I’ve been starting to experiment with shooting film recently (with not the best first results). But even before I took that step, I had tried to set my camera (a Fuji X100T) to shoot more like a film camera. This wasn’t onot to have a more “film like” experience, but there were some other benefits (such as extended battery life). So here is how I set up my Fuji x100t like a film camera.
There are several different ways you can have your viewfinder and LCD screen set up. These including
- eye sensor (where the LCD turns on when you aren’t looking through the viewfinder)
- LCD only (where only the LCD turns on)
- Viewfinder sensor (The LCD doesn’t come on but the viewfinder is only on when you look through it)
- Viewfinder always on (the viewfinder is always on, the LCD is never on)
I set one of the last two [usually always on to stop the lag that occurs].This discourages me from checking photos after I shoot and encourages me to shoot just through the viewfinder. It’s also relevant because….
I use the optical viewfinder most of the time. This save more battery power (as the LCD and viewfinder take the most power) and adds a bit of the mystery of shooting film. You can look at the exposure guidelines but that doesn’t mean everything will be in exposde properly. It also doesn’t show what will be in focus as it is a rangefinder style display.
I’ll be honest and say that I switch viewfinders occasionally to see the exposure of a scene and use that tiny mini viewfinder occasionally. Howe er, for the most part I enjoy using the optical one exclusively.
This is a contentious point as people have different opinions over what mimic film most. To some people, RAW is more like film as a negative file could be edited a lot in a darkroom (Jared Polin makes this point). To others JPEG is more like film as once you’ve shot the image, you’re done. In my opinion, the latter is more like the average person’s experience of film. You shoot and have to get it right in camera, then wait for the company to send them back (not developing a negative yourself and then working it in a darkroom).
The Fuji x100t has some nice film simulations built in, especially classic chrome, However there are tools which provide nice simulations to use as well like VSCO, Blacks (for black and white simulations), RNI for both mobile and desktop. [Who am I kidding. It’s mobile for me. Though, I find that using VSCO on the desktop works a lot better with the Fuji x100t than on mobile. I assume it’s because on the desktop it takes away the edits from the Fuji film simulation before adding their own effects. On mobile it’s just pasting on top. I’m sure I’ll write something on this soon.]
Smaller SD cards
One of the cool aspects of film (but also frustrating) is the concept of a “roll” of shots. 36 image is a bit of an odd number but it’s great to have the idea “I should finish this roll so I can get those images developed” or “I’ll take x number of rolls today so I can go to town!” Or even the opposite of “I’ve only got 1 roll so I better make each shot count.”
The best way I can think to mimic this is to shoot with small SD cards (I stole this idea from Benjamin Kanarese) so that you still have a limit which you can perceive. 4GB should be “about 100 shots” according to benjamin. While it’s no “I’ll shoot a roll of film today” it can still help motivate you to “finish the card”. You can also have a “no peeking” rule so that you can only look at images once you finish the card. That can help add that distancing between shooting and looking at images.
Is it all pointless?
I don’t know really. There certainly are benefits to having an approach which encourages you to focus more on the moment, to work the scene instead of chimping and shoot with your gut. Using small SD cards can also help avoid SD card failure (I’ve been wondering about using SD cards only once, then archiving them. They don’t take up that much space and you’ve got a long term extra backup of your images then.) But the benefits of a feedback loop and a digital viewfinder really can help (especially with beginners). Overall I have my camera set up this way so that I do shoot like film, but I break these constraints a lot using the electronic viewfinder and even the…LCD!!!
Ultimately it’s about taking photos, and constraints can help and boost creativity, but I’m not a dogmatist.