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My First Digital Photography Impressions
Old 03-21-2019   #1
giganova
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My First Digital Photography Impressions

So I jumped into digital photography with a big leap of faith. Coming from decades of Leica M b&w photography, this is quite the change for me. Picked up a Fuji X-T3 with a 23/2 lens (35mm FF equivalent) and went to Monterey, California, for two days.

At first, I was a bit overwhelmed by the colors and after the first few dozen photos, I turned on the b&w emulation. I think color photography doesn't suit me. For me, photography is all about composition, shapes, form & texture, I find color a big distraction.

What I love about digital:
  • Very light gear, just the camera with a lens, nothing else. No light meter, not dozens of film canisters, contrast filters, etc. And because it is a replaceable product of the digital throwaway age, you just through it in the bag and stop worrying about it. If it breaks, I just buy a new one. Awesome!
  • Super quick: by the time I raise the camera to your eye, it is ready to shoot and you just press the button. "Auto everything" is nice. Always perfectly in focus, always perfectly exposed. At least almost always. Autofocus is actually an amazing new exerience for me and absolutey works. Most pictures are perfectly exposed as well. No brainer, you just press the button and let the camera do the rest.
  • Pictures, pictures, pictures: since pressing the shutter doesn't cost anything, you can -- and will -- take dozens, maybe hundereds of photos of the same subject. Later on the computer you simply pick the best.
What I hate about digital:
  • Technology is distracting: tons of information in the viewfinder that distract from framing. Tons of buttons and flashing lights. The worse is the display on the back: no matter how disciplined you are, you will always look at the photo that you just took, for no apparent reason other than confirming that it is there. The display is too small, the resolution too low, and the dynamic range too narrow to make any judgements. In direct sunlight it is a waste of time to look at the display, but you will. All you see in the end is if the picture was stored. I finally get why the M10-P has no display, I want that in a digital camera! Plus, you always worry about the battery status. I ended charging the camera in my rental car each time between shots because one battery would have never taken me through the day. So now I carry extra batteries, chargers, cables ... what happened to the "not much gear" argument?
  • Too much of a good thing? I took hundreds of photos within two days. Way too much and I ended spending another day sorting through the photos which all looked the same. With film, you are more selective, frame more properly (less cropping!), decide whether the scene is actually worth burning it on film. With film you quickly become a more critical photographer, because film costs money, because you can't carry an endless amount of rolls with you, and because getting from pressing the shutter to seeing the actually image costs time.
  • No distance between you and your art: since you see the results instantaneously, you rush to decisions. I prefer not seeing the photos right way: you press the shutter on an analog film camera, you forget what you just shot and think ahead what you can shoot next. With digital you constantly go back & forth in time, which disrupts the flow. Days (sometimes weeks) later you finally develop the film, put the negatives on a light table, make a selection and start scanning. When the scan builds up on your screen, you see the scene again for the first time and make better decisions if the photo is good or not because you are emotionally detached from the experience of taking the photos.
  • Lifeless? Here's my main concern: the photos are extremely sharp, the sensor is flawless to the point where it seems unnatural! My eye doesn't resolve all the detail of the landscape when I look at it, so why does my camera give me more information I can see & process? The totanality is so smooth that the photos are lacking micro-contras that you get with grain. Oh how I miss grain!
By the end of two days, I terribly missed my M4 and realized that I made a mistake bringing this digital monstrosity with me. It will from now on only be used for party and family vacation photos.

Here are a few digital b&w photos I took within a few hours in Monterey:






Above: on the way to the airport I saw this gigantic patch of concrete at an abandoned (or never built?) university campus -- and was happy to see another circle of life around the moist gutter ... reminding me of the circle of sea grass around the boulder at the beach.





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Old 03-21-2019   #2
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Beautiful pics. Did you use the Acros emulation? I have the XT-2 and usually shoot RAW + a jpeg that is close what I think I will end up using. For B&W it is always Acros (unless I make a mistake). I was just up in the Bay area including Santa Cruz, but chose to bring my Contax iia instead of the Fuji.
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Old 03-21-2019   #3
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I used the "Monochrome with a yellow filter" profile.

Questions to those who have a better mind than me:

Do sensors have a linear response (as opposed to a logarithmic response of film)? And do sensors have a narrower dynamic range? After I scanned a negative, I usually throw a light S curve response in Photoshop and get deep rich backs and great highlights with tons of midrange tonality. With the digital sensor I have to fiddle much more in Photoshop to "breath life" into the flat looking files, highlights peak earlier and blacks are often without information I could tease out.
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Old 03-21-2019   #4
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Mark -- we almost crossed paths! I flew in to San Francisco, drove down Route 1 on the coast, spent two days in Monterey and drove back to the SFO airport. Epic ride, the scenery is spectacular!
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Old 03-21-2019   #5
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Here are a few color photos for good measure:





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Old 03-21-2019   #6
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Converting color photos to B&W is hard to do with good results. That's true both with digital photos and with scans of color film. The built-in BW modes in digital cameras are always inferior to what you can do yourself on the computer using Photoshop.


The BEST B&W conversions come from dedicated B&W plugins for photoshop, like Nik Silver Efex or Topaz BW Effects. These plugins raise microcontrast to give the tonal look that B&W film has.
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Old 03-21-2019   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by giganova View Post
I used the "Monochrome with a yellow filter" profile...
I should clarify- I often use Acros with Y filter.

Your color shots are nice, too. The color is muted enough that it is not distracting.
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Old 03-21-2019   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chriscrawfordphoto View Post
Converting color photos to B&W is hard to do with good results. That's true both with digital photos and with scans of color film. The built-in BW modes in digital cameras are always inferior to what you can do yourself on the computer using Photoshop.


The BEST B&W conversions come from dedicated B&W plugins for photoshop, like Nik Silver Efex or Topaz BW Effects. These plugins raise microcontrast to give the tonal look that B&W film has.

ON1 has a dynamic contrast setting- small, medium, large (scale), which I think helps a lot (in fact it can overdo it). I also really like converting color photos because I can adjust the color sliders to manipulate the color channels (analogous to filters). I always think- good color; good B&W.

I may have to check out Photoshop and the plugins one of these days. I do like digital B&W.

Here is a shot from the XT-2 and processed on ON1. I showed it on another forum and got comments about the micro-contrast (but others thought the overall contrast was too low):


trail by Mark Wyatt, on Flickr

Fuji Acros simulation is interesting because the Fujifilm engineers developed a way (purportedly) to manifest noise as grain like structure similar to Acros (and it increases with ISO). You need to use in-camera Acros or Fujifilm X RAW Studio (free) to get the effect. X RAW Studio uses the cameras processors through a micro USB link to process the image (with a chance to modify the image). I have yet to try it.
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Old 03-21-2019   #9
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I like the circles.
You should try the Leica Monochrom if you ever got the chance, the 'mindset' of using a b&w only digital camera might suit you better, as you noted with the distraction of the screen, it reduces the feeling of complexity the whole experience brings.

As someone who was at the time a newcomer to the USA and wasn't familiar with this 'famous' tree or the golf courses surrounding it, I found the 'fake rangers' in a shed wanting $10 from me just to go to the shore quite a surprise as I drove towards this area! I was so shocked the guy let me in 'for free'!!
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Old 03-21-2019   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by giganova View Post
...The totanality is so smooth that the photos are lacking micro-contras that you get with grain. Oh how I miss grain!
...
I agree, grain is lacking. The Acros simulation may be a way to manage that. I can add grain in ON1 also (I did this because it looked better than the noise):


preparing by Mark Wyatt, on Flickr
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Old 03-21-2019   #11
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Lifeless. Without soul. Bitingly sharp. Almost having a ‘plastic’ look. Sometimes looking like video.

I could never put my finger in why I dislike digital images (until they’ve been run through a film emulator) so I gave up on it. I did appreciate the lightweight gear though. That’s sometimes a huge bonus, especially if, like me, you take the bulk of your photos when travelling/on holiday.

I’ve come to realise darkroom work is my favourite part of photography, so digital is a waste of time, no matter the final output.
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Old 03-21-2019   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FujiLove View Post
Lifeless. Without soul. Bitingly sharp. Almost having a ‘plastic’ look. Sometimes looking like video.



That look comes from over-sharpening then overdoing the noise reduction. When processed correctly, digital images look natural and beautiful.
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Old 03-22-2019   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by giganova View Post
I used the "Monochrome with a yellow filter" profile.

Questions to those who have a better mind than me:

Do sensors have a linear response (as opposed to a logarithmic response of film)? And do sensors have a narrower dynamic range? ...
Digital cameras are linear devices. There is always a raw file and its data are linear. This means all digital images should be rendered using non-linear parameters.

When you use in-camera JPEGs the raw file data is rendered using non-linear parameters based on menu selections. When you render images from raw files in-post production the rendering software applies default parameters or parameters you previously stored as a default starting point. I view post-production raw rendering as I view film development and printing. Different scenes and different exposure require different techniques.

Negative scans also start out as non-linear data. Whether or not you actually see a a non-linear version depends on the software. VueScan (and other platforms) can generate non-linear rendered image files.

Until recently film dynamic range was greater than digital image dynamic range. It is complicated to compare the two directly (one example). Different film emulsions have different dynamic ranges.Today many digital cameras have a dynamic range similar to film and some have more.

Digital imaging requires optimum exposure to achieve the highest possible analog dynamic range. This means using the longest practical shutter time and widest practical aperture. Camera motion, subject motion and DOF requirements often dictate exposure must be lower than the sensor's maximum threshold. As the ambient light level decreases the effective analog dynamic range decreases.
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Old 03-22-2019   #14
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I think that this thread should not constitute a debate about film v digital (yet again - it still comes up occasionally). The truth is many people prefer digital and some (still) prefer film. Good luck to them both. I have no problem with that.

As for me though I do not find anything too objectionable about the "look" of digital especially when it comes to color photos. But I do perhaps agree that its damnably difficult to consistently get really first class black and white results in digital no matter how you shoot and process your shots. (Or maybe I have just not yet learnt the right skills) But occasionally I fluke it, so it must follow therefore that you can most certainly get good, even very good if not "perfect" black and white results with some effort and skill.)

I would also say that for many like me who prefer digital over film it is not just a matter of how the image looks though as implied above I am basically pretty happy with the "digital look" at least when it comes to color images. I should admit at this point that I post process all of my images quite a lot. The real issue for me is that I do post process quite a lot but given that in the film days this pretty much demanded a dedicated room in my house equipped with wet and dry areas this option was seldom available to me back then except when I could access someone else's darkroom. Post processing is now available to me because all that is required is a PC and some software and some time to develop the required skills to "drive" both of them. And for me this is the real deciding factor in whether to shoot film of digital.

In fact I am the mirror image of FujiLove who stated "I’ve come to realise darkroom work is my favourite part of photography, so digital is a waste of time, no matter the final output." I feel precisely the same way about film but in reverse- I enjoy the creative component in post processing, but post processing film is just not an option open to me, therefore film is pretty much a waste of time for me as it can never give me what I want.

As I said though for those who prefer film and have the skills and resources to do it well, good luck to them, I wish them well.
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Old 03-22-2019   #15
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It is a question of taste. For me, negative film is so much easier to get pleasing results with than digital. All of the above digital images, while nicely composed, have something about them that bothers me, and it isn't lack of grain. For example, digital skies just generally look wrong to me; it is like nobody actually ever seems to get the tone curve right. Digitally added grain actually also bothers me. It looks nothing like film grain; it looks a little better if you just don't do noise reduction instead of adding grain.
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Old 03-22-2019   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chriscrawfordphoto View Post
That look comes from over-sharpening then overdoing the noise reduction. When processed correctly, digital images look natural and beautiful.

Agree!


JMO but files from most modern DSLRs and ICL mirrorless camera should require very little sharpening.

Personally if an image doesn't look sharp when I open in the LR development mode I pretty much figure I missed focus and move on to the next image. To me the most important control for sharpening in LR is the Masking Tool which I generally use at 50-90% depending on the image being processed.
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Old 03-22-2019   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chriscrawfordphoto View Post
That look comes from over-sharpening then overdoing the noise reduction. When processed correctly, digital images look natural and beautiful.
I did neither to my digital files. I always disliked the images on screen. They looked better once printed, but like I say, I much prefer to be in the darkroom so digital is fairly pointless for me.
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Old 03-22-2019   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by olifaunt View Post
It is a question of taste. For me, negative film is so much easier to get pleasing results with than digital. All of the above digital images, while nicely composed, have something about them that bothers me, and it isn't lack of grain. For example, digital skies just generally look wrong to me; it is like nobody actually ever seems to get the tone curve right. Digitally added grain actually also bothers me. It looks nothing like film grain; it looks a little better if you just don't do noise reduction instead of adding grain.
Agreed. I really wish I knew what it is about digital images I dislike. It’s damn hard to define, so maybe it’s a few very small things that add up to be more than the sum of their parts?
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Old 03-22-2019   #19
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Giganova,

Digital and film photography are two distinct disciplines which overlap slightly in the area of composition, and not much else. As long as it took you to get where you wanted to be with the results from your film photography, expect to spend that long or longer to get to a similar (but never “the same”) place with your digital photography. Don’t be discouraged by the results from one trip in the first month, and don’t give up. It takes a while to find a processing workflow which renders results that you might be completely happy with, but it is probably out there. The SOOC world is easy, but it’s not for everyone. Might as well use a phone.
Good luck. Given enough time you may end up happily spraying, praying, and burst mode chimping with the worst of them, who knows. (And that sensor isn’t “flawless”. None of them are.)
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Old 03-22-2019   #20
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I remember when HiDef TV started coming out (1990s?). I saw it and thought- this just looks unreal. Of course what I was used to was "analog" TV (electron gun scanning a phosphor coating). I think part of it was just the high definition itself. You could see that every actor/actress had makeup caked all over their faces. The actresses weren't necessarily beautiful, just painted over. Motion seemed different (lack of scanning?). I wonder if this is a similar phenomenon. No one questions that digital is sharper- even jpegs SOOC, and smoother (no noise or grain until you start pushing the ISO). Film images do tend to come out very nice when properly exposed and composed, often without a lot of fuss also, and I often like some grain, but again, is that what I am/was used to?
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Old 03-22-2019   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Cloetta View Post
...The SOOC world is easy, but it’s not for everyone. Might as well use a phone.
...
I think Fujifilm has come the closest to changing that perception, but I admit I mainly use RAW with my XT-2.
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Old 03-22-2019   #22
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I don't want to be source of rude awakening, but it is 2019.
It is same as posting about typing on keyboard first impression.
While most stopped hand writing decades ago .
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Old 03-22-2019   #23
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I prefer film because I want to make darkroom prints, I like the cameras and the process. But I don't buy into the idea that scanned film can't be matched by digital capture (except in rare situations). So if your goal is digital images anyway I think you should stick with it a bit and figure your exposure and post processing out, and set the camera up to your liking (all the stuff that you've found distracting can be turned off). Don't throw the towel after these first impressions, especially seeing that these were made in uninspiring light with too bright skies.

I'm not sure if you're doing JPEGs or processed your own RAW files, but if you do the latter you should be able to get close enough to what you've been getting from film scans. For black and white, adjusting curves, disabling noise reduction and reducing sharpening to very moderate levels should get you at least 90% there.
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Old 03-22-2019   #24
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...especially seeing that these were made in uninspiring light with too bright skies..
Get used to underexposing the foreground a bit (in RAW), capture the sky, then bring up the foreground.
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Old 03-22-2019   #25
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I have to admit that I have not seen any digital b&w photo that I liked, with the exception of Jacob Aue Sobol's photos -- and I have no clue how he does it (except for cranking up the contrast like there is no tomorrow). But I am not a fan of his "spray & pray" style, shooting a picture every ten seconds and sending his thumb drives with thousands of photos to his editor at the end of the day.



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Old 03-22-2019   #26
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Do these look flat and lifeless?
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Old 03-22-2019   #27
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What I hate about digital:[list][*]Technology is distracting: tons of information in the viewfinder that distract from framing. Tons of buttons and flashing lights. The worse is the display on the back: no matter how disciplined you are, you will always look at the photo that you just took, for no apparent reason other than confirming that it is there. The display is too small, the resolution too low, and the dynamic range too narrow to make any judgements. In direct sunlight it is a waste of time to look at the display, but you will. All you see in the end is if the picture was stored. I finally get why the M10-P has no display, I want that in a digital camera!
This is completely adjustable on the Fuji's. While looking through the viewfinder press the disp button on the back and it will change to a different display with less info on it. You can also go into the menus and pick and choose what is or isn't displayed in the EVF and on the LCD including having nothing at all but the image. Set the camera to EVF only if you don't want to look at the rear display. Or get a case that covers the LCD.


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Old 03-22-2019   #28
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I agree, grain is lacking. The Acros simulation may be a way to manage that. I can add grain in ON1 also (I did this because it looked better than the noise):
If you are using ACROS and want grain crank up the ISO. Acros works differently in that instead of trying to simply remove noise it replaces it with grain. This is for JPEGs produced in camera, not using lightroom and RAW files. It looks different then if grain is just overlaid on top later on.

For example this is ISO 10,000 with Acros OOC JPEG.



Use the ISO as a grain level control with Acros.

ISO 1600 SOOC JPEG



ISO 3200 SOOC JPEG



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Old 03-22-2019   #29
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=Do these look flat and lifeless?
Not at all, these look wonderful -- except for the sky in the first image, which is too smooth for my taste (but that might be my personal preference).
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Old 03-22-2019   #30
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The M4 is your friend! Never obsolete! Always forgiving! Love it!
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BTW---your digi pix are fine...
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Old 03-22-2019   #31
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In a sense I think that many of the complaints about technology and digital shooting being made by some here suggest that they are conflating a number of different grumbles that taken together make them sound a bit like neo-luddites.

Now please understand that I am not being gratuitously rude in saying this. It is not meant as an insult - it is even OK to be a "luddite" - we all have choices to make about how we prefer to work in this art. But I have to say I think some of the complaints may be ill founded. I don't agree in general with an idea that film is inherently superior to digital. In a technical sense, quite the opposite is true in reality. Even the critics of digital seem to grudgingly acknowledge this when they say or imply that digital images are "too sharp," for example. I can even relate to this up to a point as I often deliberately wind back the sharpness in my imaging by applying blur or textures or other techniques in post, designed to get a more artistic result and a less clinical look in the final image. Whether I succeed or not is for others to decide. But my point is I do not blame the technology (which gives so many other benefits) and besides if you have an image which is "too sharp" for your desired outcome you can always make it less so. Just not the other way around. In other words I do not really see this as a problem of itself.

On the other hand, I can say I understand that some "prefer" the look of film - this is an entirely personal and subjective thing for that person.

I also understand that some people prefer working with film and all of that this involves as there is a certain "craft" element involved that many find magical - many people prefer a craft way of working involving a high degree of effort to get a result. I understand that impulse. The original luddites were opposed to mechanized mills taking away their livelihood and deskilling them. But even today some people make a good living out of the craft of weaving their own wool, knitting an artistic product that they have design themselves and selling it at comparatively high prices in boutiques. There is a kind of analogy which springs to mind here, with people who prefer working with the film process, it seems to me.
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Old 03-22-2019   #32
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Thanks for showing your photographs here. Nice job. Beautiful around the area where the Lone Cyprus (in color) is located. I went to school in San Francisco for the military and drove down on Highway 1 a few times. I had a 1969 VW bug! California is beautiful.

My experiences:

Going to digital capture (2004 first camera was with a Canon 20D and I still have it.) was one of the best decisions I made when I was in business.

For process I went fron a darkroom to an iMac and Photoshop.

RAW capture.

At any rate, as a working photographer (now retired!), I could write a lengthly paper on digital.

I only use black and white film, not very often now and use my analog darkroom as it’s what I used starting in the late 1950’s.

My 2 cents!
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Old 03-22-2019   #33
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Good thread but I find the description of an XT-3 as a 'digital monstrosity' interesting!
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Old 03-22-2019   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shawn View Post
If you are using ACROS and want grain crank up the ISO. Acros works differently in that instead of trying to simply remove noise it replaces it with grain. This is for JPEGs produced in camera, not using lightroom and RAW files. It looks different then if grain is just overlaid on top later on.

For example this is ISO 10,000 with Acros OOC JPEG.

...

Use the ISO as a grain level control with Acros.

ISO 1600 SOOC JPEG

...

ISO 3200 SOOC JPEG

...

Shawn
Nice images. I talked a bit about that here: https://www.rangefinderforum.com/for...62&postcount=8

I have shot Acros in camera, but have not tried X RAW Studio yet.
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Old 03-22-2019   #35
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I went around the corner to the Capitol and took nearly-identical shots: digital vs film!

One with the Fuji X-T3 and one with a Minox 35 on HP-5. Very light touch in Photoshop for both, no cropping. I shot with the Fuji in color (Provia profile) and converted it to b&w in Photoshop, then another one with the in-camera monochrome profile (Acros profile). The differences are very subtle, so I post the one with the Acros profile here.

Judge for yourself:

Fuji X-T3:

Minox 35 on HP-5:
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Old 03-22-2019   #36
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Do a wet print and then a decent digital print. I bet the difference will be less than you think. Then get back to us. Comparing a scanned b&w film picture to digital on the internet is pointless.
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Old 03-22-2019   #37
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Its not pointless because I can only post digital files here.
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Old 03-22-2019   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by giganova View Post
I went around the corner to the Capitol and took nearly-identical shots: digital vs film!

One with the Fuji X-T3 and one with a Minox 35 on HP-5. Very light touch in Photoshop for both, no cropping. I shot with the Fuji in color (Provia profile) and converted it to b&w in Photoshop, then another one with the in-camera monochrome profile (Acros profile). The differences are very subtle, so I post the one with the Acros profile here.

Judge for yourself:

Fuji X-T3:

Minox 35 on HP-5:
Sorry film fans but I much prefer the digital rendition in this instance at least.
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Old 03-22-2019   #39
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Peter, I agree that the digital image looks very good. The main differences are 1) overall sharpness and 2) how grain breaks up monotonous areas. Other than that, they are surprisingly similar.
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Old 03-22-2019   #40
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So which one is film and which is digital?
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