Walk in the Park

Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Shanghai GP3 120 film. Developed in Kodak D76. Epson V500 scanned film.

I did warn you that puppy dog photos were on the way.  I took this yesterday in Wisbech Park, of Anita and her daughter with Loki, our new whippet puppy.  We are getting some nice light now, for the slower films, even if sometimes a bit sharp.  I had to run ahead of the three of them, and quickly capture a few semi-candid snaps with the Bronica SQ-A and PS 150mm f/4 lens.

I had already finished off a roll of FP4+ (still undeveloped), with an S-18 extension tube.  All that I had in my pocket was a roll of Shanghai GP3 film.  Now, I’ve published a few images from Shanghai here before – but let me reiterate what it is about.

Shanghai GP3 is rated at ISO 100 (some say that it is closer to ISO 80).  It is a b/w negative film made in 120 medium format.  It is made in China.  It is sold on Ebay, and if you buy ten at a time, you can usually get it here in the UK for around £2.00 – £2.30 a 120 roll.  I bought my last ten for £21, but prices do vary on the Ebay markets.  I’ve just ordered another ten for £20.45 including postage from China.  Yup, that works out at just 5p over two quid per roll.  Find cheaper, because I can’t.  For example, I just took a look at a well known UK film distributor’s website.  If I ordered ten Ilford FP4+ 120 films, from them with postage, they would work out at £4.47 per roll.  Over double the Chinese price.

A quirk with Shanghai GP3 – there is no sticky tape at the fully exposed end of the paper!  You might want to carry a roll of sticky tape.  The other quirk – you think that Foma is curly?  Nahhhh!  This stuff is curly.  Hang a lead weight on the end during drying – it’ll still probably curl when you cut it.

Otherwise?  I’m just a pleb, but I think that it is bloody beautiful – the ridiculously cheap price just makes it better.  I wish that the Chinese made something closer to ISO 400 for poorer light and street action.

Another image that I’ve also published here earlier:

As above, except developed in Ilford ID11 rather than D-76.  Shanghai GP3 film.

Cameras and equipment, Portrait

Mamiya C3 TLR Camera Test

Mamiya C3 Professional TLR. Mamiya-Sekkor 80mm f/2.8 lens. Ilford FP4+ film. Developed in ID11. Scanned film on a V500.

Well, yeah, that look okay to my eyes.  No light leaks.  Camera is a good ‘un.  There is a slight blemish (not fungi) on taking lens, but as usual, it doesn’t seem to have affected the images.  I’ve loaded it with another roll of Ilford FP4 Plus.

I presently have three medium format film cameras on the go – all loaded with film.  This Mamiya C3 TLR, the good old trusty Bronica SQ-A, system camera, and for share lightweight convenience, an Agfa Isolette I folding camera.  I don’t like all of this choice.

Cameras and equipment, Monochrome

Street Candid V Street Portrait?

Candid of molly dancers waiting to perform at the 2015 Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus medium format film. ID11 t 1:1.

Personally… I only describe candids as Street Photography.  Where the subject is aware, and in consent of my taking their photograph, that I regard as a Street Portrait.  It’s semantics I know.  Doesn’t really matter.  However, I almost always prefer the former.  I like to see the subject un-posed, natural – or if suddenly aware right at the point of exposure – maybe a little surprised or suspicious.  Not that I’m going to going the school of shoving a camera and flashgun into the faces of strangers.

Street Portrait of Mr Crow. Molly dancer with the Witchmen at the Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival 2015. Gear as in top image.

What are your views?

Dogs and animals, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

The old agility dog

Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Ilford FP4 Plus 120 film. Developed in Firstcall R09.

I took this photograph on a dog walk yesterday (yes, I can just about hold the Bronica with my hand surgery).  She is an old dog.  She recently lost her best border collie pack mate, and apparently is pining for him.  Together, they were champions in the agility rings of England.  Both the dogs, and their master grew too old to any longer compete.  Still, they still have each other, and a terrier mate.  They get to run with his disability carriage every day.

Monochrome, Portrait, Rants and discussions, Street and Protest

Little and Large


The Olympus XA2 – Serious Hard Core Camera. Taken with Sony A200 DSLR and Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens. B/W conversion in UFRaw software.

Ok, in the previous post I was boasting about my bigg’un – the Bronica SQ-A system camera.  I have to stop and think when I’m using it in the street.  Not only for economy of those 120 roll films and chems, but also I need to think about lighting.  More often than that, I don’t use a light meter.  I have to set up my exposure controls, and the focus.  In all of this time, any subject will be aware that this dodgy looking bloke with a massive looking camera is stalking them.  Therefore genuinely candid is a rarity – it brings a certain honesty to the capture.  Using a camera as hefty as the Browny-Ka guides you into a particular style of street photography.  The easiest method is to find the background first – then wait for a suitable human subject to move into it.

This takes me to the subject of candid or not candid?  An ethical question in street photography.  I’m I think that for myself, it depends on the circumstance and opportunity.  I have discussed candid with another Bronica user, who assured me that people don’t seem to notice him photographing them, while he is looking down into a waist level finder.  I’m not convinced.  Surely a big bright lens pointing in their direction, then a loud CLUNK gives the Bronica away?  I need to experiment more with this one in the street.

That was large, now about little – my other favourite camera, the little compact Olympus XA2.  I don’t expect wonderful quality from my little XA2.  However, it is without a doubt, a great pleasure to use, and so small, I can always stuff it in a pocket.  Can’t really do that with the Bronica, it would certainly be a bulge.  The Olympus XA2 permits a sneakier form of candid.  Tiny, dark, and fast.  It slides out in the shadows or shoots from the hips.  It can be so naughty.  However, it also gives something to the more ethical street photographer.  It is not intimidating.  It looks more fun than serious – a silly snapshot camera.  It’s easy to approach people with a tiny zone focus 35mm camera – openly or secretly.

Of course, I’m not much of a street photographer anyway.  As long as I’m learning, I’m enjoying.  The XA2 and the Bronica.  The little and large of my film photography.


Monochrome, Portrait, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

Bronica SQ-A System

Poser. Our lurcher dog posing for a portrait. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens and S-18 extension tube. Ilford HP5 Plus 120 film. Developed in FirstCall R09.

Despite constant distractions brought in by 35mm, digital, and by the acquisition of car boot sale cameras, I would in many ways like to concentrate on my B/W medium format film photography, principally using my Bronica SQ-A system.  That is a sort of a wish, as I keep diving here and there.  A few days ago, I even bought an Instant Photograph camera – the Fujifilm Instax 100.  I couldn’t resist buying some Instax film.  I’ll post on that later.

Returning to the Bronica, I’ve invested a bit recently, courtesy of online auctions.  New gear for the SQ-A (well, used gear) include:

  1. A very nice condition Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 prime lens.  Not quite as fast as the earlier version, but reputed to be sharper than either that or the PS 80mm f/2.8 “kit lens” that I was previously using.  Price I paid was ok, not great, but comfortably below the Buy It Now prices.  One let down of this lens, is that although great for closer up portraits, it can’t focus closer than around five feet away.  Bummer.  Still it’s now my Number 1 use lens for my Bronica, and as for close up portraits, I found a solution with the next purchase:
  2. A Bronica S-18 extension tube.  This one came all the way from the USA, but was still cheaper than any UK Buy It Now offerings.  Now, I can get really close for portraits such as the test portrait of our dog as featured above.  Wonderful quality build and feel to it, as with any Bronica gear.
  3. Ok, this one was pure poser value.  A Bronica SQ-A Hand-Grip extension.  Price was pretty good, but shame of it is that it’s a limited edition in military green colour, rather than black.  I don’t mind, but it really should have joined company with the matching limited edition camera.  To be honest, I’m not sure how it can add anything to my photography.  I have no intention of buying a prism viewfinder – I’m happy with the waist level finder.  Still, it’s cool to use, and now I have a huge camera to lug around in the street.  The film advances with a rather heavy thumb lever (needs two actions to advance film and drop the reflex).  A shutter button on the grip feels good and is easier to find.
  4. I’m tentatively still waiting delivery of the last item.  I’ll post more when I receive them.  A total of FIVE 120 film backs for the SQ-A.  That’s right, five of them.  The price was very good, I just hope that I’m not let down.

The above photo was taken using the 150mm lens and the S18 extension.  I really would like to try portrait photography at some time in the future.

Pentax ME Super 35mm film SLR, Travel Photography

Thanks for the Nudge

Sopot, the Twisted crooked house, Poland. Theme restaurant and bar at the popular Polish seaside resort of Sopot. Pentax ME Super camera. SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus film. Developed in ID11

Mariacka Street, Gdansk. Amber sales area, with St Mary in the back ground. Pentax ME Super camera. SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus film. Developed in ID11.

Thank you for the nudge Fabius.  Yeah, I’ve finished processing the 35mm films from the Pentax ME Super and Olympus Trip 35 cameras that I used in Poland.  I’ve just started the rolls of medium format 120 film from the Bronica SQ-A today.  First of all, the advice not to let Airport Security X-ray your photographic film – forget it, it’s going to happen in this post 911 World.  Are you going to try and argue with them?  Then get ready for some rubber glove treatment and to miss your flight.  The good news though, is that I was assured that it wont fog all but the very fastest film, e.g. much faster than the ISO 400 that I took.  So far, I can’t see any damage.

As for the cameras, the Olympus Trip 35 was to be honest, a wee bit disappointing.  I don’t feel that it gave me the results that I’ve come to expect from my beloved 50p Olympus XA2 compact.  Sometimes it gave great results.  But as a quick shoot from the hip street camera, it just borked for me.  Maybe it’s that it is a battery free camera, relying on the selenium power.  As for the Pentax ME Super – as expected,  Superb results through the Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7 glass, but it ripped film sprocket holes, forcing premature ejaculation of expensive films.  I was hesitant to take this camera to Gdansk, as it has had a knock in the past, and I already knew that it had a tendency to do this.  Still what a shame, it’s such a great camera.  I hope one day that I’ll find a similar Pentax 35mm SLR in better condition.

So anyway, I’ve started with the two above scans.  I particularly like the top image, taken of the twisted or crooked house in Sopot.  People just doing their thing.

Other news:  I’ve bought a few Praktica 35mm SLRs recently, and from them, I’ve put together a rather nice Praktica BMS Electronic.  These were made in the former socialist republic East Germany circa 1989 – 1990, literally just before the Berlin Wall fell.  I bought a worker today at a car boot sale.  Looking forward to testing it out.  They remind me of a contemporary Zenit, only better.  I’ve a few nice lenses with them.

I’ve also just started developing the 120 films from Poland.  Ilford Delta Pro 400’s to start with, but I also used HP5 Plus.  I also chucked away my C41 chems.  I’m going to stick to what I do better – black and white film.

More posts more regular – I promise.


Cameras and equipment, Monochrome, Rants and discussions

Is that a medium format camera in your pocket, or are you pleased to meet me?

Street scene at Norwich, using a folding camera and expired film. Agfa Isolette I. 1954 medium format folding camera. Ilford FP4 Plus film. Expired 2001. Developed in ID11

What can I rave about today?  How about my medium format pocket camera?  Yes, that’s correct, medium format that fits in your (large) pocket.  I bought an Agfa Isolette I at a car boot sale last Autumn.  It was in pretty good condition, clean, and cost me around eight quid.  Photo below:

My Agfa Isolette I. Taken using a Sony A200 DSLR

A folding camera made in Germany circa 1954, the Isolette I was the economy model in the Isolette range, with  a plain jane Agfa Agnar f/4.5 lens, and a max shutter speed of 200.  After purchasing it I read online, to expect the old bellows to leak light.  Although there are instructions and even a template online, for making new bellows, it looked too craft-like for my ten thumbs.  Neither could I justify paying for them.  I tried a film in the camera anyway, but on processing the film, I made a goof and didn’t add enough developer solution to the tank.  Sure enough the result was awful, but I wasn’t sure how much was down to my developing goof, and how much was down to light leaks on the camera.  I lost interest in it, and reverted to using the Lubitel for my medium format work.  Later purchase of the Bronica pushed the Isolette further to the back of the camera cupboard, near to the box cameras.

My Agfa Isolette when folded. Fits nicely into a coat or jacket pocket.

But it’s such a pretty and clean camera, so I kept pulling it out again.  Then around a month ago, I decided to try another film in it – only to develop it better this time.  Ok, I plumped for a very expired old roll of Ilford FP4+ that was probably ready for the bin anyway.  I used up the 12 6 x 6 square exposures on the roll of 120 film.  After processing the film – no visible light leak damage.  It works.

Now I see the benefits to a camera like this.  Ok, the lens isn’t Carl Zeiss and the body isn’t Hasselblad – but it fits in a coat pocket, and it takes reasonable (better than a Chinese plastic toy camera) medium format photographs.  Not only that, but every time that I unfold it, I get a kick.  Even folded, it feels good in the hand – like a stylish flask.  It certainly solicits attention from the general public, but in a positive way, not in an annoyed way.  People with low technical knowledge, of all ages, recognise it as vintage.  Something from another age.  It’s the bellows that do it for them.

My Isolette as I said, is very clean, and very mechanically sound.  A press of a button, and I need to catch the bellows cover as it launches out horizontally, else wise the lens pops out almost violently.  Focusing is purely manual, without a range finder, although the camera does sport a conventional viewfinder.  Max shutter speed is a very slow 200, while aperture opens f32 to f4.5.  Shutter needs to be cocked prior to being fired, just like the Lubitel.

It’s replaced the Lubitel as my back up medium format camera to the Bronica.  The Lube TLR is a good back up, but it’s flattened by the sheer style and potability of this folder.  It’s as near to 35mm portability as medium format photography can get.  It means that I can take it places discreetly, where I don’t want to take a big chunky serious looking Bronica.

The top photo of the young man watching a couple was taken using very expired film, outside of the Forum in Norwich.  I call it the watcher.  Pleasant young man with an African accent.  He asked me about my camera.  It can start a conversation and even solicit voluntary models.

Film, 35mm, and scans, Rants and discussions

Film for the Digital Photographer (how we share film photographs online)

Feeling Negative. Taken with a Sony A200 DSLR and Sony DT 35mm f/1.8 SAM lens.

Digital-Film Hybrid Photography

This article is aimed at the new and curious. You may be a child of the digital age, or you may simply be struck with nostalgia. You’ve just seen that beautiful old film camera in that charity or thrift shop. Maybe you found it in your parent’s box room, or couldn’t resist it at a car boot sale. You love it’s retro look and feel – it’s so heavy, so real. You wonder if they still sell film for it. Does it still work? Can you get film developed any more? Even if that’s possible, maybe you enjoy digital photography, for it’s ability to share your images on Flickr, Tumblr, Deviant Art, or Facebook?

Now go to the Flickr social networking and image sharing website. Search for groups (now called communities) that cater for film or analog photography. You will find thousands of film photographers sharing thousands of images captured initially on film. Far from dead, it’s booming. Why is this? Can’t they afford digital cameras? Why are they still using film cameras?

First thing that I’m going to state that this is not a discussion on the tired and exhausted old Film V Digital debate. Digital won the mainstream. The newer generations of digital cameras are awesome. This discussion is about the new hybrid of the two formats – using film photography to create digital images. Images captured in silver emulsions that are later shared in the digital world.

Why bother at all with film? I can think of ten reasons:

  1. Price. I couldn’t afford a real 35mm SLR in it’s day. But I could afford to collect them now. I’ve previously posted on the subject of cheap film cameras. A camera can have a manitou. I enjoy bringing it back to life.
  2. Old film cameras can be awesome to use. The build, the look (increasingly copied in the “retro” styling of some new higher end digital cameras), the feel. I still get a kick out of forwarding the film. Many of them feel and look nicer than black plastic DSLR cameras.
  3. I enjoy opening a new film. I enjoy exploring the properties of different films.
  4. Patience in an age of instant gratification. Honest, it’s not rhetoric. There really is something about having to wait for your images. You have to use up the film then process it. Each image will have a cost. You may well find yourself thinking a little more before squeezing that shutter release. You can’t shoot off at a high frame rate – then sit down and delete away, all of those images that don’t look the best on that LCD. Each capture has more value.
  5. The analogue image. It’s real. Even when digitalised (scanned). You can still see the tones and grains of HP5. Believe me, a digital camera with it’s sensitivity (ISO) turned up, does not produce grain. It produces digital noise, and it’s not pretty. Just look through the images in the film/analog communities on Flickr. Elsewhere, all of these fake digital filters to recreate a vintage film look. You can create the real thing, dust, hairs, and all should you wish. Use an expired film to get those retro over the top colours. It’s real analog. A rebellion against digital perfection.
  6. Satisfaction and challenge. A lot of novice D-SLR users think that they’ve made an effort if they switch their camera exposure program to aperture priority. Believe me, if you recondition a film camera, use it in the field, perhaps setting fully manual exposure and focus controls yourself – maybe even without a light meter, then chemically process your film yourself, successfully scan it, then you feel rather more satisfaction if your final image is what you want. Instant gratification devalues effort and reward.
  7. Negatives. A digital file is stored as binary data, in a licensed format such as .jpeg. It is far from future proof – remember the VHS? Remember MS DOS? I love how we can store so many digital images – on hard drives, flash, memory sticks, or on Internet Clouds. However, it’s nice and more future proof to also own something analogue and material. A carefully stored film offers this. A hard master copy of your image. Years after .jpeg fades into obscurity, a film will still be there for either traditional printing or digital photographing/scanning. It’s real, not noughts and ones in the Digisphere.
  8. I’ve got to say it. Using a film camera is presently cool. So cool, that it’s spawned a new industry of Toy cameras from China. When everyone else on the street is packing a black plastic Canikon D-SLR camera, your film camera will stand out. People want to talk about it. People feel more relaxed to pose, after all – it’s not as though you are instantly going to upload a dodgy image to the Internet (are you?). On the street, a small zone focus 35mm compact camera is invisible. Anyway, the subjects are busy keeping away from that dude on the corner with the massive D-SLR, and Canikon photography back pack. Subtlety is not that. Ugh.
  9. Medium format film. You want a medium format digital camera, be prepared to splash out circa £45,000 for a new Hasselblad. Even those sensors don’t match the capture area of a 6cm x 6cm 120 film exposure. Medium format film is big, greedy, beautiful. Some professional studios still use, or have re-employed it for a reason. Many digital photographers, that are not interested in 35mm film, are tempted by a big fat Mamiya. Medium format film photography is just awesome.
  10. Because it’s still here! Enjoy film photography while it’s still cheap and affordable. Scare your future grandchildren with your lovingly stored negatives. Seriously, they will be in total awe.

That’s some of the reasons that we bother to use film cameras for photography and for online image sharing. Ok, where do you want to take this? Can you still buy film?

Yes! Even in my local small backwater East Anglian market town, I can buy 135 (35 mm) photographic film from at least four different local outlets (even Poundland). I can buy a lot more online. As for 120 roll film, I can’t buy it here, but travel to medium sized town or small city, then yes – any real photography shop will sell it. Online I can buy it in many forms. Other formats of film? That can be tricky – but 35mm and 120 no problem yet.  If I go onto the website of a certain famous online auction company (starting with E), and look in the Cameras & Photography/Film Photography/Film category, I presently see a total of 4212 items listed.  It aint dead yet.

After using, how are you going to process your films?

  1. Take them or post them to a commercial photo lab. Yes they still exist. You’d be surprised, even locally you may have C-41 photo labs waiting for your film. I need to explain something to you. There are three types of photographic film. First. The reversal colour film. That is manufactured to produce E-6 processed positive transparency film for slides. Second type: C-41 processed colour and some C-41 b/w negative film for prints. This is the default for colour negative film. Third, so-called true black and white negative films – the bulk of b/w negative film. Many surviving local commercial Photo labs can only process C-41. So ask. Tell them what the film is. Not all staff are well trained. Postal specialists are a good option, but in order to reduce postal costs, it’s often best to wait until you have several films to send. Search online for their websites, or check the classifieds in Photography magazines (such as b&w or professional photography magazines).
  2. Develop film yourself at home. You do not need a full darkroom in order to develop film. All that you need is a film changing bag, so that you can load your film into a developing tank without any light reaching it. I’ve heard of some people light proofing a closet, or even using a bin bag under bed sheets. However, a good quality film changing bag is a good option. The easiest film to home process is b/w negative (not C-41), because it’s optimum developing temperature is a manageable 20 C with a fair degree of tolerance. You’ll need a film developing tank, measuring jugs, film changing bag, and chemicals: at least a b/w developer, and a fixer, maybe also a stop bath and wetting agent. Process is: developer, stop (can be replaced by a good rinse), fixer, a thorough rinse, and perhaps a wetting agent, then hanging and drying. It really is easy, once you have a technique. Should you wish to process colour negative film using C-41, it can be done at home, and economically (if you process enough film) but it’s optimum temperature is 38 C, with less tolerance. It usually includes C-41 developer, bleacher, rinse, fixer, a thorough rinse, finally stabiliser (stab). Better to start with home developing true b/w with an easier to manage optimum time and temperature.
  3. A common choice for many film photographers, is to home process true b/w but commercially process C-41. It’s up to you.

Huge 6 x 9 negatives exposed earlier that day in an 80 year old box camera. Captured as above image.

What to do with your developed films, and how to share them (online)?

Option 1. The whole hog. You love analogue. You like to go analogue all the way – no photons to electrons. Maybe you are a photographic print artist that wants to exhibit? You want to traditionally print on photographic papers, making contact sheets and using an enlarger in a darkroom – processing the photographic prints in trays of chemicals . That is so cool, that is where the real old magic of making images appear on paper is. However, I can’t help you any further, as it’s not a course that have taken, nor am I likely to take in the near future.

Why not?

  1. I like to share digitally. A true analogue print can only be appreciated by the human eye at first hand in the real world. Some might do this with galleries, clubs, and exhibitions.
  2. Space and family. You are going to need a real darkroom with running water (temperature controlled), space for processing trays, and an enlarger at minimum. I know that some people manage to do this in a bathroom. However, you are going to need to gain consent of other household members.
  3. Expense. My resources are limited.

Option 2. If you are having your films commercially processed, most photo labs offer to sell you a CD with their digital scans of your film. You see, most photo labs do NOT traditionally print. Their machines simply digitally scan the negatives following process, and these digital images are then printed. So those photographs that you get in the wallet from your photo lab are …. digital prints, not traditional prints on photographic paper. Still, if you want, you can also buy the used scans on a CD. One problem – they tend to be low resolution. You might be able to do better yourself.

Some independent photo labs might (if you inquire), skip scanning and printing all together – and for a lower price just develop your films for you, to scan for yourself at home. That way, you take control over their quality and save money. Other better photo labs will offer to scan your films at a better quality and resolution – for a higher price. Equally, a few specialist labs may even offer to traditionally print your photos on photographic paper in the darkroom.  Just don’t expect to find this service on the High Street, or cheap.

The question arises here, if you use a street or postal commercial photo lab that returns a wallet of prints with your developed negative films, why not just slip these prints into a bog standard flat bed scanner, and generate your digital files that way?  You can.  However, the quality (if quality is important) will not be as good as obtained by scanning the negative ‘master copy’ on the film.  Still, it is how many people share images online from their film cameras.  I don’t, because of a) the quality issue, and b) I rarely use a commercial lab anymore.

Option 3. Digitally photograph your exposures. This is admirably the most cheapskate route. Not had any success at it myself. You need to make some kind of light box, a digital camera, and preferably have a macro lens or lens extension tubes. If you get it right, you can not only save money and gain street cred, but you can produce those cool digital captures of film images, with the borders of the negative displaying the film legends. You simply macro photograph (with carefully focusing) the film. Special built zoom tubes for copying film are manufactured, although they tend to be pricey, and are usually designed for full frame DSLRs only. You then use software to reverse the negative image.

Option 4. Also often cheap. Buy a Chinese 35mm film scanner from Amazon/Ebay that uses a small CCD sensor to digitalise your images. Be aware, quality is limited, and that they can’t scan medium format. Still, they suit the purpose of some. I’ve recently seen these for sale in the local Aldi superstore!

Option 5, Use a Flatbed digital scanner (such as the Epson Perfection V500 or Canon Canoscan 5600f), that is affordable, but is designed to scan photographic film as well as flatbed documents. These scanners are essentially flat bed document and print scanners for home or small office use – but have a LED lamp built into the scanner lid, that directs light down through a film, held flat in a plastic mask. They are not perfect, as slightly bending film can take the film out of focus. Some users rectify this by using third part adjustable masks, or by using plates of special non-reflective anti-newton glass in order to present the film flatly between.

Personally, I use an Epson Perfection V500 scanner. It can scan both 35mm and 120 film, and can remove dust from C-41 images using the Digital Ice technology. The V500 is a bit out of date, it was mass produced, and is subsequently available and fairly cheap (around £160 new). I don’t bother with anti-newton glasses or specialist adjustable film masks. I simply use the default supplied Epson masks. Good enough for my purposes. If you buy a used model – make sure that the film masks are included, as they often part company with the scanner, if it has been used as a pure flat bed for documents. Additionally give consideration to medium format. Will you need to scan 120 film at some time? Does the scanner cater for that?

Option 6. Buy a middle to high end flat bed scanner (£350 – £2,000) capable of film scanning, or an even more expensive dedicated film scanner. A drum scanner (outrageous money). Lots of money when you could have simply used traditional optic printing to produce that quality. However, they will produce the best quality digital images from your valued films. Only for professionals and wealthy enthusiasts.

In all cases, following digitalisation, you can use software to manipulate the images prior to sharing. Personally, I go with Option 4 (Epson Perfection V500 scanner), and then use open source software (Gimp 2.8) to clean up, maybe optimise a little, before online sharing. However, if you are one of these bizarre people that like spending lots of money on a restrictively licensed Adobe product such as Photoshop or Lightroom, then you can use that software.

There are lots of die-hards that will sneer at the digital manipulation of an image captured initially on film. Don’t worry about them, or just confess in any online share that you’ve done it. Let’s get real though. These are digital images, taken from analogue film. You cannot share analogue captures online or through your computer or phone. When you scan a negative, invariably the scanner will interpret it as it wants – and perform some manipulation in creating a binary image file. The same with those printed photographs from the photo lab. Unless carried out by a specialist, they will have most likely passed through digitalisation en route to the print. Their process scanners will have automatically manipulated them – adding sharpness, back light, and colour correction.

An important point.  The most expensive photograph ever sold (Rhein II by Andreas Gursky – auctioned for £2.7 million), is a film-digital hybrid.  Taken by a large format film camera, then scanned and digitally edited.


I hope that I’ve simplified the options for other novices that follow in my path. You have many options. You can stick to full digital. Why not? Digital is great for instant clean results. You can use a film camera – get the film processed commercially. That is equally cool. Keeps labs in service and in business. Or you can develop film yourself – you might discover some satisfaction that the instant age deprives you of. Heck, you could go for the full job – darkroom and traditional printing. Is it all worth it? The choice is yours.

Run Like a Dog. This photo captured on budget (Poundland) 35mm film in a Pentax ME Super raised 350 favorites and several thousand views on the Flickr website.