There was a time when projecting slides was a very popular method of viewing images. Aunts, Uncles, Children and Friends gathered together in darkened rooms preparing themselves to be bored by the latest bunch of holiday pictures, and sometimes hours could pass by before the victims stepped back into daylight. Humour aside, it was undoubtedly the image quality and cinematic size of projected images that made slide shows popular. Chromes, transparencies, slides, E-6, reversal film - call them what you want – their enduring qualities have captivated photographers for more than 70 years. And although viewing prints is far more convenient, much detail is lost if the prints being handed around are small. The use of slide film is also less expensive in comparison to producing good quality and size prints from negative film.
How times change…
Today, Analogue Forums suggest that slide projection is alive and well, albeit the number of photographers preferring this method of viewing are greatly reduced when compared to a couple of decades ago. And many users now scan their transparencies to digital files, not bothering to project them. Broadly speaking, it would be fair to say that the majority of folk prefer the convenience of digital photography, and there are digital beamers out there to project digital images (albeit expensive and lower resolution). Given the number of E-6 and Kodachrome films that have been discontinued over the last few years, it becomes easier to understand that slide film use has been in free fall. Add to this the exit from the market of some projector manufacturers and one gets the impression of a dying medium. But to those still projecting their images, there remains nothing quite like it and, for me, its demise only adds to the appeal.
Being long term users of E-6 film, it goes without saying that we have had several projectors ranging from budget options with poor lens quality, to exhibition standard ones demanding high build quality. Our current model is a Leica Pradovit P300IR with 90mm Colorplan P2 lens attached. This one has been in our possession for several years, is well built (with lots of plastic) and the Colorplan lens projects very sharp images across the screen. All slides are stored in sealed cases of universal style magazines allowing both convenient storage and display.
The only slideshows we do now are for personal pleasure only and these are limited to just three or four times a year. Setting the projector and screen up always seems like more of a hassle than it actually is – 10 minutes and I am usually up and running with the first slide in the gate. And every time I see the first few slides of a particular batch, I am bowled over by the incredible detail and richness of the images…so life like I could almost step into them. For these reasons I will continue to use E-6 film for as long as possible – I have high hopes that it will not disappear from shelves altogether, but merely become a niche product.
I personally know very few people who still use this technology today (other than Forum and photo circle members), so my guess is that if I were to invite a few friends around to sit through a short slide show, they would not fail to be impressed by what they saw. Forget digital slideshows, viewing photo’s or images via TV, analogue slide shows stand head and shoulders above them all and remind me that new technology can be convenient, but is not necessarily better.