Is there a situation where film is better?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by mark_stephan|2, Jul 21, 2014.

  1. Has high resolution digital cameras surpassed slide film? In what situations is film better?
  2. Surpassed?
    Naturally. Not only in resolution for any ordinary slide film (including even Kodachrome), but also in the cleanness of the image - no bits, flecks, and dust on the film (even straight from Kodak, alas).
    Where better?
    Most particularly in cameras that use only film!
    If the April Fool's joke ( ) had been real, some of us might never have used film again.
    I love old cameras. Aside from Kodachrome 10 or 25 and Polaroid Type 52 (4x5)--both long dead, I'm not so crazy about films.
    Ektar and Ilford XP2 are nice, I'll admit.
  3. Yes, no, unless you're a hopeless romantic, love delayed gratification and love working with one-arm tied behind your back.
  4. It is a rather open invitation for the nth film-versus-digital-zealotry-war, isn't it? There are numerous threads on the subject of resolution of film versus digital. A little search on this site, and you can enjoy all of it, including snarky remarks, blind adoration for either recording medium, trolling, namecalling and all that silliness.
    Well.... $0,02: in my opinion, film is still better at dealing with highlights; doesn't clip as harsh and absolute as digital.
  5. SCL


    IMHO film has a wider range of highlights and shadows than digital, but nobody cares anyway. Resolution-wise, with the exception of a couple of special purpose films, some digital sensors surpass film. It seems this topic just keeps regurgitating ad nauseum.
  6. Yes, for folks who enjoy the material and process for its own sake and don't attempt to justify it with insupportable claims, the medium of choice is "better".
    And for collectors or aficionados who appreciate the differences between media, who know the difference between egg tempera and watercolor painting, yes, the medium matters. But it's a matter of taste and the quirks of personal preference, not one of inherent superiority.
    And now for something really important: Socks with sandals, yes or no?
  7. I used to like the Panatomic X and Chrome 64. Well, it's a different day and we need to adjust to reality.
  8. For me film is never better as I hate waiting days to get my film back. It took several weeks to get my black and white film back and I was told I could not process the slide film at all. I was use real black and white file Kodak Plus-X and Tri-X and they had no idea what it was. I was told they can only process C41 processed film which uses a color film process for black and whites.
    Well, I still believe medium format film has more dynamic range than Digital camera's. However, slide film and digital cameras have about the same range. If you are using something like Fuji Neopan or Kadak UC or VC Ulta color or Vivid color you will see more color saturation in greens reads and yellows. However, you can get similar results using Alien Skins Exposure.
  9. As a film shooter for many years, I am certainly glad those days are over. I respect those who still get a kick from using film, but it's not my idea of a good time. I bet even Paul Simon has gone digital!
  10. film is not something i consider 'better' or 'worse'. where the question begins to gain significance (for me) is when the resources to charge, dump etc. digital files does not fit in to my travel plans. I have been on assignments that involve me being way of the coca-cola grid for extended periods of time and in those cases, some hammer proof film cameras fit the bill. as per the quickly derailed FM3A thread, that particular machine has proven to be a very capable bread winner for me and a pair of them, 2 lenses, a studio master and a load of rolls is a very compact package for me.
    horses for courses.
    or insert the 'they are just tools' line here
  11. "In what situations is film better?"

    Long exposure night photography (particularly in warm weather.) By this I am referring to times in excess of 15 min. In my experience this is the one situation I have encountered where film is still significantly better (aesthetics aside). Digital sensors heat up and produce a lot of noise in a hurry. In the summertime where I live (consistently above 100deg F. during the day) I try to avoid exposure times longer than about 2 minutes or so, and even that is pushing it. In the winter months I can do about 10-12 minutes. Anything longer and the noise becomes intolerable or requires excessive noise reduction which kills sharpness and resolution. This usually means wider apertures and faster ISO's than I would prefer to use. Of course I am talking about a standard long exposure on a single frame and not frame stacking Photoshop wizardry. Not having to deal with film reciprocity is a benefit however.
  12. I can't say that one is better than the other but I am noticing something new. Several friends who are more than a few years younger and who have only ever used digital equipment have discovered film. One in particular who shoots normally with a D800E has discovered Pan F and home processing. He has decided that he likes it for some situations over the digital format. This is from a serious photographer who never was exposed to film use or the film v. digital debates/wars from 5 or 10 years ago. He's now looking into some C-41 processing kits. A year ago he didn't know what C-41 was. I find this phenomenon interesting and have noticed it among a few other younger shooters. I've also gone back to film for some uses, particularly B&W. I think this new discovery of film can only be a good thing. I'm not getting rid of my digital bodies just yet though.
    Rick H.
  13. One might as well ask if concrete has surpassed stone.

    Since this is the EOS forum, I suppose you're asking about 35mm film. If so, then you need special circumstances to get
    more than 20mp out of it. I don't know if that answers your question. MF and LF are quite a different matter.

    Film and digital are different. One must spend a lot of time with each to know them, and then one will know where each
    one's strengths lie. You don't see people asking whether digital has surpassed cya ottos, so why film?

    But one can say that in the sense that digital set out to imitate what people usually wanted film for, then it has reached its
    goal (after a number of to victory). Today's cell phones still can't do all that point and shoot cameras with
    plastic lenses did 25 years ago, but they can do things those cameras couldn't, and more conveniently.

    Notice also that digital is continually improving whereas film only sees improvements in emulsion quality (and the fact is
    that nowadays we have some of the best film ever). But there is a marked disincentive to use film - no tools, no supply
    chain - and did you notice that there are hardly prints made anymore, from film or digital?

    It's also implicit that you must justify your choice when you use film. You are not allowed to find it better. At best, you can
    put on a yellow smile and say its for some exquisite project.

    But I admit I'd love the April fool's joke to be true. That doesn't mean I wouldn't keep using film. I'm fortunate enough to
    have been educated to do what I feel good with, not what trend folks want me to. (it's often the case that when trends get
    trendy, I've often already been there, done it, and moved on.)

    One thing with which I must concur is that film handles highlights much better. But I've always put that down to my own
    ineptitude with the medium.
  14. Where film has an advantage is when you want to make avery large print without buying the digital equipment you would need. At a recent camera show, a photographer told me that when he needs to make a vary large print he shoots color negative film with a 4X5 camera and then has the negative drum scanned. How large a print can he make? As large as he likes. If I need to make a large print I will shoot Ektar 100 in a 6X7 camera. Can I get a digital camera to match that level of quality in a large print? I probably can but it would cost a lot. It would only be practical to get a camera like that if I needed to make very large prints on a regular basis. I still use mostly film but I do have a Pentax K-x DSLR. What's my favorite lens to use with it? A 50/1.7 SMC Pentax-F. From what I can see, the lens is more capable that the sensor. At the lower ISO settings very nice 8X10s and 11X14s are possible.
  15. Every now and again, long and far between episodes, I miss the ground glass on my 4x5, dark and pebbly grained though I know it to be. I miss it most when working hard and still just missing the precise focus I want with a TS-E. In theory, working tethered should be lighter, simpler, and better, but I never got around to clamping a suitable mount on a sturdy enough tripod. It isn't there when I need it.
    The rest of it I don't miss at all, good riddance to the tools of bondage. I had to think a few moments to come up with even that little bit of nostalgic rememberance above. My other woes are not so much digital versus film, but simply those of the small format versus large film acreage. I have in mind the depth of field, and the laundry list of things we give up for the convenience of a small package. Overall, the votes were in long ago, and small format digital wins by a ton of miles.
  16. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I figure that people who actually have photos to show have tried both, or at least one, and have worthwhile opinions. The others just like to post on web forums, from what I can see.
  17. I can only think of three situations. If you were going on some journey where it would be near impossible to ever charge your dslr batteries. I'm not sure what that would be but a film camera not dependent on batteries could be the ticket.
    The second is kind of a ringer. If you had to add new pictures to an existing slide show that would continue to be shown as slides then a slide film (duh) would be the answer.
    Third situation would be if you wanted a photographic medium that's absolutely archival and doesn't rely on an electronic medium you'd want to shoot black and white film and archivally process it.
  18. - Long exposure
    - Medium and Large formats and
    - Slides
    In postprocessing of digital I have never achieved such colours like on Velvia or Astia. So I miss them very much
  19. handles highlights much better. But I've always put that down to my own ineptitude with the medium.​
    Touché! Very true.
    Being a bit mindful while exposing on digital circumvents most of the risks. But I have some photos with small, strong highlights in an otherwise fairly dim scene, and with film, those highlights just look better without clipping, and without underexposing the rest of the scene a lot (photo not in my portfolio here, before anyone asks). Admittedly, it's an advantage with very limited scope, and not a reason to dump digital and move to film.
  20. Artists use all sorts of weird and wonderful processes to produce the results they want, some of which, aquatint for example and indeed etching more generally, make film seem very straightforward (do I mean "sane"?). I see no reason why film (and even older processes) and analogue printing methods should not have a place as artistic tools, in a context where "better" is not really a relevant word. And there are folks, for example those on the FD forum and classic cameras forum, who enjoy using classic equipment and needs must use film in order to do so. Good luck to them and I hope they can still get hold of the materials they need. But for the rest of us this is a debate that is long since over.
  21. david_henderson


    Seems simple enough to me. In circumstances where the photographer gets more enjoyment from the process and the results from using film, then film is better.
    Things get a little more complicated for a an assignment, where the clients preferences ( if any) have to be set alongside those of the photographer. But those situations are relatively rare I'd suggest.
  22. "In what situations is film better?"
    There are still a few, As noted, extremely long exposures produce notably better results than sensors. I did a 120min star trail exposure the other day on my 5D2, and, even at ISO100, w/ LENR on, getting rid of the ridiculous amount of noise was nearly impossible. I am certain that a film exposure would have produced better results.
    As well, IR photography that doesn't require altering your camera to snap shots...
    The other (as I've seen) is artistic exploration. Sure PS is a powerful tool, but I saw a recent exhibit here at SCAD Museum of Art of Matthew Brandt's work with soaked prints.... ...very interesting... And something that would be nearly impossible with digital.
    I can't think of anything else off the top of my head that represents a significant advantage in film...
  23. I used a film camera from the late 60s when still in high school. Then I got a Canon 40D, ancient by todays
    standards. Never looked back, never took a single picture with film again even though I have a nice, new
    EOS 3, complete with awesome focusing, stuffed into a closet. My photography has improved
    tremendously. Now I can press the shutter with the freedom to NOT worry about the cost of film and
    processing. That is just me, there are others who use film and still prefer that and that is OK for them.
  24. "In what situations is film better?"
    Archival ability. That is the only true advantage of film that I can honestly think of.
    Any type of digital storage will last 20 years at most when left unmanaged. So, once you're dead, your life's work will die 20 years later at most unless you have people prepared to manage its storage. With film you can leave your files full of negatives lying in a dusty attic for centuries without much worry.
  25. Archival ability. That is the only true advantage of film that I can honestly think of.​
    I'm not sure I would agree with this. Certainly most digital storage has a finite lifespan (and 20yrs is being generous in most of these cases), but archival grade DVD-Rs and CD-Rs have (predicted obviously, though tested) lifespans of 100-300+ yrs. While I wouldn't predict a drive being readily available to access the images in 100 yrs, I expect that for the forseeable future there will always be services available to read your archival grade DVD-R and copy the data into a 'modern' format/onto a modern 'quantum crystalline memory stick' ;) or whatever.
    Of course any predictions of modern negative lifespans of 100+ yrs are also predictions (especially on modern 35mm film). While several chemical processes are relatively stable, there are a lot of factors at play - and the attic is NOT where I would store any negatives I want to be able to access - even 5yrs from now (I have seen them peel apart before when exposed to repeated heat/cool cycles). Of course Negatives still also require specialized equipment to access, and turn into prints.
    Overall, I would say that, with the advent of archival grade digital storage media and devices, that there is no decided advantage for negatives over digital (or vice versa). If both were left in safe deposit boxes side by side for 100 or even 300 yrs, I think there is about an equal likliehood you'd be able to recover usable images.
  26. Archival ability?
    see for some data on those "archival" film images.
    Platinum prints and color separations using the same, for example, are a little pricey these days but could provide true archival stability, insofar as assumptions like the continuation of our civilization are made.
    Our new machine masters will no doubt see to the maintenance of digital data without our being involved.
  27. I do think that digital has surpassed film in many ways, and that it has more to do with the steps in the entire process from the click of the shutter to the final print or image, rather than the quality of the image itself, which is at least partially a matter of taste - not to mention our skills as photographers and digital darkroom techs. It may be true that film emulsion is now at its best, but that's like saying that an actor's best performance was his best one, just before he died.
    That said, I really hope that film stays around forever, as an artistic medium (watercolor vs. oil painting, anyone?), but not because of any disputable technical superiority. Every now and then, I drag out my beloved Olympus OM-1 and shoot a roll or two of BW, just as a reminder of "the good old days" of manual focus/aperture/shutter speed settings, the almost silent shutter, the manual film advance, etc. It's kind of like a Tesla driver taking a time out with a horse and buggy.
    Momma, don't take my megapixels away...
  28. After 3+ decades, "Film vs Digital" still attracts a crowd. Amazing!
    Cheers! Jay
  29. I do a ton of digital, but I still enjoy the "hands on" of film and my wet darkroom. Plus the scotch is more rewarding sipping while looking at wet prints or film hanging...
  30. "IR photography that doesn't require altering your camera to snap shots..."​
    Some digicams don't need any modifications for infrared. Some older P&S digicams and dSLRs with weaker sensor filters can handle IR with just the usual on-lens IR filter(s).

    My old Nikon D2H can do IR with a combination of an ordinary 25A red filter and dual polarizers. Presumably a standard IR filter would work as well, but I already had the 25A and polarizers. It should work on my Olympus C-3040Z P&S digicam, which was among the Olympus digicams favored for IR photography several years ago without need for internal modifications.
    "Archival ability. That is the only true advantage of film that I can honestly think of."​
    USB flash drives and media cards have proven impressively durable - some have been recovered from sea water immersion with images intact.

    However, film and prints retain an undeniable advantage - the contents are readily identifiable, and the light sensitive media and processing chemicals are low tech. Future generations can easily print or duplicate from negatives, positive film and prints.
  31. If both were left in safe deposit boxes side by side for 100 or even 300 yrs, I think there is about an equal likliehood you'd be able to recover usable images.​
    Fifty years perhaps. After 300, the data might be o.k. but what are you going to read it with?
  32. After 300, the data might be o.k. but what are you going to read it with?​
    ...The same thing you would use today... a computer. Seriously. Ironically, it is probably the same tool you would use to 'read' a negative (ie. a computer with a scanner) -even today, much less 300yrs from now.
    All in all, I would argue that fears over the inability of computers to read data written 20, 50, 100, or even 300 yrs in the past are largely overblown. In 100 yrs Even if the quantum crystalline workstation surgically implanted into your brain can't read an ancient archival USB stick, or archival DVD-R directly, as long as our society uses computers, I am 100% confident that there will be ways to read old digital images and files - and some Chinese company somewhere will make a port to plug that ancient USB stick into that beams the pictures right into your brain...
    ...Seriously, for a couple benjamins, I could buy the hardware to allow my desktop to interface with ANY memory media EVER made widely available - whether that is a floppy disk, a DAT tape, old HDDs, even the Data cassette tapes or Laserdiscs. Not saying it would be completely simple, but certainly easily doable.
  33. Laserdisc video data was analog.
  34. don't know if one can say digital is better, it's progress though, that's how I see it (no pun intended). But I'm still an almost daily film user. I still have a little stash of frozen film, so that feeds my pursuit of film fun. When I'm shooting film though it is a bit like time travel, a 30 year old camera, old (pristine) Canon FD glass, and time really, really slows down. You savor the moment instead of the rush of instant gratification of digital. For the sake of sharing "on the spot" in a social setting, digital is best of course. I think the question is "are digital pictures better than analog pictures" ? There are definitely more people out in the photo cosmos today shooting on their DSLRs or the smart phones but are those pictures really better than if someone was taking the time to make a film image ? Quantity vs quality. I do know that living and learning through the "film" age has made me a better digital photographer.
  35. I'd like something like a Fuji X100s without the LCD. That would take a dent on the instant gratification thing. Maybe one could use the EVF to check if exposure and focus had gone OK, or use wifi and a phone app for that.
  36. Film is excellent for star trails. Long exposures without the need to stack images. Long exposures in the cold where batteries die and digital & film battery dependant shutters die.
    Multiple exposure images are often much better done with film where you can get all the elements on one sheet of film without the need for computer layering.
    If it works for you it is worth it.
  37. Maybe with Black & White Medium Format.
    It also depends on your skill level. If you are a film guru, and know how to use film, you can produce some stunning results that may rival your digital. I have some film shots from Agfa 25 B&W taken with an old Yashica twin lens reflex camera back in the early 90s. Had to use a light meter and a tripod (no on board computers-LOL). I still can't reproduce the level of detail, and the richness of tone from the film with my digital equipment. Something about the black and white seems better with the film. To get these results you do have to know how to use film. There's a learning curve if you're coming from digital where the on board computer does most of the work for you. To pick up an old camera and a roll of film and take shots and run it up to Sams, isn't going to be a good comparison.
  38. Film has an advantage for certain situations where a large "sensor" is needed. While I shoot a lot of digital images with
    tilted or shifted lenses it is much easier on my Fuji Gx680 due to the size and clarity of the image in the viewfinder. Of
    course with large format there is even more of a gap.

    For most uses the resolution gap is not that important as in both cases the resolution is adequate for the likely image
    sizes that are produced.

    While I mainly shoot digital I do find that I prefer the results of a completely film based process when shooting black and
    white. With colour film I generally scan the negative or positive - with black and white I still prefer the results of paper and
    an enlarger.

    Digital is clearly more convenient and has "won" the battle.

    I have found that when I taught my kids to shoot they learned a lot more with a manual focus film camera than with a
    DSLR (although with a digital Leica their learning was also very good). I don't think this is due to a inherent film benefit -
    merely to the fact that with an old MF camera and almost no automation the photographer has to understand what is
    happening and take care with the process.

    Interestingly I find it surprising how people don't see basic image flaws. My personal favourite is how people will not
    notice a TV show in the wrong format - usually 4:3 stretched to fit 16:9 which is common in hotels these days. I used to
    keep a screen saver image taken with a terrible compact camera - the image looked sharp and bright (it was the
    mountains by my home) and most people thought it was a good image. In fact the lens was at its widest setting and had
    seriously distorted the image edges. Almost no one noticed until this was pointed out - in general those that did notice
    immediately were older.
  39. I have almost completely transitioned to digital. However, I keep trying to duplicate the smooth mid-gray tonal distributions prints of a few of my favorite snow scene photos, where a snow field is the main subject, that were taken with a Fuji GS645s camera using Ilford XP2 120 film. I scanned the negatives using a Nikon 9000 scanner. Although my digital printing technique keeps improving, I still have a ways to go before these prints look as good as what I accomplished in my darkroom a dozen or so years ago. Other prints from scanned negatives, without smooth mid-grays dominating the images, look mostly better than what I accomplished in the darkroom.
  40. handles highlights much better. But I've always put that down to my own ineptitude with the medium.​
    In my experience, slide film is a unforgiving beast. Overexpose it as much as a half a stop and it will blow out your highlights.

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