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Advantages of film over CCD/TTL astrophotography

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#1 clydet

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Posted 26 January 2010 - 08:52 PM

What are the advantages of film over CCD/TTL astrophotography?
I have two film SLRs and a TTL sensor SLR.
I want to also use the film SLRs, if there are advantages over digital ones.
clyde :)

#2 Rick Thurmond

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Posted 27 January 2010 - 12:00 AM

For me the advantages are:
1. I have a film camera that works with my telescope. Nothing more to buy.
2. the film it uses is medium or large format which covers the entire image circle produced by my telescope.
3. Film is pretty cheap, compared to a digital solution.
4. I like the way the finished 16x20 pictures look on my wall. For years I've been producing my own prints in my darkroom. The colors are brilliant, the stars are round. There is no pixellation.
5. The glacial pace of change: in 2001 I put together the two film cameras from old camera parts, and they still work. I would have gone through at least three digital cameras in the same period of time.
6. I don't need a computer next to my telescope when I'm photographing. I can just sit there for two or three hours looking at the sky if I want.
7. Recently I got interested in making tri-color photos by shooting three exposures through color filters onto black and white film. It is very challenging, and I've got my fingers in every step of the process. I get the films scanned and I combine them in my computer. The scans are absolutely huge: 150 MB per channel. The level of involvement is so much higher than programming your computer to take a bunch of exposures then going off to bed.
8. This great group of people!
9. The challenge of trying out new films, of thinking about and trying to solve really challenging problems. With film the problems aren't all solved for you by the latest software release.

That's why I use film, your mileage may vary.
Rick

#3 TxStars

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Posted 27 January 2010 - 04:12 AM

For me it is many of the things Rick pointed plus the following:
1) I only have to power my mounts off a 12v 7.5ah battery which is good for three nights.
2) 30 year old Nikon still works great, 20 year old Hasselblad still works great.(No batteries needed)
3) I still like to manually guide. (Yes even for 2 hrs)
4) 30" x 40" prints are nice on the wall.

I do have a DSLR but it is just does not give the same feeling of accomplishment.

#4 clydet

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Posted 27 January 2010 - 04:59 AM

Thanks for the replies Rick and TxStars :)
You guys have stirred my interest in film, again.
I have a 7'x14' darkroom, that I've not used for many years!
I'll have to find the right kind of astrophotography film for my SLR, so I can also make GIANT prints!

#5 TxStars

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Posted 27 January 2010 - 05:26 AM

Kodak E-200 is a good slide film to use.
If you look at some of the postings in this section you will see others that work well too.

#6 M111

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Posted 27 January 2010 - 01:23 PM

Hi Clyde - I think I echo a lot of what others have said:

Advantages:

1 - Cost. For a modest sum one can acquire a professional quality camera that will last a lifetime if cared for. I also develop/scan/print all my film myself which saves quite a bit more money.

2 - Simplicity. When I shoot film the only cable is the one powering my mount. When I shoot with a DSLR there is much more set-up/break-down involved, and a greater chance something in the imaging chain won't be working correctly and will require trouble-shooting which i do not enjoy. For me, film is more relaxing.

3 - Prints. My film shots always look better to me as prints. This goes for normal daylight photography as well. Like Rick said, the tonal range is wide and smooth and the stars are round. Digital images can be worked to smooth out the pixelated crunchiness, but I'd rather spend less time post-processing.

4. Wide fields. Check out Jim's(Nightfly) work - 'nuff said.


That said, I will now mention when I would grab my DSLR instead of a film camera.

1. When I am shooting in light pollution. Film does not like LP at all. Digital can work around LP quite well by stacking a multitude of short exposures. I have literally shot with a DSLR through an open window in a small city and gotten good results.

2. When I am shooting longer focal lengths at prime focus. This may be more due to my own lack of skill than anything else, but when imaging a faint galaxy I have much better luck with a DSLR. The instant feedback one gets by viewing a screen is certainly an advantage. With film you won't know about any errors until it's too late. Still, the excitement of pulling a roll of film out of the final rinse is hard to beat.


Both systems have their pros & cons and what works better will depend on a number of conditions unique to the photographer, and it may take some time to determine which is for you. Of course, my favorite set-up of all is a dual mount with film on one side and a sensor on the other shooting simultaneously. :cool:

#7 clydet

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 03:28 AM

Thanks TxStars and M111
I'll try Kodak E-200, yes, I read other postings regarding film's red sensitivity.
M111, Your dual mount sounds interesting.
I also can use ccd for preliminary testing, then film for final exposure.

#8 WillCarney

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Posted 09 February 2010 - 01:42 PM

One of the reasons not mentioned why I still use film. Most electronic cameras whether DSLR or astro CCD have trouble with air temps at -20 to -30 or 100% humidity. Batteries often fail at lower temps, you could use AC to help in this. Although you might have problems with the sensors fogging or icing. Here in central Illinois we get everything weatherwise. While film does have some issue with LP I use LP, HC or other filters.
William

#9 George Methvin

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Posted 09 February 2010 - 04:58 PM

I see no advantages at all of film over CCD or Digital astrophotography. Its faster, easyer don't need a darkroom and all those trays and chemicls, films that you have to buy and store plus they go bad if you don't use them. Ok I know you have to have a computer and know how to use it, there are always trade off. I been making a living in the field of photography for over 40 years. I have used just about every type of film color and b/w. I have processed it all and spent uncounted hours in the darkroom under safe lights printing photos b/w and color. I am here to tell you the best thing to happen to this field was the CCD. I would never go back to using film again. Going digital is the greatest, it every bit if not better then film in every way. Its make taking photos some much easyer for every one from the house wife to the medical photography to astrophotography. It has made my job so much better and easyer in so many ways. I know some folks don't want to hear it but film is history. As much as film was king in its day the king is dead long live the new king the digital king. You may not agree with me but the writing is on the wall like it or not.

#10 tommyhawk13

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Posted 09 February 2010 - 05:27 PM

I guess I'm history too, George. I lost half of my pay last year from my employer of over 23 years. My $26.00 camera can't do as good a job as an S-Big, so I might as well give it up and do something else.

I tried going to school for traditional art, but they told me traditional figurative art was dead too. Soemthing about a "new" invention over a hundred years ago called photography made realistic painting obsolete.

Reduntantly obsolete,
Tommy

#11 Nightfly

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Posted 09 February 2010 - 06:06 PM

Don't feed the troll!!!!!

#12 tommyhawk13

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Posted 09 February 2010 - 06:24 PM

Sorry, I needed to vent a little.

My advantages:
Used camera prices are dirt cheap now: $26.00 OM-1 with 2 lenses, flash, filters, etc. on eBay.

I like doing things that everyone else says I shouldn't/can't do.

#13 Nightfly

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Posted 09 February 2010 - 06:43 PM

Tommyhawk,

Technology is our servant, not the other way around. There are some great deals going on for sure, I guess we shold thank digital for making it possible. My venture into medium format was made possible for that reason. I have some excellent professional gear and that is key to my successful images.




#14 George Methvin

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 09:37 AM

Sorry if I came on to strong I am not trying to be a troll. I own a lot to film and its a wonderful tool and can be use to take great photos. It just I remember the nights setting for hours guiding on a star hoping to get a image and not knowing if something was going wrong or right with the photo. Then sending it out to be processed or spending hours doing it myself only to find that something had gone wrong, Most of the time it was my fault, the film not advincing or not stay center on the guide star..so many things that could go wrong. So much effort with so little return. I am not saying that nothing can go wrong when image with a ccd camera it can and doe's but with ccd I can see whats happen and the expousre are so much shorter and no darkroom to have to keep. If using film floats your boat and makes you happy then thats all that matters. For you folks that still use film you are a dying breed and I bow to you all. Clear skys :bow:

#15 Allaboutastro

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 12:48 PM

Sorry, but I have to agree with George. There are no advantages to film any more.

The two hold-overs were once the ability to shoot long star trail shots and the over-all expense of film compared to digital. DSLRs now can take great star trail shots and they are much cheaper over the long term. I don't care how cheap you got your film SLR...it doesn't take long to spend more on film and processing than you would a $400 or $500 DSLR. This is especially true if you develop your own TechPan.

I still have my Nikon F2 for sentimental reasons, but can't think of one single reason why I'd ever shoot it again.

#16 Allaboutastro

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 12:51 PM

BTW, that shouldn't discourage anybody from using film. There's still a lot of things you can do with it and I think we are too quick to dismiss it as an option for beginning imagers.

However, in no way does that mean it has an advantage over digital media. That's not a necessity for it to still produce some good results.

#17 Nightfly

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 01:22 PM

Wow, looks like we have some new film astrophotography contributors. Welcome.

I think film still tows the line in long continuous exposures, especially in medium formats. I like the color palette of film as well. In wide-field astro work, film still performs very well, although a limited number of films are good for this. DSLR's do fantastic work, I'm not knocking them. To each their own. Digital does claim the realm of narrow field astro work.

That being said, this is a film astrophotography forum, we are aware of the other technologies, we just choose to use a different technology. Whatever your medium, get out there and shoot!

I shoot in below zero(F)weather for hours at a time. Do DSLR's handle this?

#18 WillCarney

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 02:33 PM

Besides using film at -20 or -30 you don't need to have the camera modded at a high cost like a DSLR.

William

#19 Allaboutastro

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 03:04 PM

Nightfly: Actually I was a film forum regular LONG before you joined CN. It's just that I made the switch to digital a long time ago. And yes, DSLRs thrive well in cold weather...it's even very beneficial from a dark current standpoint. However, it will drain a battery sooner.

William: Could you clarify your remark? Not sure what you meant.

#20 George Methvin

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 03:08 PM

I don,t know about the camera in that kind of weather but I know I can't stand up to it :lol: The older I get the more I hate the cold. Iam a fair weather guy if its to cold I stay inside and read Cloudy Nights. :lol:

#21 Nightfly

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 03:34 PM

Thanks Jay, Yea, I go back to the early 80's with film astro. I'm a recent CN guy. I didn't own a computer until 2005, and I'm an electronics technician!

You have quite a portfolio of great work, excellent. I'd be up there with you if I had the money it takes. I'm lucky to live under dark skies and I am bothered nightly by the glow of Sirius, the zodiacal light, band and Gegenschein. In that respect I am a very rich man. I don't worry about sky fog on my film except near the horizon.

I made my first exposures in '84 and have progressed from there. I plan on digital some day, when the kids are out of school. For now, I am content and like my film work.

I wish you continued success.

Jim

#22 m2434

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 03:39 PM

I'm not a film astro-photographer, but I do appreciate the art. Personally, it seems that there are three main benefits, one is the challenge, capturing many objects might be simple at QE's of 50%+, but a little tougher at 2%, second is the nostalgia factor and third is knowledge.

As far as other things go,

Just picking a M111's list since it simple and clear...

Cost. - no way, film is expensive. My Canon XT350 took about 8 hours to mod myself, but only cost $200 total. Nothing else except a PC and telescope is required, although certainly there are other things that are helpful. I could have had someone mod it for me for around $300, but that's still only $500 total. I'd imagine film and processing or processing supplies ect add up to that quickly.


Simplicity. An SLR is 80% the same components, just without the film. So, I'm not sure about this, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt here. It generally takes me 1 hour to set up and 5-10 minutes to take down, but that is because I have a system down now.

Prints. Well, as you say you can smooth out digital, but you'd rather spend less time post processing. However, I think this is more related to knowledge. Nowadays, I can probably process most digital images in less time than you can make film prints, but that certainly wasn't always the case. I sure do love big film prints though!

4. Wide fields. Check out Jim's(Nightfly) work - 'nuff said.

Yes, also check out say Hiro's work... Full frame is full frame. Although, Jim's stuff is maybe more impressive in some sense, given that whole QE thing.


George's point leads me to one thought about weather though. With my DSLR or CCD, I can sit inside my nice warm house, watching images come in on the computer screen.... I've imaged at -10F or less and been perfectly comfortable doing so. Although one could argue that that sort of takes the fun out of it and certainly to each their own :)

In the end all that matters is if you get personal satisfaction from your craft. While I haven't tried film photography, I can certainly see how it could be very satisfying.

#23 shark-bait

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 04:11 PM

I paid too much for my OM-1.

:gotpopcorn:

#24 WillCarney

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 04:13 PM

Nowadays, I can probably process most digital images in less time than you can make film prints, but that certainly wasn't always the case. I sure do love big film prints though!


Misconception. For instance I don't do darkroom stuff anymore. I do have a B&W setup but don't use it. I just turn my film in to process and get a CD. From the CD I get the digital images to tweak. I recently got my 1976 Comet West negatives reprinted and placed on a CD. This allows me to reprocess the old pictures. Making prints in a darkroom is no different from spending hours editing digital images on the computer, you still spend time doing it. Once you have the darkroom set up it does not take that long to process prints if your in to that. Film is not dead, yet.

William

#25 m2434

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 06:03 PM


Nowadays, I can probably process most digital images in less time than you can make film prints, but that certainly wasn't always the case. I sure do love big film prints though!


Misconception. For instance I don't do darkroom stuff anymore. I do have a B&W setup but don't use it. I just turn my film in to process and get a CD. From the CD I get the digital images to tweak. I recently got my 1976 Comet West negatives reprinted and placed on a CD. This allows me to reprocess the old pictures. Making prints in a darkroom is no different from spending hours editing digital images on the computer, you still spend time doing it. Once you have the darkroom set up it does not take that long to process prints if your in to that. Film is not dead, yet.

William


Right, but I can still probably stack and process a series of DSLR images by the time you drive to the store to drop off the film. Of course I probably would spend much more time on it, than that, but that's more because I like to, and the depth of the digital data allows me to, rather than really need to.

I do really hope film is nowhere close to dead though. There is something really great about film images that you just don't get with digital. However, I think it's tough to say there is a serious advantage based on technical factors. The advantage is likely much more personal. Of course as I said, I'm not a film astrophotographer, so my opinion should certainly be taken lightly, with a grain of salt. Regardless, I do really enjoy the stuff you guys post here. It's really quite humbling.


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