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Can digital still not match film?

conrad 13 10.9k 116
29 Apr 2013 11:46AM
I was reading an article about Jan Scholz and his photography in the current issue of Amateur Photographer. He started out using a DSLR, but now prefers film, owning a wide range of cameras, from a DSLR to a collection of widely different film bodies.

About digital and film he says:

"Digital cameras are full of menus and features, and I can see why people like them, as they are easy, but I love film. I have always loved black & white photography, but you will find hardly any black & white pictures from my digital period, as I was never happy with the conversion and the resulting tones, regardless of the tools I used. If someone could produce a simple digital rangefinder, one that
is reduced to the minimum, then I might be interested. The Fujifilm X100 is close to what I would look for, but at the moment digital is too perfect, too sterile. I love using film and can't imagine stopping."

So, in view of the many tools available to edit digital pictures in ways that perfect the tones, change the grain, etc., etc., I was wondering: Has Jan Scholz simply not found or used the right tools, or does he have a point when he says film is better in these respects than digital? I thought that just about any film effect could be replicated in digital photography nowadays. Am I wrong?

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mikehit 8 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
29 Apr 2013 11:57AM
Maybe ts not 'Black and white' specifically, but that he likes the look that the film gives and if you tried to replicate any specific film (B&W or colour) on digital you would have a problem. I wonder if he has used the Leica monochrome which is a B&W only rangefinder and the only review I have read of it is Michael Reichmann and he really liked it.

Quote:digital is too perfect, too sterile

I guess what he means is that film has flaws but they are flaws that he likes: I sometimes find a digital image to be 'too defined', or 'too sharp', not saying it is wrong but that my eye does not see it in such clarity and I can find it almost painful to look at.
conrad 13 10.9k 116
29 Apr 2013 12:00PM

Quote:I guess what he means is that film has flaws but they are flaws that he likes: I sometimes find a digital image to be 'too defined', or 'too sharp', not saying it is wrong but that my eye does not see it in such clarity and I can find it almost painful to look at.

I see what you mean. But do you think it's impossible to replicate those film 'flaws' in digital photography?
lobsterboy Plus
14 14.9k 13 United Kingdom
29 Apr 2013 12:07PM
Sounds like sheer laziness to me. Instead of deciding how he want s the pic to come out he just accepts whatever the film gives him instead of being bothered to post process it properly.

On a slightly related note, it made me laugh at camera club the other week when the judge said "this really needs a contrast adjustment which is easy to do on a digital print like this, I can tell it is digital so it should be easy enough to do in PS". Except she picked work by our one remaining film user Wink
conrad 13 10.9k 116
29 Apr 2013 12:10PM
I seem to remember darkroom work as more of an effort than digital post-processing...

That judge certainly had an Oops moment!
29 Apr 2013 12:22PM
Film vs digital argument is endless and controversial. I can only offer my 40+ year's practice based opinion - which I would not present as final truth under any circumstance. Having used hundreds of metres ( or maybe some kilometres?) of B&W film and developed many thousands of images from them I slowly went into lab processed colour film photography and proceeded into digital. Now, having a collection of digital cameras and images, I suddenly got interest in film again. First, it was some nostalgia I suppose, but after the film was processed in a good lab, and digitized - I was surprised how differently black and white film handles light. Having structure and image forming principles very different from digital sensor, black and white film makes images simpler in structure , but way more sophisticated in tonality. As for me, they feel more "alive". I think Leica gives some good explanation to this phenomena on it's internet page dedicated to their monochrom camera. The big trick for me is that a good used film camera with great optics is much cheaper than Leica's digital masterpiece Wink As for colour film - maybe I am not as good with it, but as for me it does not seem to have any definite edge over modern DSLR.
thewilliam 9 6.1k
29 Apr 2013 12:24PM
I prefer to refer to film "characteristics" rather than film" flaws".

Skilled users of digital can do pretty well anything with their images, so I can't see why anybody would want to avoid using it. When I was about to start working with digital, I did a long weekend workshop with Guy Gowan. He knew me to be a digital sceptic so, in the bar on the first evening, he asked me exactly what I did in the darkroom. During the next 4 days, Guy showed me the digital equivalent of everything I did to a wet-process print and that was the best digital grounding that I could wish for.

I used to shoot film for my personal work until one trip by air when all of my cross-processed colour-tran film was rendered useless by an airport X ray machine that wasn't supposed to do it any harm.
Carabosse 15 41.1k 270 England
29 Apr 2013 12:27PM
Digital caught up with and overtook film about 10 years ago as regards 35mm film.

MF film staggered on for a few years, on the grounds of quality, but even that has been eclipsed now. Hence MF gear going for pennies on eBay unless they are collectors items.
29 Apr 2013 12:31PM
Kodak, Fujifilm, Agfa, and Ferrania spent vast sums of money perfecting the dye couplers and spectral sensitivity of their film emulsions – after first spending vast sums on market research to find out what ‘perfect’ was, i.e. what customers wanted. Ilford did something similar with black and white film. It’s perhaps not surprising that it’s a bit hard to replicate the results of this research in a one-click post-processing action.

In fact, depending on the specifics of the spectral response of your digital camera and a given film you wish to emulate, it’s possible that you simply couldn’t replicate the film response by post-processing of the raw file, due to metamerism . The differences would be subtle, though: in most cases you could get pretty close with a sufficiently detailed model of how the film behaves. The practical problems are getting that model and replicating it with our typically limited knowledge of our post-processing software.

Then there’s the grain, the odd MTF curve of film which due to developer adjacency effects often exceeds 100 % at low spatial frequencies before declining gracefully, the S-shaped characteristic curve, etc. You can emulate these things digitally to some extent, but it’s hard to do it accurately.

And that’s before getting into the defects – like scratches, buckling, random development artefacts – which some photographers now positively seek as an antidote to the plastic fabrications that have dominated glossy magazines since Photoshop made them affordably possible.

I haven’t heard of Jan Scholz, but Nadav Kander speaks eloquently on digital versus film in this video . Well worth two minutes of your time.
Carabosse 15 41.1k 270 England
29 Apr 2013 1:05PM
For 99.99% of photo-taking population, film is an irrelevance.

In certain parts of the developed world, there are still those who prefer the horse and car to the motor car (e.g. the Amish in the USA) but most of us have moved on. Wink
keithh Plus
14 25.4k 33 Wallis And Futuna
29 Apr 2013 1:10PM
In the beginning of digital everyone was trying to emulate their favourite film but it's now time to move on. Digital gives photographers the opportunity to develop their own 'look' from on an infinate number of possibilities. If you like the look of Velvia - use velvia.
Andysnapper 10 109 25 England
29 Apr 2013 1:18PM
I've had this discussion numerous times and I still believe that film has a place in photography just as vinyl has a place in music and an e-type Jag has a place in motoring. Digital is wonderful, I almost always have a digital camera of some sort with me (I have a Nikon D300 and a few high end compacts) and I would not dream of shooting wildlife shots on film, way too expensive. However, I defy our friend Carabosse to take an image on a standard DSLR or even a full-frame DSLR that has the depth, tonality or beauty of a shot taken on a medium format film camera in either b&w or colour.
If you want to spend £30,000 on a medium format digital camera (and the same again for a lens) then you may get close but even then I doubt it.

Just my opinion (but I know I'm right Wink)

Carabosse 15 41.1k 270 England
29 Apr 2013 1:32PM
Ability to directly upload to Facebook or its successors directly from the imaging device is vastly more important, these days.

Yes, the classic car does have a place in motoring, but what percentage of the motoring population own one?
conrad 13 10.9k 116
29 Apr 2013 2:32PM

Quote:I defy our friend Carabosse to take an image on a standard DSLR or even a full-frame DSLR that has the depth, tonality or beauty of a shot taken on a medium format film camera in either b&w or colour.

So you're saying that digital cannot fully replicate film? Or are leaving post-processing out of it?
Carabosse 15 41.1k 270 England
29 Apr 2013 3:00PM
Post-processing, for the enthusiast anyway,is at least 50% of it. Just as, in the olden days of film the real enthusiast wouldn't just send off the roll to Snappy Snaps! Wink

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