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DIGITAL photography versus FILM
When deciding whether to buy a digital camera or to stick with film is to consider how many photographs you are going to take. If you are going to take thousands, digital may be a very good idea. If you're going to take 36 this holiday and then leave the camera until next year, film is generally better! The point is that digital cameras cost more but you don't have to pay for the film, whereas film cameras are cheaper but the photographs cost a certain amount per shot.
Incidentally, this review was written 2002/01/01 so may go out of date as technology advances. But at present the resolution of digital cameras is not as high as film. 35mm film is about 4000x3000 pixels and has a higher dynamic light-intensity range than current digital imaging systems. (I may be a bit out on the figures there - let me know, if you have a more accurate set of figures). (see 2005 update at end of this page)
Another point about digital imaging is that the "developing" is done instantly on your own computer and without the requirement for services of the chemist or photo-developers. This lack of potential censorship may be an advantage to some people! The instant results also have the advantage of making it easier to learn photographic technique.
The fact that there is zero film cost also has an effect on making it easier to learn photographic technique as there is no cost penalty for making mistakes. So, it's possible to experiment.
One of aspects of digital photography is that the content tends to be different. How can that be? In the old days when photography required a lot of fuss, the subject matter had to be important. So, old photographs tend to be of very distinguished-looking people posing for the camera, or scenes of important events. Every picture has a REASON. But with digital, you can take pictures indiscriminately and delete those that you don't like. So, it's possible to take pictures of that which is trivial or random. But because of the improvement in photographic technique which you find once you get into digital, you find you are starting to capture ART!
Another important consideration about digital imaging techniques is the MODIFICATION. You can change a digital image on a computer. This is a bit like painting in oils, but there are pros and cons in the painting techniques. Also, it's worth noting that digital image modification does not require the camera to be digital. The professional method is quite often to use film to take the photographs as the primary capture method (higher resolution and higher contrast-range), and then to scan it in to the computer and perform the modifications digitally.
It's my personal opinion that digital photography improves the photographer. You can afford to experiment and make mistakes. To be able to get that photographic technique improvement with film you'd have to have a no-expense-spared approach to film cost. You still can, but not if you're as careful with money as I am!
Within a relatively short time the top-end resolution of digital cameras will improve to the level where it's better than film. That's not yet though (2002/01) especially when you realise how cheap it is possible to get the cheapest of film cameras, some of which are "disposable cameras".
To sum it up, the advantages of digital v film are:
And the advantages of film v digital are:
Plus, on the initial cost and running cost calculation, work out how much extra it costs to go digital, then divide that by the cost of a single photograph using film. The result is the number of photos you'll have to take before digital is cost-effective. For example, if it costs £100 extra (digital), versus £0.20 cost per photo (film), then you'll have to take 100/0.2 = 500 photos before you are breaking-even. Interesting, don't you think? These kinds of calculations can be used for working out other useful things too.
e-mail me for any comments/additions and correspondence on any of this.
When buying cameras and photographic equipment, it might be worth looking contacts on the photographic equipment page
Also see this HANDY TIP on how to save money by using the right kind of RECHARGEABLE batteries in your digital camera.
Are you interested in buying a DIGITAL CAMERA? If so, you might like to visit The Digital Camera Company where you can buy a digital camera online!
* Update 2005: Now technology has moved on, and you can now get digital cameras which have pixel resolution higher than film. Apparently, 35mm film is typically 6 megapixels, and I have succeeded in buying an 8 megapixel Canon EOS350D digital camera from Jessops, so if you'd like to see an review of this see the Digital Rebel page at this site.
Update 2010: Film is almost unobtainable, and digital cameras have improved to such an extent that film has become obsolete for most purposes. However, it's still worth considering when buying a camera: How many photos you're going to take, and how much the camera costs. Also, it's not "how many megapixels?" that's the thing, but how good the optics are. The bigger the lens, the better.
Update 2012: Camera Film has almost completely disappeared. However, if you have any undeveloped film with your photos on it, you can still get it processed. See old film. If you convert film to digital, make sure you keep the original, as future technology will be able to recover even more detail.