When it comes to cost, though, film cameras have an edge. They are typically less expensive than their digital counterparts. Digital fans usually point out that their cameras have a much larger pixel count.
Further, it is much easier to print digital and remain true the vision on the computer screen than it is to print analogue film. In the latter case, you are depending on your own skill in the darkroom or that of a lab.
Film vs Digital: Which Captures the Better Photo?
Digital cameras revolutionized the photographic world; in the “old days” of pictures, film had to be sent away, processed, and then combed through to eliminate shots that were fuzzy, in which heads were cut off, or where every subject managed to blink at the same time. Digital makes it easy to view, discard, and manipulate photos instantaneously and inexpensively. While convenient and easy, many photographers – and art lovers – feel that analogue film delivers a more authentic, textured experience. Is that true?
Finding the Right Shot
To preface this discussion, photographers capture intriguing, intense, and thought-provoking images in both film and digital formats. That being said, there are pros and cons to each approach. Let’s start with the obvious. When it comes to digital cameras, there are a number of benefits. The foremost is typically freedom and convenience.Digital offers photographers the ability to preview their photographs on-screen. They can then transfer them to a tablet or computer for further inspection. Those that don’t make the cut are deleted. Those that bear further consideration can be easily edited via software programs such as Photoshop (PC and Mac), Lightroom, Serif Affinity Photo (for Mac), Capture One (PC and Mac), ON1 (PC and Mac), Coral PaintShop Pro X8 (PC), and more.Viewing and editing photos on-screen means that photographers only print the images with which they are completely satisfied. While the editing software can be a significant investment, artists can recoup much of the cost, especially in the long-term, in saving printing costs.
Digital and Medium Format
When it comes to cost, though, film cameras have an edge. They are typically less expensive than their digital counterparts. Digital fans usually point out that their cameras have a much larger pixel count. For example, a Nikon D3330 produces about 24.2 MP. In comparison a 35mm camera might produce 7 – 16 MP. But wait. Today, medium format is trending hot. It produces gorgeous shots that can be enlarged without reducing quality. “Medium format” is anything larger than 35mm but smaller than 6×9. Say an artist wanted to enlarge a photo for a gallery opening. Medium format film is the ideal choice: the picture does not lose clarity and has wonderful resolution. Here, analogue has the edge. A medium (or large) frame camera can offer the same – or more – resolution as digital cameras that cost $20,000, $30,000, $40,000, or more.
What Looks Better?
When Brad Pitt took up a camera and took pictures of his then-wife Angelina Jolie, he did so with rolls of Kodak Tech Pan film (discontinued in 2004). The resulting black-and-white photos are grainy (in the best way possible), raw, and authentic. Many photographers prefer this genuine look and feel. In fact, it is so desirable that many digital photo editing software programs offer filters that enable photographers to apply the analogue effect.In many cases, film does a better job handling black and white, highlights (e.g. sunshine), and blending light and color. And, again, that grain is certainly eye-pleasing.For all that, digital does have a host of benefits. It is quick. It delivers great clarity with built-in filters, and it can be more advantageous for amateurs or those just beginning in the photography field. For most people, digital produces better quality. Why? It takes less experience and expertise to create great photos. Further, it is much easier to print digital and remain true the vision on the computer screen than it is to print analogue film. In the latter case, you are depending on your own skill in the darkroom or that of a lab. Mistakes can, and do, happen.
End the Debate
The truth is that asking whether digital is better than analogue is akin to asking if wine is better than coffee. They’re both perfectly lovely – in the right situations. For shoots when the goal is slow and steady – capturing a model in the perfect light, viewing an aspect of nature that requires patience – film encourages photographers to slow down, consider details and surroundings carefully, and achieve an aesthetically pleasing grain effect.Digital is ideal for fast-paced shoots in which photographers must take hundreds, or thousands, of photos. Think weddings, sporting events, crowd shots, photojournalism pieces, etc. It is also a convenient medium for photographers who want to introduce surrealistic elements to their photos; editing via a software program makes it easier to achieve incredible effects.If you are just taking on photography as an art form, it can be beneficial to use digital. It will provide you with an excellent, and accessible, education. When you hone your skills, you have the confidence and skill to move on to film. It can offer a few more challenges, but when you surmount those, you can add more nuance to your photographs.Film vs. digital. Why choose? There is no need: use both. You’ll achieve different effects, and you’ll likely find that they work in different ways to help you realize different visiosn for different projects.