I never really did think I was alone.
But recently I had cause to inquire about the availability of Super 8 film stock. The basic idea is to experiment with shooting — and processing — Super 8 black and white reversal film. There’s more background to this, but that’s the short and long of it.
So I found a company in Germany, Kahl Film, which not only produces black and white reversal film, but also processing equipment, re-usable cartridges and so forth. I filled in their contact form, and the proprietor actually went so far as to call me — in Namibia — on the phone. From Germany.
That sort of devotion to customer service is quite startling in our day and age, but I’m getting service (albeit not phone calls) just as good from Monochrom.de, so it’s not just them. I think it’s something to do with the fact that film users know what we want, and the people who sell us products know that the “easy option” is to go digital. They have to give us good service.
I’m simplifying a little bit, but I think it’s to do with the rearguard nature of our devotion. All facts one way or the other notwithstanding, the consensus today is that digital is better, and that the ‘filmers’ are being either heroic in the sense that we’re preserving a ‘lost art’, contrary, or both.
I won’t deny that I am contrary, but I think that film is far from a lost art, and in fact continues to outperform digital photography — whether still or moving — in certain very crucial ways. I read today in the print edition of the German Macwelt (Print? How quaint …) that modern compact cameras’ lenses can’t sensibly resolve images higher than 12 megapixels. Also there is the matter of sensor noise and what have you. I was left with a strange sense of unquantifiable vindication. For far less money than a modern medium format outfit, even factoring in film, My Yashicamat 124 and Epson scanner offer more megapixels with less noise, and the ‘Mat has class.
Which brings me back to my point, I think: Backlash.
I’m not the only one who’s gone back to film, and I don’t think I’ll be the last. Not by a long shot. My gut instinct tells me that film photography is currently placing a far greater emphasis on classical technique precisely because of the lack of wiggle-room, and because of the absence of post-processing temptation, and that that results in very fine photographs. The fact that they’re not beset by sensor noise or limited to 12 megapixels is bonus.