I have my favorite films and I ask myself whether it is worth the time to learn about new films? My favorite B&W: Kodak T-MAX 400, Ilford SFX-200 and I when I want less contrast Ilford Delta 400; I also want to spend some more time with Ilford Delta 3200. My Favorite Color film for now is Kodak Portra 400; I am presently testing the new Kodak E100. So I have 3 main films (bold); one that I use under certain conditions (bold italic and posted image below); and two that I am experimenting with (plain text italic).
So I posted a Survey on Twitter and asked the followers of both of my Blogs to add their comments. The Twitter Survey ran for a week with the following Results:
Most of my blog followers are also on Twitter, so their votes are included above. I agree with the survey results: 48% of you say 3-4 films and 23% say 1-2 films. Total for less is more: 71%. So most of us agree that you cannot be an expert with dozens of films. My husband said that his answer was 5+ films. He really likes to find special films for special circumstance and does more experimentation than I do, which is a film multiplier. @donkittle on Twitter wrote to me supporting different films for different situations also. I typically shoot 3-4 different types of scenes/subjects. So following this approach may explain why I only need/use 3-4 film types. And I think that most photographers in that 71% are doing the same, typically shooting select films for their preferred subjects and no more.
I am open to experimentation on a limited basis, or using a certain film according to the conditions if I know that it will perform better (Delta 400) than my usual B&W (T-MAX 400). We should all consider new films from time to time. But film testing is time consuming, and I think that my days of trying new films are pretty much over once I’m done testing Kodak E100. If I like the new E-6 film, then it will largely replace Portra 400, since ISO 100 films are better for travel (i.e. they survive possible airport X-ray mishaps better; also some film travel tips here and more here). But since I already understand Portra 400, I can pull it off the shelf when I need it. And although I don’t like the color balance of Portra 160 for my landscapes in general, I can recommend it for Pinhole Cameras. So another case of a special film for a special case.
Now lets consider some Favorite Films of Famous Photographers. I’ve tried researching this on the WEB. Lot’s of discussion of gear (cameras, lenses, etc), but very little on Films used by the Famous. So isn’t Film part of your Gear? Isn’t that why we choose certain films for certain circumstances? Hey, if you become famous, please include preferred Film Types in your Gear…….. Here’s what I found after a few hours of searching for a some of my Favorites who considered the Film a part of their Gear:
- Richard Avedon: Tri-X
- Clyde Butcher: T-MAX 100
- Imogen Cunningham: Developers used but not Films
- Sally Mann: Collodion Process
- Galen Rowell: Fuji Velvia 100 (used Kodachrome through the 1980’s)
- John Sexton: T-MAX 400
- Kim Weston: FP4 (Current Choice; Past films used: Tri-X, T-MAX 400, HP5)
I realize that it may be harder to find this information for deceased Photographers. But if you are still alive, please let us know what type of film you most recently used (even if you have switched to digital).
A Final Thought from the Weston Interview linked above:
“…..If you use a film long enough, you get to know its characteristics. I don’t use a meter, I just know the light…..”