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Digital versus Film. You Decide.


by Eric Martin


Digital is better. A digital camera is easier, faster, smaller, and of a higher quality than an equally priced film camera.

When comparing the resolution of a high quality digital image and an image taken on medium format film, the results of a test print under a microscope are phenomenal. The University of Colorado performed this test and the grain of the film broke up the image as if it were an impressionist painting whereas with the digital, the imageís pixels were hardly noticeable. One reason for the difference in resolution is that with film, there are two transfers: the first when the shutter opens and light is reflected off the scene and onto the film, the second is when the print is developed in the dark room. With digital, only one transfer is made when the light is reflected into the camera and the data is recorded on the memory card. This data can be transferred to a computer, printer, or PDA and it will not be altered.

The complexities of a film camera when compared to a similar digital one are far greater with a lesser return. With an average film camera one must select type of film such as 35mm full frame or 120 half frame with 16 frames per role; before taking a picture, one must choose F-stop and shutter speed. After using the role of at most 40 negatives, the photographer must, in the dark room, develop the negatives and then the prints. In order to develop each print well, at about fifteen minutes per print (on a good day), would take about 7 hours and 50 minutes. Of course, many negatives will be over exposed or not exposed at all and many of your best and favorite photographs will have been ruined by grain or under exposure to light. On the other hand, digital photography is much different. Some digital cameras allow you to select your own F-stop and shutter speed, but almost all of them have this as an automated process. Most digital cameras include an LED screen for taking and viewing photographs. This allows the photographer to know exactly what he or she is taking a picture of and whether or not he needs to retake the photograph. Afterwards, on the computer, red eye can be removed, the image may be converted to black and white, and in about two minutes, the image can be printed. The ease of digital photography makes it more convenient to take pictures and more practical to follow through with printing.

As shown by the previous paragraph, digital photography is much faster when it comes to printing oneís photographs and not having to select the F-stop and shutter speed. Also with digital, one doesnít have to insert film. This makes it harder to take more pictures after finishing a role of 35. The film first has to be wound, removed and then the next must be inserted. Film can also only be used once. A 1 GB memory card containing photographs in JPEG format can hold 2522 photographs with the resolution of 1024 by 768, which is the average resolution of a computer screen. Finally, film is one of the inhibiting factors that effect how small a film camera can be. The size of film cannot change and it is therefore mandatory that the camera be able to hold a full role of film on either side of 36 mm of space. Digitalís only inhibiting factors are batteries, but with the recent use of Lithium ion batteries, there is no end to how small digital cameras may become.

Overall, a digital camera is a more powerful medium than a film camera. The quality, speed, and ease of editing make a digital camera the leading competitor in photography today. If you are one who prefers the original form of photography for its old fashioned sense, film may be the way to go. Although, for the finest prints and highest quality, digital leads the way.


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