In short, I warmly encourage your friend's switch from digital to film. Although his assertion that great photographers only shoot film is obviously a ridiculous proposition: you can make truly great work with your cell phone, an antique 8x10" camera or absolutely anything analogue or digital that captures an image at any workable resolution. Other than that, much of what he's getting at is very true. Before you all throw a hissy fit, I'd like to preface by saying that I own and frequently shoot with a 60mp Phase One medium format digital system, as well as a 36mp Nikon D800. I'm a professional photographer and my job demands that, but when shooting my own work I prefer film, which I sometimes shoot using a Leica M7, similar to your friend. The pictures I take with my digital cameras are sharper and have much higher resolution than the ones I take with my film cameras, but the pictures from my film cameras are much more beautiful.
Film pictures usually are more beautiful than digital images of the same scene because they have a warmth to them that's not achievable with digital capture. The obvious retort is that this is all subjective, but beauty isn't really in the eye of the beholder - if shown 20 faces and asked to rank them in order of beauty, people of wildly varying cultural backgrounds and ages will tend to rank them almost identically. If you were to go outside and take a quick picture of somebody you know with the sun setting behind them with color negative film, then with color digital, I've no doubt that people will respond more positively to the film version. In the great megapixel race, digital camera manufacturers are focusing on making cameras with ever higher resolving power, and resolution is probably the least important aspect of what makes up the quality of a photograph.
People seem to get confused about the issue of dynamic range or exposure latitude in the film vs digital debate. True, the dynamic range of current digital cameras is better than slide film. But slide film is for amateurs, films like Fuji Velvia are for enthusiast photographers who do workshops and make unbearably cheesy saturated photos of the American landscape. The idea that slide film is for pros and amateurs use print film is probably the biggest misconception I've encountered in the photo industry over the past 20 years. All the great photographers of the pre-digital era produced almost all of their work on print film. Some, like Annie Leibovitz, used slide film in the 80s, but look at the results with a contemporary eye and it should be obvious how awful they look. The same goes for cinema. Basically every great movie you have ever seen was filmed using B&W or color print (negative) film, not transparency - even though transparency stock is widely available. Why? Because negative film looks better and has a much wider latitude.
This is incorrect. Due to optical losses and color distortions, the negative-positive process produces results that are inferior to reversal stock, but reversal stock does not duplicate well because contrast tends to become excessive. Motion pictures that are distributed as multiple prints (which are copies) have always used the negative-positive process, which produces far better results than duplicates of reversal stock, which becomes too contrasty in duplication (though special products were available for producing and duplicating reversal stock). In the late 1930s, Kodak did supply a low-contrast version of Kodachrome for the motion-picture industry for remote location work where Technicolor cameras could not be used (Technicolor was a negative-positive process that used three B&W separation negatives, each exposed through a blue, green, or red color filter; the Technicolor cameras were very delicate and expensive, and there were only a few of them). http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/oldcolor/technicolor4.htm
Some scenes in the Wizard of Oz
and other color motion pictures were shot on this Kodachrome stock, from which separations were made. No color negative stock has ever approached Kodachrome for color quality, sharpness, or stability, and most "serious" photographers used Kodachrome almost exclusively until Velvia came out. Kodachrome was vastly superior to the other films available. I did use some Ektachrome, Agfachrome and Anscochrome in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but these films were inferior in many respects to Kodachrome. Agfachrome had a very interesting color palate, but was quite grainy. Most of the old slides made on these films have faded badly, but my Kodachromes from that era look like they were made yesterday.
Professionals (commercial photographers) and serious amateurs used reversal products, except for professional portrait & wedding photographers. Among amateurs, color negative film was used primarily by moms using Instamatics, for photos of family events. Kodak sold millions of rolls of Kodacolor film in size 126.
Kodachrome is generally used for direct projection using white light. As such, it possesses a relatively high contrast.
For professional uses, where duplication is expected and required, a special version, Kodachrome Commercial (KCO), was available in a 35 mm BH-perforated base (exclusively through Technicolor) and in a 16 mm base (exclusively through Eastman Kodak's professional products division). In both cases, Eastman Kodak performed the processing.
Kodachrome Commercial has a low-contrast characteristic which complements the various duplication films with which it is intended to be used: silver separation negatives for 35 mm (controlled exclusively by Technicolor) and reversal duplicating and printing stocks for 16 mm (controlled exclusively by Eastman Kodak).
Kodachrome Commercial was available until the mid-1950s, after which Ektachrome Commercial (ECO) replaced it for these specific applications.
After the late 1950s, 16 mm Kodachrome Commercial-originated films (and Ektachrome Commercial-originated films as well) were quite often duplicated onto Eastmancolor internegative film, after which these films were printed on Eastmancolor positive print film, as a cost-reduction measure, thereby yielding relatively low-cost prints for direct projection."http://motion.kodak.com/motion/About/Chronology_Of_Film/index.htm
I have no idea what is meant by "warmth", and such terms are neither scientific nor accurate. Film images are composed of randomly distributed particles, which create a specific kind of image quality. Also, because the silver crystals in an emulsion are sensitive to light hitting them from any angle, and because the photons striking the film tend to scatter within the film emulsion, neighboring crystals are exposed to photons striking them from the side as well as from the front. This process, called "irradiation", tends to "smear" the image a little. It tends to "smooth out" edges and create a somewhat more pleasing image. Sensor cells (which are not
randomly arranged) are sensitive only to light coming right into them, and so light striking adjacent cells does not affect them. But the cell arrays themselves are much larger than film crystals, so the finest details are not captured as well as with film. The result is that digital images tend to look "sharper" but have less actual detail.