35mm'Film' vs. Digital

35mm Film vs. Digital

Ah, the much debated topic. Truth is, there are many benefits to each format. Ideally, we recommend taking advantage of both if you can do that financially (or working with other Agents). So letís take a closer look at film vs. digital photography.

As much as you might hate to hear it; yes, film is the better quality (in case you didnít know). Its resolution is much greater than digital. The quality of film though is microscopic and is measured by countless colors that blend together. Digital is comprised of ones and zeroís (no you canít see them and yes, kind of like the matrix).

In some instances, you can hardly tell the difference between film and digital photographs. And the bridges are continuing to be narrowed.

ďBut George Lucas shot Star Wars II in all digital and you couldnít tell the differenceĒ you may say. True, but those were VERY expensive cameras that were custom made (plus they probably had some filtering process). Other photographic professionals have either experimented in digital or even switched over entirely (to top of the line digital SLRs costing in the upwards of $4000 USD). Eventually digital might catch up to the quality of film, but it is true that it is a consumerís best friend and in certain cases, useful for professionals too (at the higher level). The benefits of digital are well worth it for anyone with a computer (which should be most of us). Letís look at some of the Proís of the digital format:

The ability to erase pictures you donít like on the spot.
The ability to see exactly what you just shot and choose to keep or adjust from there.
A cost-effective production solution (once youíve made the initial investment): for example, 128 mb memory card can store around 1000 ďFineĒ quality shots at 640X480 or 200 shots at 1600 X 1200image size and these can be uploaded, cleared from your camera and you can just keep re-using the card forever
No more buying film!
No more paying for film processing!
No more scanning photographs tediously
Just plug into your computer and upload all of your shots
Email-ready and PC-user friendly (kid tested, mother approved)
Ability to record short MPEG movies on many models
Usually very small and portable size to carry anywhere (great for the go-anywhere, do-anything club agent).

Nikon just came out with a "wi-fi" camera/transmitter to upload your shots straight to a computer within 80 feet.

5 Mega Pixel top end SLRís (ie. D9Ö) are getting closer to film quality. (The larger the mega pixels = the better image quality at enlarged sizes/ because of filmís dense resolution they are perfect for enlargements)

Here are some Conís

*Set resolution (once taken you canít improve upon it).
Not very good at making enlargements (hence, the chunkier digital look b/c of the set resolution)
Easier to lose your data format card (or camera itself) because of the small size
Overall quality doesnít fully compare to the detailed color, depth, and true-to-life quality and resolution of (35mm) film.
1MegaPixel or less or no brand-name cameras can do injustice to shots
Cameras that donít list their MegaPixel Resolution (per inch) donít have any
7. Are more expensive than their 35mm counterparts
8. Little to no control of shutter speed or aperture in most models, hence limiting your creativity and technical prowess (if you have any).

So, with film you can not only produce true-to-life productions but often better than real-life portrayals (with a good SLR camera & experience or knowledge). Digital still has limitations until you get into the higher end models. And we mean high end models.

Some quick advantages of film
Age old, universal appeal
Unparalleled resolution, warmth and quality (true-to-life color)
Flexibility (when combined with the right user and camera) as in purposeful over or underexposure based off of the ISO rating
The format to create enlargements or posters from (because of the dense resolution)
More realistic texture, depth and shadows

When you scan 35mm print photographs, you are turning a photo digital but it is processing and saving at the original resolution that you determine when scanning (ie. 1200 or 720 dpi). Even at 1200 dpi youíre stepping down in filmís resolution but 720dpi is just right to scan photoís in to retain a high resolution if you are going to be making enlargement prints and you can go down from there (ie. for normal prints and web).

Normally you might just want to scan at 300 which is print resolution but if you have photographic prints you're scanning in at least you have the option to choose a higher resolution.  Digital will upload at whatever resolution each photo was taken at and you can never go up in resolution without losing quality.  You can view camera exif data and ALL possible data in the new Photoshop file browser.

If you can afford to, take advantage of both formats. For club photography, both have benefits. For official production weíll always use our outfitted 35mm SLR (with camera, flash, lens, batteries, film). A digital is especially handy when youíre just promoting to carry with you. (I will almost always have one with me. Iím a habitual producer, always looking for great opportunities.) You can sometimes even dance with a digital but not with an in-your-face SLR.

I used the Sony IP220 at backroom in kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and with some minimal post-production came up with some great results (showie). When I travel, I use the SLR strictly for club production and the Sony digital Iíll take everywhere with me to capture the sights and scenes of wherever Iím traveling or staying: itís a perfect combo until I invest the 'higher than film cost' of upfront money in a top end digital SLR.  Just recently I saw Sony does have a 256MB Memory Stick for my digital (I have a 128mb) so that was exciting.

Email me with more questions on digital or film formats and I can post them on the site.  If you are new to digital you will have lots of questions (and hopefully this has helped answer some of them).  Will film ever phase out?  I don't think so, because it does have distinct advantages and also...look at the phonograph (record player) it's alive and kicking in every night club and by every 'real dj' in the world.  But the digital age has arrived nevertheless.

- Orion Williams copyright 2004








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