Old School Film Hack

In Front of the Labyrinth

My sister Kate Rhyolite, Nevada (October 2016)Contax T + Zeiss Sonnar 38/2.8Kodak Ektar 100 + Commercial C-41 processing

My sister Kate
Rhyolite, Nevada (October 2016)
Contax T + Zeiss Sonnar 38/2.8
Kodak Ektar 100 + Commercial C-41 processing

Tiny 35mm film cameras can seriously rock, as revealed by the image above.

I’ve always been a fan of little cameras — and have previously said so here, and here.  So just how “little” is a little camera?  Not much bigger than the palm of your hand.  Don’t believe me?  Check out the image below.

The portrait that I took of my sister (above) was captured by a Contax T (left in the image below), which is about the size of a deck of playing cards.  The “bigger” cameras behind the Contax T are all Leica models, which are known for being compact 35mm film cameras (at least compared to the bigger SLR models), but are still considerably larger than the pocketable “point-and-shoot” marvels in the front row.

Why do I call these little cameras marvels?  Because all three of them are 35mm full-frame — the holy grail for digital!  And guess what?  A 35mm full-frame point-and-shoot like the Olympus Stylus Epic — selling for as little as $45 on eBay — can be had for 86 times LESS (or an even greater difference!) than the cost of a new digital full-frame point-and-shoot Sony RX1R II at $3,898.  Yet the super tiny Olympus Stylus Epic is still smaller and lighter than the Sony RX1R II, and only requires me to carry an extra CR123 Lithium battery — far better than the fist-full of extra batteries I had to carry with the Sony.

Yes, digital is convenient; one can see the results far faster (instantly) with digital than one can with film (at least 30-60 minutes or more, due to the time required for processing).  However, full-frame digital is not cheaper than full-frame film — especially if you tally the complete sum of digital (huge up-front costs, plus a much shorter cycle of equipment replacement compared to film — about 3-5 years, depending on a variety of factors).  Excellent 35mm full-frame film gear — however — is dirt cheap by comparison (even with the extra cost of film and development factored in), and can easily reach a decade or more before needing to be serviced or replaced.

For example, I have a Leica IIIf (far right, back row in the image above) that still works perfectly fine… some SIX decades after it was manufactured!  And today I can buy new state-of-the-art lenses for it, and new state-of-the-art 35mm film for it — and the analog images it produces can STILL give those from digital a run for their money.

Think I’m out of my mind?  That’s okay, you won’t be the first.

However, when challenged to put-up or shut-up, I always deliver.  So here are a bunch of point-and-shoot images to look at (be sure to click on them to embiggen) and think about when comparing full-frame digital to full-frame film.

Olympus Stylus Epic

Contax T

Rollei 35SE

Sony RX1R II

21 thoughts on “In Front of the Labyrinth

    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Thanks, Marcus.

      I totally agree; film has a tone and organic nature that digital simply can’t match, even with special post-processing filters and actions. The only time I feel digital has an edge now is with low-light color or high-speed action shots.

      OM-1 cameras are great; go out and have fun! If you like it enough, buy some expired film and have even more fun. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  1. paula graham

    I still say again,…it is not the camera that takes the shot…it has ‘no eye’. You, my friend could take up any camera and get ‘that photo that rocks’. And , yes, my camera is too big, I had it too long, but it still works and until it dies, I will not buy another one!…(unless I cannot carry it anymore)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Thank you for your kind words, Paula. I just push the button when the framing is pleasing to my eye… and that’s the honest truth.

      The mechanics of proper exposure and post-processing steps are easily learned from online sources, but composition is a whole different animal. I’ve tried to explain it to others, but it’s completely organic to me and my attempts to educate have always come up short. Grid lines on the viewfinder can help some people to a certain extent, but I don’t use them.

      To be sure, if you have a camera that you like and it works for you, then — by all means — keep it. My remarks here are really more for people that ask me for equipment advice (and I get that a lot). The conventional wisdom — not mine — is that bigger and/or more expensive is better… and that’s simply not the case.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Really? I’d never been there before; it was great! However, it would have been nicer without all the chainlink fencing around the buildings, though I’m sure it put an end to vandal activity.


  2. Elisa

    oh i just did a really long question comment and it told me i wasn’t logged in , which i am , and then it erased what i put grrrr
    i have a migraine at present so my typing is all fubar i’ll do the questoin later one whenre it passes

    Liked by 1 person

  3. C.S. Young Jr.

    Quite an impressive body of work represented in this post, many outstanding compositions. In high school and college I shot and processed quite a bit of Plus-X & Tri-X. Though I shoot digital today, I use Alien Skin’s Agfa APX 100 and Kodachrome software emulations to finish my workflow.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      Thank you kindly.

      Yep, there’s no denying that digital is here to stay and that there are ways to approximate the look of film; I’ve tried them and still find that I prefer the real deal.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. David

    I have my share of little 35mm cameras along with my film SLR. I even have one of those APS film cameras. One of my internet acquaintances, she started on film, went digital, is now back to film. She still shoots digital, but her and her husband shoot film when commissioned to shoot weddings and other gatherings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mitch Zeissler Post author

      APS? I bet finding film and processing for that is tough these days… 😉

      The same is true for me; I started with film (long ago), went digital (but kept my old film lenses), got frustrated with the appalling costs of constantly upgrading both the digital bodies and the dedicated electronic lenses, and finally went back to film (big sigh of relief).

      That’s not to say I don’t still shoot digital… I do… I just don’t own any full-frame digital cameras anymore.

      As far as digital goes, I’m still figuring out what I want to do and how I want to do it. After shooting with exclusively with digicams of some sort or another for the past decade, I’m convinced that digital is the medium of choice for macro images, low-light, commercial, and action shots — where instant feedback and results are required. But all of that is overkill for most of my own photography, which is mainly wide-angle landscapes, urban geometry, macros, and some portraiture. I’ve tried critter shots — but find the required gear to be too heavy, big, and expensive. The same applies to high-quality macro imagery.

      Where film excels is mood and non-clinical image quality. For instance, I find film to be superior for photographs of people, as it creates more “idealized” imagery that people prefer of themselves (less attention to lines, spots, and other imperfections).

      My big photography gear emphasis continues to be on being small, lightweight, portable, and AFFORDABLE — all of which digital just can’t touch yet. I fully expect it to be there someday, but not anytime soon.

      For me, the big digital decision is whether to go in the direction of APS-C sensors (where I can continue to use my manual focus prime lenses and have superb strobe support) or switch to the much smaller 1″ sensors of the point-and-shoot cameras with built-in lenses (which are far more portable, but also more limited in what they can do). I have both at present (as well as the smartphone camera), but keep flip-flopping on them as my shooting preferences jump back and forth.

      Liked by 1 person

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