We were too young when we first met...

To answer a question that some followers and readers, associates and others have asked me...

Why shoot 135 (35mm) film?

Fuji Film Acros 100 Developed in Ilford Perceptol
My objective has not been settling the argument of film vs digital. In my mind there is still no doubt that digital is superior in many respects, especially in the colour spectrum of things.

This hasn't been about dynamic range either. Frankly, I've seen good dynamic range and bad dynamic range. Both from combinations of good films and bad developers. Ultimately though, I've seen a realistic range of 10-14 stops which doesn't make it any better than digital, other than the fact it's 10-14 stops of grayscale, while digital is 10-14 stops of colour.

Picking Time
Kodak T-Max 400 with Ilford Perceptol 
This has not been about resolution (sorta). Again, not to compete against digital at least. Some films are very impressive, and will out-resolve any modern digital camera. This comes with a massive but. You have to have the right film, the right developer, the right lens and more importantly the right scanning method. These days I'm scanning between 9000 DPI to 38,000 DPI (or 120 MP and up).

Modern optics are pretty amazing I should add. My Carl Zeiss Biogon 35mm on my Leica is one of the sharpest lenses I own. My 24-70 F/2.8 on my Elan is also even sharper. Here's where I will say why I'm shooting 35mm film. To bring the size of the equipment I'm using to a more manageable size, but give me quality that rivals larger formats.

This is all about matching what I can do on medium format. For over 25 years, I've not been a fan of the 135 format. Partially due to the fact that 20 years ago I was digitizing all sizes and formats but adored 4x5 and 120. Fast forward 14 years later. About the time I really returned to photography in a serious way, not just editing other photographer's work. For a short period of time I looked at 135 format, shot it, scanned it and reviewed it. No surprise, I was very disappointed by it. Ditched it, went fully digital and only cared about medium format film.

The Tone of Black and White
In the past couple of years, I have been chasing 'quality' resolution, which brings me back to the 'sorta' point about resolution. I often hear the statement, "Why don't you just get a D800?" all the time, but the overall answer to that is I'm going for much different resolutions than that, and there are issues with the D800 sensor that I won't go into details about. But ultimately, I was researching best practices to get to 100MP+ The result of that ultimately increased my understanding of diffraction, resolution, reproduction, etc... Even though I've been involved with imaging for over 25 years, it's always good to research new approaches and ideas.

Throughout this time, I came to a conclusion that my dissatisfaction with 35mm format film might actually be a result of the limits of certain technologies. I've come to terms with the fact that past attempts were a result of using poor scanning techniques. My current workflow increased the quality of digitizing my 35mm film, to a level that I can satisfactorily say is what I was capturing and appreciating from digitizing 120 and large format.

For me, I believe in 35, not again, but maybe for the first time. It's not a replacement for digital, but will companion my efforts in my art. The fact that I have now reduced my film kit to a pocketable 120 and 135 format rangefinder is making it much more fun to shoot film.

Log Jam
AGFA APX25 in Ilford Perceptol - Colourized in Post.
Although I have my large format camera, I have no interest in lugging it around. Sure there's some real nice things I could do with it that I can't with 135 format cameras, but at this stage, I am very satisfied with the results I'm getting.

This first image as an example, shot with fine grain, high resolution black and white film, and reproducible at 6 feet at 300 DPI, or for most normal viewable distances can be easily reproduced at 12 feet at 115 DPI. Definitely competes against medium format well.

I continue to explore and exploit the 135 format these days, but I haven't made any definitive conclusions from it, or maybe even willing to.

I like to challenge my tools, the medium and my techniques, but ultimately, what I am most certainly enjoying in this journey is being able to revisit something that I thought was so awful, actually turn out to be quite a nice format to work with.


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