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  • Film vs. digital

    I guess that we all can SEE the difference between film and digital but, can anyone DESCRIBE this difference?

    I am not asking for an explanation pixels or chemistry processes, what I mean is a description of what we see in one case or another. For example, has film (or digital?) more color range? what about contrast, saturation, noise, etc?

    Maybe I am answering myself with this but, to make a digital photo to look like film, I generally desaturate, de-noise, sharpen and add more contrast. Nevertheless, I am not 100% satisfied with the results. Does anyone have any tips on this?

    Thanks.

  • #2
    Maybe the question is "why do you want your digital image to look like a film image?" Cannot it stand on its own?

    That being asked, most of the photographers I know, when doing portraits, add to both the saturation and contrast, noise is not a factor, and use very little sharpening if any at all. I will add that most of these folks are using either high end Canons or Nikons. Other types of photography may require different types of post processing.

    There is some differance in the post processing between the various camera makes and models, and I do not know what you are using.

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    • #3
      i'm afraid the question is just a bit too broad. are we talking 2.1 megapixel digital or high-end canon/nikon slr's? and the same goes with analog; kodak throw-away camera or high-end slr's, or even larger negative types?

      in general, what you might be referring to is resolution. on the low end digitals it's very easy to see a difference. they just dont have the resolution and look a bit jaggied or pixelated or not quite focused and sharp. you've also got differences within the digital range. different manufacturer's take a digital picture differently.

      so, the question is just a bit too broad.

      Craig

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Alvaretto
        I guess that we all can SEE the difference between film and digital but, can anyone DESCRIBE this difference?

        I am not asking for an explanation pixels or chemistry processes, what I mean is a description of what we see in one case or another. For example, has film (or digital?) more color range? what about contrast, saturation, noise, etc?

        Maybe I am answering myself with this but, to make a digital photo to look like film, I generally desaturate, de-noise, sharpen and add more contrast. Nevertheless, I am not 100% satisfied with the results. Does anyone have any tips on this?

        Thanks.
        Actually, we can't necessarily "see" the difference between film and digital. Film is highly variable from very grainy, artistic, with low dynamic range to smooth and colorful with excellent dynamic range. How a piece of film or transparency is processed determines how it will eventually look in print. How it is scanned and processed digitally will determine again how it appears on screen as well as in print.

        Digital is highly variable as well. Depending on how a file is converted from RAW or post processed it may have a wide variety of appearances both on-screen and in print. Fixed lens digicams may have problems approaching five stops of dynamic range. Digital scanning backs may have 12 or even more stops of dynamic range.

        Most of my clients, which are fine art galleries, can never tell from my prints whether the original capture was made with one of my dSLR's, my digital back or one of my film cameras.

        There are simply too many variables to generalize greatly, but if anything professional level digital produces images with less "grain" (noise) than about any film I've ever used. Grain, in fact, is the limiting factor with film enlargement. With digital the limitations are nearly always resolution because noise is simply a non-issue. With film the grain barrier is reached long before resolution is extinguished.

        Lin

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        • #5
          DSLRs have a dynamic range that is comparable to color slide film. They do not yet have the the dynamic range of B&W film. I agree with Michael Reichmann that this is an area that will likely receive more attention from DSLR manufacturers now that we have full frame 35mm cameras with excellent resolution.

          With the exception of the Canon 1Ds MkII, 35mm DSLRs do not have the ability to resolve fine detail like scanned film. The Canon 1Ds MkII does. I get more detail with my 1Ds MkII than I can by scanning 35mm negatives/slides.

          Film has grain. DSLRs have noise. In spite of some comments on the Web to the contrary, grain and noise are not equivalent. They have a different appearance.

          Scanning negatives requires a lot of patience removing dust specks. You get both film grain and noise.

          Film has processing costs and the chemicals are harsh for the photographer and hard on the environment.

          Cheers,

          Mitch

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