Top 25 things vanishing from America: #13 -- Photos made from film

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This series explores aspects of America that may soon be just a memory -- some to be missed, some gladly left behind. From the least impactful to the most, here are 25 bits of vanishing America.

It doesn't require a statistician to prove the rapid disappearance of the film camera in America. Only take a walk with me. I am an avid photographer, and the sound of my shutter clicking -- and the film in my camera advancing -- is enough to turn heads. "Is that a ... real camera?" people ask me incredulously. Or, my favorite, "is that analog?"

Sure enough, I'm a rare holdout in the world where digital is everything, immediacy rules and most of our electronic devices seem to be paired with yet another digital camera. Nikon, the professional's choice for quality camera equipment, announced in 2006 that it would stop making film cameras, pointing to the shrinking market -- only 3% of its sales in 2005, compared to 75% of sales from digital cameras and equipment. Pentax and Kodak have made similar changes in focus (though Kodak made its name from negative film).

I use film because it has a special, artistic quality that I feel is lacking in digital cameras; and I enjoy the delayed gratification and that magical discovery when I get my photos back. I trade perfect clarity for greater depth of color, a more interesting depth of field, and the chance to be surprised by a stunning moment caught on film. It makes me think about every shot before I take it, and I don't have to have the latest, most expensive equipment to be able to capture a moment (and not a two-moments-later). There's a serendipity to film that digital will never give me.

That said, I envy my digital compatriots' quick turnaround time and it's an expensive choice; I pay a few hundred dollars a month for processing, far outspending my friends -- even the ones with really amazing equipment. I think of it as an investment. Now if I can only get those negatives organized...

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