Tag Archives: digital vs film

Kodak UltraMax 400

A few months back I bought 10 rolls of fresh Kodak Gold 200 and Ultramax 400.  It took me a while to try the 400 as I thought it would be grainier than the Gold 200.  When I shot some on this summer’s long trip I was pleasantly surprised.  I don’t find that even on my largest most detailed monitor (An Apple Thunderbolt Display – finer than 2K and less than 4K) that the grain is greater than the Gold.  I have been shooting Ektar and Fuji Velvia 50 quite a lot and I have to tell you that the cheaper Ultramax looked very good.  I used it for landscape.


corn palace


I was very pleased with these results.  The middle shot of the Corn Palace in Iowa I also took with my Nikon D5500.  I shot this raw and converted with LightRoom.

Corn Palace Nikon

As is I like the Ultramax shot better.  If I twiddled around with the Nikon photo above long enough I might be able to get it to look as good as the Kodak shot.  But only maybe and the Kodak picture had minimal editing.  Oh, and the Nikon picture is a far larger file.

I also shot quite a few people pictures with the Kodak.

jeff cathy jon betsy_

barb behind fox

me in amana

To me the skin tones are also quite good.  I also took a number of indoor pictures with natural light and these turned out quite good too.  These pictures we all taken with my Minolta 600s, which is a late 90’s higher end manual / auto SLR.  The lens depending on the shot is either a 50mm 2.8 Sigma or a 24mm 2.8 Sigma.  Great camera and two really great lenses.

So I give a double thumbs up on Kodak Ultramax 400.  Color saturation to me is very good.  Not quite as much as Ektar, but for a wide variety of shots I like the color rendering better on Ultramax.  Velvia 50 definitely has more color saturation, but is much more sensitive on exposure, and as with Ektar does not look the best with people shots.

The other 400 speed film I have shot recently is Fuji Superia 400.  In my opinion the Superia and Ultramax are very similar.  Both good.  I like the fact you can still get the Ultramax in 36 exposure rolls.

Film Fiasco

Several times I have posted on this blog that I love using film instead of digital some of the time.  But the two rolls of film I used over the holidays that just ended turned out terrible.  I was only able to save a few pictures using heavy edits in Lightroom.  Why, well I let myself get lazy because my digital cameras are very new and they work quite well with no effort other than point and shoot.  So even though the last 10-15 rolls of film I have shot have had almost all of the shots turn out great, I took them all in daylight and outdoors.  The two rolls I shot in the last few weeks were indoors and I mostly used a flash.  And the film I used was balanced for outdoor light and not for flash or indoor lighting.

So the color balance was terrible.  But there were also other problems.  On one of the rolls I shot about half the pictures using a 135mm lens which is a medium telephoto.  Well, 35 year old lenses don’t come with vibration reduction.  So I took quite a few pictures at too slow a shutter speed.

My first reaction was to make a New Years resolution to give up taking film pictures.  I actually put my least favorite 35mm SLR on ebay.  But then I cooled down.  The bad pictures were my own fault.

poor white balance shot
poor white balance shot

Modern cameras have become so good that most people today don’t really know how to take pictures, they just point to camera/ computer at what they want an image of and usually the result is acceptable.  Even my six month old Nikon can be used without adjusting it at all.  You just put it on automatic and it does almost everything.  However, if you want better than acceptable it takes a lot of learning and some skill.

Both taking great digital pictures or great film pictures takes lots of effort.  It is the same with cars.  Automatic transmissions are nearly universal today.  I learned to drive with a manual trans and still in many ways prefer it.  On a sports car I much prefer a manual.  Even on my Jeep Wrangler.  The one thing I would like to change on it is to have a manual gear box.  Automatics work fine, but if you want to learn to drive well or really feel what your car’s wheels are doing nothing can beat a stick.  And if you want great photos you can’t just set your camera on auto.  What you will get is moments but not art.

I will restate my feelings about digital vs film.  One is not better than the other they are different.  Just as watercolor painting does not replace oil paints, digital does not replace film.  But there is also the factor of old lenses.  All lenses have a different look.  Many modern lenses are quite sharp but they don’t look the same as a vintage lens. My son is a TV and movie professional cameraman.  He has a large collection of vintage Leica lenses he puts on modern digital bodies.  Why, because of the look you get.  Are the old lenses better than the modern lenses?  That is not the right question.  The old lenses give him the look he wants for his art.

So my new years resolution is that I am going to keep a log of how I shot pictures in the notes app on my iPhone.  That way when I get the film developed I can refer back to the log and see what I did right or wrong.  I am also going to try some regular consumer grade film from Kodak.  I have been using the expensive pro grade stuff only and I am going to try out the regular grade because it is set up to be used indoors and out.  With or without flash.  Plus I will save a significant amount of money.  Pro film now seems to run at least 10 bucks a roll.  Ouch.  Regular consumer grade $2-4.50.

August 7 2016 update.  It was my fault that the film photos came out badly.  The film was expired.  The film I used was not supposed to be used for indoor shots.  The next two rolls of film I used after this had unexpired film and was shot outdoors.  The results were great.

Here is one of the shots.  And this is low cost Fuji Superia 400

4th of July rose





The Third Most Important Digital Camera Advantage

Yesterday we went to the San Diego Zoo with my daughter’s family and her two young girls, my grandkids.  Two days before I got back the pictures from a roll of Velvia 50 I had taken with my Olympus OM2n.  The pictures came with the rich voluptuous colors you normally get with this film.

The color is way richer than with a digital camera.
The color is way richer than with a digital camera.
In addition to the rich red color on the rose, look at that bokeh.
In addition to the rich red color on the rose, look at that bokeh.

So I loaded up my Olympus with another roll of Velvia, this time 100 speed and was planning to take it on our outing.  At the last minute I switched to taking my Nikon digital DSLR.  Why, kids move, and sometimes they don’t wait for you to focus.  The Nikon gets the shot almost instantaneously.  The second and more important reason is that I figured I would not take more than 20 or so pictures and the film would sit in the camera for a while.

So, the third most important advantage of digital cameras in my opinion is that you can take a few shots and get the results right away.  With film you normally wait till the entire roll is exposed.

So how did the shots turn out?  Judge for yourself.

My two grand daughters at the Zoo.  Taken with a Nikon DSLR
My two grand daughters at the Zoo. Taken with a Nikon DSLR

Here is a much better snap quick shot from last month.

Here is a snap shot with SDLR.  Note nice flesh tones.
Here is a snap shot with DSLR. Note nice flesh tones.

So am I happy with my decision.  No.  I would have made better pictures by using film.  The lion shot would have come out better with Velvia.  Film’s dynamic range for outdoor photography would have been useful in yesterdays bright sunny day that had lots of shadow on light pictures.  But I did get my pictures back at the end of the day.