“You’re crazy,” a senior manager at a major camera company told me today. We were talking at CP+, Japan’s biggest photo event, and I’d just shown him the camera gear that I was using for the day's coverage. It all used film — not a digital sensor in sight.
If this were my first day at CP+, and if I’d been expecting any breaking news, I’d have had to agree with him. But I got all that out of the way yesterday — I took a lot of digital pictures of the camera world's new digital products, but I was struck by the lack of film presence even at a Japanese show. Today, I wanted to see what it’d be like covering the event with the technology that it’s abandoned. My goal was to take enough images for a photo essay and publish them on The Verge the same day, in the spirit of timely photojournalism.
Once I’d finished my two rolls, I walked about 25 minutes to the nearest Camera no Kitamura, a ubiquitous photo store chain that I figured would be my best bet for speedy development. Roughly 90 minutes, 2,080 yen (about $17), and one drawn-out iced coffee later, I had a CD filled with scans of the photos I’d taken just a few hours earlier. It's always exciting when you get film photos back; you remember moments seen through the viewfinder and hope they turn out the way you'd imagined. The image at the top of this story is one I thought would work on at least some level as soon as I pressed the shutter, but I had to wait for hours to be sure — it's a world away from instant Instagram gratification.
So, how did they turn out? Well, you can judge for yourself below, but it’s safe to say the results were mixed. The F80 performed better than the Natura Classica, which isn’t too surprising given the faster lens and accurate viewfinder. The Natura Classica is actually designed for Natura 1600 film, a unique Fujifilm emulsion that works with the camera and gives amazing, ultra-clean results in low light. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any on hand today — things would’ve gone a lot better if I had. As it happened, the results from the Superia 800 film I used were too grainy at best and unusable at worst. But some of the F80 shots I took had great, smooth tones and a much more attractive grain.
I don’t know if I’d recommend shooting film for fast-paced work in 2015, but there’s something to it. It forces you to slow down and think about each shot, and the result is that you end up with a lot less digital detritus to wade through when it comes to post-processing. And speaking of post-processing, I didn’t do any on these shots beyond some simple crops on a few; not having to worry about white balance, ISO, and other settings is another weight off the photographer’s shoulders. The photos I took yesterday are technically better, sure. But I had to take a lot more to get there, and it wasn't as much fun. The 90-minute waits and 25-minute walks notwithstanding, shooting film feels purer and more efficient.
While I’ll no doubt save the $17 next time I go to a trade show with actual news to report, this was a fun experiment with one of the most enduring technologies ever created. Photography has been around for the best part of two centuries, but it’s easy to forget that digital imaging has only existed for a tiny sliver of that.
- A Casio representative demonstrates its point-and-shoot cameras that are designed to improve your golf swing.
- To find film cameras at CP+, you have to find accessory makers with a taste for the retro. This Leica M6 was put on display by Cotta to show off its leather straps.
- Sony erected a garden in the middle of its booth for models to walk around holding expensive cameras.
- Sigma's notorious 200-500mm f/2.8 "bazooka" lens. It retails for around $26,000.
- Sigma's DP Quattro line suspended in space.
- The Nikon booth had this soccer player do keepy-uppies so attendees could test the autofocus systems of the company's latest SLRs. My fifteen-year-old F80 held up pretty well.
- Nikon shows off photos taken with Nikon cameras.
- An attendee examines Zeiss' lens range.
- A presentation on Casio's weird Exilim EX-FR10, a camera that splits in two to act as a remote viewfinder.
- One use case? Stick it on your (actual) dog and track its point of view from afar.
- A shot of the Fujifilm logo shot on Fuji film.
- Photographer Knut Koivisto gives a presentation at Fujifilm's booth.
- Epson's Moverio smart glasses were unveiled at CES 2014. A spokesperson demonstrates the technology while wearing a pair herself.
- Attendees try out Moverio for themselves.
- A model on the runway for Hasselblad, a company whose cheapest proper camera costs about 350 times as much as the one I used to take this photo.
- This Casio 3D projector, which beams an image onto a molded plastic screen, looked a lot more nightmarish in real life.
- Canon knows that cute animals equal wild attendance.
- Everything that goes into Canon's PowerShot G7 X lens.
- Cameras on display at Canon's booth.
- A Canon representative gives a presentation on the show floor.
- The DanCam is a basic SLR camera that you assemble yourself out of cardboard. It uses special thermosensitive paper as "film."
- Evidently no-one told Kenko Tokina about #nofilter.
- Flash company Nissin shows off its lighting power in a live demo.
- Almost all of the companies competing at CP+ can at least agree on the basic components of a photograph. Lytro, on the other hand, was present to try to convince Japanese consumers that there's no reason why a camera shouldn't be able to refocus after the photo's been taken.
- A Lytro representative talks a show-goer through the Illum camera's unique features.
- Toshiba keeps trying to make "lifenology" happen.
- At CP+, you cannot escape the throngs of show-goers scrambling to take photos of women holding brochures for wireless printers.
- Panasonic's cameraphone, the Lumix CM1, had a big presence at this year's CP+. Panasonic apparently doesn't want Japanese customers to think of it as a smartphone, however — it says the CM1 will be released "as a camera" here soon.
- Panasonic is pushing its Lumix GH4 as the ultimate drone video camera. It's seen here mounted on a model from DJI.
- Sony and Olympus are neighbors on the show floor. The former bailed out the latter by buying a 10 percent stake in 2012.
- This photo did not turn out well at all, but I'm including it because I neglected to cover Sony's new full-frame FE lenses in my roundup yesterday.
- Come back, "make.believe," all is forgiven.
- Sony would like to demonstrate the wildlife photography capabilities of its cameras. CP+ is held in a cavernous event hall in the largest megalopolis in the world. Solution? Attach a toy eagle on a wire and spin it from the ceiling.
- I took this in my apartment this morning to make sure the film had wound properly on the Natura Classica. It's not from CP+, but I thought I'd include it anyway in case any Studio Ghibli fans are reading.