Commercial photographer David Beckerman recounts the experiences that led him away from film and then finally back to it:
It began on July 4th, 2004. I was by the East River photographing fireworks with my Elan 3, and nearby was a fellow with a big Canon digital SLR that he had just bought for $4500. Sure it was a lot of money he said, but it paid for itself with a couple of photography assignment[s].
I began to learn the ins and outs of getting black and white prints from the 8-bit RGB jpgs....Next, I had to get a RIP for my Epson 2200....Okay, I've added two things to the mix: the RIP ($450), and the Plug-in (don't remember the cost). So what, say I. Still light years ahead of where I was.
And then I began to think about backing up [my images]....I backed them up to DVD. I did some reading and discovered that some DVDs were considered archival....It bothered me that unlike a physical negatives - in digital world - your original negative was a file.
Shooting with the Powershot was fun in the beginning, but the lag time was substantial. You had to anticipate and press the shutter about a second before what you thought was going to happen happened or didn't happen. And wait a bit before the next shot....Still - I found it limiting [so] I picked up the Rebel I.
I discovered [the] benefits of shooting RAW and so I went the RAW route. And now files sizes were getting bigger. I was doing more processing on them with various versions of the original file and suddenly no disk space left [so] I bought a One Touch Maxtor 120 GB drive....You know how digital photography goes. Next came the 20D (8 MB files). More CF cards. As the files multiplied like rabbits - I realized the need for some good way of finding them. I [ended] up with iView Media Pro....Then I [bought] GrainSurgery (adds film grain to your files). So what are we up to: IMAGEPrint RIP, Power ReTouche Plug-In, CF cards, External Drive, iView Media Pro, GrainSurgery [and] a couple of cameras....
To make what Ansel might call an 'expressive' print, with the inkjet requires more, not less knowledge, than the darkroom print....In the olden days , I studied the Zone System, experimented with various film / developer combinations, and settled on my paper and Dektol dilution. Every once in a while there would be a hiccup for a few months while I experimented with another film. But compared to Photoshop - which is really your new digital darkroom - darkroom printing is fairly simple.
I was using the Canon 20D and I always had trouble with burnt-out highlights. I was always looking at the histogram to see if I had lost any data with a spike at the right side. So eventually you find yourself shooting 1/3 or 2/3rds of a stop under, just to be on the safe side - though what you really want is to approach the edge of the histogram cliff without falling over....once the highlights are gone - they are gone. [Y]ou could say the same thing in reverse with negative film: once you've lost the shadows [you've] you've lost them. Could just be a matter of taste: a nice black shadow - even without anything but the film grain - often adds something dramatic to a picture. A nice big blank highlight - I'm not sure. But something else: [apparently] the dynamic range of a RAW image is less than that of a film negative.
I know there are ways of double processing a RAW image, or shooting it twice on a tripod - etc. but I've found that my negatives scan in and generally don't need much work at all, while the digital shots often require complex operations.
After a year - and after buying a 2nd external drive - I was getting disatisfied with: 1) the look of the digital prints, 2) how much effort it took in PS compared to a negative scan, 3) backup issues, and 4) the viewfinder of the 20D. I would longingly pick up my old Hexar Classic and look at the bright viewfinder - and say, that's important for me.
And so - almost exactly a year later - I began to dump my digital camera equipment [and] after a few weeks of experimenting again with film was using Tri-x and Ilford DD-X - and happy with the results. I don't have the headaches I had with digital exposures; even if my disk backup fails, I still have the negatives; and of course the viewfinder in the M3 is great.
Oh, somewhere in this story - I also bought the Epson 4800 printer and have been very happy with this hybrid setup: film to inkjet printer....It's been a while now since I made the switchover and I'm still very happy with [film] and I have no desire for anything else....