Film vs Digital - If I was to drive from my home in the West Country of England all the way to Scotland I'd choose my comfortable, familiar 1.8 Hatchback. Imagine how surprised I'd be if I was stopped at Carlisle by a Traffic Warden who told me my car was unable to go any further. And that I'd need a 4 Litre SUV to continue the trip.
But that's pretty much what a camera shop salesman tried to tell me last week. His theory was that the only way forward was with digital photography. I gave him my opinion, and after a while he agreed with me that I had a point.
My much loved Canon AE-1P is still going strong, still capable of producing quality pictures after all these years. I bought it in 1982 and it's never "gone out of date". In fact, my twenty odd year old camera is almost as up to date as the newly arrived (at the time of writing) Canon EOS 350D. And that will continue for a few more years yet. Don't believe me..?
I like slide film, so I can see my pictures, evaluate them and select the best ones, that's half the fun of photography, be it digital or film based! If I shot print film I'd even have a sheaf of pictures to show round the family. You can't do that with digital pics without visiting a photo lab anyway. With film I'm not worried that an error will delete the contents of my camera's chip. Yes it has happened to a friend of mine. Admittedly it was partly his fault but that didn't get his pictures back.
How about Photoshop? That's the biggest advantage of digital photography these days! Surely I don't want to deny myself this valuable photographic tool? No I don't! I take advantage of it all the way! Selecting my very best shots (or ones I need a little help with), I get them scanned to a very high resolution by a local photo lab (and use Photoshop to do things undreamed of a few years ago in the darkroom). I can then get a good big print made to hang on the wall.
Also, I do have a digital, a great little compact. The 5Mp Canon S50 in my gadget bag alongside my Canon AE-1P and my Canon EOS 300 35mm film cameras. I think I have the best of all possible worlds! I can shoot digital, I can use Photoshop, and I can produce REALLY big poster size pictures for walls anywhere…can you? No, not without a Hasselblad 22Mp professional camera costing many thousands of pounds.
There is a possibility that I'll still be using my old Canon long after some of the shiny new digital cameras are out of production. So my gadget bag will always have a corner for my old film body and a lens or two even after I’ve got a top of the range Digital camera. Just so long as I can still get the film that is.
Every time a new film emulsion comes out I can load it and use it, updating the vital heart of my camera, and restoring my cutting edge performance. So, am I a sad old dinosaur who hides in dusty corners of old photography shops? Searching for a left handed double spigot external widget from 1965?
No, I also have a Canon EOS 300 35mm film camera so I have auto focus and partial metering too. I lust after a Canon EOS 350D like a lot of other photographers, and one day I'll have one. But for now and maybe for a few years more my old film camera still has a number of advantages over digital.
So what possible advantages does waiting a week or more for my Sensia and Velvia to be developed and posted back to me have over the instant images of digital?
Well, it's really simple. In my price bracket, film resolution still has a vast edge over digital. And even an entry level Digital SLR with one lens costs more than my entire gadget bag of bodies and lenses that I’ve built up over a number of years. Another point to consider is that I have a hard copy of my photo session in the shape of the film I shoot.
Film Photography Advantages
1. Lower initial cost than for a comparable digital camera
2. With a higher dynamic range, film is better at capturing details in whites and blacks and can’t be replicated with digital cameras. Also film can capture subtle details lost in digital photography
3. Film is more forgiving of minor focusing issues and exposure problems
4. Film captures photos at higher resolution than most digital cameras
5. Analog film can be pushed or pulled multiple stops when needed, but the amount of contrast within the image is affected. Some photographers use this to their advantage to create the ideal look they desire, but this method still does not allow extremely high ISO speeds without impacting image tones.
6. Film photographers with a limited number of exposures available on a roll of film must think more about their images before shooting them. Digital photographers tend to take pictures first and think later. Depending on your viewpoint, this is either an advantage or disadvantage.
7. Unlike digital cameras, film cameras are future proof and don’t become obsolete.
8. No power or batteries needed. Long trips and cold conditions can be limiting for digital cameras.
9. The Darkroom photo lab scans your film photos, now allowing you to edit your images on a computer with photo-editing software or share in social media.
Digital Photography Advantages
1. The resolution in even point-and-shoot cameras, which is often 12 to 20 megapixels is high enough resolution for large prints.
2. Digital cameras also have the advantage of being able to change film speeds between individual photographs.
3. The cameras are generally lighter weight than film cameras.
4. Memory cards are tiny and can store many images.
5. Instant gratification and images can be viewed immediately. Some film photographers consider this a disadvantage.
6. You can edit your images directly on the camera.
7. You can choose to print only the images you like best.
8. Many cameras offer built-in filters.