DSLRs or Slide Film or Colour Negative Film? ;o)

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Sharp Shooter, Jun 20, 2005.

  1. What's the real difference between slide film and negative film? And,
    to logically expand the discussion a little further, are there any
    tangible advantages to shooting digital rather than either of the film

    We can easily reach a conclusion at the very beginning! Despite the
    fact that the fruitless but understandable Slide Vs Neg Vs Digital
    Sensor debate occasionally raises its head in photo forums, there is in
    truth no definitive answer that will convince everybody. It's a
    matter of choice with advantages and disadvantages built into all three

    Various terms are used to describe the inherent properties of film. The
    curious amateur photographer will read about exposure latitude, dynamic
    range, tonal range and even scenic range. To simplify this diversity
    you only need to understand that slide film and negative film respond
    differently to the tonal values in the scene you intend to record. Or,
    to put it another way, the range of illumination in the scene, all the
    way from the darkest shadows to the brightest highlights, will be
    handled differently depending on the choice of film. A film's ability
    to capture shadow and highlight detail is known as its dynamic range.
    Confusingly, slide film has less tonal range than colour negative film
    but more dynamic range. Colour negative film's propensity to hold
    very good tonal values accounts for its much wider exposure latitude.

    Colour negative film has lower contrast properties than slide film and
    will cope very well with highlight and shadow detail, perhaps up to
    five stops of light: three overexposed and two underexposed. In real
    world amateur photography this means that properly exposed fine-grained
    colour negative film will capture very good shadow detail while also
    retaining subtle tonal gradations in the brighter areas of the scene
    - clouds, for example, or sunlit Caucasian skin tones. So, because
    negative film copes so well with highlights, before you take your shots
    you should try to make sure you've captured as much detail in the
    shadows as possible. Colour negative film, with its fine gradations of
    tone, is ideal for scanning because there's a lot of useful
    information across the range to work with.

    However, when compared to slide film, colour negative film's wide
    exposure latitude usually means the recorded image has less sharpness,
    contrast and saturation - it clearly has less bite! More than that,
    the orange mask built into negative film can present unique problems
    with consumer scanners offsetting its effects with varying degrees of
    success. As a result, getting the best colour balance may occasionally
    take a little effort. In the final analysis, however, scanning
    techniques and image-editing software can inject punch and zest into
    colour negative images and this in turn means more vibrant, appealing

    Positive (slide) film has more lively contrast and vivid colour than
    negative film. It also exhibits smoother tonal blends and remarkably
    fine grain. It's unfortunate then that it struggles to hold detail in
    the highlights, and very dark shadows can be rendered almost black. In
    practice it's all too easy to lose significant highlight tones with
    slide film, so before exposure it's best to give preference to
    brighter parts of the scene, or compensate for the wide range of
    brightness by using graduated filters. The slide photographer can also
    use common image-editing techniques that impressively expand the
    exposure latitude of any scene by combining two or more scanned images.

    Digital sensors share slide film's highlight problems but will get
    more from the shadows. Shadow retention will be particularly good if
    the exposure is routinely pushed just short of blown and unprocessed
    data is captured rather than JPEG. If this isn't possible and the
    subject being photographed allows for it, two or more images can be
    used to substantially expand the range, as mentioned above. Sensor
    pixels, or light receptors, wrestle with bright light because their
    response to it is not gradual. Instead they peak quite quickly, totally
    losing highlight data. Digital camera manufacturers are working on this
    problem but the application of their technological advances has been
    less than ideal. It's certainly an irritating problem that makes some
    digital exposures quite tricky, like shooting slide film, and it's
    likely to be an integral part of DSLR technology for quite some time to

    Regardless of how you capture an image, it's worth remembering that
    tonal information will always be lost in the print. Various techniques
    can be used to expand the information in an image, whether it's on
    film or created in a digital camera. The result should be a print with
    shadow and highlight detail that better reflects the original
    manipulated image. An image that has not been manipulated will produce
    a print with less apparent dynamic range. This underscores how
    important it is to familiarise yourself with image-editing software and
    so make proper use of the digital darkroom. A hi-res JPEG image
    converted to a lossless format for editing has more latitude than you
    might expect and unprocessed data straight from the camera (RAW) will
    allow you even more control when necessary.

    For DSLR/SLR Amateurs & Novices
    Sharp Shooter, Jun 20, 2005
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  2. Real question, what format film?

    8x10 Velvia is very nice.


    "I have been a witness, and these pictures are
    my testimony. The events I have recorded should
    not be forgotten and must not be repeated."

    -James Nachtwey-
    John A. Stovall, Jun 20, 2005
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  3. Real question, what format film?

    8x10 Velvia is very nice.

    Hello John

    Yes! That would be very nice indeed.

    My website context is 35mm film (not particularly clear from the long
    quote above!). I'd love to get into medium format for landscape

    Maybe some day.
    Sharp Shooter, Jun 20, 2005
  4. Sharp Shooter

    Stacey Guest

    Today is the time to do it, have you checked medium format prices on ebay
    Stacey, Jun 21, 2005
  5. Big workflow advantages in digital, and you save a fortune in lab and
    scanning fees. Oh, and Polaroid film costs, too.
    "Convince everybody" is independent of "correct". An answer could
    convince everybody but be wrong, or fail to convince everybody and be
    David Dyer-Bennet, Jun 21, 2005
  6. I have already paid an arm and a leg in labs with my old SLR.If I were to
    save that money,I would have got a dslr with cruise control...
    Dimitrios Tzortzakakis, Jun 21, 2005
  7. Sharp Shooter

    deloid Guest

    Thank you for this very nicely done summary of important topics.

    deloid, Jun 21, 2005
  8. A lot depends on what you shoot most and your workflow requirements
    too. I've never been totally convinced that a DSLR is the best option
    for many amateur photographers. It's not always quite as
    straightforward as you may be suggesting, although I fully understand
    where you're coming from. But individual's needs and preferences
    differ, and that's the key here. That's why I'm confident 35mm will
    never completely disappear. It will get more expensive though...

    While there are significant and impressive advantages with the digital
    approach, and I have been very thankful for them in some situations
    (rather than shootng film), good DSLRs like the 20D are roughly 3 times
    the cost of a similarly specified 35mm SLR and you may have to kiss
    your wide-angle prime or zoom good-bye.

    Beyond this, writing as an advanced amateur with a lot of experience, I
    honestly prefer the final results from scanned negative film and
    software manipulation to consumer DSLR images. Really! It's an
    intelligent choice, even though I'm fortunate enough to own a DSLR too.
    (But I intend to be a 100% DSLR shooter when a few things have been
    ironed out in the future.) In the context of 35mm scanning, I prefer
    colour negative film.

    With my chosen style of photography, the true keepers are *a lot less*
    than I care to admit sometimes! At the end of the year, as an amatuer,
    a modest number of important images won't actually cost a fortune with
    film processing and contact sheets from my pro lab(s). If I get two or
    three killer shots from a roll I'm doing very, very well, so I consider
    my Dimage 5400 scanner a long-term investment. I can scan with total
    control over the image, and the 20 MP fine-grained scans that allow for
    detailed editing, after manipulation and grain reduction procedures if
    necessary, are ideal for prints up to 18x12, with no interpolation
    techniques along the way.

    In this context, and in general too, debates about Film Vs DSLR miss
    the point, because intelligent individuals make their choice based on
    their requirements, preferences, assessment of the final prints and
    their inevitable financial restraints.

    SLR to film processing to contact sheet to 35mm scanner, and finally to
    digital prints work for me and represent the best returns for my
    investment. Because of this I believe there are many amateurs who have
    needlessly stopped using their very capable SLRs and invested in pricey
    DSLRs, who shoot hundreds - even thousands! - of more images each year
    than ever before but are *still* left with the modest number of keepers
    that may make the DSLR, new wide-angle lens, sensor dust frustrations
    and smaller images size hard to justify in the first place.

    But here's the thing: what suits me will not suit *the amateur* who's
    into a street or documentary/photojournalist style of photography. He
    or she would certainly have radically different workflow requirements
    and would be able to benefit from DSLRs and loads of memory cards!

    IMO, if you're thinking of moving to DSLR, stop and mull the whole
    thing over carefully from every possible angle. Don't just consider the
    DSLR advantages in isolation - they may not be enough against where you
    already are.

    For SLR/DSLR Amateurs & Novices:
    Sharp Shooter, Jun 21, 2005
  9. Thanks Dean for the kind comments. Appreciate it!
    Sharp Shooter, Jun 21, 2005
  10. Sharp Shooter

    Bill Funk Guest

    Neither Tintype nor colloidal have disappeared, so I would say it's
    pretty safe to say 35mm will be around for a long time! :)
    There are several ways to describe costs of digital vs film.
    Yes, DSLRs are more expensive to buy that film SLRs.
    However, as the number of photos taken rises, the cost of ownership of
    the DSLR drops quickly, and shortly crosses that of the film DSLR.
    My Digital Rebel/300D's cost of ownership is already far less than
    that of my Konica FT-1 Motor (yeah, I know...).
    And the buyer will need to understand that problem with the wide angle
    thiong,and decide accordingly. Such trade-offs are always present when
    comparing technologies that reach the same end goal.
    There's nothing wrong with that.
    Film and digital are different; exact comparisons are impossible.
    Personal preferences are what we need to go by.
    Excellent advice! :)
    Bill Funk, Jun 22, 2005
  11. Sharp Shooter

    GTO Guest

    What is the difference between an orange, a banana, and an apple? What do
    they have in common?

    Although digital seems to turn the film business sour (see Kodak's move out
    of B&W paper!), it does not mean that those technologies are not
    complementing each other. Like fruits, you may not always want to eat the
    same one ;-)

    For many serious amateurs and pros, the move to digital is just simply
    "forced" upon them.

    GTO, Jun 22, 2005
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