Film vs Digital photographs – A little fight in 2015

Eclipse in red

Digital photograph: “Eclipse in red”

Fridays people usually go out so there are just a few visitors, and I suspect those visitors are from their smart phones in middle of a party. In any case I’ll take advantage of the day and I’ll publish an experiment I did in July: take the same image with a digital camera and a film camera.

mystic red

Film photograph: “Mystic red”

If you have visited Qhapaq before then probably you have seen the film version already. Nevertheless it coul be useful for somebody trying to have an opinion about the use of film cameras in this age of ones and zeros.

Against the wall

Digital photograph: “Against the wall”

a carpet made with a shadow a wall made with trees a sky made with red and a space in blue

A carpet made with a shadow, a wall made with trees, a sky made with red and a space in blue

The digital camera is my Sony R1, a 2005 camera with APS-C sensor (smaller than the 35mm film) and the film camera is my Samsung ECX-1 that if were digital today would be calle “Full Frame,” the roll was the fantastic Kodak Ektar 100. I “scanned” the negatives with my digital camera and processed both digital and film with RAW converters.

Butlers of blue uniform and white shoes (digital dream)

Digital photograph: “Butlers of blue uniform and white shoes (digital dream)”

butlers of blue uniforms and white shoes

Film photograph: “Butlers of blue uniforms and white shoes”

I processed first the negatives to get the maximum of the colors, and after a painful week I got to complete the task of process the 36 photographs. With digital I can process that same number in about two hours… Anyway, I processed the digital versions trying to match the colors the best I could without more modifications, being the exception the photographs “Butlers of blue uniforms…” because the film camera has a longer zoom so in the digital I had to crop to match the composition.

The calm in the afternoon of another century

Digital photograph: “The calm in the afternoon of another century”

chiaroscuro of savage with red skin and green crown

Film photograph: “Chiaroscuro of savage with red skin and green crown”

To get the most of the colorful roll of film I chose the monastery of Santa Catalina. Now seeing the photographs I see I choose mostly vertical compositions, viewfinders in film cameras usually don’t cover the total of the captured image so the little differences.

In any case I want to prove that digital photography is not soulless as some film photographers like to write; and film is not incapable as some digital photographers are tempted to think, it can be inconvenient but still quite capable to expres a message. The soul is in the person that compose and the capability is in the personal skill; otherwise there is no a person sensible to the world having fun but a camera tester stressing about digital noise or scratches on film negatives.

30 thoughts on “Film vs Digital photographs – A little fight in 2015

      1. There aren’t technics in Peru that could fix it, a Canon EF (FD mount), I bought one to use as spare parts and there was not luck and even more I ruined a Portra 160 roll, I have to import the rolls from other countries.
        In the end I just bought a Samsung ECX-1 and I’m happy because the built-in zoom lens has much better quality than the FD Canon primes! So happy end I guess…

  1. I love the shadows here, and the window looks as if it’s bleeding! I shall have to write a poem to go along with that bloody window :) Perhaps in a day or two. I’ll let you know, Francis, okay?

    1. Thank you, Ulli. I try to support well the cameras to avoid motions that could harm the clearness. Also the air at 2000 meters above the sea is more or less clear. Your shots also are clear.

      1. Thank you, Francis. Clearness wasn’t the correct word for what I really meant. I like the acuteness of the images. One has the chance too see, to feel and to interpret. A film is much faster and has another quality.
        Have a nice Sunday

      2. Oh, I see, but I’m afraid that the perceived acuteness is due to the small web size. The digital camera is from 2005 and I can assure you that the acuteness of any modern camera at least since 2011 has far acuteness. In the case of the film camera the detail is equals to a camera of just six megapixels. I understand there is at least ten megapixels of detail but it’s the maximum quality I could get with my accessible tools.

        Said that I’m happy for you, if I understand your comment about Film being faster then that means in Germany it’s still a developed country to practice photography. In Peru it’s harder, to get the special films I use I have to buy online from countries as Israel or Thailand, it arrives in more or less three weeks to my home; after that to photograph it’s slower because I have to compensate a viewfinder that as usual in film cameras doesn’t cover the 100%, and as I use low ISO films (100-160) I need to use a tripod or support in a steady surface; after that I have to send to the only laboratory still processing negatives (so no chance for positives or black and white) and I have to wait more or less one week because they have to wait a certain number of customers, nevertheless as the technicians are not skilled they give me negatives with so many scratches; they can give me negatives scanned but they have a quite poor quality so I have to scan them by myself with my digital camera so I have to mount my camera with a special macro filter and a film holder I designed and made by myself, the process to get the film flat last a whole afternoon to get every frame; and after that I have to process in a special software the negatives to invert the colors and erase the orange mask. Doing that takes me a whole week of work… So in Peru film is totally slower. My goal photographing it is to learn to develop my photography with digital cameras. About convenience I’m afraid in Peru it’s quite hard.
        Hoping you have a wonderful Sundan and a good week ahead,

      3. Thank you, Francis. In Germany, it’s quite easy to work with films if you’re living in a big city with a good
        photographic shop. In the countryside it is as you have described it well.
        The digital world led to many photos. That makes a lot of work and therefore the film can be faster ;-)
        Best wishes from far away,

      4. Oh, I understand better your point! When I visit a common place I just take five or six photos, and with an interesting place a number between thirty to sixty photographs. I try my best to just take nice photographs. I can process in one afternoon one hundred and twenty photographs (I process every two months) because I configure the white balance, colors and filters while the capture, mostly my processing is fine tuning that already white balance and colors.
        Seeing your work I think it’s not your case, to shot hundreds of photographs per hour (your photographs don’t look to me in a rush but with patience) but if something I could suggest to readers is that it doesn’t matter if the medium film or digital is better one photograph well taken than playing the lotto and taking one hundred to see if one is good.
        I learnd to have moderation with digital photography: A few years ago I used to shot with a point a shot without memory card and using the internal storage. This meant that I only could get twelve photographs so they needed to be quite good. I use that principle today with both, digital and film.
        Hopping you have a nice week :-)

      5. WOW, admire your production of photography’s.
        You’re right. I try to catch my motif with one photo. But I only try, it doesn’t work already ;-) – so I take sometimes several.
        Sometimes I play with the sharpness – so I have to take more photos. But I do not process anything.
        I have a look at every photo that seems worth to be edited.
        I prefer the digital photography. I never developed film- photos by myself. In the digital world I love to develop. Photoshop is my laboratory and my artist workshop. I still have my analog camera, but I havn’t the time for both – perhaps later ;-)
        Hope you have a nice week with good light :-)

      6. Photoshop is quite complex to me! I use Photo Ninja to process my RAW files. It’s so powerful and the interface is so well thought that to adjust the photographs a few clicks is enough. I use for my architectural designs I’ve a good level using it (I mostly use shortcuts and know by memory the most of commands in English) but Photoshop seems to have so much complexity as it. I would need years to master it. I tried Lightroom but it was also quite complex and the final rendering always looked so artificial to me. With Photo Ninja I get closer to what my eyes see.

        I know you would get a nice work in film, Ulli. If you have a lot of greens around you I suggest you Fuji ProH and if you have reds or others Ektar 100. But remembering your photography perhaps Portra 160 would be your favorite, it has a nice palette of tranquil colors.

        Greetings from the warm south,


      7. Thank you, Francis. The program “Photo Ninja” looks interesting. I think there are a lot of good programs. But most people like to stay with what they can. And I’m no exception :-)
        I enjoy working with Photoshop and Bridge. I’ve tried Lightroom …
        And about the film: Yes, with the Kodak films you’re right. I always liked to use Kodak. It was uncomplicated. For some specials I used Agfa – but you had to know that there could be a little “blue” in the pictures :-)
        Greetings from a too warm German-November – we had 20° C.

      8. Before doing this blog I spend the trial months trying Lightroom, Photo Ninja and Capture One (the latter is the one I use to process the negatives) and other free converters, I choose the one with better image quality that to my eyes is Photo Ninja. I think when you say that film is faster than digital is because the use of Photoshop, it has so many variables than an image can take so many hours… at least that was my experience with Lightroom (same company), I studied Photoshop (but not tried) as well considering HDR, composite, and other tools by Photoshop, but then again I don’t want to spend so much time editing… I’m happy with Photo Ninja, by the way I think you have mastered Photoshop, your photographs look quite natural, there are no the excess sometimes is common to see when used such programs.
        I used once Agfa, about the blue I couldn’t say, I always correct the shiftings warming the white balance when needed.
        20ºC! it seems so warm! the heat here is increasing so much… Greetings,

  2. The first thing that I notice is how dramatic the reds are in the the digital photos. If you look at the ‘Butlers’ photo, you can see that the shadows in the arched ceilings have a reddish tinge to them. The shadows in the film version are more golden in tone.
    While I know that red is one of the dominant colors at Santa Catalina, the digital camera really seems to hone in on that color. The film prints seem a bit more balanced.
    It’s such an interesting experiment, and I’d like to make a suggestion if you do something like this again. Please put the photos side by side so that I don’t have to scroll up and down to make comparisons. It’s a bit tricky to do if you’re tying your photos to URLs but it would be worth it.
    Speaking of ‘side by side’, recently I saw a documentary with the same title. It was about shooting movies on film as opposed to digitally. Each medium has its strength and weaknesses. Digital is the winner in terms of versatility, but the cinematographers still prefer the “look” that celluloid film achieves.

    1. Thank you, Melissa. I tend try to show the photographs the biggest possible but you are right about the comparison, I’ll consider for the next time. Eve with URL’s it just needs a smaller size.
      Reds in digital are complex because they tend to “burn” quite easy as blues in skies can get cyan. In this case instead I tried to match the digital version to the film version. Kodak Ektar is a film known for have the deepest colors among negatives so I processed the colors to match them.
      You have a good eye ;-)
      Digital is more convenient, but both are fantastic memdiums to express the stories.
      Besos y gracias ;-)

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