Film, Still.

Seoul, South Korea. Leica M3, 50mm Canon LTM.

So, it has been about a month since I have been using film almost full time. It is an interesting experience. I mean, I shot film for years but somehow it makes a lot more sense to me this time. Maybe it is because I’ve gotten older or more patient. Maybe I am just learning to appreciate the art of it.

Iksan, South Korea. Leica M3, Canon 50mm LTM F1.4, HP5 Pushed 2.

Perhaps I have just have more time. I do like the photos and I am learning to love the process. I never did like the process much, to be honest.

Iksan, South Korea. Huawei P9.

There are several problems I have noticed thus far. First, the way of processing digital photos has gotten so good that the “look” of film argument isn’t what it used to be. I am getting photos from my phone that I like almost as much and I would have thought that crazy in the past.

Seoul, South Korea. Leica M3, Canon 50mm LTM F1.4, HP5 Pushed 2.

I do still enjoy my M3 more than most other cameras. I like the feeling of shooting with it. It is a lot of fun and I find I enjoy the process of shooting more with it than with nearly anything else. It makes me want to take photos and I suppose that is important.

Iksan, South Korea. Leica M3, Canon 50mm LTM F1.4, HP5 Pushed 2.

I know that no matter what I say about the convenience of digital cameras and the look getting closer and all that in the future I will still appreciate the film photos more. I don’t know why that is the case. It is a hard thing to quantify.

Iksan, South Korea.Leica M3, Canon 50mm LTM F1.4, HP5 Pushed 2.

I think it isn’t something that is meant to be explained. I don’t really get it. If the above photo was digital I feel as though somewhere deep in my brain I would know that the photo doesn’t actually exist anywhere.

Iksan, South Korea. Leica M3, Canon 50mm LTM F1.4, HP5 Pushed 2.

In any event, it is an interesting argument. Digital vs film and all that. I don’t know if it matters much to me anymore. That being said, I have gotten so many questions in the past month about the differences between both and about which is “better..” Or which I think is better anyway.

Iksan, South Korea. Sony A7R, Canon LTM 50mm.

It is a hard question because like anything there are lots of pros and cons to both.

Iksan, South Korea. Leica M3, Canon 50mm LTM F1.4, HP5 Pushed 2.

The part about film I love the most is what I mentioned before. I love the tangibility. I know, I scanned all of these so technically they are digital too. I also have all the negatives in a binder.

Iksan, South Korea. Leica M3, Canon 50mm LTM F1.4, HP5 Pushed 2.

Some people say the biggest problem with film is anything related to low light. This is sort of true. I mean, I will never have ISO12800 film. I make do, though. I shoot all of my HP5 film at 1600. This has nothing to do with the look and everything to do with the shutter speeds, ha. If I need light, I use my cell phone torch like I did above. It always works well enough for my purpose.

Iksan, South Korea. Sony A7R, 50mm Canon LTM.

The last email I received regarding this matter was the most poignant. The writer said he hasn’t really ever seen a real world comparison between a modern digital camera and a film camera in which the person did everything themselves. He went on to say that he hasn’t seen a comparison with a full frame camera with the same lens as the film camera and someone who is deliberately “trying” to make both look like film.

Iksan, South Korea. Leica M3, Canon 50mm LTM F1.4, HP5 Pushed 2.

I don’t know about all that. I’m sure I have seen similar tests. I have never really explored the topic myself though.

Seoul, South Korea. Leica M3, Canon 50mm LTM F1.4, HP5 Pushed 2.

So, I spent some time thinking about a good way to do it. I think it could be (to borrow from the old Top Gear) actual useful consumer advice.

First, I had to decide on which digital camera to use. This is a complicated question as the easy answer would probably be to use a Leica since my film camera is a Leica.

Iksan, South Korea. Leica M3, Canon 50mm LTM F1.4, HP5 Pushed 2.

The first problem with using a digital Leica is the price. The cheapest full frame digital Leica is the M9 which is still $3000 or more here in Korea. The M8 (which I loved a long time ago) would make my 50mm lens a 75mm lens so I didn’t want that. They are still almost $2000 as well compared to my M3 which is less than a grand.

Iksan, South Korea. Leica M3, Canon 50mm LTM F1.4, HP5 Pushed 2.

The second problem with the Leica is that for a real comparison they aren’t exactly “modern”.. I mean, I wanted something that afforded some modern conveniences. So, being that the Sony cameras are the only full frame mirrorless options I decided on the Sony A7R for my test.

Iksan, South Korea. Leica M3, Canon 50mm LTM F1.4, HP5 Pushed 2.

The Sony used was around the same price as a used M3 so that was fair enough. It does, however, offer some of the modern things I was talking about above. It charges with USB which was one of the first things I wanted. It has WiFi, which was the second thing. It has a ton of resolution and can do decent enough video. I think it ticks all the boxes.

Film VS Digital

Yes, the stickers. Don’t let a girl with a label maker at your cameras.

Life lesson.

Anyway, let the games begin. And for the record I processed the Sony photos intentionally to look like the film scans.

Finally, the YouTube channel I have been talking about is just about ready to go with this post being the first “topic” of conversation. So far, I have been quite surprised by what I’ve experienced. It isn’t really what I thought it would be. Stayed tuned, as this post will be continued in the weeks and months to come.


As a side, my photography group @wearethestreet on Instagram has just launched a new blog! Check us out at




  1. Processed the way you do (which I like a lot), there’s not a lot of difference between digital and film… even the Huawei pic looks quite similar…apart from the apparent grain perhaps.

    It’s not so much the fact to use film or digital, it’s what you do with the results and your style. But for me, just as you say, film is tangible, film is real. It restricts you, it forces you to accept it’s limits and that’s the point of film. You have to work inside it’s limits, be it ISO, number of frames, cost….

    What made me go away from digital cameras was the paralysis of choice as I wrote here

    1. I very much agree and it is certainly part of what I’m finding. With film, I get annoyed with the ‘refueling’ if you know what I mean. Feels like I always need something or am always in search of something I have to buy. That is the only part of it that drives me mad, ha.

      1. Film gear is too cheap, at least the Canon FD stuff I often use and the manual compact cameras I like. So you always want to buy, hoard…. but again that gives you choice and choice is BAD!

        I try to limit myself now. I have a Leica IIIa (currently being CLA’d), a Canon AE-1 and A-1 and an Olympus XA2 and Trip 35… that’s all and will stay all.

        I might just replace the Canons with an M2 or M3 one day….

    2. I love the M3. It is so much nicer than either the M6 or M5 I used in the past. Just feels so much smoother. It is a dog though, and has been through a lot. The problem for me isn’t the gear is the refueling in terms of film and chemicals. That is what makes me crazy, ha.

      1. Yes, film IS expensive…. but Rodinal is not and as I do mostly stand development I use 3ml per roll… a bottle lasts a long time. Call it the price of freedom from digital! I can live with it.

        Sometimes I regret the space all this takes up at home. A big box of stuff for developing b&w or color, a scanner, and soon the enlarger that sits in the cellar for the moment with it’s stuff… Compare that to an SD card or two… hmmm

        But I will stay strong! I love film!

      2. True, I’m sure. Unfortunately here in Korea D76 is about the cheapest one can find and it is only sold in powder. Quite the pain and some I push my film I can’t really do 1:1. The results aren’t very good ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

  2. I can see a different look to most of your images lately, less contrasty I guess, less blacks. Maybe this is to do with you moving to film or maybe it is simply intentional, certainly noticeable tho.

    1. Yeah, honestly I am sick of the high contrast black and white fake Daido Moriyama look. It is being done by too many people and done to cover up shite images. For me, I think my brain thought my old film photos were more contrasty but when I actually compare them to digital I realized I was over processing the digital images for sure. Anyway, the photos here are supposed to sort of mimic the film ones from the post so that is probably why they all kinda match. I am happy with this look though, to be honest.

  3. Hi Josh. Interesting post.

    At the end of the day, I believe the attraction of film remains the same: the feeling it is a scarce, therefore more precious, good; the physicality of it, same as with paper vs kindle books. Physical has a sense of presence, permanence and value that digital never will have.
    And I would not dismiss that as unimportant self-deception. Illusion is reality. It alters the way your brain thinks about the images you are taking, or the pleasure you enjoy in taking (making) them.

    Still, output-wise, all we can see of your (and 99.999% of other people’s) work is scans on a screen. So even your film output really goes through a digital process as far as we are concerned. Which makes the distinction of medium far less important than the output itself.
    You know how to process digital with the same aesthetic imprint of your analog work, enough to make the two virtually indistinguishable. Your visual signature is strong enough that it is not significantly influenced by the tool you are using at a given time.
    So at the end of the day, what you use is your choice, but what we see is you, no matter what.

    As for abandoning the Daidoesque contrasts, I agree with you. I like your recent choice of slightly warmer tones, by the way.

  4. Film? Digital? It doesn’t matter unless you want it to. I shot film for many years before going all digital. There is no argument. Physicality? Once you print your images it’s there. Preciousness? Children are precious. If you think photography is, you shouldn’t be a photographer or an artist.

    Leave the argument on how it is done for those who believe in self deception. Find your place, make your stand. Say what you got to say in your life, in your images if that is what you do. That is all that matters.

  5. Hi Josh, always enjoy your blog and instagram posts. Just a quick question: do you use ND filters shooting during daylight? Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s