Film Vs Digital

Digital Vs. Film

Digital Vs.Film

(Top Image) Crop area (Middle) Crop from Digital (bottom) Crop from Film.

Their seams to be a battle between film and digital users, which is very understandable as we are comparing two different media to each other. As I use both medias, I find Digital brilliant with today’s clients wanting fast images and to be able to see instant results on a screen, so clients can scrutinize and rectify  the image while being on a photo shoot or within minutes via email. Being schooled in Digital I have fallen in love with film and if I’m not under pressure or in my own time see a beautiful image I will put down the digital camera and take out the film as it has pure magic to it.

Totally understand today’s photographers who work with the modern clients expectations and want the comfort in know they have secured the image with less work and expense… It is important to understand that we can’t judged Film or Digital as being better than the other, despite the passionate opinions of photographers all over the world. The two medias are simply different; one media might be more suitable for the task in hand then the other, through expertise level, working style and the desired result. Knowing the basic differences between the two types of media and cameras can help photographers decide what to use to produce their perfect desired image. Now there is obvious difference between the two in cost, film is going to have continues cost in developing and buying new film rolls however Digital cameras and sensors change yearly, memory cards, image editing software etc… needs to be up to date and may come in at an even a higher cost being a photographer.


Kodak claims that film is very much alive in a recent new European survey of 3000 professional photographers and according to Kodak ‘the future looks rosy’, so don’t believe the hype. Film is alive and well and its future is assured, with Kodak committed to supporting analogue. Professional photographers right across Europe are still pledging their allegiance to film, with over two thirds of photographers questioned confirming their intention to continue using film in the future, It seems that while digital unquestionably offers many benefits to the pro photographer, there will always be images best captured on film. The survey revealed a number of startling facts – here are a few highlights…

  • 55% prefer the results that film capture provides over digital
  • 19% use film cameras for over 60% of there work
  • 53% prefer film’s ability to capture incredible detail
  • 46% prefer its ability to create a traditional photographic look
  • 43% prefer its ability to capture shadow
  • 80% produce black & white images and to capture these…
  • 45% prefer to use film

Professional Photographers generally answered when asked; What does film give that digital doesn’t? Depth, quality, feel, personality, latitude, immutability, longevity, security…Why? Because with film comes choice – different colour balances, more depth to shadow detail, a better rendering of highlights, for more malleability, larger exhibition prints than A3, a three-dimensional quality and infinitely more pixels when scanned than any digital file, and film endures. A negative is an immutable, tangible master that can always be ‘read’ and time has shown us that, when handled correctly, it can last over hundreds of year…


Film Vs Digital — 41 Comments

  1. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Increasing the ISO of a digital camera or selecting high-speed film will make your photographs more susceptible to noise and grain. In most situations, noise is unwanted in color photos; however, with black and white images, some artists view the grain as adding character, and thus not as a negative point.

  2. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    If you are going for finest contents like me, only visit this web page every day since it offers feature contents, thanks

    • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      That is easy to explain I have taken images with a Nikon D800 FX Full-Frame DSLR Camera which is trying to mimics a standard 35mm camera. Film is still superior! it is flawless, whereas digital sensors are pixels which are squares of only one color collected by a buckets made up of three colors that sometimes overspill into each-other and may therefore not copy the true image. Look at the video on the page: Film Vs. Digital. If you take an image with a really good 35mm analogue SLR and the same image with a Nikon D800 or even Nikon D4, Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 1D X… The film camera will beat them all hands down. They may look similar on a computer screen as it is also made up by pixels, but if you print the same image you will see the difference straight away, and you will see Digital has a long way to go still. Regarding the Rolleiflex it is a 6X6 image 6cm by 6cm. which is 5 to nearly 6 times bigger then a 35mm frame, the only cameras that come close are cameras like the Digital Hasselblad H-Series, Or cameras with Leaf Digital backs and these cameras will start at £35.000 before you add the lenses.
      Hope that helped

  3. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    It is truly a nice and helpful piece of info. I’m glad that you shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us informed like this.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    I was reading some of your blog posts on this site and I think this internet site is really instructive! Keep putting up.

  5. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    The Video you posted on the site is Fascinating. Thanks for posting, Brian.

    My favorite and most shocking quote is “Anybody ever take their cameras on an airplane? Everytime you do that you kill photosites on your camera. When Canon, Nikon, Sony, Casio, Panasonic, ship cameras to North America they do it by boat. The reason: because at altitudes of 20,000 feet or higher, more you need about 125 feet of concrete to shield yourself from gamma rays at the highe altitudes. They don’t harm us, but Gamma rays induce voltages in sensors that fry out pixels.”

  6. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Excellent article! We are linking to this particularly
    great article on our website. Keep up the good writing.

  7. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Film and Digital?
    Are we taking a step back! I am seeing a lot of my friend photographers buying back film cameras and specially cameras they are very fond of. What do you think?? Is digital overhyped? I know in fine art photography film is still the preferred medium, and fashion digital is king. Can they live in harmony in the future, what do you think?

    • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      I think the two will live in harmony for a long time. They are very different beasts – particularly medium format.

    • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      Now unlike 20 years ago, there is a choice whether to shoot film or digital, and it falls into the “appropriate tools” category, like cameras and lenses, of which tool to use to achieve your desired results. For many who don’t have the time or inclination or funds to process film, or who merely enjoy the rapid response of technology, digital provides an excellent alternative. And for those who perceive a difference in quality and find additional archival properties in film, that is a great alternative for them. As time goes on and technology changes, I believe the perceived difference in quality between a film image and a digital one will be moot. It will be more of a psychological factor than anything else.

    • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      In general, there are two kinds of film. Analogue and digital. The wise man chooses for the film wich is appropriate for the job.

    • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      I think John has hit it on the head.
      For myself, digital is great for commercial stuff and for experimenting with images you are selling/marketing, using different techniques.
      Film and medium format is purely for pleasure, to relax and enjoy these beautiful, masterfully engineered boxes that catch light, precision rangefinders for focusing on the smallest detail and a scratch of the head while you work out the correct exposure

    • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      Just a few years ago I said I would “NEVER” shoot digital. The technology has come so far and practicality of film has changed. Difficult to get the quality of processing you want unless you do it yourself and the turn around time is a factor. People are so used to instant gratification these days it would be hard to have people wait that long to see their images.

    • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      Someone informed me that some clients insist their products are shot on film, which is a refreshing change. So, reassuringly i believe there are people who are patient enough to appreciate what is arguably the better option.

    • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      I am following this discussion with great interest. I have been taking pictures since 1944 (film of course), and as soon as digital cameras hit the market I started experimenting with them. Right now, most of my pictures are shot on digital cameras, and I still keep my trustworthy FTb around for testing how far the digital rendering of black & white digital images has come. I have to admit that for about the last 2 years nobody in my circles has been able to tell which image was film and which one was digital … please draw your own conclusion.
      One fact has not been mentioned at all in the discussion I read: taking MANY digital pictures does not cost any more than taking one, while with film the subject of cost (film, high quality developing) and accessibility to these services become significant factors. Equivalent quality, cost, and instant gratification (or rejection of a botched picture) play a great role in my decision to prefer digital over film.

      • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

        I would echo Arnold’s comment. A few years ago I decided to scan some of my old 35mm Ektachrome slides and was surprised to find that my 4,300 pixel digital shots held just as much detail as my Ektachrome film. Granted detail alone is not an equivalent measure. But RAW files can yield an impressive dynamic range.

      • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

        @ Arnold

        Big grin. In some cases digital is far more expensive. I explained it in diffrent disdcussions. I saved the texts, I’ll post one of them, I get back as soon as I cooked my wife a decent dinner. And will have earned an applause for that. 😉

      • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

        Jurriaan, can’t wait ! I am very curious about your elaboration. What is for dinner today ??? I consider myself a decent cook too, but for easy stuff only …

      • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

        Hi Arnold,

        We finished already. The menu:

        Piece of Quiche Lorraine
        Potatoes from the oven the French way, with olive oil, garlic, thyme and and basil
        Mixed salad with iceberg lettuce, tomato, greek olives, and a home made mayonaise
        Grilled fresh sardines with seasalt
        Porc tenderloin with a sauce veritable with cream, cognac, garlic, lightly fried peppers.
        Black coffee with dark chocolate (78% cocoa)
        A red cabernet Sauvignon from my home town (Indeed, they make a very good wine in this part of Holland.).
        The cook was fuelled by a tumbler of scotch and water, no soda!). Very important!

        This was the serious part, and now the fun:

        The sales of professional films are slightly increasing, as stated by spokesmen of Fuji and Kodak and a few European distributors.

        The quality of hi-res images from film is much better than digital, the dynamic range is bigger. Not to speak of tonal richdom an a few other advantages. A must is scanning with a high end scanner, like a Crossfield, Hell, Heidelberg or Flextight/Hasselblad.

        But however, not for all the kinds of work film is the best solution. Don’t try to scan those 300 wedding pictures. But for high end photography it is very convenient.and, when you change your workflow a little bit, it is absolutely not time consuming. Let the scanner run and continue with other work. After the scan is made, do the same again.

        Digital camera’s become obsolete after about 5 years. Nobody wants a 6 year old Hasselblad anymore. Besides, there is the issue of compatibility with new hard- and software. Talking about high end digital photography this means each five-year an ‘investment’ of about $20.000 to 50.000 of higher, no matter if the camera is in use or not. So the cost of onership is about 2.000 to 5.000.

        A traditional filmcamera is pretty priced, about $1.500 to $5.000, the financial lifecycle is about ten years, after this period there’s no write-off anymore. But the practical lifecycle is about 30 years or more. The cost of ownership is $150 to $500 a year, after ten years it’s free.

        The only expenses are just film and lab, only if the camera is in use. If theres no work, a camera doesn’t consume film. Most of the time film and lab are payed by the cliënt.

        For stockphotography (let’s say an 600 hi-res pictures each year, we’re talking about $5.000(4×5″) to $3.000 (6×7) if you don’t shoot 100 pictures of one subject. 😉 A big amount of ‘simple’ pictures can best be made on an APS or full frame camera.

        I noticed that a lot of young photographers are interested in film and old photographs are returning to film again. Not that much, maybe a 3%, wich means in a small country like The Netherlands with 14.000 professionals thst we’re talking about 420 photographers.

        There are magazines like Arizona Highways (beautyfull landscape photography) and some fine artmagazines who are still demanding film. and collectionneurs of classical paintings ask many times for big format transparances. World wide 60% of professional photography is still done on film. For economical reasons…

        A picture of a digital camera can’t look like film because it has no grain but squares. If the size of the pixels would vary and would be placed at random, maybe. The contrast of digital photography is much more harsh, the saturation looks unnatural. It’s indeed a matter of taste. Like on film. We saw film changing too, over the years the characteristics of film were changing depending on taste.

        I’m not a digital believer, nor di I have a preference for film. I choose for the best of both worlds, High end quality when needed on film, otherwise photography with a digital camera. For the result it doesn’t matter, scanner output is always digital. 😉

        • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

          Thanks for your enlightening explanations. Your gear is waaayyyyy out of my league, but I do understand your math.

        • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

          @ Richard

          And it ends about $18.000.

          But hiweve, the ccd inside is the same as the Hasselblad camera chipo. But thhe scanner lasts very much longer than the camera. I have one wich is abot 15 years old and it is still functioning without any interference.

          A second hand Flextight is still a Flextight, the price range is from $1.500 to $4.500. A graphic scanner like the Heidelberg or the Crossfield is seconds hand fir sale at a price of about $500. D=Stillmuch cheaper than a middle format digitasl camara with lenses and al other hardware.

  8. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Yes Brian 🙂 No question. The principles and quality basics come in part, by learning from masters and from the great diversity of photographic mediums that make up the history. You mention a few. Technologies always change and are part of what we adapt to, perfect and master in our own time. Look at what Rodhenko did, for instance, with the “new” film camera (literally cinematic film adapted into a newly designed, hand camera which became known as the 35mm camera throughout the 20th century). New vision and approaches he contributed, including with the printed page, not limited to the darkroom, which set the stage in many ways for what we are seeing in digital photography today. Expanding the horizons like never before.

  9. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Just want to start a little Discussion: Is Digital destroying the trade?
    I have heard Photographers saying Digital cameras are taking work from the trade? but is digital not just taking photography to a new level for Pro Photographers? I still believe there is a huge different between knowing your skills such as editing, lighting etc… which can’t just be learned by picking up a camera?

    • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      In an other LinkedIn group, a portrait photographer claimed to take 2,000 shots in a single portrait session. Obviously, that is not relying on skill but on the law of averages. From that output, she could find two or three usable shots. That is what digital is doing to professional photography.

      • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

        While 2,000 exposures may seem excessive by most standard lets remember that motordives were invented long before digital photography. And yes, they were used in studio photography.

        Perhaps what people mean by saying that digital cameras are killing photography is that more “average” consumers find it much easier now to wind up with better photos than they did years ago, which is true. Inexpensive digital cameras have autofocus, much better lenses, zoom/macro lenses, the equivalent of “motor drives” for auto advancing to the next exposure, and virtually no limit on the number of photos they can take. Even an iPhone does that. However, all those things don’t add up to the skills of a good photographer such as composition, timing, efficiency of exposures, the ability to capture the moment, and digital “darkroom” skills of Photoshop or chemical darkroom skills.

        I guess that when the first Kodak Brownie came out and put easy pictures into the hands of consumers back in 1900 with the slogan, “You push the button, we do the rest,” that many professional studio photographers felt exactly the same way.

        • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

          The potentials of new and emerging technologies are yet to be fully realized. Advances always have been a key part of the history of photography for every generation since the invention, from cameras to printmaking. Not a matter of one against the other. Today’s digital cameras and printers allow a different kind of image making and mastery, beyond the chemical darkroom and lenses. For instance, the millions of colors now available electronically on screen, far exceed pigments and dyes from past photographic processes. Yet the maturing technologies of digital printers, while expanding traditional film and darkroom solutions, remain limited comparatively to screen potentials. Perhaps one of the greatest surprises, and perhaps with some irony, is photography moving back into ink on paper. Inventor Niepce imagined a process with the camera and printing to compete with lithography. This is not what Daguerre perfected when collaborating with Niepce’s pioneering process: in terms of creating one of a kind, silvered copper plates. Yet his Daguerreotype process only lasted a little over a decade. Another inventor, Henry Fox Talbot, turned what he termed “photogenic drawings” into paper negatives made inside the camera. He created multiple prints chemically from the paper negative, which set the stage for over 150 years of modern, chemical printed photography. For over a century many others transformed photographs to the printed page, for generations considered a secondary form, from the original print, made in the darkroom. Now we return to ink on paper with digital micro-technologies. Computer chips help produce beyond the conventional camera lens to levels of experience unimagined. Photography is becoming more central to the visual forms of expression in ways that traditional art forms never could achieve. Today’s renaissance — for better or worse? History tells us the former as we move into a new era of possibilities. And the silent influence of economics and demand always helps influence historical paths. Even classical masters of the black and white photography, have admitted for many years that the limitations of medium and qualities achievable from traditional chemical-based papers and materials, are becoming scarcer by the day. What the modern masters in the 20th century achieved, from Weston and Adams to Rodchenko and Strand, are pioneering achievements and advances for their time. While not possible today, they remain the ground that we stand and build upon, as we advance as they did, with historical changes in technology and materials and knowledge.

          • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

            But do you then think Digital has given the photographer a new evolution (if that’s the word) to be able to take photography further now, not needing to verify a expensive shoot with Polaroid’s checking the exposure and composition etc…Being able to experiment and be more adventures?? Stretching photography even further, don’t get me wrong if you don’t know the basics you aren’t going anywhere 😉

          • Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

            I must disagree. Today’s electronic camera and digital imaging is nothing like the past 150 years. It’s all neat and clean.

            You haven’t lived until your hands smell of fixer.

  10. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Film will always represent magic to me.
    On August 18th 1965, in a small and rather hot bathroom in NYC, I unloaded the roll of B&W 126 cartridge film from my brand new Kodak Instamatic 104 camera, and developed it, (dip and dunk method in three old soup dishes). The instant I turned on the light and looked at the images on the film I was hooked, forever.
    Today, over 5,000 weddings and 1,000 portraits later I am saddened by the eventual demise of film. They say it’s progress, this digital age, and we have to adapt to the times at hand. But those who have never worked with film will have lost out on an intimacy a photographer embraces with his medium. And for those of us who really worked film from exposure to print in the darkroom understand the mystique of the process(s) and all that was involved to produce high quality prints.
    I’ve worked in both, film and digital. There is no doubt that digital has incredible benefits and I assume is considered a green technology vs. film, but if it wasn’t for the time factor, with digital representing instant gratification, I would be hard pressed to dismiss film as a bygone process.

  11. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Well, digital is just a new film.

    I strongly believe in the combination of film and digital.

    There is a difference between digital capturing and digital imaging.

    When you shoot news, weddings, or packshots, when your shooting is production work, do it digital on an APS or on a full frame (overkill in my opinion.) camera.

    But if you shoot for quality, use a middle format or fieldcamera on film and make a scan of the film. Use a high-end scanner like the Flextight/Hasselblad.

    Shooting film on middle format and bigger is much less expensive than digital. The camera’s keep working for about 30 years. 😉 The cost of ownership is about $ 5.000 a year in the first five years, after that it’s $ 0.00 (maintenance a excluded).

    Digital middle format camera’s are to be considered obsolete after five years. Cost per year about $ 10.000,00 including updates, upgrades for software and peripherals and so on. After 5 years you need new gear, and if there is not much work for the digital middle format it turns out to be a very bad solution. When the sales decrease by 50% the cost will increase by 100%. The lease company doesn’t like to wait for payments.

    And to be honest, the results of scanned negatives, processed in Photoshop, are astonishing. A very,very rich tonal scale, a dynamic range which is a more than 4 times bigger than digital, for this kind of photography I’m on my way back tot the middle ages, whistling… 😉

  12. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

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  16. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Skyscraper .Film is fantastic, there is a acmeihcl reaction caused by light onto the sensitive matter, which responds, it’s a beautiful alchemy, the poetry of which is imitated in digital, but never manifested. Analogue photographers engage with the potency of light, as well as the other crafts of framing, aperture, reciprocity and composition.

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