Film Vs Digital compact test

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by alex_hosking, Mar 23, 2012.

  1. OK so we all seen Film Vs Digital test, we get it the digital wins, has anybody ever tested a small sensor high end digi compact vs a high end film compact tranny properly scanned?
  2. Like a Powershot vs. a Minox? (This should be a fun discussion.)
  3. Not directly, no, but I have shots done with an S90 (a very good compact digital) and others with a Rollei X70 Zoom ($5 at Goodwill, and I don't even know who made it) and, no question, the film shots win. The camera may be small and cheap but compared to the small sensor digital, the film frame is huge.
  4. What are you going to do with them? I print these at 20x20 inches and they were taken with an iPhone and are incredibly detailed. It really depends on what you are trying to do whether something is adequate for your needs or not.
  5. You are artificially hurting digital by restricting it to small-sensor compacts, given the many larger-sensor compact digital cameras out there. A Canon G1X is about the same size as my newest compact film camera. Of course, that Fuji compact 35mm was about $200 in 1994 or 1995 (a little over $300 in today's dollars), and the Canon is $800. But I'd save $15+/roll on film and processing; over the reasonable life of the camera, even a G1X is cheaper.
    That said, not that many years ago I would have said that, in certain situations, a compact film camera (in my case, often a Canon Canonet G-III QL 17) would produce better results than an equally-compact digital. But I don't think that's true any more. My older son's circa 2008 Canon A1000 (or A1100 or whichever model he has) beats the 35mm in good light, and our new Canon SX230 HS (with a 12 MP backlit CMOS sensor) beats 35mm in any light. While the film might have a small resolution advantage under ideal conditions, if I'm using a compact camera, I'm shooting hand-held, which almost always negates that theoretical advantage, and if anything, the digitals' image stabilization means they win. Film's only remaining advantages are somewhat better ability to handle very bright highlights (with negative film, not with a tranny!) and the availability of disposable film cameras.
  6. Would be interesting, but can't be done on the Internet, as that would require that the film or print be scanned, turning it
    into digital vs. digital.
  7. we get it the digital wins​
    That statement may start a World-War III. I didn't do that test but I did a "similar" test.
    Took a picture with top-the line Nikon DSLR then print it out on Polaroid paper (with a polaroid printer), the result was about the same as a picture taken by a GSN and scanned and printed at wolf cameras
  8. The Sony NEXs can take a wide variety of film era lenses with proper adapters. The good film fixed lens cameras would need to have the prints compared under proper conditions to digital prints or scanned (as noted above) . But it's still a "Is camera (or lens) "A" better than "B" discussion. The results will very much depend on how the rules are defined.
  9. Every camera of every type that I've used over 40 years, both film and digital, has had interesting characteristics and capabilities that I could make use of in some way. My primary camera now is in fact a compact P&S, but I've shot hundreds of pictures with a DSLR as well. I've done some interesting smartphone shots too. You can check out my Flickr photostream if you need proof. That being said, the comparison you ask about is more like asking how a Polaroid SX-70 compared to a Rollei 35S. It's one of apples versus oranges.
    No, strictly from an "image quality" point of view, the pics from a compact P&S type camera are not in the same league as those of any small 35mm film camera when both are at their best. But of course, in real life, there is considerable overlap, because most pictures are not going to be taken with the object being absolutely perfect technique. No matter how small the camera, if it's 35mm film, it's still a big piece of real estate compared to the small sensor in the compact digital camera. A more useful and perhaps fair comparison might be between the same compact digicam and the output from a good-quality 110-format (Instamatic) camera.
  10. we all seen Film Vs Digital test, we get it the digital wins​
    I'm not aware of that. And it partly depends how you define compact.
    At the moment I still not sure if there is a compact digital camera that I would consider comparable to a film compact because they keep leaving the viewfinder off, so you must plug on an awkward accessory.
    Also my digital compact is smaller than my film compacts, so unless we compare with half frame, 110 and the like, it's hardly a fair contest.
    For the larger pocketable compacts, I expect a Leica M9 will out do most 35mm film cameras.
    I do think the there are fairly compact digital cameras in the ball park for 35mm compact equivalence, but as I'm saying, the body design is different, so I compromise, and don't really think about exact comparisons.
    For example, the accessory viewfinders and LCD panels on some models can be rotated, giving options we didn't have on compact film cameras. I can't get exactly what I'd like, but I can do a lot with what I can get.
  11. Yes Dave I know I'm crippling the digital, that's the point. Some people seem to think sensor size doesn't matter the way film size does and you just need to have more pixels to get better quality and not a bigger sensor. With film you use the same format in the compacts as you do in the SLRs so if the lens is good enough with a compact should be able to get the same result if not better (because there's no mirror box) with a compact as you do with an SLR. Being that this is how close Velvia 100 came to the Alpha 100 I'm not sure if you're right about the SX230 HS because the sensor is 18x smaller.
  12. You are artificially hurting digital by restricting it to small-sensor compacts​
    Or you can artificially hurt film's chances by restricting it to 35mm and not using medium format or 5x4... or 10x8... or 20x24... etc, etc.
  13. Some people seem to think sensor size doesn't matter the way film size does and you just need to have more pixels to get better quality and not a bigger sensor.​
    Some people also think that daily lunch and dinner at MacDonalds is a healthy diet, if they take diet Coke instead of regular.
  14. Some people seem to think sensor size doesn't matter the way film size does and you just need to have more pixels to get better quality and not a bigger sensor.​

    I think that both digital and film have got to a point where the resolution per square inch (or whatever measurement you want to use) is now about equal. Use a bigger sensor or piece of film and you will get more detail. It's not rocket surgery.
  15. It's not so much of what one eats as much as how much one exercises after, Wouter. I eat well when I can but often times, when I'm out on the road, it's fast food stretch for a couple months 5 or 6 days a week due to (lack of) money and time. And I know I'm healthier than most.
    Similarly, I have stop shooting film in favor of digital mostly due to mostly (lack of) money and time.'s not so much what camera I uses but what I do with it after. I use many digital p&s with small sensors...and I'm perfectly okay with them. And I know I can shoot better than most.
    I think most here are fussing over camera/sensor size a bit too much (and not the photographs they take/make)...Much like Americans are fussing over healthy diet a bit too much because they don't work or exercise nearly enough...
  16. Alex:
    I have not done side-by-side comparisons since I haven't shot film since moving to digital.
    That said, the Panasonic LX3 was the first compact camera I had that was an adequate replacement for a compact film camera in terms of image quality, making large prints, and noise at higher ISO. It tended to start showing noise at 400, but even 800 wasn't unacceptable. Just like film. :)
    My Fuji X100 compact beats the pants off my old film cameras for image quality. I consider it to be the digital replacement of my Nikon 35Ti, which was no slacker.
  17. Leslie, sure... the point was not exactly the nutritious value of MacDonalds (or lack thereof). Your reply happens to make the point actual though: nuanced, detailed and reaching a balanced opinion between variables, considering wants and needs - that's how one presents a statement. The quote I posted on the other hand offers no such thing. My reply was more ridiculing the simplicity of that statement, and nothing else.
    And yes, photographers take photos, the technical details are not the end-all and be-all. But at the same time, we want the right tool for the job to maximise the possibility of realising our ideas.
  18. Some people also think that daily lunch and dinner at MacDonalds is a healthy diet, if they take diet Coke instead of regular.

    How about a diet shake with fat-free milk and Ben & Jerry's?
  19. diet shake with fat-free milk​
    Sounds like a fuel-economic Ferrari. Not a bad idea.... but just wrong all the same :)
  20. Please stop doing this kind of comparison. The test as you do it bias for the digital because you digitize the transparency and judge the resulting file.
    If you take that 35mm transparency and project it with the standard Kodak slide projector and compare it with any project digital image and see how that look.
    So please stop doing this kind of comparison.
  21. It's a good point, you lose something when you scan. Still, if I look at my scan results (and, granted, I have a good scanner) and look at the results from my best digital compact camera (the S90) there's no question, the film scans are almost always better in technical image quality. This holds true at higher ISOs - e.g., 800 film isn't great if you're looking for fine grain and detail, but neither is a small digital camera at 800.
    Now if we include smaller digital cameras with larger sensors, like that X100, or a NEX or M4/3 camera, it's a different matter. You can have a 1.5 crop sensor and a very good lens, stabilization, etc. In quality (and in cost) those are closer to SLRs than they are to pocket film cameras.
  22. The comparison ended for me a few years ago, when it became too difficult to find good local film processing and printing with a short enough turnaround to see my results same-day. I've now become satisfied with my own digital workflow with nice in-camera raw post processing and prints from my inkjet, that are technically very satisfying up to the 8 1/2 X 11 paper limitations of my printer. Granted, I needed to move up a bit in size to a Nikon compact DSLR (D5000) to do it, but I've found it totally satisfying.
  23. Digital vs Film is so useless. Completely different formats. Just shoot what you want and be happy.
  24. Ross is right. Both 35mm film compacts and their digital counterparts produce results better than is required for most amateur purposes. Choose whichever you prefer and take photos.
  25. From personal experience, it's a strong function of strap width.

    Put a 1.25" strap of supple kid leather on *any* cam and I'm good to go, no matter what the sitch is...
  26. Leslie Cheung It's difficult for me to be enthusiastic about photos taken with a pocket digi while my film compacts, SLRs and my DSLR get loads of use, the quality just doesn't appeal to me. I do take photos with them and my phone, but only if a good opportunity comes and I have no other option.
  27. It's certainly nice to have a better camera with you. But a good picture is a good picture no matter what camera was used, right? That's how I look at it...
  28. I'm a film die-hard if ever there was one, but let's be honest. Is anyone here seriously considering the purchase of a compact film camera anymore?
    For $99 bucks I can go to WalMart and pick up any digital point and shoot off the shelf, regardless of brand, and it is going to take fantastic pictures. 4x6 prints from it will easily match the 4x6 mini-lab prints you get from your 35mm compact. Those minilabs are set up to give the equivalent of a 2MP output anyway, so you were never getting even a fraction of what your film was capable of to begin with.
    Aside from a serious photographer who may have just been holding a compact camera when they took the picture, did anyone's mother ever get prints above 5x7? Let's be honest. That's who compacts were made for since the dawn of time. It's the camera the average person owns for happy snaps. Anyone who even knows that this website exists is not the average compact camera consumer.
  29. It may still be a good picture in some respects, like I already said if that once in a lifetime photo comes my way, I'm not going to not take a photo just because I think my camera's crap, but I'll be less likely to like it if it suffers from poor res and noise and blown out highlights. Would Dark Side of the Moon still have been a good album if it was recorded entirely on a Dictaphone?
  30. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Would Dark Side of the Moon still have been a good album if it was recorded entirely on a Dictaphone?​

    Street Fighting Man was recorded on a cheap cassette recorder. Charlie Watts played a toy drum kit. Would it have been any better if it was recorded on a Nagra with a real drum kit? I sure don't think so.
  31. Would Dark Side of the Moon still have been a good album if it was recorded entirely on a Dictaphone?​
    I really don't know as I'm tone deaf and not a Pink Floyd fan. However, Godard's À bout de souffle was shot with amateur equipments w/ no sound sync, mostly handheld and zero portable lighting. It is still my favorite film of all time. When I watch a film, listen to an album, or see an oil painting...I don't ask what camera/recorder/paint brush was used. I see how its totality affects the way I feel and think. Photography speaking, I don't look at Robert Frank's Les Americains and wonder, if he only used a rolleiflex...
  32. If it isn't obvious enough, I am not arguing that digital compacts are better than film. I'm just saying they don't matter much, the photographs themselves do...It's also my feeling about raw vs. jpeg as well. Shoot whatever you want, it's most likely good enough...this guy shoots jpeg only, I hear...
  33. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    this guy shoots jpeg only, I hear.​

    And he's a great photographer. I seriously doubt he worries about "which is better" when he goes out to shoot every day.
  34. Steve Smith, you are clearly not artificially hurting film's chances by not allowing 4x5 etc. The whole point is a compact camera; there may be other reasonable definitions by size and weight, but to me, the relevant standard is whether the camera is able to fit reasonably comfortably into my normal pants pockets. With film, that means 35mm (or smaller), although I suppose if you like pants with really big pockets, you might just squeeze in something like a Fuji GA645. So my Canonet (barely) fit, but my Konica Auto S2 did not. My Canon SX230 fits, but no DSLR does--and something like a micro four-thirds probably would, but only if fitted with a very compact lens.
    Alex, for some purposes, sensor size (especially in connection with lens maximum aperture) really does matter. But unless you need to achieve shallow depth of field, the 1/2.3-inch backlit CMOS 12 MP sensor in the SX230 does a pretty good job. Put it this way: I've got down the hall an 11x14-inch print from an SX230 capture that I really think would look worse with any compact 35mm, for film performance reasons.
  35. Interesting debate. While you guys were at it today I went out and shot over 100 photos on my DSLR at the Irish Festival in Richmond Virginia. Had a great day, and I actually don't care whether film or digital, small or large would have done it better. What I had worked just fine.
  36. Leslie You're misunderstanding me, I like 28 Days Later I even bought it on DVD, But that doesn't stop me thinking it would have been more enjoyable to watch if had been shot on better equipment. There's even comedy shows I've downloaded in the past, I have been able to enjoy better watching the DVD.
    There are albums I like but don't listen to because the mastering has ruined it in participation of the loudness war, I got half way through the first song on Californication before the constant distortion made me want to throw the disc out of the window. I also have this thing where I can spot fake coins from a few feet away.
    I'm sure the Stones were after a certain effect with the toy drum, but obviously would sound a lot better if had been record on a better recorder. But that's not a fair comparison since I couldn't get that song recorded on a better equipment to compare it too, but I could record TDSofM on to a dictaphone and play it back.
    Of course that guy is a great photographer Jess, it's easy to make photos look good on the internet even if you're using a phone camera. Being that some of those photos look like they took a lot of effort to set up, I don't know why someone would go to that much trouble only shoot Jpeg.
    Also do remember, I do own and use a digital compact, and my phone camera, and I've been looking to get a Fuji T200 recently.
  37. But that doesn't stop me thinking it would have been more enjoyable to watch if had been shot on better equipment.​
    With this logic, why stop at film compacts and aps-c dslr? There's 1.3x dslr, then there's 24x36mm sensor or, so called FF. Then there's weak AA filter FF dslr. Then there's no AA filter dslr. Then, there's no mirror FF camera. Then there's 645, then 6x6, then 6x7, then 6x9, then 4x5 LF etc...
    And that's only the camera! Now, let's move into lenses...Zeiss vs Leica vs. Japanese brands, Oh wait, that's East German vs. German Zeiss, before or after occupied? Japan Japan glass or Thailand Japan or Chinese Japan lenses?
    How' about jpeg basic vs. fine, vs. 12 bit raw vs. 14 bit, Aperture vs. LR. Smart sharpening or unsharp masked?
    Bored yet? How about noise reduction converters?
    Or, how about you just stop thinking about IQ and equipments...And just enjoy taking pics, feel the subject and seize the moment?
    PS. I'm bored and out. Good luck to ya! BTW Antonin is a documentary (read no setups) photog in VII, a pretty damn good photo co-operative.
  38. This reminds me of the format wars that used to flare up in the days when there was only film. Endless evidence-free arguments that 120 could equal 5x4, or a Minox could beat a Leica - if only that magical grainless film was available - and of course it never was. Despite people using Technical pan exposed at 5 ISO and developed for 3 days in Supersoup Nanograin XXX at a 500:1 dilution.
    There are people that will make a mission impossible out of the simplest task. A task like taking a picture for example. Film is in its death throes. Accept it! And why? Because millions of people that don't give a hoot about how they get a picture have taken to digital technology like ducks to water. Ducks that previously found the water too expensive, too complicated, too variable in quality and too elitist. Good luck to them!
    Forget these pointless comparisons. Grab whatever camera you like and take some real pictures, not just technical shots designed to show whichever you think is the "one true medium" to its best advantage. But if your chosen medium is film, then perhaps you'd better get on and take those pictures while you still can. Instead of wasting your ever more expensive and limited choice of film fruitlessly trying to prove it's better than digital.
  39. I just wish that in a photographic site such long discussions would include lots of lovely photographic examples to compare both mediums!
  40. I can't get a pocket sized FF digital camera or LF camera, and I'm trying to get he very best quality from something pocket sized.
    I think this thread has veered off at a tangent here. If you think I think just because I think a decent pocket film camera is still capable of taking better photos with technically better image quality than digis of a similar size it means that the the digis are worthless, not what I'm saying is that means the film ones aren't.
    I don't think about equipment all the time and I enjoy taking pictures I got into Flickr Explore today, but there is a limit I won't go beyond, I genuinely find it hard to have enthusiasm for taking photos if I think the camera I'm using is sub standard, however if a good opportunity were to come my way then of course I'm going to take the photo anyway.
    For a lot of people the image quality of there work is something they take pride in, just like in any other hobby or profession. There are many aspects as to what makes a good photo the image quality is just one of them.
  41. Me and my pal spent an enjoyable day at the wildlife park last year. I took my 1954 Kodak Retina Ib pocket camera loaded with Kodak Gold 200 and he had his new Fuji P&S digital (£150). I had my film processed and scanned at 5 Mb resolution.
    When we next met up we compared results on his large monitor. We could both see that the film photos had better tonality and reality than the digital ones (when taken in good light - and also the sunset photos) but the digital pulled ahead for the spotlit interior shots where the film camera showed muddy shadows and a strong orange cast.
    He laughed at my antiquated camera but the good quality results really suprised him.
  42. OP: "OK so we all seen Film Vs Digital test, we get it the digital wins,..."
    Wins what? I am sure it means something specific, right?
    In 4 recent photography shows I was involved with, about half (or a few more) of all award winners were shot on film. I had two myself. I spent a lot of time browsing the shows, because I love seeing what people think are their best photographs. To my eye (and maybe the judge too) a lot of the digital pictures had a huge "WOW" factor at first impression. Big size, super saturated color, tons of detail. But also, many of them looked a bit artificial, which people told me is caused by over-sharpening, or some other sharpening problem. I'll take their word for it. For my eye, the photographs shot on film looked very different. And this difference was in my words "tone smoothness." Words are insufficient of course here, but they seemed more "realistic." A bit softer, slightly less detail. All of which make me wonder if more pixels, more detail is actually always advisable in some photographic genres.
    Some of the film shots were on 4 x 5, but most were 35mm. Many of the winning photographs were not nearly as sharp or dynamic as many of the losing ones. But all of the winning ones had interesting subjects. I think what this means, is that classic criteria still hold true for good photographs: Interesting subjects + great printing "wins" over mediocre subjects with spectacular sharpness and detail and technical merit in the genre of fine art. If the genre was commercial fashion or magazine photography, the results would no doubt be different. So the term "wins" would be very relative to what kind of contest is being described.
    It goes without saying to "shoot what you feel like and makes you happy. " That doesn't need to be reinforced. So, my comments here are simply that film may have a je ne sais quoi which is still useful, still viable, still pleasant to work with, and yes still competitive.
  43. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    But all of the winning ones had interesting subjects​

    Sounds like an uninteresting show. If the subjects were what resulted in choices, it wasn't about photography. I can go out and find a great model any day of the week, but some of the ones nobody would look at twice have turned out to be the subjects of my best photographs, usually because of the lighting.
  44. I'm trying to get he very best quality from something pocket sized.
    Then Alex, I submit that you are not limited to "a small sensor high end digi compact". I'd submit that, at least with some thought given to what pants you wear, you can probably pocket a large-sensor compact like a Canon G1x (see, and remember that the lens retracts when it's turned off) or even a small interchangeable-lens larger-sensor compact like a Panasonic GX-1 ( or GF-3 ( with the collapsable Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Power OIS ( There are also of course a variety of large-sensor compacts with small-ish primes, but I've confined myself to cameras with zooms of reasonable range.
  45. If you limit to Film compact and Digital compact I think the digital win. Not because they are digital but because they offer more controls. I can't think of a film compact camera that allows me to manually set shutter speed, aperture and focus manually. Many digital compacts do allow totally manual controls although difficult to do as they tend to hide all those controls deep in the menus.
  46. as any pinhole photographer can tell you gear is largely overrated. It's the stuff between your ears that gets you there and not what you hold in your hands. It's a frightfull cliche, I know but since it's obvious this fact is lost on many people it won't do harm to repeat it every now and then.
  47. M Stephens I mean in terms of actual sheer resolution when comparing a FF digi to drum scanned film, I should have just said that digital beats film in terms of resolution. I s'pose the rest of the rest of the things we can judge image quality by are more objective, which it probably why I shoot so much film still.
    Craig Gillette The Sony Nex is small but not really tiny and it has an APS-C size sensor.
    BeBu Lamar Yes it's shame there's not more film compacts with more manual controls, but this discussion was only about image quality anyway, not control.
    Dave Redmann I'm not sure if they are as small as I'm thinking, but it's about time they started putting larger sensors in digi compacts instead of more pointless mega pixels.

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