Film vs Digital – an updated look

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I got a new Digital Camera and boy oh boy am I happy with it. I decided to go all out (as much as I could) and get the Canon 5D. This camera is pretty fricken sweet. It’s also pretty fricken heavy. It’s a full frame sensor 12.8 mega pixel camera. The shots taken with it measure 4,372 pixels wide x 2906 pixels high. When resized to 300DPI, the final image size is 14.5 x 9.6 inches. If I resize to 200DPI, the image size is 21.8 x 14.5 inches. Quite nice!!

I’ve also invested in some new lenses that, when paired with the 5D, really make for some great pics. Overall I am quite *quite* impressed. The only drawback is that the 5D does not have a built in flash. This really isn’t a problem because my old standby, the Canon Digital Rebel, had a built in flash, but I was never happy with the results.

So, I decided to do a comparison with this new Digital camera verses my Bronica slide film camera. I took a day with a friend of mine and we went down to a beach in Carmel, California and did an afternoon shoot. My friend (Kat) did the modeling while I took the pics. She did a great job, and this was my first ever “model” shoot – I’m usually shooting places, or city scenes, so this was a great day for trying new things! I started shooting with the 5D to get Kat warmed up and to get a feel for what I was going for. After about 30 minutes with the 5D, I switched to the film camera. I ended up shooting about 3 rolls (3 x 15 shots) 45 shots total for film. Then I ended the day with the 5D again. This time I switched the mode to the fastest shooting mode there was, 3 frames a second. I just kept shooting until we ran out of time. Total shots were somewhere in the vicinity of 45 film shots and 212 digital shots.

After going through the shots and identifying which ones were “keepers” and which ones could be thrown away, I ended up with 60 “keepers” from the 212 digital’s, and 20 “keepers” out of the 45 film shots. This is a pretty interesting test really. I noticed some worthwhile findings:

For one, digital allows you to take a LOT more shots. This is both good and bad. Good in that you have a lot more shots to choose from, but bad because you have a LOT more pictures to go through.
I noticed that the percentage of “keepers” with film is nearly 50%. The number of “keepers” with digital is 35%. However, I did shoot at 3 frames per second at the end of the shoot, so out of 9 pics from that 3 second period I usually only chose 1 shot. But it is interesting that Film was at 50% and digital at 35%.

Taking those percentages into account AND the timeframe to shoot all the shots the one thing became very apparent. With film I am MUCH more deliberate about my shot. I set up the shot, check the composition, make sure that the horizon is level, check the focus, check the exposure, check the composition again, aaaaannnnd shoot. Wind the film and redo. My film camera doesn’t have an in-camera light meter. I have a hand held one I use. So, this whole process takes time. But it also ensures that I’m getting the shot I want.

With the digital, I’ll admit right up front that it gives amazing amounts of freedom. I don’t worry about running out of film, and as long as my battery is charged and my memory card has room, I’ll keep shooting. But, I shoot quick. My compositions are quick. The 5D has a pretty advanced in-camera light meter, so I don’t have to stop and meter the scene before I shoot. I just shoot, check the screen and adjust the exposure + or – from there. Having the picture show up right after shooting it, and on the huge LCD screen on the 5D, is sooooo nice! And then to add the rapid fire shooting, which I have never used before, but I have found that while shooting a model it comes in very handy. While the model is posing, sometimes the best looks aren’t the posed looks, but the right before and right after the pose.

This now brings up a big issue for me. Should I keep shooting film? Last year I went to Napa to get a bunch of shots of the grapes while they were ripe during harvest season. I brought the Canon Digital Rebel and the Bronica. I showed the results to friends and family alike and without knowing which was which, the film won. It won hands down. I did the same thing with the results from Shooting Kat in Carmel. This time it was 40-60 digital to film. Film won again. In terms of simplicity, Digital rules. no need to develop, no need to scan. Etc… Flm still seems to capture color deeper and more vivid than digital. So, as of now I’m still shooting film, but for how much longer?

The above image is a merging of a Digitally Captured Image and a Slide Film Scan. Neither of these images has been touched up except for level adjustments. Both these images were taken on the same day, however the one on the right was taken later in the day. Its not an ideal comparison.

Ideally I’d have take the exact same shot with the film camera as the digital camera. That would have made for a better comparison. Have a look at each image see if you can tell which one is from film and which one is from the digital chip. Click here for the answer.

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