Please keep in mind this is my opinion and not a fact. But, in my opinion the most important feature of digital photography over film is immediacy. You can see what you have taken right now. This means you can see the live view, take the picture, and see the results on the back of the camera right away. The key importance of this is to see if you got the shot you want. If yes, you are done. If no, you take another one.
To get this with a film camera you would take shots bracketing the exposure and hope what you wanted came out when the film was developed.
On the other hand this is an easy shot with any camera. I took this with a cell phone 10 mega pixel camera. Any film camera including a disposable one would give you a more detailed image. You could crop the heck out of it and see every detail in the Victorian woodwork.
The other important aspect of immediacy is sharing. The way most pictures are viewed today is through social media like Facebook, Twitter, texting, emailing, and so on. With digital pictures you can do this immediately. Film at best takes a day. And if you are traveling like we are now, I have seen none of the film pictures I have taken so far and we are five weeks into a 9 week trip.
So I am back to what I said in my first post on this blog about photography. Both digital and film still have a place if you want the best results. There is a reason nearly all feature films are shot with film. The results are what the director and the audience want. But if you are not a very skilled person, using digital cameras are very useful in tough to shoot lighting and where you want the results now.
When all I used was film I ended up with either negatives & prints or slides. I made photo print albums and put the slides on Kodak Carousels. The negatives I put in folders chronologically. I started buying digital cameras in the late 1990’s and this required a new system to back up-archive and organize. To complicate matters methods of storing keep changing frequently.
Digital pictures can be backed up either locally on some sort of storage medium like your computer, a back up disk, or a thumb drive. Or you can put them in the cloud on line. I would suggest using both.
If you are a casual picture taker and do not care much about keeping high quality files with lots of pixels you can use Facebook, Google+, Flickr, or any similar site. The problem is that most of these will reduce the quality of your files when you store them or download them. Plus no matter how fast your web connection is a local disk is faster.
If you care about keeping the file quality as high as possible it is best to keep a local copy on a mass storage device like a back up drive. You can use thumb drives, but if you use large files like RAW data, disk drives are much less expensive. I would suggest strongly using some type of photo software and then sticking with it. I have used free Picasa for my work photos for years and it makes it very easy to find your pictures and if you want sync them with Google+. For my personal pictures I like a Mac computer and I have iPhoto and Aperture. I used to use Photoshop a lot and learned many of the complexities of their system. If you use Windows computers I would suggest some type of Photoshop program. There is Lightroom and Photoshop Elements.
There are all sorts of on line storage options as mentioned previously. If you want to store full size files, keep them organized, and download them full sized your options are limited. Dropbox, Onedrive, and a few others can do this, but then you end up with a large amount of storage space used on your local computer when the on line syncs with your local. Flikr allows you to upload full sized files and gives you a terra byte of storage free. They also allow you to download your files full size, but only one at a time. There is a multiple file download app for flikr that I have tried. It reduces the size of the files.
So what am I doing to archive files and organize them.
I still have prints made and put them in photo albums. This is time consuming, but the books that result are satisfying to hold and look through. If you want to do this I strongly recommend Kolo books you can get from Amazon or local shops. The cheap Chinese ones are nowhere near as good.
I put my pictures on back up disk drives. I have the Seagate and Western Digital ones.
I also put many of my digital albums on line. Generally I put smaller file sizes on line for easier handling. I would not put huge RAW files in the cloud. Although my film developer sends me my high quality scans through dropbox. That system works very well.
I organize my pictures in albums. I use both Picasa and iPhoto to do that. I have found that putting the year before the subject of the album helps you locate things later.
I currently have three working digital cameras. The one in my three month old smartphone, an older Sony compact camera, and a year old Nikon DSLR a 3200. On our recent trip to southern Utah the Nikon really surprised me how well it adjusted for mid day pictures in brilliant sun. Normally by far the best pictures are taken early in the morning or late in the day. My Nikon 3200 when put on the landscape icon on it’s settings dial produced really good mid day pictures. The camera in my smartphone had a much harder time with this lighting. I remembered my Sony compact had a landscape setting too and decided I would do a test today to see how it worked with mid day light.
The Nikon DSLR did by far the best job of these three. The Sony washed out the colors in the distance a bit. The cell phone decided to focus on the trees in mid range and then put a strange lighter border section between the mountains and the sky. In my opinion the only acceptable picture is the Nikon one. But lets try a test where mid day sunny skies are not a factor.
All of the files on the digitals are about the same size approx 2.1-2.5 mega pixels. In this case in my opinion all three are comparable pictures. I prefer the color on the Motorola just a bit, and the Sony second. Which puts the Nikon in third.
Conclusion. The Nikon benefits from good software. It has given an acceptable picture in mid day with color that is not washed out. The Sony compact on the other hand is about six years old and does not benefit from software advances from the last couple of years. And then the Motorola software has the right idea, but puts a gap between the sky and mountains. And focuses on an object not in the center of the camera. For tough mid day bright sun shots I am amazed at how good the Nikon works. There is no way you could get shots as good as it does unless you are a wizard at post press. And for this inexpensive Nikon the shots that came out of the camera had the color and saturation right. Traditionally using film to get good mid days shots called for a polarizing filter. In my humble opinion with Fuji Velvia 50 and a polarizing filter you would get even better shots of Monument Valley. But that is only speculation as I did not shoot Velvia when we were in Arizona a month ago.
And for close up shots of flowers in late afternoon any of the digitals I have produced good results. In this situation any of the shots would be OK, but here I preferred the look of the cell phone camera.
Photographic film uses pigmented particles to display color. Electronic display screens use electronic means to display color with density rated in pixels. The results are similar but not the same. Back 40 years ago the photographer in the family bought Kodachrome 64 and shot slides. When developed they were displayed by projecting the images on a screen. Kodachrome 64 was capable of very saturated colors with deep reds. It had very fine detail rendition. To get this result took decades of development. In my opinion, today for the best display of brilliant colors looking at slides on a light table or projecting them on a screen is still the best result.
The above picture was taken with a Motorola Droid Maxx phone camera. This picture was taken in January and basically this is what came out of the camera.
Even before I started buying digital cameras about 15 years ago I still considered it a chore to get out the slide projector and show the latest batch of them. Today nearly no one will do this. So is it worth it to shoot film when you are only going to see the results on a flat screen? Yes. When you capture that image with either negative film or slide film you always have the original film. You can have prints made from the film. You can rescan the film as that process improves. If you take a digital picture you only have the digital file.
This is our dog Frazier shot with an Olympus Stylus Infinity using Fuji Supurbia (cheap print film). I had it developed by The Darkroom and they sent me the results scanned and negatives. The original scan was about 4 megs and I slightly upped the color saturation using iPhoto
This sounds very complicated but simply put, if you have some red roses in your back yard you want a good picture of you may not be able to get the red you want if you do not have a camera and display screen capable of capturing and displaying the red tones you want. On the other hand a camera loaded with Fuji Velvia or Kodak Ektar 100 will give you the colors you want easily. And if your display cannot reproduce the colors you want today if you take film and get a better display later you will be able to see the picture you wanted to capture.
But for most people modern digital cameras take very good pictures easily.
The picture above was using a Nikon DSLR. It was taken at mid day and the reds on the Jeep are relatively true and vivid.
But nowhere near as nice as this reddish rose taken with my Olympus DSL and Velvia 50. Admittedly part of the appeal of the rose picture is the subtle bokeh.
As I said in post #1 on photography I have both types of cameras and intend to use both. If photography is fun for you I suggest the same.
After spending a couple of years taking similar pictures with both film and digital my opinion is that both have a use. You can use one or the other or both as I intend to do. Why, because it is fun to do so. Is one better than the other? No, not really, they are different and give different results. Similar results, but not the same. And the use of a film or digital camera, each has positive and negative.
Here are a few comments on plusses and minuses of both.
The above picture was taken with my cell phone. The original is about a 4 meg f2.4 shot taken about 11am in the local mountains.
Most simple film cameras take a picture as soon as you press the button. Most simple digital cameras do not. So if you are trying to get a great shot of your kids or grandkids, most of the time a simple film camera even a disposable one will work better. I have been able to get great pictures with my cell phones and compact digitals over the years, but getting kids pictures to turn out great is hard because they are always moving.
A big benefit of digital cameras is that you can see the picture you are going to get before you take it. Using live view you can adjust the scene till you get the shot you want. This is very easy with a modern cell phone. And also fairly easy on a DSLR. A big problem though is seeing the screen clearly in full sunlight. It works wonders at dusk.
Many inexpensive film cameras that sell used cheaply are beautifully made with metal cases and lenses. My Olympus OM2n from 1980 can be bought today on ebay for next to nothing and is a thing of beauty. The quality that it was built with is first class. I would guess you could buy a very good OM2n today with an 50mm f1.8 lens for $100 or less. The least expensive digital camera that looks and feels almost as good is the Olympus OMD or the Fuji DSLR. The OMD will set you back $800 and the Fuji $1,400.
Digital cameras provide instant results.
This picture is also from my cell phone and I just love the colors. This is almost untouched in post processing. I just moved my cell phone around till I got the lighting and shot I wanted.
I did the same here but with my Nikon DSLR on live view. I just moved the camera around till I got the lighting I liked. For these two shots digital works better.
When you shoot film many times there are happy surprises when you get the roll developed. The original of this picture on a good screen is a great picture. Very wide dynamic range, crisp details, beautiful colors. This was shot with inexpensive Fuji snapshot film and my 1953 Voightlander Prominent with a 100mm f4.5 lens. But I want to emphasize that you need a good screen to see the beauty of this shot. On my Apple retina screen you see all the detail and colors. On my larger Samsung monitor the strands of blond hair are not bright and clear and the colors are dull. Plus Hailey’s skin tones a far better on the Apple screen.
I have loved taking pictures for a long time. I think I inherited the habit of recording family events and places we have been from my father. Adding an “art” quality to my pictures is something I am now trying to do but still in the learning stages.
But this post is about film vs digital. Film was dead and now it seems to be making a comeback with amateur picture takers. My guess is that professional photographers in many cases never stopped using film. I was an early adopter of digital cameras. Back in the late 1990’s I bought several Sony digitals and used them mostly for work. I have been in the printing and publishing machine business and we use a lot of digital pictures in emails and our web site. About 3 years ago I was having trouble getting my compact Sony to snap a shot quick enough to catch action. Usually my running dog and active grandchild.
I started to research getting a DSLR (digital single lens reflex). To say that you can get overwhelmed by the choices is an understatement. After months of research I had bought nothing. But I did start to test out my old film cameras again to see how they compared to digital. All this was a huge learning process. I had only used digital for years and so I had to relearn using film.
Film lesson number 1 – different films give remarkably different results. So first off you need to use a film that will work well with your subject. Basically, people shots and scenery shots require different film. If you try to hit a happy medium in my opinion your results will be less than optimum.
The top photo is with a Nikon 3200 DSLR set to scenery shots. I shot this picture mid day. In my opinion the ability of the Nikon to get good scenery shots like this in mid day sun is a very desirable feature. The second shot is with a 1980 Olympus OM2n and a 50mm f1.8 lens. The film in this case was Fuji Velvia 50. The shot came out with good color rendition and very good detail. I had this film developed and scanned by The Darkroom in San Clemente CA.
So my point for my comments here is that film is far from dead and that the type of film you use is important. Key being that people picture films and scenery films tend to be different.
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