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Paris – falling in love again, with film

I’ve been uphappy for a while with digital. Slow, clunky cameras with glacial shutter lag and battery dependency, or an SLR format with bulk and battery dependency. The closest I’ve gotten of late to that portable, inconspicuous ‘city snapper’ feel is the estimable (but slow) Canon G9.

While pondering over an upgrade to the Canon G10 (for its 28mm wider-angle lens and more rangefinder-like control layout on the top plate) I realised that what I actually wanted was that very rangefinder body.

Despite dropping many hints for the last two years no-one has opted to buy me a Leica M8 as a bribe/inducement and since I’d never manage to justify one of these rather than, ahem, feeding my children my mind’s been turning to smaller rangefinders.

Enter, therefore, a chat with Andy at in Pied Bull Yard who offered to swap my Hasselblad Xpan (panoramic/dual format 35mm rangefinder) for a pretty Leica/Minolta CLE, complete with 70s Man of Mystery burgundy leather ‘outfit’ briefcase. The deal was done in seconds and so I headed off to Paris with the CLE, some knackered batteries and the cracking, punchy 40mm f2 Rokkor.

I’d luckily got a pocketful of two of my favourite films – the Fujicolor Professional 800Z (even, attractive grain and high speed) and the Fuji Neopan 1600 (the wildest B&W film currently available – extreme speed with the sort of grain that you had on HP5 a few years ago).

I was in ‘Cartier Bresson’ mode: wanting to walk the streets, using available light and a cool-temperature, punchy film to lift the flat, rainy light without going all warm and ‘kodacolour’ on me.

The determinant to shoot film was discovering anew the folk at Panther Professional who’ll develop and scan a 35mm C41 film for (drum-roll) £8. Awesome. No pesky prints, just the negs (archive and print purposes) and a CD of scans at about 1840×1232 pixels (coming in at about 1~1.5Mb each). Ideal for the web.

Panther also supply a neat CD insert with a ‘digital contact sheet’ (just like the old APS films).

This means that I can enjoy photography and playing with films, the discipline of not blatting off a gabillion images, a vast reduction in time spent in front of the computer and a more inconspicuous street shooting time. In all, I’m in heaven.

Oh, and the images are just de-lovely: look at that grain! The contrast! The colour temperature and balance! The tonality! Sigh.

Of course, I’m still ready to accept the bribe/inducement of an M8 at any time, but I’m looking forward to some more film shooting in the coming months – especially since I picked up a rather wonderful 3rd generation Leica Summicron-M 28mm f2.8… That’s now living on the front of the CLE and I’ll update with how it performs on the 800Z stock in the coming weeks (I think it’ll accompany me to Manchester in a week or so and hopefully we’ll have a bit of an urban/industrial wander).

Here’re some higlights from the photoset Paris 2009:

Kitchen at Yves Camdebordes Comptoir
Kitchen at Yves Camdeborde’s Comptoir
Pigeons feeding on the Champes-Elysees
Pigeons feeding on the Champes-Elysees
Entering St Suplice Metro at night.
Entering St Sulpice Metro at night.
View from Daves flat in the garment district
View from Dave's flat in the garment district