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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.

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Old 11-24-2017   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RFH View Post
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).
You're only assessing your poor scanner, really.

Your M240 should trounce 35mm film, even properly scanned, but B&W 120 remains an interesting format nowadays.
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Old 11-24-2017   #15
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And if you never go over 8" x 12" does any of it matter? But then I often wonder what all these threads about large and small numbers have to do with photography...



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Old 12-10-2017   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noisycheese View Post
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?
From Kodak you can get some film info on the net so I have been reading about T-MAX 100 and EKTAR 100 negative film. For T-MAX you have this- resolution info 63 lines/mm (TOC 1.6:1) and 200 lines/mm (TOC 1000:1). TOC 1000:1 looks very exceptional to me, like what is possible with some laser method. But TOC 1.6:1 could be intresting for the normal photography. To resolve 63 lines/mm you need 126 pix/mm or 3034 for 24 mm. For the FF area this is 13.7 MP

For Ektar I don't get anything to compare this res. info but we can compare the Modulation Transfer Curves. For T-MAX it is close to 100 (RESPONSE%) up to 50 cycles/mm and falls down to 60 at 100 cycles/mm.

For Ektar the curve is close to 100 up to 20 cycles/mm and at 50 cycles/mm B and G are down on 55 and R on 30.

So BW and color are really different regarding resolution in films!
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Old 12-10-2017   #17
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Love these old threads.

I am just a guy with a camera so you shouldn't pay any attention to what I say.

But...I think that the line pairs per millimeter numbers in that old article may be just a bit overstated. There are certainly films that can reach 150 lp/mm with the right lenses and technique, even higher. But I seriously doubt that the average resolution for most photographs taken on film ever reach 60 lp/mm, let alone average 150.

However, the entire argument is pretty nonsensical to start with. Good photographs have nothing to do with lp/mm so I am not sure why we should even care. Further, enlargement depends far more on viewing distance then it does on resolution.

The great majority (maybe all) of my happy snaps do not deserve to be enlarged at all, let alone to a size where resolution will begin to matter. For those who can compose and create photographs that are nice enough to be enlarged to marvelous sizes, they already know what type of equipment they need to use to make quality enlargements.

LIke I said, I am just a guy with a camera. For me, learning how to create high quality compositions is a far bigger priority right now than the camera I am using. I am still at the Pentax K1000 or Pentax *ist DL level in my photography, and I don't believe that I will be pushing beyond those boundaries anytime soon.

I do own and use nicer and bigger cameras, both digital and film, but that is a reflection on my level of GAS, not a reflection on my creativity or skill.

However, for those of you who are stretching your current limitations, carry on please.
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Old 12-10-2017   #18
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Ah, I see the time warp has activated again. Where's the popcorn so I can watch the show?
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Old 12-10-2017   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noisycheese View Post
"A digital camera would have to be 156mp to give you the same kind of detail as 35mm film.
This is nonsense. My 24MP sensor resolves finer detail than my OM1 with Delta 100/400. Perhaps there are some technical films which are more resolving, but the digital vs film battle is over for 35mm. I suspect as sensors begin approaching 156MP, film adherents will simply raise the equivalent megapixel number, at least that would follow the historical pattern. Whether you choose film or digital is a process or aesthetic decision.
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Old 12-10-2017   #20
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duplicate post
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Old 12-11-2017   #21
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Originally Posted by Pelle-48 View Post
From Kodak you can get some film info on the net so I have been reading about T-MAX 100 and EKTAR 100 negative film. For T-MAX you have this- resolution info 63 lines/mm (TOC 1.6:1) and 200 lines/mm (TOC 1000:1). TOC 1000:1 looks very exceptional to me, like what is possible with some laser method. But TOC 1.6:1 could be intresting for the normal photography. To resolve 63 lines/mm you need 126 pix/mm or 3034 for 24 mm. For the FF area this is 13.7 MP

For Ektar I don't get anything to compare this res. info but we can compare the Modulation Transfer Curves. For T-MAX it is close to 100 (RESPONSE%) up to 50 cycles/mm and falls down to 60 at 100 cycles/mm.

For Ektar the curve is close to 100 up to 20 cycles/mm and at 50 cycles/mm B and G are down on 55 and R on 30.

So BW and color are really different regarding resolution in films!
So far I have not seen anything from Fuifilm with RGB separated.
Another important part is the lens:
I found this lens test for large format:

http://www.hevanet.com/cperez/testing.html

Here is medium format:

http://www.hevanet.com/cperez/MF_testing.html

Some of these tests look strange to me- like wrong fokus.
Normally f/22 should never give better results in the center than f/16.
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Old 12-11-2017   #22
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I found a lot of interesting points in the discussions here and other sites. I notice that is shown here (by Tim Parkin, nearly half-way down the page) how sufficiently small objects (like the individual red berries on a bush at a distance) can fall between between pixels and not register at all in a digital image.

I'm a casual amateur not constrained by the need for speed of workflow and other parameters where digital excels.
To paraphrase the (possibly apocryphal) response by Rolls Royce to what was the power of one of their cars - "Sufficient", I would say that the resolution I can get for landscape/townscape photography using 6x9 is 'sufficient'. I get my negatives developed and scanned by professional labs. With an appropriate image rendering program (one that can fully use the data output by the scanner), the pictures are quite crisp on a ~22" (~55cm) workstation monitor, even at higher display zoom-in so that you use the scroll bars to navigate the whole image.
That's shooting with anything in the range Ektar 100 to Portra 800, at stops down to f/32, with lenses from 64mm wide angle to 100mm.
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Old 12-11-2017   #23
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I found a lot of interesting points in the discussions here and other sites. I notice that is shown here (by Tim Parkin, nearly half-way down the page) how sufficiently small objects (like the individual red berries on a bush at a distance) can fall between between pixels and not register at all in a digital image.

I'm a casual amateur not constrained by the need for speed of workflow and other parameters where digital excels.
To paraphrase the (possibly apocryphal) response by Rolls Royce to what was the power of one of their cars - "Sufficient", I would say that the resolution I can get for landscape/townscape photography using 6x9 is 'sufficient'. I get my negatives developed and scanned by professional labs. With an appropriate image rendering program (one that can fully use the data output by the scanner), the pictures are quite crisp on a ~22" (~55cm) workstation monitor, even at higher display zoom-in so that you use the scroll bars to navigate the whole image.
That's shooting with anything in the range Ektar 100 to Portra 800, at stops down to f/32, with lenses from 64mm wide angle to 100mm.
Digital is good but you have some limits with the Bayer method. Pixel shift is one way to make it better. Film is still interesting if light is good enough.
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Old 12-11-2017   #24
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Quote:
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I'm a casual amateur not constrained by the need for speed of workflow and other parameters where digital excels.
I shoot film and digital. I don't choose digital for speed. You can shoot film or digital either fast or slow. It's up to you.
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Old 12-11-2017   #25
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I shoot film and digital. I don't choose digital for speed. You can shoot film or digital either fast or slow. It's up to you.
Sure, whatever is the usage that applies.
For 'fast', I'm thinking of, say, wedding photography, or news reportage, where virtually instant visibility of results to the client is expected.
In contrast to my film workflow, which is, finish the film (might be weeks later ), post it to the lab, get it back in the post; that's three days minimum, sometimes a week.
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Old 12-11-2017   #26
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I used to parrot the line about how much resolution film had. Some guys on APUG did some great work quantifying it under absolutely ideal conditions.

Too bad the instant a camera touches my hands "ideal conditions" have goen out the window. So I did some experiments on my own.

For these tests* I used Kentmere 100 (traditional grain, not the finest grain possible, but finer than Tri-X or HP5) loaded in an Canon AE-1 with a FDn 50mm F1.4.
*The negatives I used were from my vacation, so not test images at all.

When I scan 35mm film on my V600 scanner, I get a result that is roughly similar to a 8MP sensor. I consider them lower quality than my old Olympus E510 or Nikon D80.

When I take that same negative and "scan" it with a light table, a good 1:1 macro lens, and my 20MP EM1-mk2, I cannot make out all the grain perfectly clearly (ie in raw data terms there is more than 20MP of data there).

When I use pixel shift on that same setup, I can very clearly make out all the grain (there is definitely less data than the 50MP captured by pixel shift).

So, while it's true I'll admit that Kentmere 100 results in more than 20MP of data, when I enlarge it in my darkroom through a fully analogue process, I find the sweet spot for image quality to be 5x7 or 8x10.
Meanwhile, images taken on my 16MP EM1 mk1, printed on a good inkjet (P800) or via a good photo service have more detail in them at 11x14.

I like film, I enjoy shooting it, I like the aesthetic, I like the process. But I'm done saying 35mm has more resolution than digital.
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Old 02-24-2018   #27
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You guys might find this interesting. Below is a photo taken of the Times Square Area with a Leica Monochrom (M246) at ISO 800 with the WATE. The second photo is that same image enlarged for a wall mural in our offices approximately 14'x10'. There were no software tricks used for the enlargement. The image was res'ed up in PhotoShop to full size at 200ppi and printed.

I'm blown away every time I look at this image. The grain in the final print is very small - remember this was shot at ISO 800. The view through the building windows shows a lot of detail. I don't feel a 35mm film negative enlarged to this size would achieve these results - even if an 8x10 interneg was made for the blow up.

I can't speak to the technical tests and numbers that others have posted, but as an amateur photographer I pretty impressed with what digital can achieve.

NYC-1000633 by reddott2012, on Flickr

ddi RECEPTION-1001913 by reddott2012, on Flickr
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Old 03-14-2018   #28
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Let me throw out a different idea for an old thread: Maybe digital is just too easy? and too good? It's like getting your steak at a restaurant versus hunting wild buffalo (or some such ) and cooking out on the trail. With film, there's the challenge part of the process that is more engaging and/or satisfying for the "hunter/gatherer" experience. The intangibles can and do matter but can be difficult to assess in terms of what their impact might be on the creative process. I think the impact is "real" and not totally imagined, but with most digital photographers of a certain age growing up with film, the differences are blurred.

As to the images themselves, in my mind there is little question that digital has finer detail. The thing is that today, this aesthetic is stylish. It's even cool to see the detail. No questions about that. BUT there is something that this accomplishes that is beyond authentic because this isn't really how the mind processes images. This is in part what makes reddot's image so amazing in my view. What a great shot! only the harsh light of the wall doesn't do the blacks as much justice as the screen shot does, but it's still pretty doggone cool! (Thanks for sharing btw). But in other places and my perhaps lesser experience, digital can become almost creepy or off-putting where the smoothness of the printed output looks more like a soup, cake icing or something inauthentic. I've never had this "problem" with film, and so I guess I find film seems more fun and "better" for my unstylish aesthetic, and the appeal of digital has just run its course. Yes it's there, but until I can afford a digital Alpa 12SW with a PhaseOne B&W back... or a Leica Monochrome... it's not likely to happen. And to be fair, it's not that the Leica Monochrome is unreasonably expensive itself so much as that the money is tied up all at once that made it a mental step too far at this stage. But no kidding, my hat's off to those who were able to take that leap.
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Old 03-17-2018   #29
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I like both film and digital prints and for normal sized prints, say A5 in size.

But I do prefer film cameras to digital; with just one or two exceptions and both of them have red logos on them. Neither of them have a 236 page manual on a CD and a 44 page "quick" guide...

Edit as I hit the wrong button; as I've condemmed a good camera (despite its silly menu of scenes and changes to the previous model), I'll add that I was fuming at the thought of having to print some of the pages, which were 10% text and the rest blank. A couple of days after buying the camera I found a nice fat book about it for a pound in a charity shop. So what I pass off as sanity has been restored.

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Old 03-17-2018   #30
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But I do prefer film cameras to digital; with just one or two exceptions and both of them have red logos on them. Neither of them have a 236 page manual on a CD and a 44 page "quick" guide...
Fortunately, you really don't have to read and retain the information in the manual if you just want to take pictures. And they are really small pages. I did skim the manual when I first got my camera, but I have never had to refer to it again. Most of the default settings are default for a reason.
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