The Guilty Pleasures of Film


Whether you would care to admit it or not, I'll bet you have a guilty pleasure - something you love doing that the rational portion of your brain simply cannot find a purpose for. My guilty pleasure is film photography. Today's clients require enormously detailed files and nearly immediate turnaround times, neither of which are strengths of film photography. Cost-effective medium format digital cameras now offer as much detail as a large-format negative, eliminating the final remaining advantage of film. Worse yet, a roll of 400 speed 35mm film only has about eight megapixels worth of data, far less than a modern iPhone. What is it about film that keeps me shelling out money for materials and breathing chemicals?

Enormous, bright optical viewfinders

Even the full-coverage viewfinders on today's flagship professional DSLR's are no match for the viewfinder of a 1970's SLR. These manual focus cameras had incredibly bright precision-ground focusing screens optimized for fast prime lenses. Put your eye up to the viewfinder of a Canon F1N, and you may forget you're looking through a lens.

The ritual of loading a roll of film

Unlike inserting a memory card, loading a roll of film is a tactile delight; feel the emulsion between your fingertips as it glides between the rails of the gate, over the sprocket teeth and into the take-up spool.


Loading a roll of film is a tactile delight.


The magic of the darkroom

Adobe Photoshop may be the most powerful way to bend the appearance of an image to your every whim, but sitting in front of a computer screen isn't as fun as putting in some earbuds and dipping your fingertips into developer. Watching what was in your mind's eye as you tripped the shutter gradually fade into existence under a dim red light is an experience every photographer should have at least once.