Film Vs Digital Photography

Digital photography has made the use of film almost entirely obsolete.  There are however some advantages to using film, which digital photography so far does not offer.

film night | self portrait

Higher Resolution

For one, film offers images that can be viewed at higher resolutions.  This is because film offers images that have true curves, since the image was created exactly as the lens captured it.

Digital images on the other hand are pixelated, and pixels are actually square.  So, curves are merely approximation of curves, made with a multitude of tiny square pixels.  Eventually, when the image is viewed at a large enough size, those pixels will be visible.

Shutter Lag

Another way in which film is superior, has to do more with the camera.  Digital cameras, specifically the cheaper point and shoot varieties, have a certain amount of shutter lag.  This is true to a lesser extent with DSLRs, but it is still a factor.  While this shutter lag is often only a split second, even this tiny delay can mean that a fleeting facial expression is lost, which can lead to frustration.  This tiny shutter lag won’t make any difference when shooting stationary subjects, such as a landscape however.

Digital Darkroom: DSLR + Snapseed

Battery Life

DSLRs suck up batteries much faster than film cameras do.  Luckily most come with a rechargeable battery pack.

Digital Camera Obsolesecence

Most film SLRs from the 1970s until today, have the same potential to produce a professional quality photograph.  Digital camera technology on the other hand is always in the process of rapid development.  The first digital cameras, while convenient and instantly gratifying, had terrible image quality.  Nowadays, digital image quality has improved tremendously, but still can’t match film.

Film Roll 1

Grain Vs Noise

Film grain could often be very beautiful and even desired.  While digital noise is often compared to film grain, and indeed is caused by the same reasons (high ISO, low light, etc.), it is anything but pretty.  Noise reduction software can do a pretty good job of removing digital noise, but there will always be some loss of image quality in the process, albeit very subtle loss.

One Response to Film Vs Digital Photography

  1. Mark Onat says:

    I’ve been shooting digital for about five years now. I had a pns earlier, then bought some dSRLs, whose first results I thought I could stand in many situations, as long as I used a polarizing filter. One scary thing is the first dSLR I bought is actually a better camera than it’s update 5 years later, in many regards, from battery life to actual picture quality.

    I have to admit I love being able to get my shots straight without burning up film, but I’ve noticed some serious deficiencies in the meantime.

    I didn’t know what the term was, but its dynamic range. In the past, sunset and sunrise with hyper-direcitonal light, sunsets below and through fog, and any number of other situations render so artfully on film, and just look like garbage on digital, no matter how much time you waste bracketing. This is no small offense. Photography, since it isn’t about personal style like painting is, is about the moment, and the moment in light is one of photo’s most important tasks. I don’t see that many great shots in this area because they aren’t being taken because digital renders them horribly. Maybe a D4 renders them well, but do we all have 6k to blow for this? Methinks not, sorry dSLR corporations. 6k buys a lot of film, and its a permanent object not stuck on a hard drive.

    It’s not just the light itself, or highly contrasted lit skies that don’t work in digital, the warm light shining on people doesn’t work either, although it was also often tough with some films, but, oh yeah, we had multiple film stocks too once. Now we have bad digital rehashes of video-like originals. Please. Just because you make it doesnt mean its worth having.

    I’ve just sorted through thousands of slides, and what I’m seeing is what I used to shoot that I’m now missing. I’m dragging my NIkon film camera with the prime lens and my Bronica back out and shooting film for as long as I can, because digital sucks not when the light is even, but when the light is weird. It’s great for shooting news at night. It’s great at that. It’s even not bad at shooting landscapes when the sun is not in the shot. It’s good for even skin tones in good light. But digital is terrible at highly angular late and early light. It flattens everything out, including int he studio. I used to have a 85% success rate with film. NOw I can shoot the same 36 shots trying to make digital look optimal. It sucks. I’m done with it.
    i can’t be, but I’m shooting film until it dies.

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