Pixels or grains.   the more you know.

So the news that Dixons are going to stop selling film-based cameras has sparked off some interesting discussions around digital vs film photography on the Guardian's news blog. The points that stood out for me, in no particular order:

* Quality. Quite a lot of disagreement here. Some people are adamant that, resolution-wise, digital can match any positive or negative film. Others disagree. I'd still say slide film, for me, has the greatest depth, resolution and colour saturation that I've seen, but I've never played around with a super high-end digital camera. Interestingly, one person commented that nothing he'd seen in digital could yet match the dynamic tone range of old B&W films. But for most of us, does this level of quality matter? (See also final point).

* Immediacy. The undisputed killer factor for digital photography, whether it's viewing photos ("here's what you looked like 5 seconds ago"), editing them, using them, or sending them around the world.

* Lack of romance? There's no black art in digital photography said one person. The black art remains in knowing how to manipulate photos properly in Photoshop said another. Elements of truth in both statements, I think, but if the black art has acted as a barrier to people being photographers, then a move to digital can only be a good thing. And achieving truly outstanding results will always be an art form, whatever media you're using.

* Slowing down. A comment I particularly liked from one person saying he took better pictures with film cameras. Not because the quality of the film, but more because using a manual camera made him slow down and think about what he was doing. Conversely though, the person clutching a digital camera and firing off 20-30 shots might just get an equally good picture - and enjoy themselves just as much in the process.

* Disposables. Nothing digital has replaced the practicality of a throw-away film camera... yet.

* Soul. The beauty of film lies in its imperfections. Digital is flat and soulless. Yes, perhaps if you just consider the raw materials, but having seen enough great digital photography, I'd say the soul comes from the photo taker and manipulator rather than the tools or materials they use. (See also next point).

* The end product. And, really, the obvious, but all-too-easily forgotten fact, is that all cameras, digital or film-based, are simply tools. It's the end product that matters... the audience couldn't care less what it was shot on. For me, this says it all.
15 Aug, 2005 | photography

The fact is, for the vast majority of people - digital is a far more practical medium - and will result in an improved final product - because practice (which is free, in the case of digital) makes perfect.

But in almost every walk of creative life, there is the original, and now the digital equivalent, and the original will continue to attract devotees for decades to come...

The Fender-Rhodes Electric Piano vs the Virtual Instrument Plugin

Super8 film vs Final Cut Pro with a 'film-look' effect

The 70s Marshall Amp vs the amp simulator

The Technics SL1210 vs the SLDZ-1200

In general, the new technology is bringing down prices and making the inconceivable conceivable. The fact that you can now make and release a record or shoot and cut a film on a home computer is certainly something to be celebrated. Digital Photography is part of this revolution - bring it on.

posted by Duds on August 21, 2005 07:11 PM

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Online musings of Richard Alderson: aspiring social entrepreneur, writer, photography-lover and closet geek.


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