Really? You Still Shoot Slides?
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In This Article:
Slide Film Is Not Kodachrome
Film's Not Dead
There's Nothin' Like a Box of Slides
It's All About The Colors
Current Slide Films
Should've Used Slide Film
Film Cameras Are Fresh Again
This article was first posted in 2011 (or was it 2010?), back when it seemed that film photography would become nearly impossible. At that time, the media were piling on to that whole "film is dead" bandwagon. There were starting to be people who thought you could not buy film anymore, even when you still could (and still can). So, I thought it was time for some articles about the good qualities of film, and why it's worth keeping as an artistic medium. Since then, film has taken off into a full-scale resurgence that has even exceeded my expectations. Demand for film cameras has increased remarkably since then, as a whole new generation gets into film.
Someone asked me this year whether the ideas in these articles are still current, in light of newer digital camera technology. Yes, pretty much everything here still holds true, except the idea that 600-pixel scans were wide enough for the typical computer monitor....
Slide Film Is Not Kodachrome
Kodachrome used an older and more
complex process known as K-14. It was made obsolete by the newer
and simpler E-6 process.
There were photographers who had already stopped using Kodachrome by
the early 1980's as Ektachrome became popular. I want
Kodachrome back, too, but instead of jumping on the "I quit, time to go
digital" bandwagon, I'm out there shooting other types of slide
film. And I'm loving every minute of it.
In fact, I had already "gone digital" for a long time. Then I realized something was missing.
By the way, even though Dwayne's Photo stopped processing Kodachrome, they still process E-6, as do many pro labs today.
Film's Not Dead
Film photography is alive and well today, and slides still represent the best of film. I don't know what it is, but the pictures just look
As I've probably said earlier, don't get sidetracked on image sharpness. Many of the scans you'll see on
here were made using consumer-grade scanners, which cannot pick up the detail inherent in a slide. Most of my earlier
scans were done with a V500 (Update: this method is much better). So for now, just look at the colors and tones.
In case you're wondering, though: slide film has the resolution. 35mm slide film is at least 20MP
equivalent, and probably more like 25 with good lenses. It has
all the detail most of us would ever really need.
Fuji Velvia 100
Digital has come a long way, sure. It seems photography has forked into
two main categories. On the one hand is the smooth, mellow richness of analog. On the
other is the hyper-sharp, technical look of digital. (The thing
is, though, with sharp lenses, slide film can do that, too.)
While the best of digital is enough to make anyone do a double-take,
the flat harshness and coldness are just beneath the surface.
Even the best digital HDR and long-exposure shots have a certain
electronic coldness about them, in my opinion. Don't take
that the wrong way; I enjoy many digital photos. But there is a difference. Lighting
control and "post" can mitigate this somewhat, but I find it easier to
use the more "organic" medium of film.
Slide film represents not only the best of film photography, but
also the best of what can be accomplished with a camera. It
doesn't require fancy algorithms or CPU-intensive processing. It
doesn't have that flatness or that hard-edged coldness. It
imparts a bit of its rich character to the photographs. Slide
film is simply awesome.
drab, dark storm clouds look better on slide film, as I found out on a
stormy evening in late April, 2011. The following picture is from
a storm that gave some pretty severe hail and a tornado that didn't
touch down. The cloud had a bluish-green tinge to it. I
no idea why, but odd colors in a storm cloud seem to go hand-in-hand
with severe weather.
The low light required a 30th of a second. I don't know how I
managed to hold it still enough to get the photo-- with a zoom lens, no less-- but there it is.
Fuji Velvia 100
f/3.5 @ 30th
Yes, there are people still using slide film in 2018.
There are way more now than there were in 2011 when I first published this article.
There are slide films which "everyone" was calling "discontinued", and yet you can buy them now.
Yep, people are catching on to film again, and it's a great thing.
Slide pictures look best when they're sharply focused (unless you're going for impressionism), but I don't
think that's what sets the medium apart. There's something else. It's the colors and the tones, I think. All I know is that it looks great.
There's Nothin' Like a Box Of Slides
are also nice because of their longevity. I can pick up slides from thirty years ago, and
they look as good as the day they were taken. If you leave a typical CD-ROM for thirty
years with a JPG image on it, there's a good chance
it will be unreadable. Many DVD drives (especially laptop ones)
have a hard enough time reading discs made on someone else's
drive; now imagine you've got scratches in the disc.
And solid-state memory cards? These are known to eat pictures. JPG
images don't degrade gently... they become useless, spontaneously. Instead of scratches, fading, and
dust, you get a blank gray screen or "file unreadable". Corrupted
digital data takes down the whole show; corrupted analog data
just has noise or scratches. And besides, you need hi-tech
equipment just to read that CD-ROM or SD card.
With a slide, you just hold it up to the light and right away you know what
Here's one I did with a toy camera, the Diana Mini. It has a rather soft focus because of the plastic lens:
Even through a toy camera with a plastic lens, slide film still has that
look. I don't quite know what it is. I can tire of
looking at digital pictures pretty quickly, but not slides.
It's All About The Colors
pictures are generally more saturated when underexposed. This
happens easily with toy cameras, because most of them have only two or
three aperture settings.
If you want to get the most saturation possible, use Elite Chrome EBX
100 or Fuji Velvia. Update 2018: Although the original Kodak corporation failed to recognize the pure awesome of slide film, the new Kodak is working right now to bring back Ektachrome. Fuji is still making
Velvia 100 (available here) and Provia 100F (here). Last I checked, Rollei / Maco is also producing a slide film or two, and Film Ferrania is working to rebuild a full-scale slide film plant in Italy.
Velvia 50 has the best saturation of all, but I use Velvia
100 where I need the extra stop. The Holga and the Diana Mini don't have the wider apertures. Come to think of it, you coulduse Velvia 50 in either of these cameras if you're in full
sunlight. On a sunny day with 100 film, the perfect
exposure is between f/11 and f/16 at 1/125th of a second. With
ISO 50 film, it would instead be between f/8 and f/11. On a toy
camera you can't use in-between settings, so pick one. Want the
deeper saturation? Use f/11.
(If you're still getting slight overexposure, try holding a 1-stop ND filter over the lens.)
That's the thing, though... make sure it's bright sunlight. In very late
afternoon, low-ISO films can start requiring f-stops you won't find on a toy camera.
Underexposure can deepen colors with slide film.
By the way, you should take pictures of landmarks in your town.
A couple months after I took this photo, the sign was gone. And I'm glad I got this one on transparency film (slide).
How high to put the dark ground in a photo like this is a matter of some opinion.
Should you use the rule of thirds, or just keep it a narrow band along the bottom?
I lean toward the latter option, usually.
This next one is from a photo walk around town. I was just looking for
something to use up the roll so I could get in out of the
I didn't increase the saturation at all (nor did I with any of these
slide scans, far as I can remember). Once again, this
is the kind of underexposure you can get from a Holga when the sun
One thing about image quality is that I've found it's much better to have a
high-saturation original and go downward than it is to have a
low-saturation original and try to go upward. Increasing
saturation too much with software causes image artifacts and
(Keep in mind I shot this at -1/3 stop):
Art photography, landscapes, and nature are all great
with slides. I even find that portraits
and family pictures look
best with slide film.
If you have a TTL flash setup, even indoor
photography looks great on slides. Yes, you lose some shadow
detail, and highlights can get blown out more easily than with print
film, but you also get "that look" that only slide film can give.
Besides, blown-out highlights on slide film don't have that
computerized look (unless you scan carelessly).
Actually, slide film has a lot more dynamic range than we give it
credit. It looks much better projected than it does when
scanned or captured with a DSLR. I've found that slide film may
actually have more shadow detail than digital.
Current Slide Films
I've moved the discontinued films (including the original versions of Ektachrome and Elite Chrome) to their own page.
In late 2018, Kodak reintroduced Ektachrome E100 to the market. See The Return of Ektachrome. This is very welcome news for film photographers!
Right now, Fujifilm is also still making Velvia and Provia transparency films.
Fujichrome Velvia, as we've seen, is the most colorful film. Velvia is
unbeatable for hyper-saturated sunsets, fall foliage, desertscapes, or just about anywhere you want to bring out the colors.
Velvia reddens skin tones, but you can always correct these after you scan. (Whatever you do,
don't do the -1/3 stop trick with Velvia if you're taking pictures of
people. They'll look like the rocks of the Grand Canyon at sunset).
It's hard to overstate how much I like Fujichrome Velvia. Both the 50 and the 100 are superb films.
Provia 100F is great for all-around shooting where you don't want or need
intensified red-purple-orange hues. It's still a very colorful film. I really like Provia.
You can push Provia 100F to ISO 400, so you'll be able to do some
low-light people-photography with slide film. Just use a fast
lens. Get yourself a 5-roll pro pack of Provia 100F.
There will always be a demand for slide film, as long as people know
about it. That's really the key. People don't buy what they don't
know about. This is where the old Kodak company dropped the ball, big
time, but Kodak Alaris picked it back up. I hope Fujifilm learned from this.
You may be able to get other brands of slide film, such as:
Agfa Precisa 100 is a great film for taking pictures of people; it
has a fairly neutral color balance. Try this link or this one.
There's also this film
from Lomography. It's actually re-branded Agfa RSX 200.
(Technically it's Aviphot Chrome 200). I hope to see this on the
market for years to come. This film has good shadow detail, good saturation, and moderate
grain. Right now I'm trying some at ISO 800 to see how it pushes. ISO 200 slide film is
that much closer to 400 and 800.
Film Ferrania has announced they're working on a new slide film. It is a huge project to rebuild the factory, so it's not something that would be completed immediately, but they have already done tremendous amounts of work on the project. And they have already started producing a black & white film as a step on the way to slide film production.
Should've Used Slide Film
I went through that whole phase of "switching to digital" a few years
ago, I looked back at many irreplaceable photos I took then. The
digital pictures are flat, cold, and harsh; worst of all, they're missing highlights.
I can never go back and re-take them. The best I can get by
post-processing them is digital pictures that look like they've been
I should have used slide film.
Many subjects that looked good on film-- such as the afternoon sun on a person's face-- turned into a
disaster with digital. The dynamic range just wasn't there,
leaving the side of someone's face completely devoid of tone detail.
When digital blows out highlights, that information is gone and it ain't comin' back. The technology
is getting better, but it's at the cost of more transistors, more
complexity, more chances to become useless in the middle of a photo
shoot. Another cost is in the data harvesting that goes
along with digital cameras. They now have cameras that analyze the
pictures you take and group them together by who's in the photo. That's
only the beginning. Once they have your data, you have no say in what happens to it anymore.
Why do I need a camera to tell me who's in my photographs? You can keep your face recognition; I'll arrange my photos myself, thank you very much.
The digital age has given us a throwaway mentality when it comes to
images. It's become somehow normal to expect bombardment of the
senses with rapidly-changing pictures. Everything is like, "so
five minutes ago", to quote a movie character. What these
companies need to be doing is slowing it down and getting back to
what's good (and lose the creepy data-mining, while they're at
it). Here, to me, is what's good: send away a roll of
pictures, and get back a storage box of nice, mounted slides. Or with 120, a big long strip of transparencies.
The best digital cameras take pictures with excellent sharpness and color,
but they don't quite have what slide film can offer. I am of the
firm opinion that there's room on the market for both types of
photography. I'm also of the opinion that many
photographers will gladly use and enjoy both.
This next photo, by the way, is part of a series I'm doing where I emphasize color and
impression rather than technical realism.
(actually, this was shot on heat-damaged Velvia. When I do a better scan of this, I'll put it
up in the art gallery.)
For those of us who remember a time when we didn't stand there
chimping through pictures on an LCD screen, there's no time like
the present to dust off that film camera, get some slide film, and
start taking pictures the way they ought to be.
Then, go on outside, pick some colorful subjects, and find out why slide films are called "chromes".
Film Cameras Are Fresh Again
In this high-tech age where it seems authenticity is getting scarce, there is something comforting about
still being able to take pictures with slide film. It's also the top choice for discerning clients and fine art
photography; and 35mm and 120 cameras have never been more affordable. There are many tens of millions of used film cameras out
there; there are also new ones being made, including a
whole host of "Lomo"
toy cameras. And don't forget the Vivitar V3800N.
There's also the Nikon FM10.
As a new generation discovers film photography, there will be a new market. Digital
photography won't anymore be a bandwagon sort of thing the way we've
experienced it. To that generation, the old classics will
be something new and fresh again.
There are many labs still out there doing E-6, and any of the
better camera shops still carry slide film. These days I purchase
mine through Amazon; you can buy Velvia 100 through this link. (Individual rolls here.)
These are mostly 5-roll pro packs:
(This site depends on the support of readers like you, when you use these
links to buy your stuff. To all who have helped, my sincerest
thanks... and I'll have more articles for you soon, hopefully.)
I don't care what "everybody" is saying, this is a great time to be a film photographer.
Long live film!
I hope you enjoyed this article.
Have a good one,
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
-1 John 5:11
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