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 Post subject: Film versus Digital
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 12:59 pm 
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Recently got into a discussion with vcilli about film versus digital. I shoot digital, so all you film aficionados please tell me where I'm going wrong.

My first test image is Visitor Parking. This is shot with a by now ancient Nikon D70, clocking in at a mere 6 megapixels. Where, why and how would I have gained by using film for this shot?

The next shot is of Chi Ma Wan reservoir, Lantau Island (again the D70). By processing in software (NOT Photoshop), I emphasized the reflections in the water. Is this type of software processing in some sense cheating, purely robotic manipulation at the computer keyboard, in a way not possible in a film darkroom, or is it genuinely creative in much the same way that film has often been creatively processed in the darkroom?

Third is the reservoir shot processed in software for a complete color change. Is this genuinely creative or simply software manipulation to achieve strange results that have absolutely nothing to do with realism and therefore are of no artistic merit? Is the use of infrared or ultraviolet photography for unusual visual effects somehow more artistically genuine than simply "manipulating" color in software?

You make the call.


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Last edited by Kalistofa on Wed Apr 29, 2009 7:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: Re: Film versus Digital
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 2:18 pm 
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Kalistofa wrote:
My first test image ....


Since we're looking at 1-200 kb jpegs on our computer screens, there is no way to tell what it would look like as a high resolution printout, let alone what a film source would be like.

Reminds me of those TV ads for TV sets where they try to show you the wonderful clarity and brightness of their screens --- which we are looking at on our crappy old TVs.

What next? Demonstrating hifi surround sound on AM radio?

In any case, it's not really the technical specs that are the motivation for using film or digital now, but which give the user the results he wants in a way he's comfortable with.

For instance, in editing text I usually go through a stage of marking up proofs with a pencil. You could say this is inefficient since I have to enter all the corrections via keyboard later anyway, but I just can work better that way. It also lets me see something closer to the final product, which is a physical book in most cases.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 3:12 pm 
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I think this simply argues that digital images on a computer screen start at a disadvantage.

Not necessarily. A digital display can render thousands of colors, more than can be seen by the human eye. Is that true of high resolution prints? Well, some prints are better than others, but I know you're a technology expert Alan, so do you have some representative facts and figures on the color gamut of a good quality LCD monitor versus good quality ink-jet output on paper? My bet would be on the LCD monitor.

For someone so clued into tech, your post is disappointing.

Next thing, someone will be posting their pet pics.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 3:18 pm 
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Quote:
Even the most intelligent commentators on photography will often sneeringly refer to "manipulation" in software...

Next thing, someone will be posting their pet pics.

Now who's sneering?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 3:36 pm 
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Blazenski, do you actually have some point to make about the topic at hand?

I thought not. But that's not a sneer.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 3:45 pm 
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Were you ever kicked in the head by a horse?


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 3:49 pm 
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Perhaps you could post your fantasies somewhere else?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 3:54 pm 
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Kalistofa wrote:
I think this simply argues that digital images on a computer screen start at a disadvantage.


No. I was saying that a web page isn't an adequate way to present the best of either.

In any case, we choose one over the other because it's easier to get the results we want. Whether that's because of habit, better interface, or whatever doesn't matter.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 4:04 pm 
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Alan, presentation on a web page would lack what?

We know that web pages are usually designed using low res images (typically 72-96 dpi) but this is a convenience, to speed page loading.

You seem to be arguing that differences in film and digital can't be detected on an average web page, correct? That may be debatable, but I think that my posting three sample images here is valid. Simply, what is lacking that film (presumably printed out on paper) could supply?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 4:17 pm 
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Paper reflects light, screens emit light.

I'm not saying which is "better", but they are certainly different.

But you keep talking about the specs, the reason one chooses one medium over another is more about the process.


Last edited by Alan on Wed Apr 29, 2009 6:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 4:46 pm 
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I am interested in both the specs and the process, although I should say that for me digital plus a software workflow seem immediately more convenient, for several reasons.

Still, the question of the end result remains of interest. When film enthusiasts say they have the best result, what exactly are they claiming? Few seem to be able to explain; there seems to be a reliance on assertions.

I seem to remember Alan, from a discussion a way back of Linux and applications, that you have experience of proofing and the CMYK print process. From what I've read, digital images do not transfer easily to CMYK, but does this mean that film images do? Can you comment on that?


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 5:00 pm 
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I can comment. You are a dumbo who clearly does know what drivel you spout. Really - "digital images do not transfer easily to CMYK, but does this mean that film images do"...

Go away before someone pours ink in your hair and steals your packed lunch.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 5:18 pm 
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Kalistofa wrote:
From what I've read, digital images do not transfer easily to CMYK, but does this mean that film images do? Can you comment on that?


RGB is what screen images use. Printing presses use CMYK.
Professional publishing applications have to be able to both (they still need RGB for screen output, and many Windows printers, even if they have CMYK inks, must be sent RGB data).

It's easy enough to convert from one colour space to another, but there is almost always some loss of accuracy.

Those who actually need CMYK are a much smaller market, so many software packages don't have that feature.

And that's not even getting into custom colours, eg metallic, that can only be approximated on screen.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 5:30 pm 
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So do you see any implications for printing film images?

Of course, most consumer level users of film seem to be having their films processed (developed and printed) by machines that look as though they incorporate some level of digital technology.

Anyone know how those machines in film stores work? (I mean specifically the ones that process film, not the ones that print your digital files.)


Last edited by Kalistofa on Wed Apr 29, 2009 6:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 6:23 pm 
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Having worked professionally full-time in print and web publishing for many years since 1995, often as a photo editor, I'd be damned to get involved in a basically religious war, not really rooted in arguments, like this one.

It all reminds me of the Mac Cultists and vinyl record enthusiasts who are so passionately and deeply convinced that they're better than the rest of us. There's really no point in presenting facts and arguing, you're never ever going to win them over and often just make a new enemy.

Use whatever format and hardware you like and feel comfortable with; if it does the job for you, no need to switch. Great photos are made by great photographers, not great cameras. Just look at all the digital snapshots on the web, usually made by great digital cameras but still crap.

For the pure, all-digital web publishing I do these days, I'd never dream of using film for so many reasons, like cost, speed, convenience, immediate feedback, post-processing, etc. But you still need a big dSLR camera for good quality in difficult shooting situations, even for low-res web work, I think.

But I have professional photographer friends working mostly in print publishing who still love their old, great, film-based cameras. Why should I try to convince them otherwise if they're familiar with their beloved cameras and get such great results? Use what works for you!

But that's just my own two cents...

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 6:34 pm 
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Sure L-G,

but is there some way to rationalize these questions, beyond "Do whatever works for you"?

You are in the company of professional photographers who use film. Could you, for example, persuade one or two to volunteer their reasons for using film, beyond doing what they know and love? Surely they must all have some familiarity with digital as well. They must have come to some conclusions.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 7:05 pm 
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It's often as simple as, "I'm an experienced professional, film looks better and I like it better."

They don't or can't usually provide concrete figures or hard facts. It's often emotional and works well for them, so that's fine with me, why try to convert them?

Similar to vinyl recording enthusiasts vs. any digital sound media, "Vinyl sounds better!" Why argue, no hard facts will convince them otherwise as it's personal and emotional and all rational arguments will simply bounce off.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:39 pm 
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It's somewhat like listening a favourite radio programme, I'd found it just as enjoyable whether I listen to the podcast version or listening to it on short-wave.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 11:13 pm 
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Some facts and statistics here might be of interest if that's what you're after.

http://www.clarkvision.com/imagedetail/ ... tal.1.html

I guess film does have a higher resolution (down to molecule size rather than pixel size) which might count if you are going to mount an exhibition of huge billborad sized prints (as they did outside the Natural History Museum last summer).

But in the end, the artistry transcends the medium - recall Harry Haller at the end of Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf listening to Mozart on a cracked gramophone record and just marvelling at the sublime music.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 12:12 am 
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Thanks for this. On a first quick reading, if we accept Clark's approach, I get the impression that digital is not far behind film, in terms of effective resolution.

Still, I'm a bit confused by the references to monochrome and color sensors with Bayer in parentheses. My understanding is that it's the Bayer filtering that establishes RGB input for color sensors. It's difficult to know who would be buying cameras with purely monochrome sensors (the security and surveillance market?).

Your exalted call to artistry a la Herman Hesse seems a bit out out of context. If we accept the analogy, then film versus digital would be equivalent to orchestras using traditional analog instruments on the one hand and electric instruments (using digital audio electronics) on the other, with perhaps a few digital synthesizers thrown in for good measure. You can see how your average Mozart symphony would benefit.

The cracked record on the gramophone would then presumably be the torn and crumpled output from a broken printer, with the art of the photographer still discernible, as also the originating technology. The question would still remain as to the the relationship between the technology and the art, a question that is particularly acute in the case of photography, where there's been a reluctance to recognize that photography is an art. That reluctance presumably stems, in part, from the heavy reliance on the technology, a reliance that superficially is at odds with romantic notions of human artistic creativity. Still, don't all write in at once on this one.


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