As many of you know, I work as a portrait photographer in Leicester, and I am really into creating great images of people. For me, the subject always comes first. I do not care about the image being sharp at 100% crop, but there are a few things that a camera can do that matter a lot to me.  This in mind I thought I would write a small blog post about why I shoot film for my professional work.

 

There is a LOT of hype about “full frame” digital cameras. How amazing they are, how great the depth of the image is, and a myriad of other reasons. And yes, compared to an iPhone, or a point and shoot, this is very true. Compared to a crop sensor SLR, not so much.

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Anyway, after shooting and being very happy with the image quality of the Canon 5D range for 4 years, I started to crave something else. Sharpness and low noise only get you so far, what I wanted was compression, depth and smooth tonality.

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We all know that shooting at 200mm is more flattering on most faces than shooting at 35mms for portraits and headshots. I like 85mm for portraits. It allows me to be close to the subject (unlike at 200mm with my 70-200 2.8 lens, which also weighs a ton). So when looking for a new camera, part of the brief was that it could get close to the subject, and have an 85mm field of view with a longer focal length for better compression.
To cut a long story short, I went with an RB (rotating back) 6×7 mechanical camera with a 140mm 4.5 macro lens, and bellow focus (shows the same as an 85mm lens on a full frame digital SLR). Now I can go on and on about the beautiful qualities of film and the zen-like approach to shooting it until the cows come home, but I thought I would save you the boredom and simply share 2 portraits taken with the 85mm and Canon 5D and the Mamiya 6×7 with 140mm lens and portra film for colours and Delta 100 for BW.

The digital file is crisp, clean and very detailed.
The digital file is crisp, clean and very detailed.
You can clearly see the difference that the film photograph has in terms of skin tone and the compression and shape of the face
The compression is not as drastic from this distance, but the Ilford Delta film gives a much greater tonal range in the exact same light.
The compression is not as drastic from this distance, but the Ilford Delta film gives a much greater tonal range in the exact same light.
The black and white image from the Canon is no where near as detailed, smooth or beautiful as the Mamiyas rendition
The black and white image from the Canon is no where near as detailed, smooth or beautiful as the Mamiyas rendition
The set up from the shoot taken on a Fuji X100
The set up from the shoot taken on a Fuji X100