Thoughts on Analog Photography

I still remember the times during my studies of media technology when I dreamed of someday owning a Leica camera. Although I was happy with the Nikon F2 SLR and Nikon 24mm f/2.8 setup I used during the photography classes I took at university, I kept longing for more. A close friend and I spent many nights debating used camera options available at local Leica dealers but always decided to stay away from it. To be completely honest, we dreamed mostly about rangefinder photography and the M System, but this felt out of reach (for reference: at this time the first digital M, the Leica M8 was about to be introduced). So we focussed on what we could realistically acquire on a student budget. At the time, it was a Leica R8 and we didn’t buy one.

Leica R8 - the quintessence of photography

This was about 15 years ago. One reason has been the price (at the time Leica still sold the Leica R9 as their current SLR model). Of course Leica has always been expensive and also remains pricy with age of the equipment. So we could have seen it as an investment all things considered. Another issue to stay away from the Leica R8 was the uprising of DSLR models from Nikon and Canon with half decent full size sensors at more competitive prices.

Leica never entered the DSLR market with the R series and subsequently discontinued its analog R9 SLR line on March 9, 2009. It’s digital medium format options with the S system remained unattractive, even as a used camera. To be fair, Leica introduced a digital module for the Leica R8 and R9 called DMR, making the R system the only hybrid analog digital SLR system that ever existed. However, it was and still is extremely expensive and provides a somewhat outdated resolution of 10 megapixels with a CCD sensor. Still, it was an absolutely amazing piece of technology. Check out this brochure, if you are interested.

To And From Digital Photography

I never owned a DSLR. Despite Nikon’s and Canon’s achievements, their newer cameras never spoke to me, mostly for reasons such as crop sensors or build size. The analog Nikon F2 is tiny compared to all DSLR models I have ever considered. For many years I chose mirror-less digital cameras with MFT (micro four thirds) lenses for their more compact size. All of them lacked an optical viewfinder. I never liked electronic viewfinders (EVF), although they are technically very decent these days. So I suffered through years of taking photos while looking at a screen rather than through a viewfinder. Still, I was quite happy with various Panasonic cameras and the lenses they developed in partnership with Leica. With iPhones getting better and better cameras however, more often than not I only used the phone’s camera. Long gone are the times where I would carry around heavy or bulky equipment. For some years now, I only used my iPhone for taking photos.

new year 2018 in Napoli
Happy New Year in Napoli – 2018

Nevertheless, the idea of Leica’s simplistic approach and upmost build quality made in Germany persisted in my mind over the years. Fascinated by romantic illusions about street photography, I always appreciated how Leica managed to keep their heritage alive. With some experiments in Leica’s digital realm (owning a Leica M8 for some time, selling it because of the crop sensor size), the appeal of Leica’s analog cameras has never seized to fascinate me. So out of coincidence, I opted for a used Leica R8 with two lenses that I found in a local classifieds ad. It was a split second decision during a one day stopover in Hamburg. The lenses are a Leitz Elmarit 35mm f/2.8 and a Leitz Vario-Elmar-R 70-210mm f/4.0 (rather a free add-on than a conscious choice for lens).

Ever since then I did nothing much with my Leica R8 kit. Several things changed since my last thorough reflection on choosing analog equipment in the digital age. So an orientational journey was in order, especially since I live in Napoli, Italy, and things are quite different here.

Why analog film?

At various times before, I considered going back to analog. It would provide a more conscious and more immersive photography experience, not speaking of the amazing and unique look of analog film. At least, that’s what I believe most of the time. It requires focus and deliberation as each shot costs money and it can only be reviewed at a later time. An analog camera also demands a more thorough understanding of photography principles such as composition and lighting (ISO, exposure and aperture). It makes the process of taking photos much slower. This is a good thing in my opinion. It helps with composition, anticipation and creating an specific look or feel. To some degree it is a highly reflective activity.

lighting a cigarette
Nikon F2 – Nikon 24mm f/2.8 – Ilford Delta 3200 professional 35mm film – 2007

The possibilities of digital image processing are nearly limitless these days. It also allocates an enormous amount of the creative process to postproduction. With ever growing libraries of snapshots taken, I would prefer less post production and a larger number of consciously composed photos. Also, as my photography professor at the university always pointed out, analog film as a technology only reached its perfection long after digital cameras became mainstream. In fact, from a technical perspective, film still remains to be very competitive (if not even superior in some areas), but lets not get into that discussion at this point.

35mm analog film in the digital age

As it turned out, the analog film market is somewhat thriving in 2018, which is certainly different from the last time I looked. I witnessed the rebirth of 8mm film and instant film photography with The Impossible Project (now Polaroid Originals). But apparently I missed recent developments for the 35mm analog film.

Companies such as Kodak, Rollei and Ferrania have in fact announced or introduced NEW film material in 2017. Also, there are more in the making with various kickstarter projects and independent movements to strengten the analog photography scene. I appreciate initiatives such as Camera Ventures efforts to get more people into the game with their Five Steps on Getting into Analog Cameras. Also many “modern” professionals are switching back to analog. So things don’t look as grim as they used to for analog photography. I almost feel confident it might actually survive long term. So my Leica R8 might prove to be a long term investment after all.

Most interesting film choices for me at this moment are Ilford Delta or Kodak Tri-X for black and white photos and Kodak Porta or Ektar for color. Of course I would like to try Kodak Ektachrome, which is ready for shipment as of Photokina in September 2018 after more than 6 six years since its extinction. Despite the first films that were shipped in Agust 2018 still being beta material, I am super excited and can’t wait to try it out for myself. In my opinion, Fuji has somewhat lost his edge, so their film material is no longer interesting to me. I would be interested in trying some Lomography material as well, but I remain sceptic at this time.

Practical issues

Many people state that analog photography comes at costs of around 50 Cents per shot. This sounds much more reasonable then a few years ago. Still, these days it might be more difficult to find a shop to actually develop the film. Ten years ago, many drugstores still offered these services with acceptable quality (at least in Germany). Nowadays, good service providers are rare at best, especially in South Italy.

You could always opt to develop the films yourself. It would provide much more creative leeway and could possibly lower costs even more. Still, it requires time and a dedicated room and is less convenient for lifestyles involving lots of travel. For a digital nomad, it is certainly not an option. Ideally, a service provider would offer development and digitisation of the film material with post and digital delivery. These requirements are not so easy to meet.

Service Providers in Germany

As I once did with 8mm service providers, I took a look at various offers in Germany, such as BestfotoserviceCyberlab.atFotofachlabor Roland WackerFotoimpexFoto LeutnerFoto Media PrintFoto Meyer, Foto WeckbrodtJan Kopp, Mein Film Lab, Nimm FilmPhoto Studio 13, Pixelnet and some others. I knew Jan Kopp in Hamburg from previous experience and can highly recommend the offered services. However, the services are not compatible in remote setup as it requires a personal on site presence in my opinion. Pixelnet is offering film development at 2,75 € per film with additional costs of 7,44 € for scans on a CD and 2,59 € for postal delivery within Germany. This sounds reasonable but still feels not very convenient.  The scan resolution is not specified and many people don’t use optical discs anymore.

The only convincing service provider I found, was Mein Film Lab. They offer development and scanning services at various resolutions. Prices range from 10,93 € for 2430 x 2550 pixels to 16,81 € for 4500 x 6600 pixels. The services are outlined perfectly, they are transparent and offer any additional service I might require AND they deliver scans as downloads. With 36 frames on a 35mm film, prices would range between 30 Cents and 46 Cents per shot plus the cost of the film. This sounds good to me.

I am sure there are other firms who do this as well and I am not claiming this is a complete list. In the many hours I spent researching this however, I could only find so many. More importantly for me personally, I am still struggling to find an easy solution for me while I am in Napoli, Italy. Although many digital services that are very common in Germany are still not available in South Italy, analog film has apparently already disappeared from drug stores or any other type of shop entirely. Only very few photo shops offer development of the film and it takes about a week. So far, I was unable to find a suitable one-stop-shop solution to develop and digitize films I shot with Leica R8.

Leica R8
Leica R8

Scanning 35mm film

This kind of leads me back to angles I explored years ago, develop films at a photo service shop and scan them myself. Unfortunately, the advancements over the pas few years in the negative scanner market are moderate at best. Although very cheap solutions are now available, they offer very poor quality and low res JPG scans only. In the pro market, nothing changed really with the outdated and discontinued Scanners of previous industry giants like Nikon or Minolta still ranking top among the usual suspects such as Pacific Image or Plustek. Check out B&H Photo’s conclusive buyers guide, it’s the most complete and considerate summary I could find. This still means that below an investment of at least 500€ for a half decent negative scanner, there is not much to expect. Since I already scanned the entire family library of 35mm film during university, I don’t really see the justification for such an investment. More importantly, these solutions are not really portable and thereby disqualified for a nomadic lifestyle.

Final Thoughts

I am determined to try analog photography once again. With the recently acquired Leica R8 I have a timeless setup that provides all I could desire from a SLR. Still, I am already sure that my long-term destination will remain rangefinder photography. Despite my shared and also eternal appreciation of the Leica M system, it just makes sense for me. Rangefinder cameras of all vendors are small, light, low key and allow me to see the scene rather than the shot I am about to take. As an aficionado of urban narratives, it seems to be the tool of choice for me. Maybe you should read this brilliant article about yesterdays Leica cameras to appreciate what I am talking about.

If you want to get started with manual street photography (digital or analog), consider this introduction with useful tips by Eric Kim. It touches the most important aspects in my opinion. If you can’t afford a new or used Leica and always dreamed of trying one, you can apply at and pitch your project to borrow a Leica M9 for a limited time. The site is operated by the infamous German photographer Paul Ripke, and I recommend checking it out. It might even lead to exposure of your work that you didn’t expect.

Kodak launches a new Super 8 8mm film camera

Kodak Super 8

Kodak Super 8

In January 2016 Kodak announced a new Super 8 8mm film camera at CES in Las Vegas. To say the least, this is a surprise and I am enthusiastic about it. They say there’s kind of an analog film renaissance and that’s why there is a market for it. As you may know, I spent quite some time over the past few years to revive a Leicina 8mm film camera.

“On the heels of celebrating 50 years of manufacturing Super 8 film, Kodak is launching an initiative aimed at putting Super 8 cameras into the hands of a new generation of filmmakers as well as meeting the needs of top directors, indie filmmakers and others who appreciate the art and craft of filmmaking.”

Source: “Kodak Launches Super 8 Filmmaking Revival Initiative at CES 2016”

The company is citing prominent filmmakers and Hollywood professionals as supporters of theirs efforts, such as Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino (who filmed his last movie “The Hateful Eight” in glorious 70mm), Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams, Robert Richardson, Patty Jenkins, Shannon McIntosh, Jem Cohen and many others.

Although there’s not much to show yet as the camera will be released in late 2016, some facts are quite interesting. It will be an all analog film camera with an electronic viewfinder and an additional mic input for digital audio recording. That’s quite an upgrade from recording audio on cassette tapes.

The product website shows off the specs, naming a fixed 6mm 1:1.2 Ricoh c-mount lens and an optional 8-38 mm lens. The camera presented at CES 2016 looks far more edgy than the animations on the website, but I am sure everything will work out. The Super 8 camera is expected to be priced between $ 400 – 800.


8mm film development & scanning

In addition Kodak will provide 8mm film cartridges and offer development and scanning as a service. Considering the effort and costs to develop and digitise 8mm film theses days, this is quite a promise and I can’t wait for more details on the program. Apparently the development and scanning service will also be available to anyone buying 8mm catridges from Kodak in the future.

For some brief summary of the specs and features, take a look at this video recorded at CES 2016.

8mm film – Considering costs for using 8mm film

As you might remember, I started experimenting with my LEICINA SPECIAL Super8 camera and finally made it to send in the first cartridge of Super8 8mm film material for development. I used Kodak Tri-X black & white Reversal Film and chose Wittner Cinetec in Germany as a service provider. About 2 weeks after sending my material I received the developed film. 

8mm - developed 8mm film material - 1
8mm – developed 8mm film material – 1

Costs to shot, develop and digitise 8mm film

A 50ft (15m, around 3.5 minutes at 25 fps) cartridge costs 25€ to develop including shipping costs. Considering the 22€ to 40€ for the material, it basically sums up to 13.42 € to 18.58 € per minute. Additional costs might come up for digitisation of the film for digital post processing.

A few month ago, I already compiled a list of service providers for digitising my 8mm film. I will either go with or Booth offer frame-by-frame scanning as single image files with a resolution of 2K. Looking at their price list, I expect this to set me back another 0.60 € per meter of material and additional costs of up to 7.50 € for a 120m film spool plus 6.90 € for shipping.

8mm - developed 8mm film material - 2
8mm – developed 8mm film material – 2

In the worst case of just digitising one spool, this might add up to 23.40 €. For lets say 8 15m film spools (resulting in 120m of material) it would add up to 86,40 € and 10.80 € per spool. This would add up to 20.10 € to 25.26 € per minute with one spool and 16.50 € to 21.66 € per minute with 8 spools all costs considered. That’s not cheap.

I am not sure how much filmed material is usually produced for 1 minute of finally used material in an amateur film setting. At a relation of 1 to 8, a 3,5 minute amateur 8mm movie might add up needing 28 minutes of raw material resulting in costs of 462.00 € to 606.48 € depending on the used film just to get the shot material developed and digitised. That’s 132.00 € to 173.28 € per minute. Not cheap at all.

50 Jahre Super8 8mm – Wunderblock – Deutschland, deine Speicher


Wunderblock – Deutschland, deine Speicher – 50 Jahre Super8 – 50 years after KODAK’s introduction of the Super 8 format, amateur 8mm material will be digitised, rearranged to new fictional stories and shown in a mini movie theatre on tour.

My Super8 8mm Experiment – 8mm film resolution

With affordable 4K displays around the corner a higher resolution than the offered 2K frame-by-frame scanning would be nice for my 8mm film, since products like ARRISCAN provide up 6K/4K.

Bolex H16 – ARRIscan from Justin Cary on Vimeo.

The question would be, whether this makes sense at all, taking the natural resolution of the 8mm motion picture film format into consideration. The filmstrip of the format is 8 millimeters wide, providing the name for the 8mm film. Super8 has a larger image area than Normal 8 due to its smaller perforations, 5.79mm x 4.01mm (0.228” x 0.158”) to be precise.

8mm - developed 8mm film material - 2

Kodak advertises parts of their current film lineup, e.g. Vision3 for Color and Eastman for b/w, as especially made for scanning. According to Kodak, a resolution of up to 1120 scan lines can be achieved with a 8mm film, making Super8 compatible to 2K and Full HD Resolution. I think this might depend on the quality of the film material, its grain and various other factors. Apart from Kodak’s statement, I must admit any hard facts about this issue are hard to find. But since Kodak seems to be in the lead with their current products, it could be considered a valid source.

This would mean, aiming for a 4K scan won’t be necessary. In the end I could try one of the 2 service providers ( or for comparison or look harder for some other offerings, maybe even internationally.

My Super8 8mm Experiment – Digital Intermediate

As explained before, I have to choose between various options to digitize my 8mm film. There are some things I can do myself. I could capture the film playing on a projector using a digital camera or I can try out manually scanning every frame with a flatbed scanner and reconstructing the movie from single images. There are many people who tried already, with some nice results. Some even built their own homemade Telecine:

Homemade 8mm Telecine – First Scan from Justin Cary on Vimeo.

Since I don’t have a decent digital video camera or a flatbed scanner, I have to source out.

Basically, I can let a service provider capture the film playing on a projector or use a telecine scanner. For best quality a motion picture film scanner can be used to create digital intermediate files. Various service providers are available in the first two categories for 8mm and 16mm. They provide anything from creating DVDs or video files from your source material to restoring damaged films. They charge between 1.50 € and 3.00 € per minute of 8mm film without any cleaning, editing etc. and are somewhat fuzzy or imprecise when it comes to explaining the technologies they are using.

I compiled a list of German services (in alphabetical order, not complete nor evaluated in detail):


Service providers that stand out, are and Booth seem to offer frame-by-frame scanning and are able to provide the single image files with a resolution of 2K rather than a video file.

Kodak 8mm cartridges
Kodak 8mm cartridges

Over the next weeks, I might try them out and will sum up the results.

My Super8 8mm Experiment – Telecine and motion picture film scanners

After shooting and developing 8mm motion picture film, one might want to transfer it to a digital format. This is quite complicated actually, since there are no consumer or easy solutions available. Most people just capture their original film playing on a projector with a digital camera. Although it looks quite nice in most cases, clearly this can’t be the best way to do it.

Goodbye (summer sun) from monomatic on Vimeo.

There is one project I could find, trying to utilize consumer flatbed scanners with transparency units (TPU) and the Cine Film to Video Suite by W. Kurz, allowing high quality digitization of 8mm, 16mm and 35mm film at low costs.

Basically, one has to manually scan segments of the film, cut out the single frames of the movie, store them as single image files consecutively numbered and combine them to a MPEG II movie using FFMPEG. Obviously every single image can and probably should be cleaned, stabilized and so forth. In addition any sound has to be recorded separately. All in all, a very time consuming process, but still an almost free way to do it.

Within the film industry the process to transfer the original film to an electronic format is called Telecine and is even more complex. During Telecine the film is played and recorded digitally in real time. The most important issue being the synchronization of the mechanical film motion and the electronic video signal.

The most complex part of telecine is the synchronization of the mechanical film motion and the electronic video signal. Every time the video (tele) part of the telecine samples the light electronically, the film (cine) part of the telecine must have a frame in perfect registration and ready to photograph. This is relatively easy when the film is photographed at the same frame rate as the video camera will sample, but when this is not true, a sophisticated procedure is required to change frame rate.”


The most common methods to do so are 2:2 pulldown and 2:3 pulldown. 2:2 is used for the PAL or SECAM video standard (25 fps) and basically records one video frame for every film frame. Films with 24 fps are just played at 25 fps which is almost not noticeably, apart from a minor audio pitch which can be corrected. 2:3 pulldown is used for the NTSC video standard (29.97 fps) and many others. In these cases a 24 fps film has to be converted into a 29.97 fps video film. For this, 4 film frames played at the slightly reduced speed of 23.976 fps are stretched into 5 video frames exploiting the interlaced nature of video. So basically during Telecine the film is recorded on digital video at slightly increased or decreased speeds, e.g. using the Scanity CCD sensor by DFT – Digital Film Technology. With my 8mm film being recorded at 25 fps, the 2:2 pulldown would be used.

“To avoid the synchronization issues, higher end establishments now use a scanning system rather than just a telecine system. This allows them to scan a distinct frame of digital video for each frame of film, providing higher quality than a telecine system would be able to achieve.”


8mm - developed 8mm film material - 2

For best quality one comes back so scanning single frames, just like with W. Kurz’s software. With a motion picture film scanner an original film can be stored as a high-resolution digital intermediate file. They are available for gauges from 8mm to 70mm with high resolutions up do 8K and scan the film frames into separate files for each frame as raw data, preserving optical characteristics of the film and allowing non-linear editing. With products like Arriscan by ARRI and the The Director by Lasergraphics for single frame intermittent pull-down or Golden Eye Filmscanner by Digital Vision for continues motion scanning it becomes clear, these are no products for home use.

A Super 16mm Summer from Elliot Rudmann on Vimeo.

This explains, why W. Kurz developed his software. It also explains, why most people choose to capture their original films playing on a projector with a digital camera. As this is no option for me, I have to choose between digitizing the film manually or ordering a high end digital intermediate.

My Super8 8mm Experiment – Getting film material

Unfortunately the variety of 8mm film material still available has decreased over the past years. The popular Kodachrome was discontinued in 2009 and even its processing ended in 2013.

Kodachrome (English version) from schmalfilm magazin on Vimeo.

Although points of sale are increasingly difficult to find, there are some dealers left, Wittner Cinetec in Germany for example. One can choose from the current Kodak Vision3 lineup (500T, 200T and 50D for color negative film and Kodak Tri-X Reversal Film for b/w. Currently, there are some Kodak Ektachrome films left, which have been discontinued in 2013. Wittner also seems to produce 8mm film or at least package cartridges, utilizing materials from Agfa, Fuji, Aviphot, Orwo and Fomapan.

A 50ft (around 3.5 minutes at 25 fps) cartridge costs between 22€ and 40€ with an additional 25€ for development by Wittner. One can easily order cartridges with a coupon for the corresponding development which is valid for 12 months. For testing purposes I ordered some cartridges to try them out with my LEICINA SPECIAL.


The transfer of 8mm motion picture film into a digital format will be a different story, though. It seems, there is no easy way to this yourself at all, if you are serious about preserving the optical characteristics of the film.

Here are some videos shot with the LEICINA SPECIAL on Vimeo.

My Super8 8mm Experiment – 8mm motion picture film format

8mm film is a motion picture film standard developed by Kodak in 1932 to create a cheap “home movie” format. Its most famous filmed sequence undoubtedly being the Zapruder film, capturing the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. Super8 was released in 1965 and quickly adopted by amateur film-makers providing better image quality and picture size. With its innovative cartridge-loading system it became an easy to use system and inspired millions of people around the world.

“The 8mm Revolution” – SUPER 8 Movie Featurette from Cinelicious on Vimeo.

Not only was Super8 a popular film format during the 1960ies and 1970ies, it is still thriving today. Many people still like to shoot with “low cost“ Super8 equipment and then transfer the footage into a digital format for additional editing. Although the cost of the film material and its development increased over the past years, it’s still a good alternative to other motion picture film formats, despite providing a rather small image format.

California Vintage Super 8 Wedding from Living Cinema on Vimeo.

So, maybe I will give this a try.

Kodak 8mm cartridges