensive for field work. I said, "They're very nice, but they look REALLY digital to me."

Am I alone here, or are there others who can spot even the best MF digital prints from a couple of feet away? (i.e., no loupe needed--they just look, well, digital) Every photographer has different standards, I know, but I can't get over the low quality that many digital proponents call "better than film."

Will the day come when digital equals film in both quality and economy for the majority of LF shooters? Probably. Is that day here yet? Not from any evidence I've seen--not even close.

So sure, dude, go do your gnarly digital stuff. If you're running a studio, it probably makes economic sense (for many photo businesses it already did a couple of years ago; some catalog guys I know have been shooting digital for almost a decade now).

But please don't assume that those on this forum who stick with film haven't seen the light; it might just be that they can see things that you cannot.

-- Terry (, March 11, 2002.

Well, Film isn't dead yet. The Fat Lady hasn't sung, but I swear I can hear her clearing her throat!

I've spent the better part of the last 20 years trying to become proficient in large format photography, and presently use 4x5, 5x7 and 8x10 formats.

I'll be keeping my Wisner and Deardorff equipment and using it for the rest of my life (I hope), but for me and my business to survive I've made the plunge into digital and can't believe the results I'm getting (D30 using stair interpolation for up-res-ing).

That being said, I also think there's an inherient "depth" to a fine black and white print that digital can't (yet) match, so when I need to express something photographically in which that "look" or "depth" is important, it's back to the analog (film) capture methods.

But for most everything I do to put bread on the table, the new digital world offers too big an advantage to ignore.

I see it as another tool in the box, to be used when called for.

Just my two cents.

-- David Haynes (, March 11, 2002.

I like the digital process and will be happy to use it when it becomes economically feasible for me, and as long as I am satisfied with the quality (no 30x40" prints from a 640x480-pixel file). Also, I like being able to make simple corrections and changes in Photoshop.

One of the reasons that I often prefer film-based prints is that, in my opinion, the image quality degrades gracefully; if the film does not have great detail it will look soft and fuzzy, whereas a digital print will have hard edges that may look pixelated. This may not be the case all of the time, but I've seen it often. My preference may be due to that fact that I have seen film-based prints my entire life, and digital ones only in the last several years. Had their positions been reversed, I may well have felt more comfortable with digital prints.

-- Matthew Runde (, March 11, 2002.

I hate digital. It's Monday so I hate everything today. I'm also a film hugging Neanderthal who hasn't seen the light and doesn't want to. When (as if!) film ever dies, I have the chemical formulas. I can make my own paper negatives (it's called Kalitype or Nickelodian or sumpthin). Us uneddicated Luddites cain't spel none too gud neither. Better yet, I will buy all that nasty yucky smelly film as scrap, a few dollars per ton and cram it in the freezer. Sell us all your bad bad bad wet photo cameras too... Just dry them off first. Whatever I can't use up will go on EBay at ridiculous prices to collectors. I'll be a rich guy. :) :)

-- Steve Gangi (, March 11, 2002.

I find it odd that in order for something (digital imaging) to be considered good or worthwhile or good enough, that it has to be compared with something (photography) that already exists and is readily available and is already quite good enough. Its amusing for me to watch digital try to be something it never quite will be. It will always be trying to be as good as, or better than, and compared against, photography. Maybe someday it will find its own self, but its looking in the wrong place, trying to be an imitation. If photography had stayed on that route, imitating painting, we never would have seen a Weston, or an Adams, or a Cunningham...

-- Wayne (, March 11, 2002.

Geez, when I finish shooting I just love the feel of negatives in my hand as I load them onto reels or into tanks. The pyro sloshing around my fingers, slowly seeping into my skin through small pores. The smeel of fixer and stop in the morning goes with my coffee like bacon goes with eggs.

Silicon is like a waffle soaked in syrup for hours. Yuch!

-- Michael J. Kravit (, March 11, 2002.

It sort of bothers me to contribute to a troll post, but oh well....

If you are an audio enthusiast, then you might remember the analog/digital flame wars that heralded the debut of CDs. Go read some back issues of "The Absolute Sound" or "Stereophile". Same stuff.

My point? I don't know that we can draw perfect parallels, but twenty years after CDs "killed" vinyl, you can still buy records. Not as full a selection as before, but you can still get them. Some still say a good vinyl pressing is better than a CD. Others claim (more accurately, IMHO), that vinyl is different from digital, but has it's own inherent sonic qualities. Whaddya you know, they might both be good.

And, there may be those among us that choose to work with film even if digital really is "better", just 'cause we want to. That's why they call it art.

I thought about making some bumpers stickers that read, "Film isn't dead...there's plenty of it on my bathroom tile", but that's just too much to read while your're driving.

-- Kevin Bourque (, March 11, 2002.

ooohhh eyahhhhh...

wait till the next digital back knocks your socks off..wait till the next printer back knocks your socks off.. wait till the next XYZ computer knocks your socks off... and so on....

digital is 1 and 0... you have nothing to hang's ok for commercial and that's it...

I will stick to films...

-- dan n. (, March 11, 2002.

While I really think digital is great, I have to say posts like this read like someone who just sobered up and found a new addiction be it religion or AA, or a new drug. Once he finishes spending the $30K -60,000 K (which next year will be worth 1/3rd to maybe half of what he spent this year) on a set up similar to his friends toreplace maybe $8K forth of cameras he should write back.

Like I said I think digital is great.

And yes I have worked with that Kodak back.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, March 11, 2002.

> I said, "They're very nice, but they look REALLY digital to me."

yep, really digital. where's the grain? where's the scratches? where's the fingerprints? where's the uneven processing? where's the film-flatness artifacts? well .. you get the point. there's room for both analogue and digital. I know that you can synthesize a very good cello tone electronically these days. but still, I get up in the morning and draw a bow across gut strings and play Bach. my fingers connect bow through strings through wood, to feel each note in my chest as I play. it's organic. I won't have a problem making my first digital CD.

-- daniel taylor (, March 11, 2002.

Well I have my 8x10 and my 12x20 negative right here I dont see any scratches, fingerprints, uneven development and/or did not need any kind of film flatness gizmo....Darn I must have had a digital back all these years and did not know it!! :-)))

Those attributes are not solely the charachteristics of a digital back, like I said in a previous post, I have not had to spot a print in many years. Sure my technique for loading film holders is anal retentive and takes a long time...but no dust, etc. So sorry, your argument does not convice me Daniel.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, March 11, 2002.

I spend about 50-60 hours a week in front of my computer, so why in the hell would I want to spend more 'processing' photographs?

I've been doing LF for just over a year, and I'll do it until I die. With film.

Keep your digital camera, and sell your analog cameras. While it may work for you, it doesn't work for most of us.

BTW, if film is dead, you might as well give your equipment away. You probably won't get very much money for it, since, as you put it, 'film is dead'.

Hell, you can give your equipment to me if you wish. Save you the trouble of trying to sell your old, outdated equipment. :-)


-- Ken Miller (, March 11, 2002.

> So sorry, your argument does not convice me Daniel.

uh ... don't drop that negative Jorge. I wasn't arguing either way. I could care less about these silly comparisons. and like I said, there's room for both. the main point is to enjoy your photography. the process and results.

there's no arguing that using equipment of this calibre will yield grand results. however, how much is invested in a digital back for my Hasselblads and an Epson 10000? I had a wonderful time today, walking through downtown Portland in the rain with just my Rolleicord and Holga.

-- daniel taylor (, March 12, 2002.

In a recent photo magazine article, one of the proponents of B&W digital (maybe Chip Forelli or Huntington Witherall) was reviewing the latest and best (for that moment) Epson printer and how they had a closet full of printers they had previously tried. All I can say is the last time I looked I did not have a closet full of Omega D-2 enlargers. Yes digital is wonderful, but to get the quality equal to a fine print from LF negs is still a rich man's game.

-- James Chinn (, March 12, 2002.

Digital, way to expensive with a very short life span. LF, cheap, the cheapest format I own, and lasts a life time.

Film is alive and well. A mature business making money. Digital is still climbing that steep upward slope of its product life cycle. When it gets to the top, if it gets to the top, I don't think it will be a "King of the hill" type contest.

By the way, I don't think any two people have seen that hill from quite the same angle, or in quite the same light. Even if they are standing side by side.

-- Jonthan Bundick (, March 12, 2002.

I have a friend who owns a photo lab. He does both digital and wet film processing. He uses digital for all his commercial work and wet film for all his fine art work. Digital allows him to easily recover from screw ups and create images that would be expensive to do with sets and wet film. For fine art work his emphasis is on clarity. He does big crystal clear images and he says you cannot get that with digital. Wet film is his preferred solution for landscapes.

Of course, cost is not a consideration because he has access to extensive equipment for either type. His preferences are based soley on functionality.

For me cost is a consideration. Digital is extremely expensive and not cost effective. Advertizing commands big dollars. Fine art does not. What I can do with five dollars of wet film is amazing.

-- Stephen Willard (, March 12, 2002.

Custom Aspen snowboard, $750 Granny-killing SUV with chains, $40,000 16MB Kodak Digital Back for Hassie $40,001

The feeling you get pulling soggy fibre print from final wash - Priceless! (Some things in life ARE priceless... and for everything else, there's Mastercard)

-- Andre Noble (, March 12, 2002.

"What is art?" Many years back when photographers used to drag tents with them to do their wet plate processing it was a struggle to produce good results, yet they did and few among us(certainly not myself) can reproduce what they did.

Ever stood in a museum and looked at marble statue and thought: "How the hell did they do it??!!". Move that hammer perhaps just a fraction to quickly...? Unforgiving? But hey, today we have it easy. I can have my heavy 5x7 unpacked and set up in a few minutes. And can develop/print a few good negs in no more than a day's work, with minimal exposure to toxic chemicals/fumes.

10%. That's about how much of our brain we use - when we try really hard. So how did they do it?? They used a few % more. They excelled in what they did. A constant struggle with life - utterly unforgiving. Becoming one with your environment - senses enhanced to a point where a split second before that hammer strikes he already knew with 100% certainty that the marble would shatter. We call them Masters. And when you have mastered what you do(or strive to) and your path there has challenged your boundaries and scarred you along the way and when what you do in some way communicates to people, then - and only then - is it art.

Film might be dying, but when it goes I will in some other more unforgiving medium continue to strive for that 'oneness'. As for this specific tread... I suggest that 'this dude' take his digital camera... and become one with it.

-- Riaan Lombard (, March 12, 2002.

I have to agree with Steve...this subject appears weekly! Take it somewhere else. I have to believe film will be available for decades as too many people ENJOY photography with film. It may not dominate in professional circles anymore, but too many people have a passion for "doing it from scratch" to let it completely die. I don't have a problem with digital other than resistance and fear. I would hate for digital to KILL film altogether...but somehow I can't see this happening.

I became interested in photography in 1971. I instantly fell in love with large format, although I also had a Nikon for general use. Back then, everyone was debating over 35mm versus LF, over and over and over! If there was LF website back then, this would be the hot topic. I got so burned out on people telling me that large format was on the way out and perspective control would be incorporated into small formats...just you wait and see!!!! Thirty years later and large format is still alive. At somepoint along the way the dust seemed to have settled. A lot of the small format advocates took a different point of view and started to dabble in large format with amazement!

I am grateful to all of you on this website, along with others like for helping me keep my love for film alive!

J. P.

-- J. P. Mose (, March 12, 2002.

1)-I wouldn't have my child play on the computer and...ERASE all my pictures ! 2)-I keep my negative. Negative will never be changed on photoshop by somebody. Negative are negative (and solid, you touch them !), Digital pic are 1 and 0. Digital pic has absolutely No Value if you are able to modify the image endlessly. Even worse, you loose the last control of your image.

-- guillaume zuili (, March 12, 2002.

I wonder how much experience and skill Jon has with digital imaging of film-based originals. Anyone who says a 16-MB file outperforms film sounds to me like they don't know much about the limits of what can be gotten from film.

-- chris jordan (, March 12, 2002.

Film is far from dead. In Digital (Photo?) magazine, latest issue, they said that film sales were higher in 2001 than in 2000. Trying to ride on the coat tails of film, the writer theorized that the increase came about because digitial got everyone excited about photography again.

Digital prints look crappy compared to real darkroom prints. Digital has it's problems too: banding, high cost of digital backs, computer software problems, etc.

Commercial photogs have justification for digital. Most of the rest have a longer return on investment. Oh ya, and don't forget that next year the latest and greatest digital equipment will make all their current equipment obsolete.

My opinion from what I've seen is that most of the people shouting film is dead are younger types. Not all, but a lot of younger folks.

Can you see a digital wedding photographer with his Hasselblad and expensive digital back, trying to sell his pictures to the client, who already has been handed about a dozen disks of pictures taken by friends and relatives at the same wedding?

-- Roger Urban (, March 12, 2002.

1.) "Film is dead"

Funny, but I haven't used living film in a very long tim

2.) "Film is dead"

Long live the Film!"

3.) "Film is dead"

Hey... wasn't that a Curtis Mayfield hit song from the "Superfly" soundtrack?

4.) "Film is dead"

No it just smells funny (apologies to Frank Zappa, who is indeed, quite dead.)

5.) "Film is dead"

Please don't tell Mother, it will break her heart.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, March 12, 2002.

Film is'nt dead, it just smells funny. I like the smell..

-- bill Z (, March 12, 2002.

Hi Jon

Digital is great for catalog work, but on this forum are not many catalog workers if any! So be happy and make your ADS somewhere else not on thad forum. GO on a 4 days hike with your Digiback and then I ask you how it was! Its just a matter for what! "If I where a rich man" then I would buy just for fun every year the newest digiback, but only maybe!

Have much luck with it.

-- Armin Seeholzer (, March 12, 2002.

Just had a thought (historic day). What if you get locked into one company's standard and some other standard comes out on top later (as in Betamax vs VHS)? What if greedy companies periodically change the standards and minimum requirements to make you keep buying more "stuff" (already happened with computers and their bloatware)?

-- Steve Gangi (, March 12, 2002.

Todays Digital... Tomarrows 8 track tapes. Todays Film.......Tomarrows National Meuseum of Fine Art Photography.

-- john forrest grunke (, March 13, 2002.

I'm sorry, Jon, 8 track tapes are a type of music recording medium that was the rage back in the 60's. Seen any lately?

-- john forrest grunke (, March 13, 2002.

Film died for me some time ago .... my LF camera is on it's deathbed. What I cant' do with digital and computer perspective correction is very little. But then I'm a commercial photographer and cost and ease of use are strong considerations for me. My best and most enjoyable photographic moments were with a LF camera, and for many others on this site and around the world. For that reason, and also for the joys of printing your own work, film will live for others for quite some time yet.

-- Michael Mahoney (, March 13, 2002.

Yep, you are right. At least I think you are. Watched a sheet of 8x10 film on the table in the darkroom for the past few days & it didn't move, make noise or anything. Must be dead. Just like those damn seeds in the packets. Somehow though, when I plant the seeds, in spite of my fears of them being dead a few grow into these beautiful plants... kind of like some of those suspected sheets of film when I apply the right kind of work & inspiration.

If you think film is dead maybe you should spend some time searching your soul to see if this is an inernal problem.

As for 8 tracks, anyone know of a good repairman for a player, the one in the old Saab Sonnet is acting up?

-- Dan Smith (, March 13, 2002.

i'm sure we've just killed it...if it wasn't dead before...

-- trib (, March 15, 2002.

We've seen all of this before. When photography was invented there were the people who embraced it and said that painting was dead, and there were the people who painted who got worried but insisted they'd go down with the ship. Then color photography came along and everyone said that B&W was dead. Here we are years later and digital is threatening traditional. Everything can co-exist with the wierd twist that modern companies need larger profit margins and dump products that don't sell to their large expectations rather than sell for a profit. But as someone else has said up there, we can make our own the way the early practitioners did. The deciding factor for commercially produced products is ecomomics now, but we do still have painters around.

-- Rob Tucher (, March 21, 2002.

Well, after spending my time attempting to get some contact sheets out of the "photo shop" at the mall, I realized digital is more convenient. I will not be easily convinced digital is "better", but the ongoing cost of consumables with film and the ability to have a good quality color lab on my desk top makes it "nicer" to operate with digital. High quality prints start with high quality artist; it is not the tools that provide art. It is not art that feeds us. We must understand each format (?) digital and film are what they are, and best used that way. Today. I just put my set of Nikons up on eBay looking for that *lover of yesterday*. But I will never let go of my medium and large format cameras, digital cannot go there. Yet.

-- Chuck MacKarness (, May 29, 2002.

We need to differentiate consumer sense from art sense.Have all the different forms of painting died or simply grown in terms of stature and ....price, to probably all of us "yes".Has AutoFocus technology really thrown manual focus in dustbin? to many "no". Isn't B&W still a superior and preferrable mode of expression, to many "yes".Film might become lesser option when digital format will be able (if ever) to compete economicaally, but on an art horizon film will never be dead.Life is not pixellated, it has its greys, its shadows, its blurrs and its sharps.

-- zaheer sattar (, July 05, 2002.

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