Ever since the introduction of the digital camera, a war has raged within the photography community. There are those that would claim 35mm film is the one true “professional” media, and digital its casual, amateur counterpart. Conversely, as costs decrease and quality increases, there is an ever-expanding group of working photographers that shoot and produce only in digital. So what is a consumer to think? Is 35mm still the way to go, or is it time to trade up for a new digital model? It’s time to break each format down and seal this deal, once and for all.
It is true that there are many digital cameras on the market, and like their 35mm counterparts there is an endless supply of variables that can impact the images each one is capable of producing. Image quality (in terms of color contrast and depth of field) have always been a major concern for those taking digital images and is still one of the common excuses heard from the opposition. Add to this the fact that finding a digital camera that could match the sheer raw data contained in a photograph on film was both arduous and incredibly expensive, and the 35mm enthusiast has a fairly solid argument.
Fortunately for the consumer, the price of an high quality digital camera has dropped sharply in the last few years. Canon’s popular “Digital Rebel” line of SLRS (single lens reflexes) have given people an affordable entry level camera with near professional results for under $1,000. And since Canon isn’t the only camera company in the world, it’s a safe bet consumers can look forward to even better cameras at even lower prices as manufacturers double their efforts to be first in line at the retail counter.
In these modern times, why even use film at all? It’s certainly no secret that film has an unforgiving and often expensive learning curve, and recent trends show professionals leaning heavily on digital for precisely those reasons. After all, when taking pictures at an event like a Super Bowl, would it better to have the potential for thousands of pictures, or just the film you have with you? Sports photographers answered that question by taking over 10,000 digital images in a single Super Bowl game.
However, just as some music enthusiasts claim that everything sounds better on a record, there are plenty of photographers who agree that there is no matching the warmth and familiarity of a fresh roll of film. In fact, developing film manually and printing photos in a darkroom is for some one of the most rewarding photographic experiences a photographer can have. Sure, photos can be powerfully edited using tools like Adobe Photoshop to remove almost any imperfection, but clicking a mouse is very different than the tactile sensations of a darkroom. And of course, having someone else print up a roll of film can take as little as an hour.
And the Winner is…
Neither! Based on the availability of technology and the vast resources devoted to this topic, there’s really no single point that wins this battle. As with many debates, the winner here is going to be entirely up to the needs and desires of the individual. Families wanting to shoot and share their holiday memories on the fly may choose digital due to its instant gratification and convenience, while others may stick to good old film so they can print up doubles and put them into family photo albums. Thanks to powerful yet affordable innovations in digital and the classic, “do it yourself familiarity of film” the choice is now directly in the hands of the consumer- right where it belongs.