The Hutto High School AF JROTC hosted a fund raising car show recently and I stopped by to take in the sights with a couple of cameras. There was a good mix of cars from classics to modern muscle cars. I gravitate toward the classics and rat rods and I snapped a few shots of my favorites. The event was a great opportunity to try a little experiment. I've been auditioning an Olympus XA2 35mm film camera as a "carry everywhere" camera for times when I'm out doing things and serious photography isn't the priority. The other camera was my new Fujifilm X-T2. The XA2 was loaded with Cinestill 50 color negative daylight film and the X-T2 was set to the Classic Chrome film simulation.
Cloudy skies skies at the time of my arrival soon gave way to bright sunlight. That was a good contrast for my experimentation. I got to see how both the film and digital mediums performed in flattish light and harsh extremes of light and shadow. It would have perhaps been a better comparison had I used a comparable 35mm focal length equivalent lens on the X-T2 but I neglected to add one to my bag. The X-T2's shots were taken with a 24mm equivalent lens. I often like to play with the distorted perspective so no great big deal to me. The exaggerated perspective do make the digital shots a bit obvious. For the record, the left images below are film and the right are digital.
All images were mildly adjusted with a contrast curve in Lightroom. It is amazing to me how much dynamic range there is in the film images. To be fair, I wasn't shooting in raw on the X-T2 so there is certainly more potential dynamic range. The purpose of my experiment though was to compare the two mediums in the use case of casual photography where I don't want to have to do a lot of post processing work. I did set the X-T2 to its DR200 dynamic range extension, which preserves a bit more detail in highlights.
Which camera did I prefer? Honestly, the XA2 was more fun to shoot. The exposure is almost entirely automatic - all I had to do was set the ASA setting to the film speed. Focusing is by a 3 position switch and eyeballing the distance to set the proper range. I could just walk around and enjoy the cars, casually snapping without much thought. With the X-T2 on the other hand, I tended to be more attentive to exposure to keep highlights from blowing out. The instant gratification of the LCD screen is an ever present temptation. I try not to "chimp" my shots but I often take a look at the histogram of captured files in difficult lighting. All in all, I felt more in the moment with the film camera. There are pros and cons to both mediums. It's neat to work with film - no it is certainly not dead - and get nice results with a very compact and inexpensive bit of gear. I think I paid all of $40 for the XA2. The X-T2 was considerably more.