Friday, August 08, 2008

What is better, film or digital?

Answer: Neither

As many analog (film) photographers can be smug, saying film is better than digital, so can many digital photographers be smug, saying digital is better than film. Each thinks their medium is better. I say they are different, neither is "better".

When you use film to capture light you are using a different palette than when you use a digital camera. Film sees light differently than a digital camera sensor does and reacts to light differently. A digital camera, with a digital sensor, has the film built in and it will always see the same light the same. A decent digital camera delivers that image (hopefully) in a data dump we call a RAW data file and you add interpretation later in software programs like Photoshop.

An analog camera, with removable film as the analog sensor, will see the same light differently depending on the material loaded in it at the time of exposure. The type of film loaded in the camera changes how the camera captures light. Then, before the film is processed, the film image is a latent undeveloped image that holds the potential of an image. How this image is manifested is subject to a layer of chemical interpretation in the developing before the image itself is delivered. Then the negative or positive can be further interpreted by either analog or digital means, through printing in an enlarger or scanning and then using digital software like Photoshop.

Isn't digital cheaper?
I say, depending on your volume, analog cameras can be cheaper. You can upgrade your analog camera's sensor by buying the latest new film. A 50 year old film camera can use the latest and newest film. A five year old digital camera is a door stop.

To realize the value aspects of a digital camera you got to shoot the crap out of your camera. With digital, film is free. You do not have to buy film. But, your digital equipment is rapidly depreciating in value. Low volume shooters may find the cost of film is a better value proposition than the cost of upgrading your digital camera as well as your computer hardware and your software in a 36 month refresh cycle. I can buy a lot of film for the cost of a Nikon D3 plus buying computer hardware, Photoshop etc.

Film can be cheaper than replacing your digital camera, computer and software every three years for some folks. For others digital is hands down cheaper than buying thousands of rolls of film a year, plus processing.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

No comments: