Tag Archives: film photography

Travel Photography – What To Take

We usually travel by RV in the USA and deciding on what camera gear to take is easy, Take everything you want.  But in 10 days we are going overseas by plane and if you take more than you need then you have to lug it around.  So for the last few weeks I have been trying to decide what should go.  At first I watched Rick Steve’s video and he is a minimalist and says, “1 compact camera”.  I have a very good recent compact that is a Sony super zoom.  It does a good job and critically, has a viewfinder.  For sunny days viewfinders are a must.  But here is the thing, I asked myself, “when you are taking pictures of the Parthenon in Greece is a small Sony enough plus an iPhone 7+”?

Parthenon in Athens, Greece-Parthenon ruins tourism destinations
These are likely conditions in mid day, difficult.  Bright sun and blown highlights.

Travel pictures always seem to run into the “mid-day” problem.  Even though for best photos you are always supposed to go out before dawn and an hour before sunset, the reality is that this is not always possible, or something you want to do.  Last night I listened to a very popular and very good you tube couple talk about what they do when traveling and they said, “take pictures early morning and the golden hour before sunset, and spend the rest of the day in museums”.  (Tony & Chelsea Northrup). Thing is if you are on a tour you go when your tour goes.  Or maybe you want to have breakfast and a shower before going out.  Faced with the fact that many of our best shooting opportunities in our upcoming trip will be between early morning and late afternoon I have been testing my cameras to see (once again) which handle bright sun in mid day best.  The contestants were iPhone 7+, Sony HX80, Nikon D5500, Olympus OM2n (film), Minolta 600si (film).

Sailing on San Diego Bay
iPhone 7+ with significant time spent editing.

The picture above was taken with my iPhone 7+.  It was taken last weekend at mid day with mostly bright sun.  I spend a lot! of time trying to get this picture into any kind of decent shape.  The result is OK.

gaves overlooking coean
And this was a couple of days later with better color.

I then shot some photos a few days later with the iPhone and the colors were much better, but this required some work in Lightroom to get this shot to come out.

big yacht SD harbor
Sony HX80 in full sun.

The Sony HX80 to me is a slightly better camera than the iPhone.  It still struggles with mid day photos.  I spent some time trying to get anything out of the above shot that was passable.

DSC00651
This was taken on the same day but came out better.

The above shot was taken with the Sony while I was sitting in the shade and at a different angle to the sun than the yacht shot.

Yesterday I went down to the same general area and got this shot with my Nikon and just the kit lens with a polarizing filter.

fog with graves leading to trees
The difference here is the polarizing filter and mostly the fog.

I like the above shot.  It is lightly edited and pretty much just came out of the camera this way.  I was just shooting aperture priority and fine – jpeg.  The key difference in this being a good shot is the fog.  So no bright mid day sun.

DSC_3427
Nikon same aperture priority and Polarizing filter.  And this is after editing.

Shortly after the cemetery shot the sun came out and the Nikon failed to take memorable pictures.  I got so frustrated with the color in this group I turned most of them into black and white.

bird on the cliff
Nikon shot with B&W filter.

The reason I was so frustrated is that I went to the same location the day before with one of my old film SLRs, a Minolta 600si, some inexpensive Kodak 400 negative film, and an Quantaray 50mm f2.8 lens.  I had this film locally developed and they fouled up the scan and only gave me tiny files.  But the fact is that this lower end film with poor scans gave a much better balanced color result, by a wide margin than any of the three digital cameras I have used this week.  Imagine if I had shot Kodak Ektar 100 and had a fine scan done.  The film would have won by a wider margin.

So after all this work, what is the best camera gear for me to take?  Very likely I am going to duplicate last year and take the Nikon DSLR with the 18-55 P kit lens & 35mm f 1.8 for low light, iPhone, & Olympus OM2n with my 50mm f 1.4.  I will likely add the Sony too as it is small and could fit in my pocket on the flight over.  We have booked a number of tours in places we are going to and many of these will be during mid day and sunny.  If I was to lighten this up just a little I would leave the Nikon home and add a couple of lenses to the Oly kit + a flash.  I would likely take the 28 mm f 2.8 and the 135mm f 3.5.  The flash is a T32.

I don’t know why I keep needing to re-affirm the fact that in natural light film usually gives a far superior result to digital.  If it is dark digital works better.  The iPhone 7 plus is a very good low light shooter.

6 Days later —–  OK, I just could not let this issue rest.  So I went down to the same beach cliff location today and shot my Nikon D5500 with raw and my iPhone 7 plus with Adobe camera raw in the iPhone.  The results from the two digital cameras was the closest I came to the film.  Of the two I have to say I preferred the results from the iPhone to the Nikon.  I edited both as with Lightroom as best as I was able and the color was just a bit more pleasing from the Apple.  But it does not change the fact that an 15 year old Minolta camera with and off-brand (but very good) lens and low cost Kodak print film gave superior results.  I am so disgusted with the whole effort I don’t even feel like posting samples.  If you want to see some write me a comment and I will do so.

Bottom line.  Digital daytime still shots suck compared to film.  Sure digital is better for more difficult lighting and interior shots, but in typical vacation type family shots film still rules.  I guess that is why more and more people are going back to film.  The scary issue for the camera makers is that this means for most snapshot /family shot shooters they don’t need a fancy digital.  Sure if you make your living with a camera you should get a high quality rig, but if you are a family shooter an iPhone (or better Android) smartphone camera is fine.  If anything my recommendation is for family shooters to consider a film camera, maybe an instant.  Polaroid is back with a new camera and Fuji Instax ones are all over the place.  Analog rules.  Digital is mostly for convenience not quality.  I am writing this as I listen to a 45 year old LP record on my good quality Hi-Fi system.  Analog music is easily superior to any digital I have heard.  Analog music is just not nearly as easy to use.  Same with photos.  Digital is easier and analog is better.

Kodak Gold 200

Over the last couple of years one of the films I have used with good results is Kodak Gold 200.

Ennis businesses vioght kodak gold
Taken with Kodak Gold 200 – Voightlander Prominent 35mm & 35mm 3.5

This shot was taken last summer with my Voightlander and a 35mm 3.5 lens.  We just walked around Ennis MT and took in some of the local town sights about an hour before dusk.  To my eye Kodak Gold provides with good color saturation and has a pleasing white balance for landscape and people.

Me next to robot mr clean voight K gold
That is me standing indoors in a brightly lit entry way to the museum of clean in Idaho.  Same Voightlander camera but with a 50mm 1.5 Nokton

Gold has a fine grain if you don’t underexpose.  I have run into a few difficulties in the shadows of some shots with Gold.  You can get rid of most of the unpleasant grain with noise reduction in Lightroom, but better if you just expose for shadows and then turn the highlights down a bit.  One thing to keep in mind is that this is an inexpensive film and it is 200 speed and not 100.  Ektar has less grain but costs about 50% more and is 100 speed.

Zion voight mid day K gold 2
This is also Kodak Gold using the Voightlander and 50mm lens.  
Zion canyon minolta ektar_
Here is a shot of the same location but with Kodak Ektar 100.  This photo is pretty much right out of the camera with very minimal editing.  The shot above it with Kodak Gold had more editing.  

I find both of the above two shots to be quite attractive but the one shot with Ektar is just magic on a big high quality monitor.  I took a series of about 15 of the west side of Zion National Park with Ektar and when I got them back from the developer I just went “wow”, the best shots I have even taken of Zion with regards to the red rock color.

Ennis sculpture trailer voight kodak gold
Shot at an RV park in MT. with Gold
Ennis door voight kodak gold
Shot in Ennis Mt with Gold and 35mm lens.  This camera is an antique BTW.  From 1953.  The lenses are just beautiful.  So is the camera body for that mater.  
Pocatelo chief neon voight kodak gold
Shot at dusk with Gold.  This is the shady side.  
the chief neon from sunny side voigjt K gold
Here is the sunny side taken about a minute after the above picture.  No settings were changed between the two shots on this old manual camera.  

As I said, Gold can go grainy on you when underexposed as you can see in the sky on the above two shots.  But then the shot above that of the door is very sharp with little grain and the only difference is lower contrast in the scene and correct exposure on the door.

Gold can still be bought at just over $4.00 US in 36 exposure rolls here in the US.  It is a good general all around film that does very well on skin tones.  Ektar is a finer grain and is beautiful for landscapes, but puts red into skin color.

58830006
This is Ektar showing skin tone 

And here is Fuji Superia 400 for comparison.

Liz & Pey 2
Fuji Superia 400 shot on a Minolta 600si with 50mm 2.8 lens with flash.  

To me Superia goes green and that is hard to control, and Ektar goes red and that can sometimes be a problem.  Gold is more in the middle but you have to watch the grain.

jeff cathy jon betsy_
Kodak Ultramax 400 shot with Minolta 600si 50mm 2.8 lens.  

And finally Kodak Ultramax 400.

All four of these are very good films.  They have to be to have survived the purge of the last 10 years.  Here are some tips.

Kodak Gold is a very stable film that is very versatile.  It is not fussy at all but I would recommend no underexposing it too much or grain could become an issue.  I prefer the Kodak Gold color rendition to Fuji.  Fuji Superia has less grain and 400 speed.  But it is also 50% more expensive on 36ex rolls.

Right now Kodak has two very good lower cost films in the color negative category.  Gold at 200 speed & Ultramax at 400.

The Second Most Important Feature Of Digital Photography

If seeing the results of your camera shot immediately is the most important advantage of digital over film photography, then seeing the image in live view to make adjustments in difficult lighting is the second most important.  What I mean is that you can see what you are going to get before you capture it.  This is very valuable in many instances.  For instance, when the sky is dimming and dusk approaches it is very helpful to use live view.

Desert scene at dusk
Desert scene at dusk

To get this shot I turned on live view on my DSLR and moved the camera around to get the lighting I liked.  When I saw what I wanted took the picture.  This is much much harder using film.  Normally what you do is bracket around and hope that you get some usable-great shots.  Most of the time you will, but digital works a lot better.

Cell phones offer great live views to get sunset or sunrise pictures.  But DSLR camera’s normally give a better result.  If you are shopping for a new camera make sure it has a good back screen or an electronic viewfinder.  I personally prefer an optical viewfinder combined with a good back screen, but I can understand that an EVF has it’s advantages too.  I know of at least one camera that can switch the viewfinder from optical to electronic.  That would be ideal depending on how well it works.