Why Film? By Jay Revelle

By Jay Revelle for film photographic (@jayrevelle)

With the ubiquity of digital media, it's a common question these days.

However, to Film Photographic, the answer can be simple: Paraphrasing founder Jason Lee, would you rather play a synthesizer or a real piano?

To use film represents romance. And real romance is tangible; it exists between two actual parties: You and the film.

But there are many other reasons. One is choice: choice in cameras, film type, film size, development, and development chemistry, and it continues on from there (darkroom printing, printing chemistry, alternative process, instant photography, etc.). Starting from a piece of film, an entire world is at your fingertips. Despite digital media opening doors, it closes many of them. film photographic exists to re-open some of those doorways, to shine light on creativity in the digital age, and to make the old new again.

To delve further, I often wonder why digital cameras don't come with the capability to change sensors. Film cameras allow us to change the film to any film type or ISO that we desire. This provides for a whole range of creative endeavors, but digital closed that doorway. Further, today, the size of digital sensors is still limited. For most of today's affordable digital cameras, the sensor size is still roughly the same size as a 35mm film strip frame (or less), the number of pixels is almost not comparable. Move onto medium format film, and we have a frame size and resolution capability that's bigger than any common, affordable digital camera, excluding high-end, pricy professional models that cost upward of 30,000 USD or more. Moving onto large format, forget it. Digital can't compete with the potential resolution available.

Contrast that with being able to pick up a used film camera for less than 100 USD most anywhere in the world, along with a 5 USD or more roll of film, and you've got a pretty low-priced gateway into a world of creativity that can never become dull. It's just you, the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. And home developing has never been easier, what with R3 Monobath and Caffenol on the scene.

Further, with film, we draw out the process, we prolong the fun. In fun, would you rather a fun moment pass in an instant, or would you rather that fun moment continue for days, even weeks? Film prolongs the fun: Starting with film choice, camera choice, film size, subject choice, exposure and the technical decisions in camera, chosen development method, scanning decision, or better yet, darkroom chemistry, darkroom printing, and the eventual print, existing alongside a negative, which will last for years and never needs to be backed up on multiple hard drives or DVD disks somewhere. If you rush, start to finish is not much less than a day; or, you can take your time, enjoying each step, even over a matter of weeks or months. The fun CAN LAST—a lot longer than digital.

In short, digital may have its place, somewhere, but for film photographic, amid our collections of film cameras, fridges of film, and converted darkroom bathrooms, there's just no space on the shelf for it. And that's just the way we like it.