Digital or Film?

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Jim Williams, May 24, 2004.

  1. Jim Williams

    Jim Williams Second Unit

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    Almost 30 years ago I had my own photo studio and did portraits, portfolios and commercial photography. Now that I am fifty I am considering going back into business doing basically the same kind of photography again. I am tired of working for someone else and I want more job security.

    The question is this. I know that I will need something more than my 35mm camera to do this right but I don't know if I should go with a traditional film based camera like a Hasselblad or Mamiya or should I go for a digital camera? I want to be able to offer at least 16x20 portraits, but most of what I will sell will be 8x10s.
     
  2. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    Well, if it's any help my Digital Rebel, with an image captured at maximum size (there is a Small, Medium and Large setting) at 300 ppi produces a 10.24" X 6.827" image. You'd be barely squeeking by, which means if you're going to stay in the digital SLR realm you're going to have to get the camera (I believe it's a Nikon?) with the 11 MP sensor, which is equivalent to the full 35mm frame. It's not cheap, but if you're considering a Mamiya or Hasselblad, that's obviously not a concern. There are probably digital film backs available for them, but that's an entirely different price bracket than I spend time researching. Let us know what you decide. I'm curious to know what's available.
     
  3. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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  4. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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  5. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    Jim, I hope you realize how vague that question is.

    If you are looking mostly to do portraits, I would probably suggest going completely digital. You don't need 300 dpi for display prints. With modern image processing you can easily get away with as low as 100 dpi for large prints. Now if you're talking commercial, it's a whole different animal. Magazine ads need 300 dpi and tiff all the way. No using jpeg compression when it is going into an ad.

    In the end, I would suggest digital for portrait work and film for most commercial, unless it is only for web use or smaller ads. You can get a top notch film scanner for $2k to scan in the film if you need.
     
  6. James^Brian

    James^Brian Agent

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    Definetly digital. You can enhance your workflow and lower costs. I definetly don't think you need an 11 megapixel camera to print an 16x20. Some good software as suggested can help interpolate and add pixels if desired, but for the most cases won't be needed. I've printed some with my 6mp camera without problems. As for the film for commercial, I would disagree. Many of the ads you see now are taken digitally. I could point you to some articles by an Sport Illustrated photographer who uses digital almost exclusively (as required). Oh and he's not required so they can download them remotely as he mails them to SI, but for workflow purposes in their digital darkroom.
     
  7. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    Of course many ads are taken digitally, but that's only part of the issue. And sports Illustrated photography is not commercial. There are many reasons to have film available for commercial work, but there's not really any reason to try and convince any further. I use both film and digital myself.
     
  8. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    What exactly are you planning to do? For most services digital will be perfectly fine as long as you're willing to learn the ins-and-outs of a good program like Photoshop. However, I am preparing for a wedding and we specifically avoided several photographers because they only use digital. They offer up to a 40x50 portrait. Now I'm one that jumps on technology early (yup, I bought a 4x CD burner for almost $500!) and I own a digital camera and love it, but I just don't trust it for something like this when compared to medium-format and/or large-format cameras.
     
  9. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    I don't see why you'd reject a photographer because he uses digital...who cares? You won't see a difference, unless the guy uses a pocket-sized point-and-shoot - not bloody likely. [​IMG]

    The skill of the photographer is all that matters - digital or film shouldn't be a factor, all else being equal. BTW, do you really need a 40"x50" poster? IMHO, there is no reason why a photographer wouldn't use a medium or large format film camera for the one or two 40x50 shots, and digital for the rest...
     
  10. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    That would be nice, but it's hardly true. You still need quality tools, as well as the skill to use them.

    Shooting only digital can be a slippery slope at times. I know some fabulous photographers who shoot only digital and completely incompetent ones who shoot only film, as well as the other way around. If you are wanting huge prints, it won't tend to make much difference if they are from film, if they are only 35mm. The whole "is digital or film better" argument is pretty absurd. there are just too many variables.


    I shot a great deal of large format, but I've have never heard of anyone shooting it at a wedding. Not practical at all.
     
  11. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    Of course, now I'm wondering why any of us is even responding anymore. Jim asked the question and has never returned. My guess is, he has completely forgotten about this thread and we are all just talking to ourselves, more or less.
     
  12. Jim Williams

    Jim Williams Second Unit

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    No, JohnRice, I am here. I have been reading all of the responses and thinking about my choices. I really think it boils down to this:

    As it is with any job, you must use the right tool for the job. There will be times when 35mm will be appropriate, and other times when medium format will be the right tool, and of course there will be times when digital will be the way to go.

    My original thoughts were to concentrate mainly on portraiture and commercial photography, but now I think that if I want this to replace my current full time job, I will also want to do weddings. This will mean that I will have to use a mix of digital and film to be able to give my clients exactly what they need for any given situation. I am from the old school and I am really partial to film, but at the same time I wanted to be sure that I wouldn't be investing in a technology that is on its way out. I think now that film based photography will be around for a long time and still has its place in the art and craft of photography.

    Thank you all for your comments, you have been really helpful.
     
  13. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    Jim, I think it is completely rational to go ahead with a good digital SLR type camera for anything you would normally shoot 35mm, and medium format film for anything you want more from. It really has gotten to the point where 35mm film is probably not necessary anymore.

    I don't know if you want to go so far as large format. It really depends on wht type of work you are looking to do.
     
  14. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    I've worked with film - 35mm and medium format - for years.

    I also teach Digital Imaging and Photoshop classes at a local university.

    Digital is just now getting to the price / performance point where it truly rivals film - and yet, I still haven't taken the plunge and purchased anything beyond a digital point and shoot. The resolution that digital is capable of is commendable, dynamic range is equal to or greater than film, color fidelity and shadow detail is outstanding.

    The big difference is not with the technical merits of the format - for all but the most demanding applications, they are indistinguishable. The big difference is in workflow. As much as I enjoy darkroom work, the digital workflow is just so much more convenient, and capable.

    I've been considering a digital SLR, but I think I'm going to hold off for one more generation. I'm anxious to see what Canon and Nikon come up with in their next gen cameras.

    -Scott
     
  15. Dave Morton

    Dave Morton Supporting Actor

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    Over the weekend I attended one of Nikon's schools. It was a one day seminar on photography. One thing that kind of shocked me is that they said you cannot compare cameras based on megapixels because pixels in each camera company were different. Now that I think of it, it does make sense. Look at projectors, some projectors have different pixel sizes than others. They said you can only use megapixels as a measure in one company's product line. You can't even compare to different product lines.

    That said, the pictures they had shown on a projector with a screen of 15X15 feet looked stunning using the nikon d1x. Of course, they are pro's but you wouldn't be able to tell the difference post-processing, imho.
     
  16. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    True, I meant to include workflow as part of a photographer's skillset actually, but forgot. [​IMG]

    Digital workflow is still intimidating for a lot of people...it used to be that if you shot an underexposed or overexposed picture, the film lab would fix that for you without you knowing it. But with digital, all your mistakes come right back at you, and only you can fix it! Well at least most digicams ship with Adobe Photoshop Elements now...although I'm sure a lot of people don't bother port-processing their picures - it just looks too hard for them.
     
  17. Julie K

    Julie K Screenwriter

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    Oh, I knew alright....

    The lab "fixed" my slide of the leaning tower of Piza. It stood straight up. Too bad they had to cut the slide to get it to fit the frame and therefore ruined any chance of my fixing their fix.

    The lab "fixed" my shots at White Sands in New Mexico. Hmmmm...I traveled all this way for grey sand?

    I was quite a doubter of digital before I got my digital camera, but I'm now a firm believer. I can now fix my mistakes better than the lab and my non-mistakes don't get "fixed" to something strange.

    And oh, the glories of the cloning tool in PS. I have a few moral quibbles with cloning out an unsightly object in an otherwise fine print, but it does produce a much better looking photo.
     
  18. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    Cloning Tool is cool, but the Healing Brush is a gift from God.
     
  19. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

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    Julie, that's hilarious! In a hilarious-it-happened-to-you-but-not-me way. [​IMG]

    I worship the healing brush...
     

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