It seems to me that most photographers, professional and amateur alike, have gone digital.
Yet most stores still sell 35mm film, so obviously there are people out there using it.
Does anyone here still use it? I’m mostly talking about 35mm film; I can understand why someone would prefer to stick with film for medium format or large format rather than buy a several thousand dollar digital back or Hasselblad. But professional level digital SLRs have been available for many years now for under 500.
Not quite. DSLRs are available for $500 but professional level DSLRs are still many thousands of dollars, and the lenses are many thousands more. Granted, those lenses can be used on film or digital SLRs.
I still have an old 35 mm that I can’t bear to get rid of. I don’t use it anymore but we had some fun, like the time I caught the look of shock on the tourist’s face as he rounded the corner in Haight Ashbury and saw the Gap store, or the time I ate a picnic lunch on the Rio Grande and a coyote ran by.
Yeah, I use a digital camera now but the 35mm isn’t going to the landfill. I’ll probably keep it till I die.
Up until about two years ago I shot almost entirely on film. But then my parents got me a digital for my birthday. Nothing special, just a Kodak, point-and-shoot
So these days it depends on the situation. If I want to shoot something for posterity, I’ll use my Minolta SLR. Also, if I need to shoot something in low light, I’ll take the SLR, as the cheapy digital my parents got me doesn’t capture black very well and will usually render it kind of pixely, whereas on film the black will look pretty solid. And I like being able to make adjustments for speed and aperture in those situations, which again the cheapy digital won’t allow me to do.
So I use the digital for most everyday type photos these days - birthday parties, award ceremonies, us standing out on the deck in the summer. When we travel it’s been about 50/50, though on our last vacation it was more like 75 digital/25 film.
Still, as much as I love my 35 mm, I have to admit, if I could afford a higher end DSLR I would probably end up putting my Minolta in storage and taking it out only when I wanted some negatives for posterity.
As Telemark says, not quite. What is marketed as the professional series SLRs by Nikon and Canon go for about $5000 (like the D3 or 1D series). Also, the next tier down is commonly used by professionals, too ($1500-$3000 range, D700, 5D, etc.) But I wouldn’t call anything in the $500 and under range “professional level.”
Anyhow, as to the OP. I still have my film bodies, but I haven’t shot a roll of film with them since October 7, 2006. (And I still have that roll of film on my shelf, undeveloped.) I’ve been meaning to put some film back into my workflow, just for fun–I even bought an LS-50 film scanner a few years back to archive my work, but I have not been able to bring myself to shoot film. The last time I did, it was somewhat amusing, as every once in awhile I would check the back of my camera, only to remember there’s no LCD screen on a film camera.
I don’t really have any good reason to shoot film, except for the “look” of film and, honestly, while I do like the look and fine grain of a masterful black-and-white print or the pop of a Velvia transparency, I really don’t miss it at all. Digital is so much more convenient, so much better in low light (my D3’s 3200ISO files look like maybe 200ISO film–it’s jaw dropping what these cameras can do in low light.), you have instant feedback on your LCD (easy to check your lighting set ups without needing a Polaroid back), you can change ISO on the fly, and you don’t have to change out your film every 37 or so exposures.
About the only thing I like about film from a technical perspective is neg film’s dynamic range. But even there, shooting in RAW, I rarely have problems with today’s cameras.
What I’m asking, in other words, is that, are these $5000 cameras really that much “professional” than cameras a fraction of that cost, or are they just for people who get a hard-on from having the most expensive and high-tech gear? I always thought that taking good pictures depends more on 1. the skill of the photographer at composing the photograph, and 2. being in the right place at the right time, than how sophisticated his equipment is.
It’s not about taking better pictures, it’s about taking higher quality pictures. Those $5000 dollar cameras have bigger sensors, less noise, bigger ISO range, among many other features. It’s like the difference between shooting 35mm and medium format film. One doesn’t make you better photographer, but a better photographer can do a lot more.
I still take 2-1/4" film pictures occasionally, but only positives. It’s really expensive and a hassle for processing. (I was keener on it when they still had that format in Kodachrome.) For some things I like to have a slide that you can look at without magnification and no computerized illumination. It’s kind of like a little stained-glass window that you can hold in your hand, and you only need some bright light to look at it.
All of the above. Photojournalists/sports/news photographers are going to be the most likely to have the $5000 gear. It’s pretty much standard.
Well, you initially made the statement about a $500 camera. I said above that the $1500-$3000 range will also be commonly used by pros.
Anyhow, with the more expensive bodies, the most obvious improvements immediately are the frame rate, high ISO performance, bigger sensors (full frame or 1.3x crop in the case of the Canon 1D series [although the even more expensive 1Ds series is full frame]), and durability of the bodies. They are built like tanks. Even between my $3000 Canon 5D and my $5000 Nikon D3 (yes, I’m weird, I have both systems, but I’m historically a Nikon shooter), there’s a big difference to me in how they handle, and how they work in adverse conditions. I was shooting with both bodies in a downpour once, and the 5D stopped working after about 3 minutes. Despite being freaking three grand, it’s not made for that kind of weather. The D3 chugged along, not problems whatsoever.
When shooting sports, action, or news, photojournalists will generally prefer something with a high frame rate, in the 8+fps territory. Some of the prosumer and low-to-mid-end pro cameras come close: the 50D has 6.3 fps, the D700 can hit 7fps with the vertical grip. That’s just good enough, in my opinion, although once you’re used to shooting 8 or 9 fps, it starts feeling sluggish when you get down to 6 fps. 5 fps (which is what my D200 gets) starts to really feel slow, and 3 fps (which is the 5D’s frame rate) is absolutely frustrating for action. This is not to say that a pro can’t find ways around the limitations of his gear, but trying to shoot sports at 3 fps or 5 fps is for masochists or photographers trying to prove to themselves they can do it.
Also, the $5000 cameras often will have a voice memo function, dual memory-card slots (you could write to them simultaneously, for backup, or sequentially, to keep from changing cards.)
What else? None of the lower-end cameras have full frame sensors yet. The 5D and D700 are the cheapest (as far as I know), and they’re in the $2500-$3000 range. There’s a few advantages to this. First, because of the larger sensor and larger pixel sites on the sensor itself, high ISO performance is generally better in full-frame dSLRs at any given generation of technology. Second, all those great film wide angle lenses you loved? Well, you can use them as the wide-angle lenses god intended them to be. Third, better shallow depth-of-field results. When you use that 85mm f/1.4 lens you love so much on a crop sensor camera, you have to stand farther back for that head-and-shoulders portrait than you would on a full-frame camera. Because of your farther distance-to-subject, your depth of field increases correspondingly if keeping the same field of view. You can’t quite get as much depth-of-field blurring for identical fields of view in a crop sensor camera as you can with a full-frame. This actually is a big deal for a lot of photographers. (And it’s a big deal for me.)
I’m sure there’s a lot more that I’m forgetting. My D3 allows me to fine-tune the autofocus for individual lenses, it has 100% viewfinder coverage (as opposed to 95% or less in most other cameras), the shutter is rated to 300,000 activations (double or triple the cameras in the tier below), etc.
Sorry, was composing the above reply before I read this.
Yes. The skill of the photographer and being at the right place at the right time is more important than having expensive $5000 equipment. A good photographer will take a good photo, whether they’re working with a Nikon D3s or a Canon T2i.
However, as with any professional, if you really are good at what you do, you are constantly pushing your boundaries, trying to make new images, different images, and you want the best tools at your disposal to help you make these images. They are only tools, but tools help. A big behemoth of dSLR isn’t always the right tool for the job. If you’re shooting on the street and want to be unobtrusive, you’d be better off with a digital rangefinder, or even a Panasonic Lumix or something similar. Those big cameras can attract attention. But if you’re shooting hard news or sports, you want something fast, responsive, and built to withstand as much abuse as you can throw at it.
Personally, I don’t know of any. I’m sure there must be pros who use film out there, but in my particular segments of the industry (photojournalism and weddings), it’s all digital. News photography being digital is a no-brainer. There’s no time for film and, even if there were, the quality of digital for this type of work is far, far superior. I think there’s a couple film wedding photographers out there (there must be–it’s a good way to brand yourself as different in the business), but I don’t know any. I hear that some people still use medium format for commercial or fashion work, but the photographers I personally know in that industry are digital, too. Even the couple of fine art photographers I know are digital.