Back to Film

I was obsessed with photography through most of college. I owned and sold several digital cameras: a Pentax K-5 II, a Fuji X100S, a Sony RX100 II, a Sony A7s, a Sony A6300, a Ricoh GR, a Fuji X-T1, and a Nikon D810. That’s 8 digital cameras over about three years.

In my college years, I also shot a little bit of film. Maybe 15 rolls in total.

But when I scroll through the tens of thousand of photos on my hard drive, the only ones I care about are the film ones. For various reasons, the digital images don’t make me feel anything.

One reason is digital sensors’ lack of color and tone fidelity. When trillions of colors and tones are compressed down into billions, you lose the visual information that caused you to make the photo in the first place. What you see in the viewfinder and what you see on the display are identical only in terms of content. Digital emulations like VSCO can alter your images to mimic the “vibe” of film, but they’re a universe away from representing the way film actually captures light. It’s not even close.

Riley's Back

My brother. Not sure of film stock, but maybe expired Kodak Gold 200.

Sky on Provia

Provia 100F on a Pentax K1000 with the stock 50mm f/2. Look at those blues and greens.

When you look at film and digital images side-by-side, film looks rich, vibrant, natural, full, and true. Digital looks like a cartoon in comparison. Look often and close enough and digital images start to sicken the eye.

Another reason is that film is more fun and simple. No distractions, no changing your ISO constantly, no worrying about dropping or otherwise ruining your $1300 piece of tech, no taking 1000 photos in a weekend, no recharging batteries every night, no worrying about when the next version is going to come out. Just you and the content in the viewfinder. Not to mention, when you have 36 exposures, you’re forced to take only the photos you care about.

Josie and Heidi

My parents’ dogs on Fuji 400H. Such warm, rich, accurate tones. You could never get this digitally.

Boys Jumping In Ocean

Relatives jumping into the ocean, shot on a disposable camera.

So after eight digital cameras bought and sold, the only digital camera I own now is my iPhone. I just ordered an Olympus OM-4T, and I’m more stoked about that than any digital camera on the market. It captures color more beautifully than the $80,000 medium format 200-megapixel beasts.

So my advice to you is, if you want to take photos you care about, shoot film. Not because it’s “lo-fi” or “retro”, but because it looks better.

Here you can find some of my film photos from over the years.

Palm Tree with Sunset

Polaroid 600 film.

Liv in Copenhagen

Olivia on Portra 400. Ridiculously nice tones.

Palm Trees in Pool

Polaroid 600 film again.