Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. Louis

Some Things Never Change!

Posted in 35mm, photography by Jason Gray on December 10, 2009

Recently, my friend, Erica from the Art Museum, gave me an old “Leica Fotografie” magazine from 1971 that she happened to stumble across. In it, there is an article that has shades of the “is digital the death of film?” debate, which is so familiar to anyone seriously using a camera these days. Read it after the jump–>

From the mag:

“Is Black-and-White on the Way Out?

Rumours persist-and one gets the impression that they are put about by interested parties-that within the forseeable future there will no longer be any black-and-white films.

The reasons put forward are that colour film is advancing at headlong pace and that it has already left black-and-white photography far behind; that from a colour negative a black-and-white enlargement can easily be made at any time, to say nothing of the fact that it can just as easily provide colour enlargements, colour transparencies, and even black-and-white transparencies.

This is an old song that comes too familiar for us to be anything but extremely mistrustful of it, for shortly after the last war the very same people, for the same reasons, wanted to scrap the colour reversal film in favor of colour negative!

While there is no doubt some truth in these arguments, they nevertheless represent only half truth, because the really important thing, that is, the considerable difference in quality, is deliberately suppressed.  Just another attempt at pulling the wool over the eyes of the consumer!

We should be very sorry if this undoubted trend should gain the upper hand, for there are important arguments against it.

Above all, the various black-and-white films are, of their nature, far better in the matter of definition than colour negative films.  This means that the excellent resolving power of the modern high grade photographic lens can be far better exploited with a black-and-white film than with a colour negative film.

More than this: black-and-white films are available in every degree of sensitivity, from the very slow document film to the ultra speed panchromatic, whereas colour negative film is made, at most, in two or three speeds.

Grain, too, is far and away better in black-and-white film than in the best of colour negative films, so that all in all it can be said that in all important respects black-and-white films tower high above the colour negative film-quite apart from a very considerable difference in price!

We can therefore only hope that the consumer-whether he be professional or obscure amateur-will keep his eyes open and not accept at face value the deliberate market inspired propaganda.

Should this trend become established, it would be just one step further towards a commercially inspired standardization of photography at the cost of quality!”

Want to read up on the modern version of this argument?  In this article, Ken Rockwell sounds suspiciously like he used to write for Leica Fotografie!

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