Archive for Sunday, September 19, 2010

Got film? The old photography stand-by makes a comeback

Film cameras can still be valuable tools for photographers, especially if you can get your negatives digitized and transferred to your computer. Some professional photo labs are offering enhanced scanning services for a variety of film formats.

Film cameras can still be valuable tools for photographers, especially if you can get your negatives digitized and transferred to your computer. Some professional photo labs are offering enhanced scanning services for a variety of film formats.

September 19, 2010


As you read this I’m somewhere on the Cowley County Fairgrounds in Winfield, enjoying some vacation and photographing at the Walnut Valley Music Festival. And I’m shooting with film, not digital.

Word around the Internet photography community is that film is making a comeback. Anybody remember film?

They still manufacture film and sales are up. I have three reasons for trying film right now. First, I have a great old Leica M3 rangefinder camera that I want to work with again. Secondly, I found a photo lab that does large scans of negatives. Lastly, I want to compare the results of scanned negatives to digital photo files.

The biggest problem with shooting film is that it requires a darkroom to make prints or a film scanner to digitize your negatives. Digital cameras skip that step, enabling you to get your image files directly to a computer. Once on your computer you have multiple outlets for your photos.

Photo labs at CVS, Walgreens, etc., can develop your film, provide prints and also scan images on a CD. But in doing some research I found that these scans are low resolution and sized only for producing additional 4-by-6-inch prints. If small prints or digitized images for your Facebook or Flickr site are all you require, this service is great. And at about $3 a roll it’s a good deal.

But to get the very best quality from negatives, outside of a darkroom, you need to buy a quality film scanner or find a lab that will do larger scans. Enter North Coast Photographic Services.

I discovered NCPS on a photographer’s website review. NCPS can provide 35mm “enhanced” scans of 3339-by-5035 pixels for $11.95/roll at the time of development. Development is $5.49/roll. No, it’s not cheap, but it provides you with 48mb files with potential print sizes of 17-by-11-inches at 300 dpi. A “budget” scan for half as much provides a file capable of an 8-by-10-inch print at 300dpi.

This is a great option for people who enjoy shooting with film or have good film cameras moth-balled in a closet. It takes a big investment to buy into a digital camera system and even then technology changes so fast that systems become outdated. My M3 Lecia was built prior to 1966 and is still one of best cameras ever made. To have the option of shooting film and getting the images digitized is like having the best of both worlds.

Next week I’ll write about the pros and cons of my film experience. Meanwhile ... Got film?


Later this month and in early October, Lawrence photographer Tim Forcade and I will be offering a class on creating your own photography or art book using on-demand printing services. This will be the first in a series of classes aimed at photographers looking to learn new skills and become better at their craft. Contact Tim ( or myself for more details and dates.


50YearResident 7 years, 7 months ago

I found a cheaper and easier way to get digital pictures from old film pictures. It may or may not be as good a reproduction as you get from a professional copier but it works for me and I can do as many as I like for no cost to me. How do I do it? I put the picture I want to copy on a clipboard, arrange the light to prevent glare and simply take a picture of a picture using my digital camera set up for close up (macro) photos. From there it a complete digital photo to do with as I want and can be edited, cropped or repaired in my computer photoshop program. It couldn't be easier and the results are amazing. Give it a try.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 years, 7 months ago

The diffeence between digital photos and film photos is very distinct.

Digital photos are made up of pixels. Little dots. Like your tv or monitor screen. If you enlarge the ditital photo, you will readily see them. There is a great difference in digital cameras, some have good and very fine resolution, and some do not. Naturally, the more quality cameras cost more.

Film gives an exact unfrqctured image. It might have focus problems if you have a cheaper film camera, but with a good camera with superior optics, you get an exact, unfractured image that can be greatly enlarged without distortion or "pixeling".

That is the difference. What matters is what quality you are willing to accept and what short cuts in photo reproduction you are willing to tolerate.

Tom McCune 7 years, 7 months ago

Film doesn't have pixels, but it does have grain. Enlarging 35mm negatives made that quite obvious. Larger negatives such as 4" x 5" could be enlarged much more. 35mm was originally considered a "miniature" film format, only for amateurs and hobbyists.

Now Kodachrome.... ahh, sweet Kodachrome. That was the only 35mm film almost free of grain. Tragically, there is no more Kodachrome left in the world, and we are all just a little poorer for that loss.

cozborn 7 years, 7 months ago

lots of kodachrome still available. though expired. the only place in the world that will develop it is in parsons!

Flap Doodle 7 years, 7 months ago

Back in the 70s, Kodak made a color print film called CPS that, IMHO, had the best color of any film made. Kodak discontinued it and came out with VPS, also pretty darned good. Of course it bit the dust ages ago. I've had good luck with Fuji 1600 color shooting available light stuff. Grain the size of baseballs!

Kontum1972 7 years, 7 months ago

what about Millers photo lab in Pittsburg, ks?

Kontum1972 7 years, 7 months ago

i own one digital pocket size and all the rest of my cameras are film....

George_Braziller 7 years, 7 months ago

I spent thousands of hours lugging around a film camera and lenses and hundreds of hours in the darkroom developing film and printing. I borrowed my sister's digital camera once and I was immediately converted. The film cameras went into the closet and I never looked back.

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