Monday, October 15, 2012
Film Scan Shoot-Out
June 2008 With Pentax Spotmatic, Helios 44 Lens
Feb 2008 With Zorki-4, Jupiter 8 Lens
June 2008 With Olympus Trip 35
Back in 2008, I was shooting a lot of 35mm film with "The Three Sisters" - a Pentax Spotmatic I had bought new in 1978, a Zorki-4 Rangefinder, and an Olympus Trip-35 bought in a yard sale for $4.00. Now, over four years later, I'm getting interested in film again, and having just purchased an Epson v500 Scanner, I'm going back to see what I can do with some of my old negatives. I'm reading of a lot of film die-hards who object to scanning, because as it is creating a digital image, you might just as well just use a digital camera and be done with it. My take on that thought is that a film negative already has a certain look to it, depending on the camera and film that was used, and that the appearance of the resulting picture is locked in. it is the negative which is the high value image here, and to scan it digitally for the purpose of sharing the picture online does not harm the value - or indeed the quality of the negative. Aside from this, a film photo scanner, even a cheap one like mine, has a much higher resolution than almost any digital camera - I've seen 42 Megapixel files created by my v500, just today. Naturally a file size that huge is unworkable, so I've reduced all these above to between 1.2 and 2.8 MP. You can be most certain that what I'm showing you here looks enough like a real photo-print of the negative to merit comparison, as I'm about to do.
I had hundreds of shots to choose from, but I found these three to be typical of the three camera's output. First, the Spotmatic. Every print I've ever gotten from it is typical of what you see here - great detail, but flat, low key colour, that would take some work to the scanned jpeg to make it come to life. All three of these are untouched, straight from the scanner. I must say, that if all film cameras made pictures like the Spotmatic, I would have zero interest in film photography today. Happily, such is not the case.
On to the Zorki-4, a Soviet Russian built Rangefinder, quite similar to a Leica III, and will take Leica Thread Mount lenses. I had three nice Jupiter (Russian) lenses for this camera when I owned it. I loved that camera - it always made pictures that would seem to welcome you in somehow - never was it like a shot of a picture painted on a wall, which is how I would describe the Spotmatic. When it came to colour however, the Zorki was full of surprises; this picture shows one of them - quite a cold colour shift when under low light, but again, so much depended on which lens and what film I was using. Let's just say the Zorki is a most sensitive 35mm camera, but would always reward in its own unique way.
Finally, the clear winner in my mind is the nifty little Olympus Trip-35. In spite of it's very minimal design and low cost, I always found it would take pictures that were consistently spectacular and inviting, not to mention absolutely correct in tonal and colour values. I believe the word's out - this was one truly great camera, as the going price now is around $100, with far more sophisticated SLR's selling for less than $60, lens included. You'd be hard pressed to find one for $4.00 any more.