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Film versus digital


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<p>Until recently I thought that a 20 megapixel digital camera would equal all 35mm film but then came across this comparison on ken rockwell's site:<br>

<a href="http://kenrockwell.com/nikon/d3x/sharpness-comparison.htm">http://kenrockwell.com/nikon/d3x/sharpness-comparison.htm</a><br>

where he shows crops from a Canon 5D Mark II, Nikon D3X and Nikon D700 as well as a 2400 dpi (!) scan from Fuji Velvia 50.<br>

I was shocked to see that the 2400 dpi Vevia scan shows more detail than the digital exposures. For example the tree in the foreground has no (Canon) or almost no (Nikon D3X) leaves in the digital exposures while it is clearly seen to be full of leaves in the film scan. Likewise the grass/leaves under the trees in the background show much more detail in the film scan.<br>

Is this an aberration or are there other such examples?<br>

You can get a scanner with Silverlight software capable of 3300 dpi effective scans for 289 Euros.</p>

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<p>I'm shocked that you where shocked. Frankly the digital gigapixels talk was frankly all hopple speak. No one understood the point was really about Dynamic range not the pixels.</p>

<p>Can opened and frankly while it's agreed, it's overdone, it's a genuine discussion as long as it's civil. Esp now with so many going back to film.</p>

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<p>That's not a good test. The 2400 DPI scan is from 6x4.5 camera (not a 35mm camera) and the scans are not particularly good, they were done by a minilab and look like they've been processed very poorly.</p>

<p>Anyway. This topic has been argued pretty much to death already.</p>

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What you didn't realize is that this crap is coming from Ken Rockwell! I wouldn't believe anything this guy publishes on his website. All he wants is to direct eye balls to his site, so he can make more money - that's why he loves to provoke with statements and comparisons, like the above.
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<p>When I got my first dslr, an ~8 megapixel Canon 20D, I tried replicating a tripod-mounted shot I'd previously taken with TMax100, and scanned with the Minolta Scan Elite 5400 (at 5400 dpi). The subject was a sewing machine, with lots of fine detail, machining, etc.</p>

<p>Comparing results, I found the two outputs fairly close. The TMax scan <em>hinted</em> at further detail, ie: when looking at it's detail there were more subtle variations, but it was very close. Also, the scan drove home just what a pita it was scanning: grainy, dust specks, difficulties getting corner-to-corner focus.</p>

<p>With todays high megapixel levels, I think it's no contest, apart from ongoing dynamic range issues.</p>

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I may have to give up on film myself. On a recent trip to Hawaii I took along my Minolta XG-9 film camera with 45mm f/2 lens and Canon A570 IS compact digital camera. I had the film developed at a pro lab but the negatives all look a bit thin. That must have been a problem with the developer. How can you get thin negatives when shooting Fuji 400H at 1/250 sec @ f/11 under the Hawaiian sun? I had to do a lot of corrections on the film photos and almost none on the digital photos. I would stick to film for serious work that I develop and print myself but for general shooting I will stick to digital.
James G. Dainis
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<p>Mike you can relax. From my experience with my Canon 5D mk1, detail from this camera is close to a good scan from 6x4.5 film. I do shoot 6x9 film when I need a little more detail and more dynamic range (I shoot color negative film).</p>

<p>A 20mp DSLR will have generally better image quality than a scan of a 35mm slide, no contest.</p>

<p>So, sure, shoot your old film camera to achieve the "look" of film, but it won't out resolve a hi-res DSLR...</p>

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<p>This subject is mute to me only because I love both formats and have no qualms with either. As for Ken Rockwell, like all critiques, I take them with a grain of salt and make my own decisions on the collective opinions rather than the one. He does make quite a few points that I agree with and but not some others. </p>
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<p>A very old question: How many megapixels does it take to equal the quality of a 35mm film image? The answers range from 6 to 40 depending on your assumptions. I could design a picture comparison to illustrate both ends of this spectrum. These numbers are not very helpful. It is the images that are worth considering. When I went over to the dark side I found that a D200 could provide consistently better images compared to what I was getting on 35 mm film. They are not as good as MF and LF which I shoot on occasion. I also shoot some Kodachrome because I'm convinced that a box of 35mm slides will outlive my collection of digital image files. I also enjoy the unique pallet of Kodachrome. </p>

<p>This is more words than this topic deserves. The only advice I would give is to try some of each format and see for yourself. My opinion on your pictures doesn't matter.</p>

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<p>Actually I still prefer to shoot slide film and scan it.I just love the look especially on a light board through a good loupe.Something I've yet to match with anything digital.<br>

As for K Rockwell.He kind of lost me recently when he started to justify spending $9000 on a Leica R9 digital body (without lens).For a while there he had me fooled into thinking he was really a film kind of guy at heart.</p>

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<blockquote>For example the tree in the foreground has no (Canon) or almost no (Nikon D3X) leaves in the digital exposures while it is clearly seen to be full of leaves in the film scan.</blockquote>

<p>Haha, I think the pictures were not taken on the same day. Otherwise, I would only shoot film to show scenery and subjects as it "should" ideally be, not as it is.</p>

<p>Seriously, just shoot whatever you've got. If you don't have anything yet, just buy whatever you can afford. If you can afford anything you want, then what's all the discussion about? Just get one of everything.</p>

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<p><em>1) Ken Rockwell is a crazy person.</em></p>

<p>LOL! I don't think he's crazy, I think he likes controversy because it drives traffic to his site.</p>

<p>Here are links to the opinions of two well respected industry scientists on the issue if you really feel like reading up. But you're probably better off spending your time photographing something.</p>

<p>http://www.normankoren.com/Tutorials/MTF7.html</p>

<p>http://www.clarkvision.com/imagedetail/index.html</p>

<p>Incidentally, I wouldn't rely on black and white line charts too much. Film resolution is strongly correlated with detail contrast, where digital resolution is not. At a contrast ratio of 100:1 or better B&W charts are not representative of the average contrast of fine details in photography, and are therefore not accurate predictors of performance. For that you would need a gray 2:1 chart. Film's performance on said chart will be 1/2 to 1/3rd what it is on the B&W version. (See <em>Basic Photographic Materials and Processes </em> Third Edition, Chapter 7.)</p>

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eh...that Ken Rockwell guy is weird. I'm thinking he has some kind of split personality disorder or something. He contradicts himself. I use film almost exclusively for all my pictures, because I just prefer using film. For me, it's more challenging and it's just a lot more fun. I pretty much only use digital for casual snapshots when I'm hanging out with my friends. Or to take pictures of my vintage film cameras :) I had seen parts of Ken Rockwell's website before, and at first I really liked him because it <i>did</i> seem like he was a film guy.<p>

 

But then I read where he made a statement saying "only old-timers use manual exposure." What a freaking idiot. I'm only 31, and I use ENTIRELY manual exposure. That's all I use. In fact, the whole reason why I got seriously into photography to begin with is because I wanted to learn how to use vintage cameras with completely manual exposure control. And now, that's all I use. The only auto exposure camera I have is my little digital P&S camera. Otherwise, I prefer completely manual exposure control. <p>

 

I mean really, you HAVE to use manual exposure for real photographic techniques. <p>

 

After I read what he said, I pretty much totally lost respect for him.

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<p>These discussions are always a bit of a laugh (sorry). The question should not be about which medium falls apart when I blow a door knob up to the size of a barn? Instead, it should be about which is better for you and the type and size of images you create. For me, I was a medium format guy and loved the results it was getting from my beloved Delta 100. I made the switch a couple of years ago and I don't think I will ever go back. Does my digital B&W work match the delta? Not to my eye (but its very close), but my clients can't tell the difference. Color work is every bit as good as film. The key for me however was the control that I have in the finished product and of course digital retouching is a dream. As someone who shoots portraits, its a no brainer. Other opinions will differ and of course those differing opinions are completely valid for those individuals.<br>

If you are going to make these comparisons, then do yourself a favor and first print your film images as God intended using the chemical process. Evaluate this first. Then (if you must) scan the image so you can see any degradation caused by the scanner. The scanner used is ALWAYS the great equalizer in these comparisons. This is why you simply must view a quality print via the chemical process. Otherwise, you are comparing a digital master image vs. a second generation digital image created via a scanner and what you are trying to do is compare digital against film.<br>

Mel</p>

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<p>You can use manual exposure with digital and auto exposure with film. The exposure has to be 'correct' regardless of the method...you still need to use your head. KR uses his to get 'this stuff' started. You can use a light meter with digital. A sensor is nothing more than reusable film. <br>

Now that the film question is resloved...on to audio...everybody knows LP's are better than CD's. Any more questions? :-)</p>

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<p>How many megapixels per square inch is like shoes per woman; lures per fisherman; lenses per photographer; horsepower per cubic inch. It is a fuzzy number. With film it is a 2 decade old debate now; we got our first slide scanner 20 years ago. Folks want "justification". Any blur with misfocus; or motion nullifys the granite test bed results. Alot of actual clients scans contain little info compared to best case figures. Most folks do not use a tripod; or use a low iso; or shoot at F8 either.</p>
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<p>These comparisons aren't absolute. You need to look at the pictures with the workflow that you intend to use.<br>

People can talk all that they like about the advantages of drum scanning 6x7 film but if you haven't got a drum scanner and can't afford the money or time to send them out then it doesn't make any difference.<br>

Shoot some film stocks that you are considering using and some digital. Scan the film using the scanner that you are thinking about buying and compare the results.<br>

You will probably just find that they are different. I find that they both have different (and overlapping in places) uses.<br>

Enjoy your photography :)</p>

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