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Author Topic: Film versus Digital: the current comparison  (Read 22365 times)

wofsy

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Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« on: January 01, 2013, 05:01:40 PM »


This is a nubie question but I need to ask it to help resolve a discussion with a friend who has recently switched from digital - a Leica M9- to film - a Leica M6 I think.
He says that the "truly great photographers" only use film and I found this astonishing given the huge possibilities of digital technology.

His arguments for film are

- film has a more natural look
- film has greater dynamic range
- film images are more beautiful. They have a certain something that is difficult to pinpoint.

So I wonder what your opinion is. For instance is it really true that a Canon 5d Mark 2 has less dynamic range than a Leica M6?
Aren't there techniques - such as adding grain or noise - that make digital images look as natural as film images?
Why do so many people say that film has that certain something? Why isn't this purely a matter of taste?

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Tony Jay

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2013, 05:20:44 PM »

"Truly great photographers" produce truly great photographs no matter what their equipment is.

I think your friend's information is a bit dated: current digital cameras outperform film emulsions (size for size) in resolution and dynamic range.

Spend your energies taking great shots.
Nobody cares exactly what equipment you use - everybody cares about the results.
(Only a photographic ignoramus assumes that images that are better than theirs must have been shot with a "better" camera.)
Use film, use digital - enjoy yourself.

Tony Jay
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wofsy

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2013, 05:45:32 PM »


Thanks Tony

I have noticed that many photographers in the printing lab at ICP are scanning medium and large format negatives into digital files then manipulating and printing them from the computer.
I assume the reason for this is that larger formats are affordable in film.
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digitaldog

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2013, 10:59:45 AM »

- film has a more natural look

No, it has a film look.

Quote
- film has greater dynamic range

Nope, not at least with many modern capture systems.

Quote
- film images are more beautiful. They have a certain something that is difficult to pinpoint.

That's like someone saying white wine is more beatuful then red wine or an equally silly, general statement that is totally dependent on an opinion.

I must have published my last "film vs. digital" comparison in 1999** and I doubt film has progressed a fraction of what digital capture has in that time. **http://www.digitaldog.net/files/Filmvsdigital.pdf

You'll all get a laugh out of the 'state of the art' digital camera used back there!
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Petrus

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2013, 12:59:58 PM »

If you want the most precise rendering of the subject, use a modern digital camera.

If you want a nostalgic rendering of the subject, use film (and do not scan it either, darkroom only). Or use a modern digital camera and apply some film effects to the file... It is easier to make less from a lot then vice versa (from information theory standpoint).
« Last Edit: January 02, 2013, 02:31:53 PM by Petrus »
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2013, 01:47:06 PM »

Hi,

It is quite true that large format film equipment is much cheaper than MF digital. Film can produce extraordinary results.

On the other hand, what do you do with a piece of film? For most uses you need to scan it. Scanning needs expensive equipment and takes a lot of time. Or you send your slides to an expert scanner.

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/shootout.shtml

http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/index.php/photoarticles/59-sony-alpha-900-vs-67-analogue-round-2

http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/index.php/photoarticles/16-pentax67velvia-vs-sony-alpha-900

A great aticle: http://www.onlandscape.co.uk/2011/12/big-camera-comparison/

Tim Parkin sent me a crop of of a Velvia 67 slide, scanned at 10000 PPI using his own drum scanner. That scan outresolved a Phase One IQ 180. Was the image quality better? I doubt it.

Personally I have a 3000$ scanner and I cannot match digital, really.

Best regards
Erik


Thanks Tony

I have noticed that many photographers in the printing lab at ICP are scanning medium and large format negatives into digital files then manipulating and printing them from the computer.
I assume the reason for this is that larger formats are affordable in film.

Rhossydd

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2013, 06:14:43 PM »

On the other hand, what do you do with a piece of film?
Well there are still a lot of photographers making sumptuous silver gelatin prints from negatives.

Yes, you can argue about resolution, DR, gamut or whatever, and, yes, inkjet printing has come a long way, but a really good silver gelatin print from a well made negative still has a unique quality that has great appeal.
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Ellis Vener

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2013, 08:58:43 PM »

This is a nubie question but I need to ask it to help resolve a discussion with a friend who has recently switched from digital - a Leica M9- to film - a Leica M6 I think.
He says that the "truly great photographers" only use film and I found this astonishing given the huge possibilities of digital technology.

His arguments for film are

- film has a more natural look
- film has greater dynamic range
- film images are more beautiful. They have a certain something that is difficult to pinpoint.

So I wonder what your opinion is. For instance is it really true that a Canon 5d Mark 2 has less dynamic range than a Leica M6?
Aren't there techniques - such as adding grain or noise - that make digital images look as natural as film images?
Why do so many people say that film has that certain something? Why isn't this purely a matter of taste?



I pass over the "truly great photographers" only use film remark as it is ignorant unless he honestly considers the only "truly great photographers"  to be ones who either stopped making photos or died more than ten years ago.

- "film has a more natural look"? Which film? Not Kodachrome, not any Ektachrome or any Fujichrome or color negative film that I ever used. All are interpretations of the real world. For that matter the reduction of the world to shades of gray  in black and white photography is perhaps the greatest fundamental abstraction in photography.

-"film has greater dynamic range"  some black and white negative films may but no color film ever had greater dynamic range than a current model medium or high end digital camera.

-"film images are more beautiful. They have a certain something that is difficult to pinpoint."

That is the most honest claim he has made. Why? Because it is purely subjective. He prefers the look that film produces. and since   creative enterprises are subjective enterprises that's the single best reason I've ever heard to choose and use any creative tool

 
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Kirk Gittings

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2013, 09:22:31 PM »

I pass over the "truly great photographers" only use film remark as it is ignorant unless he honestly considers the only "truly great photographers"  to be ones who either stopped making photos or died more than ten years ago.

- "film has a more natural look"? Which film? Not Kodachrome, not any Ektachrome or any Fujichrome or color negative film that I ever used. All are interpretations of the real world. For that matter the reduction of the world to shades of gray  in black and white photography is perhaps the greatest fundamental abstraction in photography.

-"film has greater dynamic range"  some black and white negative films may but no color film ever had greater dynamic range than a current model medium or high end digital camera.

-"film images are more beautiful. They have a certain something that is difficult to pinpoint."

That is the most honest claim he has made. Why? Because it is purely subjective. He prefers the look that film produces. and since   creative enterprises are subjective enterprises that's the single best reason I've ever heard to choose and use any creative tool

 

:)
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Mike Guilbault

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #9 on: January 04, 2013, 10:40:03 PM »

Does this mean that if I switch back to film I'll become a "Truly Great Photographer"? 

Tony Jay

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #10 on: January 04, 2013, 10:46:01 PM »

Does this mean that if I switch back to film I'll become a "Truly Great Photographer"?...

Some questions are better not asked... :D

Tony Jay
« Last Edit: January 04, 2013, 10:51:22 PM by Tony Jay »
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #11 on: January 04, 2013, 10:54:58 PM »

Possibly in your mind...

Best regards
Erik

Does this mean that if I switch back to film I'll become a "Truly Great Photographer"? 

stamper

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #12 on: January 05, 2013, 04:20:31 AM »

A couple of years ago I was on a sailing trip and using my Nikon D300 camera. Someone said to me that it was nice to see somebody using a "traditional" camera. I replied ....it was a digital camera. The reply was.... it isn't a real camera then? He was serious. :(

jonathanlung

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2013, 02:01:43 PM »

I've only ever seen one real camera up close and personal.
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bill t.

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2013, 05:26:19 PM »

:)

Kirk's the only guy here qualified to say that!

But seriously, all it takes to master film is some old equipment and maybe 10 to 15 years to learn how to do it passably well.  The thing that always struck me about my film days was how much bad advice there was floating around, just waiting to cause some bright-eyed, bushy-tailed young person to waste a few years barking up the wrong tree.
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michael

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #15 on: January 06, 2013, 07:15:52 PM »

Kirk's the only guy here qualified to say that!

But seriously, all it takes to master film is some old equipment and maybe 10 to 15 years to learn how to do it passably well.  The thing that always struck me about my film days was how much bad advice there was floating around, just waiting to cause some bright-eyed, bushy-tailed young person to waste a few years barking up the wrong tree.

And it's the opposite with digital?

Michael
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bill t.

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #16 on: January 06, 2013, 07:57:39 PM »

In the Digital Age, there's always somebody ready shout down perceived bad advice within minutes if not seconds of publication.  Followed by somebody with a counter shout, etc.  We see a lot of that here.  When film was king, most bad advice was cast in the glow of the printed page and placed on altars well out of the range of casual shouters.  An effective counterattack against such information could take years to propogate.  The internet has done a lot for nay saying and reality checking, and mostly that's a good thing except of course when such nay saying and checking is directed at my infallible pronouncements, and when it offends simple civility.
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Justinr

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #17 on: January 07, 2013, 10:27:46 AM »

In a nutshell, Digital for colour, film for black and white.

Must dash
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Peter McLennan

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #18 on: January 07, 2013, 11:54:32 AM »

In a nutshell, Digital for colour, film for black and white.

Must dash


I'd be more inclined to say "Digital for today.  Film for yesterday"
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Fine_Art

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Re: Film versus Digital: the current comparison
« Reply #19 on: January 10, 2013, 01:12:51 AM »

Hi,

It is quite true that large format film equipment is much cheaper than MF digital. Film can produce extraordinary results.

On the other hand, what do you do with a piece of film? For most uses you need to scan it. Scanning needs expensive equipment and takes a lot of time. Or you send your slides to an expert scanner.

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/shootout.shtml

http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/index.php/photoarticles/59-sony-alpha-900-vs-67-analogue-round-2

http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/index.php/photoarticles/16-pentax67velvia-vs-sony-alpha-900

A great aticle: http://www.onlandscape.co.uk/2011/12/big-camera-comparison/

Tim Parkin sent me a crop of of a Velvia 67 slide, scanned at 10000 PPI using his own drum scanner. That scan outresolved a Phase One IQ 180. Was the image quality better? I doubt it.

Personally I have a 3000$ scanner and I cannot match digital, really.

Best regards
Erik



Why do you doubt it?
His test seems pretty clear to me. http://static.timparkin.co.uk/static/tmp/cameratest-2/large.html
That is a good test showing both methods at what they are good at.

The 8x10 film clearly whumps (technical term ;) ) the IQ180 on everything but the shadows. The digital has great ability to show what is in the darker areas.

To my eye the provia 4x5 with NR and sharpening is better than the IQ180. It is also a pain to use relative. If you miss the shot you may have to wait years for another trip. If you go digital and your last shot on the card is botched somehow you can delete the redo. If you are out of film that is it.

The Mamiya 7 is outclassed by the IQ180. Maybe a pure B/W would be similar on resolution. Everything else is lagging.

This test shows someone can get in the game of high res prints with a cheap (now) film camera. They probably need the discipline of a master craftsman to do it all right consistently.

Digital gives you flexibility for a lot of money.

Now in the 35mm game DSLRs are starting to wipe out film. You cant be in the ballpark against the D800. You simply have no ability to do what DSLRs are doing now with quality at ISO 1600-6400.

Thanks Tim for all the work. Its a totally convincing test to me.
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