Film vs. Digital

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*Film, *Photography, *Reviews

“if you have been digitizing your film for the last seven years wouldn’t it make more sense to shoot digital in the first place?” this was the phrase from a discussion I had with another photographer on the use of digital photography, analog photography etc …

Digital Photography vs. Film Photography

There are endless terabytes and I mean really endless… debates over dynamic range, and the technical pros and cons of Digital and film. However, I would like to present my small view of digital vs. film within my own field of expertise as a pro digital and hobbyist film photographer. The greatest distinction between this two media is probably the methodology and approach to making images. I own a Canon 5D Mark I (soon a Mark III) plus various film cameras, on these, I have shot a lot of film types. I have not had a fabulously great lab develop any of my film work, only a local lab (with mixed results). I have shot some film of my professional work (depending what kind) and my personal projects. And I am great admirer of the few great pro film photographers. I have realized that there are different opinions within the film vs. digital debate. There is the one who only shoot film and claim that you simply can’t reproduce the look, feel and colors of film on any digital camera… well I need to add that a lot of “normal” people can`t distinguish when printed or digitized which was the original source of the image. Then there are the ones who only shoot digital and claim that film simply isn’t worth all expense. And the others like me who are using both, and it´s for sure that both formats have strengths and weaknesses. When I started to study the career I started with film and I can definitely acknowledge that film has several advantages over digital – mainly, the dynamic range (or, ability to retain details in highlights and shadows over a wide range of stops), and also the forgiving nature of film when you overexpose it. It’s very difficult to blow out film even with overexposing by 2-3 stops – and the highlights with film roll off beautifully. In that regard, it’s good when you have a great photo lab to develop and scan it, but if not, well that’s a negative point for film…

The ongoing expense of the film itself and the time and expense of developing/scanning is another bad point. Another is the availability of your favorite film… And you simply can’t take as many images if you have to continuously change rolls of film as you can when you have a 64GB card in your camera. Another disadvantage? You can’t back up film; if something happens to your rolls between shooting and developing, that makes for a very unhappy photographer – and an even unhappier client.Then there’s the issue of the lab. These beautiful colors that many people see in professional photographers’ film work are often simply the result of a very good lab developing their film and applying specific color profiles in the scanning process.  If you cannot afford a good lab or don’t live near one (and are too nervous to mail 50 rolls of film of a client’s wedding), you may find yourself frustrated that you cannot reproduce these results even with the exact same camera, lens and film combination that your favorite pro uses.

In my opinion, I think digital has only one major weakness when compared to film, and that is dynamic range… well depending what digital camera you are able to use…  I always shoot in manual/RAW, which is a huge help. I know before I press the shutter if I still have enough details in my highlights and shadows where it’s important to have detail. So, what’s the conclusion? Film will always have its place in the world of photography, and so will digital. What you decide for yourself depends upon what’s important to you. Or maybe, like me, you’ll find that there is a place for both.

Film VS. Digital

Shooting film

Escrito por

Founder of Lichtbild & Head of his own strange world / Vintage Enthusiast / Photographer / Graphic Designer /Typography "lover" / Book Collector / Spanish+German Mix / Lives in Coruña / Sometimes heads back home & Sleeps. /*

8 thoughts on “Film vs. Digital”

  1. great post!!
    my first SLR was film… I quit film after I took 10 rolls to a lab and when they developed and printed the shots, all shots were tinted in green… they just messed up something in the process of developing the films… that was such a disappointment, you have no idea… I jumped on digital immediately after that…

    when you say you know about highlights and shadows before you press the shutter, what do you mean, you look at the histogram?

    when will you get the Mark III? this is one fantastic camera, I rented it some time ago, it’s really amaing… I would love to read your impressions about that camera… I’m still dreaming about it :)

    thanks once again for this post!!

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    • That´s the great problem when you shot film finding a good lab that process your negatives impeccably is very difficult I have to send mine almost 600 km to a laboratory that I fully trust… but it´s expensive and requires patience.

      What I mean with “I know before I press the shutter if I still have enough details in my highlights and shadows” was… well I have the obsession to see a scene and I immediately think of values ​​as ISO, speed and aperture values and how I would shot so that in most situations I can predict the values ​​in function of what I want to achieve and what I need… it started like a game between some of my friends and me while we were students it doesn´t mean that I can predict them every time perfectly… an light meter is helpful too XD

      Well now seriously knowing how your digital camera meters light is critical for achieving consistent and accurate exposures. I recommend you take a scene and play with your metering modes.

      I think I will get the Mark III next week… we will see ;D Greetings

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  2. While I do love film, I am so far over to the digital side now… The Mark III actually is the reason why, such brilliant flexibility and uses (I love shooting is low lighting…). Great post.

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  3. Hello Alberto,
    i use the phase one iq 180 and the dynamic range is great, about 10 and more stops and the only problem is : you see what you never see bevor…including all the mistakes in the darkgrey and bright white…so retouching means double time compared to the 5MK3….shit happened !
    so to my opinion classical film is like vinyl …you have to believe in it !
    best regards ,Jürgen

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    • 80 megapixel ich glaub mein computer würde explodieren XD mein ex-chef hatte auch ein älteres model die hasselblad 500cm mit digi-back aber ich mach erstmal mit der 5MK3 und vielleicht ein paar Studioleuchten weiter ;P … und mit der analogen Fotografie finde ich auch ein bisschen mehr persönliche Bestätigung (nicht weil es gerade mode ist…neee) also werde ich diese nicht so schnell aufgeben. Apropos meine vinyl Sammlung ist auch recht beachtlich sind zwar keine dreitausend songs in so einem mini I-Pod hören sich aber trotzdem noch gut an. Alles Gute

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