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DPChallenge Forums >> Hardware and Software >> advantages to film cameras over digital
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03/18/2007 11:20:08 AM · #1
I started a thread on a student of mine selling film cameras of her dads. Any reason to learn about how to take film. It costs more when making mistakes, but hey, if there is an advantage I'd like to know. I can rent darkroom time and mess around. Anyways, looking for some help here.
03/18/2007 11:32:56 AM · #2
I think the big advantage is for astro work - digital needs the battery to keep the shutter open whereas a manual film body does not & can stay open for a long time (depending on model). Try some B&W because IMO digital is just not the same as real B&W.

I am forever tempted by some of the great film gear that I see on flee-bay. Maybe one day I will get a MF film body but will see....
03/18/2007 11:46:59 AM · #3
Unless you really *want* to learn film processing, there's really very few advantages. Long exposures (an hour or more) are very feasible with digital. Only if you intend to open the shutter for many hours does a completely manual (no battery) film camera have an advantage, and then you're also faced with film reciprocity failure, a problem digital does not have. A completely manual film camera may have advantages shooting in extreme cold environments where batteries in digital cameras will have a hard time deliveri8ng power. A film camera *is* a good way to experiment with infrared. All you need is IR film and away you go.
For general purposes, digital is a much better learning tool, and the results out of today's DSLRs are comparable to (or better than) professional color films in most respects. High-resolution black & white films may still resolve slightly more than most DSLRs, but the difference is not large, and the DSLR has the advantage in noise and flexibility of post-processing.
03/18/2007 11:47:21 AM · #4
Dynamic range in the highlights, and image sharpness out of the camera.
03/18/2007 12:12:54 PM · #5
Sensor dust and um...umm..

Well that's about it really :)

I run an old Canon AE1, but scan the negs so I have the darkroom freedom of photoshop.
03/18/2007 12:28:49 PM · #6
The only advantage I can see is that film as a wider dynamnic range.

June
03/18/2007 12:30:31 PM · #7
Film is magical; digital is convenient.
03/18/2007 12:32:13 PM · #8
I'm doing film work this semester in university, just for the heck of it. While it is a lot of fun to do, and has a certain magic that digital seems to lack, especially as you stare into the developer tray and watch your print appear on paper, the fact is that there isn't really any huge advantage.

In fact, be very aware of the pricetag, if you decide to give it a try. To get the paper and chemicals to develop film and make prints cost me in excess of $200. As a student, the darkroom and all the equipment in it is provided. But I still had to buy a camera and film, too, which easily adds another $100 to the cost.

Add to this the fact that every shot you take is stuck on film, you can't go back and delete the bad ones. On the plus side, you learn to be a bit more careful about what you shoot. On the other hand, you end up with a couple of shots worth printing out of 24 or 36 - so there's a fair amount of waste.
03/18/2007 12:41:45 PM · #9
Originally posted by BlackDot:

Sensor dust and um...umm..

Well that's about it really :)


Even worse than sensor dust is dust on your film.


03/18/2007 12:42:33 PM · #10
Originally posted by zarniwoop:

Dynamic range in the highlights


Depends if you use positive or negative film.

03/18/2007 12:43:14 PM · #11
One advantage of film is that you have an archival-quality backup of the image, in a format which doesn't require any hardware or software to view it. Film combined with a good scanner would be the best combination for archiving.

I wish that more places which print would install the equipment which would print to negatives/slides (I used to have one at work), so I could make analog backups for these images ... I don't expect either the media, the equipment, or the software to last forever -- all of our archives will have to be periodically re-copied as the technology updates. Do you know where (all) your CDs are?
03/18/2007 12:44:37 PM · #12
Originally posted by robs:

I think the big advantage is for astro work - digital needs the battery to keep the shutter open


If you are seriously intro the Astro stuff you can buy adapters and hook those up to power plugs, batter packs or generators. The main downside of really long exposures, for Nikon CCD cameras, is the heat of the sensor that causes purple color in the corners.


03/18/2007 12:52:26 PM · #13
Originally posted by GeneralE:

One advantage of film is that you have an archival-quality backup of the image, in a format which doesn't require any hardware or software to view it. Film combined with a good scanner would be the best combination for archiving.

I wish that more places which print would install the equipment which would print to negatives/slides (I used to have one at work), so I could make analog backups for these images ... I don't expect either the media, the equipment, or the software to last forever -- all of our archives will have to be periodically re-copied as the technology updates. Do you know where (all) your CDs are?


Yes I do and I think that it is not to difficult for software manufacturers to incorporate old standards into the newer software. The main problem is like you said archivation.

- do you backup
- do you backup your backups
- do you update your backups (floppy -> zip disk -> CD -> DVD -> Blu Ray ->?) You said this already.

When you buy the newer one-time-use memory cards, which are claimed to last 100 years, are you sure there will be a card reader 100 years from now and if your cardreader lasts 100 years, will there be a driver for it?

How long will your external harddrive last? And when the harddrive doesn't fail how can you be sure that the drive will mount into a future computer?

Updating backups, that's the key (ironically I am moving CD's to DVD at this very moment).


03/18/2007 01:01:32 PM · #14
Unless you have some highly specialized needs and/or are into the history or nostalgia of film photography there really are not many advantageous.

Film is quickly becoming an anachronism.
03/18/2007 01:02:44 PM · #15
Originally posted by Azrifel:

- do you update your backups (floppy -> zip disk -> CD -> DVD -> Blu Ray ->?) You said this already.

You left out the boxes of SyQuest and Magneto-Optical cartridges I have ... I should be at work, backing up some hard drives right now : (
03/18/2007 02:38:41 PM · #16
Originally posted by stdavidson:

Film is quickly becoming an anachronism.

Film is only becoming an anachronism among vacation shooters, hobbyists, sports shooters, and some photo journalists. While this is a large segment of former film users, I don't think it signals the end of film era. Film is still very much alive among photo artists and serious photo enthusiasts; digital is still not a serious contender in many areas of photography.
03/18/2007 02:42:00 PM · #17
you sure about that? film will never completely die out - the nostalgia will live forever. because of that - some people will use film. those same people - more than likely - also own a digital camera...

Originally posted by agenkin:

Film is only becoming an anachronism among vacation shooters, hobbyists, sports shooters, and some photo journalists. While this is a large segment of former film users, I don't think it signals the end of film era. Film is still very much alive among photo artists and serious photo enthusiasts; digital is still not a serious contender in many areas of photography.


Message edited by author 2007-03-18 14:44:30.
03/18/2007 02:53:59 PM · #18
Originally posted by agenkin:

digital is still not a serious contender in many areas of photography.


I'm thinking this is a bit of an overstatement, but I do think film may have the advantage for night photography. Digital has one problem in two forms with this. a) Long exposures lead to more noise. b) Camera noise shows up much more readily in darks. Combined it can make for a headache to try to get a shot free enough of noise to be able to enlarge into the gallery range. (24x36 or something like that).
03/18/2007 02:54:36 PM · #19
Originally posted by agenkin:

digital is still not a serious contender in many areas of photography.


May I suggest an upgrade from the Mattel Barbie Photo Designer Digital Camera? :)

Message edited by author 2007-03-18 14:55:43.
03/18/2007 03:02:05 PM · #20
Originally posted by soup:

you sure about that? film will never completely die out - the nostalgia will live forever. because of that - some people will use film. those same people - more than likely - also own a digital camera...

I am not talking about nostalgia. There are many areas where digital is still no competition to film. Medium and large format films easily outperform even the most expensive digital cameras. B&W negative film cannot be seriously compared to B&W shots from a digital camera in the way it handles shadows and highlights, in the way it shows textures, the grain, etc. Also, if you consider paper print as the final "product" of photography, well done wet-process analogue prints look much nicer than digitally printed photos, even those done at an expensive lab.

I don't think that the fact that many film shooters also own a digital camera is indicative of anything. Sure, digital is very convenient.

Message edited by author 2007-03-18 15:04:22.
03/18/2007 03:39:15 PM · #21
i still say that nostalgia is the future of film. tell me who is producing the art you speak of with film - and yet, at the same time, can't create it with digital. if you owned a high end commercial studio would you shoot digital or film? if you were a starving artist would you shoot digital or film?

Originally posted by agenkin:

I am not talking about nostalgia. There are many areas where digital is still no competition to film. Medium and large format films easily outperform even the most expensive digital cameras. B&W negative film cannot be seriously compared to B&W shots from a digital camera in the way it handles shadows and highlights, in the way it shows textures, the grain, etc. Also, if you consider paper print as the final "product" of photography, well done wet-process analogue prints look much nicer than digitally printed photos, even those done at an expensive lab.

I don't think that the fact that many film shooters also own a digital camera is indicative of anything. Sure, digital is very convenient.

03/18/2007 03:40:45 PM · #22
oh, and, keep starving...


03/18/2007 03:55:11 PM · #23
Originally posted by soup:

i still say that nostalgia is the future of film. tell me who is producing the art you speak of with film


Well, the one that immediately comes to mind is Holga photographers who use expired film to get light leaks, vignetting and unpredictable colors. Can the vignetting and light effects and color shifts be duplicated in PS? Sure, but it takes all the fun out of it. Part of the process of that particular photographic art is the spontaneity and never knowing quite what you're going to get. You just can't duplicate that with digital.

Of course, it's not cheap. My first four rolls went in last week, and ended up costing me around $70, roughly $8 per print. Most of that is because I didn't order a copy of every single print and the flat rate of the contact sheet jacks the price up, but it sure has me grumbling about wanting to learn how to do my own processing.

Message edited by author 2007-03-18 15:56:48.
03/18/2007 04:06:41 PM · #24
You can use a 50 year old camera and lenses which, if kept lubricated and adjusted properly, will work perfectly fine, with no need for batteries or buttons or LCD displays. That's an advantage to me.

You can choose from the hundreds of different types of films to get various qualities from them, and make real optical prints with better resolution than digital prints.

Digital has plenty of compromises too, and I chose to go with film instead of dealing with the digital equipment I could afford, which was low-end and crappy and still more expensive than good film gear.

Digital cameras basically suck. Most of the low to mid-range ones are made from lots of plastic, they have cheesy pop-up flashes, buttons and screens that belong on gameboys or PDA's and not cameras, terrible viewfinders, etc. The files they put out usually need tons of post-processing work to look good, you can't stop even good lenses down very far without ruining the picture with diffraction, you get more purple fringing in high contrast areas, and you get dust all over the sensor for no apparent reason, which shows up on everything but photos shot wide open.

Photography is just a hobby for me, and not a profession, so whatever makes me happiest is what I'll use. Digital was not achieving that. For shooting around people, I'll stick with my old chome Leica that was made in 1960, has a much quieter and less offensive shutter click than any SLR, doesn't attract nearly as much attention to me when I'm shooting with it as opposed to some huge camera with a huge lens, and lets me mount some amazing lenses on it.
03/18/2007 04:28:56 PM · #25
Originally posted by soup:

i still say that nostalgia is the future of film. tell me who is producing the art you speak of with film - and yet, at the same time, can't create it with digital. if you owned a high end commercial studio would you shoot digital or film? if you were a starving artist would you shoot digital or film?

Originally posted by agenkin:

I am not talking about nostalgia. There are many areas where digital is still no competition to film. Medium and large format films easily outperform even the most expensive digital cameras. B&W negative film cannot be seriously compared to B&W shots from a digital camera in the way it handles shadows and highlights, in the way it shows textures, the grain, etc. Also, if you consider paper print as the final "product" of photography, well done wet-process analogue prints look much nicer than digitally printed photos, even those done at an expensive lab.

I don't think that the fact that many film shooters also own a digital camera is indicative of anything. Sure, digital is very convenient.


There simply is nothing produced by digital that can duplicate the quality a good conventional B&W print on FB paper. There are p[rocesses with multiple black and gray inks that try, but so far, I've seen nothing that cannot be bettered in a conventional darkroom.
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