For 2020 I have a goal: expose – at least – 36 rolls of film. That will tell me if I can use film for the photography I already like, and to see if I can like film enough for it to be an ongoing part of my photography.

These pages track my progress to date. Visit the gallery for more photos from each roll; click on the photos here to see it bigger.


Roll 1, January 3.

Portra 400, EI200, lightly expired. Zeiss Ikon, 40/1.4 Nokton.

Yes, Portra, the beige of colour. Shot with the intention of digital black and white conversion. This was handy for complex environments where a single whole-roll colour contrast filter wasn't suitable, and lets a bit more light through the lens. It also works well when I'm switching my M lenses to a partnered digital camera, because otherwise I forget to take the colour filter off. Ultimately, though, it's just not silver.

This image was taken under the Bathurst Street Bridge, and goes back to my very earliest photos taken with a Sony F828, my first 'serious camera'.

Roll 2, January 10.

HP5+, EI400, Zeiss Ikon, 35/2 Biogon.

How often do I genuinely prefer something that's also the cheapest option? In photography that almost never happens, but with Ilford HP5 I've gotten lucky. I spent this roll just plinking around, and while I mostly used the 35/2, I also brought out the 85/4 and 40/1.4 for a few frames.

This photo is on Queen, just west of Yonge, near the big mall. I almost never have any reason to be down here, and it's always crowded enough that my participation isn't needed.

Roll 3, January 22.

Portra 160, EI100, Zeiss Ikon, 40/1.4 Nokton.

This wasn't supposed to happen. It's fun to play in storms, so I loaded HP5 into my beater SLR and put it outside to cool down so that the snow wouldn't stick to it. And the cold killed the battery. A roll of Portra 160 was the only other film that I had ready to go, so that's what I loaded into the rangefinder and hit the streets. Happily the little Nokton lens lets me fit the camera in a jacket pocket.

This is at College and Bathurst, looking south. The colour film image is just ugly, combining garish colours with slush-yellow snow. Converting to monochrome was always the plan, and now I always have extra HP5 on hand.

Roll 4, January 24.

Kentmere 400, EI400, Nikon F6, Sigma 24-35.

My first roll of Kentmere film and the first non-test roll from my F6. I might be showing off by including the data imprint, but it being shot on K400 helps keep the ego in check. While this film is a bit cheaper than HP5+ it does seem more fragile and so I've ruled it out as a long-term option.

Any time I have a new camera to play with – and for many of my photo outings in general – I head over to the islands for some quiet time, so this photo heading away from the city is a good first F6 photo to show.

Roll 5, January 24.

Kentmere 400, EI400, Harman Reusable.

Ilford does make disposable cameras, but the Harman Reusable is the first plastic camera that has appealed to me enough to buy one. This is also the reason why I had two 36-exposure rolls of K400 film to get through, so I thought that shooting them simultaneously in this toy and the best 35mm SLR ever made would be fun. I wasn't wrong.

These cameras have no controls, so everything is a matter of choosing the subject – ideally one that doesn't depend on fine details – and the moment. it's a toy that depends on creative rather than technical skills. There's something to be said for pure photography… just ask Nikon.

Roll 6, February 4.

Portra 160, EI100, Nikon F6, Nikon 50/1.8G.

Black and white is classic, but occasionally the relentless greys of my film catalog gets a bit too much and I need to break out the colour. The subdued Portra is perfect for winter, while summer will call for something a bit stronger. 

This was finishing off the second roll from my trip to the islands, and by now I had shifted to the 50/1.8G as it is what I'll use for an upcoming trip. I'm also winding down my "Just Fooling Around" period with the F6, and am feeling familiar enough that from now on the big SLR will mostly be for projects and events.

Untitled photo

Roll 7, February 6.

Fujifilm 400H, Ei400, Harman Reusable.

Colour film isn't really my thing, and that's especially true for Fuji 400H. This roll has been in the freezer for years, so perhaps I can blame its look on its 2013 best-before date, but maybe not. The Harman camera doesn't help, but it has its charm, and expired film is perfect for it.

The important thing here is that I wanted to see what the lens was like with colour. It's not improved over monochrome film, but it holds up better than I had expected. Eventually I'm going to need to square the circle and use Cinestill 800T in this plastic toy.

Untitled photo

Roll 8, February 15.

HP5+, EI400, Nikon F6, 50/1.8G, Yellow filter.

The kid. Not my kid – I'm not responsible for her creation, but I do occasionally participate in her maintenance. Wanting more tangible photos of her is why I brought out the rangefinder again last summer, and now her being a toddler was a great excuse to get the faster F6.

The little 50/1.8G lens makes the F6 more portable and nimble, and the Nikon gear really did get me photos that the manual focus rangefinder wouldn't. That's the problem with trying to solve problems by buying new gear: sometimes it really does work.

Untitled photo

Roll 9, February 21.

Ilford HP5, EI800, Nikon F6, 50/1.8G.

This was a utility roll, started in Ottawa with the kid and finished at the auto show. So this is a photo from the middle, when I happened to have it with me when I was able to try out its successor, the D6.

It's not a bad camera, but like the F6, it might be the best of its kind but released after its time is finished. The F6 came out when digital was clearly the future; the D6 joins us as mirrorless clearly offers better digital-centric lens designs than the F mount could.

Untitled photo

Roll 10, February 21.

Ilford HP5, EI800, Nikon F6, Sigma 24-35.

The auto show is an annual visit for me, but this is only the second time I've brought a film camera. The first time was an F5 with Ilford XP2, so this is progress.

I also carried my IR digital camera, which was mostly used in the windowed upper building, so the high-key film photos match it nicely. And yes, that also means that in the subterranean south building I was choosing film because digital didn't have enough light.