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Is Film still viable for a pro???


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#1 freediver

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 06:28 PM

After having taken an extended sabbatical from shooting (worked as a photojournalist for a number of years - AP, documentary, etc) I am caught in the middle of a quandry and need some advice.

With the digital revolution upon us shooters, I am having a hard time letting go of shooting film. Yes, I know film is dying, film based gear is pennies on the dollar, everyone rants and raves about the immediacy of shooting digital, but the bottom line is quality - just how good is digital in relation to film???

All the research I have done so far points to the benefits of shooting digital for immediate feedback while shooting, but is offset by the idea that once you shoot digital, you are stuck with whatever mode you shot the original in - whereas, shooting film, you can always retain the most information at any given point in time based upon current and future scanning technology.

My understanding is that film is still preferred by most of the major publications due to the amount of information in each image as compared to digital.

I was thinking of a hybrid solution for shooting underwater - shooting color neg and scanning at high rez... Color neg retains more highlight and shadow information as compared to chromes and is more forgiving in exposure errors. In addition, there is virtually no shutter lag as compared to digital cameras.

Are there any serious pro's here who can give some advice on this issue?

TIA,

Cliff

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#2 MikeVeitch

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Posted 29 November 2005 - 07:45 PM

Well, i would say go with the digital. Cameras like a D2X or Canon 16mb whatever its called...are just as good as film. DSLR cameras do not have shutter lag...that is only with the Point and shoots
You are NOT stuck with whatever mode you shot the original in. Shoot in RAW and then Save as in whatever format you want, tif, jpg etc
Keep your RAWs as a digital negative and store them on hard disk or DVD and you will have it a lifetime. As your Photoshop optimizing skills improve you can go back to those RAW files and do em again if you want.

Most magazines want only digital submissions these days, my stock agencies don't even accept film anymore, if you shoot it they expect you to scan it yourself and then submit digitally.
You will find all the top selling UW pros pretty much shoot exclusively digital now. Jim Watt, Doug Perrine, Doug Seifert, Tim Rock etc etc, all shoot digital.
I had the same dilemma as you last year and decided to go digital. Shooting film, processing, scanning and then optimizing is a lot more time and labour intensive than straight digital.

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#3 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 03:23 AM

I think we have to be a bit careful of saying that all the top UW photographers shoot digital now. I think we can easily get that impression living here in the Wetpixel bubble! But certainly the impression I got from being at Antibes is that many of the top UW photographers are still shooting film (although this is often driven by the expense of the upgrade for they many cameras).

I would not want to shoot film again. But there are plenty that do. The only problem is that it is very expensive to get really good scans done - especially if you are doing multiple image submissions.

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#4 MikeVeitch

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 03:42 AM

I said top "selling".... :D I certainly forgot to mention Mr Frink as well. Michael Aw also comes to mind.

But i do have a North American bias so can't say the same for European photogs.

But that is not the point of my post anyway. What i mean is that if these guys who sell oodles of photos are shooting digital then yes it is certainly publishable and quality issues shouldn't hinder someone from going digital as opposed to film as we know there are not quality issues. Of the 4 articles etc that i have coming out in the next little while, 3 of them are digital, 1 is film, scanned of course

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#5 fdog

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 04:52 AM

Cliff, given your background, here's the current state of shooting for the press:

All the wet processing was moved out two years ago. The last thing to go was the E6/C41 processor (for film brought in by the general public). There is nothing left to connect with our past of typing out a sticky label, putting it on a print, and sticking it on the drum to send it out over the wire...

There was a time of transition where most daily stuff was shot digital; but, artsy stuff, or studio, or just images that you wanted quality on, were still shot with film. Now it's all just straight digital. Everything sent out is digital, if there's a request from a weekly magazine, all they'll take is digital.

I'll confess if I'm doing something for myself that I want great range and tones on, it's back to film. (Just my opinion) Digital has the resolution to match film, but the tones and exposure latitude aren't quite there yet. The next generation I'm sure will be a match for film, and then, all I'll use my old film cameras for will be fine-art B+W.

Generally most shooters are using D2H's now, lots of D100's still around as lightweight backups although you see D70's popping up. Depending on your employer, Nikon or Canon is the predominant equipment. I think I saw some survey results in News Photographer that indicated the use split at 40% Canon/60% Nikon. Most national neswmags switched to Canon for the res, and metros stayed with their stables of Nikon glass.

After looking back over your post, I guess I haven't really answered your question. Make the switch to digital with a 10 Mp camera; you'll have enough res you won't feel cheated by leaving film behind.

All the best, James

#6 acroporas

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 05:18 AM

To answer both of your posts at once.

Is film vialbe for a pro? Yes.

Is a digital point and shoot vialbe for a pro? No (well not for pro underwater work, p&s has plenty of quality for a newspaper, but how often do UW pictures get published in newspapers)

You will be much better off with a used Film SLR than a digital point and shoot. If you can manage a digital SLR than you would be best off with digital, but it does not sound like that is in your budget.
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#7 freediver

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 07:15 AM

I really appreciate all your responses regarding this issue.

So I am now considering the following eventual setup:

2 - Nikon D70s bodies
1 - 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom Nikkor
1 - 10.5mm f/2.8G ED AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor
1 - 80-200mm f/2.8D ED AF Zoom-Nikkor (used)
1 - Housing (TBD)
1 - Dome Port (TBD)
1 - Standard Port (TBD)
1 - U/W Strobe (TBD)

In addition - I am now hitting the proverbial wall with my budget regarding a housing for this along with a dome port and strobe. I figured that this setup was the most versatile for both above and underwater.

I am also considering the Olympus Evolt 300 due to it's small size (I am a freedive instructor as well as a soon to be certified PADI divemaster) I do like the Evolt's housing but not sure about the 4:3 format they utilize. Compactness AND image quality are both important and need to go with the best setup I can. The swaying factor for the Evolts is the total investment needed to get into digital.

That setup would be:
2 - Evolt 300 bodies
1 - 14-45 zoom
1 - 40-150mm f3.5-4.5
1 - 8mm fisheye
1 - PT-E01 Housing
1 - PPO-E04 Dome port
1 - Standard port
1 - strobe (TBD)

I personally am not able to afford the equivilent in Canon, even though I was a die hard Canon shooter for a number of years (shot F1's, T90's, EOS 620's)

If someone has a cost effective solution for Canon as well as why they would recommend or not recommend any of the setups, I'm all ears. :D

Cliff

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#8 acroporas

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 08:46 AM

Of your two choices I would go with the Nikon system.

The equivilent in priced canon would be the 350D wich is no more expensive than the D70s if anything a Canon kit would be cheaper when you factor in lens costs.

The 350D is a better camera than the D70. But Nikon has the DX fisheye which there is no canon equivalent so overall I think the D70 is better suited for underwater work.
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#9 MikeO

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 10:23 AM

1 - PT-E01 Housing
1 - PPO-E04 Dome port
1 - Standard port
1 - strobe (TBD)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


If you are really seriously considering the Olympus setup, you should probably consider the Ikelite housing instead -- TTL with Ike strobes (if you care) and better support now and in the future.

http://www.ikelite.c...300olympus.html

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#10 freediver

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Posted 30 November 2005 - 12:25 PM

Well, doing more internal processing (dialogue) today has me even more unsure of the way to go. The Olympus setup is very compact and the lenses are specifically designed for the format (built from the ground up). The Nikon's are reasonably priced for used gear - especially used 80-200 2.8's...

I do like the fact that one can purchase a powergrip to increase battery capacity and have a second release for vertical shooting for the D70.

As much as I like Canon - I find that their bodies feel cheap compared to the Nikons for an equivilent price point and even though they do have excellent glass, I'm not shooting fast moving sports. And yes, that 10.5 mm lens is really sweet - a colleague of mine locally has one and it is what really sold me. He has plenty of Nikon glass if I get in a pinch for shooting the magazine work I will be going after. The challenge is that I don't want to make a purchasing decision based purely on the popularity of the brand. I shot Canon when all the Nikon shooters turned their noses up back in the day. Now it seems to be a reversal. The politics of brand loyalty! LOL

As an observation - it seems like the digital realm has become quite splintered, with each major manufacturer espousing their particular format. If I could afford to go with one of the full frame Canons, it would be a no brainer. But a Canon 5D costs more than my whole Nikon setup.. gimme a break.

ON the topic of housings...

What is the concensus on the Fantasea housing??? It seems reasonably priced and the dome port is as well. about $300-$400 cheaper than the Ike...

Cliff

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#11 Paul Kay

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Posted 06 December 2005 - 01:03 PM

To go back to your question the answer is NO!!!

Provided you are prepared to invest in a 10MPixel+ system you will produce higher quality files than are available from 35mm. END!!!

If you think film is still viable I will tell you a story. Once upon a time there were many photo agencies who used to sell film derived images. They digital appeared. Then picture researchers discovered searchable photo library websites based on digitised images. Some photo agencies have now discovered that the cost of digitising their photographic collections simply isn't economically viable. They cannot compete, cannot sell as effectively and (from another represented photographer's mouth) are shutting up shop (believe me he knows!).

I know pros who still think film is viable - I don't!!! But equally, shooting less than 10MPixels is limiting yourself to a less than 35mm quality file.

I know that some will disagree, but speaking as a photographer who is currently setting up a seachable on-line photo agency, I have looked into the state of play carefully and my conclusions are the above. From a business point of view, I would prefer to have a photographer working with a 10MPixel+ camera rather than anything else, for underwater images.
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#12 frogfish

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Posted 10 December 2005 - 04:56 AM

... but the bottom line is quality - just how good is digital in relation to film???

All the research I have done so far points to the benefits of shooting digital .. is offset by the idea that once you shoot digital, you are stuck with whatever mode you shot the original in - whereas, shooting film, you can always retain the most information at any given point in time based upon current and future scanning technology.  ....I was thinking of a hybrid solution for shooting underwater - shooting color neg and scanning at high rez...  Color neg retains more highlight and shadow information as compared to chromes and is more forgiving in exposure errors.  In addition, there is virtually no shutter lag as compared to digital cameras.

Are there any serious pro's here who can give some advice on this issue?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



No illusions about being a serious pro (defined here as someone who at least makes more on pictures than he/she spends on cameras, lenses, memory cards etc.), but I have to jump in and say, au contraire.

If you shoot raw (and most everyone I here I know does), you are not by any means 'stuck in whatever mode you shot the original in'. You can, in effect, push or pull the 'digital negative' by at least one EV stop either way (and then do it again, and if you want sandwich the two as layers to expand dynamic range beyond anything possible with transparency film... And you aren't stuck with the Fuji or Kodak color response curves, though if you like Provia blues, or Kodak reds, you can have them too.

Color neg will give you more latitude, but more grain too (and cheesy colors to boot, at least to my taste) - and that's before you scan. I've gone back and scanned some old stuff I shot in color neg - the little I had left which had held something resembling the original colors that is - and I have to say I think your idea of shooting color neg and scanning it (unless you've got a drum scanner by your bed, and even then) is likely guaranteed to give you the worst of all three worlds.

My 6 MP Fuji S2 gave me tons more usable resolution than I could ever get out of a scan of a slide using a scanner I could afford. With the higher resolution digitals like the D2X or the high-end Canons there really isn't any comparison.

But these aren't even the biggest factors shooting u/w. The real differences u/w are simply these: (1) being able to check the image and the histogram after shooting, to check lighting and exposure, and most of all (2) having room for 70+, or 150+, or 300 full raw exposures instead of 36 frames before you have to come up, rinse the housing, dry it, open it, and change the film/card.

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#13 claycoleman

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Posted 04 March 2006 - 08:42 PM

Hi Cliff. I've used film equipment for a long time, and I'm also in the process of going digital. Like you, I planned to base a system around a D70s, and I bought that camera. I've since decided to get a D200 as soon as I can get one. Given the cost of the housing, new strobes, new wider angle lenses, new sync cords, etc., the additional money for the extra resolution makes sense to me. I like the D70s, but why base a whole new system on a camera at the end of its production life? Of course, I have the luxury of using the film stuff I already have--stuff that has served me well and still works as well as ever--until I'm ready to buy the whole digital shebang.

I'll add my personal exprience regarding another comment made: I can't really check the quality of a shot by looking at the little screen on the D70s. If I'm outside or in bright light, I can't really see it at all. A buddy has a hood on his screen, and the result is looking through a little tunnel and still not being able to see anything except for the most basic composition and exposure. -Clay

#14 tdpriest

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Posted 01 April 2006 - 03:11 PM

I have found the D70 (D70S is a trivial update) excellent underwater, and Ken Rockwell makes cogent arguments on his website about the irrelevance of pixel number. The D200 looks wonderful, and I've handled a borrowed one that was very nice, but when its underwater the housing is more important than the body. This has made the D70 better than the D100, as the cheaper camera has performed better in housings despite the plastic body. The time to upgrade is when the housing is available. I think that the D200 is about 6 months away as an underwater system because of the availability of housings from the major players.

D70 image:

Red_Sea_lionfish.jpg

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#15 ikelite

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Posted 02 April 2006 - 10:34 AM

THE "minor player" is beginning to ship D-200 housings complete with iTTL conversion circuitry that works very well thank you. Priced realistically because I don't want to make money folks, I just love to sell housings.

#16 tdpriest

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 11:38 AM

Sorry, Ike: European aluminium bias from an amateur....
.... locked into my domes, and limited finances as a result.

Tim

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#17 JamesWood

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Posted 28 April 2006 - 01:56 PM

What about a Rebel XT or 20d? Good value for the price even if they don't have that pro feel. If you get the "right" canon lenes you can later keep them while upgrading to full frame, which is where the industry is headed. Full frame is a big deal for wide angle and not as much for macro - what is you style?

Also, I like to have two flashes, the second one can be small, just an old $60 ike 50 slave off of eBay would do - anything really just to kick in some fill light.

Olympus is very innovative. Nikon seems slow and playing a catch up game with canon but the pro feel and quality is there. Rebel, 20d and 5d are a great value but I wish they were more substantial. LOL, now I've irritated almost everyone!

The GOOD thing about shooting film is the equipment is pennies on the dollar. You could get a Nikons V, the "king" 15 mm lens and two strobes for less than two grand and be in business with a much smaller, simpler and more rugged system. But you probably need to budget in a film scanner too. . .
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#18 NotAdiver

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Posted 24 May 2006 - 06:13 AM

Hello,

I shoot stock, fine art, advertising and editorial full time.

I shoot both digital and film. I have found that the material cost savings in using digital has allowed for a larger film budget. I also find that many art directors and editors like both as well.

There is a lot of hype around digital that has given the notion that film is dead. While it is certainly seeing far less action in the mainstream, a lot of high end guys are still using it and seeing even larger sales due to the fact that it is not the same old digital fudge.

For instance, I have seen a big increase in fine art sales from film images as art buyers are looking for something a bit more "organic" if you will. I am also shooting a lot of slide film in my Hasselblad XPan, a format, sharpness and tonality not yet matched by even my full frame digital gear.

For what it is worth, I don't shoot marine underwater imagery, I use my housings in a very unconventional way so I really can't relate to what marine pros are doing in regards to film.

I have been talking to Doubilet about a special project so I might ask him.

I say shoot film if you want to, it is not any less of a quality medium since digital. Digital is just not the be-all end-all.

I shoot about 65% digital and the rest film, that is just my take on it.

#19 ce4jesus

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Posted 24 May 2006 - 06:55 AM

Cliff,
I'm no pro but I am familiar with the E-300. I've used both it and the E-500. I actually own the E-500. The E-300 has one flaw that bothered me and that was an extremely small viewfinder with a truncated view. The E-500 was marginally better in that regard but like you, price was a factor. You talked about the Canon having a cheap feel to it...Olympus is no different. The camera bodies for the E-300/500 certainly have that same "toy" feeling. On a side note...the E-500 camera took a 3ft fall on its first day on 1/4" thick, carpet-covered concrete and survived nicely (First day at the mall with the kids and the strap wasn't put on correctly). In the end, I agree its hard to ignore the price of the Olympus Camera and surrounding accessories which is why this amateur bought one. However, if I had the money I would have gone with the Canon or Nikon.
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#20 John Bantin

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Posted 27 May 2006 - 10:44 AM

I have recently come to the conclusion that I will never ever be a top professional photographer again. I sold my studio in 1990 but kept a Hasselblad outfit just in case. It has sat unused for ten years. It comprises ELM body, 500C body, four mags, NC2 Prism, 40mm, 60mm, 80mm, 120mm and 250mm lenses, hoods, pistolgrip etc.
Anyone interested? I wonder what I will be able to trade it all in for. A D200 body and lens perhaps?

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