Tuesday, 9 January 2007

That Old Chestnut: Film Versus Digital

is this the digital doll?

The film versus digital debate has raged for many years now and much like the CD versus vinyl debate it's run it's course . Or has it? I've recently revisited film for a very specific reason. That reason was to compare black and white film to black and white digital conversion. My reason for doing this was specifically to look at dynamic range. This is the lattitude of exposure from light to dark that a film or digital sensor can cope with without loosing detail in shadow or highlight areas. The bigger the dynamic range the better the sensor deals with high contrast scenes. At least that's the theory.

is this the film doll?Digital sensors have a pretty low dynamic range, some of the new expensive full frame sensors excepted. They have roughly the same response as slide film so it's pretty easy to blow out your highlights or loose shadow detail. They are also prone to noise in shadow areas. Black and white film however has a large dynamic range and great tonal response. I wondered how the two would compare shooting side by side in the same light.

Now one of the two shots in this article is shot on a digital SLR and converted to black and white. The other is shot on a 30 year old Olympus OM1n SLR using Kodak Tri-X 400 film. Both cameras used a 50mm prime lens and both used the same available light.

Now i'm not saying which picture is film and which is digital though it is obvious both photographs are very different. Nor do I think one is right and the other is wrong. In fact I can't say I think either one is 'best'. What I will say as a hardened digital SLR user that I will be using black and white film again because technical issues aside I think it has a certain je ne sais quoi? You see when it comes down to it it's not about the megapixels or the technical mumbo jumbo its about your emotional response to the pictures you make.


Chris Shepherd said...

"its about your emotional response to the pictures you make."
and having fun making them too.

I was given an old Pentax film SLR, the other day. After this I might get round to sticking some B&W film in it and having a play. If I ever get round to getting them developed is a different matter though ;)

David Toyne said...

After writing this I've gone the whole hog and bought a Canon film body for the princely sum of £20 and am now running a roll of Agfa through it. Results to follow hopefully.