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Thread: the digital vs film debate

  1. #1

    Join Date
    May 2009

    the digital vs film debate

    haven't seen much about this online since the luminous landscape review by charles cramer (former sheet film artist) several years ago between drum scanned 4x5 velvia and 39megapixel digital back.

    as a large format film photographer, i'm curious if anyone has read any reviews which are more recent on this topic. i think there are many problems with the luminous landscape review, the biggest issue being a comparison test via the internet where screen resolution is approx 72dpi. not to mention i've been to a gallery with cramer's prints from both digital back and large format film and have to say the digital prints look flat and plasticized compared with the film prints which feel more lively.

    whatever the case, i'd be curious about any thoughts, or more recent online topics or studies, on this matter. my own conclusion is that digital backs produce images akin to the site: :-)

    and of course i have no interest that sort of artificiality.

    cheers. dm

    ps. an interesting fbi research article concluding that the megapixel equivalent of 35mm film is in the ballpark of 16mp:

  2. #2

    Re: the digital vs film debate

    Here are two long threads and someone will post a picture of a horse soon.

    You might look at these graphs first

  3. #3
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Albuquerque, Nuevo Mexico

    Re: the digital vs film debate

    I have a great deal of respect for the technical mastery of Charlers Cramer and am willing to accept his own opinion about his work. You should contact him and tell him what you think about his digital work and see what he says. In the meantime as requested:


    at age 67
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  4. #4
    Drew Wiley
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    SF Bay area, CA

    Re: the digital vs film debate

    Anything film vs digital should be predicated by thorough homework involving viewing
    old Three Stooges movies with pie-fights. I don't mind throwing a pie myself from time
    to time, but have to anticipate ducking one in the reverse direction!

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Re: the digital vs film debate

    Film vs digital belongs in the Lounge.

  6. #6

    Re: the digital vs film debate

    Thanks Kirk. I was looking for that.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Southern California

    Re: the digital vs film debate

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Marshall View Post
    Film vs digital belongs in the Lounge.
    Barely. I really wouldn't mind if it joined Religion and Politics. It certainly combines the "best" of both those worlds...

  8. #8
    Youngin Daniel Stone's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Los Angeles area

    Re: the digital vs film debate

    I was up in Yosemite last month for a workshop, and went to dinner(at the gracious invite from Jim G.), and while dining, we enjoyed the artwork adorning the walls of the restaurant, many of which were from Charles Cramer.

    While we were there, I was thinking "this looks TOO GOOD to be digital, even P65+(60mp) digital). Upon leaving after enjoying our meal, I asked one of the waiters who was cleaning up if he knew if the work was from digital or not(just a shot in the dark, I know ), but he said that most of it was from film. Many of the shots were 5-10yrs old, or older.

    I'm not one to speculate, but a person like Charles Cramer, who has shot sheet film for years(in 4x5 I know for sure, not sure if in 8x10), but is definitely a "in the know" guy about what can really be extracted from a LF chrome, either via dye-transfer, or drum scanning and output via lightjet.

    But I know that the P45+ and P65+(along with other comparable backs from other manufacturer's) are capable of tremendous detail, and large dynamic range. In 1 shot too. Many of the people here in LA that I've assisted for are constant users of MFD, and they only use such because of the "film-look" vs 35mm digital.

    but in the end, I don't really give a rat's @$$ if a photograph is made via digital or analog means. The vision of the artist is what counts, as I would hope someone viewing my work would see it.

    But you can also argue that shooting MFD with the most whiz-bang equipment, and outputting those large files to a lightjet, or LF inkjet printer, is definitely capable of producing outstanding results. And it can save your back too . Lugging a Master Technika or other LF camera around for hours, or days at a time, can be back-breaking. Carrying a kit of 30gb of memory cards that allows you a few hundred shots can be much lighter than having to cart around holders, changing tent, and other camping supplies(if you backpack away from the car overnight).

    And he ain't a spring chicken anymore age-wise, remember that .


  9. #9

    Join Date
    Dec 2009

    Re: the digital vs film debate

    digital is just a little damaging on the wallet, the moths would just have to take a hike and make room for cash in my wallet

    oh well i will just stick with film i guess

    but hey who said that fibre/darkroom printing was all that interesting anyways, give me a hand coated print from a glass plate any day, in fact i rarely look at regular prints when i see them anyways, if i have to ask whether its digital or film then whats the point.

    i can allways spot a hand coated print, even at a good distance, especially a glass plate print

  10. #10

    Join Date
    May 2007
    New York City & Pontremoli, Italy

    Re: the digital vs film debate

    I pity the poor horse.

    Kirk - can you stop that guy from beating that poor horse?

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