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Photographic musings

Film is not dead

I am seriously considering switching (at least partially) to film photography. Almost all my favorite photographers shoot film, and without minimizing the artistic eye for details and composition, I think that part of the “film effect” are the amazing colors which cannot be reproduced through photoshopping.

So here are the results of a Film vs Digital experiment.

Both cameras are Canon (5D Mk2 and A2), the lenses used were a 50mm f/1.4 on the 5D Mk2 and a 50mm f/1.2 on the A2. The film was Fuji Pro 400H (overexposed 2 stops), developed and scanned at Richard Photo Lab on the Noritsu scanner. I’ve posted the SOOC (straight out of camera) versions as well as the post-processed version of the digitals.

My overall impression is that film colors are definitely better. However, at least in these photos, it seems to depend a lot on the light. When shooting in full sun, the film comes out too warm, which I personally don’t like that much. On the other hand, when shooting in the shade (but still in good light), is when film definitely kicks digital ass. With film, I particularly like the richness of the blacks, the pastel skin tones, the greens and the overall smoothness – the photos posted here are the scans I received from RPL and I haven’t retouched them in any way. Also, I was really surprised how well this film handles overexposure – the ISO of the film is 400, but it was set at 100 on the camera, so that more light hits the film. It was a bright, sunny day and they are not in the least overexposed. Some even, could have used a bit more light.

Not particularly a fan of the film version for this photo – it’s a bit too warm overall, although the skin looks great. The SOOC is definitely quite ashy-toned as is usually the case, and I quite like the processed version.Film vs Digital 1

Pretty much the same concerns as for the above photo.

Film vs Digital 2

I like the processed version for this set, I think because it’s brighter, although the skin tones are not as creamy as in the film version.

Film vs Digital 3

I like the film one better in this set because of the overall brightness and smooth blending of the colors.

Film vs Digital 4

Film definitely trumps digital for this one. I’ve processed this one black & white, which is why I haven’t included the processed version. But see how awesome those pinky-peachy skin tones look? And I kind of like the green too even if it’s not the blue-ish green you see in most film photos.

Film vs Digital 5

Although the processed version is quite nice (the light was great in that particular spot of the park), the film version is, simply put, pastel gorgeousness!

Film vs Digital 6

The green hues and pastel skin on film are what make this picture, I find. 

Film vs Digital 7

The digital version is a bit out of focus, but you can still compare the colors. Which are way better on film, hands down!

Film vs Digital 9

On digital the photo had to be overexposed to capture the details in the dark dress – look at how white the skin is and how blow out the sky is. With film, both the black and the skin look amazing!

Film vs Digital 10

Yay for pink tulips and pink lipstick!

Film vs Digital 8

And here are a few more film shots:




Comments (3)

  • Wow, that was a very interesting experiment. I enjoyed seeing the differences!

    Sorry that I haven’t visited in the last few weeks. I was in Hilton Head for nine days.

    Hope you have a great Fourth of July!

  • I refuse to believe that this isn’t a post processing issue, meaning that with the right technique and workflow, you can duplicate what you see on film with digital. I can see the difference between SOOC and film, but I’m sure that if you posted your SOOC picture on a forum and asked them to find a PS workflow that duplicated the film, people would rise up to the challenge.

    On the blown-out comparison, did you take a picture of the sky on the film version? The current picture is focused on the dress, so without a sky, there’d be no reason why it’d be blown out. The digital version, however, does include the sky. Ultimately, I think what you’re concern is, is dynamic range of film vs. digital. See here

    I do admit though, that the film version is definitely better looking for some of these photos.

  • The film photos are so dreamy! Thank you for sharing this experiment! 🙂


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