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Film vs Digital Discussions about the relative advantages and disadvantages of Film vs Digital are important as they can help us understand our choices as photographers. Each medium has strengths and weaknesses which can best be used in a given circumstance. While this makes for an interesting and useful discussion, DO NOT attack others who disagree with you. Forum rules are explained in the RFF FAQ linked at the top of each page.

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Old 06-06-2011   #26
rogerzilla
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My maths:

Full frame body that can take my Leica lenses (well, some of them) - 5000 GBP.

An M2 and M3 body - 1000 GBP

4000 GBP is an metric shedload of film and processing. It would keep me going for 20 years, during which time that M9 body would probably have been replaced three times.

I can't cope with a crop factor; I like my 21mm lens to be a 21mm lens. Actually, if film vanished tomorrow, I'd join the masses and go back to horrible SLR kit like a Nikon D700, because new Leica is just too expensive.

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Old 07-18-2011   #27
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From a digital shooter's perspective, it goes the other way.

I already have a computer and I am happy with its performance. All I need is to buy the occasional 2TB harddrive to back up my files.

So USD$7000 buys me a M9. The M9 will last for at least five years, hopefully more. In that time I can take as many photos as I can press the shutter button, within reason.

On a trip to Japan, I took at least 350 images per day with the M9. That's close to ten rolls of film a day in all ISO ranges, and it gave me a complete photographic record of the trip.

I can't even begin to think of what that would have cost me had I shot film in that volume, especially if shooting Reala, Ektar and Pro400H as I enjoy. And then there's the issue of development vs. automated digital raw processing.
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Old 07-18-2011   #28
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From a digital shooter's perspective, it goes the other way.

I already have a computer and I am happy with its performance. All I need is to buy the occasional 2TB harddrive to back up my files.

So USD$7000 buys me a M9. The M9 will last for at least five years, hopefully more. In that time I can take as many photos as I can press the shutter button, within reason.

On a trip to Japan, I took at least 350 images per day with the M9. That's close to ten rolls of film a day in all ISO ranges, and it gave me a complete photographic record of the trip.

I can't even begin to think of what that would have cost me had I shot film in that volume, especially if shooting Reala, Ektar and Pro400H as I enjoy. And then there's the issue of development vs. automated digital raw processing.
So do I. Well, several, actually. My wife and I are still using maybe half a dozen of the 20 or so computers I've bought over the last 25 years, and the price of computers nowadays is trivial, so even when something faster does come along, I can't get excited about it (decent screens are another matter).

On the other hand, I've just come back from Arles, where I shot 518 pictures on a 9 day trip, not counting the ones I deleted on the spot: call it 15 rolls. Quite a lot were 'notebook' pictures: gallery interiors, Artists' Statements and commentaries, etc., where post processing wasn't important. Going through 500+ pics is tedious enough: I can't imagine 350 a day on a regular basis. What do you do with this 'complete record'?

I don't argue with your cost analysis: $7000 for an M9 is 700 rolls of 36-exposure at $10/roll, the least you're likely to pay for decent film and processing, and over 5 years that´s 140 rolls/year or a 2-3 rolls a week. I'd hope for more like 10 years or even 20 from the M9, though, at which point the cost is trivial, the more so as where I live, it's more like $20-$30/roll for colour film and ref prints. It's just that I can't help wondering why you take quite so many pictures; what you do with them; and (most of all) how you find the time to review and process them.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 07-18-2011   #29
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My maths:

Full frame body that can take my Leica lenses (well, some of them) - 5000 GBP.

An M2 and M3 body - 1000 GBP

4000 GBP is an metric shedload of film and processing. It would keep me going for 20 years, during which time that M9 body would probably have been replaced three times.

I can't cope with a crop factor; I like my 21mm lens to be a 21mm lens. Actually, if film vanished tomorrow, I'd join the masses and go back to horrible SLR kit like a Nikon D700, because new Leica is just too expensive.
Not really. If you can bring in slide film at a fiver a roll, processed, you're doing well. Hell, B+W can easily cost that, processing it yourself, if you use decent fresh film and chemicals.

At a fiver a roll, 4000 GBP is 800 rolls, or 40 rolls/year for 20 years. Not what I'd call heavy usage. And besides, why would the M9 be replaced three times in 20 years?

Cheers,

R.
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Old 07-18-2011   #30
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And besides, why would the M9 be replaced three times in 20 years?
I know what you mean Roger, but technology is without a doubt going to change a quite a great deal in 20 years.
The 'Decent enough' rational is not always good enough for many people. People always what to keep up with the current market.

A M9 might still work in 20 years, but it sure won't be the industry standard of the time. How many people are still using windows 98' for example? Because it still works.
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Old 07-18-2011   #31
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Cameras and operating systems are rather different things. Most people upgrade their PCs because they need to run modern software that won't run on an older machine with an older OS.

My old 433 celeron machine still runs and with a fresh win98 install it will run as good as when it was new. Trouble is most modern applications or OS will slow it to a crawl. I could not process RAW files with that machine running win2000 and Nikon Capture 4. Well I could but I had to wait several minutes to open a RAW file and several minutes to save it again.

A camera does not suffer from these problems. Manufactures don't add bloatware to the camera firmware to force you to buy a new camera. You usually don't install applications on a camera so if the camera was good enough and you like the results you could continue to use it as long as it still works.
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Old 07-18-2011   #32
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That's not the point I'm trying to make.

Say you're shooting a high profile job for a clothing line or something. They want a file that can be enlarged the length of a store window. The standard of today would be a DMF camera, say a hassy h4d for these sorts of jobs.
Then you go an turn up with a contax nd (6mp full frame).

Is the job doable to an extent? Yes.
Appropriate for the industry standard? No.
Will your clients appreciate you performing and results sub par to the industry standard simply because your old gear is 'good enough'? Certainly not.

In 20 years, our 18mp full frame of today may be the equivalent of the 6mp full frame of yesterday, or it may even be more archaic.
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Old 07-18-2011   #33
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I know what you mean Roger, but technology is without a doubt going to change a quite a great deal in 20 years.
The 'Decent enough' rational is not always good enough for many people. People always what to keep up with the current market.

A M9 might still work in 20 years, but it sure won't be the industry standard of the time. How many people are still using windows 98' for example? Because it still works.
Um... I think I've still got Windows 95 on one machine, precisely because it still works for the (very limited) applications I run on that machine.

Of course there are a few improvements you can make to an M9, better high ISO performance being the most obvious candidate, but given a manual focus, rangefinder camera with manually set exposures (including aperture priority) and manual aperture ring, how many changes can you make? And if you never go above A3 in repro and A2 or so in prints, how much more than 18 megapixels do you need?

I'd seriously suggest that unless there's a good reason to buy something new (in the case of a camera, seriously better functionality or image quality), it's downright stupid to do so.

EDIT: There is no 'industry standard': there is only the tool for the job. You wouldn't use an M9 for the same purposes you use an S2 or Hasselblad today: why would you in 20 years' time? How is anyone going to tell from the image that you are using a 20-year-old camera?

Cheers,

R.
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Last edited by Roger Hicks : 07-18-2011 at 07:38.
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Old 07-18-2011   #34
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I'm not refering to the design on the M, but to the internal technology. People are always going to upgrade and sensor technology is going to continuously be improved upon. The M9 is not the holy grail of sensor technology. It's also not about what one can tell from the image, but about the confidence of the photographer in their own gear.

In 20 years we might have a 35mm full frame sensor shooting at 500mp and people will buy it. Most people won't sit back and say "I don't need 500mp, I only need 18." While it may be true for their type of work that they only 'need' 18, firstly they will 'want' 500 and secondly they wouldn't intentionally disadvantage themselves in the same field where their colleagues are using 500.
Not to mention by then we will have better battery and storage technology too.

In 20 years time when everyone is talking about their M17's (or M17-P's, or M's with foveon sensors or that 'bokeh later' sensor etc.) you might find that you're the only person left using the M9.

With regards to R&D: There is always a bigger fish.
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Old 07-18-2011   #35
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I'm not refering to the design on the M, but to the internal technology. People are always going to upgrade and sensor technology is going to continuously be improved upon. The M9 is not the holy grail of sensor technology. It's also not about what one can tell from the image, but about the confidence of the photographer in their own gear.

In 20 years we might have a 35mm full frame sensor shooting at 500mp and people will buy it. Most people won't sit back and say "I don't need 500mp, I only need 18." While it may be true for their type of work that they only 'need' 18, firstly they will 'want' 500 and secondly they wouldn't intentionally disadvantage themselves in the same field where their colleagues are using 500.
Not to mention by then we will have better battery and storage technology too.

In 20 years time when everyone is talking about their M17's (or M17-P's, or M's with foveon sensors or that 'bokeh later' sensor etc.) you might find that you're the only person left using the M9.

With regards to R&D: There is always a bigger fish.
Exacly how would they be 'disadvantaging' themselves? If no-one can tell from the image what they used, and they are happy with their 20-year-old M9, where is the 'disadvantage'?

Sure, there will be improvements. I don't doubt it. But to buy something just because it is new, and to reject the M9 just because it is old, is nothing but mindless consumerism.

If there is a real advantage, and if you can afford it, yes, go for the newer camera. If not: well, a fool and his money are soon parted.

Plenty of people stilll drive old cars, take pictures with old cameras, etc., because they like both the process and the results. Why should the M9 be any different? Look at the following that the Epson RD enjoys to this day. Do you REALLY believe that no-one will be using M9s in 2030?

Cheers,

R.
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Old 07-18-2011   #36
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Exacly how would they be 'disadvantaging' themselves? If no-one can tell from the image what they used, and they are happy with their 20-year-old M9, where is the 'disadvantage'?

Sure, there will be improvements. I don't doubt it. But to buy something just because it is new, and to reject the M9 just because it is old, is nothing but mindless consumerism.

If there is a real advantage, and if you can afford it, yes, go for the newer camera. If not: well, a fool and his money are soon parted.

Plenty of people stilll drive old cars, take pictures with old cameras, etc., because they like both the process and the results. Why should the M9 be any different? Look at the following that the Epson RD enjoys to this day. Do you REALLY believe that no-one will be using M9s in 2030?

Cheers,

R.
Yeah I do believe no one will, all perhaps yourself if you're so set on this.

It is consumerism but it is inevitable that it will happen in the future as with all the digital cameras over the past 20 years.
It's not that cameras are going to get more expensive, they are going to get more advanced. People will upgrade not on the basis of what they need, but due to the fact that more developed technology can introduce more possibilities.

Why would people not upgrade when in 20 years, for the same price as an M9 today you may get cameras that can print at the same detail of A2 today at 30x20ft then. For all we know in 20 years a 35mm digital sensor could produce results of a detail and resolution quality similar to Large format. Would you not upgrade then if your M could achieve that?

There is so much left to explore in the realm of sensor technology. I guarantee that before the decade is out there will be new digital M's far surpassing the M9.
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Crisis of faith
Old 07-19-2011   #37
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Unhappy Crisis of faith

Dear Larky

You're evidently suffering to a similar "crisis of faith" that I am, going both by your own posts and those in reply to my threads on the film/digital thing.

A young colleague of mine loves reminding my about how I waxed on about the benefits of digital over film now that I'm getting back into film.

A back-breaking day making a floor for my soon-to-be completed (he says) darkroom almost had me swapping Mr Nikon some money for anything that had a model number beginning with "D".

This, and the fact that I'm labouring to build a cramped space to share with smelly chemicals in semi-darkness make me wonder why I'd want to do this in preference to sitting in front of a monitor with a cup of tea and a cigarette.


I myself think about the superior quality of film, then look at something I shot in RAW filling my computer monitor and thinking "well, that's pretty good to say it's 5mp filling a 15"-wide monitor.

Then I look at a 120 tranny on a lightbox and think "no way could digital compete", in the same way I don't think digital can do the same kind of black-and-white as film.

But then I think of the particular "style" of post-processed colour I like with digital and wonder how the hell I could get that with film.

I honestly think what I'm going to have to do - to retain my sanity if nothing else - is to use film for black-and-white and, at some point in the future, buy a decent DSLR.

Either that, or take up stamp collecting instead.

As I told a photographic friend recently, I really am a man in a crisis.
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Old 11-23-2011   #38
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The other reason I hanker after the pre-M6 cameras is that they have that logo/engraving. How daft is that? Because I'm sure if a regular M6 had a nice Leica/Leitz logo I'd be in there like a shot. What is that? snobbery? Geekery?
you could always do what I just did.... buy an M6 TTL Millennium. Script on top and old school rewind and wind on lever. Brass top and bottom plates... very cool
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Old 01-04-2012   #39
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Film cost = £4 average per roll.
Dev = £2.50 average.
Scanner = £300 for an average one.
I imagine a painter doing the same calculation... Brushes £50, Paint £30, Canvas £20... wow, thats over £20 for only one frame. I´d better use a digital camera.

Seriously... people spend so much cash on crap they dont really need, film is only a very minor sin.

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What does film give me that digital doesn't. Other than some physical files?
You either love the results you are getting with film or you dont. There is no point in convincing you.
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Old 03-09-2012   #40
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Film for me is simplicity. My M camera has never needed a battery. Battery and memory cards are the terror of my digital life! Photos may not be as clean as digital, but they are ALL there on downloading! Scanning easily done here in Canada, or by me--slow! Prefer hi-rez scans at local store. Inexpensive.
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Old 03-09-2012   #41
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the annual raise should cover my new found curiosity for shooting film (again).

My main problem is not the cost of film, but how do I explain to the General at home where that Hexar RF comes from?
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Less is more
Old 03-10-2012   #42
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Less is more

The Leica M8/M9 because of the shutter don't feel or sound like my M's! It's important to me. The cost of a camera that gives quality that is easily matched by an entry DSLR, is a bad investment. Also there is a problem with longer lenses on digital M. Sure i don't know how to focus, using RFDR M since the late 50's.I like the fact that i have limited exposures on film. Less editing, less wastage.Do I use digital? Professionally I use the digital, but with "Point and Shoot" compacts as my work is for Internet. Reality! There is little difference in quality between small sensors and large sensors, if maximum size is 11 x 14". Before a posse comes after me, do some checking! A top pro with large format experience has also discovered this..I have 3 PC in storage due to non compliance with my programs or Internet interface! I found a complete Canonscan scanner with everything in original box! It does not work with Windows 7 or Apple OS latest. Sick of adding newer more stupid equipment.
When I take/make a photo all I want to do is push the button, not fight with a menu.
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Old 03-11-2012   #43
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When using film for making photographs, I process with chemicals, printing in a darkroom. I don't scan film, yet anyway. Haven't used any color film for several years. When I did I processed the film and printed. I have a color analyzer I bought around 1970 that helped. My darkroom dates way back and I still have it set up and I use it whenever needed.

Have a roll of B&W 120 film loaded (shot with a 1950's Mamiyaflex camera!) in a Paterson tank and going to develop in D-76 today! Fun! And smiles!

When I shoot with digital stuff, I process on the computer and the viewing of the images varies.

Don't really see the need to scan. I have slides that go back to the 1960's and my Kodak Carousal projector works just fine. I can still get replacement bulbs!

Back in the olden days, I would take 75 to 80 slides for a wedding. Then have the Bride & Groom over to my studio where I would have a get together, show the slides. When they said, "I'd like a print of that one," I would pull the slide out of the tray and make the print(s) for them. Much longer process as compared to digital. Remember doing fondues in the 1970's?

I still like using film, perhaps because of nostalgia as that's where I started.

My opinion, digital has caught up to and in most cases has surpassed film. I have some pretty nice 40 by 30 prints that look pretty darn nice, at least the client bought them! Ha!

My recommendation, if you're going to use film, carry the process through to the print. Find a darkroom to use or get the stuff as enlargers can be had, many times, for a song & a dance. Besides, black & white Ag gel prints should last quite a while.

Hope this helps you.
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Old 03-12-2012   #44
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we still do fondues
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Old 03-15-2012   #45
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Quote:
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On the other hand, I've just come back from Arles, where I shot 518 pictures on a 9 day trip, not counting the ones I deleted on the spot: call it 15 rolls. Quite a lot were 'notebook' pictures: gallery interiors, Artists' Statements and commentaries, etc., where post processing wasn't important. Going through 500+ pics is tedious enough: I can't imagine 350 a day on a regular basis. What do you do with this 'complete record'?

I don't argue with your cost analysis: $7000 for an M9 is 700 rolls of 36-exposure at $10/roll, the least you're likely to pay for decent film and processing, and over 5 years that´s 140 rolls/year or a 2-3 rolls a week. I'd hope for more like 10 years or even 20 from the M9, though, at which point the cost is trivial, the more so as where I live, it's more like $20-$30/roll for colour film and ref prints. It's just that I can't help wondering why you take quite so many pictures; what you do with them; and (most of all) how you find the time to review and process them.
Hi Roger,

I hope to get 10 or even 20 years from the M9 as well, but what with digital products being what they are, I am not as sure of their longevity as the film cameras, of course. There's a lovely little black M4-2 I've been eyeing of late. It's lighter than my M9 and M7, almost the same size and weight as the Fuji X100. And being a M4-2 it was made well over 40 years ago. A good service and it is right for another few decades. Food for thought, but I digress.

When it comes to processing the thousands of photos I took while in Japan, I imported them all to Lightroom and exported them using an automated preset I devised. While this was running, I went off and did whatever else I wanted to do. In the following days and weeks, I had a very enjoyable time going through the images and finding ones that I wanted to process individually.

I do not claim to be such a good photographer that I had a high percentage of keepers from such a run and gun method. If you add the Ricoh GRD photos to the M9 photos, I took an average of 620 images every day! I'd say that less than 20 per day were ones that I would process individually, let alone print and hang on a wall. But it gave me the ability to practically relive the trip as it progressed, all the way through.

As for why I take so many: I admit to a slightly obsessive streak, although I don't take anywhere near this amount in normal life. Japan was on my list of 'must do in this lifetime' things, and I wanted to capture as much of it as I could. I've had an intense fascination with that country for most of my life and the opportunity to spend three weeks there and travel through it was something I couldn't just walk through.
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Old 03-15-2012   #46
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I doubt people will still be using a "camera" to take photos in 20 years.

As for film, just like someone already said, either you will love to do it or you don't. There's no point trying to be convinced that film is better.
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