25 January, 2015

Film vs Digital, Part 2

Brisbane Art Gallery [click to enlarge]

I wrote about Film vs Digital back in September of 2013. Because I'm returning to the topic, I've renamed the earlier post as "Part 1."

Last time I didn't get into much detail. But, I keep seeing articles and posts extolling the benefits of film, and these don't ring many bells for me. I'm not going to say that those others are wrong; but I will talk about my own experience and views. And, this time I have also mentioned the benefits of mirrorless.

I admit that my experience in the wet darkroom wasn't extensive. But, for making prints it was all that I had, and it was all that I could afford. That meant that for making prints, it was a black-and-white exercise only.

A few of the general benefits of digital:

  • Digital gives me the ability to check focus and exposure, and check for unexpected elements like blinks.
  • Digital, generally, has autofocus, where film, generally, does not.
  • I don't need to carry around film, and I don't need to carry around different kinds of film (colour, b&w, fine grain, hi-speed, colour slide, colour print, etc).
  • This also means that I can quickly "switch" from black and white to colour without having to have two cameras.
  • Digital allows me to use ISO settings undreamed of with film.
  • I don't need to change film every 36 shots.
  • The continuous drive features of digital leaves even the best motor drives of film cameras in the dust.
  • Digital gives me fast and automated bracketing.
  • With digital I can experiment to my heart's content for free.
  • Many digital cameras and/or lenses have stabilisation.
  • A few digital cameras have completely silent shutters; but with some other tradeoffs.
  • Digital also usually give me video capability — better video than most dedicated, amateur camcorders.

Mirrorless (digital) benefits:

  • Mirrorless gives me histograms and settings that I can see in the viewfinder;
  • in many cases makes for smaller and lighter cameras and lenses (although, my A7II is both larger and heavier than my earlier OM2-S).
  • provides me with focus peaking and zebras; 
  • gives me access to a broad range of lenses made for other mounts; and
  • eliminates front and back focusing of lenses on SLRs (and DSLRs), and eliminates focus errors and the parallax issues of rangefinders.

Digital benefits specific to Black and White:

  • With digital I skip developing film. This gives me immediate access to my images if I need it.
  • Digital black and white gives me the resolution to do outstanding landscape work; only bested by large frame (larger than 4x5) film cameras.
  • With stitching in post, I can blow the doors off even large-frame film resolution. (And stitching in post is easier than carrying around a large-frame camera and tripod — although I still need a tripod.) 
  • Exposing to the Right (ETR) and High Dynamic Range imaging (HDR) afford me exposure ranges wider than film and more flexible than zone exposure systems.
  • Because digital cameras capture in colour, I can adjust the black and white responses without a collection of filters.

Digital benefits specific to Colour:

  • I can proof my pictures for colour first in the camera and then in post.
  • I have greater exposure latitude with digital than with colour film.
  • I have more control over colour in post than I ever had with labs.
  • I can print with a digital workflow much more inexpensively (although film users can scan their negatives to get the benefits of digital printing).

Benefits of Film:

  • As film is usually 35mm, the format has inherent depth of field advantages over the usually smaller (APS-C and M4/3) digital formats.
  • Using film slows the photographer down. (If you think that's a benefit, then it's a benefit.)
  • Highlights "roll off" more slowly with many kinds of black and white film.
  • Many ultra-wide lenses perform better with film, providing both better resolution at the edges and avoiding the corner color casts and the vignetting to which digital (and particularly mirrorless) is prone.
  • Each film has a "look," and if you like those particular looks, then using those films is a benefit. (Some films, of course, are no longer made.)
  • With increasing ISOs, the increasing a grain of film is more attractive than the increasing noise of digital (particularly in color).
  • As there are very few innovations in film cameras, there are few pressures to buy newer gear.
  • And, therefore, high quality film cameras are much less expensive.

If I've missed any essential points, please leave a comment. But, I'm pretty sure I'm going to stick with digital.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

That was something new to learn. Here we have Austin Digital Printing Services but never tried out this. Thanks for sharing. Keep exploring.