My Struggle Between Film and Digital Photography

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Essentially, these two photos are the same. Taken at the same time, one was using my phone (at the time an Apple 6) and the other one was using my Canon A-1 with Kodak Gold 200 35mm film. One person would say the digital photo is richer, sharper, and shows more detail. Others will say the film version is smoother, maybe even more true to life. Each of the photos will have fans. No doubt about it, both are good photos.

I like different things about each photo. One of the things I notice first about the digital photo is the amount of imagery in the photo. I love the trees to the right of the photo. This is more about your lens size/zoom than quality. I could have gotten the same “image” with a different lens.

Digital photo taken with Nikon D3200 in 2020.

Over the years, I have struggled with the decision of which format I want to use. When digital cameras came out, I purchased one and took photos of everything. Like all idiots who don’t know anything, I set my settings to be able to put as many photos on one card that I could. This gave me years of small-ass digital files that I can not even print out or enlarge for wall art.

I constantly upgraded my cameras for more megapixels. I stuck my camera on auto and took hundreds of thousands of photos. Over time, my camera became part of work and became boring to me. I needed a change. I purchased a Canon A-1 and felt like photography was new again. It made me think.

I no longer had unlimited photos. I no longer could just put it on auto and shoot hundreds of photos. I had to think about the shot. I only had 36 photos per roll. Each roll cost me $10 for the roll and another $15 for developing. That comes out to about $0.70 a photo. No longer were the days of unlimited shooting. Actually, at the time I started, developing cost me $25 a roll. At $35.00, each photo back in 2014 cost me just about $1.00.

FILM – Canon A-1 in 2014. Cost $1.00 after the initial investment of a $100.00 camera.

When I realized the costs, I decided that I could not afford a film habit. I invested some money and purchased an Olympus mirrorless camera. I loved it. The feeling of this camera in my hands made it feel like a film camera with the weight and cost of digital. My favorite photos came out of that camera. With this camera, I learned to experiment with angles and found happiness shooting with that camera.

Vicksburg, MS with my Olympus OM-D E10 in 2017 – Strongly edited in Adobe Lightroom.

Again, I found myself shooting everything and anything; coming home with hundreds of photos that needed to be edited, tagged, and inspected. It felt like it never ended. That was okay until I was packing for vacation and my camera died. Digital cameras are not cameras but computers and the motherboard on the camera fried and was beyond repair. I had three options.

  1. Buy another camera, which I did not have the money for.
  2. Use my “work” camera, which I dislike (and still do).
  3. Pull out my working Canon A-1 from the 80s that still works like a horse.

I went to the camera store, purchased some film, and off on vacation I went. I fell back in love with my film camera. I no longer had unlimited photos. I had to make each one shot count. The funny part of it was that people around me looked I me when I took a photo and advanced the film. I had so many comments about still shooting film.

When I came back from vacation, I realized that again, I could not afford film. I took a long time to develop the rolls of film from vacation. And I gave up on photography altogether.

An experiment of 36 shots on my wife’s Canon Powershot G-16 in 2018

One of my arguments with digital photography is always the ability to have unlimited photos. In 2018, I tested a theory. I took my wife’s Canon Powershot G-16, which is an upscale point-and-shoot camera that can go fully manual. I was only allowed to shoot 36 photos. Seems odd because I wasn’t changing a roll or anything like that, I only could take 36. While I did it; it still did not change my opinion. There is no end. There is no beginning and no end.

Digital photos are a never-ending line of photos or snapshots. I tried to change my thinking by arranging my collection of photos by location, by event, by day… Nothing ever really felt complete. I wanted my film rolls and my film cameras. I needed something to spark my photography interest.

I decided that I would go back to film a purchased a lot of used point-and-shoot cameras. Not knowing what I would get, I opened the box of 20 cameras and got a bunch of crap. Half of the cameras didn’t even work. Out of what did, I had a vision… THE CRAPTASTIC CAMERA PROJECT.

Plastic toy camera, LeClic shot in Houston, Texas.

I took 10 plastic point-and-shoot cameras on vacation to the Smokey Mountains with the intent to give these cameras one last shot of glory. Each camera got one roll of film and I would put together a book at the end of it. I finished the project with both fun and mediocre success. No one purchased the book and the photos were crappy. What did I expect?

This project did spark my love for film again and my love for cameras. Over the year, I purchased so many cameras that I had about twenty-plus cameras (not crappy) in my arsenal. All of them sitting in bags with half rolls of film. It all comes back to money. Always does.

At the end of 2019 as a Christmas present to myself, I purchased a new/used Digital camera. It was a Nikon D3200. I was so excited about it until I realized it was literally the same camera as my Canon T3. Maybe a few pixels higher, but it had the same lens and ultimately was a low-end consumer standard camera. It was nothing special.

I did think that buying a different model would inspire me like my Olympus did but it did not. Again, I took the camera on a 3-day road trip; 150 photos later, I was home. I tried to limit my photos to interesting things and overall, I think I did a good job keeping the shots lean and meaningful.

Shot on the Nikon D3200 without editing in Lightroom.

When I started this blog, I wanted to showcase all of my hobbies including photography but I didn’t want it to be a photo dump. I don’t unknow how to organize digital photos. By date? By location? By event? Where does a road trip throughout many cities in Texas go? I don’t even know what city I was in when we were traveling the backroads.

I AM CONFLICTED…

Now I am back… I purchased a new film camera that I can’t really use (YET – It needs a professional cleaning). And I have developed 4 rolls of film that were taken two years ago. I have another 3 rolls at the lab now. There are 6 more rolls left in my desk waiting for money to get developed. I have a freezer full of film and I sit and debate on which camera I am going to take on vacation in July.

My original thought was to take the new camera, but I can’t at this point since I need money to take it for cleaning. My second choice is the Minolta SRT-101. I have not taken a full roll of film on this camera yet so I do not know the quality. I can go with the classic and reliable, Canon A-1; or I can go digital with the Nikon D3200. At one point, I thought about not taking any camera. I am conflicted. Always conflicted.

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