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Film versus digital


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<p>s.d. woods:</p>

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<p>"Digital is for: Anything using a flash, sports, snapshots, autofocus(yesI know some film cameras have autofocus, but they are nowhere near as fast as the comparative digital models. And yes, I know it's not the film's fault, but that doesn't change the fact that autofocus on digital models is faster).<br />Film is for: Everything else"</p>

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<p>i don't know... simpler controls [ability to zone focus, adjust lens opening on the fly, etc.]; a shutter that fires with absolutely no lag time... don't film cameras have it all over digital in this way, or have DSLRs improved a lot?</p>

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<p>No lag in my D90 (or perhaps I'm just old and can't tell). I think Digital is for everything. Film is an anachronism. Debating image quality without consideration of cost, convenience, work flow is a fool's errand. Years go for some photographers thought the only acceptable resolution was 8x10 sheet film, for others Tri-X pushed three times on 35mm got them memorable images.</p>

<p>At $15/roll of slides developed for high end color, 10 rolls or one 8gb memory card. $150.00 or reusable. The money factor for me is trump. I also find the resolution I got with Kodachrome 25 or Velvia 50 did not contribute to greater enjoyment of my results versus my meagre 12 MP D90. Now if someone wanted to give me a trust fund and a great scanner... I'd love to use my old Contax G2s again.</p>

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<p>On the other hand you can forever chase more. If 35mm film is better, then medium format is better yet, etc, etc. Even within this forum, no one is comparing film to larger format digital systems. If you shoot much, digital - even the Leica S2 at $22K become cost effective quickly, that's less than 1500 rolls of Velvia processed, but not scanned.</p>
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<p>i'm not too sure about ted's cost comparison. <br />sure, you don't have the expense of film and developing. but you also aren't left with a readymade archive, like a sleeved sheet of negatives or slides -- you have to manage the electronic files in the long term, somehow. in 20 years we've gone through several types of floppy disks, tape drives, CDs and DVDs, web-based offsite storage by others, etc. -- none of it seems as simple, permanent and foolproof as film.<br />high- and medium-end film cameras, that have practically been given away the last few years have been in service for decades -- while that DSLR will be lucky to make it a single decade before the sensor or something else doesn't function and/or the camera is completely obsolete.<br />depending on what you're doing exactly, film still seems to have its good points, and there's a reason it has faded very slowly.</p>
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<p>Both. The comparison is somewhat like downhill skiing vs. cross-country. The best skiers find that doing both improves both. Digital teaches faster; film has the pleasure of falling into the details: composing, developing, and looking at the finished products.</p>

<p>Pity about digital 35mm equivalents is that they can't be upgraded by swapping out sensors. </p>

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<p>If I looked at my D90 in the same way I looked at my F3HP, I would be extremely disappointed in the D90. The F3HP is as great a camera now as when I bought it - and that's over thirty years ago at a cost of approximately $1,000. Within two years my D90 will probably not even be in Nikon's catalog. But, at today's prices a D90 body ($814 recently) costs the equivalent of 55 rolls of processed slide film (at $15.00 per roll). I do have every intention of using my D90 for several years at least. I do not look at digital storage cost as being particularly high, and believe in redundancy for my storage needs. It's also easier for me to maintain digital files in two locations. My massive boxes of slides and negatives are in a single location. For the cost of film, I'll just swap out camera bodies every few years. The biggest investment is in lenses and lights and tripods and all that other stuff. How long can you make 55 rolls last? 2000 exposures? After that the D90 is "paid for" and any additional uses (98,000 exposures more?) are a bonus.</p>
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<p>Meh. This is a hobby; as long as I'm within what I'm prepared to pay, cost is not a factor. My enjoyment is a factor, however, and I'm enjoying film (especially MF film) more than I do digital nowadays. As an aside, I seem to actually spend less money using film than digital in practice.</p>

<p>Just use whichever you find the more rewarding, and stop worrying about what other people think.</p>

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<p>Mauro: 8 XD11's?! Wow, you've got me beat.</p>

<p>For me liking to shoot film is at least as much about the equipment as the film. I took a few shots today with my XD11 (brown Andy Lynn signature edition - isn't cameraleather.com wonderful?) and Vivitar S1 28-90. I just can't get stuff that good in digital. BTW, that 58/1.4 is great.</p>

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<p>I love digital. It's made for some really fun debates. I like to see the frenzy of posts and it's fun to see how quick a post like this will crack 100, kind of like watching the DOW go over 10,000 (again) today. But mostly I like being able to get a Pentax 645/ 55mm lens for about $350. I really like the scans I am getting from Northcoast Photographic Services in Carlsbad (kudos to Ken Rockwell for pointing out their enhanced scans). For me this is just for fun, and although a 5D or Alpha 900 might be nice, at my rate of about 2 rolls of 120 a month it would take 5 years to pay for just one of those bodies, let alone lenses. Here's a sample scan from Northcoast Photo just for fun. Not the greatest shot, but I liked the 21.5 Mb JPEG scan (reduced to 4MB here, so a bit more JPEGGY).</p><div>00UkWv-180487584.thumb.jpg.d1805841582c3e246c0edc3d848c0529.jpg</div>
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I love both film and digital. But for the purposes of entering the fray I offer the following...

Assuming effective technique, quality equipment, and the fact that many of us digitize our film for editing/printing:

To maximize the resolution of digital cameras, one needs to take a picture on the largest file setting, ie RAW. Thus, a 21

MP camera will give you a roughly 21MP digital image.

To maximize the resolution of larger film, one needs to pay for expensive drum scans, or buy extremely expensive drum

scanners. So while a large format negative may hold the equivelant of hundreds of MPs, only a drum scanner will give you

all/most of that resolution as a digital image.

 

From everything I've read and experienced, consumer scanners severely limit the common man's ability to take full

advantage of much of the larger size films. Using these scanners would be like taking a 21 MP digital and shooting it at

small jpeg quality. You are not taking full advantage of that camera or system's resolution capabilities.

So does film capture more resolution than digital? In the cases of medium to large format, the answer seems

unquestionably to be 'yes.'. Can most of us take routine advantage of all of that resolution in the same way that we can with our digital cameras? For many of us, the answer is probably 'no.' All that being said, I love both mediums and the fact that we are free to work with both whenever we like.

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<blockquote>

<p>at my rate of about 2 rolls of 120 a month it would take 5 years to pay for just one of those bodies, let alone lenses.</p>

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<p>No. You're not doing your maths right. The digi users say that they can take up to 1000 shots per day and then work out how much that would cost them if they were still using film!</p>

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<p>Why would any one take a 1000 shots per day, other then maybe a photographer covering news on a daily basis even have reason to do a 1000 shots a day? I like both film and digital, while I have a Canon 1V to use with my EOS lens, I bought a T70 and fd lens for less then $300 that I now carry with me rather then my G9 which my wife now carries.</p>
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<p>In my humble opinion, it's in principle (philosophically, let's say) flawed the comparison between scanned film and digital capture.<br /> Scanned film, in fact, is nothing else that the digital capture of a film image of the real scene. Why should it be better than a straight digital capture of the real scene, even if film had infinite resolution? Only because the scanner, with much less constraint on size, available light performances, and with application limited to static subjects, will be easier and cheaper to build than a camera system of the same performances. <br /> But that become a comparison between two different digital captures, not between film and digital (and with fast improvement in digital technology, for any given year on camera capture will be as good as one year older scanner image, probably).<br /> A fair and more significant comparison would be between prints, assuming a fully analogic printing process on the film side. Or even better, it's just up to you if you like the best a digital print or a slide projection...</p>

<p> </p>

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<p>Know why a post like "Film vs Digital" always gets so many hits? It's THE hot topic that everyone wants resolution to. Alot of people have already taken a side, and it's not practical for them to dabble in both mediums. The argument is particularly virulent because digital is being touted as a "replacement" for film, the same way digital broadcast TV must replace analog and DVDs replaced VHS. This is why, after someone makes a simple and well-reasoned argument for one particular medium, you get reactions like:</p>

 

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<p> No. You're not doing your [math] right.</p>

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<p>[it's] obvious you've never made direct comparisons...</p>

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<p>I'd love to see these conclusions backed up with real test results.</p>

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<p>No grain of salt needed as I showed you...</p>

 

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<p>The fallacy is the belief that when a company introduces a replacement that the old version is automatically obsolete. No way. It's obsolete when the users finally give it up. Consumers are pressured into obsoleting their old things when they go to the store to buy a replacement and find that it is no longer available. Ta-da! You've been forced into obsolescence. We've seen this a thousand times with every product ever made. As soon as a company starts making something so good that everyone has one and it rarely needs replaced (like a can opener or a mousetrap), the company stops making it and tries to introduce something new to convince people to re-buy something they already have.</p>

<p>So today you have people who needed a new camera and simply bought a digital one because that's what was available. There are also people who haven't bought a new camera in 20 years, because the old ones still work fine. They go to the store one day to buy a replacement and discover that you can't find a film camera anywhere anymore. This is particularly difficult to understand, because there was obviously nothing wrong with film. It was the Mousetrap of photography. When the Japanese started trying to reinvent something similar to film on a digital platform, they had to start from scratch, and they are still playing catch-up to try and obtain the same level of simplicity, quality, reliability, and desirability that they had 15 years ago with film cameras.</p>

<p>When you compare a Kodachrome film scan with a Nikon D3X, remember that Kodachrome has been available since 1936, can go in ANY camera, and only cost $10 to make 36 pictures which withstand the test of time. The Nikon D3X just came out in 2009, costs $8000 up front, and is only subjectively better to some people. Other people will look at the results from the D3X and say, "It's not that great. My Kodachrome looks better." On top of that, digital now presents an archival problem. You can't just stick a hard drive in a manila envelope in a drawer and expect it to work in 20 years, can you?</p>

<p>You can love your digital if you want, and especially if you can afford it. But please don't belittle people who just can't see the reason in re-buying every piece of photographic equipment they've ever had just to see the same results again on a new medium.</p>

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<p>The question of cost.... Here there is no need of a theoretical exercise. There are 10 years worth of experience of photographers how have use both digital and film side by side.</p>

<p>One can pile up how many digi pocket and DSLRs where bought in that period and compare to the cost of film and their film camera.</p>

<p>The question of a scanner:<br>

One can buy a Coolscan 9000 and an RZ67 plus lenses, together for less than the cost of a DSLR body.</p>

<p>It comes to choice.</p>

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<p>Forgot to mention in my earlier post that the "enhanced scans" from Northcoast Photographic Services work out to about 80 cents each since they scan the entire roll at the time of processing for just under $12. The scans are around 2200 dpi which for 645 yields a 17 megapixel very fine JPEG with a file size around 21.5 Mb each. This was all done thru the mail (granted I am only about 100 miles from this service) and I had my sleeved slides back with CD in less than one week.</p>
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<p><em>Know why a post like "Film vs Digital" always gets so many hits? It's THE hot topic that everyone wants resolution to.</em></p>

<p>No, most photographers have already resolved the issue of what works better for them (or what's better for certain uses). If you look at the "film vs. digital" threads, you'll see a lot of the same names over and over again. It's a pet issue for relatively few photographers, but they have a real fervor for discussing it.</p>

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<p>Mike: seriously, my new pet peeve is when people start a post with someone else's quote and then the first word is "No". You and I are really in agreement, you just don't see it because you didn't get past my opening sentence.</p>

<p>What I meant was that people want resolution, as in to have it resolved, finished, over, end of story. Those who shoot digital want film to just die already. Those who shoot film want the digital lackeys to just lay off and leave them alone. (Of course, I am completely excluding those who really don't care, are comfortable with it either way, use both, or are smart enough to not enter the discussion).</p>

<p>It's just not going to happen. Not yet. Film is here, for the time being. But I hope, for my own sake and my growing store of film equipment, that the final blow against film is still in the distant future. I need it to stick around. It's already getting more difficult and expensive than ever before to shoot film, but I still can't afford to shoot all digital. I already have to order ALL my film online at least 1 week in advance of when I need it, and I have to send my E-6 film by mail to another city to get it developed. They've just discontinued Kodachrome now that I'm finally really interested in trying it out, and even Wal-Mart has shut down their 1-hour services. If the pace picks up much faster, there won't even be a discussion anymore. It will just be,</p>

<p>"Remember what photography was like before digital?"</p>

<p>"Before?"</p>

<p>"Yeah, you know. Back when photos were taken on film."</p>

<p>"You mean it changed?"</p>

<p>"Yeah, pictures were on paper instead of computer screens."</p>

<p>"You mean like a painting?"</p>

<p>"Not really. You still used a camera, but there was no computer. The picture just went straight from film to paper."</p>

<p>"Don't be stupid. You can't use a camera without a computer."</p>

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<p>I have a question in all of this...years ago when most of us "older" amatuers had only 35mm cameras, and could only dream of mf equipment, the most we would dare "blow-up" a neg to 8x10, let alone an 11x14...we were told that anymore than that would make a really poor photo...Yet now we keep hearing about all the pixels that 35mm are supposed to be equal to and that if the same digital count in mps I should be able to make wall size murals out of an "FX" sensor. If essentially a true 35mm frame is the same as an FX sensor......what am I missing here or am I simply confused?<br>

Thanks for explaining this to me!<br>

Mark</p>

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<blockquote>

<p>I have a question in all of this...years ago when most of us "older" amatuers had only 35mm cameras, and could only dream of mf equipment, the most we would dare "blow-up" a neg to 8x10, let alone an 11x14...we were told that anymore than that would make a really poor photo...Yet now we keep hearing about all the pixels that 35mm are supposed to be equal to and that if the same digital count in mps I should be able to make wall size murals out of an "FX" sensor. If essentially a true 35mm frame is the same as an FX sensor......what am I missing here or am I simply confused?<br />Thanks for explaining this to me!<br />Mark</p>

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<p>Good questions, Mark.</p>

<p>The first thing to consider is that not all film is the same. Some fine-grained films capture more detail and can be enlarged more than other types of film, even if the negatives/positives are all the same size. Further, different enlargement techniques have different looks and limitations. And of course the quality of the enlargement equipment will affect the final output, too.</p>

<p>There is similar variation in full-frame digital sensors. Some have more pixels than others. Some sensors put more "noise" into the image. Some sensors have filters attached, while others don't.</p>

<p>When someone makes a broad statement about film versus digital capture, that statement is not going to be very accurate unless each of these details is considered carefully.</p>

<p>Finally, because film images and digital images are created with radically different technologies, they never quite look the same even when they are printed. It's like comparing a really good cut of beef versus a really good filet of fish. They're both great for dinner, but can you REALLY claim that one is inherently better than the other?</p>

 

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