Extinguish your torches. Put down your pitchforks. I love film. I shoot film.
The question I’ve struggled with though, is why? Why do I still shoot film? It’s expensive to process, ridiculously tedious to digitize, and, even with expensive drum scanning, still doesn’t reach the depth and range of modern digital files. Well, the answer for me has been nostalgia, the feel of the image, as well as the ability to take a step back and focus on shooting in a more organic way that coincides with my initial falling in love with photography. A beautiful reality though, is that through software, and remarkable sensor technology, we can quickly and easily replicate the look of film if we want.
Before I continue further, a disclaimer: this post is not meant to be any more than a personal experiment in which I’ll look to answer this question for myself when using my go-to digital solution to analogize results within my digital reality and workflow. While I may not need film, I sure do love to replicate the look and feel of it. C’mon in…
Today, I’m looking at Kodak Tri-X 400. It’s a legendary black and white emulsion in its own right, and a downright lovely film to shoot. Historically, it was a “fast” panchromatic film specified for action and low light applications. For those who don’t remember when ISO 400 was actually considered fast, let me say that we are all are very spoiled nowadays. I shot a roll of 120 in my Hasselblad 500 C/M using the CZ Planar 2.8/80mm T*, and brought along my Sony a7II and Zeiss branded 55mm f/1.8 lens, to both use as my working light meter, and to compare results from when running the RAW files shot on the Sony through Exposure, using the Kodak Tri-X 400 film emulation preset.
I had the film processed and digitized by my local professional lab (who had to ship it out as they don’t process black and white in house anymore, as seems to be the case for most pro-labs nowadays). Once processed, they drum scanned the negatives for me at their “High Resolution,” which is a measly 2,000 x 2,000 pixel resolution. That is what I have available to me if wanting to digitize my 120 film without re-sending my negatives out to have even more expensive scans made elsewhere, as I would assume is largely true for many of us. The results shown here are based on this reality, and I’ve resized all my Sony ARW files (converted to 16-bit TIFF, and worked on in Photoshop) to those exact dimensions after processing in Exposure, so that I can see as close to apples to digital apples, as I’m able.
Keep in mind, I was shooting non-static scenes, and requiring quite a bit of time between shots to focus and compose the shots through the Hasselblad, so while the subjects may look a little different in frame, the apertures and shutter speeds used were identical to produce identical exposures within the scene, and light available.