The Medium Pt 1 – Why film and digital are the same


by Bellamy /

4 min read

Are they the same? Who cares?
We have another piece by guest writer Jerome Arfouche for you. This piece is the first in a four part series that wil be spread out over the next week or so. I would really like to hear comments on this. Share your thoughts with us.

The Medium Part 1 – Why film and digital are the same
What, yet another film vs digital post ? Yes, I’ve decided to share my own take on this internet classic, but with a twist. I’m not here to tell you which is
better, but to try and prove that today there is no difference between film and digital. Film and digital are the same? Heresy !
Let’s jump into a conversation between our friends Trip Xavier, a hardcore film loyalist and Henry David Rogers a modern digital fanatic.

Henry David Rogers: Oh man, you still carrying around that old film camera ? Didn’t you hear Kodak is going bankrupt ?
Trip Xavier: Hello Henry, and I see you’re still lugging around your monstrous DSLR of yours
HDR: I don’t know how you do it, all that film you have to buy…
TriX: Ever heard of the internet? If you know where to buy you can get them quite cheap, or buy in bulk.
HDR: …and then you have to send them to the lab and get them developed. And what if the lab ruins your negatives ?
TX: What if your hard drive crashes or you forget to update ? I develop them myself actually, much much cheaper. I have a big tank so I can develop 8 rolls at a time.
HDR: Still, it’s time consuming !
TX: If you think you don’t ‘develop’ your pictures either, all that time spent post processing your files….Besides I’m sure with what you spend changing gear every year you could buy me a boatload of film
HDR: Actually recent Canikon models pretty much all do the same thing, I haven’t bought anything new in a while
TX: But it’s so big a bulky, how do you carry it all the time?
HDR: I was going to tell you about that small X100 I got, smaller than your Leica and even quieter ! The files are amazing, do you still have to scan your
stuff ?
TX: if you’re so hung up on resolution, shoot 4×5 and have them drum scanned ! Listen to me my friend, film is beautiful
HDR: You do know a scanner is essentially just a digital camera right ? Look, you should see some of the tools that are coming out now, like the new Silver
Efex, you almost can’t tell the difference. You may hate the smooth look but…
TX: If you like smooth shoot ISO 25 film or choose a different developer. Are you one of those people who print their files to a physical negative ? Why bother, I mean just get a film camera. Besides, film has more dynamic range, the look is so much more organic and nicer. And what of blown highlights ?
HDR: I think you haven’t yet seen what a well developed RAW file can give you, some of the new sensors have 14 stop dynamic ranges. So what, I expose for highlights, with film you expose for shadow right ?
TX: Shooting film slows you down and makes you a better photographer
HDR: Big deal, I can just pop in a 64MB memory card and shoot less. I’ve seen some contact sheets from photojournalists in the field, some of them used to
shoot entire rolls on one scene, you call that slowing down ? By the way, good luck collecting binders full of negatives, what do you do with that stuff ? what
happens if you lose your films, how do you even travel ?
TX: As if you’ve never lost memory cards either, go collect your hard drives and backups.
HDR: come on, even you can’t deny the convenience of digital
TX: There is nothing convenient about having to read an entire manual before knowing how to use your camera, even a kid could operate my Leica !
HDR: As if they never made complicated film cameras !
TX: White balance, color space, AF algorithms…too many options for me. All the legendary photographers use film
HDR: and all the professionals use digital. you’re a dinosaur
TX: you’re a poser !

At this point Bellamy and I had to intervene and break up the fight….to save the cameras ! Obviously this isn’t a very serious post as I was just trying to
make fun of the most common stereotypes about both digital and film, I’m sure most of us recognized ourselves in a few of these statements. For a more
opinionated and serious post, stay tuned for part 2 of The Medium.


10 comments on “The Medium Pt 1 – Why film and digital are the same”

    Scott January 26, 2012 at 11:56 am / Reply

    Ha! I think we will all come to the conclusion that there is no right answer to the film/digital debate… Only Leica.

    Kelvin A.K January 27, 2012 at 2:07 am / Reply

    Its a matter of preference, heck, the result is all that matter… xD

    Glen January 27, 2012 at 2:44 pm / Reply

    It doesn’t have to be either or between the two. In today’s world, you can take advantage of technology to embrace both. For example, I have an Olympus XA which is as pocketable as a P&S (digital) but being film, is FF and has many other advantages like an f2.8 lens. This complements my digital mFT EPL2 set-up very well because it gives me a uniquely film look. Further, film can now be digitized by scanning and then post processed by software as a choice. For me, shooting both film and digital is just enjoying both worlds for what they are. There is such a joyful simplicity in shooting my M6, having only to work the shutter speed and the aperture and that leaves me all the time to think about the shot, Without digital AF, there’s no machine-gun approach, but a deliberate sniper’s mindset. And for those who must “chimp”, there’s also a film solution: Polaroid Land with instant pull apart film (well you wait a few seconds for it to develop). Btw, the Land is a medium format capturing medium and you can still scan the developed photo or it’s peeled negative. So I say, just go out with all 3: a digital mFT, a RF and a Land — it will still be lighter (and more fun) than a DSLR with requisite fast prime (50/1.4), normal fast zoom (24-70/2.8) and of course the mortar, 70-200/2.8. After all, having 3 weapons is better than just 1.

    chrisj January 28, 2012 at 2:48 pm / Reply

    amusing post! i felt like the voice was written by the same person.. none the less you’ve pointed out a lot of the arguments between film and digital.

    at the end of the day i think it’s personal preference. on my recent trip i shot with an iphone4s, ep1-50mmvoightlander, and ricoh gr1 – it really depends on what the person feels like.

    shooting film for me is more of a personal dialogue between myself and the camera.

    Gio January 29, 2012 at 6:33 am / Reply

    His initials are “HDR”. *Shudders*

    That back and fourth thing was funny. In the end, people like what they like. I myself haven’t been shooting long but I’m in the camp of people who like film. (:

    Aln February 2, 2012 at 1:17 am / Reply

    Used to have a Canon EF and favored Ilford 400 pushed to 1600. Even got me some trays & tanks and an enlarger so’s I could process & print my own. Learned how to pre-flash the paper and use some acid (senior moment as I can’t remember its name) to blow out my highlights. Was slowly teaching myself the finer points of photography. Discovered the better color of Fuji film which seemed to have been made for Asian climate. Had planned to shoot IR (if I could find them) and reversal B&W slides. Then film became expensive (and Ilford 400 scarce; and IR rare). I stopped shooting. After something like 20-30 years, my son handed down his old Nikon Coolpix E5700 Digital. Suddenly I had a toy! My son just said to put it on A (or was that P?) and I’m all set. It was indescribable joy to be holding a camera again and pointing it at something to shoot at. Then something happened to the camera. Anything I shot outdoors would always turn up overexposed. But indoors was no prob. Did the camera fall from its perch one night as I slept? Or did I point it at some strong light source like the fluorescent lamp in the dining room? The camera fell out of grace for a year. Then I got a job and convinced my boss to buy me a camera which I’ll pay for in 4 installments. Tadahh! I had a brand new Canon SX1-IS digital. And again, that feeling of joy to be able to point at somethng to shoot at. Anything that moved. Or was still. Anything and everything. Digital was fast. And seemed easy. Then I suddenly realized I was simply a giddy snapshooter. I was no longer that film photographer of 30, 40 years ago. I went to the manual to catch up. Shit. It made my nose bleed. I missed my days of analogue. I miss grain. I missed analogue’s depth-of-field preview. Or double-exposure. I missed screwing on filters. I missed simple manuals that you understood immediately so long as you held your cam as you read. It’s like there are computers and laptops and smart androids that make us do everything but I miss the clickety-clack of the typewriter’s keys and the whirr of its roller as you pulled out the paper. I guess it’s the same with film vs digital.To each his own. And I’m sure one can have the best of both worlds. (sigh) Just wish some genius would invent a film back for the digital camera. That would be the bestest of both worlds. Besides, it’s not about your bow and arrow really, They’re just your tooI and your medium. What matters most is what you hit. It’s you…and your capture in the end (but I still miss grain).

    Juanjo February 3, 2012 at 8:50 pm / Reply

    Finally one post breaking the myth that shooting film makes you shoot less or makes you to calm down and choose better. And I am a only film user right now as I am not professional and for the streets what fits to me it’s a Leica and I cannot afford an M9 so M4-P had to be. But shooting in riots with film camera and you will see, as the post says, that there is not calm down because of the film. Why film for me? Because as I said I’m not pro, I don’t have to deal with extrem deadlines, so I like choosing a developer that works fine with my film, control the whole process of development, and yeah, later sometimes go to a darkroom for hire and print some copies straight from the negatives, I enjoy it and it relax me, but please no more excuses that film is better because all the masters used it, they used it because they didn’t have anything else. Right now the only pros that use film are the ones that are not in a hurry, and even the great masters of the past didn’t print their copies as they have no time, so the important moment for them was the ‘click’. Watching, framing, shooting…that’s it. To master a darkroom process you need to spend in the darkroom a lot of time so if you want the best of the best you hire a printer and spend your time shooting. That’s how they worked. Once the nowadays pros that were educated with film have been shown how to achieve the same with digital about looking and workflow, they just shoot digital. They meet deadlines in conflicts (Paolo Pellegrin) and they have no problems with films in “third-world airports” (Sebastiao Salgado). Now go to one of any of this two latest exhibitions and tell me which one is digital and which one is film, they were mixed and at least I could not find a difference in most of them.

    As Ain said above in the end, we know what all matters here. Congrats for the post!

    James May 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm / Reply


    René December 12, 2012 at 5:47 pm / Reply

    I want part 2 !
    Very nice post! :-D

    Pete Rearden August 9, 2018 at 12:26 am / Reply

    I like where this is going. The business I just started with specializes in hybrid shoots (kind of why I got the job, film pros, especially LF pros are hard to find.) We see them as overlapping magisteria. Both have strengths, both have weaknesses, neither is perfect.

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