Film vs Digital Photography: Which is Really Better?

The debate about digital photography has been raging for years. Some people swear by film while others insist it’s nothing more than a passing fad. In this article we’re going to look at some of the pros and cons of both methods and see which one wins out in the end.

Why Choose Film Photography?

One of the best reasons to use film is that it produces images that are much more detailed than those made using digital technology. The film has a resolution of somewhere between 3 and 5 megapixels whereas digital cameras usually have somewhere between 8 and 20 megapixels. This means that a digital photograph will be smaller in size than the equivalent print, even if the same image size has been chosen.

The grain and texture found in the pictures taken on film is much more obvious than it is in photographs taken with digital cameras. This is due to the fact that the sensor in a digital camera doesn’t pick up the light hitting it, so it cannot make the exact same amount of information about the scene as a film camera can. In fact, the camera can only record a small percentage of the light actually hitting the sensor, the rest being lost. As a result, the pictures that are taken with digital cameras are often quite flat in appearance, and you can never really get the ‘feel’ of the scene.

Films come in many different types, each producing a slightly different appearance when viewed. Many photographers use black and white film, but you can also use colour films such as Kodachrome and Velvia. In the UK the most common film for 35mm cameras is Ektachrome.

Digital Photography Pros & Cons

Digital photography offers some definite advantages over film photography, and there are plenty of things you can do with your digital camera that you cannot with your traditional film camera. It’s true that digital cameras are much less bulky and the prices have fallen dramatically in recent years. There are fewer physical controls on digital cameras and they allow you to shoot faster and more easily. They are also more versatile. For example, you can easily take multiple shots of the same subject, and the settings can be saved as presets so that you can continue shooting exactly the same way at a later date.

However, many people find that digital cameras can’t produce the same quality of photographs as film. For example, a digital camera will only let you take one shot of each subject and it won’t show the grain and texture of the film. Digital cameras also tend to capture more noise than film. This is the unwanted background ‘glow’ that occurs when light is converted into an electrical signal, and it can make the image appear a little fuzzy.

Another problem associated with digital photography is that the picture files are usually stored on a memory card, which isn’t always easy to find when you need it. You also cannot have a film print made from a digital image.

So, Which Should You Use?

While it’s easy to say that film is the superior form of photography, it’s also true that it’s not always the best option. If you’re a beginner, you may not want to spend a lot of money on a sophisticated digital camera, and you may prefer the simplicity of a film camera.

The good news is that most digital cameras are far cheaper than the top of the range film cameras. Even if you have to pay a bit extra for an entry level digital camera, it’s still usually a lot cheaper than a top-of-the-range film camera. However, if you’re a professional photographer, the price of your equipment will be a lot less important than whether you use digital or film.