Single use photographic sensors

Well, the single use may not be entirely true, once you can do double exposures. This story is about enjoying 35mm film photograph.

Photo 1 — Scan of a gelatin silver print from Foma ISO 100 35mm negative

The above picture was taken in Paraty, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There is nothing special in the composition, however, it was a major achievement in my 35mm film photography journey. The photo was taken with Foma ISO 100 BW negative film and it has been processed at home, from the negative to the enlargement in photography paper in a dark room, or better saying, my dark bathroom. It has zero digital processing, other than the cheap flatbed scanner I have used to scan the print.

But why? Why, with all the technology today, one still has all the inconvenience of take photos with 35mm film? Well, I guess that everyone that does it has it's own reasons. There are common sense regarding some aspects of the analogue format. I will not enumerate any aspect here, as the reader may find them in abundance in a web search, along side with endless debates over it. Instead, I will try to give the reasons I enjoy it.

Photo 2 — Scan of a gelatin silver print from Kodak BW400CN (processed in C-41 lab), enlarged at home.

I have to say that I love computers and I’m proud to be a Software Engineer. However, I prefer not to continue to work on a computer while doing hobbies. I remember being very excited with my first digital camera. But, the excitement last until I had to load more than 3 thousand photos from a trip into a computer. To deal with things like convert from RAW to JPEG, and to decide to keep or not to keep the RAW. Or, why converting to JPEG, as people say that good is to shoot RAW. A few months after that, I started to look into film, and got the pictures I have mentioned above.

Photo 3 — Digital capture with my first digital camera in Ushuaia, AR

The above photo was taken with my first cropped sensor digital camera, from the trip I have mentioned earlier.

Well, time has passed and I've managed to be more selective with digital. I have learned more, and started to do less post processing, putting more effort on the actual picture taken. But, after some time, I have realized that I was still using the computer more and more. The images were lacking something, which is hard to explain. Maybe they were flat, maybe a bad camera or simply myself. I didn’t like most of the pictures I have taken. After some time, I though it was because the slight change in the perspective that a APS-C sensor has in comparison with a so called 'full frame' sensor (the same frame size as the 35mm film frame). In part it was true, but soon you also realise that is not the tool that makes a good photograph.

Photo 4 — Digital capture with full frame sensor in NYC

Going back to film, another reason why I enjoy it, is because it has and end. You buy the roll with a limited number of pictures you can take, and that's it.

The process of getting the final result, specially if you process the film yourself, is another reason. No software. No computers around. It it’s even more rewarding if you can create copies yourself, enlarging the negatives at home. The result of doing it by yourself may lead to unique looks, something with your signature.

Photo 5 — Phoenix Park, Dublin. Kodak Proimage ISO 100 (lab scan) - Olympus Trip 35.

The photo 5 was taken with a very simple camera. I took the negative to be processed and scanned at a professional lab. Each film has it’s own look and they have some unique aesthetics.

Ah, c’mon , you can do all that in a computer today. You can even emulate your preferred films. That's true, and I know it’s a joy to use photo editors for making your pictures to look unique or just better than it was shoot initially. The most important thing is that you are happy with the results and enjoying the process.

Photo 6— Windsor, UK. Kodak Portra ISO 160 — Olympus Trip 35

With film you have to deal with loss. Even when you are good at it, you may scrap good moments because you mess up with some setting or processing. Just so with digital, right? Not exactly, you can keep taking pictures indefinitely until you get what you want, you could enable HDR and got it right in a click or you could rely on sofisticated artificial intelligence feature of your equipment . That is possible, but harder to accomplish with film. Personally, I enjoy the unpredictability of it.

Photo 7— First home made gelatin silver print from Kodak BC400CN (lab C-41 processed negative)


Continuing my journey with film, I thought that it would be great to have an all mechanical option to take pictures. Also, one "modern" option which I could just relax and take pictures.

The Olympus Trip 35 was the option for the simple mechanical option. No batteries needed, as it has a selenium cell that provides power enough for a precise metering. You have to live with 1/40s or 1/200s speed, automatically set for you. The aperture, although you can change it, better to leave in A (auto). Focus is manual and zone based, but it offers you good guide lines based on the subject and also offers you a scale in meters. A very good 40mm f/2.8 fixed lens, ISO ranging from 25–400 and a good look. Summarizing, the camera needs only film and a bit of practice for good results.

Photo 8— Merrion Sq, Dublin. Ilford ISO 125 — Olympus Trip 35

A bit of control to enable some creative shoots is necessary to my needs. So I have bough a Canon EOS 300v. It looks like any modern digital camera. It delivers very good and consistent results. Also, I can use the lenses I already have from a digital Canon EOS body.

Photo 9 — Quin Abbey, Ireland. Fujifilm Superia 200 — Canon EOS 300v

35mm film

Today we still have a good selection of films available. The price range is huge between the existing options. I have been using negative only, as slide films are even more expensive. You basically have to find the one that fits your taste. I have tried different options, both color and back white. I’m currently living in Dublin and here you can find a good selection in physical stores. No need to buy online. The same stores can process your film and deliver the prints or the digital files scanned in good quality. With the digital files you can do small prints, max A4 I would say. If you want to go larger, take the negative with you and ask to print it larger, let’s say, A3.

Photo 10— Dromoland Castle, Ireland. Fujifilm Superia 200 — Canon EOS 300v

To mention some films, I like to use Kodak TMAX 400, Kodak Colorplus 200, Fuji Superia 200, Kodak Proimage 100, Kodak Portra 160, Foma B&W and Ilford’s are also nice B&W films as well. I have found the cheap Kodak Colorplus 200 good enough, with nice results and wide dynamic range. Fuji Superia 200 is very rich in color. But, which film is better is an entirely personal choice and the kind of subject you photograph.

Photo 11 — Sambaqui, Florianopolis. Fujifilm Superia Reala ISO 100. Canon EOS Elan7

That's all folks.

Engineering Lead at Zalando. I’m passionated for creating a productive, inclusive and safe environment for people to work. I'm also a photography enthusiast.

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