View Full Version : Which is better M/film/scanned in or R-D1?

03-12-2005, 20:39
I was wondering what you guys and gals thought about which is better in terms of quality. The m series and film scanned in or the R-D1? I am debating on wether to get an m6 or m7 camera (since I already have the range of Leica lenses) and play around with film again. So I would like to here from you who have played with both now which in your opinion produces the best web/ink jet pix. I perfer color film but would also play around with b&w to show my kids the good ole days.


03-12-2005, 23:03
I would assume that the consensus would be RD-1 for convenience and high-ISO, film for permanence (i.e. having a physical negative) and low-ISO. Personally I think the R-D1 with a raw converter is a heck of a lot more convenient for color balancing and correction, but that's probably because I have minimal experience with film. :D Black and white film will give you more exposure latitude than what the R-D1 offers though, so in my mind I would personally add "color" as a pro for the R-D1 and "black and white" as a pro for an M.

03-13-2005, 04:15
Scanning a film image, and then using digital manipulation introduces a whole new set of problems.
The scanned image becomes a second generation image with the usual loss of resolution, and introduction of artifacts. In addition, scanned film images are not easily enlarged due to the effects that film grain has on the digital image. The images fall apart relatively quickly as they are enlarged.

We all tend to have experienced the manipulation of first generation digital images (frustration, workflow, matching color values, digital noise) - but wow are we ever sold on this process!!!

If you are comparing a digital first generation image, and a film image that is enlarged, and manipulated in a darkroom, please disregard this post.


03-13-2005, 04:35
I completely disagree with the comment that scanned images fall apart as they are enlarged. I have the prints to prove it. The Minolta 5400 scanner gives me B&W 48bit RGB files over 200 megs. From that I can make 13x19s that are just fantastic. I can crop it to death and still beat what many cameras generate even in RAW. A typical 6 meg camera file will need to be stretched to get that size.

Another thing is the look. Maybe the MOST important thing is the look. Digital is to me almost too clean and sometimes doesn't look real. But that's me. Scanned film looks more like what I want.

I think you need to see the results from both to decide for yourself. They just aren't the same but I;m a B&W shooter and printer for almost 40 years.

I'll also add that I have the digital itch. Later today a friend and NY Times shooter is coming over with his D2H. I've shot one before and "only" 4 megs? Hell the prints are very very good, no less good than a 6meg camera to my eye.

Will I get a digital camera? I'd love an R-D1, Canon or Nikon DSLR, anyone of them but I can't pull the trigger, yet.


03-13-2005, 04:52
To Nellsphoto

Look at the grain pattern as the digitally scanned image is enlarged. It becomes progressively larger, and to my eyes more obstrusive as the image is enlarged.

Lets for the moment just look at the grain image, and not be concerned with any surface anomalies (dust, fingerprints, photofinishing problems).

I have used the Nikon 4000 scanner with ICE, and have noticed this phenomenon on Velvia 100F (even with its small grain structure), Kodak 100VS, and of course various B+W films (ICE off). I find that if you use the multiple scan mode, the shadows open up more (S/N ratio increases), and there is better tonal definition. However, this multiple scan technique does not alter the grain appearance.

Some folks don't mind the grain, but to my individual taste, I don't like it when the grain becomes very noticeable, and interferes with the image content.

Everyone has their own individual tastes, and choices.


03-13-2005, 05:11
I agree about the grain. Grainless digital images to me look fake. As I said it's from my backround and history. I like grain.
It may be that having come from the wet darkroom to the dry darkroom I'm trying to hang on to the last moment the "look" of the silver print. Back in the day I had a great recipe for Kodak Panatomic-X in Rodinal. Absurdly smooth grainless detailed prints. I did it for clients, never for me.
These days dots at 2880 from scans at 5400 have to give my grain fix, gotta have it. I do think that larger prints from my 2200 epson look better than smaller prints. More dots to represent details in a larger print than a smaller print if you know what I mean. Dig into the details on a 5x7 vs standing back and looking at the same details on an 11x14 or so. The bigger print looks better/sharper. Even back in the wet darkroom days I prefered sharp grain vs soft grain like you'd get with Microdal vs HC-110.

In the end it comes down to as you say. personal taste. While I won't go so far as to say one isn't better than the other they each have their place and I don't see them as totally interchangable.


Nikon Bob
03-13-2005, 06:09

I do not own an RD1 but do own an M body and an Olympus C5050 so would like to comment. Either camera you want is probably overkill for producing images seen on the web (qualify that by saying that file sizes are generally really small for web use) and or producing images on a home inkjet to 8X12 in. sizes. It is impossible to go wrong with either. Basically you are asking which is better , digital or film? Each has it's place and both will do the job you want. They are two different ways to arrive at an image nothing more and nothing less. Good luck picking one.


03-13-2005, 06:28
I shoot both digital and film, and IMO it comes down to volume. If you're intending to produce a *lot* of images, digital capture provides a faster workflow. The images are cleaner, digitally, than scanned images and you can get them print-ready, or web-ready quickly. Or in the case of professionals, out to your clients faster.

If your volume is moderate, film has a lot going for it. You can often coax more detail out of a negative or slide than you can get (currently) in digital. Scanning, while slow, can dig deep into the image. And you have the option of having images enlarged in a darkroom. This is particularly true for B&W film. I tend to shoot col in digital.


03-13-2005, 08:28
Thanks for all your replies. I think there is no question on terms of speed and ease of use that digital wins hands down. I have been shooting digital for the last 6 years and not have shot a roll of film since then. I was wondering on the quality. WHen I have scanned in my slides and negs using a Nikon coolscan ls-2000 I always see grain in which I try to get rid of. Does a newer highr quality scanner get rid of this?

03-13-2005, 08:41
The grain may be noise that can be dealt with by the scanning software. I have a comparatively inexpensive film scanner (Minolta SD IV) and the Minolta software has a feature called Digital Grain Dissolver that removes the noise but doesn't seem to soften the image in any way. So I think the software is what deals with grain rather than a fancier scanner.

Also some films just don't seem to scan well. I get much more grain with my scanner when using HP5+ than with Neopan 400. Film choice may be quite a big variable when it comes to grain/noise.

03-13-2005, 08:52
Chris, I use both side-by-side. 2 M7s and now a RD-1. IMO the CCD sensor of the RD-1 in combination with the micro-contrast of the M lenses produces a more film like look to the prints than my other CMOS sensor cameras ( D20, 1DMKII & 1DsMKII). It is one of the reasons I like the RD-1. I also use a Contax N Digital with a full frame 6 meg CCD sporting Zeiss lenses that also shows those more film like characteristics.

I regularly make approx. 10 X 15 inkjets from the Leica M negs that are just as beautiful in their own way as the silver prints from the Ms printed in the darkroom. Grain is a relative thing. Depends on the film used, scanning skills, skill at exposure settings & the film development itself, etc. What I have found is that real B&W films often do gain some contrast of the grain structure, and using the smoother grain structure of the C-41 B&Ws tends to result in a scan that looks like traditional B&W film in the end. I've also observed that scanned Color slides are tough to beat with a digital camera. IMO, if you use a grain reduction program, like noise ninja, the micro contrast produced by some of the M glass is effectively destroyed ... and you might as well be using Sigma lenses.

If I didn't have a commercial need for digital cameras, I would most likely still be shooting film for 90% of my work ... and would have saved myself a LOT of money. You have to cough up a ton of cash to get a digital camera that can come close to a scanned film from a Leica M. The price of just a Canon 1DsMKII body makes the cost of a M camera seem inexpensive.

03-14-2005, 10:16
Another thing is the look. Maybe the MOST important thing is the look. Digital is to me almost too clean and sometimes doesn't look real. But that's me. Scanned film looks more like what I want.

I think you need to see the results from both to decide for yourself. They just aren't the same but I;m a B&W shooter and printer for almost 40 years.


I tend to agree that the digital shot can be too clean--like the difference between video tape and film in movies. But again, that's a matter of taste. Heck, I still believe black and white photos look more "real" that color! As more people are raised on digital photos it will be film images that look "different"

03-21-2005, 16:47
Just feel I have to getg my 2 cents in... B&W is a very viable art form and not just to show kiddies 'the good old days'.. those days are still here with those of us who shoot in black and white and love working in the darkroom. I use my M6's for all my monochromatic work and have a Nikon D100 for shooting the 'kiddies' and other things as well. Also just got the R-D1 and love it!!! But and the big but for me is that I love medium format square images. 35mm format was something I gave up years ago- stopped using my Nikons for any real work. This is a long comment but feel all sides have value-digital, film, 35mm format and my favorite M6 rangefinders....

RObert Budding
03-21-2005, 16:56
You want quality? Pick up a medium format camera. They are very inexpensive now. The larger negative makes a huge difference if you print beyond 8x10. For smaller prints, MF is overkill.

I like to print B&W in the darkroom. But I'm going to start scanning color film. I just don't have time to work on color darkroom printing, too.


03-21-2005, 17:09
Exactly what Robert said!

David Kieltyka
03-21-2005, 17:40
I enjoy using pretty much anything that records images. From Holga to Leica, it's all good. I've had an SX-70 for decades and it just keeps on going. It's a capable tool masquerading as a holidays & parties camera. Some day I'd love to attend a nature photography class equipped with nothing but the Polaroid. :D

With the R-D1, and Canon 20D SLR, I no longer use 35mm color film. I do still shoot b&w, though, mostly HP5+ but recently some of the new Tri-X. I hate scanning & spotting but the unique look is worth it. I use HP5+ in an old Rolleiflex T as well.

So as far as I'm concerned there is no "better." Just different varieties of good.