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Digital vs. Film ... Even More To Say!

Posted by DigitalDarrell, 29 May 2007 · 642 views

I was reading yet another discussion of Film vs. Digital today, and thinking about the arguments presented. I came to some conclusions.

Using a 6-megapixel camera only gives you comparable quality to film up to about 11x14 inches (28 x 36 cm). Unless one has used a 10-12 megapixel camera, and done some big enlargements, then there is no room to compare. 10 megapixel is the magic number. It adds a level of quality that is visible in large prints, and in my experience produces prints that look better than film prints, due to the lack of grain, and greater color depth and smoothness.

Film is still valid in 2007, and for those who choose to use it, still will be for years to come. Most of the time, I find that people who do not like digital, are those who have weak computers, or do not like computers. Digital photography is just as much a computer process as a camera process. It is very similar to B&W darkroom. Black & White was amazingly cheap and fun in the darkroom. Color was never as fun, and waaaay more expensive. B&W has had a large resurgence recently, due mostly to digital guys experimenting with film and finding it fun. Film can be fun. I admit that.

However, the whole process of loading film, shooting a few frames, unloading film, loading more film, shooting a few more frames, unloading film, and so on, has become very tiresome to me. I can take almost 800 pictures in FULL RESOLUTION RAW with my D2x and an 8-Gig card. I can go out with my camera and shoot in the Smokies all day without even thinking about film changing, keeping the film in a dark area, worrying sbout it being too hot in the car, being lost, stolen, or stepped on. Then I have to worry about some idiot at the lab ripping my film, bending it, fingerprinting it, or losing it. I once had a pro lab rip a roll of 120 completely in half lengthwise. Of course, it was of a wedding ceremony. Good thing I shot with 35mm as a backup!

I do not care to let anyone else handle my images. From the time I press the little silver button, until the print slides across my screen or out of my Inkjet (or maybe a pro lab's lightjet), the process is mine. I do it all. It takes longer, and there are a LOT more images (the bane of digital photography). But, I am happy with the digital process, and the digital darkroom. If you get nothing else out of this small article I am writing, remember this. Digital allows YOU to control the whole thing. You are not handing the most important aspect of the image, the processing, over to someone who may or may not care. YOU control it all. There is nothing else, besides B&W in film that even comes close to digital.

I am no fool. I have compared the output from my Mamiya RB67 and my D2x and I prefer the images from the D2x. The only way even a medium format can compare to a 10 or 12-megapixel camera is if it is directly printed onto paper from a lightjet or wet darkroom. No scan, even a drum, will compare to a native digital capture. I have seen them side-by-side and digital wins. It simply looks better up close and in person.

I suppose one could haul around a 4x5 or 8x10 camera like Ansel did, and get quality exceeding a 12-megapixel digital camera. But, of course, the quality from those monsters exceed a medium format film camera too, so it is a moot point.

Listen, I have simply dozens of cameras of all shapes, formats, and sizes. I can choose any one I want. For the best quality, most powerful shooting capability, and extreme flexibility, I choose digital. There is nothing magical about film. It is just another way to capture light. It is a mature process that has been around for 150 years. Digital is just a baby, really coming into play in 2002. Five years is a short time for one type of imaging to mostly blow away another type of imaging. But, that tells one someting about digital.

I was reading a magazine article from a pro portrait photographer who was horrified to find out that he can no longer even hire helpers who know how to change film in his camera. He has to teach them! He said he is one of the last holdouts for film, but that, since he has discovered what he can do in photoshop (from the same helpers who couldn't change film), he is now making the switch. He said he has found that he can retouch his images in Photoshop to give his images that "perfect skin" quality needed for pro portraits much more easily than in a darkroom. He said that scanning the images just did not give him the quality, only direct printing will do. Even the last few pro holdouts are seeing the digital light.

The majority of professionals have switched to digital. I don't think there is a regular consumer left in the world shooting film anymore, except maybe in countries where computers are not popular, or electricity is not a guarantee. How long can film last, really, when most pros and all consumers have switched to digital?

How many people do you personally know that still lugs around a film camera? Honestly, in my circle of friends and family, I know of only one person, and they are planning to buy a digital camera as soon as they can afford one. What does your wife shoot with? Your kids? Would young ones take the time to learn how to change film?

Read this story I wrote a couple of years ago:


Where's The Card Dad?

Having "Digital" Darrell as a father has warped my poor eight-year old son, Ethan!

I always keep a small "film" Nikon sitting on top of the piano, for family snapshots. Today, my son decided he would take a few pictures of the family. When he was done, he proceeded to open the back to "get the card" for transferring to the computer.

But, being a film camera, he couldn't find the card. All he found was this weird looking sprocketed celluloid thing all wound around a spool. So he brings it over to me and says, "Daaaad, I can't find the card."

Of course, when he sees the horror in my eyes, he steps back, unsure what he has done wrong. I exclaim vigorously, "Ethan, you can't open the back of a FILM CAMERA with film inside!!!!!!"

He says, "Why not, I held it face down so dust wouldn't get inside!"

I hugged him! What else could I do?


I think that about sums it up. Kids today are not out looking for film cameras to buy. In today's fast world, with instant gratification the norm, young ones are not interested in shooting just 36 frames before changing film. When these kids grow up in a few years, film will be very very expensive to buy, with only a few old-timers using it. There will be no more new film cameras, only those one can buy on eBay. In that near future, this site will finally have broken 600 members, and people will read these old film vs. digital articles, and say stuff like, "yeah...it's just like horses vs. cars. Sure, horses are fun to use, but they are expensive to own, and take a lot of time." When it comes time for work, the horses go into the barn, just like my film cameras go into their shelf in the bedroom.

My "film" Nikon F5 sits there with a set of Lithium batteries I put in the camera in 2004. I guess I should change them!

Keep on capturing time...
Digital Darrell

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