Sunday, February 9, 2014

VSCO Film - Emulate Film or Just Use It?

Discussing the "Elephant in the Room," Smithsonian Natural History Museum
by Reed A. George
Super Ricohflex TLR, Kodak TMax 400 Film
I am interested in this concept of emulating the look of film in the digital world. Purists will dismiss it immediately. Others will wonder why you'd want to emulate an old (inferior?) technology. I won't take either stance.
I have the full set of NIK software tools (now owned by Google), which allows me to emulate different film looks. I have only really used it to get a Kodak Tri-X look, which I must admit is pretty darned good. But, I find that I rarely use it, even for that.
Now there's VSCO Film, another package that seems to go further in emulating specific film emulsions of the past and present.
(Click Here) to read a very nice review of the software with lots of examples on the Aperture Priority blog.
So, what exactly are my thoughts on this? First, it needs more investigation. I suppose it's possible that sometime during my lifetime film will no longer be available, or will be prohibitively expensive. I hope that doesn't happen, but if it does, this type of software may be more interesting to me.
One thing that the blog post above mentions is that while the look is in some cases very representative of the target films, it isn't really film. You don't get that same anticipation of waiting to see what you get back from the processor. For me, that is a factor. I love opening up my envelope and seeing the negatives, then magically turning them into real pictures on my scanner.
But, there's another thing. It's the cameras. My film cameras are simply more enjoyable to use than their digital counterparts. That gap is starting to close, though. My Leica M9 could suffice if film were to go away altogether. The new Nikon Df seems like it has similar potential for me. I have yet to see a Micro 4/3 camera that even approaches the feel of a great film camera. My latest, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 isn't even close in this category.
But, I'm not dismissing the concept of shooting digital and emulating film. I'm quite happy to continue to shoot film, but can certainly understand how not everyone feels this way. First off, it's becoming expensive. Next, film and processing are getting harder to find. I'm very pleased with using The Darkroom ( for my processing, so it's not an issue for now. But, I'm not prescribing shooting film for anyone else.
For now, I'm happy to use film, rather than emulating it.