Fading Film

Posted 2009.08.14 7.38 in Computers/Internet/Technology, Hobbies, Photography by Stephanie

I’ve been having a lot of fun lately with my new digital SLR camera. So much in fact, that I decided to get out my old 35mm SLR and take some more shots with it, just to compare. Even after about 7 or 8 years in storage, the camera still works fine. It’s a (roughly) 20 or 25 year old Minolta X370 — almost completely manual. The only thing it can do automatically is if you focus and set the aperture, you can have the camera work out its own shutter speed. Other than that, it’s manual all the way.

Anyhow, I tested it out and the metering and shutter etc. all seemed to work. All I needed was to get some film, so I headed on over to Costco – they always had the best deals, like 5 or 10 rolls for some low low price. Their photo processing’s the best deal as well, actually it’s about the only thing I bought there for a while. So I went in, and started looking around…Minolta X370

The processing area was still there, and still had great rates. But I couldn’t find the film. There used to be skid-loads of it, but now I couldn’t find it at all. So I went and asked where I could find it.

They don’t sell film any more.

Woah. And that got me thinking. There used to be a Blacks store at the mall but it’s been gone a while. Actually there were three photography stores in the mall. Now, there’s only one. I *think*. Maybe it’s gone too. Of course, there’s Henry’s – it’s just around the corner from me, that’s where I got the DSLR. They sell film, but not much of it – and I’m pretty sure their film is catering more towards the pro market. I don’t want one $10.00 roll of film, I wanted ten $2.00 rolls.

And all this got me thinking. Is film going, going, gone? The whole film/print/camera industry is only what, a hundred years old? The once-ubiquitous 35mm camera, is it going to be a thing of the past? I know my mum still uses a 35mm point-and-shoot. If I wanted to buy her a new one, I’d be out of luck. I can’t find any. There’s lots of used 35mm gear to be had, even a ‘pro’ 35mm SLR body can be picked up used for $20. I get the impression that in another year or two, film will either be totally gone, or relegated to a small niche market, not unlike the vinyl record has all but vanished in the face of tape and then compact disks.

Digital certainly has its advantages – immediacy, for one thing. I can snap a photo of my cats, snails, whatever, and have the photo published on my blob a minute later. But there are times when prints are nice, even preferable. I know my mum hates looking at pictures on the computer. She wants to sit down and flip through her 4×6 prints, fresh back from the processor.  And – this may sound naive or ignorant – I don’t actually know how to get that result, with a digital camera.

I mean, I take my SD card out of the camera, plug it into the computer and now I have the pics on my hard drive. Could I instead, take the SD card to the photo developer and have them crank out prints for me? Maybe they can – I don’t even know. I know that my camera’s 12 megapixels is supposed to be suitable for prints up to 11×16, but I sure don’t want to invest in a large-format photo printer just to get the odd 11×16 out. Or is that what people do? Are people their own photomat now? So far, all I’ve done with my photos is look at them on the computer – and to do that, 12 megapixels is at least 8 megapixels too many. Once you get past a certain image size, it doesn’t matter any more how big the file is, it’s not going to look any better on the screen. Still – storage space is cheap, so why not save all the pics as 16MB RAW images?

Going back to my mum – if her camera breaks or gets lost, about the only thing we can do is either find her a used 35mm or get her a digital. And a used 35mm is only useful if she can find film, and get it processed. I don’t think she would want digital though, unless she could get the same result – that envelope of 4×6 prints.

I’ll have to start looking around and find out what the digital camera ‘revolution’ means, for prints and that sort of thing. Enlargements? If I get that ‘perfect’ shot and want to print a poster-sized image (or at least, 11×16…) then how the heck do I do that?

I guess there’s still a lot to learn, things I haven’t even thought about yet.

Minolta X370 Back


  1. Kim Link says:

    Your comment…

  2. Kim Link says:

    Oh, sure, just take your camera memory card to the drug store and there should be a kiosk where you can stick it in and order regular prints. Fact is, minilabs have been digital for years. Even if you bring in film for prints, your film is SCANNED and then printed. So, you might as well just bring in digital files! The big drawback to digital is that the exposure latitude for digital is a lot less than negative film, plus the aspect ratio isn’t exactly 4×6, so you will have some cropping. Some custom labs print 4×5.33 though. Also there is online prints thru Snapfish. Film might persist for larger formats, like 4×5, but for 35mm digital is the way to go.

  3. Stephanie says:

    Sweet, thanks for the info!!

    I need to open my eyes and pay more attention to all of these things instead of playing catch-up every 10 years.


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