Traditional photographers might say film is a better
way to go when it comes to quality. While anyone who has switched to
digital photography can attest, the ease of use and instant feedback of
digital files far outweighs the cost and hassle of film. Yet there is
still a market for film photography equipment for those who love to
stand in a darkroom.
The main advantage to digital photography is the instant feedback. As
soon as the picture has been taken, it is possible to view on the
cameras viewfinder and adjust the lighting, focus, or poses as needed before quickly re-shooting.
While pictures taken with film cameras can be scanned and edited on a
computer, a digital camera or memory card can be plugged directly into
the computer, uploaded and edited or printed. Plus, digital cameras
allow the user to make basic adjustments directly on the camera.
Norman Koren stated, “Prints captured on digital cameras have a
three-dimensional quality rarely seen in prints from film originals.”
Although this statement is debatable, it is valid to say that a high
quality, 11+ megapixel camera will generally outperform a 35mm.
Digital cameras can store digital files in less space than files of
film negatives. A digital camera user only needs one or two memory cards
in a pocket to hold hundreds of images. A film user would need to carry
a bag of film around for the same number of images.
Organizing and editing film takes less time than digital. This might
seem counter-intuitive, but Norman Koren did a comparison of 290 shots,
finding that a digital uploading, sorting, organizing and printing took
about six hours, while further batch processing took an additional four
hours. Furthermore, it took Koren only two hours to do similar tasks
Storage can be an advantage to digital files, but it can also be a
disadvantage. Since most digital cameras take a 10 + megapixel image,
the hard drive space needed on a computer or external drive is always
increasing. Plus, if a photographer is saving RAW, PNG or TIFF files,
they are taking up even more space.
Most digital cameras are only useful for a few years before something
better comes along that instigates upgrading. Professional digital
cameras are not cheap, plus faster memory cards, external flashes, and
other add-ons increase the cost.
Personally I feel that a black and white image taken with a
film camera is of a better quality than black and white images processed
on a computer due to the ability to represent greater variation between
light and dark. However, newer versions of photo editing software,
printers, and paper are closing the gap quickly.
Dark room work has a certain level of nostalgic joy to it that many photographers still cling to. To some the satisfaction that you can derive from processing and printing your own film and prints is more rewarding than sitting in front of a computer and pressing the print button.
Once a person buys a good camera, it will last for years. Forgoing
the cost associated with buying a new digital camera every few years to
keep up with trends. Lenses may also need to be purchased, but if they
are well taken care of they will also last beyond the life of the
The obvious disadvantage to film is solved by the main advantage to
digital cameras: users can’t be sure the picture turned out until it is
developed, possibly not being able to reproduce if it doesn’t turn out.
When shooting with film, the user has a limited amount of images on
each role of film before they have to change rolls while shooting, which
could result in missing a good shot.
Film is getting more expensive per roll as manufacturers are going out of business or choosing to no longer produce film. And it is something that
needs to be bought on a regular basis and can quickly add up.
Which is Better
With the decreasing availability of film cameras and film for those
cameras, some might feel that film will eventually become obsolete. Yet
with the use of medium format and large format film for a small segment
of the market, and the popularity of film photography groups on sites
like Meetup.com, film could end up filling a void for those who love
nostalgia, just as the LP has slowly made a comeback by audiophiles.
The market is dominated and will continue to be dominated by digital,
point-and-shoot cameras and digital SLR cameras. The quality, in most
cases, has already passed what a person could get with 35mm film and the
cost/benefit far outweighs that of a film camera.