My Grande Film Experiment

Canon A-1So some time ago I picked up an old Canon A-1 film camera at a thrift store for my antique camera collection which I intend to display on a shelf in my office someday. Well the camera looked like it was in good working order so I began to wonder if the thing would actually work. I went across the street to Walgreen’s and it just so happened that they had a battery for the thing so I installed it and by golly the little internal LED meter came to life!

I acquired some film and soon my film experiment was off and running! I was surprised to discover that a couple of the local camera stores still maintain functioning film labs and eventually I turned in a roll of film. After a couple long weeks I received the call… my negatives and prints were back and by golly the camera works and the prints looked good 🙂

Mule Deer Doe

So does film compare in quality to my 32mp Canon 90D? Of course not, not even close. But I did find the entire process enjoyable and discovered that I still like the whole process of loading film, shooting the pictures, running the advance lever and physically going to the lab and talking with real people. I also discovered that digital photography has made me a bit lazy. It costs nothing to rattle off a few test shots with the wrong exposure to get the camera set up for a shoot with perfect settings. With film it costs a dollar every time you click the button so it isn’t feasible to just fire off some shots. It also won’t do you any good because there obviously isn’t any immediate feedback on a screen to tell you what to do!

South Face of Pikes Peak

I had to relearn how to read a scene and run my old incident meter. The reflective meters in cameras can’t always be trusted to return an exact exposure so sometimes it’s better to use the old style incident meter to read the light actually falling on a scene to get an accurate exposure.

The old camera with it’s old manual focus lenses is quite small and light, and a very easy thing to carry along on a hike where there is no pressure to capture a lot of images for a YouTube movie or Instagram. Any shooting I was doing with my film camera was just for me, a simple exercise in enjoying my hobby. I found the entire process relaxing and intend to continue shooting with film once in a while.

Climbers in Garden of the Gods

But if I’m going on a vacation or a shoot where I am serious about getting images there is no way that I’m going to be shooting film. No film camera will ever come close to replacing 10 frames a second at 32 megapixels. Also with digital I can change my ISO with the changing conditions which I am constantly encountering in my photo trips that often begin in predawn light and finish in bright midday sunshine.

But I have to admit, I am a bit nostalgic for the old days when you would take your roll of film to the camera store and talk with other people about their recent experiences with our beloved hobby. I enjoyed the experience of laying your strip of film on the lamp and carefully examining the frames with a loupe, looking for just the right with which to create an enlargement. Other photographers would gather around and take a look through the glass for themselves and the whole experience had a special feel that has been lost in the digital era.

Downtown Victor Colorado

I still recommend film and the entire photographic process for anyone starting out in photography. I think there is great value in understanding each step of the process, from selecting the correct ISO value for your roll of film, to metering the light for a correct exposure, to learning the patience to wait for your results. So even though I won’t be shooting with my A-1 all the time, I have acquired a backpack for the camera and manual focus lenses and I intend to continue putting it to use once in a while! Not too much use though, with these fuel prices the trip to the lab in Colorado Springs costs about $40, Add that to the $25 for the film, processing and the high res scans and it’s a pretty expensive proposition to turn in a roll of film!

I have included a few scans of my negatives with this post, I hope you enjoy the results! If you enjoy the content and would like to contribute to the cause, please click the donate button and select an amount!


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Elk Herd on a Beautiful Rocky Mountain Evening

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! Also, if you would like to see a more complete record of today’s images please follow my Instagram account!

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The Big Film vs Digital Test

Update *** The results were inconclusive, some liked the analog scan, others liked the digital version. Unfortunately I didn’t know all the ropes when I took the film in. Apparently you have to order a high res scan at the time the film is turned in so that it can be done as the film is developed. Otherwise high-res scans are $5. Without the high res scan I was unable to pixel peep but oddly when I look at the two web sized images side by side the analog version (left or top) depending on your display appears to be less distorted. The digital version appears to be brighter but that could be changed with a slight curves adjustment which was available to he digital version in Camera Raw and not available to the analog scan.  I won’t be giving up my 90D anytime soon though, out shooting birds I don’t think I could afford $0.75 per click shooting 500 shots per day!

Update *** So it turns out I used my old Canon 70D with the 18-55mm kit lens for the  test. My 90D was in use with the 100-400mm for eagle photography at the moment and I didn’t want to be changing lenses in the field… I forgot about that. Anyway, so far the image on the left is winning as the “most pleasing”. Later today I’ll reveal the identity of the camera used for each picture.

Ok, so I’m finally getting around to my first film vs digital head to head test. So it’s Ilford HP5 ISO 400 film in a 50 year old Canon AE-1 35mm manual camera vs three year old Canon 90D 32mp sensor. I should have used a tripod and taken exactly the same shot but I was standing on a bridge and didn’t want to get run over so this is as close to exactly the same shot as I could get. Both were taken with the same shutter speed, aperture and ISO so they should be pretty close!

South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon

Ilford HP5 400 speed film

Icy South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

Digital Image


I’ve printed them both out and I have an idea which print I like better… but I want to get some input before I reveal which is which!

1. Which one do you like better?  … and

2. Which one do you think is the 50 year old AE-1?

This should be interesting 🙂

Back in the Print Business

Well I did it… I went and bought a printer. Back in the day I always had a printer… I remember when I bought my first computer with the advent of Windows 95, along with a 15 inch monitor and a Canon 720×720 printer… That printer cost me $550 in 1995 dollars and if I remember right, after only a little while I had to send it in for repairs at the big box store where I bought it, now out of business and I can’t even remember the name. I never did get it back, it somehow went into the repairs black hole and was never seen again.

Canon Pixma iX6820

However, things were changing so fast in the PC world that by that time the dots per inch had doubled, inks and paper had improved and prices had dropped dramatically. So instead of fighting the losing battle against the system, I just bought a new one. From then on I was perpetually in a quest for the latest and greatest and for a time I even had an oddball dye sublimation model from some company that eventually went out of business, and consequently the ink became unavailable.

Eventually Canon came out with a model that could print 13×19 inch prints and the ink was good enough by then to actually be useful in a professional setting. It was then that I discovered Ilford Pearl paper and my prints were virtually indistinguishable from prints produced in a professional lab without the hassle of multiple trips through the city traffic to finally get a print done right.

Then came the 08 financial crash. I had no photo jobs, no money to buy ink… and eventually no home. Everything but the camera and my 70-200 F4L lens had to go. I held on to my printer for a couple more years but without frequent use it soon fell into disrepair. I considered selling it but I didn’t want to take the chance of someone having a problem with it, so my pride and joy eventually went off to Goodwill 😦

So for the better part of a decade I just didn’t print anything. All my photography was for stock and the only record of my images were ones and zeroes stored on magnetic media and at stock agencies in the ether. As my wife battled cancer I barely kept my photography going, occasionally venturing out on foot onto the trails of the nearby mountains in search of deer and elk. There was little need for printing in those days, there was nowhere to hang them if I did and uploads to the stock agencies were all I could handle anyway. With access to the internet only through the local library, even that was problematic.

However things have really turned around in the last few years following her passing, I have been capturing the best images of my life in the mountains surrounding my new home in Cripple Creek. I’ve been sending a few images off for metal prints and now some excellent bird images including hawks, osprey and bald eagles, have been just piling up on my hard drive. I’ve sent a few off for prints when I can get a good deal, but without any method of proofing the results have often been disappointing.

4x6 inch proof print of a coyoteI had heard that Canon had in recent years produced a printer worthy of the trademark professional red stripe so I went online to research it. I would love to have one but they aren’t cheap and with the limited printing I do I’m sure one wouldn’t be cost effective. So I began to look at other models and I soon found a 13×19 inch 9600×2400 dpi model for only $179 called the Pixma iX6820. For that price I had to have it :)

It was available for pickup at Best Buy yesterday so I made the journey down to the city for the printer and supplies. I still have a good supply of the Ilford Pearl in the 13×19 and 8.5×11 on hand so I just needed to pick up some 4×6 proofing paper and some 11×17 Pearl for my wide images of the hawks and eagles. Soon the inaugural proof was rolling off the printer… with incredibly splendid results 🙂

So with a great deal of joy, I’m back in the printing business and looking forward to seeing my best images proudly matted and framed on my walls for everyone to enjoy 🙂

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As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal! I should mention at this time that this blog post is not sponsored by Canon or any other firm. All equipment used in the making of the blog and video have been purchased by me on my own volition.