A few weeks ago, I started a film project.  It has been years since I shot film, and I wanted to experiment with some different films and techniques. Plus, back then, I was pretty much an “Auto” mode kind of girl.  I really didn’t know what my camera could do, so the thought of returning to film with a lot more photography knowledge was kind of exciting.

First, I had to get back in the swing of things and try to get a reproducible technique, and then experiment with new ideas.  The first experiment uses three cameras, two film and one digital to see how the different cameras treated the same conditions.  The cameras used were the Mamiya C330, a 6×6 medium format camera, with the 80/2.8 lens, the Canon Elan 7n 35mm film SLR, and the Canon 5D Mark II DSLR.  Both Canons used the 24-70/2.8 lens.  I metered using the Sekonic L-358.  The film I used was Fuji 400H, with intention to overexpose to bring out the creamy pastel colors for which this film is famous.  I set the ISO at 200, so we were already overexposing by one stop.  I then metered for the shadows, and in some cases overexposed by another stop to see how far we could go.  None of these images have been adjusted except a small amount of cropping to fit the format.

Developing and scanning by Richard Photo Lab, Fuji Frontier scanner.

Let’s see how they approached the same subjects.

Subject: Grape Hyacinths     |      Meter Reading: 5.6/500     |     Shot at 4/500
Images from top to bottom: Mamiya Medium Format, Canon 35mm Film SLR, Canon Full Frame DSLR

Grape Hyacinth

Subject: Roses     |      Meter Reading: 5.6/60     |     Shot at 4/60
Images from top to bottom: Mamiya Medium Format, Canon 35mm Film SLR, Canon Full Frame DSLR
Subject: Shells/Jar     |      Meter Reading: 5.6/500     |     Shot at 4/500
Images from left to right: Mamiya Medium Format, Canon 35mm Film SLR, Canon Full Frame DSLR


Subject: Willow Tree    |      Meter Reading: 6.3/250     |     Shot at 5.6/250
Images from top to bottom: Mamiya Medium Format, Canon 35mm Film SLR, Canon Full Frame DSLR

Here are my first impressions.

  • Film is far more forgiving on the highlights and areas which would be blown out on digital.  It looks beautiful overexposed.  It’s the look I find missing from digital photography, even with the best photo processing software around.
  • The bokeh on the film images is much prettier, smoother, creamier.  Keep in mind that the depth of field differs between the medium format and the two 35mm formats.  The negative size on the C330 is 6cm by 6cm.  The negative size on the 35mm is 24mm by 35mm.
  • Digital does a better job reproducing colors, although this could likely be corrected if desired by using a different film stock.  This was most noticeable to me in the images of the willow tree.  The pink cast on her hair was in both the film and digital images.  It was a function of the deep pink parasol.  In the images with the white parasol, there is no funky color.
  • Film is kinder to complexions and makes skin look amazing.  Do you know why you don’t see any digital images of my daughter here?  Because they take far more work to make the skin look good than the film images, and I doubt I could get away with showing you untouched digital images.  All of these images are untouched, except I straightened a couple which were slightly off kilter.
  • Although my compositions here are not wonderful, I did take more time thinking about composition of film images than digital.  I took far less images, and considered each click of the shutter more precious, not only because of the expense involved in film and processing, but because it was more special than digital.
  • I spent really no time correcting or adjusting the film images.  I had to spend a great deal of time correcting the digital images of my daughter for her use.  Keep in mind that I did not use off-camera flash in any of these images which would have improved the portraits.  Without it, the digital images were awful.  Film smooths out the skin.  It will save time in post production.

My next experiment will be to expand the use of film to different subjects and lighting situations to see how far I can push it and where its advantages are overtaken by digital.  The ultimate goal is to see if it will be worth traveling with, and to see what it can bring to my travel images.  In the meantime, here are a few more film images taken during my experiments.  Enjoy!


For the introduction to this series, read “Trying Old Things: Film.”

My first prints are in!  Read about it in Film Fling Part 2: Prints!
I buy my film at B&H!

Affiliate Program Notice: We are participants in the B&H Photo Affiliate Program, which provides commissions for sales linked by this site to B&H Photo Video.  



All words and images ©2006-2018 Wendy G. Gunderson. Any use without written permission is prohibited. For licensing information, please send inquiries via the Contact page.

Under The Sea: Review of Ewa-Marine UB100 Underwater Housing
Film Fling Part 2: Prints!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *