Film vs. Digital: Which is Better? Part II

Updated 08/30/21

In the first post on this subject, I discussed qualitative issues between Film and Digital. The gist of that post was that there is no perfect answer to the question of “which is better” – – Film and Digital are essentially two different “animals”. Although Digital is certainly more prevalent, both have their place in Photography, or as Paul Lester commented on the first post: “In the end, it’s picking the right tool for the job.”

Quality issues aside, let’s talk about other advantages and disadvantages of each, mainly as it relates to the gear and media…



    1. The hardware is cheap – just go to EBay, and check the prices of Hasselblads, for instance.
    2. The hardware tends to be lighter in weight, a bit more durable, and less prone to breakdowns; there is little or no dependency on batteries to get “the shot”; it is less prone to the vagaries of extreme weather.
    3. There tends to be more Dynamic Range of color in film, especially the pro films.
    4. There is a smaller “learning curve” in a film camera – you are focused on Photography, and Photography alone.


    1. The cost of Film and Processing can be expensive, especially for transparency film, and there is a wait involved in getting back your processed film.
    2. There is no “instant preview” to check for proper exposure, focus, or composition – No “Instant Gratification” – You must get your exposure, etc. right the first time.
    3. The cost of digitizing your images (if you decide to print your images, for instance) can be quite high, especially if you invest in Drum Scans.
    4. You are limited to the number of exposures you have by the amount of film you have – – It can be bulky, and must be protected from the heat, cold, and light.
    5. There is not as much exposure latitude in film, especially transparency film – – plus, it’s not a good idea to change ISO in the middle of a roll. And white balance can be a bit tricky under adverse lighting conditions.



    1. You are able to view your images instantly to check for proper exposure, focus, or composition – “Instant Gratification”.
    2. You are not as limited in the number of exposures that you have – – Digital Cards hold quite a bit more information (exposures) compared to the bulk of film – – Hence, you have lots more exposures for Photographic experimentation, amongst other things.
    3. Cost-wise (NOT time-wise), post-processing is essentially “free” (unlike paying for film processing).
    4. There tends to be a bit more exposure latitude in digital media, especially as it relates to changing ISO and white balance at will.
    5. You can share your images with others via blogs, emails, etc. instantly.


    1. You have to rely on batteries and electronics – in other words, no batteries = no shot.
    2. The initial expense of higher-end pro-sumer or pro digital equipment can be steep – Plus, you will need to invest in some basic computer gear.
    3. More than just photographic knowledge is necessary: You must be somewhat computer-literate, both in the use of the camera and in the processing, printing and storage of your images. Sometimes, this can be distracting to the overall pursuit of “Photography for Art’s Sake”.
    4. You will need to spend some time in front of a computer to complete the imaging process.
    5. Digital hardware may become finicky in inclement weather as any piece of fine electronic gear would (although this is less of a problem than it used to be).
    6. The Dynamic Range of color is a bit smaller (more compressed) in Digital as compared to Film.

I’m sure that this list is far from inclusive – – Got any points that you’d like to add in the comments?




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Thx again, and cheers,


John Watts 🙂



3 thoughts on “Film vs. Digital: Which is Better? Part II

  1. Yep, as I read I thought of another advantage/disadvantage:

    Storage. With film, you have lots of file cabinets, sheets, books of film or however you choose to store them, of images. You have to come up with some cataloging system so that you’ll be able to find your images again. You also have to be concerned about deterioration, so you make dupes. Unless you’re really into paper, you need to come up with some computerized way to locate them. File cabinet F, drawer 3, folder 7, sheet 10 … etc.

    In the digital world it, at first glance, might seem easier; however, then you end up with endless backups, off-site backups, etc. As computer or disk failure is a reality, you have to somehow protect yourself.

    Neither side is a clear winner here, it just all depends on which of the bitter medicines you prefer. 🙂

  2. Paul, a terrific comment, and so true – – you bring up some excellent and salient points…

    In retrospect, I would think that Digital would be the clear winner (with proper redundant backup, of course – see my post on the subject here) for the simple fact that you can store a gazillion images on a tetrabyte external hard drive and it will only take up the space of a large book, whereas the same amount of slides/trannys would take up a whole room – – plus, you cannot effectively “back up” your film: Duplicate slides are a waste of time.

    I have a client named Lee Peterson who’s “been around” awhile – he is a world-class photographer, holds patents on parts of the Nikonos underwater camera system, a brilliant engineer, and just a really super guy, amongst other things.

    He has a HUGE temperature and humidity-controlled room that is filled with binders loaded with probably 100’s of thousands (maybe millions?) of slides and trannys taken all over the world.

    He and his staff have been working for literally years to digitize his whole collection – both for ease of cataloging (done with software, of course!) and stock photo sales but for the very reasons you mentioned – his film is not going to last forever and is “bulky”… Once done, he truly has a “backup” to his slide/tranny collection.

    By the way, I doubt, knowing Lee, that he’ll ever “get rid” of his originals (I wouldn’t either!) – – but they do take up a considerable chunk of space…


    John 🙂

  3. OK. Certainly, I give digital the win for space alone! 🙂

    I’m with you, though, even though if I had so many slides, I’d digitize them … if I had the $$$ to have someone do it, but that would seem to be a huge expense! Thinking about that, too, if I weren’t gong to get rid of the slides to save the space, time, and money, why would I digitize? Hmmm!!!

    There just seems to be something inherently “wrong” about getting rid of all of those slides … see, I can’t even use the word ‘destroy’! Yikes!

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