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Photo-Fi: My point-and-shoot digital vs. film comparison

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
Earlier today, I got back some 8x10 and 8x12 enlargements from various digital images (taken with my Canon A540 and SD750 cameras) and 35mm film negatives (taken with a 1990s Canon SureShot 105zoom camera on ISO 100 FujiFilm print film). I've checked for sharpness first and foremost.

The result is somewhat of a surprise, but not unexpected: The digital images (literally) kicked the P&S-shot film in the you-know-what. However, this is not a fair fight, since the quality of the optics on 35mm P&S film cameras is mediocre at best - and then, the few large-volume photofinishers who still do film actually convert the film images to digital prior to printing. And judging by the way the photofinishers scanned the negatives, the natural grain pattern on the film itself is augmented with the digital noise from the scanner.

The moral of this experience is: If you want the best quality possible from print film (as opposed to slide film), use a high-quality, expensive SLR or rangefinder camera with manual controls, not a point-and-shoot snapshooter camera - and send the film to an expensive custom lab which still does chemically-based, all-analog prints (those labs are becoming increasingly rare). And if you must use a store's minilab or a large-volume photofinisher to make your prints, you're better off shooting digital.

Any comments?

Eagle_Driver
post #2 of 8
For sheer detail and sharpness, digital always wins hands down.

For contrast and color, I still find medium format film looking better. Particularly for indoor low light with tungsten light. Always a challenge to shoot with digital.

FWIW, I'm comparing DSLR to SLR Film, 35mm and 645.

FYI, even high end photofinishing labs end up with a digital file, film is scanned. But drum scanners are used for high end film.

-Ed
post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Edwood View Post
FYI, even high end photofinishing labs end up with a digital file, film is scanned. But drum scanners are used for high end film.
True for the most part. The problem is that the mass-market minilabs and large-volume photofinishers often scan the film at a resolution that's barely adequate for the final print size.

And my comparison is strictly between point-and-shoot (sub)compact snapshooter-oriented cameras. Had I used SLR cameras instead, the outcome might have been somewhat different.
post #4 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eagle_Driver View Post
True for the most part. The problem is that the mass-market minilabs and large-volume photofinishers often scan the film at a resolution that's barely adequate for the final print size.

And my comparison is strictly between point-and-shoot (sub)compact snapshooter-oriented cameras. Had I used SLR cameras instead, the outcome might have been somewhat different.
Heheh, yeah. I don't get my prints done at Walmart or the drugstore. I use a place I used to work for that prints high end wedding photos.

-Ed
post #5 of 8
Optics of current digital PnS camera's and analog PnS camera's is a world of difference. However compare their prices (digital prices of now, and analog of a few years back), and you'll notice why. Some optics of current PnS camera's are extremely good, beating some of the low cost dSLR glass, especially when looking at the so-called 'Bridge' camera's like the Fujifilm S5700 or the S9100.

dSLR's and SLR's aren't that different anymore, if anything analog might have a higher average dynamic range, but even then some dSLR's (Fuji) kick their butts.
And nobody can tell me that a 22MegaPixel fullframe sensor is less detailed then a 35mm analog camera, i bet the difference is pretty big too.

About Medium format i can only guess, since ultra-hi-end professional camera's arent my cup of tea.
post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sir Nobax View Post
Optics of current digital PnS camera's and analog PnS camera's is a world of difference. However compare their prices (digital prices of now, and analog of a few years back), and you'll notice why. Some optics of current PnS camera's are extremely good, beating some of the low cost dSLR glass, especially when looking at the so-called 'Bridge' camera's like the Fujifilm S5700 or the S9100.

dSLR's and SLR's aren't that different anymore, if anything analog might have a higher average dynamic range, but even then some dSLR's (Fuji) kick their butts.
And nobody can tell me that a 22MegaPixel fullframe sensor is less detailed then a 35mm analog camera, i bet the difference is pretty big too.
Heheh. It's very true that the optics on many P&S digital cameras have greater resolving power than many small-format SLR optics; however, the tiny sensor size on P&S digital cameras is the limiting factor. Those tiny sensors still need greater resolving power from their optics in order to even come close to the image quality of an average DSLR. And most P&S digicam optics still fall short of what's needed for a spectacular-quality 8x10-inch enlargement given their tiny sensors. (The DSLRs can get away with moderate optical resolving power because their sensors are much larger than those in P&S digital cameras.)

As for the megapixel-equivalent resolution of 35mm film, it varies widely, based on the subject/scene, film and optics. Even with slow film, 35mm's MP equivalent ranges from a low of 3MP (your typical P&S 35mm film shot) to around 13MP (for a good hand-held shot on a good SLR) under average conditions.

By the way, the full-frame sensor in the new Canon EOS 1Ds Mk III DSLR comes very close to that 22MP "limit" for a 36x24mm (35mm film) frame, coming in at 21MP.
post #7 of 8
I'm not a film bigot, I have some farily high-end digital gear (Canon 5D, Leica M8, Epson R-D1), but some of the comments are misinformed.

The 35mm f/2.8 optics of an inexpensive ($70) Olympus Stylus Epic camera will put anything short of a SLR to shame in terms of sharpness. Not to speak of the Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f/2.8 T* lens on a Contax T3. For starters, they don't exhibit the chromatic aberration (purple fringing) that's so common in digicams.

Here is a sample, a photo of Leif Inge shot on a Contax T3 using grainy Fuji Neopan 1600 film, scanned on a 4000dpi Nikon Coolscan LS-5000ED, with no sharpening applied. If you look at a 100% blow-up, you can clearly read the Calvin Klein logo on his spectacle frames. That's a 39 megapixel image, by the way.

The much-delayed Sigma DP1 may be the first true high-end digital point-and-shoot, but no current digital P/S comes even close to the Contax T3, Leica CM or Minilux, Nikon 35Ti/28Ti, Ricoh GR1 or other high-end film P/S cameras. The gap is so wide it's not even funny.


post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by majid View Post
I'm not a film bigot, I have some farily high-end digital gear (Canon 5D, Leica M8, Epson R-D1), but some of the comments are misinformed.

The 35mm f/2.8 optics of an inexpensive ($70) Olympus Stylus Epic camera will put anything short of a SLR to shame in terms of sharpness. Not to speak of the Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f/2.8 T* lens on a Contax T3. For starters, they don't exhibit the chromatic aberration (purple fringing) that's so common in digicams.
Maybe so. But I was talking about the typical P&S zoom lens as opposed to a fixed focal length lens. Those "better" point-and-shoot 35mm film cameras all have nonzoom lenses with adjustable focusing.

As for chromatic abberation, ANYTHING taken with a lens that's of an extremely short focal length and a very high degree of magnification (enlargement) will exhibit this defect (to varying degrees), regardless of format. There is simply no way around this, given today's optical limits. (Imagine using a rectilinear 6mm lens on a good 35mm film SLR with an ultra-fine-grain, extremely slow film, then shooting at the very same distance as your point-and-shoot digital camera at its wide setting, and then blowing up the resulting 35mm film image to make the tiny-looking subject fill up an 8x10 or 8x12 print, and you'll get the idea.) Those high-end point-and-shoot 35mm film cameras all have a long enough lens focal length to minimize this defect - and (as I said) none of them have zoom lenses.

And speaking of zoom lenses on typical consumer 35mm film point-and-shoot cameras, most of them operate at apertures well past their diffraction limit (read: overly small, with overly high f-numbers), particularly at longer zoom settings. No wonder why their image quality is mediocre at best. Point-and-shoot 35mm film cameras with nonzoom lenses and fixed (nonadjustable) focusing also suffer from diffraction-induced sharpness and resolution losses due to the small apertures those cameras require in order to achieve acceptable depth of field.
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