Film Won’t Die

…. at least not for a while. Scoble linked to a national geographic article and followed up with his opinion.

Is film’s day coming to an end? The answer is clear: yes.

I disagree, and not just because of the editorial in the front of January’s Popular Photography Magazine (which I’ve been meaning to write about for a while now) or my continuous lusting after the new Pentax Digital *ist.

Basically they say that film is alive and won’t be dying off for a while now, if ever. Just because there is a flashy new technology that’s coming out of the woodwork does not mean that it automatically overshadows the old and the old will be relegated to the dusty halls of museums. They have these points (with my commentary).

Film cameras are a steal

Anyone who’s looked at digital cameras knows that you’re going to be paying a couple of hundred dollars at least for the cheapest not completely sucky camera. To get something decent you’re looking in the over a thousand range, if not more. While the digital rebel is $1200-1400 and the digital *ist is in the $2300 range, a top of the line *ist film camera is under $800. A good mid-range SLR camera is in the $300 range. That can’t be beaten right now.

Film is fast

On the consumer range (ie: like the Canon A70 I have) digital cameras the highest ISO you get is 400, with a jump into the high end required to get above this. Even the Canon G5 maxes out at ISO 400. But I can go down to the store and buy ISO800, or ISO1600 film and stick it happily into my old film camera, and get great pictures in low light.

Film can be enlarged… a lot

With digital cameras the defining quality is (mostly) their megapixels. The higher the better, with the higher meaning you can enlarge more and possibly print out larger versions of your pictures. Standard 35mm film taken from a $20 point and shoot can enlarge easily into 20×24 prints, while you need a 6megapixel (about, that’s just a guess) for that in digital. My $500 3.2 megapixel will print out nicely on 8.5×11, but my point and shoot film can do more than double that (should I want to…. I admit I’ve never enlarged a film photo in my life, but I have wanted better enlargements from my digital).

Film is power stingy

“When was the last time you changed the batteries in your 35mm SLR?” My answer: never. When dad gave it to me a year ago he gave me extra batteries (of the watch variety) which I’ve never had need for. Some SLRs don’t even require batteries to work. My digital will eat a set of 4 AAs in a day of shooting easily.

Film doesn’t crash

They aren’t referring to the cameras, but the hard drives. I’ve never lost all my digital images, and back them up regularily, but there’s a hell of a lot more potential to lose them in a hard drive or OS crash than there is film.

Film doesn’t require infrastructure

IE: no extra hard drives, spare memory cards, photo album software, digital imaging software, etc. You can easily spend as much as you paid for your new digital camera on Photoshop CS ($600), Elements ($99), and Photoshop Album ($87). There are cheaper ones available, but while I paid $200 for a drive to store my images on, all my film pictures are in a box. That I got for free. My photo albums cost under $100 from Wal-Mart and I do my cropping with a $2 pair of scissors 🙂

Film is the original photoshop

IE: all the funky techniques you use in Photoshop with multiple exposures, infrared photography and polorization were done long long ago in film.

Film is RAW

Unless you’re going high end digital you get lossy JPEGs. Film gives you all the data stored in the image in it’s pure form. With slide film you get an even purer form of this.

Film doesn’t preclude digital

I can scan my negatives, slides, or prints into the computer and turn them into digital images, but I can’t go the other way (or at least, to the quality of the original negative or positive anyway.

Of course, all this doesn’t mean I don’t want a nice digital SLR 🙂

2 Comments on “Film Won’t Die”

  1. Price, ISO speed, enlargement (i.e. picture size), storage, photoshopping, raw format, and coexistence are all irrelevent points because within X years, digital photography and storage will be Y better. Where X is some small number and Y is some very large number.
    Power problems may indeed keep film alive for longer in professional circles, esp. National Geographic photographers. If you are on the frozen tundra, getting your Lion batteries recharged sux0rs.
    The fact that film doesn’t require infrastructure is a bit misleading. Rolls of film, batteries, flashes, etc. take up just as much space as their digital counterparts. Also, when someone comes out with a camera with the same hard drive/capactiy as the mini-iPods (i.e. 4 gig and growing), then little camera sticks and such are going to go the way of the dodo. Image being able to take pics all day, full resolution with no compression, and not every worry about being at the end of a roll.
    Essentially, the only real advantage that film has over digital in the long run is power consumption. It is why I would want to take a notepad and pencil into an arctic expedition instead of a PDA: Sure, the PDA may be neat and in the future will be able to hold huge amounts of text for the size, but paper doesn’t break, lose power, crash, or get EMPed.

  2. There’s another thing… you can get neat stuff like INFRARED film and stick it in your 35mm. Last I heard, it’s not financially prudent to buy a IR based digital camera. 🙂