Ease of Use
With digital cameras, there’re no ‘negative’ images to develop. Results are instant. You can instantly see your shot and get the final images. That’s one convenience which weighs strongly in favour of digital technology.
The cost per shot is negligible. Free, rather. Hence you can experiment to your heart’s desire and be as trigger happy as you want to.
Preview and Live Histogram
You can preview the shot on the screen, so you get a fair idea of what you’re shooting. Most digital cameras also offer a ‘Live Histogram’ feature, which graphically tells us if our photo is correctly exposed or not.
Change ISO Within the Camera
Earlier, one would have to use different speed films for different lighting conditions. Hence one needed to anticipate and be prepared with multiple ISO films. When conditions changed, the film too had to be changed. Digital cameras offer the convenience of changing ISO settings on-the-fly, something totally alien in film cameras.
Learning and Experimentation
An offshoot of instant feedback is that the learning curve for a student of photography greatly reduces. Instant feedback makes one realize mistakes and make corrections to technique must faster. I have to admit that on my film camera, each shot came after careful planning and my average number of shots per day rarely exceeded 108 (3 standard rolls of film). But since I got my digital camera, it’s rarely less than 1000 shots a day. And most of those shots are simply because, ‘I can’! I’d go to the extent of saying that the burgeoning interest in photography which can be witnessed in the past few years owes mainly to this aspect of digital photography.
Distribution and Sharing of Images
Making exact copies of a digital image is as simple as ‘Ctrl-C – Ctrl-V’, and can be done even by your kindergarten kid. So is sharing the images with your friends and relatives all over the world. But this, I’d say, has nothing to do with digital photography, it’s rather ‘digital finishing’. Images shot with a film camera and scanned using a scanner gives me the same convenience.
But making backup copies of digital files is easy and quality of the backups are just the same as the original. Backups of films are simply not possible and if done, give inferior quality.
Arhiving digital images is much easier, cheaper and needs far less space than storing film. Numerous digital files will fit into a 1TB HDD card, which’ll occupy a very small corner of your storage closet. An equivalent number of photos on film might require a garage dedicated to it. Image retrieval - searching for that one image amongst thousands - is also far easier as the process would be computerized.
The Last Word
As mentioned earlier, both digital and film excel in different areas, and asking which is better is akin to comparing apples and oranges. The final answer as to what technology to use depends on your end need. General purpose photography is very well serviced by today’s digital cameras, both prosumer and dSLRs. But for the highest grade of photos (read gallery size, high resolution images), film still has no competition worth writing about.
This post is part of the series: Film vs. Digital Photography
This article series looks at the debate of film versus digital photography in an objective light. The first part gives an overview of the whole debate. The second part points out areas where film photography rules the roost. The third lists areas where digital photography outperforms.