A short one to start with a longer post to follow. I bought another 50mm lens today - yes, I'm a complete fool for 50mm lenses. If they are cheap/free, if they are something I don't have, If they fit my favorite cameras, etc. I will never have enough of ummmm… How's that related to film?
Well - I sold my extra X100 today on eBay - took all of an hour. I was surprised, usually my stuff at the prices I set go quite literally as soon as I hit the list button. Guess it was a slow day. In any case I cannot help but look at stuff that I might buy when I get near eBay. If I see somethin' that meets the cool/cheap factor of the moment I buy it. Hence a brand spanking new - yes new Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AIS lens. Not super special in terms of rarity. Never had one of these believe it or not. Not super expensive from Adorama or Amazon but this was only $500. That's a deal for a brand new Nikkor that will work on every single one of my Nikon film and digital bodies. Heck lenses made like these are - brand new from Nikon at the price of a cheapy plastic lens are definitely not something that will continue for long.
So the link up with the film part is you can be absolutely sure I am going to shoot this with film. I would say I use a 50mm 80% of the time when I do shoot film regardless of what camera I choose to use. Nikon, Olympus, Leica, whatever. Ooooooooo, I cannot wait. In fact I am going to burn a roll of Portra 160 or Fuji 400H with this bad-boy just to test out Indie Film Lab. Been meaning to do that for a while. Now I have an excuse. The price and services are hard to argue with. They may be my new go-to film process/scan place. Will let you know.
Just so you don't think I am all gear-head with this post. Let's also talk about the image at the top. A roll of dozen year out of date Portra 400NC stored in not so nice of conditions for a decade. I think this was my last roll of a few old pro-packs discovered in a long forgotten moving box. Shot it last year, $6 Walgreens dev/scan. Yea it's a bit on the grainy side - higher ISO film will do that as base fog builds up and adds grain everywhere that has nothing to do with forming the image - sort of like most digital grain emulations and camera noise.
I am absolutely sure this is not in tip-top condition from a color perspective either. I shot it at 200 ISO because higher speed film also tend to loose speed as they age - ISO 200 was probably about right. Any way you slice it it has really really nice skin tones. No muss no fuss. Take a look at the red apron my niece is wearing. Quite red isn't it. Tell me that's not cool that Portra can do skin like that, and other warmer tones while still having that much saturation in colors that are actually saturated. Trust me trying to separate the reds/pinks/oranges which is all of this image while making some neutral while rendering poppy reds/oranges as poppy with this much mid-tone contrast in digital absolutely SUCKS and is hard to do with a preset because it's usually different hoops to jump through to get to a look like this for every scene. Truth is - I hate post processing so I don't really do any unless someone is paying me. I learned to accept shitty looking skin for digital OOC results. Film = automagic.
Honestly as a starting point when shooting people even a RAW film scan takes nothing to get here compared to digital RAW. Skin is a pain in the ass in digital. Here's another from the same old roll I shot last year - check out the oranges. Look how poppy they are. Check out the warmth of the skin in the shadow aread. I swear dealing with that in most RAW processors is virtually impossible without either making the shirt look drab or the skin go nuclear or both.
Those orange hue numbers in skin and that shirt are so close it's not funny. If you are a landscape guy digital is a godsend because color doesn't matter - I am being facetious here but in general the sky is the limit in terms of rendering a scene and more saturation = better for most landscape guys.
Ever hear people refer to depth or 3d-ness when talking about film? Here's my translation. Really great highlights, super mid tone contrast bright colors that should be bright and neutral colors that should be neutral - like skin. It can look really bright without loosing subtle highlight rendition. The color looks more "solid" instead of a strange water-y-ness that you see in digital a lot of the time. Especially if your lighting is not very very well controlled. Film delivers it with no bothers in real world light - no questions asked.
Okay enough for today. Coming up next - the economics of film from a shooter's perspective. Thoughts on a new business endeavor that is sorta-kinda-related to film and other topics of film-y goodness.
Ps. I shot the included roll on a 60's era 50mm f/1.4 also check out the grain in this 400NC film - probably less than you are used to seeing in "preset emulations" and this shit is friggin grainy as hell compared to fresh film and compared to state of the art like the new vison III portras. If you open it full size it will be a bit bigger than 6x9 depending on your monitor's dpi. It will look even LESS grainy in a print of the same size for a bunch of reasons. Hence another reason I think most digital emulations are way way over the top just for the sake of it.