View Full Version : Digital vs film prints
05-12-2004, 03:41 PM
Just a question... Is there anyway normal film prints, scanned in and retouched, can compare with digital photos? There is a certain ''fluidity'' I notice about digital pics when posted on this site that film prints can't seem to replicate. Is it my imagination, and can film images hope to compare with digital? (PS: I'm still saving for my digital so I'm sorta trying to find out whether film scans/images are noticeably different from digital images)
05-12-2004, 04:27 PM
It all depend on what films, camera, lens (extremely important for both digital and film) and the way the prints is process. And then there's also the scanning of the print. The best way to scan a print is actually to scan the film so you need a film scanner that can be quite expensive. Anyhow, a scan picture (unless you have an extremely good scanner very well tuned) will <b>always</b> need some correction as the picture will loose in sharpness, contrast and colour balance.
Check my picture from <a href="http://www.trekearth.com/members/green/photos/South_America/Argentina/" target="_blank">argentina</a> that were all scanned from films in a pro lab, but still I had to apply some correction to them.
05-12-2004, 04:40 PM
I actually find it's the opposite-- I see digital captures as struggling to match the subtle tonality of film!
As mentioned film depends on the following factors:
Choice of film (negative-print film or transparency-slide film have different appearances) It can range from very saturated, high contrast films like Fuji Velvia to less saturated and "colder" emulsions like Fuji Sensia. There are also subtle differences between different types of Black and White films that yield different results.
Processing and Printing (Mini-labs vary in quality and consistency. While one lab might produce a muddy and unsaturated print, another might make the right corrections and give you wonderful vibrant colours. It depends on how they make their adjustments.)
Scanning: A film scanner will give you a much more accurate representation of what's actually on the film compared to scanning from a print. There's more detail on the film than in the print so you're more likely to get the accutance of a digital shot.
Post-Processing: In some cases you can get away with no post processing with digital because the camera does most of it for you. Of course, you can still further edit it.
With film you'll be post processing 90% of the time because scanned negatives have a low contrast (which is corrected at the lab otherwise). Slide film may also require corrections but usually much less than negatives. This takes practice, time and some skill to get right but can be very rewarding.
The bulk of the film scans here are made from prints which are very hard to scan from due to their contrast and lack of fine detail compared to a scan from the film itself.
At the end of the day it really doesn't matter how you go about getting your photographs-- use what works best for you :)
05-12-2004, 07:44 PM
Thanks a lot for the info, interesting to hear what you guys think!
MKing, you make an especially interesting point because I have a film scanner but find that the quality of the neg once scanned isn't actually as good as the print. I know that sounds haywire, and makes me think I'm doing something wrong, but I have tried it on 2 or 3 occasions & the print seems better. Your opinion?
05-12-2004, 07:52 PM
Scan picture straight from the scanner will never be as good as the print, you need apply correction to the picture to get closer to the print quality.
05-13-2004, 12:06 AM
The film scanner I currently use operates at a maximum of 2800dpi. That gives approximately 12megapixel for a 35mm scan. In theory at least that should provide more detail in the image than any consumer / prosumer digital camera and match most pro cameras. The downside is that extra work on the scanned image is pretty much inevitable with the image degradation that goes with it.
There is a difference between an 'original' digital image and the same image produced from a scanned slide but I wouldn't automatically say one is better than the other.
When top name professional photographer start to say, as they are now, that they will never go back to film the digital producers must be getting something right. It will still be some time before I go fully digital simply because I like the functionality of my 35mm camera so much.
05-13-2004, 02:51 AM
Your print contains much more contrast than a scan straight from the negative-- in addition to yielding a slightly different colour response etc. But these don't translate well into a digital format coming from the print because of the relatively low amount of information contained in a print compared to the actual negative or slide. You will have to do some post processing work on a scanned negative to adjust the colour balance slightly and to reintroduce some contrast between the shadows and the highlights. With a slide, because they're inherently contrasty compared to a negative, less adjustments are needed.
Also, generally a flatbed scanner with an adapter for 35mm film doesn't resolve the same amount of accute detail as a dedicated 35mm only scanner as the former is geared for scanning across a wide area (usually up to an A4 size) whereas the film scanner is designed to get its best results out of the tiny area from the film.
On the whole I'm in the same position as Keith, I did mention before that I prefer the look of film but I honestly find the colour saturation of digital appealing too sometimes; honestly depends on the subject.
I like the responsiveness and functionality of my 35mm camera so I won't be retiring it any time soon.
05-13-2004, 09:00 AM
"but I honestly find the colour saturation of digital appealing too sometimes"
I don't understand what you're saying here. You can crank the saturation of either (scanned) film or digital up or down....
Could be sometimes... but not that easy as it sounds, Bob. I know you're naturally optimistic about technique, but you also know I'm skeptical about that transition era we're going through.
"Film cooking" is not a question of saturation yes or no/tick the box, which would then mean, I agree, pull the cursor.
People using films or brands for a longtime know that each has its own response to specific colors : for instance Kodak is known to be outstanding towards yellow range, Fuji is a master of cold blue and green colors while Agfa gives the best red around.
And then if you drill into the brand, you 'll have different rendition, talk about Kodakchrome against Ektachrome for instance, this is not simply a question of saturation, this is a balance between red, blue, green curves, and then comes the contrast and accutance issues, etc, pulling a single thread pulls the whole fabric away... And it took a long time and lots of experiments for the chemistry sorcerers to provide good balanced films with adequate rendition.
Simply cranking the saturation knob at home doesn't really make it because it will trigger other issues. I agree with Mike on that point : there's a difference between the two, I can see most of the time from the the image whether it was taken from digital or it's a film scan (and I'm not talking about grain problem...).
On the other hand I would like to have a chemistry sorcerer soft that would simulate some famous films output from digital images : does anybody know a Kodakchrome200, a Velvia 50 or a Reala simulator that would plug in to Pshop?
I guess this is also the rule with CCDs softs : Sony is for instance known for a soft and slightly green output, while Olympus provide contrasty shots.
05-13-2004, 04:53 PM
Luko - the 'film profile' plug-ins are out there. A new Velvia plug-in was recently released. How good are they? Don't know haven't tried them.
Once an image has been digitalized the colors are totally controllable via software. The only thing that might be a problem is if the initial capture was made by a medium which was not responsive to a particular range of wavelengths. If you put a filter in front of your lens that blocks all red light it's going to be hard to replace the missing colors.
As for characteristics of digital cameras, this holds more for consumer digitals, not upper end digitals when using RAW capture. BTW, Sony consumer cameras used to be know (and disliked) for their over-saturated colors.
"A new Velvia plug-in was recently released. How good are they? Don't know haven't tried them."
I knew there was a so-called "Velvia" plug-in I tried it a while ago, but it only had Velvia in name and a failure to the film spirit IMHO, I didn't notice at that time the broad response to blue color but a caricature of contrast and magenta cast.
"Once an image has been digitalized the colors are totally controllable via software."
I don't deny that, I simply wrote that it will take you quite some times to get the real feeling of a specific film since it's not only about cranking the saturation cursor.
You'll have to play with each color curve, and as you know that's not unidimensional plus color also plays on contrast, accutance, etc...
Say for instance you're scanning Agfa film, which is saturated in the red range, how do you pull up of down the cursors to get the everything balanced but saturated feel from certain digital.
I was saying that if it was easy as that, Kodak, Fuji, Agfa would have found the correct answer to everything in a snap and not investing loads of money into R&D...
"BTW, Sony consumer cameras used to be know (and disliked) for their over-saturated colors."
I don't know where you've gotten that, Bob, but it's like we're not talking of the same models...
Sony has somehow failed to the UnderWater "consumer" photo market though they had cheap handy housings while Olympus set the standard with more expensive equipment.
UW photo needs a very saturated medium (that's why Velvia and Provia were the slide norms and Kodak pretty much forgotten).
Therefore you'll ask any UW photographer why he despise Sony, he'll tell you first hand, me included, because of its muted rendition.
You can browse the net and check that in any P8 or P9 review (their competitor to Olympus x0x0), the output of the Sonys will be stated as either more accurate, less saturated or less prone to tungsten light because of lesser saturation, which in less sophisticated words means dull.
If you're not convinced try this <a href="http://www.imaging-resource.com/IMCOMP/CDISPLAY.HTM" target="_blank">comparometer</a> and choose a Sony P9 against a Olympus 5050 for instance. The images you'll see speak for themselves.
05-14-2004, 10:57 PM
I suspect that you realize that many color films didn't produce 'reality' but a distorted color presentation of what was really there. I used to shoot Ektachrome in the woods because of the way it emphasized the greens and browns. I had never seen woods that looked like that, but I liked the effect. It was an 'art' thing....
I think that over the years we've gotten to the color distortions/representations that we've become wedded to the 'Velvia' look, the 'whatever' look.
Now that one has extreme control over the final version I haven't been interested in replicating any of the limited systems that previously existed. Why would one want to produce 'digital Velvia' images? Move the sliders and find a color/saturation balance that best fits your vision.
""BTW, Sony consumer cameras used to be know (and disliked) for their over-saturated colors."
I don't know where you've gotten that, Bob, but it's like we're not talking of the same models..."
The operative words in my statement are "used to". I was talking of Sony's early digitals. I haven't paid much attention to their later models as they haven't produced a camera with features that fit my personal needs. Perhaps they realized that the western market didn't want hyped colors and toned things down.
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