“We have to accept that in these days the Leica myth has more nostalgia than future. The exhibition is a proof that the future is not a continuation of the past and even Leica can not disregard the writing at the wall.” …Erwin Puts from The TAO of Leica 2014 “Augen auf!” exhibit
My Leica M6 is and I guess, will always be the crown jewel of my camera world, aka “obsession”. Any photographer worth their salt puts the emphasis on the image, the subject if you will. The story the image tells. The emotion it evokes. Second to this is the camera they use. After all the camera is just a tool right? The flip side of this argument is: does the “tool” matter? I guess I fall on both sides of this discussion. I use my Leica M6 for the image quality, ease of use, the fact I shoot film and the “stealth” like shooting I can do. But I am not how “stealth” I am at 6’3″ and 360! But I digress…
As much as I yearn for the days of film I am constantly drawn to the merits of digital. One of the best art nude photographers I know, Richard Tallent of Beaumont, TX, scratches is head each time I post anything about shooting film. Ya see, he is 100% digital and misses NOTHING about film shooting. Richard is always befuddled as to why I choose to still shoot film. My answer to him is always the same; It’s because it slows me down and makes me feel more like a real art photographer. Which I am sure makes zero sense to him and most of you who might real this. Now enter The Fuji X system. This was a BIG TIME game changer for me.
The Fuji X Pro-1 with the 35mm 1.4 lens and my ability to really use the hell out of Silver EFX Pro2 made me really second guess the use of my Leica M6. Well, for a while that is. No one can argue the exacting and amazing image quality you get out of these cameras. The B&W images from the Fuji X series are simply stunning! But even with a tool that mimics the M6, there was still something missing in the final product to which I have struggled to put words. Until now!
To me the digital file is too exacting. Too literal if you will. It’s cleaned and polished with every pixel is right where it should be. Digital images are the Stormtroopers of photography. What I get with film (talking B&W film here) is a buttery creaminess coupled with (arguably) wider dynamic range and tonality. It has the serendipitous imperfections that make each frame on the roll truly unique, absent of subject matter. The grain is real and not a created digital version of grain. When you look at a frame taken with my M6, Hasselblad 500Cm or Pentax 67, there is no doubt this is a film image.
Even with all of this spoken I constantly hear; “but you still have to scan it to make it a digital image so why not just shoot digital“? My answer to this is always the same. Because a scanner takes a “picture” of what it is scanning and therefore I retain that look and feel of a film image even after it is scanned. I then ask; why do you shoot digital and then spend hours on Photoshop or Lightroom trying to get it to look like film?
Now, do I shoot digital? Heck yes! Do I feel like I am giving up something in the way of image quality because I am NOT shooting film, sometimes. But I am learning that I am not giving up image quality in as much as I learning the differences in image aesthetics when I shoot digital. What I know to be a fact is, not one of my images would have been a “better” image had I used a film camera. The reverse is also true. This harkens back to my earlier statement. Care more about the photograph and less about the gear to truly see what kind of photographer you can become!
Until I can deal with the mental block of shooting digital as an art medium I will still use film. Admittedly I am shooting less and less film. I think I feel obligated to shoot film because I have these cameras and because the ever so annoying hipsters still shoot film. However, the Fuji X Pro-1 is helping me a great deal with this issue.
FYI my Nikon D800 with its mammoth 36 mp is really changing my opinion!