Monday, October 3, 2011

The case for film in the 21st Century, Part I: Why?

[We are lucky to have George Goodroe as today's Guest Blogger. This is the first installment in a series of articles on the reasons for and use of Large-Format View Cameras.]

My return to using film photography started the day I happened into Clyde Butcher's gallery in the Everglades. When you walk into his gallery you are greeted by a large format photograph that is approximately 5 feet tall by 9 feet wide. The image is so clear that you get the feeling you could literally walk into it. There is no discernable grain in the picture. I knew then and there that I had found something different.

When I returned home from the trip I set about researching large format (LF) photography and quickly discovered that if you compared a modern digital camera with a 4x5 sheet of film, a startling fact stood out: A typical modern semi-pro digital SLR camera has a 12-15 megapixel sensor. A scanned file from a 4x5 sheet of film can generate a file that equals a 220 megapixel sensor. I have several large format pictures on display at Davidson Fine Arts at 1100 ist Ave North in St. Petersburg. Please feel free to stop in and have a look.

But image clarity is only part of the picture. LF cameras allow control over focus, depth of field, and the creative process much more than modern digital cameras. LF cameras allow the front and rear of the camera to have swings, tilts and shifts (up and down). These controls give the photographer a lot more creative control over their images. My group - Suncoast Medium and Large Format Photography meets every month to discuss this and many other concepts.

The biggest hurdle to doing LF photography is finding resources to help you. Most people starting out won't be able to use a darkroom. I personally use Zebra Color in St. Pete to do my film developing and printing. 4x5 film is generally only available online, and there are several online stores where it can be purchased. The easiest part of the equation is the actual camera. LF cameras come in many flavors and are available online through sites like and through professional sites like One of the first things that I do with new members is to talk about resources, and where to start.

In Part II of this series, I'll begin to discuss the "How" of LF Photography. We'll begin with basic equipment needs.

George Goodroe

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