Film VS Digital

To clearly illustrate the difference between digital and film, Bird In Flight compared photos taken under the same conditions on film and digital cameras with similar technical specifications.

Despite the current digital hegemony in the photography industry, a debate continues over which is better — digital or film. Some insist on the unique color rendering of film and delight in its characteristic grain. Others counter that digital images can be given any effect in processing, and the longing for film is nothing more than nostalgic weakness.

Bird In Flight gathered the most common arguments on both sides and, in collaboration with photographer Roman Pashkovskiy, conducted an experiment to demonstrate the differences between digital and film. To do this, we compared photos taken under the same conditions on two cameras with similar characteristics: the digital Nikon D800 and the film Nikon F100 (both with a Nikon 50mm f/1.4 lens).


f/2.8­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­1/1600 s­ ­ ­­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ISO 100

Advantages of Film

  • Since shooting with film involves additional costs, the photographer must carefully prepare for each shot, avoiding thoughtless clicks of the shutter. The inability to immediately view the captured image adds an element of mystery to the process.
  • Practically anyone can afford to buy a cheap film camera and start shooting today.
  • Film far exceeds digital in exposure latitude (dynamic range). Simply put, contrast and complex lighting situations are better with film — the picture will look more realistic. The advantage is obvious when high-quality film, such as Fuji Pro 160, 400 and 800 or Kodak Portra 100, 160 and 400, is used.
  • Those who shoot on film can use rangefinder cameras — they’re compact and have a quiet shutter. Digital analogues appeared in 2006, but are more expensive.
  • Grain, unlike digital noise, does not spoil a picture, and sometimes, to the contrary, adds an artistic feel.
  • Film cameras use less energy, so their batteries last much longer.


f/1.8 ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­1/320s ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ISO 100

Disadvantages of Film

  • Film, development, and scanning all cost money.
  • The process of producing a print is time consuming.
  • Unless the photographer has a private darkroom at home, he/she always depends on a photo studio.
  • Negatives must be archived under special conditions.
  • When digitizing images for further use, the scanning always results in a loss of image quality.


f/5 ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­1/640s ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ISO 100

Advantages of Digital

  • Digital cameras don’t waste time on rewinding film, so they work faster and are better suited for shooting reports, sports, and other dynamic events.
  • A memory card can store incomparably more pictures than film, and it takes up very little space.
  • A digital image can be viewed immediately.
  • To edit a picture, there’s no need to digitize it. In addition, most DSLRs can save images in .RAW, which allows for adjusting the settings after shooting.
  • Many digital cameras can shoot video.
  • Digital shooting allows management of color sensitivity and white balance — parameters which, in the case of film, are rigidly attached to the type of film being use.


f/2.8 ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­1/400s ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ISO 100

Disadvantages of Digital

  • The cost of the camera is usually higher.
  • Low cost digital cameras poorly reproduce the gradation of the bright fragments in the image and give the photo too much contrast.
  • The sensor need to be cleaned periodically. Otherwise, it collects small particles, which are seen in pictures taken at slow shutter speeds.
  • If your hard disk is damaged, the photo archives can be destroyed.


f/5.6 ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­1/250s ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ISO 100 ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­ ­Flash

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