Thinking about digital and analog photography (I): Quality
There are many things written in internet about the digital vs film debate. A simple search in google is enough to find complicated articles full of graphics and also heated discussions which use to end in a quarrel. Every time that I find one of these articles, I read it with interest even if I don’t agree. I take a look at discussions just for fun though they don’t use to be worth reading. Generally, I don’t like this clannish vision where you must choose one side.
Last year I got back to analog photography or maybe half analog as I don´t have a laboratory at home and after developing my workflow is digital. In this way I found an encouragement which makes me enjoy photography again. This is the reason why I’d like to write down my opinion, a passionate point of view, without lots of technical details and based on my experience. I don’t want to bore you so I decided to divide it in themes. I’ll leave aside for a moment that a good photo doesn’t depend on the technique in this first chapter to deal with quality.
Most of discussions are about the best format to take a photo. Usually, digital photography is compared with a digitalized film. It’s true that nowadays is not easy to have a good photographic laboratory at home, but if you want to compare fairly which type gives the maximum quality, it should be made on paper, comparing the final result. Despite of this, film has good results.
Most of the comparatives in internet say that the estimated resolution of a scanned 35mm negative is from 6 to 20MP. Honestly, I don’t care numbers and I think that it’s nonsense to check every 100% crop. I’m not going to print wall-sized photos to watch them closely. Though I get with a good scanner like Epson V700 the same sharpness as a mid-level reflex like Nikon D90, what I found in film is a texture that digital lacks. Film grain gives a better natural touch. I find very interesting the opinion (27th minute, only available in Spanish) of Alberto Yagüe, professional image expert, about film and digital.
Almost always it’s mistaken resolution for quality. We have received as legacy from the digital boom the simplistic concept of, like a media-markt sales-clerk refrain, “the more pixels the better”, without considering other factors as color or dynamic range. Even considering only this, resolution it is not a good indicator of quality by itself. There are lots of cheap 12 MP cameras lacking sharpness.
A matter of format
One of the greatest digital hooligans’ obsessions is to prove that the latest professional cameras have ousted the medium format as if it were the last trace of film in professional work. The argument is that newer DSRL have more resolution than medium format film or, at least, they assure. I´m not going to come back on it and no matter how many times they repeat it, both types cannot be putted on the same level. Differences go further.
For covering approximately the same angle of view of an 80mm lens in medium format it’s needed a 50 in FX (full frame) and a 35 in DX (APS-C). Neither the depth of field nor the appearance of those lenses is the same. You can notice it just looking through the viewfinder. I don’t want to say that medium format is always better, but saying that a DSLR can replace a medium format camera because of its better resolution is, simply, bullshit. Needless to say large format.
More points of view
Beyond the grain texture, another thing that I found in film is the more natural color, and it cannot be explained with tables and graphics. I’m not talking about matching real colors of a testing card, but the less artificial look of film. It’s tempting to apply more saturation in Photoshop or going too far with HDR, but, even trying not to fall in temptation with a digital image, film always looks more natural to me.
The way that film keeps highlights also looks more natural to me. Once again there’re debates and complicated tests to find a winner. I’m sure that in future digital will reach film but nowadays its ability for saving highlights still amazes me, especially in this two images from the galleries. I love the sky color through the small windows in the first one. In the other one, made at midday in a summer day, it’s stunning how film keeps the texture of the floor in the sun.
Variety is the spice of life
Now that film is still standing in front of digital we can consider if the camera quality, the lens sharpness or the amount of megapixels are enough to make a good photo by themselves. Photography is an artistic way of expression and technique can only help us with it. It seems obvious that the more choices to give a different nuance to our photos the better. It’s not a good idea to discard opportunities with stupid reasons. This conclusion could be applied to hooligans in both sides.
One of the most exciting things in photography is to discover new ways to take a photo, new techniques… from a simple cardboard box camera to the newest DSLR. Each one has its own character and their lacks. Each one provides a different thing, not only in the result but the way of shooting. This is also a big difference between digital and film… but let’s talk about it on the next chapter.
Comments ( 2 )
25/02/2012 - 01:15:26
Que puedo decir, que tu Nacho no te imagines. Estoy totalmente de acuerdo contigo en todo. Tu que me conoces sabes perfectamente mi pasión por el medio y gran formato. Tienes mucha razón, todo va más allá de los pixeles, empieza a tener sentido cuando hablamos de cariño por lo mecánico, fascinación por esa textura ya casi olvidada y por esos colores ya acostumbrados a nuestros ojos pero desconocidos por esos sensores que los ignoran y esconden con su arma secreta "la saturación". Un día me llamaron friki, otros dijeron que me gustaba llamar la atención. En fin, yo sigo pensando que tal vez me guste más que a ellos la fotografía.
25/02/2012 - 14:10:48
Gracias por el comentario. Ya me imaginaba que ibas a ser tu quien estrenase los comentarios :). El cariño por lo mecánico y otras cosas, las he dejado para la segunda parte, en la que también quería mencionar en la conclusión que tengo que agradecerte el haberme metido el gusanillo por el analógico otra vez. La semana que vienen más.
leave a comment
*Comment policy: All comments are moderated before being published on the site. I will attempt to approve comments as quickly as possible.