Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Film and Digital

 Canon EOS 7D, 28-105 USM II Lens

Pentax Zoom 90, Fuji Superia X-tra 400 Film

Notice my real simple title - "Film and Digital". No debates here. It's just that I happened to take roughly the same shot with my big bucks EOS 7D and my Pentax Zoom 90, bought for $6.99 at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, so I simply must talk up a comparison between the two - wouldn't you?

First of all, both of these are straight and un-altered. I scanned the Pentax's film negative myself on an Epson v500. Both were shot at ISO 400. Both used the widest zoom angle - 28mm (=45mm) on the Canon, and 38mm on the Pentax. The Pentax was shot earlier in the day, and the Canon was around noon, with the overcast sky just beginning to clear. I had forgotten the Pentax has a point -n- shoot viewfinder which is mounted above the main lens, and so I didn't compensate, resulting in the top of the bridge being cut off. It's sure hard to break the "Through the Lens" habit!

Now, what am I seeing here? First, if you look at the very back end of the bridge, the Canon is showing some perspective error, while the Pentax is showing less of it. I am totally surprised at this, as the Canon zoom lens is at a 45mm equivalent, and the Pentax is at 38mm - I would have expected to see greater perspective problems with the Pentax. Could it be that in spite of the Canon's APS-C crop factor of 1.6 turning the 28mm into (28X1.6 = 45mm), the wide angle perspective of the 28mm still comes into play? Could it be my slightly higher vantage point? No- I would have expected the higher vantage point to reduce this leaning-in perspective, not increased it. It's a mystery to me.

Next, the digital picture certainly looks sharper and more contrasty, but I noticed too that a lot of detail is lost in the contrast, another surprise since I was shooting the EOS 7D all day with a 1/2 stop overexposure. To see what I mean, look at the entrance to the bridge - a lot more detail captured on film, although I know I could use the Digital RAW file to raise the shadow detail. By the way, I had the Canon set for RAW + JPEG - this is the straight from camera JPEG here.

Now for colour. I find the film to be warmer overall, and the digital to be more vibrant overall, but this is very subjective, especially as the light had changed considerably. The change in light would also explain the lost shadow detail of the digital shot, to be fair.

In conclusion, there's no winner here. Also, there was nothing about these shots which was stressing the cameras, recalling that I had previously discovered that I think film behaves a lot better in strong sunlight, preserving highlight detail where digital blows out. I am delighted to see, however how a $7 film camera can hold it's own so well against one of the best Digital SLR's on the market. I got the film negative developed at a 1 hour shop for $4.50 and scanned it myself on my Epson v500, which I just bought a couple of weeks ago for $140 brand new.

There are indeed still a lot of good economic and quality arguments in film's favour. People are literally throwing away perfectly good film cameras, and buying a good film scanner is no longer expensive, as demand for these is decreasing with every new digital camera sold. There has never been a better time to be a photographer, especially as you can shoot with confidence as a "Figital Photographer" - pick up a good camera that somebody is throwing away, buy yourself an Epson v500 scanner, and find a place that still has a One Hour Photo (like Walmart!) to do your negatives. By all means, keep your digital gear - but use film as an extension of your creativity.

UPDATE - more pictures for the Pentax Zoom 90 here, (by the way, the first five were taken with my Rolleiflex, not the Zoom 90) and more pictures for the EOS 7D taken at the same event here.

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