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The Old and the New

Written by Daniel Smith

Film... wow the reminiscent quality and grain. Ponder this too much and beware you may be labelled a hipster.

What is it about film that holds such appeal? Is it the romantic notion of an old film camera you used to have, or one that was owned by a friend or relative? We are in an age where the proliferation of imagery is huge. There is the complete saturation of images across our whole waking life and we can take more and more all the time. What I liked about film was the fact that I had a single roll of film, (sometimes more), but often a single roll of film. This had to tell my story.  Like countless photographers before me I had a series of 24 (or 36) frames on which to tell my story. And after shooting this roll of film I had to wait to see the images. Waiting for an image... what a crazy notion!

In an age where Hollywood directors and cinematographers are pushing to shoot their movies on film stock against industry pressure, digital image technology has never been so prolific and accessible. Digital manipulation is often used to emulate the look of film. Instagram, Hipstamatic, Nik software and in-camera effects (amongst others) are all tools that photographers use to give their digital images a film look. This software emulates something beautiful that existed in film. At times we are taking a digital image on a $3000 camera and making it look like it was taken on a light leaking $100 toy camera.

There is a functionality and style that is returning to cameras. After the industry got very caught up with megapixels and zoom size at the advent of digital, a lot of the camera essence was lost. Although dressed in retro garb this essence is coming back. The Nikon Df (pictured) sits as the current leader in this class, with a return to the classic functionality of the camera: aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Now while not the first camera to trade on this ‘old is new again’ simplicity it seems to be the one that gets it the most right. At a much bigger size than the Nikon FM2 film camera (pictured) it is no small camera, but wow does it pack a punch.

The Nikon Df is not without its bells and whistles but it in no way feels weighed down by these bells and whistles. Admittedly it is very different to shooting a roll of film, for one there is a screen on the back.  Put a 50mm manual Nikon prime lens on though and the very act of shooting an image and capturing that moment is reminiscent of the simplicity of a good, old school, solid film camera.

If you are wishing for a return to a simpler time, this may be the camera that you have been looking for.

Below are some other back to basics and retro style cameras. What are your thoughts? Have they hit the mark? We would love to hear from some current or ex-film shooters.

Fujifilm X100S
Fujifilm X-Pro1
Fujifilm X-T1
Olympus PEN E-P5
Olympus OM-D EM-5
Olympus OM-D E-M1
Panasonic GM1
Panasonic GX7
Pentax Q
Nikon Df

ABOVE IMAGE: Somewhat ironically for this blog post about a Nikon digital camera that is designed in a similar style to the older Nikon style film cameras, this shot was taken digitally with a Canon DSLR and then processed to look like a film image on the computer (Nik software).


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