Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Glory of Rolleiflex

After weeks of waiting to shoot a roll of B&W and then one of colour, then waiting to get the negatives and scans back, I can finally show off what this dear old camera can do for me. I'm still waiting for the black and white to come back, but it shouldn't be too much longer. A brief explanation - a true black and white film like the Ilford FP4 which I used must be developed the old fashioned way - in a darkroom. These have never to my knowledge been do-able from a 1 hour photo place, which are strictly geared to C-41 Colour. The photo store I took my B&W film to had to send it out for processing to a B&W enthusiast, and it takes a long time, whereas my colour film was do-able with next day service. In my case, the first shall be last, and the last shall be first. It's just so great to continue being finally able to post about my Rolleiflex film experience, and have some real results to show.

I should also mention that most of the C-41 Processing store fronts no longer provide the final prints done using the old chemical process anyway. This somewhat surprised me - the C-41 negative is done chemically, of course, but then these are digitally scanned, then printed on a very large professional digital printer. It is only with true B&W film, printed via an Enlarger on chemical photo paper in a darkroom that provides "real" analogue photography from beginning to end. Even in my case, when I finally do get my B&W, I did not order prints, but only scans - the prints are expensive, and I want to be able to choose the ones I want enlarged and printed the old fashioned way. This raises an obvious issue - if it goes digital anyway, then what is the advantage of film photography? This is what I want to discuss here.

If you want to discuss advantages of film, the first thing to do is compare results. Yesterday I had both the Rolleiflex and the 7D with me in Moncton, with some time to kill. This particular scene in Centennial Park is famously beautiful in the Autumn. I admit I could've done better with the comparison, by standing in exactly the same place, and paying better attention. I had the Rollei with me first, so I took the picture, then had to  walk back to the car to get the 7D. One thing I don't know yet is what the field of view is for the lens on the Rolleiflex. It is a 75mm, but I have no idea what this translates to in the 35mm world. I set my Canon zoom lens at 50mm, thinking that would closely replicate the Rollei's Xenar, but I was clearly mistaken - I should've been much wider to match the Rollei. But no matter, even though I could've done much better with the Canon - the Rollei is tremendously impressive here, even with this unaltered digital scan of a film negative.

 Taken With Rolleiflex on Fuji PN160NS

Taken With Canon EOS 7D, Processed from RAW File

Here's another pair for comparison. Again clearly I haven't gotten used to the Rollei's field of view yet - I could've gotten much closer to the truck. But again, look at the vibrant colour quality it gave me here.

 Taken With Rolleiflex on Fuji PN160NS

Taken With Canon EOS 7D, Straight From Camera JPEG

I could've done much better with the Canon by using a lens of similar quality to  that of the Rollei, like one of my Pentax Takumar primes. But I'm also testing the merits of my EF 28-105 in everyday shooting, so this happens to be the lens I'm using lately. It's a good lens, but I've got much better ones in my kit.

For now though, even though this was hardly a scientific comparison, and I was, as usual, very careless, I think I can conclude two things - 
Medium Format film gives better results than a good APS-C Format DSLR 
It is very difficult to make a digital picture "look like" a film picture

More on this later.

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