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The Real Resolution of Film vs. Digital
Old 06-24-2016   #1
noisycheese
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Question The Real Resolution of Film vs. Digital

The author of this article http://istillshootfilm.org/post/1141...ampaign=buffer says "A digital camera would have to be 156mp to give you the same kind of detail as 35mm film."

This may be true strictly in terms of counting line pairs per millimeter. That having been said, my experience in printing 35mm film vs. 24mp 24x36mm digital files is very different from what the article claims.

In terms of print quality at a specific size, the prints from my digital camera (a Leica M-P 240) compared to images made with my M lenses and film have significantly higher printed image quality. The M-P 240 produces printed IQ that equals or exceeds that of 120/220 film, which I have shot a fair amount of in my day.

Are other photographers also finding this to be true?
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Old 06-24-2016   #2
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Early in the life of digital (ie around 2000) it was widely held, that to be competitive with 35mm film, digital sensors would need to have a resolution of around 25 to 30 megapixels (and hence at that time this was unimaginably huge and unattainable). This was at a time when about 1 megapixel was normal for cameras then being marketed. I still think that is about right. If you look at the size of images able to be printed from a 24 megapixel sensor they are about the size (or indeed are larger) than I would expect from a 35mm film negative printed using analogue techniques.

The estimate of 150+ megapixels being the equivalent to film strikes me as the wishful thinking of someone who is absolutely wedded to the idea that film is better. I would ask the writer of the article if he can scan (or indeed needs to scan) his film negatives to the size he suggests or can he get a suitable output by scanning his negatives at a normal scanning resolution. I suspect I know what the answer would be.
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Old 06-24-2016   #3
Nathan King
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I shoot some of the best slow film out there in my Leica, but I've never enlarged a negative smaller than 6x6 or 6x7 that gave me a print as detailed under a loupe as a twenty-something megapixel full-frame digital camera. At higher sensitivities the gap only widens significantly. Interestingly enough, I have my digital images exposed on Ilford fiber, so differences in paper are ruled out. I use glass carriers, laser aligned enlargers, and APO lenses in the darkroom, so my prints are sharp as the negatives allow. The grain simply obscures extremely fine detail at aggressive enlargements, which doesn't seem happen with the digital medium, unless you're talking a poorly exposed digital file.

I have good reason to use film for specific projects, but more resolution isn't one of them unless you're talking really large pieces of film.
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Old 06-24-2016   #4
Steve M.
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Digital vs film? Oh no, not again!

You know, it's not about resolution it's about image quality. If you like your digital prints that's fine, but that doesn't make them "better" than anything else. Many of us like film, we like grain, we love the tonal range, and we like to make beautiful B&W enlarger prints in a darkroom on fiber paper. But if you're happy w/ your digital inkjet prints, more power to you. Personally, I can't stand digital images, they can't capture shadow detail, make terrible B&W pics because everything is grey w/ no true blacks or whites, and look odd. But that's just me.
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Old 06-24-2016   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve M. View Post
Digital vs film? Oh no, not again!

You know, it's not about resolution it's about image quality. If you like your digital prints that's fine, but that doesn't make them "better" than anything else. Many of us like film, we like grain, we love the tonal range, and we like to make beautiful B&W enlarger prints in a darkroom on fiber paper. But if you're happy w/ your digital inkjet prints, more power to you. Personally, I can't stand digital images, they can't capture shadow detail, make terrible B&W pics because everything is grey w/ no true blacks or whites, and look odd. But that's just me.
It is not just you. I am a committed digital shooter. But I freely admit that especially for black and white film has some big advantages. I think the point of the question though was more about what is the equivalence in terms of megapixels.
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Old 06-24-2016   #6
Ko.Fe.
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I like film. But my eight years old DSLR gives 16mp which are giving more clean details what 4x5 film was giving me.
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Old 06-24-2016   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noisycheese View Post
Are other photographers also finding this to be true?
Short answer: Very much so.

I find that the Leica M240 vastly outresolves 120 film at the equivalent ISO, say 200 on the Leica vs. Portra 160 in the Mamiya 7 (at 3200 dpi in a Canoscan 9900f).

To my eyes, the 6 MP of the Epson R-D1 is about equal to the enlargement limits of a 35mm film negative. And maybe already past it in terms of detail resolution at equivalent ISO.

I don't have much large format experience, but I'm guessing you'd need very low ISO dias film, at least 4x5 inches, plus a drum scanner to match the fine detail resolution from something like the M240 with a top-notch lens.

For anyone interested in a scientific approach to film resolution, I found this article.
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Old 06-24-2016   #8
RichC
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Comprehensively answered in my thread here: http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...d.php?t=138124

Real life experience tested against theory...
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Old 06-25-2016   #9
rscheffler
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I wonder if the film lp/mm rating he's using is based on something like TechPan type film?

I shot film for ~20 years prior to digital conversion, primarily on 35mm, but also some medium format and 4x5. I used all sorts of emulsions from TechPan to TMZ, Kodachrome, Velvia, Fujichrome 400 and various C41 emulsions such as Reala, Fuji 400 & 800, etc... Ignoring certain subjective advantages film may have over digital in the look of images, it's only the very low ISO film stocks that IMO would give current 24MP+ sensors a serious run. I shot a ton of PJ type work on higher ISO films and those were surpassed probably about 10-12 years ago by 8MP digital. In fact I use this very example at camera club presentations - an ISO 800 C41 image shot at a night sports event in the 1990s vs. an ISO 10000 image shot recently. The amount of shadow information, detail, color and overall pleasing rendition of the ISO 10000 image is clearly superior to the film image. When on occasion I go through lower ISO film images, my impression is that my current images with a full frame 24MP sensor are cleaner and more detailed.

Where I probably agree with the linked article is that one has to consider the entire imaging chain. It's probable that film is held back, in terms of absolute resolution, by its analog output options.

The article is wrong about the RGB Bayer pattern. There are 2x more green pixels (50% of total) than red and blue (25% of total for each). This is why sometimes you'll see RGGB. There is a technical reason for this, but since I'm not that well versed in it, will leave it for someone else to explain...
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Old 07-03-2016   #10
Faintandfuzzy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
I like film. But my eight years old DSLR gives 16mp which are giving more clean details what 4x5 film was giving me.
Lol. Time to stop using a coke bottle as a lens for 4x5. 16mp beating 4x5...lmao. Tim Parkin did a great scan test. Google it
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Old 07-03-2016   #11
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Old 07-13-2016   #12
Kamph
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RFH View Post
"I find that the Leica M240 vastly outresolves 120 film at the equivalent ISO, say 200 on the Leica vs. Portra 160 in the Mamiya 7 (at 3200 dpi in a Canoscan 9900f).

I don't have much large format experience, but I'm guessing you'd need very low ISO dias film, at least 4x5 inches, plus a drum scanner to match the fine detail resolution from something like the M240 with a top-notch lens.
I'm sorry but a Canoscan 9900f is just not a very good scanner. Reaching any sort of conlusion based on scans made on a consumer flatbed will always put film in a huge disadvantage. I own and operate a drum scanner and I can tell you this - even portra 400 will hold much more detail than the Leica's 24 MP if used with fine optics such as the Mamiya 7 ones. I can also assure you that no current DSLR approaches the resolution of a well exposed 4x5 negative!

Now, does a 35mm film hold 100+ MP? I very much doubt it! My guess would be around the 20-30 MP mark for a good quality low iso film.
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Old 07-14-2016   #13
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Meaningless question. Comparing a regular array (digital) with random silver halide crystal distribution is a mug's game: you can justify anything from (about) 15 megapixels to (about) 150 megapixels.

Most people's real world experience suggests that under optimum conditions you'll get similar results from about 15-30 megapixels as from 35mm film. Hand-hold the camera and you can push the lower limit down as far as you like.

Cheers,

R.
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