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Digital Vs Film

Digital Vs Film

Written 7 years ago by Mark Evans

Ask anyone from the ‘Old School’ of photography and they’ll tell you without any hesitation that film is the only way to go, ask anyone born in the 80’s, and the answer is unequivocally slanted towards digital. So who’s right and should you go digital? I don’t think anyone’s ever going to be right, its a matter of horses for courses… and when you were born.

Much Loved Velvia

Much Loved Velvia

In this digital age the number of film users seem be few and far between, compared to the vast numbers embracing the digital revolution. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find surprising numbers unwilling to give up and jump on the digital bandwagon. Being a film user, and landscape photographer myself, I don’t think anything will ever replace the colour rendition and quirks of Fuji Velvia 50. You can replace it with a Fuji digital camera with the ‘Velvia’ mode, but it will never be the same. And its not just about Velvia. Slide films in general have a limited exposure latitude, and there’s nothing more satisfying than nailing a shot and getting your exposure bang on. Not to mention viewing your slides on a light table, nothing compares to it.  The colours pop out at you and the depth of the images are amazing, producing almost a 3D effect (through a loupe), and for that alone, I will continue to shoot slides for a long time yet.

Although I must admit, being on film does have its downfalls; for one, Digital is a lot cheaper in the long run. Buying films and getting them processed can be expensive if you shoot often, and for an enthusiast, the cost can be a bit prohibitive. Where as digital you can shoot all day, if you don’t run out of space, download them to your computer at the end of the day, and it hasn’t cost you much more than the 3 coffees you had while out shooting! There’s also work flow to be taken into account. Getting film onto your computer can be an arduous process; scanning and tweaking can eat a lot of time, whereas digital has the advantage of already being in an editable form. However, it isn’t all about money and convenience, as strange as it may sound, if I went to digital, I would really miss getting my films back from the lab! There’s just something childishly exciting about opening the box that has your processed films in, and getting a glimpse of what may or may not be some of the best pictures you’ve ever taken. Of course, sometimes it ends in bitter disappointment, but other times it is like Christmas all over again!

With Film having all these cons, and Digital with virtually none, you would think the choice is a no-brainer. But whether you take up digital or not may depend entirely on your career or the type of photography you do. A lot of portrait photographers still love the rendition of Kodak tri-x black and white films and the look is what sells a lot of pictures. Getting this particular ‘look’ on digital may take hours of Photoshop work, whereas shooting the film and processing in a certain way could be far more cost effective.

Then there’s Panoramic photography. Being a niche market, there just doesn’t seem to be any Digital Panoramic cameras that fit the bill, or any that have significant advantages over medium format cameras like the legendary Fuji GX-617 or Linhof 617 Technorama. When it comes to professional panoramic images, digital stitching just doesn’t cut it, and a lot of panoramic photographers would much rather ‘see’ in panoramic through their viewfinder and take what they’ve visualized, there and then, rather than shooting a few images and digitally stitching later on. Not to mention quality; quite a few medium format users would argue that the quality of a drum scanned medium format transparency would rival that of the best digital camera today.

Of course Digital will be the clear cut choice for many, in a whole host of applications, but there will be occasions where Film will shine through. Whether or not you go digital will ultimately depend on what you want to do with your photography and probably your budget; there are so many film cameras being junked for digitals these days, that a whole film system can be had for a song on Ebay. So go and buy one, film’s not dead… yet.

What have you got? Film, Digital, or Both?

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Comments
Nic Nichols  7 years ago

Glad to hear there are more Film Photographers still out there! Keep shootin’

Mark  7 years ago

I think Film will eventually fade away just like the VHS Tape but much slower. You see a lot less 1 HR photo advertisement’s now… remember back in the mid 90’s all the 1 HR photos adds.

DAVID LAVERY  6 years ago

AS A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER BASED IN IRELAND BUT WITH A FILM BACK GROUND. IT WAS THOUGHT BEFORE THAT B&W WOULD FADE AWAY WHEN COLOUR NEGATIVE CAME ON THE SCENE. WELL ITS AN ART FORM NOW. AND IN MY OPINION IMAGES SHOT WITH FILM WILL BECOME AN ART FORM FOR SOME. IT WILL BE LIKE AN ORIGINAL ART PIECE.
I LOVE THE CONCEPT OF DIGITAL BUT I JUST DONT THINK THE IDEA OF STITCHING CUTS IT WHEN COMPARED TO FULL CAPTURE. I DO THINK ONE DAY THAT SENSORS WILL BE LARGE ENOUGH TO EQUAL 6X17 FORMAT ETC. MAYBE AT THAT STAGE A TRUE COMPARISON WILL BE VISIBLE. CAN FORESEE MAYBE CURVED SENSORS TO EQUAL THE NOBLEX / WIDELUX CAMERAS ETC.

REGARDING FILM , I DO MISS THE ANTICIPATION OF PICKING UP YOUR FILM AT THE LAB AND HAVING A LOOK ON THE WHITE BOX BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE LAB, AND HAVING A CHAT WITH STAFF. NOW ITS HOME ALONE TO TRAWL THROUGH 2000 WEDDING IMAGES.
LONG LIVE FILM AND ALL ITS ARTISTS.

Rae Merrill  5 years ago

Enjoyable article. Can’t argue with anything you say. The good thing about digital is it has made photography more accessible for those on a low income. It also helps with experimental work by allowing you to see results on the spot and re-shoot if necessary. You can almost always get the shots you want with digital whereas with film, you need to wait for processing.

On the other hand I was just out today with a1970’s Fuji film SLR and an old Soligor 35-200 zoom. It was back to basics and very satisfying indeed. I tend to shoot neg nowadays as Tesco to a process and scan for £2.99. The 6mb files are more than good enough for posting on the web.

So yes, I will continue to use digital and film but I think film is more satisfying.

DAVID LAVERY  5 years ago

After buying a linhof 617 with a 72 xl lens. I am a full time wedding photographer . I am so looking forward to gettingout shooting with the new camera and slowing things down

Dave K  5 years ago

The true saturation of colors and depth is almost hard to beat with a great glass and Velvia or provia . Most every award winning underwater shot was taken with a Nikonos V and Velvia . Most americans were always afraid of cameras until the digital age . Europeans on the other hand who shot 36 on a roll usually get 36 usable shots back – most euro types that shoot for fam and friends – have a better understanding on how a camera and the correct exposure works . I say everyone should learn on a vintage manual like a cannon AT1. then they would really know how and understand how a digital works.

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