Q&A: 35mm Film Look on a Digital SLR

by Buffalo Bob on May 8, 2013

I took this question from the Facebook page:

Any thoughts on how to achieve that 35mm film look on a Canon Rbeel t3i? I have a 55mm nikkor ais 2.8-macro mounted on it for portraits.


Hi Joao. The best way to get a 35mm film look is to shoot 35mm film. I’m not sure which Nikon film body would work with your particular lens, but some Googling should get you the answer. I do know, however, that people practically give away film cameras on Craig’s List. For film, I recommend Kodak Portra as it has enormous exposure latitude, scans well, and looks great when converted to black & white in post. You can also push it like crazy and it still looks great.

You may want to look at Jonathan Canlas’ book Film Is Not Dead: A Digital Photographer’s Guide to Shooting Film.

Another option is to look at digital film emulators like the DXO Filmpack. Just keep in mind that these types of collections can be hit or miss — people either love them or hate them.


I’ve decided to initiate a new Q&A feature on this blog since I get so many reader questions regarding gear.

Here’s one I pulled from the comments on another post:

I have a nikon D7000 and am trying to determine whether or not to sell my DX equipment and jump into the full frame game and buy D800. Suggestions and insight?


Buffalo Bob’s Answer:

The D800 is kind of in the “if you have to ask, you don’t need it” category. I say this because very few people need 36 megapixels of resolution and very few people need a $2,800 camera.

If you’re printing huge, that’s one thing, but if you’re not, then the only thing that resolution will do is slow down your computer and make you buy a lot more hard drives. For this reason alone, I prefer the Nikon D600 for full-frame, or for DX users, the new D7100. Since these cameras are 24 megapixels, the files are 33% smaller, so you’ll actually be able to store 50% more files.

But again, you sound like you’re a little confused on what you actually need, so your best option is to buy no new gear until you figure out what you actually need to accomplish your goals. If you need superior low-light performance or shallower depth of field, full frame will give you that. But if not, you will probably get by okay with what you have.

What I would recommend is looking at picking up books that may inspire you from a visual standpoint, and you can take your gear-buying cues from the images you see. Amazon has a mountain of cheap photo books (remember to check out the used options, many great books cost just pennies)

For example, if you are interested in still life, you may want to look at Irving Penn’s work or for Nature/Landscape, Ansel Adams.

P.S. Follow Me on Twitter!


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