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Amsterdam On Film

6 minutes
February 17, 2016

Every year, I leave the country for my birthday. I’ve done this for five years in row now, and I have no intention of stopping this trend. This year, I spent 5 days in Amsterdam.

Every year, I take more camera gear than is sane and spend a fair amount of the trip taking photos. This year, I included a film camera in this. I haven’t counted, but there’s a strong possibility that I took more photos on film with a 50mm lens than I did with my 24-105mm lens on a DSLR (compare this to my week in Berlin last summer where I took ALL my photos with that lens on a DSLR).

I have used my 50mm f/1.8 lens far more in the last few weeks than I have in a long time. There are two reasons for this:

  1. I wanted to go “back to basics” and a 50mm lens kinda fits into this When shooting film, you are slightly more limited in exposure choices (since you aren’t using a digital camera you can just crank up to ISO 6400)
  2. These reasons are also pretty much chronological in order: I started shooting with the 50mm to keep things simple (and light!) and kept it on the camera for the extra speed.

Anyway, I shot quite a variety of different films on this trip:

Once it came back from being processed I then spent about a week scanning it in every spare moment I had.

The Films

Revolog Tesla I

I bought this roll of slightly obscure film because… eh, why not? And I’m very glad I did. I really like the effect it gives. What’s interesting is that I suspect the photos I took with it would be really quite boring if it weren’t for the lightning bolts. Most of them were a bit washed out and flat (not entirely surprising considering the fairly dreadfully dark and grey weather) but the lightning bolts distract you from that nicely, making some really interesting pictures. This film seems like a really good way to get interesting pictures on what would otherwise be really uninteresting days.

Lomography 800

I got this film as something of a last minute purchase before the trip when it became clear that my online order from Lomography wouldn’t arrive before I left. I went to the Lomography store in London and, since the weather forecast was looking ominous, I picked up this ISO 800 film. When I arrived, I loaded up a roll of it since it was getting dark.

The results really aren’t too bad. I quite like this film. Some of the images do look slightly green, but that’s probably more me not correcting properly when scanning them – and is easily fixed anyway. It wasn’t actually ideal for shooting in the day time though. It’s just too fast! And some of the shots still ended looking a little bit washed out. The problem was there was actually a lot of light, but it was a very grey, flat light. Overall, the pictures from this film ended up being fairly decent.

Cinestill 50D

I shot some CineStill 800T at night in London and loved the effect. I bought some CineStill 50D at the same time, and was really looking forward to shooting with it on this trip. Looking through the photos, the results were… a little disappointing. This film was tough to shoot on very overcast days (being ISO 50) and even tougher to scan – nearly every frame needed correcting individually to get the best out of it. In some cases, I think the problem was that the camera exposed for the incredibly bright but grey sky, leaving the scene underexposed (And film really doesn’t like being underexposed!). In other cases (like the shot of Amsterdam Station – the first frame I took, and one of the better ones – the sun was beginning to come out) I’m not sure. The colours look a little flatter than I was expecting. I suspect the light was maybe still a bit too grey for this film. I did also take a few photos in the hotel room with my speedlite on this film, They’re better (but still not quite what I was expecting) so I think more experimentation is needed.

Having said all of that, I just looked through some of my digital shots from that day, and they’re also quite flat. They’re cleaner (being digital photos) but they’re all quite lacking. I don’t think I can really blame the film for this one, at least not entirely.

Given my experience with the CineStill 800T, I really want to like this film, but I suspect I’m going to have to shoot in better weather to get the best out of it.

Kodak Ektar 100

What can I say? I expected good things from this film, since from what I’d read, it sounded perfect for the sort of look I like in photos. I was not disappointed. I love this film. I have since bought several more rolls of it, including some medium format. Initially I thought the second roll I shot didn’t turn out quite so good, but looking through the pictures again, considering how massively overcast the weather was, this film still performed nicely. Many people say this film tends to oversaturate colours a bit, but personally, I really like that effect. It even copes really well at night, which is impressive since being ISO 100, you end up with some really quite long exposures, which some films don’t deal well with.

Many people say this film should be treated more like a slide film since it isn’t quite so tolerant of over/under exposure. I can’t say I had any trouble with it though. I’ll be shooting a lot more with this film. It is actually quite a modern film, and Kodak have drawn on their experience and technology from their Vision line of motion picture films (The CineStill films I was talking about earlier are actually based on Vision3) and it shows – this is colour negative film with many of the properties of slide film. It’s also one of the cheaper films here (not inexpensive at £5-6 per roll, but still, not too bad compared to the £8-10 CineStill films)

What Did I Learn From This?

Probably the most interesting thing for me was how often I reached for my film camera instead of the digital one. I mean, the digital camera had a far more versatile lens on it than the film one. Part of this was probably that I wanted to see how the film reacted in various situations, but part of it was probably that the film camera was just more fun to shoot with!