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Michel Hardy-Vallée
04-08-2008, 11:21 AM
That's very true, but in your essay you referenced that some people justify abandoning 35mm film in that digital is "better" in terms of resolution. I was merely seeking to prove these incorrect.

Yes, but I am also trying to show that to counter the "digital is better" argument with a "film has more megapixels" argument is a dead-end.

Maybe one day we'll have handheld, cheap cameras that have sixty gazillions megapixels. What will be the reasons for using 35mm film then, if it does not have more gazillions megapixels? Is there something else than resolution or number of pictures on a support that guides our choices?

If you look at other photographic processes, like cyanotype for instance, resolution is not a justification at all for choosing them over digital.

And I don't think visible grain is enough of a pictorial characteristic to distinguish 35mm.

The memory/narrative argument I'm trying to make is to show that 35mm is a particular interface, a particular way of dealing with the world.

Of course, I had to coat it all with layers of rhetorical flourishes and poetry, but that's how I was feeling that day...

Snapshot
04-08-2008, 01:51 PM
Maybe one day we'll have handheld, cheap cameras that have sixty gazillions megapixels. What will be the reasons for using 35mm film then, if it does not have more gazillions megapixels? Is there something else than resolution or number of pictures on a support that guides our choices?


This is a good point. If your rationale for using 35mm is that it has more effective megapixels than current digital offerings, what happens when this is no longer valid? :confused:

I keep telling myself that it's the creative elements of developing and processing film that keeps me using 35mm.

keithwms
04-08-2008, 02:30 PM
This megapixel terminology that we often see is just no good for describing the real photographic issues at hand.

In my humble opinion, topics that people really might bother to discuss are (in no particular order):

(1) actual resolution (MTF, lp/mm etc.);
(2) signal to noise (S/N) and continuity of tone;

and (the least definable of the three),

(3) character (which includes how the grain interacts with the composition, plus things like bokeh etc. that are quite subjective)

Would people kindly refrain from speaking in terms of megapixels! We are adults with a far broader vocabulary! Sweet cheeses, even in digital circles, reasonable people realized long ago that megapixel number is not The determinant of the value of an image.

If there were one word I could wish permanently banned from apug: megapixels. ;)

<end of mini-rant>

Alright I got that outta my system.

Michel Hardy-Vallée
04-08-2008, 03:07 PM
Keith, in the case at hands I'm not concerned whether film resolution can be calculated into pixels, line pairs, signal to noise, or fluffy bunnies. It still misses the point that resolution is not everything.

People use to buy this lens or that lens because it resolved more, and this film or that film because it also resolved more. But in the end we're still buying blurry vintage prints for millions of dollars.

I find it fascinating up to a point how "sharpness" and all its corollary terms has been the holy grail of photography during the 20th century.

I think the (3) character option is a step in the right direction. It's one aspect that can make film a "killer app" in the changing photographic landscape of the 21st century.

Because in the end it's not about who has the longer d---, but how well our tools can serve us.

Michel Hardy-Vallée
04-08-2008, 03:12 PM
This is a good point. If your rationale for using 35mm is that it has more effective megapixels than current digital offerings, what happens when this is no longer valid? :confused:

I keep telling myself that it's the creative elements of developing and processing film that keeps me using 35mm.

Exactly. If we keep arguing that in fact "film has more resolution" than digital, then one day we might be proved wrong and end up looking like a cult paralyzed by denial of reality.

I don't care if digital has one day more resolution than 11x14 ULF. I don't care a whit at all. But as long as we know how to exploit what makes the film product special, we will keep using it.

Otherwise we wouldn't have painting anymore, because, hey photography has killed painting isn't it? ;)

ntenny
04-08-2008, 03:29 PM
Because in the end it's not about who has the longer d---, but how well our tools can serve us.

I'm sorry, that attitude isn't allowed on the internet... :-)

Seriously, well said, but perhaps orthogonal to the point that brought megapixels into the discussion in the first place. It's not unreasonable to consider the question "What if film didn't have a resolution advantage?", and megapixels (given appropriate context) are a perfectly good metric for resolution.

Of course, there are lots of things that can be said about photographic images apart from resolution, and then there are aspects of the analog-photo processes that aren't strictly related to the final image (like the smell of fixer), but I don't think resolution is an inappropriate topic to think about. It's just a silly one to get *obsessed* with.

-NT

keithwms
04-08-2008, 04:42 PM
Michel, I understand and fully support your assertions! My point (3) above is where all the creative interest lies, I think. The other stuff is just numbers. Art that can be broken down into numbers is not art, it's science.


It's not unreasonable to consider the question "What if film didn't have a resolution advantage?", and megapixels (given appropriate context) are a perfectly good metric for resolution.

Not to start a big argument, but I disagree with that, actually. It's not perfectly good at all. In fact, megapixel count is not an appropriate measure of actual resolution except in the rather limited case of low ISO and optimum aperture. But that little niche is not where most of the world does their photography.

* at low ISO, film kicks ass. Sure, drum scanning a 35mm slide to 22mp is a reasonable thing to do. But at higher ISO it's not recording nearly that much actual information from the subject. So, in other words, the ISO (or let's call it gain if you don't mind) and corresponding signal-to-noise ratio has a lot to do with how much actual information is captured.

* real lenses have limitations, and these are quite strongly aperture (and technique!) dependent. It is certainly possible for a recording medium (be it film or a digital) to exceed the resolution of the lens... and the converse is also possible too, of course. So we have to think in terms of the whole system when discussing resolution. If film users weren't going on and on about film MTF in the 70s and 80s, then why should they discuss megapixels now? Because that's how the market wants us to think?

* Even if we did try to think of resolution in terms of megapixels, the resolution of a digital sensor goes as the square root of the pixel count. E.g., a pixelated sensor with ~double the resolution of an 8 mp digital is not 16mp, it is in fact a whopping 32 mp. Hence the format advantage, when you consider the engineering issues and such. I know that you know that, and everybody here knows that, the point is that some people still equate megapixels with resolution without considering the math. There are smart digital shooters who've known that for, oh, a decade or more. We shouldn't equate shooting digital with complete ignorance of optics. Educated people know about photosensor size and signal-to-noise and antialiasing and Bayer interpolation and all that; frankly, nobody with any credibility in digital imaging talks up their megapixel count anymore. It'd be like me telling an indoor sports shooter that my velvia 50 demolishes their 800 speed print film in terms of resolution. Not sensible.

Bottom line, as film users, we should be particularly resistant to speaking megapixels because that language is even less appropriate for film than it often is for digital. That's my point. That's why I would seek to ban the word ;) (tongue in cheek, of course)

Hope no one takes offense at my strong terms- no offense is intended :rolleyes:

ntenny
04-08-2008, 05:47 PM
If film users weren't going on and on about film MTF in the 70s and 80s, then why should they discuss megapixels now? Because that's how the market wants us to think?

Oh, surely not. Why, that sort of assertion would be *cynical*!

I agree with everything you wrote. I don't doubt that there are some people who use their tools with such consummate precision that the theoretical limitations of specific components are significant constraints on their results; I don't know about you, but I'd faint with astonishment if I ever saw myself becoming one of those people!

-NT

Michel Hardy-Vallée
04-08-2008, 06:19 PM
Keith, don't worry, I'm not slamming you with the heat of words! :) I was about to point that (3) is probably the most important matter, but then I got sidetracked by something at the office.

Thanks for the other comments about s/n v. pixels &c, it clarifies a few things for me.

Stephanie Brim
04-08-2008, 06:35 PM
I use film because I like it. I feel that this is enough of an explanation and feel no need to go further into why I like it. A lot of people wouldn't really get it. :)

Joe VanCleave
04-11-2008, 06:55 PM
Michel, I enjoyed your essay, and it spoke to me especially about the sequential aspect of a strip of film. It's interesting that the development of the 35mm still camera format derives from the motion picture medium. And the aspect of time, whether broken or sequential, seems an important part of 35mm photography.

On this point of the origins of a medium affecting its attributes and usage modes I am reminded of television being derived from radio technology, hence the sound aspect of TV becomes crucial; often the audio production requires a greater degree of production value than the visual. Conversely, cinema is derived from theatre, hence the reason why cinema is more visually-oriented, and also perhaps why silent film works as well as it does as a medium, as compared to, say, silent TV.

As for 35mm being, literally, a film strip, I have enjoyed exposing rolls of transparency film in my half-frame Olympus Pen D; I then request of the lab to keep the roll intact after processing, rather than cutting and slide mounting the images. These fiilm strips are then capable of being projected, via my old cassette-tape-equipped film strip projector. The images literally retain their temporal context as a sequence.

Thanks again for the thoughtful essay.

~Joe

One_DaveT
04-12-2008, 12:21 AM
Michel, your essay reads like someone trying to rationalize shooting 35mm. Why do you feel the need to do that? Your arguments for 35mm read like weak fluff that are too easy to counter. I think you miss the most important reason for shooting 35mm. Just because you like to. This is a valid reason. You don't need to justify it to anyone.

enjoy,
Dave

Michel Hardy-Vallée
04-12-2008, 10:44 AM
I wouldn't feel the need to rationalize 35mm if other people were not feeling the need to present it as useless, obsolete, or behind in the race. I've added some comments about the article in this thread, which should help to exemplify the points I'm making.

AutumnJazz
04-18-2008, 11:09 PM
I was just thinking about what your article said today. I had gone to MoMA, and seen so many people just snapping away with digital cameras, when I only went through one roll of Fomapan and a few shots of Kodachrome. And then I had talked to someone about why film is better than digital, and talked about how you don't have that instant feedback, the dynamic range of film, the grain, etc.

I really liked your article.

Paul Goutiere
04-18-2008, 11:20 PM
I wouldn't feel the need to rationalize 35mm if other people were not feeling the need to present it as useless, obsolete, or behind in the race. I've added some comments about the article in this thread, which should help to exemplify the points I'm making.

The only thing that would really upset me would be that film would become difficult to get, or worse...completely unavailable. Therefor extolling the virtues of film and buying it is very important.

I'm a little tired of film being presented as an anachronism, let alone 35mm.

Please "rationalize" as much as possible.

Michel Hardy-Vallée
04-18-2008, 11:22 PM
Xenu, I'm truly glad it stuck in your mind ; Paul, I won't shut my trap, I promise!

jmcd
04-28-2008, 01:06 PM
mhv,

I found your essay well considered and thought provoking, and I think it will help me explore some questions I have been formulating and contemplating. The photo illustrations add to the whole piece. Thanks for making the essay available.

Michel Hardy-Vallée
04-28-2008, 01:10 PM
Jmcd ;

Thank you for the kind words!

gregrudd
04-28-2008, 07:39 PM
Good article! I like the way you have tackled this by saying the film is part of the process and adds character to scene and helps you focus on creating better art.

dances_w_clouds
04-28-2008, 09:15 PM
What I try to express is it is not really the end result the picture. It is the film, exposing ,developing and making of the print is the reason it is still "MAGIC"