My first proper film camera came in 2008, an Canon EOS 500. Its a cheap, AF SLR by Canon which uses the same lenses as the digital series. I had no idea about the different films or emulsions but I did research on a few names via flickr and bought myself a few rolls of Ilford Pan. What a lovely film and what deep contrasts. I still remember my first roll when it came out.
Now for a film-illiterate person, films like Nova are godsend. They are incredibly cheap (I remember getting them for Rs.25 a roll) and their quality is quite decent. But this was leading to another major issue which I didn’t foresee.
So whats the problem? The problem is that cheap films are actually very expensive in the long run. Thats because they are unreliable. Where they save in cost, they lose in terms of grain, performance, latitude and color balance.
I’ve gone through so many expired slides, color negatives and cheap black & white emulsions that I now realise that its fun to shoot with them and expect something very new to appear in your pictures but it also will pull down the quality of your work. As its not something which can be controlled, these films will perform as they like, without warning changing colors or tones.
Another issue comes from bad scanning. Usually you could find 35mm film scanning in your local lab (This is specifically about Indian labs, the labs in other countries to my understanding are a million times better).
These pictures were shot in 2009 when my father retired from the Airforce. When I initially saw the scans, I thought that the film has destroyed all the pictures. Its just now that I can see what I really shot. Now looking back at these images, I do feel the quality is still low for a 100iso film, it has too much grain and really bad latitude (in comparison to Tmax which I use now).
So just a few recommendations :
- Try to not use cheap expired films. You might just go out and land on something spectacular and the shot might not appear on the film because, well, its just like that. Its great to learn on expired films or cheap films but don’t depend on them for regular use. Buy film in bulk, that reduces the cost substantially.
- If you can’t afford a scanner, try to either make digital images via a simple digital camera setup and a light box OR get together with friends and pool in for a scanner.
- If you’re going to be shooting something important, might as well invest in the quality of film because these images lost would be a lot more damaging than a little extra money.