Which is better? Film or Digital?


This entry was inspired by a response I made to a thread on PentaxForums.com titled: “Why is film still better than digital?” I’ll assume that the vast majority of you shoot digital exclusively, but if you actually click on the link and read the thread, it will definitely give you some food for thought.

Here’s my take on the issue…I guess it could be titled something to the effect of “Why digital photography is so great” or “Why the development of the DSLR is one of the best things since sliced bread.” 🙂

Yes, there definitely is a certain nostalgia when using film. Up until nearly 10 years ago, I used film exclusively until my then husband-to-be bought an Olympus 1.3MP p&s digital camera for around $300 to take with us on our honeymoon. On the honeymoon, he had the digital camera and I had his old cheap film p&s film camera. Looking back at those pics, there were some good ones between the 2 of us, but for many of the shots, the IQ left something to be desired. After that, I moved on up in film cameras, owning a series of both SLRs and P&Ss, with a few digital P&Ss thrown in for good measure. By the time I bought my first DSLR in October 2007, I was mainly using digital. Even since going digital, I’ve played around with film, but I’ve always relied on digital for the bulk of my photography for several reasons:

  1. Film (beyond consumer quality) is getting harder to find locally.
  2. Depending on how much you like to shoot, film and developing can become awfully expensive. Memory cards are reusable and decent image editing software can be had for free or inexpensively ($100 or less). Since you’re reading this, I’ll assume that you’ve already got a computer at your disposal that you can load image editing software on to.
  3. If I’m going to take a film camera on a trip with me, then I’ve got to make sure that I have enough film for the trip, otherwise I might run out and not be able to find my favorite film at my destination. My memory cards are always available; when I fill one up, I transfer the images to my PC and reformat. In a typical day’s shooting, I generally don’t run out of memory card space.
  4. Unless I send my negatives off to a specialized scanning service, I just can’t get the quality of scans that I desire from local developers and I don’t have the type of money to pick up a Nikon Coolscan for myself. The main reason that I would want to scan my film in the first place is to share it with people like you.
  5. Unless I send my film off to be developed, then that means having to make a special trip to the camera store to drop it off and then another trip to pick it up.
  6. If I rely on somebody else to develop your film, my prints may not come out like I want them. Doing my own film developing at home requires dedicated space, as well as special equipment and chemicals, which can get messy. I don’t have that type of space in my house and I don’t have an overwhelming desire to get involved in film developing on that level. OTOH, I can do many of the same things involved with film developing with my digital pics–dodging, burning, color adjustments, etc. with my computer, mouse, and Bamboo Fun tablet using Lightroom and PSE and I’m really enjoying the process of seeing what I can do with each image. As for printing, I generally rely on uploading and ordering prints from a printer like AdoramaPix, although eventually picking up my own photo-dedicated printer (think 9×13 print size) isn’t entirely out of the question.

Really, what it boils down to for me is convenience. With skill development (behind the camera) and practice, I can safely say that the results I’m getting from my DSLR are definitely on par with what I could do with a film camera.

If you feel the same way I do about digital, but would like to edit your images to mimic that film look, check out LifeInDigitalFilm. The author of this blog has developed LR and ACR presets that aim to emulate different types of film, both past and present. I have a good many of his LR presets and I use them pretty regularly when I’m editing in LR.

Yes–I am very thankful that DSLRs have become relatively affordable so that it is a lot easier for me and other people like you to experience the pleasure of photography. 🙂


About Heather

I am a hobbyist photographer who dabbled in photography on and off from the time I was a teen, but started getting more serious about it in the late summer of 2007 when I signed up for a photography class through the Community Education program at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida and really got to understand how cameras really work--the rest history. Being a spiritually-minded person, I'm always looking for ways to integrate that with the rest of my life, including photography.

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