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35mm film low light performance vs. digital?

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 
I'm thinking of picking up a Canon Elan 7e off craigslist for cheap. I'd use this camera primarily for fun and for concerts (where I'd be scared to bring my digital).

I currently shoot a Canon 40D with a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. I'm moderately pleased with the Tamron's performance (pq doesn't seem as good as my Canon 28-135mm lens all settings be equal. The zoom range of the Tamron is infinitely more useful to me though.)

All I have is the 50mm f/1.8 to use with it. I think it'd be a fun toy to use in extreme lowlight situations with b&w 1600.

So, for low light performance, do you think I'd be satisfied compared to my 40d (at say iso 3200 f/2.8 vs. f/1.8 1600 on film)? Is this a good, fun purchase? Or am I better off turning my back to the film gods and spending time and money elsewhere?


post #2 of 36
With a clean camera, good lens and good settings I would guess film is slightly better, no pixels just what you see on film.

Choose the right film and you're done. In the right settings digital can be better though but I never directly A-B film and digital. Good luck...
post #3 of 36
The problem is that if you haven't done much low-light in film, then you might be disappointed with the results once it develops. It depends on how grainy the film gets at ISO 1600 (which depends on your film), and what kind of shots you have to take in the "low light". It's not the same as just taking shots in the daytime, especially if the "low light" is varying. The 40D in comparison to film cameras is that the CMOS sensor is very tolerant of high ISO noise, which is why I snagged a 30D a long time ago when I had to transition from sports to low-light work (I was using a Nikon D1x at work and owned Canon 1D Classic at the time - both used CCDs). I've used BOTH film cameras and digital cameras btw. My first camera I've ever used film was an old school Canon AE-1 Program (early 90s) and my most recent retired film is a Nikon N90s (dawn of 2000). It's kind of great that digital cameras nowadays are very forgiving. I stopped low light around 2007, but couldn't believe the quality digicams were offering for high ISO work.

I'd recommend sticking with the digital so you can actually preview what you have taken, or at least be able to get a histogram of what you just shot.

Not only that, since you're going to be at a concert, I see no use of using a fixed-focal lens. There might be tons of different things going on and it's good to be versatile in situations like that. My friend who used to use a Rebel XT at his frat parties that were actually pretty dark at times, was able to do good work with his Sigma 18-55/2.8 @ ISO 1600.
post #4 of 36
Thread Starter 
Thanks for both your inputs.

I usually go to pretty small venues. One of the appeals was being able to bring a $50 camera instead of a $900 dslr + $450 lens.

I also have a 430ex II flash, which I assume would also work a Canon Elan 7e. So maybe getting 200-400 film with a flash is a better compromise.
post #5 of 36
Iso 800, black and white with not too much flash can give very nice results. I'm just guessing regarding iso/asa, indoor lighting of small venues can be quite tricky. 400 can work but choose your position wisely regarding frame and flash settings. If you're lucky you won't need flash at all.
post #6 of 36
Many variables, hard to say. However, if you put a big fat light pipe on the front of either camera (say, a medium or moderate zoom focal length f/1.4 to f/1.8 prime) you will have the flexibility to make the shots you want. Hehe, assuming you can deal with the narrow DOF Everything is a compromise...
post #7 of 36
Thread Starter 
Yeah, it's a lot easier to focus on everything a camera system can't do rather than what it can. I'll enjoy having physical copies regardless. I always have a difficult time getting my digital pictures printed because I never feel they're good enough.

It looks like bhphoto has the best prices and selections. Any comments on where and what to buy?
post #8 of 36
it's much easier to take a good low light photo with a good digital camera than a 35mm film camera, in my opinion
post #9 of 36
They won't let you take an SLR into many concerts. Stupid rule IMO. Maybe they are more tolerant at smaller venues?
post #10 of 36
Thread Starter 
Yeah, it's a mix. I'd say about 3/4 of concerts I attend allow cameras. I've actually gotten lucky and should call ahead in the future.
post #11 of 36
I find the 40D low light performance isn't too bad for a crop camera. If I was doing a lot of low light shooting, I might invest in some faster lenses and maybe a film body. If you already have Canon lenses, a used film body shouldn't be a major investment.
post #12 of 36
Digital will always kill film for low-light performance, at least nowadays. That said, I wouldn't generally risk bringing a digital SLR to any concert venue, and current black and white films like Ilford Delta 3200 actually work pretty well in moderately-lit places.
post #13 of 36
I have film and digital experience.

Film (Fujifilm ISO 200):

Digital (Pentax K2000 ISO 100):

I do several professional photography, and starting to do videograhphy too.

EDIT: Changed digital dark photo.
post #14 of 36
Originally Posted by grawk View Post
it's much easier to take a good low light photo with a good digital camera than a 35mm film camera, in my opinion
Yes - it's amazing how digital imaging enables complete idiots to take good low light shots! I know - I've been a digital idiot

The technical experience required to shoot with film and low light is way greater than shooting with a 400mm f2.8 Canon L stabiliser lens and Canon 1Ds or equiv. If you're into the aesthetic of low light shooting, such as the grainy black and white images, or overtly film shots in low light, there is a more appealing textural and visually engaging quality to the mood of the image, than in digital imaging. This is more apparent if you're shooting medium format using fast film like Ilford Delta 3200, using explosion developers like POTA and push-processing to ISO 128,000.

I'm not so sure you'll see such gains at 35mm format sizes, however digital shooting is very interesting in low light settings particularly with image stabilising lenses. You might need to try both before you settle on something you like for workflow. Digital is of course, more convenient. Like McDonalds and iPods and MP3s, we just can't get enough of it. Yeah that must be it
post #15 of 36
I have shot CLEAN almost noise free at ISO4000 in a dark theatre, i cannot imagine any film do the same, nevermind colour film.
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