Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Film versus Digital

It was close to the perfect holiday weekend. Not only did I get to do some serious sailing, but I got to shoot pictures while sailing.

It was my first time out with the Leica M3 and the Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4. I'll admit it up front that I kept making one huge mistake when using the M3 -- I forgot to remove the lens cap.

It's the first camera I've ever used that still lets you see through the viewfinder with the lens cap in place. Half the shots on my 24-count roll of FujiFilm 800 were left unexposed, but what can you do?

It's not really until you use film again that you realize the versatility of digital that we take for granted.

Digital plus #1: ISO
I had loaded the M3 with 800 ASA film because I was looking forward to taking evening shots with the low-light lens. That left me with uneccesarily grainy shots during the day whereas I was able to instantly take the ISO up and down in the Leica X1.

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Digital plus #2: Instant review
With the X1, I know when I've got the shot and can move on.
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I don't have a film example here because my night shots of the Kemah boardwalk just didn't come out.

Digital plus #3: Color AND Black & White
I left the X1 JPEG setting to Black & White and got some great shots. However, I also had the RAW files in case I wanted to pull some into color. No choice with the M3.

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Memorial Day Weekend

Digital Plus #4: Cost in both time and money
I could have uploaded the digital photos from the boat if I'd wanted. In fact, for $15 a month, my wireless carrier will give me a digital hotspot that would allow me to upload my digital photos from anywhere in the world. On the other hand, it cost me $3 for a roll of film and $14 just to get 24 photos developed and put on a CD for me. If we average that cost of $17 per 24 exposures, film developing costs alone would pay for a used Leica M8 in 3,105 photos. Considering I shot 303 photos on my X1 at the parade last weekend, that's only a dozen events before film becomes a burden.

However, shooting with the rangefinder was a lot of fun. Unlike the X1, the rangefinder focus was always dead on -- although I'm not particularly fast with it yet. By the end of the day I was also getting better at just knowing my exposure settings instead of having to take a meter reading every shot.

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Though, some guesses were better than others.

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There are only two things that are keeping me from making the investment to switch to a digital rangefinder. The first is the lack of telephoto options. I have a 90mm f2.8, which is a great lens, but even at 90mm, the focus area in the rangefinder gets really small. I'm not sure my eyes are good enough for that. The second issue is focusing at night. It gets very hard to see the rangefinder focus area in low light.

I really like these Leica lenses, but I'm still not sure if I'll keep the M or head back into the world of DSLRs.
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