Since the advent of the digital camera, photographers have debated on which capture method is superior. Photography schools do require students to experiment with both formats, and despite the rise in digital production, Film students are required to learn the basics of film photography. Making a picture worth a thousand words takes more than pointing your lens at something interesting and clicking a button. Light, texture and subject matter are all to be considered; so which format is best for your pictures?
In our modern age of smart phones, hand-held devices and the millions of apps that go with that, digital cameras are pretty much everywhere. They come in Point-and-Shoot, Single-lens Reflex (SLR) and Single-Lens Translucent (SLT) models. These cameras can be expensive to purchase initially, they are lightweight and capable of recording thousands of images on one tiny memory card. Digital cameras have built in filters and noise reduction sensors to enhance the quality of color images and photos can be enhanced through editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Mac’s Aperture.
Manual or film cameras come in Single-lens and Twin-lens reflex cameras. They are cheaper to purchase, heavy and will last you about a hundred years. You can use the SLR camera your Grandpa bought in 1974 and it’ll still work. You can drop in on the ground and not have to rush off and buy a new one (unless you broke the lens).
Although there is the continuous cost of film to consider, film negatives serve as backups, making losing the original image almost impossible. You will need darkroom access to develop your pictures, but this can be enjoyable in itself. There’s something magical about watching your captured image come to life from what was once a blank piece of paper.
Additional considerations for which camera format is superior comes from issues with image quality, dynamic range and whether you’re shooting in color or black and white. Professional consensus holds that film produces better black and white photos than digital.
Both camera types have noise and grain due to shooting speed, lens, film ISO or sensor type. Digital cameras have a higher instance of noise due to heat and manufacturing defects. Noise has a less attractive picture quality than grain; a film’s grain can give a picture a dated artistic quality difficult to reproduce in post-production software. Also, film tends to be more forgiving in terms of over and underexposure.
Digital cameras have higher speed sensitivities than film and are often a better option in low light or sports photography. They are more efficient time wise, because their speed can be easily adjusted, whereas a film camera requires you to change the actual film. Digital cameras collect more dust than their manual counterparts, which can damage the sensor.
No matter what your decision, film and digital cameras are necessary and wonderful tools for photography, ultimately the choice is up to you and your wallet.
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