Shooting Film ?

2001_005_01g.jpgI have had some interesting conversations generated by a post with some ramblings about camera noise, film, and TMAX 3200P. Just for fun I thought I would post a scan and some comments regarding real honest to goodness film along with some short thoughts on it's characteristics and how I use or have used it in the past.

Just for fun, nostalgia for some, and curiosity for others. Personally I shoot 90% digital and 10% film. I am glad that I had the opportunity to shoot, process, and print so much of the stuff while I was growing up, learning photography, and in professional practice. I still think there are merits to using the stuff and maybe even some magical properties. Well not magical but pretty cool and sometimes difficult to duplicate. Most of the film I shoot now a days is 6x6 with a roll of 35mm here and there to exercise my Leica equipment should I ever decide to use it again.

On with the show. Feel free to comment or question. Today's subject is not quite the polar opposite of TMAX 32ooP but pretty close - Agfa APX 100 shot in 6x6. The portrait at the top is a film scan at 4000 DPI of APX 100 developed N in Agfa Rodinal. A favorite combination of mine in medium format with a really really great Zeiss lens.

For the purposes of demonstration I am only scanning negatives that I happen to have prints made myself laying around and have done my best to show the characteristics of the film itself via a calibrated Nikon 8000ED film scanner. What does that mean? I have resisted temtation to reproduce the print on the screen. The only adjustments made for this series - including the TMAX 3200P in post are a black point adjustment to make the film edges true black (sort of like printing to true DMAX on silver geletin paper) that's it. No sharpening, no curves, no paper tones, nothing. This leaves a lot to be desired because it does not give a sensation or imitation of the final print at all. The grey is actually neutral, there is a lot of sharpness lost in the scanning process, and there are not even close to the number of tones, especially with an 8bit 256 total tonal value image.

That being said a a scan of a 6x6 negative at 4000 DPI is a bit like an 80 mega-pixel image. Some films as you will see, that is plenty or even too much as there is nothing more to give up, like the TMZ image. With this one 4000 DPI may not be good enough to get everything out of the negative but plenty big to make huge prints.

Here are a couple of 100% views to give you an idea of what is going on with APX 100 developed in Rodinal. I loved this combination because it had a wonderful sparkle, bite, and was so sharp it hurt with great mid-tone contrast. Zone 6 and 7 (upper mids to highlights are where all the magic happened with this film)


Note even in this crop the idiotically shallow depth of field when shooting 6x6 with a short telephoto lens. This happened to be between f5.6 and f8 on a Zeiss 150 CFi. This one should give you a better feeling for the grain structure and characteristics. because it includes some of the background that is out of focus and lacks detail.


Hey what's going on here? it's not as sharp as the last spot? Actually it is on the negative but the film was probably not completely absolutely flat in the scanner. This is a bitch to deal with and one of the reasons all the commercial stuff I have ever shot get's scanned by scanning dudes and not me. It's flat enough to see what the grain looks like so use your imagination. The other thing that is going on is the DOF falls off by the back of the eyebrow on the negative. Not a huge deal in a realistically sized print or even a giant one at some reasonable viewing distance. There is no such thing as depth of field - there are just degrees of out of focus that are deemed to be "sharp enough" for a given medium not to notice by humans. This does not include pixel peeping at 100% - without fail you will find that areas that are supposed to fall into the depth of field look to varying degrees of out of focus at 100% with any sensor DX sized and 4 mega-pixels or larger.

Hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane, if you are thinking about trying out some film and want to see it here, just ask, If I have it I will be glad to share.

Update -

Just wanted to add that Agfa APX 100 is sadly no longer available but I have tried a replacement that has similar characteristics. It is called Rollei Retro 100 you can get it at B+H unbelievable cheap. I have not tried any of the other Rollei film products that have been introduced in the last couple of years. Based on the price and quality I will probably try them as soon as I have enough time to learn a new film. I am especially wanting to try R3 hoping it will be similar to Kodak XX, Super X or old Tri-X. If anyone has tried these I would love to know what you thought.


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