I thought it would be interesting to see a head to head shoot out for film and digital. In one corner I have the Canon A2 and loaded it with expired Fujicolor NPZ 800 film and in the other corner I had my Canon 5D Mark II DSLR. For the lenses, I gave film the advantage by equipping it with the faster EF 35mm f/1.4L whereas digital was fitted with the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L (V.1).
As with any test, consistency is the key so that the results are not skewed in any direction. However, this is not a scientific test and I don't really care about consistency here. What I was looking for is which camera can produce a better photo of the same subject. There may be discrepancies with shutter speeds and apertures but I tried to keep the ISO at 800 with the DSLR so it is at par with the film of choice. No digital enhancements have been performed on any of the below photos. The film files are straight from the scanner and the digital files are raw files converted to jpg in Aperture 3. Without further delay, enjoy the photos below and let me know what you think about the photographs!
Photo #1: Loading Dock of Doom
Thoughts: While I do enjoy the texture of the film photo, it is hard to deny the fact that the digital version looks much cleaner. The shadow details are much more defined and the white balance of the the digital image is much truer to the actual scene. This final critique I cannot fault against the film because it is a portrait film that shoots a little warmer then most types of films and with that being said I actually prefer the yellow tone to the film photograph. Verdict: Digital Wins
Photo #2: Underpass Light Streaker
Thoughts:This one is pretty easy. I have a hard time getting great results with film when doing long exposures and while there is a huge chance of it being due to user error it's hard to deny that the digital photo is the winner. The grain of the film photograph is extremely distracting and there is next to no definition. Big time fail for film. Verdict: Digital Wins
Photo #3: Body for Hire
Thoughts: This one is pretty tough. While again the digital photograph has much better definition and shadow detail I actually prefer the colour, grain and glow of the film photograph! I has an old school kind of charm to it that adds more depth to the photo that is otherwise missing in the digital version. This is a character of film that is desired and celebrated by film shooters. Digital tends to be sterile compared to film and above is a great example. Verdict: Film Wins
Photo #4: Hit the Ice
Thoughts: The film photograph is so terribly flawed. A major lack of sharpness is quite evident when comparing the film version to its digital competitor. It's really easy to see when you look at the buildings in the background. With all this being said, you are going to call me crazy when I say that I prefer the film version! Again, it comes down to that X-factor that film possesses, which is the unique character that it adds to an image that cannot be emulated by any digital process (yes, that even goes for you Instagram and VSCO). Verdict: Film Wins
Conclusion: Did you expect a draw? C'mon; you can't expect me to say that one format is better then the other when I obviously enjoy shooting both film and digital! All I can conclude on is that both have their time and place. Obviously, when it comes to shooting something for a client or for large fine art prints where characteristics like sharpness and detail matter, digital is the clear champion. But when it comes to adding some depth and uniqueness to my images film has the characteristics that digital can never truly possess. What do you think? Do you prefer one over the other? Do you think that my verdict of some of the images above are incorrect? Let me know! I'd love to hear your input!
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this post.