Benefits of Digital vs Film Photography
Digital vs film photography is a common enough debated question amongst film vs digital enthusiast. However the direction the market has gone is certainly not subject to much question, and in this direction of preference there are many supporting benefits favoring the digital work flow solution in very meaningful ways.
Digital vs. Film - Faithful Reproduction
Though the image below has a kind of romantic era appeal, the days of trying to lean over a cramped space, shuffling slides in and out of holders, and spot checking with a Lupe, is really not as great as it looks. In Digital vs Film Photography we'll try to hit of some of the bigger issues and some of the arguments that some film shooters still hold. Don't get me wrong, I use to shoot film in 135mm, large format, and motion picture film. But when it comes to shooting 135mm format, regarding Digital vs Film Photography, I choose Digital hands down.
Digital vs Film photography Argument :
I really don't know if this really has any relevance in the debate of digital vs film photography. Both film and digital technologies do not record color images directly, they record b&w luminance values only under the influence of color filters. I discuss this in Photography Basics. Each film manufacture uses a different patented process for color generation with their product, so each film has different color biases, contrast, saturation, resolution, tint, you name it, and people select these film products based on individual preference they like to see in their images.
The digital image lets you select any of these biased interpretations of the final image through editing, a real plus for digital vs film.
I can see a concern from a publishers of perspective regarding nature photography, that the photographer might be enhancing the images and therefore falsifying the colors respective to each other, it is just so easy to add more color anywhere you want it. But publisher get around this by requesting the RAW file. So if anything, Digital is an advantage with regard to color augmentation, because you can choose how you want to flavor the appearance of your digital image capture.
Digital vs Film photography Argument :
Yes, that is pretty much true.
And when you compare this image in contrast to the 8 bit digital Jpeg image file having only 256 different luminance values per RGB channel from the brightest areas of your image to the darkest, then under certain conditions you may notice a step transition of from one brightness level to the next. There are differences in the extreme highlights of digital vs film photography where if you are not careful with exposure, then the highest highlight can seem to look like a block of white.
However, your digital camera captures all images in the RAW file format first, and it is either a 12 bit or a 14 bit image, and if you choose to save your image as a 14 bit RAW file, then you have 16,384 different luminance tones per color channel, and this can yield a potential 4.398 Trillion colors and tones, so it is kind of hard to reason this as anything but continuous from a practical stand point of digital vs film photography.
I talk about Bit Depth in the link Color Bit Depth and it shows you how a number of luminance values can be generated into digital data values. We will also talk a little about why this is useful from an editing stand point.
Digital vs Film Photography - Faithful
Digital vs. Film Time and cost have real meaning
Advancements in the SLR camera was vastly improved with developments of Auto Focus, Image stabilization, and fast multiple image capture rates allowing photographers to capture images we could only dream of in earlier days.
Digital photography has added to these benefits. We have technical and qualitative feedback of the images we just shot displaying on the LCD screen. We are allowed to make adjustments, fine tuning our results to match the shooting situation. Compare this to shooting film and then having to wait a day, or two, or even a week before seeing your results as we had to do Kodachrome days.
You learn faster with digital vs film photography with instant feed back that digital technology provides, you can see what has gone wrong in the thought process regarding the exposure assessment.
This helps you tremendously if your skills of exposure accuracy has not matured just yet. Bar none, this is the single biggest challenge for most people trying to learn photography, because one can not rely solely on the averaging light meter reading, there are vary real limitations to it's conceptual design. In almost every shooting environment, you will need to make some measure of exposure correction adjustments for optimum results.
Digital vs Film photography Argument :
Agreed!, but even professionals use to use Polariod T52 instant films to help base exposure interpretation on, to help examine the highlights and shadows detail of an image when shooting important subjects before they commit the image to Transparency Films, because re-shoots are not often practical and you loose clients.
So no shame here, It's a tool, use it.
I will show you how to overcome the short comings of the averaging exposure readings in the section Understanding Exposure.
Randy Smith Photography © 2011.
Digital vs Film Photography
Beyond just the image of the Video playback on the LCD screen, there is the more important Histogram Graph that can show you the placement of brightness levels across your image in 256 different illuminance values. This will help you determine if you are loosing important details, and if your dynamic range is being completely captured by the image sensor. This is like having a lab densitometer at hand, and it is much more telling of your critical image exposure than the picture on the LCD screen.
With shooting film, there are also other cost, negative and slide sheet holders, slide dupes, scanner, Binders, cotton gloves, slide mounts, light tables, Slide projection trays, perhaps filing cabinets or book shelves to hold these image libraries that take up real space. The film image ages, meaning it would not be as good color quality in twenty to thirty five years, it fades and there may be color shifts.
Film also scratches easily, and is sensitive to dust, moisture and atmosphere. I have Archival negative holder pages still in the original purchased package, and they are turning brown on me.
Digital vs Film Photography- Cost
Digital vs. Film longevity of the product
Located in the foreground of the above image that relates to image storage, you see a portable hard drive that could hold quite a few times the image storage in that same photo. And the cost of the drive is less by far then the holders, and trays you see in the picture.
One of the hypes about digital images was that it would last forever on CD's and DvD's because the data was burned into the disk by lasers. We now know that nothing is forever, that there is a degradation that occurs even to this memory storage medium, but the life is much longer than the film would be itself. And these can be copied as many times as you like and it will still be the same image. The storage is much cheaper also and takes up only the room of one or two notebooks of DvD's.
Although the storage life on Kodachrome is quite good, I have some images that are nearly 40 years old and they look great.
I have seen suggestions that the life span of a DVD might be 30 - 100 years. Obviously these are not being touch, shuffled, and handled.
Back up more than you need and store the ones you are not touching in a cool dry place.
Storage for digital images gets less expensive all the time.
External hard drives are the likely choice now days because the prices are so reasonable for massive amounts of gigabytes. Although it would not hurt to print some DVD's for long term safe storage for your most valuable images. A hard drive can still go bad, so for people who need instant and constant access to all their images might have back up drives for the back up drives set up in an array that will back up on a schedule and even test each other to the accuracy of the copied data.
Digital vs Film Photography- Longevity
Digital vs. Film Image Processing requirements
The other giant advantage in digital vs film photography is in image processing of your images. It is much easier to attain a computer and monitor these days then you can install a home darkroom for enlarging your photographs, and a large wet sink area for the film developing process, the plumbing, electrical, temperature regulators and all the other equipment. So you are way ahead of the image processing requirements of photography on that level alone.
Though it is true that one will need access to a computer and monitor to perform image process, it is vary possible that you may already have a computer, or laptop for other uses within your family, so one could easily consider this not a photography expense at all, due to it's multi tasking function in our daily lives.
I shoot digital, but I don't print often. I out source that. I edit my own work as most digital photographers do, because this is an area where your shots really begin to shine and to show their unique personality
Owning and maintaining a professional printer printing system can be fairly expensive, and if you are not making a living off of your photography, then I would say find a printing house within your budget for your larger print work.
With digital photography you can, edit when you have time, shoot when you want to, and incur no additional cost while doing so, while with film shooting you have film purchases, development cost, time delays, perhaps travel expenses, enlargements, or home lab cost with chemical purchases, photographic printing paper, and darkroom equipment.
Contributions made by advancements in digital image processing has vary much opened the door for creativity and quality controls as they never have been before. Software developers have been making the image processing applications easier and more intuitive to use, and the flexibility and options for image control is so much more numerous then it ever has been with film.
Going Digital frees you up from on going cost of film photography charges that is always relevant to working in with that medium, and over the life of your camera they can really add up.
Digital vs Film Photography - Processing
Digital vs. Film Cost Comparison
There were plenty of trips where I could not afford the number of rolls of film that I would have liked to take along, but then there is also the challenge to manage that number of rolls of film amongst your travel bags or packs. If you are having to traveling light, 100-200 rolls of film does not condense easily, and if you are flying there are always risk of exposure to x-rays which does fogs the film, especially with international flight connections.
1978 Ball park price for Kodachrome 36 exposures is around $5.15, and you have to process that at just about the same cost. 100 rolls of film then cost $1030.00, one time use in 1978.
Today you can get a 8 Gb memory card for $12 dollars, it can hold 72 images of 21mp images. That is two rolls of Kodachrome, and Kodachrome would have cost $20.60 for the same number of images. Your memory card is reusable, your film is not.
Even though Memory cards are cheaper than film, I probably would not buy 50 of them to store the equivalent amount of pictures that I would get with 100 rolls of film. I would look at a portable image storage hard drive device, they are small, weigh just ounces, and a 100gb capacity will set you back about $500.00, and that will hold the equivalent of 3600 images, the same as 100 rolls of film. So Digital is still about 1/2 price of film at 1978 prices, and with digital you can use it over and over until it breaks.
With regards to large format film photography (ie: 4x5", 5x7" and 8x10"), film is less expensive.
Image sensors are expensive to make, so for now they are affordable by most people only in the smaller format sizes, for DSLR cameras these are commonly APS-C, APS-H and the full frame 35mm formats. But cost are coming down, and I maybe dreaming, but I hope the day will come when a large format image sensors will be much more practical experience. Though I have sold my darkroom, I still hold on to my 5x7 Deardorff camera for just such a day. Although my little computer would likely have a stroke if I loaded such a file into my little old computer.
In summing up the comparison of Digital vs Film Photography, our creative and financial potential sways far towards a digital process with benefits of:
Benefits of Digital over Digital vs Film Photography discussion
For myself and millions of other digital photographers out there, Digital wins in Digital vs Film Photography.
Share Your Perspective, it's an Invite!
Here is your opportunity weigh in on the discussion of Digital or Film. Hay! You may have feelings of your own on this issue, which in turn may have meaning to other creative photographers. There is no wrong answer over what you like best. Share your thoughts on which medium you like to use best, show photo samples of your work, and tell us how these differences lead you to your medium of choice.
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