Tag Archives: Fujifilm

Digital versus Film: A Photoessay

Film shooter: Film slows me down; I shoot less and thus increase my keeper rate. In a world of instant gratification I love to wait for having my film developed. The look of film is more organic and natural. I concentrate on the subject, not on the histogram: just the camera, the subject, and me. The film camera of my grandfather will outlast you and me. It still takes better images than the modern, disposable DSLRs. Film does not require a laptop, extension cord, power strip, Terabyte backup drive, mouse, card reader and all that junk filling my suitcase. Shooting film, I will have the evening free for my wife/ girlfriend/ partner; no downloading, backing-up, RAW processing, and sensor cleaning. Film has better resolution and is future proof because scanners will always improve.

Digital gearhead: Even my 10 year-old, 6 MP Canikon has a better dynamic range and color accuracy than film ever had. My digital file at ISO 409600 shows less noise then Kodak Extar 400. We have long surpassed the state of sufficiency and I have made 6-foot prints from my DSLR that look gorgeous. It’s the guy behind the camera that matters, not the equipment. Street-shooting with my mirrorless I can be very stealthy. Hard drives store billions of images in far less space than binders full of film. With digital it is common for me to shoot a thousand images in an hour-long football match at no cost.

Mandalay-digital

Fig. 1: Mandalay (click to enlarge)

Now with these fanboy statements out of the way, I must admit that after 20 years of shooting large-format film I have become pretty much a digi-convert myself. Yes, the almost total lack of noise on the D800e at base ISO far surpassed that from even the finest grained film. Yes it was much easier to nail correct exposure checking the histogram. And it was easier to remove the few dust spots that might turn up on a digital file, than the lengthy spotting necessary on even the most carefully processed and handled film. But was it the right move?

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Digital versus Film Photography: Nikon D800E and 4×5” Fujichrome

Digital versus film photography has been a hot topic of debate for about 10 years. While most professionals have made their decision based on workflow, low light performance, reliability, and running costs, amateurs and fine-art photographers have praised the soul of film and the related process as a way of slowing down and thereby increasing the keeper rate.

Lamayuru Gompa, Ladakh, India

Lamayuru, Ladakh: Nikon D800E with Nikon 50 mm 1.4G at f11

For my part, I do not subscribe to this argument, because the shot discipline required by the latest generation of digital cameras (be it the Nikon D800E, the Sony a7r, or the upcoming medium format systems equipped with the Sony 33×44 mm CMOS sensor) leads naturally to a slower process: setting up a sturdy tripod, focusing in live view (contrast detection), mirror lock up and shutter delay, multiple capture for stitching and focus stacking, and “development” of the RAW files.

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