Jump to content

Film versus digital

Recommended Posts

  • Replies 189
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

<p>I might start a thread of my own, but I'll just start here. I just got back 36 slides of Velvia 100 back, and it has me wondering all over again. A friend gave me his Nikon F3 (he had 2), and I researched the best lens I could afford, the 28mm f2.8 prime Nikkor from the 80s, and bought it used for $275. (rockwell's review of this lens agreed with others on its great quality and value). I've got a B+W polarizer on it. Bottom line, this setup DESTROYED my digital results. I was floored looking at these slides. Deeper dark colors, huge contrast, sharp vegetation, and most importantly to me, seeming 3-dimensionality, foreground to background. Landmarks that seem shaped, as opposed to flat.<br>

It seems with my digital shots, I'm getting 20% good, and with the film, I'm getting 80%. Of course, I'm lazier with the digital, but not to this degree. Overcast pictures in digital always look like trash. WIth film, most are good. In situations that are half cloudy and half sunny, it seems like film brings together the disparities, and digital screw up part of them .Film actually seems far more tolerant of disorder in natural lighting. I wish I could quantify it, but I can't. Maybe this is the first decent glass I've owned, and it will work great on a D700, which I don't own. Of course, I prefer the lower cost (not of cameras) of digital, and the freedom. Still, why do the pictures look so much more worthless when shot on digital? Why isn't there a standard explanation out there? It has little to do with resolution, it has to do with the overall look.</p>

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p>Also, people diss Rockwell more than is necessary. He seems like a good photog, and his website has been a valuable resource to me on many occasions. I hadn't seen this comparison, but it confirms what I've been thinking. People always said Velvia was a pleasant exaggeration of reality. Well, digital is an unpleasant video-ized washing out of reality. Some of the blurring in these examples is horrifying.</p>
Link to comment
Share on other sites


<p>In this case, it has little to do with the resolution...as you said. What it has to do with is the fact that Velvia comes out fully processed the way you like....Punchy colors, high contrast, etc. The digital Raw file is neutral. In other words, you must process it to have that Velvia look if you want. The problem is, the digital file starts off with far more dynamic range than a velvia photo ever will. Therefore, the Raw file must have the contrast increased, and the DR reduced....saturation bumped to match the response curve of the film, etc, etc. It can be done, and quite easily. </p>

<p>That said, I love film, and will use it as long as it's available. </p>

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p>I shoot both film (medium format, 35mm) and digital myself. I scan my 6x7 medium format film on a ccd scanner at around 4600 dpi which gives me about 125 Megapixel files. At 300 dpi these can technically be printed up to around 42 inches long with excellent detail. Depending on what film is used I wouldn't go that big, but certainly no problem with 100 speed film, slide or negative. With digital its not possible to print nearly that big with good detail. Medium format lenses, on the other hand, aren't as sharp as 35mm optics so a small print from 35mm may actually look better than a medium format one. It all depends on the subject. Medium format film has fantastic tonality so its very good for landscape photography, while 35mm, digital or film, is better suited for things like action and bird photography, whenever you need to be quick and capture the moment.<br /> <br /> Here are some of my <a href="http://cceder.com/gallery_main.html">scanned film</a> where you can have a look for comparison. If you're after high dynamic range then I can recommend you to shoot color negative film. It's such a pleasure to use and very rarely do you get blocked shadows or blown highlights. Digital, on the other hand, has better acutance than scanned film. At iso 100 digital will look cleaner than scanned film when enlarged. Will this show in prints? It depends on the format, type of film, the enlargement factor.<br /> Comparing 35mm film to digital is not very interesting. It's the outcome that is interesting whether it be digital or film. Both can create interesting and beautiful images. Digital is certainly more convenient to work with but it can also be a burden for the same reason - you end up taking so many photos that you spend days at the computer just organizing and finding out which images you are going to edit.<br /> Go out and shoot and enjoy life and don't worry too much!</p>
Link to comment
Share on other sites


<p>"<a rel="nofollow" href="../photodb/user?user_id=1663928">Richard Karash</a> " that's a poor comparison imho as its misleading, the digital sensor is smaller than the film area, if you wanted a real comparison the same lens on both, then centre crop the film size to an APS-C frame and examine it, plus there are more updated sensors than that.</p>



<p>Hi Dan -- This wasn't a technology test, it was a practical use test. I've got both digital and film cameras on my shelf. What can I expect if I pick one up, shoot, and follow reasonably normal workflow steps? You might be interested in a different question, but that's the question I wanted to research.</p>

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p><a href="../photodb/user?user_id=4581187">Yoshio Tanaka</a> :<br /> It's misleading because it's not a real film vs digital comparison, variables other than being film or digital have not been removed.<br /> It's more of a image plane size and lens comparison.<br /> Same lens, same f-stop, same image plane size is a comparison of x sensor vs y film.<br /> Otherwise, the way to do it would be APS-C sensor, same lens, shooting from the same distance via tripod and cropping the film to the same fov.</p>

<p>To make an objective film vs digital comparison you have to compare them on a 1:1 scale to show performance of each at the same level, otherwise you are merely testing which specific system can you get more from within certain constraints for the same application (and thus same fov from the same shooting distance - different lenses), like a budget, outdated APS-C vs inexpensive consumer 35mm film.<br /> If you think this really does not matter, then lets stick the shoe on the other foot and test Pen F or half frame against a 5D, 5D Mk II, D3x, and call this a film vs digital comparison, and say that digital is ridiculously better than film can ever be.<br /> Or 35mm film vs the Phase One 65+ medium format digital back, and call that just "film vs digital", no.</p>

<p>Tests of any nature need to performed objectively and fairly, otherwise all you are doing is testing a specific case study <strong>scenario</strong> .</p>

<p><a href="../photodb/user?user_id=3995956">Mauro Franic</a><br>

Your numbers are off - and your assumptions are incorrect.<br>

A bayer sensor can resolve 100% detail per pixel - this has been shown enough times with specific lens tests, you cannot have more resolution than that, any difference you are seeing in apparent sharpness is apparent and is due to contrast.<br>

And to achieve that much detail, you need a lens with a resolution much higher than that, you cannot achieve a lens' full resolution - that is unless you have a film that outresolves the lens a few times over.</p>

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p>I love it when people whinge about diffraction limit and having too many MP's in digital cameras - its not like they cant pull the resolution back down to a number they want or buy a different camera - more pixels is beneficial to extracting more detail from a lens, if the lens resolution and sensor resolution (just like on film) is the same, you will not achieve the full resolution of either in the recorded image - one must be higher than the other by a fair bit for that.</p>

<p>These same kind of people will go on about the resolution of film ad nauseum, its ridiculously ironic.</p>

<p>They all talk about 'film' possessing select qualities of different stocks together, they seem to all have access to this magical film that has the fine grain of slow speed motion picture film, the dynamic range of reala, and the resolving power of kodak gold 25, and the colours of velvia.</p>

<p>I really love film, and mix my own chemicals and do E6 processing, but there is nothing I hate more than anti-digital film snobbery elitism.</p>

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Thanks for your input. I'm pretty competent in photoshop, and I've yet to turn a digital image into Velvia. It's more than saturation and contrast, it's dimensionality. Velvia may exagerrate, but digital seems not real either. It washes out.<br>

Photography is by definition 2D and flat, but digital seems to make it more so. Also, forget about shooting with the sun/disc in the frame in digital. I would just say that film is more forgiving of variable light situations, and digital only renders well in the best (and controlled) light.<br>

Of course, digital is great for convenience and utility. I'm not saying I know why. It's just that landscapes come up short in digital. As far as film snobbery goes, I'm the biggest anti-purist out there when it comes to style and photography in general. However, you don't want your base quality going backwards, and digital often gives that impression, and that's just in shooting. The printing side of the equation has serious troubles of its own, including preposterous toner costs. I would not mind having my Cibachrome back.</p>

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<p><em>"I would not mind having my Cibachrome back."</em><br>

<em> </em><br>

As someone else mentioned above, it apparently is back, with a new name: Ilfochrome.<br>

I haven't tried it myself in its recent incarnation yet, but I also loved my old Cibachrome prints.</p>


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 months later...

<p>I looked at this whole question very recently and concluded that there was still life in film, even though the majority of digital images were better IMHO.<br>

Took 28 subjects with both digital and 35mm film and had the film scanned at 7200x4800 pixels.<br>

You can see the results and make your own judgement here :-<br>



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

<p>What a great thread, kudos to all for making this a thoroughly engaging discussion. Though I am late to this, I want to add my comments from another thread I started here ---> http://www.photo.net/canon-eos-digital-camera-forum/00WhwO <---- where I was asking for help deciding which Digital DSLR to buy ... it was to be my first foray into Digital. By the end of the discussion, and through my own further research, I came to the following conclusion. ( I should add, I am a Landscape Photographer )</p>

<p>+++++++++++++++++++++<br /> Robert, Lad and Manuel ... thank you all!</p>

<p>Whether you guys know it or not, you have actually helped me in making a decision to stick with film for now and in this company I know that choice may be a little controversial. Having read through the article at Luminous Landscape It served only to reinforce the principals of photography that tend to ring loudest. I have come to realize all the more that while we can enlarge sections of images and study resolution and noise, it is the sum total - dare i say the big picture - that really matters most. Here is where I am going with this.</p>

<p># - Without doubt, I can look at Digital images and say that in many cases they present a sharper and cleaner image than some film images - but usually only visible differences when the images are cropped and enlarged for comparison.</p>

<p># - When viewing the full image between digital and film I am usually more drawn to the film image because of the inherent flaws ... the sharpness and softness in film is less uniform in film and therefore more organic and believable to my eyes. Nature is not perfect and nor is it uniform and I feel that film tends to reflect that better than digital, which seems to be so uniform that it become surreal and some how hyper real to my eyes.</p>

<p># - I went into this with an honestly open mind, I have no dog in the film vs digital fight at all - if suitably blown away, I was quite prepared to dump most of my film gear and shift over into the Digital world. I am now even more convinced that I prefer film for all the reasons given above. I now know I don't care if a cropped section of a film image has grain, if when I'm looking at the entire picture I can't see it and the overall image is pleasing. I guess it's very much like Impressionism ... if you stand up close enough to a Van Gogh, you could pick apart all the sloppy strokes of yellow and blue paint ... but what is important is the big picture when you stand back from it and take it as a whole.</p>

<p># - The workflow aspect of digital is another reason I would rather work with film ... the idea of having to do a lot of in camera processing and tweaking of modes and parameters is really the antithesis of my style. Thank you Manuel for making this clear to me!</p>

<p># - When looking at an image I generally want it to reflect the subject as accurately as possible, but there is another side to all this and that is one of what looks natural and pleasing to the eye. I am wondering when did photography take such a big left turn down this one way street that is in some part obsessed in the pursuit of minimal noise and max resolution? I really believe that there is a place in imaging for noise and variations in resolution - some of the greatest images of the past 100 years were grainy as hell ... they are still legendary images.</p>

<p># - I suppose this comes down to an issue of aesthetics for me, as well as work flow and desired outcomes. I have come to understand that the flaws in film are the very things that I love most and that in removing them from the image, for me anyway, removes much of the heart and soul of what I love about photography. Again, the almost perfect, hyper sharp and clean digital images produced tend to leave me cold - I am moved by the beauty of many of them but something is usually missing ... a human element?</p>

<p>I guess what I am trying to say is that for me, Film retains a human element, a flaw that is in synch with nature ... perhaps the look of Digital is a bit too industrial for me but there we have it. I am extremely grateful to everybody who has contributed here as you have all helped me come to this realization with firmer resolve than ever before. Perhaps in the future when Digital backs are available for my Mamiya at reasonable prices I'll make the move, but for now I think I'll go buy more Velvia and a good Film Scanner and call it done.</p>

<p>These are my own conclusions obviously, I am not trying to convince anybody of my views, but I felt for all the effort put into this thread I owed people an explanation as to my decision not to go Digital at this time.</p>

<p>Best, Simon.<br /> ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++</p>

<p>I have just bought a Nikon Coolscan V-LS50 ... and have every intention of sticking with film for all my future work.</p>


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...