The answer may surprise you, because – There really isn’t a perfect answer – – Film and Digital are essentially two different “animals”, and both have their place….
Good point, Ken – we might as well argue things like Mac vs. PC, Fords vs. Chevys, etc. – there really is no perfect answer, and arguing about it would be counter-productive.
“Just the simple fact that digital captures don’t have film grain makes a huge difference. That isn’t to say we could automatically assume digital is better than film. This is a qualitative consideration we’re looking at now, after all. The simple fact is that some photographers prefer the look of film… I think it is fair to say that digital capture (at least in the top-of-the-line digital SLRs) has exceeded the quality of film. However, it doesn’t perfectly match the look of film, so some photographers are going to still prefer to shoot with film rather than digital. That’s just an increasingly small number of photographers.”
Generally speaking (and from a qualitative standpoint), most high-end digital capture will rival and even exceed film from a sharpness standpoint, but can occasionally fall short in the Dynamic Range of color it is able to capture. By the way, Dynamic Range is the measurement of the ability to see or capture full tonal & contrast ranges over the entire visible color spectrum.
Typically, in this day and age, Digital tends to be the way to go – but it has been my experience that there are two areas that Film outshines Digital: Shooting Night Photography (Star Trails, etc.) and Sunrises/Sunsets. With Night Photography, you have the issue of digital “noise” inherent in long exposures and low light situations. With Sunrises/Sunsets, the sometimes-limited Dynamic Range of digital cameras, along with the higher contrast levels present in most sunsets, limits the amount of continuous tonal values and colors that digital is able to capture without pixelization and posterization challenges.
If you have the financial resources for both Film and Digital, keep your options open and explore with both systems. Marketing hype aside, film is far from obsolete, and will be with us for years to come.
Qualitative issues aside, I’ll explore, in a later post, the advantages and disadvantages of Film and Digital systems: https://blog.main.wattsdigital.com/film-vs-digital-which-is-better-part-ii/
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Thx again, and cheers,
John Watts 🙂